Oh, happy day! It’s Red Dirt Ramblings’ tenth blogiversary! My first post, Why a Blog? was published on October 7, 2007. It seems like a lifetime ago, and yet, also, only like yesterday. I remember my hands shaking as I hit the publish button for the first time. This little blog and writer have come a long way since then so I think we should celebrate. Don’t you?
The lovely people at Garden Design magazine are giving my readers a year-long subscription to their wonderful publication starting with the Autumn 2017 issue. If you don’t want to wait to see if you’ll win, here’s a link to subscribe today.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Garden Design, here are some details.
There are no ads in Garden Design. Surprising, but true. Stories are detailed, and the photography is beautiful. Each issue is large–148 pages–full of themed articles and photographs. Grab something good to drink and take your time to enjoy each issue.
In this post are photographs from the current issue. These photographs are from professional photographers. I kept Garden Design’s captions to keep things simple and make sure each photographer gets his/her due. For example, the photo, above, was taken by my friend, Saxon Holt, who takes exquisite photographs that speak to my soul.
Rules of the road
Here’s how our giveaway will work.
Comment below and tell me why you’d like to win, and how long you’ve been reading my blog. I’d love to also hear what you’d like to see in the future. You’re also welcome to share it through Facebook and Twitter if you want. If you don’t, that’s fine too.
The winner will be chosen by a random number generator. Only one entry per person.
The contest will run from today until October 24, 2017, at Noon. The winner will be announced at the end of this post on that day so check back if you’re interested.
I’ll also contact the winner via email so no anonymous entries please. I will need your email address too. It will not be published. It is part of the comment form.
Please also indicate in your comment if you do or don’t want to be subscribed to future RDR posts. If you’re already a subscriber, let me know that too.
One lucky winner will receive a 1-year subscription (4 issues) of Garden Design starting with the Autumn 2017 issue. The contest is only open to continental U.S. residents.
Look for another fun giveaway in a couple of weeks from another company I know and love.
Also, if you haven’t already subscribed to my posts, please fill out the form in the sidebar. With the way social media currently works–weighted upon a monetary design and click-bait-like controversy–you probably won’t see any of my posts unless you sign up. If you’d like to talk more about that someday, let me know.
One more thing, I didn’t receive any compensation for this post. I didn’t ask for any. I just wanted to celebrate this month with all of you, my readers. You make this blog possible, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about love and late-summer flowers. I’m not sure what brought on these musings, but I think it may have something to do with turning the big double nickel last week.
I’m a late-summer flower myself.
I’m also helping my mother sell her home and move into independent living, letting my children grow up and turning my mothering to Monarch caterpillars. I’ve watched the devastation of two hurricanes in the news with alarm, resignation and then love and admiration for those who helped. Plus, I finished listening to the S-Town podcast and read Y is for Yesterday (A Kinsey Millhone Novel), by Sue Grafton, on my birthday.
Whew! I have a lot going on. Please bear with me as I sort out my thoughts. It’s good this blog is called Red Dirt Ramblings, especially today. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and wander with me, okay?
Honestly, I was feeling kind of dismal about the state of the world last week until I steeped myself in prayer and cut more milkweed for my baby Monarchs.
The hurricane coverage and overall media misery were starting to get to me, and S-Town and Y is for Yesterday didn’t help either. As I listened to S-Town, I began to feel like a voyeur. The series took an especially dark turn in the last chapter which made me want to cry for John B. McElmore. I think this opinion piece by Jessica Goudeau in The Atlantic sums my dilemma up pretty well. It does contain spoilers so keep that in mind if you read it. One sentence from the poetry and letters she discussed stood out for me “Probe your own life and past if you must, but you cannot use another person’s trauma without permission for your aesthetic gain.” At the end of the podcast, only ashes remained, along with an icky feeling of crawling through one man’s private angst.
As for Y is for Yesterday, I bought and saved it for my birthday. For me, it’s a kind of ritual because I’ve read all of her books from the beginning. I met Grafton, and I admire her greatly. After all, I’ve only written one book that’s been published. I don’t want to give anything away in the 25th installment of my favorite detective series, but the ending wasn’t the least bit redemptive. Grafton wrote another book in the series with a similar ending, and it wasn’t my favorite either. While life is messy, novels, especially detective novels, are all about setting the universe back to rights after something throws it into chaos. It’s why people read detective novels. Some of you might argue that things in fictional Santa Teresa, CA, were set right, but I didn’t think so. I did enjoy much of the novel and laughed out loud at Kinsey Millhone, who I’ve grown to love as an old friend.
With dismay, I began to wonder if we’d forgotten how to tell redemptive stories. In our society’s effort to become ever more secular, we have forgotten how to read anything that challenges us, including the Bible. Whether you believe in God or not, the Bible is a great piece of literature with extremely good advice. I would also argue we’ve forgotten how to immerse ourselves in Nature, another great teacher.
After much prayer, I began to see my care for my Monarch caterpillars as a metaphor for God’s love for us. The caterpillars have no idea I’m watching over them. They just eat and poop and do their thing. They’re rather helpless. They can also be quite hard on each other so I sometimes separate them when they crawl too close. When I pick them up–after making sure my hands are clean–immediately, they curl into a C of defensiveness. It’s all they know. I gently place them near some milkweed, leave them alone, and soon they’re back doing their thing. I watch over these creatures as if each one is precious cargo because it is. Monarchs are basically endangered even if it isn’t official yet.
I’m not saying people are like caterpillars. Obviously, not, but being a woman of faith, I see God’s unconditional love to be similar to my care for these small insects that will eventually change into something much more glorious than when they first began. (Click on pictures in the galleries to make them larger.)
Monarch chrysalides in the screened habitat.
These chrysalides hanging off of milkweed branches don’t really show how beautiful a Monarch chrysalis is.
Monarchs love Salvia leucantha, Mexican bush sage. It’s a late-summer flower that will bloom in a couple of weeks.
Monarch on ‘Will’s Wonderful’ mum. If you can only have one mum, this should be the one.
Monarch feeding on wild, blue ageratum
There’s a good reason why caterpillars and butterflies are symbolic of metamorphosis and rebirth.
My children, by the way, are completely grossed out that I have cages all over the dining room with caterpillars in various stages and sizes. I keep telling them caterpillars are not gross. In fact, if you run your finger gently across one’s back, it is silky to the touch. Plus, their camouflage coloring is quite beautiful. They blend in with the milkweed. Not so for adult butterflies who live for such a short and glorious time.
Brilliant Gulf Fritillary butterfly resting on tropical milkweed in the garden.
Gulf Fritillary on ‘Oklahoma Salmon’ zinnias. I think I’ll grow these with Zinderella Peach zinnias next year. Wouldn’t that be fun?
Salvia x ‘Ember’s Wish’ is one of the most beautiful flowers I’ve grown this year. It looks so great with the ‘Oklahoma Salmon’ zinnias. I had to order this salvia so I’ll be taking it inside. The shipping was very expensive. No one that I know of sells it locally.
As for God’s love, I think butterflies and late-summer flowers are good points of reference. There are many more efficient pollinators out there than butterflies. I’m not sure Nature needs butterflies, but humans do.
Autumnal sneezeweed up close with a bumblebee.
Autumnal sneezeweed has a plethora of flowers that bloom when everything else is tired.
Next to this lime green coleus autumnal sneezeweed really shines.
When the news, the podcast and my reading became too much for me, I wandered outside into my messy late-summer garden. My favorite flower of the moment is Autumn sneezeweed, Helenium autumnale. I planted smallish plants last fall, and they are glorious this summer. They, along with the still-blooming Phlox paniculata ‘Bright Eyes,’ are much favored by pollinators, and the late-summer bloom is all about feeding the pollinators before winter sets in. I’m still waiting for the asters to bloom in a blue haze, but this year, I’m actually enjoying wild ageratum, Eupatorium coelestinum, a/k/a mistflower, for the first time. I used to hate it because it is so prolific, but it’s a favorite nectar plant of adult Monarchs so I’ve learned to pull as much as I can in spring and enjoy the rest. The same is true for garlic chives, Allium tuberosum, and obedient plant, Physostegia virginiana, which I can’t seem to eradicate. Don’t plant them if you don’t want them until the end of your days. Since I didn’t deadhead much in July, these plants are carrying the garden through early September.
Eupatorium coelestinum, mistflower or wild ageratum is another thug, but doesn’t it look grand against Panicum virgatum, Virginia switchgrass?
A closeup of Eupatorium coelestinum, mistflower or wild ageratum much belowed by butterflies.
Physostegia virginiana, obedient plant, is a pollinator favorite. It is also an aggressive thug so keep on it or your whole garden will be this one plant.
Physostegia virginiana, obedient plant, is not obedient. I think some gardener was having a joke on all of us.
Painted Lady butterfly on stonecrop sedum. I don’t which variety. It’s shorter than ‘Autumn Joy’ and not as bright as ‘Neon.’ Who knows? It’s probably one I bought at the end of the season last year.
Pretty soon, asters and garden mums will join the other flowers, and the garden will have a kind of rebirth before it dies in late autumn after a killing freeze.
The late-summer garden beckons like a lover in late summer and fall.
One of my favorite spots in the garden right now is this border next to the garage and sidewalk. It’s looked great all summer.
Another view of the back garden and this favorite border filled with coleus and native plants, along with daylilies. I’ll be digging up the daylilies which were host plants for the tour.
Callicarpa japonica, Japanese beautyberry blooming for all its worth.
The garage border is still looking good.
We had a party last weekend, and several of my friends wanted to see the gardens. We walked and talked, and I pointed out butterflies and moths flitting amongst the blooms. My friends were amazed at the beauty of these small creatures like the Hemaris thysbe, hummingbird clearwing moth. These moths dart in and out of the phlox like hummingbirds hence the name. They are one of the best reasons to grow phlox. Need more good reasons? How about the Painted Lady butterflies, Vanessa cardui, which are so abundant this year. Painted Lady butterflies also adore stonecrop sedum, Sedum spectabile, so plant it too.
Speaking of hummingbirds, I have a couple of males that check me out every time I go out to get more milkweed. They love the zinnia patch this year and protect it fiercely. They are so cute but so naughty keeping all of the other creatures except wasps on the wing. Bill caught sight of them of them the other day and was charmed by their antics.
Butterflies and late-summer flowers both speak to me of God’s love and also the quick passage of time. Much was made of horology, the study of time, in S-town. It was the best part of the podcast. John B. was a genius who built and repaired beautiful timepieces throughout much of his life. Check out this sundial he built for his friend, teacher, and mentor, Tom Moore. I think McLemore loved people fiercely, but couldn’t accept their love in return.
Like the caterpillars and the late-summer flowers, we bloom and eventually fade away. I just hope we all experience metamorphosis and winged flight before our time is done. The late-summer garden beckons like a lover in the cool evening. Don’t forget to go outside and enjoy it before it too is gone.