Summer’s Simple Pleasures


~  A June evening: flowers, fading light,
hand shovels, mosquitoes,
grandsons and daughter-in-law


~  In praise of perennials,
SO worth the extra money up front.

This purple and yellow plant was a 2008 Mother’s Day
gift from our church.  It  came back!  happy sighs…

~ While we’ve been pottering with perennials,
our guys have been getting wood for the winter.
They came across a nursing fawn.
Alas, the picture size was too large to post.

~  My vote for Salad of the Summer
I’ve made it a dozen times already this year.
Refreshing, tasty, a twist of heat, crunchy cashews.

~ Coming down the home stretch of
D Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II.
Two things about this book:
1. I’m relieved that even though I’m working FT,
I can still get through weighty books. Just takes more time.
2. However difficult or thorny a challenge may present itself,
my life is easy compared to the soldiers of D-Day.

~ Remember the Six Panel Door aka the Christian Door?
How about this architecture feature (front upper windows)
in my friend’s new house?

~ Last year I joined the 100 Species Challenge.
This is a *life* project, folks.
Jessie gave me cute little copper garden tags
which help my wispy, lacy memory.



Simple Pleasures in September


Photograph taken through the window above my sink

I’ve been doing the dishes by hand lately. 
It gives me an opportunity to breathe,
enjoy the view,
(thank God for my neighbor Shelly and her green thumb)
unravel my thoughts,
and effortlessly clean my fingernails. 

My daughter-in-law suggested I trim back the delphinium
to see if it might bloom again.  It did!
I clicked this picture with the garage open,
giving it the dramatic black background.

Hostas are The Answer for north facing flower beds that get little sun.

Geraniums are great for color.  I always choose red geraniums.
My SIL kept her geraniums alive on a sunny closed-in porch for seven years.

Lupines are more common on the hillside than in a garden.
This is my first year growing them.

Lulus have been my favorite marigold (formally Marigold Lucida) for years.
I love the lacy leaves and small flowers.

Clockwise from the bright red flowers:
Red Celosia, Purple (mind went blank)  Light purple Penstemon, Orange-Yellow Marigolds

Well.  It’s time to update the 100 species challenge.  I think I stall because the perfectionist side of me (the side my husband would like to see applied to the dust bunnies under our bed) does not want to post a flower until I have “all the facts”.  I had this inkling to join the 100 push ups challenge.  When I mentioned it to Curt, he remarked with a splash of dryness, “Right – and you could recite your 100 species while you did your push ups.”  heh heh…

1.  Clematis
2.  Garlic
3.  Delphinium
4.  Daylily
5.  Dianthus
6.  Daisy
7. Lobelia
8. Verbena
9. Cosmos
10. Salvia
11. Diachondra

12. Rose  There are over 100 species of Roses – that would make a nifty ultra-challenge!  I learned that most species are native to … Asia!  Would you have guessed that?

13. Hosta – HA HA! I was sure this name came from the Latin and had something to do with enemy.  Of course, I believe that everything comes from the Latin and tend to make myself obnoxious informing people of Latin roots.  Hosta, however, comes from the Austrian botanist, Nicholas Thomas Host.  Joke’s on me.  Now I wonder about pronunciation.  I’ve always made it rhyme with cost.  Maybe it should rhyme with Costa Rica.
How do you pronounce this plant name?  Long o or short o? 

14.  Geranium – Not from the Latin, but from the Greek!  Commonly called cranesbills (evidently not that common – have you ever heard of them as anything other than geranium?) because the seed head is the same shape as the bill of a crane.  (Personal investigation pending)
The Greek word for crane = geranos.  Isn’t life sweet? We just learned a Greek word to add to our vocabulary.  I’m over the hosta thing.

15.  Lupine – Add this word to the “silent e – but short vowel sound” list (come, done, give, love, captive, minute, comrade and bade come to mind) Wait!  This is about plants!!  The leaves of a lupine are easy to recognize.  They look like palm trees.

16.  Marigold – I usually get all yellow Lulus that look like this.  They are the last flower to die in the fall, only after a hard frost.  I learned that the leaves are eaten as an herb and are a substitute for tarragon.  Am I gutsy enough to substitute them in my Tarragon Chicken recipe? 

That’s enough for today.  Like so many good things, all it takes is time and attention.  But once I jump in, learning a little botany is “the bee’s knees”.


What I know:  picking raspberries with my husband,
popping a few choice morsels in my mouth,
competing for the bigger take,
talking as the light fades,
 is my idea of a romantic evening.

What I’ve learned:  raspberries respond well to water. 
The key to big berries is much, consistent water. 
Thank you, son!

100 Species:
1.  Clematis
2.  Garlic
3.  Delphinium
4.  Daylily
5.  Dianthus
6.  Daisy
7.  Lobelia
8.  Verbena
9.  Cosmos
10. Salvia
11.  Diachondra
12.  Raspberry

Five Species in a Bucket

Previous species:

1.  Clematis
2.  Garlic
3.  Delphinium
4.  Daylily
5.  Dianthus
6.  Daisy

My daughter-in-law did it again.  This time she filled the wooden bucket from a broken ice cream maker with an arrangement of flowers.  Jessie drilled seven holes in the bottom of the wooden bucket (in case anyone else wants to re-use an old ice cream maker).  I saw a perfect opportunity for 100 Species.   With pen and paper in hand, I asked Jessie to identify each flower.  Typical of a born teacher, she challenged me to name the plants I knew first. 

How many can you name?

7.  Lobelia (blue flowers at bottom)  Named after Matthias Lobel, this plant has been used to treat asthma, food poisoning, and used to help stop smoking.  All I know is never, never, never skip a day watering lobelia!

8.  Verbena (pink flowers on side and bottom)  Ha!  Verbena taught me a new word:  it is  a galactagogue.  A galactagogue is a substance to induce lactation.  Verbum means word in Latin.  That is how I plan to remember this plant.  See how unscientific I am?

9.  Cosmos (orange in the middle)  Click here for a fun site full of information about Cosmos.  I learned that Cosmos produces “showy flowers in an orderly arrangement of cosmic proportions.”  The article claims they are the best annual for hot, dry conditions.  There you have it.  Cosmos.

10.  Salvia (spiky purple plants on top)  Salvia is part of the sage family.  I was surprised when Jess told me this was salvia, because it was different from the salvia in my garden.  She took a petal from each flower and showed me the distinctive shape (see below).  Wikipedia: “The name Salvia derives from the Latin salvere, which means “to heal”.   Indeed this herb  is highly regarded for its healing qualities.  An ancient proverb states, “Why should a man die who has sage in his garden?”

11.  Diachondra  (look at next picture for a close up)  Some have called this a “little weedy plant” — now I remember it!  I planted diachondra in my flower garden, and the little terriers tried to overtake any plant, regardless of size.  A good plant for hanging baskets. 

Salvia petal

100 Species – “D” Plants

1.  Clematis
2.  Garlic
3.  Delphinium

Hey, howdy!  I didn’t know that larkspur is the common name for delphinium!  The flower has five petals which grow together to form a hollow flower with a spur at the end.  My neighbor (a Master Gardener) looks with envy at these beautiful blue flowers.  She says she can’t grow them.  Aw, shucks.  I found the answer to my biggest problem – they get heavy and droop, all bent over –  in a novel, of all places.  An older gentleman in England put in a stake and tied up the delphinium.  I guess that’s what you are supposed to do.

4.  Daylily

The things you learn!  They are called daylilies because the flower opens at sunrise and withers at sunset, possibly replaced by another blossom on the same stem the next day.  How could I test this, besides sitting next to the plant looking at it the entire day?  The flowers are edible!  Used in Chinese cuisine.  Well.  I like the greenery.  I think I need to dig and divide my plants this fall.

5.  Dianthus


Common names are Carnation, Pink, and Sweet William.   Do you know how clearer my mental pictures will be when I read about Sweet William in a book?   This is one of the oldest plants in my flower garden. 

6.  Daisy

I don’t know what kind of daisies these are and I’ve run out of time to find out.  Yikes!
What I do know – and doesn’t everyone? – is that the word daisy comes from “day’s eye” because the daisies closed up at night and opened in the daylight.  I just learned in a fly-by reading that daisies are the symbol of innocence.  Do y’all see why I didn’t do so well in the sciences?  Sigh.

100 Species – Around the Yard

1.  Clematis  This year my husband bought a trellis for our clematis (previously it grew up a post).  The most encouraging thing I read about clematis: “It should be noted that incorrect pruning will never bring an early death to clematis.”  Folk wisdom I picked up somewhere: “Clematis need sun on their shoulders and shade on their feet.”


2. Garlic  This whimsical plant lives and breathes among my flowers.  I just learned that the curlicue thingies are called scapes.  I also learned that most garlic growers remove the scapes to promote greater bulb growth.  Further, they are edible and here is a recipe for Garlic Scape Pesto.  Pasta anyone?

Can you spot the garlic on the left?

100 Species Challenge

Quote from Homeschooling the Doctorate:

Someone I was recently reading (I cannot remember who–Berry? Wirzba?)
lamented the decline of local knowledge among modern westerners. “Most
people,” whoever-it-was said, “cannot recognize even a hundred plant
species within a mile of their home.”

Can you recognize a hundred plant species that are living within a mile of your home?  Sarah has designed The 100 Species Challenge and it has got my juices going.  As I said in her comments section, I am tired of responding to inquiries about plants with, “I don’t know…I’m just not any good at remembering names of plants.”  This is a great way to grow in knowledge of my locality. 

And since I have a plant specialist living one mile away (my daughter-in-law) I have no excuse.  I love the pace Sarah is planning: two new species a week.  Oh, people, I am getting EXCITED! 

Here are the rules:

The 100-Species Challenge

1. Participants should include a copy of these rules and a link to this entry in their initial blog post about the challenge. I [Sarah] will make a sidebar list of anyone who notifies me that they are participating in the Challenge.

2. Participants
should keep a list of all plant species they can name, either by common
or scientific name, that are living within walking distance of the
participant’s home. The list should be numbered, and should appear in
every blog entry about the challenge, or in a sidebar.

3. Participants
are encouraged to give detailed information about the plants they can
name in the first post in which that plant appears.
My [Sarah’s] format
will be as follows: the numbered list, with plants making their first
appearance on the list in bold; each plant making its first appearance
will then have a photograph taken by me, where possible, a list of
information I already knew about the plant, and a list of information I
learned subsequent to starting this challenge, and a list of
information I’d like to know. (See below for an example.) This format
is not obligatory, however, and participants can adapt this portion of
the challenge to their needs and desires.

4. Participants are encouraged to make it possible for visitors to their blog to find easily all 100-Species-Challenge blog posts.
This can be done either by tagging these posts, by ending every post on
the challenge with a link to your previous post on the challenge, or by
some method which surpasses my technological ability and creativity.

5. Participants
may post pictures of plants they are unable to identify, or are unable
to identify with precision. They should not include these plants in the
numbered list until they are able to identify it with relative
precision. Each participant shall determine the level of precision that
is acceptable to her; however, being able to distinguish between plants
that have different common names should be a bare minimum.

6. Different
varieties of the same species shall not count as different entries
(e.g., Celebrity Tomato and Roma Tomato should not be separate
entries); however, different species which share a common name be
separate if the participant is able to distinguish between them (e.g.,
camillia japonica and camillia sassanqua if the participant can distinguish the two–“camillia” if not).

7. Participants may take as long as they like to complete the challenge.  You
can make it as quick or as detailed a project as you like.  I’m
planning to blog a minimum of two plants per week, complete with
pictures and descriptions as below, which could take me up to a year. 
But you can do it in whatever level of detail you like.

I know it is wicked of me to bring a plant topic around to books, but those of you that have stuck around MagistraMater know how big a fan I am of Wendell Berry.  And you can guess how delighted I am to be reminded of Norman Wirzba.  His book on the Sabbath is on my wish list at PBS. 

You know, don’t let the number 100 frighten you.  Can you name twenty species?  Wouldn’t ten be a good start?

Oh, yay! 


In another of those lovely intersections of interest, I read “The Life of Trees” in the current online edition of Books and Culture.  Alan Jacobs cites Garrison Keillor: “he came to see that his ignorance of trees was emblematic of  his difficulties [in writing a novel]”.  GK’s characters “leaned against vague vegetation.”   Ayup.

In this short essay on books about trees are some fascinating new discoveries by scientists at Humboldt State (my husband’s alma mater) who have climbed to the top of the redwoods to study the ecosystem of the canopies.  I learned three forms of arbor  (arboreal, arboriphile and arboriphobic) and was introduced to a froe (a tool for cleaving wood by splitting it along the grain).   I recommend this article.