Anger is bad though, it makes blood vessels pop and my face turn red which is not my color. Annoyance is itself annoying so I want to avoid it. I spent most of June working hard to be mellow and tranquil so as not to turn red. I accomplished this with diversions. When something went weird I simply diverted my attention to something else. When a virus deleted the database, I did some graphics; when the Microsoft update that I spent 4 hours downloading caused the computer to lockup I went and transplanted a palm tree. The trick is to adapt and go with the flow. That works, but I prefer to run away from my problems. At least for a while because 1) the problem might go away and 2) even if it doesn't you'll be a better mood to solve it when you return. So I ran away and headed up to Kentucky to see my family.
I drove up through Alabama and middle Tennessee, there was some stormy weather but the countryside was so pretty and fresh and green I didn't mind. It was still gray and rainy when I arrived back in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, my hometown. The entire Ohio River Valley experienced a cool wet spring this year as did much of the eastern United States. During my stay, raininess and gray were the order of the day. During a break in the drizzle I drove over the river to Cincinnati, Ohio to take some plant pictures and it was just like being in Vancouver except for the bad smell... Just kidding, Cincinnati isn't anything like Vancouver! :) [BTW, big congratulations to my friends there on hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics - woohooooo!]
I drove around the old neighborhood and found some pawpaw (Asimina triloba) patches that were way down yonder in a creek bed by the college - strange how I never noticed them when I lived there... Shortly after that I encountered American basswood (Tilia americana in bloom. Also known as American linden, it is a cousin of the European littleleaf linden pictured above. We had a small grove of them behind our house when I was in junior high. The trunks of these long suffering trees hosted endless iterations of tree houses, forts, camps and clubs. I drove by the old house to see how "my" old basswoods were doing - the last tree house is long gone but the grove is still there bigger and prettier than ever.
It was great seeing the folks back home, but after a few days I became restless knowing that I had a very sick computer awaiting rehabilitation back in Tallahassee. I kissed and hugged everyone goodbye and headed home. As I pulled onto I-75, I did some reckoning and realized with horror that I would be arriving in Atlanta right at rush hour - friday afternoon rush hour! Surviving that, I would still have to negotiate the south Georgia I-75 gauntlet the next morning. Much of this 250 mile segment is under construction and painfully congested with impatient vacationers heading to Florida and huge, over stimulated 18-wheelers heading up your tailpipe. It's no place for a relaxing and scenic drive so I decided to try an alternate route - was I glad I did!
I enjoyed a pleasant enough drive on Interstate 75 all of the way to Chattanooga, Tennessee. To avoid Atlanta I decided to have an adventure and drive old US route 27 all the way to Tallahassee, Florida. It's a beautiful 2, 3 or sometimes 4 lane route that passes through Georgia's northwestern mountains. A cool (and not altogether accidental) coincidence is that beautiful Callaway Gardens is situated smack dab on US 27 in central Georgia. I've wanted to visit this famous garden and resort for a long time and now I had the chance to do my overnight there!
Just south of Chattanooga, I exited I-75 onto Georgia's State Route 151. It was about 2:00 in the afternoon with blue skies, big white puffy clouds, warm temps, low humidity and a lovely light breeze - a perfect day for a drive through the mountains. I glided over the smoothly curving road at the western edge of the piney Chattahoochee National Forest and admired the scenery. I pitied the motorists who stayed on I-75 - was I glad they did!
I switched off NPR because the news was a bummer and popped in a newly purchased CD of old hits called Classic Jazz For Lovers. I didn't buy it out of prurient interest, but rather because I thought it would make good background music for when I work on the damn computer (of course it is perfect for prurient interests as well). I stopped at a gas station and bought a praline and Moon Pie sugar rush. I cranked up the classics and cruised along in a pre-interstate of mind, spewing tunes all along Georgia 151. Waves of nostalgia crashed over me and I was amazed to find that I knew most of the words to these songs - my parent's songs!
Somehow these songs had subliminally penetrated my kid-consciousness during in the 1950's and early 1960's. Maybe I heard them riding in elevators or on Muzak as I waited in the dentist chair when I wasn't really paying attention. Maybe I half listened to the other Ed Sullivan Show acts while waiting for the jugglers and dish spinners. I suspect the primary (and longest) exposures to this "old" music probably occurred while riding in the car on family vacations down roads just like US 27 at just this time of year. In the era before the interstates we weren't old enough to want to listen to our "own" music and Dad was still master of the radio dial. Sitting in the back seat, groggy from the heat (no AC in those days) my brain must have sponged up these songs, the lyrics sneaking into my subconscious while I was half asleep - subliminal learning must work!
"Misty" (Sarah Vaughan) was on the CD and I knew every word ("I'm as helpless as a kitten up a tree"). OK, I admit that's an easy one because of the Clint Eastwood movie but do you remember "Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars" (Nancy Wilson)? I do, didn't know I did, but I do! One hit after another came back to me: I knew most of "Isn't It Romantic" (Ella Fitzgerald) and all of "Blue Moon" (Mel Tormé)!
One song I do remember well surprised me when I heard it again after all of these years. The lyrics to "I'm In The Mood For Love" (Julie London) are kinda dirty but in a really subtle way. Her sultry voice croons "We put our hearts together now we are one, I'm not afraid" (sizzle) When we were kids I remember Dad teasing Mom saying that this was his favorite song with Mom inevitably becoming perturbed. I can't get her to share the joke with me now, but I bet it was something naughty - after all I do have three brothers and three sisters!
Even though I'm a horrible singer, I marvel at how fabulous I sound when I croon these old standards at the top of my lungs as I cruise this beautiful country road - I rock! So "As Time Goes By" (Peggy Lee), "All Of Me" (Billie Holiday) speeds south down 151 "For Sentimental Reasons" (Nat King Cole) through Rome and Cedartown. The miles roll by "As Time Goes By" and by early evening I approach Pine Mountain knowing that "I want to be Around" (Tony Bennett) tomorrow for at least a couple of hours to enjoy beautiful Callaway Gardens.
They had room at the Inn so I checked in. There was still at least an hour of daylight left. As I walked to my room it occurred to me that it was mid-summer's eve and I thought "It's Magic" (Dinah Washington - sorry, last one). There was just enough time to scope out the garden so I hopped back in the car. I managed to see only a tiny portion of the property when darkness and hunger drove me back to the Inn. I felt grateful and incredibly fortunate for the opportunity to spend time, however brief, amongst such natural beauty - and they have a seafood buffet!!!
Since I was alone and nobody knew me, I ate amazing quantities of crab claws and shrimp (boiled, gumbo and fried) along with respectable numbers of hushpuppies and biscuits piled alongside. Back in my room I quickly fell asleep happily anticipating next morning's tour of the Garden. Throughout the night I had disturbing seafood dreams but awoke refreshed and ready to assault the breakfast buffet (a little bacon, a tiny bit of eggs, a small sausage, one pancake, one French toast, a dab of fried potatoes, a sample of corned beef hash, lots of yogurt, berries and melon and a glazed donut for energy). Properly nourished for a couple hours of exploration I headed for the Garden gate.
I ran around the place like a maniac trying to see as much as possible. It was a warm day and my t-shirt was drenched in sweat and I was wheezing because of the pollen but I had a wonderful time anyway. I shot dozens of pictures before the camera battery died and it was time to go home. As I hopped back in the car and drove past a giant ant sculpture in a field of wildflowers I solemnly promised myself that I'd return to Callaway - soon! I turned onto US 27 and continued southward through Columbus, Georgia and from there across the peanut growing countryside that is home to President Carter. Before long I was in front of the Florida Capital Building where US 27 traffic makes a left turn. I continued straight ahead and twenty minutes later I pulled into my drive to the howls of Great Dane and beagle alike - home!
Last month I introduced a mother bird who had made her nest in the hanging basket of spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) beside my back door. Before I left on my trip to Kentucky, a Floridata visitor named Sue emailed to inform that my bird is a Carolina house wren (thanks, Sue!) After receiving that message I ran out to look in the nest. Mom wasn't around so I peeked in with the camera and, sure enough, there were two little naked baby birds inside. While I was away they feathered out, grew up and and left the nest. On the exact morning that I returned from my trip, a friend saw mom coaxing the babies out into the world. I just missed their first flight and thought I had seen the last of them. I assumed they had moved on to a nicer house (I would) but then, just the other day, I saw a tiny little bird flying erratically about. It was awkward and clumsy, missed the perch it was aiming for and stumbled to soft crash landing. I laughed out loud but then stopped because I didn't want to damage its self confidence. I can't prove it but these little sightings fluff ballmust be my baby Carolina house wrens. I hope they stick around. Even though the dogs and I are rotten neighbors we really do like birds.
As much as it rained when I was in Kentucky, it was even rainier back home in Tallahassee. It poured every day I was gone and the Catfish Pond was filled to the tiptop for the third time this year (a record). The palms and tropical plants celebrated the week long monsoon by growing and greening. On the other hand, many of the perennials just couldn't fight off the fungus and insect attacks triggered by the extended wet period. Worst of all are the weeds - in just a week they have exploded into the garden beds. It appears that next month's projects will be devoted to weeding, mulching, weeding, pruning and weeding.
At the beginning of the month I checked the weather forecast and noted that several weeks of rain were predicted for my area. Warm wet weather is best for transplanting palms so I took the opportunity to move two European fan palms (Chamaerops humilis) that grow up on the hill. They were being shaded and cramped by a strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo ) so I dug them both and moved them about 25 ft (7.6 m) away where they'll have room to grow. This is another of those jobs that I've been putting off for years so it's satisfying to finally have it out of the way. It's been several weeks now and it appears that they're going to make it with minimal transplant shock and they look as pretty in their new homes as I had hoped!
In my very first Gardener's Journal some two years ago, I wrote about one of my deodar cedars (Cedrus deodara) that was attacked by borers that killed all but the lower 18 in (45 cm) of the tree. I wrote about training a new leader (main stem) by tieing it to a stake. The effort was a total failure. The selected branch died a few months later as did a couple others - more borers... I got mad and gave it up for dead since I had no intention of treating it with the very toxic pesticide that was required to do the job. This winter when I cleared brush in the area I discovered that the sick little cedar had survived! I admired its tenacity so I mulched, fed and watered it but otherwise let it alone and now it's starting to shape up.
Recent rains have made life rough for many of June's blooms. Day after day, torrents of rain have prematurely beat delicate petals to the ground. Some of the herbaceous plants look hungover, like they drank too much - which they did - and grew so large so fast that the weight of the branches split their stems causing them to flop over. My first bed of gladiolus in 20 years, was beat down by the rain and trashed by an armadillo before I could even take a single picture...
On the bright side, I planted a lot of annual "wildflowers" this year and they are thriving from all of the recent rain. I'm especially enjoying certain of the annual species that are really talented at brightening up the place with summertime color. I did a planting of orange cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus) that peaked in mid-June, then died back some and now a second generation of plants will produce another flush of bloom in mid-July. The pink cosmos (C. bipinnatus) patch up on The Hill is a foamy green froth studded with pastel flowers and it is driving local butterflies insane with delight. This is the first year I've grown plains coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria), an annual wildflower with bright yellow daisylike petals and brownish-mahogany centers. Often called calliopsis here in the south, it is Florida's official state wildflower [the orange (Citrus sinensis) blossom is the state flower]. It's yet another easy annual able to fend for itself and able to fill spaces with color quickly and inexpensively. I hope it establishes itself in my garden!
I spied an auction for 3 yellow elder plants (Tecoma stans) so I bid and won! Floridata needs some new photos of this plant for its profile, so now I'll have my own to photograph whenever I wish. Yellow elder is very showy and even though this species is the official flower of the United States Virgin Islands they are hardy to Zone 7. I would have planted some long ago but couldn't find them - until I saw the it offered on Floridata's eBay listings on the Welcome page. They arrived a few days later in the mail carefully packed and fresh and healthy - what a great way to shop for plants!
Did you notice the new eBay listings and ads I added to my Journal in the right column this month? I hope that you will support Floridata whenever possible by patronizing our sponsors and by donating a $15.00 "voluntary subscription" to help pay Floridata's expenses [Update September 2006: I'm still begging for donations to help pay hosting expenses - unfortunately some things never change :-( ] You help is greatly appreciated as we grow Floridata into a business!
I'm whupped from all of this writing and am actually looking forward to a day away from the computer so I can pull weeds in the garden. Weird. Have a happy and safe summer - don't forget the sun block and bug repellent and please visit us often - we'll be here updating and growing Floridata all summer long! Stay cool and be good and grow. - Jack