I didn't run for my camera. I just stood still and watched the funny, fat little bird. My impression is that he had white spots on his back, like a fawn, but this may be the poetic license of a hazy memory. As he darted back and forth between the potted begonias, the hanging ferns, and the porch furniture, I realized that there were two of them. Indeed, at one point the two tiny birds perched across from one another, right at the edge of my front step. Then one, perhaps the first one, took off for a low branch in the nearby maple tree, whizzing his little wings heroically as he made his way back to shelter and safety. The other soon followed, bumbling his directions, but set on gaining shady protection along with his brother. My heart cheered for him silently as he disappeared among the leaves.
It's been so very dry for the past three weeks. After our early May travel escapades, Shawn and I spent some time at home. He bought a little rototiller, and we installed a collection of plants in the lower terrace behind our garage.
We worked on the upper terrace last year, and salvaged some of what had already been there. The lower terrace was a total overhaul, absolutely nothing to save. I guess at some point, we'll have to go back and remulch the upper tier to match. But for now, it is so much better, so exponentially better than it has been ever since we moved here, that I cannot feel too worried about the two-toned mulch. We've added stepping stones, because it is nearly impossible to tend a garden you can't access. I loved my upper path--we laid it out according to where my feet fell as I walked through. My lower path is even cuter, if not quite as ergonomically designed for my paces.
I did a project, and photographed the gardens from the same vantage point, every hour on the half hour through the day, to gauge how much sun exposure there is. (I will not bore you with those pictures!) Nothing gets more than 3 hours of sun back here, but the hydrangeas that we planted last year get three hours from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. which wilts them every day over lunch. I am at my wits end concerning what to do about this. Nothing but a hydrangea could withstand so much shade, but even three hours of sun is offensive to them. They will simply have to toughen up. Apparently, I am not helping them toughen up, as routinely, when I see them withering on the ground, I run back to turn a sprinkler on them until the hot sun passes. Training spoiled plants; yes, that's me.
Earlier in the season, we saw some beauty in the upper terrace:
smashed in our roofing job, just before the blossoms opened.
Those flowers are all past now, but my astilbe has burst forth--
I bought this plant after doing a great deal of research on plants that thrive in shade. It is called Jacob's Ladder, because it has a ladder-like leaf structure (the technical term is pinnate, I believe). For some reason, I had this perennial mixed up in my head with one called Jupiter's Beard. I kept reading about Jupiter's Beard, and everything suggested that it liked full sun. Since I was looking for shade plants, I was confused as to why this was on my list. At one point, I did a Google image search to try to figure out exactly which plant I was looking for, but in the search bar, I typed, "Jacob's Beard." Imagine Shawn's chagrin when he stopped by to see what I was doing, and discovered me peering in horror at a computer screen filled with hairy men's faces. Anyway. It's Jacob's Ladder. It's nice. It's also in the upper terrace, because I stuck it in the ground to wait until the lower terrace was prepared, and there it has remained.
We've had such dry weather, I've been having to water. I should deep water, but I've been using the sprinkler.
Because it has been so dry, all the little creatures gather in my garden when the sprinkler runs. Robins glory in the cool mist. A family of cardinals lives in our lilac bush, happily enjoying both the water and the birdfeeders that project from the deck. A striped chipmunk tears about amongst my plants, digging holes and chattering angrily at me when I come out to weed or water. He is astonishingly cheeky. The other day as I approached, he ducked into a loose space between the steps, then turned around from inside his stronghold, clucking at me in a fury.
One day I looked out my kitchen window and saw something dangling in a spider's web that had appeared, strung from a euonymous to my astilbe. My first reaction was disgust at a spider's web on my astilbe, but then I saw that the caught insect was a shining black and silver dragonfly. He was hanging from his tail, spinning madly as he fought to free himself.
Immediately I left whatever I was working on in my kitchen sink, running back to the terrace where I pulled the dragonfly free and knocked down the spider's web. The dragonfly was bound up in webbing; it had bent the end of his tail, and one of his wings also bent askew when he tried to move it. I did the best I could to loosen his bonds, but in the end, I just placed him amongst the leaves of the lilac bush.
It is astonishing to me how water brings life, making the plants grow, attracting the little animals and birds. Water is amazing, inexplicable, a substance that behaves unexpectedly according to the rules of science, yet exists as a totally necessary compound for life. We drink it. We wash in it. We are made of it.
Here's my most recent shot of it.
Further down the path, we have two new hydrangeas. These are not to be confused with my three droopy hydrangeas from last year. These only get about an hour of sun per day. They are happy.
But. I will never complain about a blue hydrangea!
Off on the far side, I've planted some foxglove and some lilies of the valley. That's the poison section of my garden!
I killed two tiny rhododendrons which I planted up near the water spigot. They were just too tiny, I think, and had been overfertilized to produce a striking bloom for the store shelf. I made the mistake of adding some plant food for acid loving plants after I put them in, and they just couldn't handle it all. This afternoon, I cut them back to the ground, as I think their only hope is if they could somehow come back from the root.
Anyway, that's my garden, my shade garden in the back.
It never fails to amaze me when I put things into the ground and they actually grow.