Saturday, July 20, 2013

Letting Go of Gardening (for a day)

Summer is the season for watering, weeding, and wondering what needs to be added, subtracted, or simply altered. It's a time of lists and listlessness (and alliteration). Sometimes it feels like I'm deadheading more than delighting in (no more alliteration, I promise.); I see more spent blooms than I do fresh ones. And weeds. Need I say more?

So I gave myself a day off:  No pruners, kneeling pad, bucket or spade. Even carrying a tripod and a heavy, macro lens seemed like too much, too focused (I didn't say there'd be no puns). So armed with only my walk-around lens ( 17-85mm) and sunscreen, I took a stroll in my own garden.

On my way to photograph a giant Common Mullein, two butterflies formed sailors' knots around the Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii 'Walker's Low' ) and Lavatera thuringiaca.

Nepeta x faassenii 'Walker's Low'

Lavatera thuringiaca
It's funny. Often I plant flowers for the birds and butterflies, but I don't often take time to watch them enjoying the garden I planted for them.

 Oh yes, I'll look up from my weeding when one flutters by, but the sweat dripping into my eyes makes me turn my head back down to my task. 

Today I simply got to watch them garland the garden, vibrating along with the flowers in the breeze.

Verbascum thapsus

 After they flew off, I moved on to this year's curiosity. I know, I know, Common Mullein is called that for a reason. But it wasn't common to me. It began as just some fuzzy leaves at the base of a Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima). At first I thought it was
Lamb's Ears (Stachys byzantina), but the color was a bit too green.
I left it there for two years to see what would come of it. The first year, it was just a rosette of leaves.  But the second year, it shot up with a flower stalk, just shy of eight feet and still growing! For something so common it's pretty darned impressive. I did pull it out though. The Feather Grass is prettier and the mullein is a weed that will spread.  But seeing it evolve was worth the time, much better than simply reading about it. 

Further on was the new Rockrose (Cistus × dansereaui 'Jenkyn Place' ).  Even without a macro lens, I could get close enough and crop tightly enough to really get into the design. There's something so "Southwest" about that red area, like a hand-woven rug or a hand-painted skirt.  This was nothing I noticed when I bought it. 

I ended the morning with a stubborn Meadow-rue (Thalictrum 'Elin' ).  A Douglas Fir branch had blocked some of the sun and all of its growth trajectory, so it bent, swerved, and looped its way up to seven feet, and then (and only then) it flowered in one big AHA!  I didn't see the spider web until I uploaded my pictures into Lightroom.  There's something magical about Meadow-rue.  I always seem to see more once I'm looking at the shots on the computer screen, as if the plant continued to evolve digitally.

My stroll took me all of ten feet into one of the beds (probably about a third of the circumference).  I don't know if I learned more about letting go of plans and expectations as a photographer or about letting go of the gardening as a gardener.  But both work.