Garden, May 31, 2009

Sad news about the Angelica

[replanted angelica]

Sunny and I went to look at the garden after our morning walk,
and the angelica wasn’t there. There was a shallow hole

I looked in the compost bin, and there it was, but all the
flower stalks were broken or smashed. I put it back, and gave
it compost and water, and maybe it will survive, but I would
guess there won’t be flowers this year.

It was looking happy after being transplanted, but of course I
dug it up carefully and took as much of the roots and soil it
was used to as I could. The vandal who put it in the compost
bin didn’t bother with that.

Here’s the email I wrote the condo association:

In the minutes to the last owners’ meeting, I wrote:

Nobody in attendance requested any changes to the existing
plot assignments.

Secretary’s note: this means that the plot formerly assigned
to Mary and Jeff is currently unassigned. I put a couple of
things there last summer when I was cleaning out my deceased
friend’s house and garden, so if you want to put anything
there, feel free, but please ask if you want to take anything

Someone pulled up the angelica plant which I had carefully moved from my
deceased friend’s garden in Salem, and which was about to burst into
bloom, and put it in the compost bin.

I have replaced, it, but the bloom stalks are broken, so I don’t have
much hope for it at all, and none for this year. I am really upset; I
was looking forward to having that plant.

I think it would make sense to assign that plot, so this sort of thing
doesn’t happen in the future. If someone else wants it, I will move
both the angelica and the lavender, which is also about to bloom.
Otherwise, I will take it, and please, nobody else pull anything else

I don’t understand this vandalism. Why would anyone not want a blooming
angelica in their back yard?

[angelica flower stalks]

Upset was actually putting it mildly. I was weeping
hysterically for most of an hour, and I still tear up when I
think of it. Of course, it being a condo problem, I also
started thinking about all the other things I’ve been mad at the
possible suspects about, but I’m trying to control that.

I’d probably be upset anyway, but it being one of the things I
took from Bonnie’s garden makes it worse.
That was something she put a lot of herself into, and I wanted
to save as much of it as I could. Other friends took things
too, so even if the vandals pull up both the angelica and the
lavender (I think the daylilies I put in the front yard are
already gone), there will still be some, but I won’t have


On a more cheerful note, the vandal(s) didn’t pull up the
lavender, which is also about to bloom.

[lavender buds]


The roses are blooming.



The iris and the Siberian Iris are blooming their heads off; I
cut two stem of iris for my tall blue winebottles.

[Siberian iris]

Overall view

You can see from this that the Alliums and the lillies of the
valley are over, but there’s still a brave little pansy. I forgot
to take them, but there are drumstick alliums with buds.


Garden, May 18, 2009

Time for another set of garden pictures. It changes fast this
time of year.


[Giant Alliums]

They’re in full bloom now.

[single allium]

It’s not a good year in terms of
numbers; I often dry them and put them in vases, and last year I
had two tall winebottles full. You can see I espouse the “buy things
neat bottles from discount stores” theory of interior decorating.

[dried alliums in two tall wine bottles]


All the roses in the back yard (which is fairly shady) are
still in tight bud, but some of the ones in front (southwest
exposure) are starting to bloom.



The Angelica has buds.



Both the iris and Siberian iris are budding.

[Siberian iris]


The Rhubarb continues to look healthy, but I don’t see any new
leaves coming in. If it were later in the season, I would say
that meant I should harvest the largest of the current ones, but I
thought you didn’t harvest rhubarb until June. On the bright
side, whatever was eating the leaves might have stopped.

[no new rhubarb leaves coming]


This doesn’t really look much different from last week, but the
picture of the flowers last week wasn’t very good, and I wanted
one for the homebrew club newsletter.


Following up

Ubuntu upgrade

The Ubuntu people made a change to the X windows interface for
the 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope) release. It doesn’t matter very much
to me, but it does (by default) remove a feature that I use once
in a while. Formerly, if you wanted to kill your X windows session
without rebooting the machine, you could say
<CTL><ALT><backspace>, and now by default that
sequence doesn’t do anything.

I’m not sure I agree with this decision — the rationale is
apparently that people sometimes hit that sequence by accident,
which doesn’t seem to ever happen to me.

In any case, if you want the feature, putting it back is pretty
easy. There are places that will tell you what to put in your
/etc/X11/xorg.conf file, but the easy way is to install the
“dontzap” package, and then run dontzap -d.

Lilies of the valley

When I posted the last set of garden pictures, I forgot to
include the lillies of the valley.



Time for more garden pictures.


They’re still in pretty tight buds. I staked the one in front
that was falling over the sidewalk.



Still lots of pretty tight buds, but it’s starting to open



It’s continuing to get bigger. The directions said not to cut
it for two years, and to cut carefully the third year. This is
the third year, so I’m expecting at least a little bit of sauce
for something. After this, I should have to bake pies to be
able to put anything else in the plot.

[new rhubarb leaf]


The pansies have been flattened by the recent rain.

[flat pansies]


The Giant Alliums are about to burst into bloom. I bought a
bulb assortment (tulips, daffodils…) in the fall of 1984, and these are the only
things still going from that investment.

[Giant Allium bud]


This was slow to come up at all this year. I was worried that it had been killed by the cold
weather in January, but it’s doing well now.


Solar powered Christmas lights

Last Christmas, my sister decided her yard looked drab compared
with all the neighbors’ Santas and reindeer. So she bought some
. They looked fine when we
assembled them out of the box, but that evening as night fell, one
of them glowed weakly, and the other didn’t light up at all.

We hoped it was because we’d set them up in the afternoon and they
hadn’t had a full day to charge the batteries, but the next day was
the same, so we tried putting them on the south side of the house,
which was a little better but still not very much light for very

I’ve been thinking about that because the lights are still there,
and now, in mid-March, they’re working fine. They come on at dusk,
and are only starting to weaken when I walk the dog at bedtime.

In June and July, they’ll probably run for a good part of the

So the moral of the story is that if you want to use solar power to
celebrate, the summer solstice or either equinox is a better bet than
the winter solstice, at least here in southern New England.

Following up

I expect on a more or less weekly basis to post a short series
of paragraphs that update previous posts.


Last Friday, I wrote about my new tuner. I
said that I was having trouble even getting it to slow down when
playing a recorder. I took it to my lesson that evening, to see
what a professional recorder player (John Tyson) could do with
it. As you would expect, he did much better than I did, with no
trouble getting the spinning lights to slow down, but it was a
great deal of effort for him to make them stop. (When you watch
a professional recorder player play with one of the needle ones,
it really looks like the needle doesn’t move at all.) At my next
lesson, he asked me if I’d been working with the tuner (not much,
because of the concert), and recommended doing so, because it
would be good feedback on getting an even tone.

Pruning Roses

On Saturday, I wrote about finally being able to get to the
rosebush in my
garden plot

. Unfortunately, we had an unusual cold snap this
week, with temperatures in the teens (fahrenheit) for several
days, and maybe in the single digits at night. So while last
week I worried that I was leaving it too late, if having the raw
cuts exposed to cold is a bad thing, maybe I should have waited
another week. And now I’m worried about how the poor little buds
did with the cold, too.

to my pruning shears.


I said yesterday that the
pharmacy had the authorization, and was claiming that they would
fill the prescription for the insulin syringes in a small number
of hours. I called them several times, and they still hadn’t done
it as of 4 PM. So I called this morning, and they finally had them. But
this morning my fasting blood sugar was 201, which is much higher
than it ever is when I’m taking insulin. I’m going to try to get
time to write to the hospital ombudsman or whatever it’s called
these days. There should definitely be a system for getting
people medication in less than a week, and for expediting
medications that people are out of.

The sedge is still not withered from the backyard

I had a gift certificate to White Flower Farms a couple of years ago.
The thing I wanted to buy most (rhubarb) cost less than the
certificate, so I had to order something else, so I looked at the
ornamental grasses and picked out a sedge. I made the mistake of
planting it behind the mint and the daylilies, which are taller
than it was, so it wasn’t a lot of use in the summertime, but all
through the winter of 2007-2008, it stayed green and nicely

That winter was what I think of as normal, and it might have in
fact been on the mild side of normal, but it certainly got lots
colder than it does in any of the places Keats ever hung out, so I
started thinking about what he could possibly have meant in La Belle Dame Sans
when he said:

The sedge has wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.

I discussed this with my
who has a degree in botany, while we were walking by a
lake in early April, and she pulled up a sedge plant to look at it. It was a bit
more withered than the one I got from White Flower Farms, but much
less withered than any of the other grass-like plants growing by
that lake.

So we concluded that when Keats said, “The sedge is wither’d
from the lake,” he meant, “Even the sedge is wither’d
from the lake.” And his audience probably understood that it
meant that it was the end of a really long hard winter, instead
of just getting the generalized picture of bleakness that we

This has been one of those winters here in Southern New
England. As an urban dog-walker, I measure the difficulty of a
winter by how many days there’s ice on the sidewalks, not by
which species of grass-like thing has withered from the lake
shore, but this has been a bad one. And as you can see, the sedge is still nice
and green. Maybe the sedges Keats knew were more
wither-prone than the one White Flower Farms sent me. Or maybe
he was writing science fiction, and imagining that the
knight-at-arms was hanging out somewhere colder than he had ever

Today I’m giving a concert, with
lots of practicing and packing beforehand, and celebrating my
birthday afterwards, so there won’t be time for a blog post.
So I’ve scheduled one from the spindle; I hope it works.

The sedge is not withered from my backyard
The sedge is not withered from my backyard

Pruning roses

This was the first day the ice has been melted enough from our
back yard that I wanted to get back to my plot and prune the
roses. The buds are already swelling, so it should have been done
a week or two ago, but the dog-walking already gets me more
walking on ice than I want, so the roses have had to wait.

The actual pruning isn’t that much fun, but you get to see all
the leaves that have already struggled through the still mostly
frozen ground.

Swelling leafbud on rosebush
Swelling leafbud on rosebush
woodruff and wild onions struggle through frozen ground
woodruff and wild onions struggle through frozen ground