May 2014

The Lone Ranger

With the development of our garden there has been an increase in bird activity. My husband and I have a favorite chair in our living room from which we watch the birds. Sitting in this green armchair we can see, through the side glass door, a large clay bowl of water, nestled in the grass beneath a dawn redwood. It is not uncommon to see wrens, jays, finch. flickers, woodpeckers, and doves visit this water feature regularly, perhaps because of its close proximity to low tree branches, affording protection. Alternately they fly from stems to the brim of the bowl and back, looking as if they are performing an aerial dance.

One of our favorite birds, the Townsend Warbler comes in fall. One morning while drinking my tea I suddenly heard my husband exclaim “ooooh…there’s a Townsend Warbler.” I quickly joined him to watch. The masked bird flit to a bough of the tree then back to the water. A black mask stretched across his eyes, bordered by bright yellow markings. “He looks like...

Smoke Tree

Although smoke tree is considered visually appealing for its plumose panicles in spring and summer, its lively display of autumn color is a dramatic encore. From the family Anacardiacae, the genus Cotinus is typically multi-stemmed but can be pruned into a single main trunk. The appearance of “smoke” from which its common name is derived, results from silky filaments that develop on the inflorescence. Naturally informal, the branches of some selections become whip-like extensions, making it an accommodating choice for the wild, unfettered garden.

Exploring available varieties can be as much a delight as discovering the numerous virtues of smoke bush. Cotinus coggygria cultivars, ‘Purpureus’ and ‘Nordine Red’ produce leaves that are at...

Planting Peace

The sky was still dark when my daughter left for school with her best friend. Both were in high school at the time. They walked arm in arm down the front walkway to the car. Standing at the entrance, in my pajamas and robe, leaning against the doorframe, I watched the outline of their backpacks blend with the hint of fiery red sky beyond them. Just as I closed the front door, the telephone rang. It was a friend from Oregon calling. “Are you watching television?”

“No….its six thirty in the morning!”

“I know…but…something has happened.” Urgency and alarm was apparent in his voice. “A plane has crashed into the world trade center. Smoke is pouring from it like an ominous torch….people are….”

I called my husband and handed him the telephone, turning on the television at the same time with my free hand. We watched for an hour stunned.

For the next forty-eight hours I baked bread, lit candles for the lives lost, and murmured prayers in the hope of lives...