"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Category: plants

october table . . .

leaves from the front and back gardens

leaves from the front and back gardens

Instead of buying bunches of flowers at the Farmers’ Market today, I remembered a very simple arrangement I saw years ago at a Zen retreat in Western Massachusetts where leaves and pods from the garden were arranged on a bare wooden table.

Here’s my version from our garden today. Feels so good to clear off the entire table and clean the curly maple surface! Almost like taking a deep breath and clearing the air in our lungs and in the visual space around us!




“feast or famine diet” . . .?

a FIESTA of dahlias from Fivefork Farms this a.m. . .

a FIESTA of dahlias from Fivefork Farms this a.m. . .

dahlias, majestic in a favorite vase . . .

dahlias, majestic in a favorite vase . . .

So, if you read the last post, you’ll know that I’ve come across a 21 day diet that includes 2 days of fasting, drinking bone broth and eating regularly the rest of the time. I’ve refined this somewhat into what I call a “feast or famine” diet that includes:

  1. 2 days apart fasting – drinking juices and bone broth;
  2. 2 days of salad suppers – salads on a dinner plate with a serving of protein (teriyaki salmon, sliced steak, shrimp)
  3. 3 days left for foodie menus – pappardelle pasta with veal ragu, Peking duck, teriyaki chicken thighs on the grill, etc.
'famine' fixin's for beef bone broth. . .

‘famine’ fixin’s for beef bone broth. . .

Anyhow, I’m going to try it out, starting tomorrow when the Instant Pot arrives and I make up some bone broth to store in the freezer.

Starting Monday, September 12th, I’ll start the 21-day diet clock. And on October 3rd, I’ll weigh in (couldn’t resist the pun) and see where things stand.

Meanwhile, here are more photos of the beautiful dahlias at the end of summer – and the beginning of our weekend!


“sparking joy” in our own living room . . .

one of my favorite indoor plants - a maroon leafed oxalis plant that has pale pink flowers when in bloom. . .

one of my favorite indoor plants – a maroon leafed oxalis plant that has pale pink flowers when in bloom. . .

Hey, you know how it’s all the rage these days to pare down, simplify and only keep what “sparks joy” when you pick it up and look at it? Even Deborah Needelman, the Editor in Chief of the New York Times Fashion magazines wrote about it yesterday in her editorial.

Well, I looked around today and decided to do a major pick-up-the-piles-of-stuff-and-sort-it-out this morning. But what sparked it as an enjoyable task rather than feeling like a drudge was to recover and recoup wonderful plants that I’ve had scattered outside for the summer and place them in our living spaces indoors. The maroon oxalis plant, one of my favorites, is now a central figure in a little living room still-life graced also by a tapestry “heron” pillow from France that C. gave me a few years ago.

cyclamen corms . . . still surviving

cyclamen corms . . . still surviving

I’ve also kept a pot of multi-colored miniature cyclamen that bloom and then go bust since a few Christmases ago. They’re sort of in a “bust” mode right now but I love the shape of the pot so much that I put it in a place of honor near the kitchen window where I can water it from below and keep an eye on it. Usually the plants out of sight suffer more than they ought to.

And since we returned from our mini-trip to Halifax, we’ve placed our two canaries closer to us in front of the mirror where they can see themselves and go crazy thinking they’re more of them than there really are. We’ve noticed that they tend to sing their heads off after the 7 o’clock evening news has finished and G. and I look at each other in wonder at the incredible volume their song produces at that time of night. Go figure!

It feels so satisfying to “spark joy” with things I’ve had for such a long time and also refresh our living space without feeling the need to go out and buy anything more than what we already have. Plants especially are satisfying to do this with because they’re alive, just like us. And revive with tender care, just like us too.

(Come to think of it, though, I’m really wanting to replace our electric stove that we’ve had for about twenty years! Maybe in the Fall.)

“OrchidDelirium” exhibition . . .

a "pathiopedilum" (lady slipper) orchid that C. gave me . . .

a “pathiopedilum” (lady slipper) orchid that C. gave me . . .

A couple of years ago, I drove down to the New York Botanical Society from central Massachusetts to see an exhibition on Chrysanthemums. I wrote a post about it with many photos of this amazingly beautiful display of this favored flower of Far East Asian cultures (China and Japan.)

Today, I read an article about an exhibition of orchids showing in the same Enid Haupt Hall as the “Mums Show” and thought I’d post it, especially as they have a photo (scroll down in the article) of a “paphiopedilum” orchid – otherwise known as “lady slipper” orchid very similar to one that my daughter, C. gave me before Christmas.

It is still going strong on our kitchen table!

“montauk daisies” . . .

montauk daisies 1

“montauk daisies” – in rockport, ma., a seaside town, there are huge plantings of white flowers that emerge in the Fall. They even sell these perennial plants at the local grocery store. I brought a few plants back home a few years ago to provide some blooms when almost everything else has gone by in late September and early October.

With almost no care at all, they have multiplied by leaps and bounds in just a few years.montauk 3

montauk daisies first

“million kisses!” begonia. . .

hanging begonia 1hanging begonia 2

This is a lovely plant that I discovered at a farmstand in Concord, MA. this afternoon when my daughter, C. and I met for coffee and catching up.

At first glance, I thought it was a hanging fuschia plant because of the trumpet shaped flowers. When I read the plastic plant tag, it said it was a begonia, “million kisses” and I noticed that the dark underside of the green leaves and the slightly fuzzy jagged edges were indeed typical begonia leaves.

After I noticed the flowering cyclamen vine delicately making its way east and west underneath the second floor bay window the other day, I’ve found myself appreciating the flowering plants surrounding our home, both inside and outside: peonies, Japanese and otherwise, deep purple slender Siberian iris, false blue indigo, white wisteria, coral bells, a huge fringe tree with white tendrils. Inside out on our 3rd floor deck, the size of a postage stamp are a pot of kitchen herbs, three-year old poinsettia plants whose branches are getting thicker almost like bonsai trees; cyclamen of different hues, maroon oxalis with tiny pale pink flowers the size of someone’s pinky fingernails.

This begonia is in a class all its own, and I don’t even LIKE begonias per se! You know, those tuberous, big ruffled show-off flowers in ice cream sherbert colors that old people seem to favor. This is a trailing plant, a strain that produces pale, subtle watercolor hues. The shape of the flowers is ultra simple: no ruffles, doubles or flashy centers. Pale, simple trumpet shaped flowers surrounded by dark green and coppery brown edged leaves.

I just love it!


Spring miracles . . .


Clematis "Montana - Nelly Moser" branching out under the bay window

Clematis “Montana – Nelly Moser” branching out under the bay window

Our Queen Anne Victorian house has a pink clematis climbing up one corner, then branches out into two lanes, one to the left and one to the right underneath a second floor bay window.

It is the FIFTH plant that has followed this pattern, the first one planted almost twenty years ago; then a bad winter befell the vine after some years and no more leaves showed up the following Spring. I planted successive ones over the next decade that either grew slowly or not at all. They were all the same color with the same species name: Clematis “Nelly Moser.”clematis %22Montana%22

This Spring, after the snowiest winter in Boston’s history, a climbing clematis was the furthest thing from my mind until I caught a glimpse of it this week while unloading groceries from the back of the car. Gardens and Mother Nature move along at their own pace. If we’re lucky, we may have a small hand in it now and then.

What a joy it is to see these familiar pink flowers reappear! It also reminds me that Hope Springs Eternal, even when I’ve almost forgotten about it.


clematis 1




Apparently, eating better and less is not enough to get healthier, fast! Half an hour of “vigorous exercise” would do it, though, my doctor opines. The ankle I broke last year has 13 plates and screws in it which inhibits me from jumping around, running or even walking fast. But never fear. I decided to walk to the post office today and back. We live on top of a (very) high hill. So getting there (going downhill) was relatively easy. Getting back was another story.


The real benefit of walking during this mid-Springtime is that it’s easier to notice that the flowering trees are all in bloom and there are lots of flowers growing on the ground as I pass by.

On my trek to the post office, I saw: white johnny jump-ups, lilies of the valley, daffodils and narcissus, of course, lots of dandelions, azalea, dogwood, weeping cherry, crabapple blossoms, apple blossoms, pear blossoms, forsythia and a magnificent magnolia tree (white and so glorious!)

Purple and white lilacs are out, honeysuckle and this morning, I noticed that the wisteria in front of the barn is awash in lavender tendrils for the first time!


“these are our days” . . .

garden with plantersSometimes it’s hard to remember what we were like twenty years ago. Since then, we may have grown our hair out, gained weight, lost some but still weigh a little more than we did back then. Even more weighty is what our experience has been since then: how did we make out in our professional careers; what do we do and how do we spend our time now? Most importantly, what’s left that we would like to have out of our days while we are in what’s been called our “third chapter?”

G and I when we first met, >twenty years ago. . .

G and I when we first met, >twenty years ago. . .

I’d been thinking about these questions when I came across an article about Carey Mulligan, the actor who appears to be more independent than most. On her dressing room mirror, written in eyebrow pencil are the words:

“These are our days.

Walk them.

Fear Nothing.”

How pure, I thought. No extra words or flourishes. No project management flavored goals, timelines or milestones. How refreshingly free of “shoulda, coulda, woulda” thoughts. No plans nor agendas. Walking is something we do everyday. Pace yourself.

“Fear nothing” is the best advice of all. Upload into the Universe what you can’t manage anymore. Sew them up with tiny stitches and put them away, Push them through the opening and zip the cover tight. Breathe naturally. Since doing that, I’ve found that nervous tics go away. So does a lot more.

Today is Sunday and the day is filled with sunlight and a light breeze that makes the trees sway. G. is tuning a piano downstairs before it is delivered to a new home this afternoon. (How lucky we are that he does what he does with pianos and that we live in this beautiful home!) I’m drinking the last of the coffee and reading my Sunday New York Times newspaper which I relish as one of the luxuries of my week.

our weeping cherry tree flowers every year around May 1st. . .

our weeping cherry tree flowers every year around May 1st. . .

Tomorrow, our new tenants for the front apartment will be coming by for supper. I thought I’d make a vegetarian dish called “Buddha’s Delight” and we’ll make scallion pancakes together. They’ve said that they love dumplings so we’ll make them later on in the Fall after they’ve moved in and things settle down. Earlier in the afternoon, I’ll make some homemade dashi broth with kombu seaweed and bonito flakes; strain it and add some white miso, tofu and green onions for our soup. A good new start to living here in the “piano house.” I hope things work out and that we’ll have a good time.heuchera planters 1jpg

The spring ceramic planters I bought at Lowe’s are filled with dramatically colorful heuchera plants whose leaves contrast with each other against the green of the pots. Coral bells have always been some of my favorite kinds of plants because of the unusual colors the leaves are (chartreuse, light orange and deep maroon) their stems of tiny coral flowers swaying in the breeze.

heuchera planters 2

My idea is to let them grow for awhile in the planters, then place them in the ground. That will allow the pots to change their look and contents with other plantings that catch my eye as the growing season progresses: knee high cosmos plants during the summer, or statuesque foxgloves for example; bright, deep-colored chrysanthemums in the Fall. It will be fun to rotate what’s in the planters outside and mostly, it will be fun to anticipate, fearing nothing.

heuchera planters 3







merry christmas . . .

our poinsettia ~ 2nd year

our poinsettia ~ 2nd year

poinsettia plant ~ christmas 2012

poinsettia plant ~ christmas 2012