Tag Archives: summer

Salad days – July in the garden

The garden in July is a nine-day wonder. Every year I’m amazed that the tiny seeds of March grow into a vegetable forest in only 100 days.

The dry gravel in the dooryard continues to improve with the addition of seaweed, hay, and now Bio-Char, a soil amendment of organic material heated in a low-oxygen environment. I find it changes the texture and moisture properties of the bed almost immediately. The early Romaine and Blue Lake green beans seem to like it very well.

lettuce and bush beans

I reclaimed a row of angelica as a new site for yellow, purple, and red raspberries this year but it’s impossible to get every plant – evidence below. Angelica makes excellent bee forage and, at 6′ tall, there’s plenty of forage on each plant. The basswood tree behind it didn’t flower this year and I miss the long golden racemes but I’m not surprised at the branch damage with the temps settling at 15 F below for days at a time last winter.

angelica

William Lobb, an old moss rose with intensely fragrant and sticky burr along each bud and branch, with a rugosa hybrid “Hugo” in back, both covered in bees.

hugo rose

One rhubarb plant is really all you’ll ever need. Seriously. To think I’d planned on three?

rhubarbOne of the new colonies, both of which are settling in beautifully. The bees are in the lower portion (or “deep”). The upper two boxes are empty and hold an inverted quart Mason jar with holes punched in the lid to feed sugar syrup during the colony’s transition to a new place. They’ve stopped taking the sugar so I haven’t refilled the jar. The bed of Phacelia (Bee’s Friend) directly in front of the hive is constantly alive with pollinator traffic of all kinds, not just the hived honeybees.

beehives

Phacelia is a new addition to the garden for 2015. I’ve sown it nearly everywhere I had bare ground this year. It sprouts generously and easily from seed under harsh conditions, the ferny undergrowth shades the soil to conserve moisture during these hot dry days, and the bees are on the flowers at all times of the day so the nectar flow must be near continuous. I think my next exploration is Nectoroscodum siculum, or Mediterranean Nectar Garlic – a fragrant allium that seeps nectar from drooping flower bells- wow.

New Work – Land and Garden Preserve

Every year the Land and Garden Preserve, keeper of some of the most beautiful properties on our beautiful island, solicits pieces from local artists for a fundraiser in late summer. The 2015 event will be July 30 – August 1 at the Asticou Inn, Northeast Harbor, Maine. I had the opportunity to paint inside Thuja Lodge over the course of several afternoons in September with some of their lovely still life objects on display.

Thuja Gardens Maine

The Dutch Shelves, Thuja Lodge – oil on panel

Here’s a detail of the view to the kitchen:

Thuja Lodge, detail

 

July in January

I’ve been working on my 2015 seed order this week and talking with a few garden friends about preferences in paprika peppers; rabbit and pigeon predation (I thought I had it bad with deer – at least they don’t fly!); cover crops, and the Eternal Chicken Question. All this brings to mind images of the garden in full green swing, not the current landscape of dingy grey snow with muddy patches and with a buzzcut of bare twigs and pale grasses. Here are some of my favorite images from July, 2014. (I was planning to take some side-by-side photos of today’s garden but it was too depressing – we don’t need a reminder that the ground is hard as iron right now and it will easily be four more months until it begins to soften and “green up”.)

Just outside the dooryard, on the southfacing hillside: broccoli, breadseed poppies, sorrel, mullein, strawberries, parsley, and a Beta pie cherry tree all held in place by withy rows of Black and Scottish basket willow. Down on the lower level you can see the Washington Hawthorns providing a thorny barrier against deer (and almost enough haws for a batch of jelly in 2014) and the silver foliage of the snake willow.

Broccoli withy

More from the dooryard: purple basil, pinks, calendula, and carrots grow under the Seckel pear tree. There’s an elderberry bush coming up on the left that will need to be transplanted (again!) into the swamp during Garden 2015.

purple basil and calendula

Entrance to the lower garden: rhubarb, German paste tomatoes, mustards (in bloom), columbine, Joe Pye weed, and rugosa

rhubarb, tomatoesPink and white rose-mallow, well, mostly white this year! It was nearly smothered by pole beans in August but managed well enough to be featured in several still life paintings.

mallowThe chaos that is the lower garden center: mullein, Russian crabapple, marshmallow, goldenrod (for bee fodder), and one of the glacial erratics that characterize the Maine island garden. There’s a path in there too, somewhere. . . .

lower gardenIn every photo set from my garden there should be at least one very, very confused plant. This Angelica decided to grow up through a cinderblock amidst the nasturtium and pole beans, and it did very well, considering.

sugar cane

Can’t wait until July, 2015!

 

 

 

New work

I spent a lovely week on Great Spruce Head Island a few years back and have sketchbooks, drawings, and photos that I’ve been working on ever since. The color swatches alone are enough to bring up detailed memories of the morning light on Penobscot Bay and thunderstorms on hot afternoons under the spruce trees. This is a study of the rock that ends Double Beaches like a punctuation mark, 12 x 16, oil on panel:

Double Beaches, GSHI

New work – pastel

I’ve set up the pastel corner of the studio and decided to try out my new idiom in that media. My new effort is centered around allowing information to accumulate: marks that describe color and volume coming together over the entire surface of the work. I’ve been working at this in oils for a few months and it makes a kind of perverse sense that it is an easier thought process in chalk.

Frenchboro Wharf

Frenchboro, Wharf with Fishing Gear, 18 x 24, pastel on board

New work, redux

There’s probably a label for the blogging disorder of allowing photos to lapse past their freshness date. . . I go out into the garden these days to gather visuals and am immediately distracted by ripe blueberries, carrots that should be pulled to make room for a second planting, and slugs in the zinnias. On the other hand, our new studio building is making it much easier to be disciplined about painting.

This painting of Frenchboro harbor is one of two that will be hung as a set at Artemis Gallery in Northeast Harbor for a show opening August 14. 20 x 16, oil on panel, finished last week – pic of its other half coming soon.

Frenchboro wharf August

New studio configuration

Our new studio has been a wonderful influence on my work – improved space and light, ventilation, and the separation of my job and housework from the meditative mental space that is so helpful for painting. A lovely room is not strictly necessary (and I know because I worked in a hallway closet for years) but it is helpful. Now that I have the painting rig set up to my satisfaction I thought I might add pastels back in to rotation. I worked solely in pastels while our son was small and only moved back to oils two years ago. This weekend I retrieved work surfaces and boxes of chalk from storage and got to work remembering how to draw with colored sticks.

This is the east wall of the new set-up:

painting and pastels

There is still plenty of room for contemplation and storage. I’m stockpiling some pieces for a show at the Artemis Gallery in Northeast Harbor opening on August 14th.

the Morris chair

I use Rembrandt pastels, very handy to have the box trays with this set.

Rembrandt pastels

And this is the full-summer view from my front porch. . . milkweed, Joe Pye weed, monarda, meadowsweet, ferns, and buckwheat and goldenrod coming along to feed the bees in September.

Hillside garden

 

The July garden

Right now is when everything in the garden turns the corner into full production. We’ve just past the longest day of the year and now it’s all about beating that long, downhill slide toward the dark and cold. November will come, but meanwhile we can make hay while the sun shines and harvest broccoli too.

brassica larkspur

Broccoli, kale, cabbage and other brassica grow well under a variety of conditions, but in my garden they also attract pests if too many are crowded together in one place. I spot plants around in odd areas to avoid cutworms, whitefly, and fleabeetles that find their host plants by scent. In the back is a row of larkspur flowering in its first year from seed – can’t wait to see the variety of colors.

green dinner

Tonight’s dinner is kung pao tofu with assorted greens.

long view of valerian jungleSome of the lower garden is buried in an onslaught of valerian. I don’t discourage it because it goes by quickly, the bees love it, and the roots make an excellent sleep potion (which as a bonus, smells like wet dog).

blue angel hosta

This is the season for big edibles, but the ornamentals aren’t far behind: Blue Angel Hosta maturing at 5′ by 6′ down in the swamp!

seedum

For most of the year this seedum is a flat green carpet, but in July it becomes an alien solar farm.

finger trimmed spruce

I have a finger-trimmed spruce going down in the swamp, next to the hosta. It’s ten years old and has been hand pruned at the tips each year. The “antler” is what happens when the gardener is called away without finishing the task! It’s not a fast growing tree, but it managed to put out this extension in four days – that’s a lot of pent up energy.

 

New(ish) work

I was down in the studio on this glorious Maine morning to clean and organize, and realized I’ve never posted a photo of “Clara’s Vase with Nasturtiums”. This vase is has been very difficult to merge with the softer forms of plants and drapery in past studies. I think my current experiment with Cezanne’s shorter, exploratory brushstrokes have given me more capacity for that type of change in substance.

Claras Vase Nasturtium

Clara’s Vase with Nasturtiums, 20 x 16, oil on panel