Search This Blog

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Out in the Garden

Somehow, this got posted before I even got a word typed out.
I've been working out in our garden lately. I've noticed that the gardens around homes say alot about the homes and their inhabitants. Most of the luxury homes in our area seem to have extensive gardens with lots of vibrant color in them. Gardeners and landscapers come and go, caring for these exquisite masterpieces. Needless to say, the only gardening staff coming and going from our home is moi. But I do have the gardens looking rather good right now.
I've planned the gardens rather carefully for the past three years. I've got sketches and notes and photos that I've clipped from magazines. Each year, I invest in some perennials for the garden.
I recently found a place in Western Massachusetts called the Perennial Ranch. This gentleman grows plants from seed in on the property there. He then pots them up and sells them as his business. His prices were unbelievably reasonable (right now the plants are on sale for $5 a pot). The plants are hardy and acclimated to conditions in the Northeast. I've had trouble in the past with plants from some of the big retailers because the plants were born and raised in greenhouses in the south and the harsh reality of the Northeast was a complete shock to them. These plants are accustomed to a harsher climate than my yard and they should do just fine for me.
My past purchases have come from nurseries in our area, flea markets, and the big retailers. This is the time of year to really beef up the perennial gardens for next years show. Last year, I bought a full flat of lavender plants at the flea market for a song. This year I have a delight lavender hedge that is growing along the front of the house by the porch. Two years ago, I purchased some pink shrubby roses that one of the big retailers was about ready to throw away. I lost two of them, but the other two are blooming nicely alongside the driveway. Not too shabby for free.
I truly believe that the keys to success in a Coattail Perennial Garden are to have a plan and to be flexible about the plan. I know precisely what I want and need for my garden. That's my plan. But if I find something that blooms the same time of year, is the same general height, and is a bargain --- my plan is flexible enough to accomodate that different plant. Planting without a plan results in disasters. The garden becomes messy and unwieldy. It looks like you just threw in some plants --- because that's what you did. Adhering to closely to the plan and not allowing for flexibility results in a very expensive garden. I'd be crying buckets of tears for every plant that died over a harsh winter if I hadn't taken advantage of such tremendous bargains along the way.
The other garden investment this time of year is seeds. I know, we think of seeds as an early spring thing. But I think that this is the time to buy seeds. Most nurseries and garden centers have marked their seeds way, way down to get rid of them NOW. Those seeds will still be perfectly good in 4-5 months when I'm ready to start my little seedlings indoors. And at that point, the nurseries will be selling new packets of seeds for full price! Our local garden center has seeds marked down 75% right now. That makes a pack of seeds about 15 cents. I have already grabbed my vegetables and my marigolds. I'm going back tomorrow when I can spend the time to sit on the floor and dig through the basket properly. I'm looking for things like cosmos, zinnias, hollyhocks, and the like. I want color that I can cut all summer long. And at this price, I can have all I want. My garden can look luxurious and lush -- even without the gardening service and the high prices.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Summer Travel Observations

I cannot quite believe that it has been over a month since I last wrote here. But the dates do not lie -- nearly six weeks it is.
Summer has been delicious this year. We've made a trip to Nantucket, a trip to Tanglewood, a trip to Chicago, and a trip to Edmonton. A busy, busy time.
Nantucket continues to be beautiful, but outrageously expensive. We spent only a day on the island. By taking the early ferry over and the latest ferry back, we were able to spend a great deal of time on the island without the horrible expense of the overnight stay on the island. Given that we were unable to find a room for under $450, it was a frugal and necessary decision. We tried to jam pack a full day with as much fun as possible. That included breakfast at Children's Beach --- crowded, filled with demanding, spoiled people, but delicious and wonderful nevertheless. Then we spent the morning window shopping along the streets of downtown. Believe it or not, the shop-aholic here did not buy one single thing. But window shopping and wandering in and out of boutiques is always educational. The afternoon was beach time --- sand, sun and lots of sunscreen --- a burn can quickly ruin frugal fun. And we capped off the day with the evening back in town, cocktails on a terrace, dinner at yet another restaurant, and a late dessert at still another. All in all a full sample of the island's best.
While I saw many wealthy women on the island wearing recognizably expensive clothing and jewelry, I was overall unimpressed with the "chic" of the island this trip. Most of the women seemed to have adopted the recent fads for overfull skirts and skimpy tops with ruffles or they had adopted the island trend of very bright colors mixed together. While both of these look excellent in their own way -- they lack the chic that those of us on tight budgets demand. These looks are here today and gone tomorrow --- or gone as soon as one leaves the island culture. A few of the women in town were dressed in all white --- always a chic, cool look in the summer and easy for the cheapchic among us to imitate.
Tanglewood was also a chic disappointment. Don't misunderstand --- the concert was wonderful, the symphony was at its best. Believe the reports you hear that the BSO has improved dramatically under the direction of Conductor James Levine. They are amazingly good -- and the program we heard is a challenging one. But the level of dress on the lawn was very sloppy, very poor. Most of the audience seemed to have come in their yard work clothes. There were a lot of t-shirts and shorts, and an equal number of capris and tanktops, but not alot of chicly, classically dressed women. The few women who were well dressed -- and I don't mean overdressed at all--- stood out sharply in the crowd. These women had on simple monochromatic outfits -- a camel knit tank with camel linen trousers, white knit trousers with a turquoise shrunken polo shirt, a white skirt with a bright yellow blouse, and (my favorite, because I would never have thought of it) soft yellow pants with a brown knit tank top. These were very simple outfits and probably not the most expensive on the lawn that night, but these women looked spectacular in comparison to the hoards of sloppy shorts and tops. I realize the weather was beastly hot, but we can still look civilized for the symphony, can't we???
Both Chicago and Edmonton had their usual supply of chic women walking the streets. I found myself sitting outside with my afternoon iced tea and a small notebook making notes on simple chic combinations of clothing that I could copy from my own wardrobe with very little trouble. Unfortunately, I somehow lost the little notebook during our travels and with it, lost the notes.....