Sunday, June 22, 2014

Midsummer's Day

Sheree and Kevin Wagner
It was a beautiful Midsummer Day here in Bismarck, capped off by a lovely evening wedding at The Post pioneer village south of Mandan. My best co-worker buddy and her long-time boyfriend were together nine years and engaged since Thanksgiving 2012. Not wanting to get married in a year with "13" in it, she chose June of 2014.
Believe me, she had planned this wedding thoroughly. There wasn't one detail she could have possibly missed. But there's always one thing you can't count on with North Dakota weddings like hers and mine - the weather. My own wedding day 40 years ago this month dawned windy, cloudy and cool, but cleared up and warmed up by 5:00 p.m.
It's days like these that make me glad that I live in North Dakota. The first feelings came to me as I crossed the Missouri from Bismarck to Mandan. Many boats were on the river, their occupants enjoying a fine evening on the water after a hot day. It made me wish I was on one of the speeding motorboats with spray in my face, or just tooling along on a pontoon, but no, I was on my way to a wedding.
Having driven mere blocks south of the Stage Stop Saloon corner in Mandan, then past the hill where I used to live, I was out in the countryside in mere minutes. The crops are all coming along nicely row up on row in the fields along the highway. Even virgin prairie was lush and green due to the recent rains, and the sweet clover was in bloom. There is nothing better than the scent of sweet clover wafting along the air on a summer's eve. The meadowlarks and bobolinks were singing their hearts out, and the wild roses were in bloom.
Behind the wedding arbor, the lowering sun sent shafts of light through a band of evergreens. A light breeze was just enough to waft any insects away. The bride, her maid of honor and her bridesmaids, which included her 12-year old daughter and 16-year-old stepdaughter, were all beautiful and perfectly simple with their wildflower bouquets. All the groomsmen, including Kevin's 19-year old son, were the picture of casual in their blue jeans, leather vests, and ivory western shirts.
We retired indoors for the reception, but another co-worker and I, the only other person I knew besides the bride and groom, left quite soon after the luncheon and toasts. I wanted to be outdoors again. I knew that most of the group would retire outside to the grounds again, and there was to be a bonfire and much partying into the night, but I don't drink and drive, so I headed home again in the still bright evening.
When I got to back to Bismarck I made a mad decision and stopped to buy a 4-pack of Seagram's Escapes Strawberry Daiquiris. I took my drink and sat outside on the deck. It was as peaceful in my backyard as it had been out on the prairie, but with different birdsong. Even though I was very tired, I was determined to stay out until it got dark. Since the sun set last night at 9:41 p.m., it was after 10:00 when I went in. I'd had a whopping two bottles of the flavored malt beverage. I poured myself into bed, thinking that was party enough for this gal on Midsummer's Day.

Sunday, June 1, 2014


As of 5:00 Friday, I have been on vacation. It's a vacation of the very best kind - a staycation.  I have nine days in a row to work on garden projects. Yesterday got off to a great start with the placement of 25 pavers in my "Celtic Courtyard". Last year my niece's fiancĂ©, Marcus, installed the white lattice screen, moved my fountain and laid the brown pavers so I could place my Lutyen's bench. The other four brown pavers were placed here and there in the courtyard, along with the round "Tudor Rose" stepping stones.

When the "torrential" rains came last fall, the mud splashed up everywhere, and I knew I needed to have way more pavers and way less dirt. I only "guesstimated" the amount of pavers I would need, so Marcus will be picking up nine more to complete the checkerboard. He moved the four brown pavers so the old ones are all together. I thought the new ones were the same color, but I think they will work. All of the Tudor rose circles will be placed next to the walkway, and I'll be squaring off the courtyard at the far right end.

The few plants that are coming up by the bench and the fountain are day lilies. Someday I will have all of the dirt areas filled up with plants. This is a shady area, canopied by my huge elm tree. To the left is a grapevine fence that is only starting to green up. It fills in very lushly by the middle of the summer.

I will be moving the white arbor on the right, since it has been in the "wrong place" since my deck was built last fall and the lattice screen installed. (The deck is just to the right of the walkway.) I will also have to relocate the Dropmore honeysuckle, which has never grown well in the shade anyway.

One never realizes what will show up in a photo. Had I known, I would have removed the ugly hanging Off dispenser and moved the hose!

Here is another view of the courtyard, which also shows part of my backyard. The plants are starting to come up in my Unicorn Garden, which I showed you last summer. (Fragile Mr. Unicorn spent the winter in my bedroom for safekeeping. He will go outside today.)

I'm afraid I have lost a few of the perennials. I never did mulch last fall, first having a painful hernia and then recovering from surgery for a month. At the very far right end of the yard you will see my French bistro table and two chairs placed inside my "Welcome to The Fairy Bower" arbor under the lilac. (Personalized Arbor Plaque ordered from Plow and Hearth.)

I have a guy coming in to hydro seed this lawn, so hopefully future photos will show a lush greensward instead of dirt!

That's not the only project that was accomplished yesterday. Marcus and his cousin, Dustin, installed my new cedar arbor over the front sidewalk. Dustin proved to be somewhat of a rose expert, and cut back and trained my beautiful William Baffin climbing rose over the arbor. If you look closely at the top of the picture, you will be able to distinguish the rose foliage from the foliage of the elms across the street. Later this summer, we will tighten the strings on the climbing canes.
My mailman will love this change. He will no longer have to hack his way through the rose thorns to walk up my sidewalk! Dustin also trimmed back all of my rose shrubs, which will be blooming later this month, as will the William Baffin. He also trimmed the climbing Henry Kelsey rose and trained it up the left side of the arbor. Henry has never performed as well as William but I always relent and give him yet another summer to produce well.
I chose the Henry Kelsey rose because of my niece, Kelsey, and I have to give her kudos for actually working the longest yesterday. Hours before the guys even showed up, she was weeding my flower beds on both sides of the driveway, in and among the rose bushes and the flower bed to the left of my front step. I think she weeded for about five hours straight! Now my peonies and irises (currently in bud) will not have to compete with weeds when they show off their glorious blooms.
My three peonies are all Sarah Bernhardts:
I have a lovely unnamed lavender "heirloom" iris that a friend gave me, which is the linchpin of the driveway flower bed. I also planted some new irises last fall, and they are all growing vigorously:

This is Mariposa Autumn

Here is Gay Parasol

This one is Dakota Skies. I had to have
an iris with Dakota in the name!

This is Jurassic Park


I am so happy to have time off that does not involve surgery, infusions, bone marrow biopsies, and so forth. I am also so happy to be blessed with such great garden helpers.