Early Summer Lushness

The garden is at that point where spring crops are mostly out, summer crops have gotten big and are beginning to bear, and everything looks lovely and lush.

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I just love this time with the seedlings coming up,

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Basil. I thought it wasn’t going to sprout.

the flowers blooming,

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squash plants thriving,

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beans climbing, and tomatoes looking happy

and producing fruit.

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We gave our first couple donations to different food pantries in the past week, mostly beets and carrots from the dedicated garden, which is doing well, thanks to help from my volunteer Holly, who weeds like a Champ and my neighboring gardener Mike, who keeps an eye on the water needs of all the plants.

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This garden has beets and carrots, summer and winter squashes, cucumbers, peppers, beans, blueberries, tomatoes, okra, and some stray turnips, as well as chard.

The work is pretty much under control, so some evenings after work, I’ve just been walking over there for the exercise, to check on things and to enjoy it.  Sometimes I see evil lagomorphs.

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It was eating grass, and far from my garden, so I left it unmolested.

Other times there’s a flock of song sparrows.  I tried to get pictures of them, but gave up and did a video instead.  Excuse me whistling under my breath on it; it was the chorus to Stan Rogers’ Tiny Fish for Japan, but unrecognizable as half the notes were in my head.  That was brought on by talk of smelt over lunch with friends on Saturday.  But back to the sparrows–They would perch on trellises and the fence and sing like crazy.  And they are cute.

It’s so lovely to see the trumpet vine blooming.

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And the rabbits did not eat my okra seedlings as they emerged this year.

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All in all, I can say so far, so good.

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Updates with Old Pictures

Once again, I went to the garden without my camera.  It’s a pattern these days.  I have some old photos to share and will try to do better with the camera next time.

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Things are looking good for the summer.

I’m really pleased with where the garden is at this point.  Some spinach bolted, but it still made fabulous salad, and now the summer seeds have all been planted, though not all of them appear to be coming up.

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there have been blueberries since this picture…

Okra is up and some of the pole beans have come up.  The peppers and the tomatoes are doing well.  It could be a good tomato year, if only because there are so many of them, between what I purchased, was given, and what has volunteered.  We’ll see what transpires.

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Sweet peas, bee balm, and seeding Nigella…

I also have winter squash planted for the first time in years.  It tends to be sweet, so various garden pests gnaw on it.  That, combined with the long growing time and the large amount of space it needs makes me avoid it.  We have planted it in the Plot Against Hunger garden, as well, hoping to extend the season.  There is more space there, though it won’t look like it once all that stuff gets growing.

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I sat in the courtyard after the bike ride today.

The Plot garden has some nice beets that are ready to harvest, and some carrots that will be ready soon as well.  I’m in the process of talking with another garden about combining produce deliveries to some pantries.  They talked to all the distributors and figured out the ones that actually needed the produce.  A lot of places distributing have already got a good supply, either through grants, or the USDA (there’s a big farm nearby in Maryland that does research), or big donations.

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This picture is from a couple weeks ago, so the beets are well and truly ready to be pulled.

I was in the garden yesterday and did a lot of weeding and trimming and nosing around.  Then I watered.  Today, I went on my first bicycle ride of the year and discovered I was not nearly as out of condition as I thought and replacement of the tires last fall really messed up the gears.  I’ll be working on those for a while on each bike ride, trying to get in better shape than I’m in and in a reliably better state of mind.  So much is going on in the world.  We have to take care of ourselves and each other.

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The Constant Gardener?

Goodness what a week.  It started with a white woman threatening a black man with police for asking her to leash her dog in an area of Central Park reserved for birds and wild things.  It ended with riots.  In between, a white police officer knelt on a black man’s neck until he strangled him.  As I write, demonstrators are in Lafayette park across from the White House.  Tear gas has been deployed.  It’s like 1968.

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Bees in the birdbath, drinking…

I remember 1968.  I was a child, but I remember Martin Luther King being assassinated in April and Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in June.  In April I was over at my friend Karen’s and my mother had come to pick me up, but the adults were discussing the murder.  In June, I was on a lake in Wisconsin where I turned 11 and every day I rowed out in a boat onto Loon Lake and caught and released little bullheads.  It was an idyll of family and friends, in the midst of which the adults talked about the murder.  Then there was the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.  Holy Toledo.

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I should have harvested this rapini before it blossomed, but they were delicious anyway.

Back in the 90’s I was visiting a friend in Chicago and saw signs welcoming me to the city signed by Richard Daly and had flashbacks. (For those who don’t know the politics of American cities, Richard J. Daly was mayor in the 60’s and Richard M. Daly, his son, was mayor in the 90s.  Another son was a Senator.)  “All the news just repeats itself/like some forgotten dream/that we’ve both seen.”  No wonder I keep listening to old John Prine songs.  The kindling for this night has been stacking for a long time.

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Foreground: bee balm; the rest is a fence of love-in-a-mist, something we could use instead of teargas.

I am disgusted and I fear for my country and its democracy.  I am afraid our lunatic President will declare martial law.  I am afraid the election will be cancelled and we won’t be able to get rid of him.  I am afraid the election won’t be cancelled and my fellow citizens will re-elect him.  Note that all the other news of the week, like more attacks on the free press and Twitter’s attempt to tell people to look further at the President’s assertions, as well as reaching a death toll of 100,000 from COVID-19 went unmentioned in my little ramble.  It’s been a hell of a week.

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Thank God for flowers.

I baked cheese scones this morning,  the recipe from  Ellen Hawley’s Notes from the UK.

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And delicious they were.

I did my laundry and cleaned the house.  I went to the garden.  The garden helped.  There were peas.

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Find the pea pods. Yes, that’s mint in there…

There were flowers.

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Larkspur, Nigella, Sweet Pea, Lavender, and that yellow bit–bolted mustard greens…and a bit of parsley I’m letting blossom for seeds.

Last week, I did some work, too.  I had been going to save seeds from the chard.  Looking at the wall of it, I wondered how much chard seed I actually needed, decided, and then pulled out all but what would supply enough.  Then I put in a new bean enclosure, since the peas are currently occupying the only other one.

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The new bean enclosure with the old one in the background holding the peas…surrounded by mint and oregano.

I’ll be in the garden again tomorrow to plant the Plot Against Hunger garden for summer.  We’re working with a variety of pantries and organizations and the PTA President and I have a call with the Arlington Public School nutritionist on Monday to talk about the possibility of distributing vegetables through them.

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Nigella that haven’t opened fully yet and a few poppy pods.

So there’s some hope.  Let’s do what we can, raise hell if we have to, and not waste time looking for an easier world.

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All That Beauty (Jazz Optional)

The garden has begun that crazy, lush, blooming green growth.  Every year it amazes me.

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The irises and roses are in their glory, columbine have finished, and the holly blossoms are wafting their sweet scent through the air.

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The love-in-a-mist are getting ready to pop open with their intricate star blooms.

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And look at these peas!!!  If it doesn’t turn from cold to hot too soon, I’ll have a crop.

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The new lettuces are thriving.

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I spent most of Friday in the garden, putting in seedlings and taking down the fences around a lot of things, so I’m just showing parts of the garden that still look the same.  I hope I can remember the camera next time I go.

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Rapini and carrots. I took this enclosure down, as so far the things I left out to test whether the evil rabbits were going to munch are still growing…I plopped an eggplant seedling down among the rapini.

I’m running into the issue of the long cold spring with my planting.  It is time to put in summer crops like pole beans, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, okra and other delicacies, but the carrots, peas, radishes, and rapini have been slow  and are still in the spaces those other crops would go in.  To add to the issue, I’ve decided to let the arugula and parsley go to seed, so I can save it.

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Blossoming arugula and blooming thyme

Still, I put in peppers, tomatoes, and an eggplant, carefully calculating where the squash will go and where I’ll throw down some basil seed.  I put in another row of arugula, and some okra, though that was a calculated risk, given temperatures in the sixties next week.  I’m hoping the seedlings ride out the predicted cool days.  One plus is that it’s supposed to rain, so they can settle in nicely if it isn’t a gully washer.

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More irises and bolting chard–I’m collecting seed from that as well.

The cold weather has really inhibited the early crops in the Plot Against Hunger Garden.  I put in pepper and tomato seedlings there and have had some tomato seeds sprouting in little mini greenhouses created with 3 liter bottles of spring water.  They’re doing okay, but still really small.

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There are some carrots and beets and chard in there now as well, but we’ll likely put pole beans and plant squash and cucumbers next weekend.  The Arlington Friends Urban Agriculture have found organizations and food pantries that will take fresh produce, so I will contact the ones close to me when we have food to deliver.  That could be some time, but we’re plugging away at it.

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Most of these have gone into salads at this point.

Gardening is a risky business, like life.  You never quite know what’s coming your way (evil rabbits, voles, too much rain, drought, squash bugs, stink bugs, long cold springs, brutal summer heat, rats and much much more…).

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You never know when you’ll see a demonic rabbit…

Luckily, there’s usually only one or two really pesky things in a summer, so we’ll see how it goes.  Meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy all the greenery and flowers and sit close to blossoming holly trees when I can.

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And for the optional jazz, If the Stars were Mine, by Melody Gardot.  I hope you have a lovely, flower scented week–and if someone offers you a jar full of stars, take it.

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A Lot of Music, a Little Gardening…

Today, one of my neighbors was walking up the steps toward the Metro playing a banjo.  I heard it first and looked out the window.  When I saw him, I opened the sash and gave him a shout.  We laughed about a banjo being hard to ignore and he said he was “taking it to the streets.”  Last summer he played it up on the plaza between some office buildings and it was always nice to hear.  I’ve been reflective lately, trolling through my music, old and new.

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In the garden, the peas, already mixed with mint, are coming along nicely.

It’s made me check in on people I hadn’t played for a while to see if they have something new out or a tour planned.  I’m surprised how many of the artists whose music I’ve loved are dead.  Some recently so, like John Prine.  When I first heard of his passing I thought how hard that would be for his family, and then I thought, “I hope Steve Goodman met him at the pearly gates and they’re jamming now.”

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Kirsten, the County Extension Agent, set up outside the garden with boxes of seeds. There is apparently a seed shortage.

I came to John Prine’s music through Steve Goodman.  They were buddies in Chicago folk clubs and wrote songs together as well as sang together.  Goodman wrote The City of New Orleans, which Arlo Guthrie recorded, Banana Republics, which Jimmy Buffet recorded, and a boatload of other songs, including Go Cubs, Go (his family gave the rights to that to the Chicago Cubs) and The Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request among a lot of others.  He was a small-statured bundle of energy on stage and apparently in the rest of his life as well.  In this clip, he sings Banana Republics and The 20th Century is Almost Over.  That crazy bouncing and dancing in the second song is typical of his concert enthusiasm, and for some reason the song seems oddly topical and contemporary.  He and Prine also sang together fairly often, as in this rendition of Prine’s Souvenirs.

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Fellow gardeners Atoshi and Mike kept social distance.

So without Goodman, I might not have learned of Prine so early.  One of the first of his songs I heard, Paradise, was about strip mining and became an anthem of protests against its effects.  His songs could be lovely and lyrical or unvarnished and true.  Mostly they were stories that pointed to some truth–like Hello in There, recorded by quite a few people–Bette Midler and Joan Baez among them–about an elderly couple with a history.  There was Sam Stone, about a soldier come back from war with a heroin habit, and Angel from Montgomery, recorded by Bonnie Raitt, about a woman worn down by life.  He said once in an interview that if you write a song and record it you’d better like it because if it’s a hit, “you’ll be singing it the rest of your life.”

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Blooming thyme, with rosemary putting a blooming branch in upper right. I learned that AFAC is no longer taking fresh produce, as it involves too many people in the warehouse. Plot Against Hunger is looking for other places to donate. There is great need for food.

There is a lot of joy and fun in his songs, as in The Glory of True Love and Lonesome Friends of Science.  Two of my favorites are The Speed of the Sound of Loneliness, recorded by Nanci Griffith, among others, and Summer’s End off his 2018 album, Tree of Forgiveness.  What a lovely album that last one is.

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Mike has a look at the blooming rosemary–and have a look at the Columbine (aka Aquilegia) by the fence.

I listen to a lot of music and like most of it, from classical to jazz to blues to rock to punk and new wave, and have dipped my ear into rap.  There is something about singer-songwriters though, that draws me.  I do like the way country music and blues and bluegrass rolled into the potent tidal wave of rock and roll and continue to change.  So I guess this is part of my Covid Coping.  I’ve seen that hashtag on Twitter and for me, a little music, a little walking in nature, a little gardening, a little baking, and a few friends are keeping me sane, for the most part.  Have a lovely week.

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A Neighborhood Walk

I Face Timed today with a friend in California.  We have known each other since college, which means more than 40 years and seems kind of crazy.  But while we were talking the sun came out here so I decided to take my exercise outside.

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Yes, I cut down an alley because there was so much foot traffic on the street I started down.

So did a bunch of other people, but everyone was mindful of keeping distance.  Honestly it was just nice to be out. I cut down some alleys.  I grew up in a small town and in the country, so alleys were like little grassy lanes.  Sure, the garbage trucks drove down once a week and all manner of car mechanics went on there, but there’s something alluring and homey about them to me.

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Everything is in bloom, especially the camellias.  I’d have taken more pictures, but it felt sort of invasive to be taking pictures of people’s houses while zeroing in on a plant.

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The squirrels love the camellia blossoms. I have no idea what they taste like.

The neighborhood is really lovely right now, with things in bloom, leaves coming out, and a profusion of bulb flowers.

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There are a few places where there were drifts of violets across lawns.  I shot these rather solitary ones when I was taking a photo of our camellia.

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And this flowering quince, not in its full glory, but still lovely, was on one of the streets.

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It was good to be out and say hello to neighbors from a distance.  I will try to keep up my outdoor exercise when I can and do videos when I can’t.  I’m looking forward to venturing back in the garden on a nice evening this week.  We’ll see.

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Have a good week.

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First Planting

Today, I took an hour and a half after work to finish weeding the garden and to plant a few things.  I’ve been eating lettuce from the cold frame much of the winter, and decided it was time to plant some more.

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There’s still good lettuce in there, but once it gets a bit warmer, I’ll have to get the glass off it. The silhouette is me, the lettuce eater.

The arugula I’ve been munching on for a couple months is blooming in the warming weather.

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I’ve been adding it to pasta in the last couple weeks. It’s still delicious, and I’ll eat it until the new stuff comes up.

I’ve planted more of that, too.

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Left, caged mixed lettuces; middle, delicious fall-planted parsley; right, more arugula. The Contented Crafter will be pleased to note that not all the lettuces are covered…

I pulled most of the broccoli from the winter and freed up space for rapini (broccoli raab) and some carrots.  I also planted carrots and radishes and put them under cover.

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Rapini and carrots fenced in, radishes and carrots under cover, the cold frame and inside the bean enclosure, some sprouting peas.

I thought I had spinach seeds, but so far, I haven’t found them.  I had some spring onion seeds, but couldn’t get the package open (a small seed saver container with a screw on lid).  I’ll go after that with pliers tonight.

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The oregano is extremely happy. You may have noticed it in the previous picture.

Stay safe, folks.  Enjoy the outdoors if you can go out safely.  It’s gorgeous now and things are greening up and bursting into bloom.

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The rosemary is in full bloom.

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The Age of Miracles

It’s been kind of a bumpy ride the last few weeks, eh?  I’m one of the lucky ones who can work from home and I started doing that more than a week ago.  People here in Arlington–at least in the neighborhood I live in and the ones I’ve been through recently–are taking advice to stay in, stay six feet from people if you go out for a walk, and check in on folks who might need something.

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The woods are full of bluebells (Mertensia virginica for those of you who immediately think of English or Spanish bluebells).

I’m a homebody and an introvert, so this is not difficult for me, but I have been calling friends to see how they’re doing and I have been to the garden to do preparation for planting.  On Saturday, a new volunteer and I weeded the Plot Against Hunger garden (six feet apart) and today I got my own garden re-weeded and ready to plant.  I may try to plant it this week, and if I do, I’ll take some photos.  Everyone who was there was glad to see each other and talk from a distance.

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I came back from the garden with a boatload of turnips. I need to find out whether AFAC is still taking fresh food.

Most photos I have were taken last weekend and the weekend before, except for the turnips.  Last weekend a friend and I went out in search of trout lilies (Erythronum americanum) and bluebells (Mertensia virginica) at Roosevelt Island in the Potomac.  It’s a nice walk from my place and we stayed out walking for three hours, it was so nice.

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No Erythronum, but there were a lot of these beautiful and invasive Celandine.

I also went to Great Falls the week before.  I needed to see the river.  First I went uphill into the woods.  Hardwood forests are so diverse.  There was tulip poplar, various kinds of oak, maple, beech, holly, hickory, and more.  It was lovely in there, with birds flitting and the pileated woodpecker hammering away at something.

Eventually I turned and went back down, in search of my quarry, the river.  I scrambled up some rocks for a view of this still place.

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You can see the rapids in that bright place, middle right.

Later I got closer to the falls.  I have written about the Potomac River Gorge before.  Three separate ecosystems come together in it, and the falls itself are the longest of any American River.  It is always new every time I see it.

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Exhale…

It had flooded earlier, and I came upon this bed of flotsam on my way to see the steep part of the falls.

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I stood for a long time listening to its roar and watching it.

Then I detoured  through a low area and behold!  Mertensia virginica!

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Those little broad leaved green things–the woodland floor was dotted with them.

There were far more of these at Roosevelt Island a week later.  Lovely things.

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By now, they’re in their full glory.

My walks will likely not be much more than around the neighborhood for the next few weeks, but I have joined up with Robin at Breezes at Dawn in a meditation and exercise challenge for the next 40 days.  Have a look at Robin’s blog, which is inherently meditative.  She also has links to places that might be helpful if you want to start a meditation practice.

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Did I mention the geology of the Potomac River gorge? It includes quartzite.

So let’s all hunker down together and do our best.  I have been thinking of a Mary Chapin Carpenter song from some years back, The Age of Miracles, and I offer it here in hopes it provides some solace.  May our best efforts make a difference!

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February Blossoms

Supposedly Washington will escape snow this winter.  We’re having a cold snap with temps in the mid-30’s F.  Lots of things are in bloom.  The witch hazels are coming out.  This one, at Dumbarton Oaks, was magical in the afternoon sunlight.

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I was there with my niece.  We didn’t spend much time in the garden, but I wanted to check whether the flowering quince on the south lawn had blossomed.  They were still in bud.

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Super cool, with the beret and the faux leopard coat. The sweet-smelling Katsura in the back left.

We went to the museum inside the house, which is an amazing collection of works on landscape architecture, Byzantine art and pre-Columbian art. There are circular rooms by Philip Johnson that are echo chambers and whispering galleries when you’re close to the center.  It’s a fabulous place. Outside, snowdrops were out.

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I love these things and the way they spread–not to mention they come out just when winter is about to make me lose hope.

And there were crocuses and Siberian squill.  I don’t know what those yellow things are.

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And speaking of that, I’m taking advantage of the amazing knowledge in the community to ask what this thing is.  It’s in a courtyard where I work, and because it’s off the cafeteria, I hadn’t noticed it, because I take my lunch in almost all the time.

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But let me tell you, it caught my eye.

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And I haven’t got a clue.

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Help!  and have a great week.

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Now this, I know!

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Magical Flowering Quince

Last week, I saw these blossoms leaving work one day.

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I had noticed the buds earlier, but there’s that pink glow trees get in February when buds start to swell and I passed by hurrying in until one evening I saw them and got a whiff of the scent at the same time.  Oh my!

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I think they’re a few weeks early, but we haven’t actually had winter yet, just averagely coldish weather in the 40’s F.  Still, these things are magical, coming in midwinter, giving a lift of relief to the beautiful starkness.

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I’ve been meaning to go to Dumbarton Oaks to see the snowdrops, which I’m pretty sure are out, and to see whether the magical flowering quince is out there as well.

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But what a treat to see these!  And all week long, no extra visit required!

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There are two sets of these. This one has a more southern exposure and blossomed sooner. I photographed them so you could see how they were planted. In my usual way, when I saw the other ones in full bloom, I was so mesmerized I never stepped back for a big picture. Honestly, if there’s a place faeries live, it must be flowering quince.

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