Taking care of the family jewels

 I'm a big proponent of gardening being fun. That's why I feel that gardening "rules" should be thought of more as guidelines. My gardening rule is: Do what makes you happy.

As part of embracing that philosophy, this spring I bought a plant for no reason other than that I thought it was funny. I actually first saw this plant in New Zealand and I've been searching for it ever since. It's Asclepias physocarpa but its common name—Family Jewels tree (aka Hairy Balls plant, or the far more boring Balloonplant) says far more about what this member of the milkweed family actually looks like.

It's a tender perennial in zone 7, so it is most certainly an annual in my zone 5b garden, but I wanted to give it a shot anyway. It first started flowering a couple weeks ago so I was worried that I wouldn't get to see any of the seed pods that give it its common names. Never fear, the family jewels are here.

It's OK, you can giggle. You know you want to.

There are several seed pods now and they are growing rather rapidly (obviously I'm not watering it with cold water ;) ) but I'm really enjoying this plant for its form as well. It has an elongated leaf that isn't unlike what you'd find on an olive tree. I absolutely love olive trees because I think they are just so pretty. I hate olives though. Go figure. Anyway, it's difficult to find an elongated, slightly blueish leaf on a plant that will grow in northern climates so this was a nice surprise.

The flowers are diminutive but pretty with a lovely light scent.

The plant stands about 5 feet 6 inches tall and has a sort of free-form habit. I like it.

I'm going to try to save a few of the seeds and grow this from seed next year. Any plant that makes me laugh every time I see it is certainly one worth growing. Even if it means that you have a rather juvenile sense of humor.

P.S. I think I should receive some sort of award for keeps the puns to a minimum in this post. Feel free to add as many as you like in the comments though. If you have the cojones.


A day at the auction

My bidding number. Go figure.

 I went to an auction Sunday. For FIVE hours. I had no idea auctions lasted so long (I left before it was over). Normally giving up almost an entire Sunday to stand in an dank old building would be akin to torture but I did it anyway because:

1. Some of the items being auctioned off were my godmother's and I wanted to have a small piece of her.
2. It was raining. All day.
3. There is a snake (or possibly thousands of snakes) in my garden. This means I cannot garden. I saw the little bugger Friday night slithering on the edge of the driveway where it meets the garden. It was approximately 1 foot long and a half-inch or less in diameter. It was a garter snake. I ran (flew?) to the highest point I could find, which happened to be up the front steps to the landing by the front door. And then I stood there for a good 10 minutes debating how I was going to get inside given that the front door was locked and I was obviously going to have to go to snake level to get back into the house. During that time I realized that yes, perhaps it was ridiculous to be cowering from an itty bitty snake, but I also realized that if it was that small, it's probably a baby. Which means mom and dad are probably lurking nearby, along with thousands of brothers and sisters. I know garter snakes are "harmless" but I can say with authority that my nephew was bitten by one when he stuck his hand in a kayak with one in it (see why I like paddleboarding more than kayaking?) and also it's not so much the threat of death that bothers me about snakes but just the general slithery bits.

So anyway, I ended up at this auction with my sister-in-law. It was really sad seeing the belongings of a person I loved being auctioned off, but I understand that her family had to find a way to get rid of some of her things. Still I got a little emotional and I'm sure it was a bit weird that there was a girl crying in the back row of the auction for a couple minutes. And that kind of emotion can be a bad thing at an auction.

Fortunately both my sister-in-law and I were pretty restrained about buying things. I don't want to become one of those people on "Hoarders" who is drowning under a pile of dead people's belongings because they can't bear to let go of that person's stuff. So my goal was just get pick up a couple things to remind me of Mary and not to buy anything I didn't have a purpose for. The bad news is that I did not succeed. The good news is that at least I didn't buy anything big that I don't have a purpose for.


I got this vintage soda bottle cooler. When I was bidding on it I actually thought it was a milk box, but a person at the auction told me it was actually for soda bottles and I now see that the holes for the bottles would be too small for milk bottles. I haven't been able to find any information on the internet about it, but I think it's pretty cute. I paid $30.



I missed out on a really cute side table. It was two-tiered with a spiral spindle going up the middle and would have been really cute painted out. I stopped bidding at $12 and I think it went for $15. I'm kicking myself for missing out on that one.

And that's probably what led to my next purchase, in which I can only assume that my mind was taken over by some sort of alien auction mind sucker. But basically I saw this little stool (the auctioneer described it as a piano bench, but my mom tells me it was probably an organ bench) and knew it had to be ancient. The upholstery is obviously in really bad shape but it's incredibly sturdy. There is a chip out of the veneer in one spot but otherwise the wood is in good shape. I truly have no idea what I'll do with this. I paid $10.


There is a chip out of the veneer here, but it's unbelievable how thick that veneer is. Maybe 1/8th inch or so.

You gotta love a good claw foot.
I also missed out on the coolest little parts box (and I failed to take a picture of it). It was very old (I'm sure it was my godmother's father's, since she inherited their house) and had the cutest little drawers that were all filled with goodies. I stopped bidding on it at $120. I realize now that I should have asked the person bidding against me if he wanted what was in the drawers or the box itself because I would have gladly given him the contents if he would have stopped bidding (much earlier on).

I got a cute little creamer and tea cup that is a pretty aqua color. It looks a bit like fiestaware, but I don't think it is. I just thought it was cute. That was $10.

In the funniest moment of the day I also picked up a print and a photograph of sailboats. The print was actually DeWitt print commemorating the 25th anniversary of the magazine and it was signed by my dad (the publisher). The photo was an old photo of one of my family's sailboats. My parents and grandmother are in it. First I thought I'd pick them up because no one else would want them. Then I thought that it would be really weird to have these things hanging in another person's house. They combined them into one lot and for a minute there it looked like I was going to get both for $5. And then the auctioneer made a big fuss that the print was signed (um, may I point out not by the artist!) and suddenly a guy started bidding against me and the next thing you knew I was paying $60 for to pieces of art I could probably find in my parents' basement if I looked hard enough. Oh well.


That's my family on that boat. It would have been weird to have it hang in someone else's house, right?
And I also got one lot of 13 glass pieces. From the back of the room they looked pretty good, but of the 13 there are only three that were really interesting: a glass pitcher that will be pretty as a vase if nothing else, matching shot glasses and a small green glass bowl. I took one dish (new with a tag still on) and brought it to work (my godmother also worked here) to use as a candy dish and the rest will get donated.

There was a ton of furniture at the auction and some of it was quite nice. There was a really cute set of four mid-century modern chairs that went for $60 or so and tons of bedroom furniture that went unsold. One totally over-the-top bedroom set surely cost a lot when it was purchased for what I'm guessing was a Tuscan-inspired McMansion. Someone got four pieces: a dresser with two mirrors, an armoire, a nightstand and a headboard for $100. Here is the dresser in all its incredible ugly-ness.




My sister-in-law picked up several things including this original artwork by a famous local artist (who happens to be a distant relative—I didn't get the art gene). It's not my cup of tea, but it is an original. 


She also got this cute Kiwi bird, which unfortunately came with the ugliest eagle figurine ever. I can't show it here because it's bound to become a gift in our family's white elephant exchange in the future and I wouldn't want to ruin the great surprise for anyone.


There were all sorts of other things: incredibly sports memorabilia and collectable dolls and teddy bears that went for pennies on the dollar of their value which was sad to watch (I know Mary would have much rather had the bears taken to Children's Hospital than for people to buy them for $10), but I knew I couldn't save it all. One sort of poignant thing that came out of it was that I realized the importance of not letting possessions rule your life. There were three 8-foot-long folding tables stacked with teddy bears in boxes. I had given some of them to her because she collected them. But in the end they just cluttered her house and probably her life and for any person coming to that auction who didn't know her, they might have thought that's what her life was about. I know it was so much more.

A Friday smile

If this doesn't put a smile on your face then you need the weekend more than most. I love this and kind of want to do it but I'd be so sad when it got destroyed.


An indoor to-do list

Anybody who has read this blog for long knows that I'm a creature of habit. Even if you lived in a bubble with no exposure to the outside world you would know just from reading this blog (and what kind of a sad state of affairs would that be?) what season it is. As you well know, I get obsessive about garden design and new plants in about March. By May I'm obsessed with garden tasks. And right around the end of August, I start thinking about the inside of the house and DIY projects start flying around by September.

I also find that I go on biannual binges. About every other year I create a new garden bed even though I have more than enough work to do in the garden with the existing beds. The same goes for projects inside the house. I didn't do a lot of work inside last fall and winter because I was completely burned out from all the painting I did during the renovation. Which means we're due for a good dose of DIY.

I'm also a list maker, but one thing you should know about me is that I never, ever cross off all the tasks on a list. I'm not sure if it's because my lists are too ambitious or if I'm too lazy or if I just perpetually underestimate how much time everything takes and how much energy and money I'll have to do them.

Here are a few of the projects I hope to tackle over the next several months when the Wisconsin winter forces me to step away from the garden.



• Paint the kitchen chairs. I'm going to give Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint a try on these. People are absolutely raving about this stuff and you know I'm always looking for the next best thing. The Windsor chairs in the kitchen came with the house and I kept the when we replaced the kitchen table, but they've always been a bit too distressed for my taste and just a tad boring.

• If painting the chairs works out, I may repaint the kitchen table using chalk paint as well. I've never really been happy with how the finish on the table turned out. Even though it swore it was non-yellowing, the Polycrylic did indeed yellow the white paint and that has always bugged me. I will say I'm very happy with how durable it's been though. I got a lot of magenta ink (from a printing press; I hauled it on a box that had been stranded in the pressroom at work) on the table and a good dose of 409 got it off.

• Get some art on that damn empty wall in the kitchen! That is driving me nuts. The good news is that thanks to my good friend Roisin (who I owe a great debt of gratitude to for keeping me sane through the renovation), I'm so much closer and hope to have this item checked off the list in grand fashion very soon.

• Finally redoing the cane chairs. I've been dying to get at these chairs that I picked up through Craig's List at least a year ago (it might have been two years ago now). I'm very excited to try my hand at upholstering and really excited to get these in the back room. I'm hoping it will involve this amazing fabric. Oh, I know, apparently I'm the last person in the world to discover Schumacher's Chiang Mai Dragon fabric and I just read a blog post yesterday that said it was "overdone" but I don't give a rip. I'm in love. The question is whether it is a good idea to buy insanely expensive fabric for your first upholstery project. The answer, of course, is no, but I'm so in love with this fabric that I don't think I can be realistic about it anymore.
Schumacher's Chiang Mai Dragon Aquamarine 

• The chairs are going in the back room and that means that the room needs some love too. This was the original master bedroom in our house, but now that we put big sliding doors out to the deck it's the most lovely light-filled room (as I searched my archives looking for a photo of this room, it appears I've never shown it to you! We'll have to fix that). The first thing that has to happen in this room is that the hideous wall texture needs to go. During the renovation we got rid of that wall texture in most of the house, but it still lives on in the back room, the small hallway downstairs and the downstairs bathroom. I got a quote from a contractor to redrywall the room, which is what we ended up doing in the living room during the renovation, but it was $1,900 and that was definitely not in the budget. So now the plan is to make a really big mess. All of that texture is really joint compound (I don't know who did it but they were clueless and the texture in the back room is worse than anywhere else. They also textured AROUND light switches, outlet covers and light fixtures) so it is really dusty stuff but it's not overly strong. So the plan is to chip off the majority of it and then come back with a belt sander to smooth it down. We may have to skim coat the walls after that but I'm not positive. Thankfully that room has wainscoting, so we're only doing the the top half of the wall.

This is actually the before picture of our bedroom (pre-remodel), but you can see the texture on the walls and ceiling. This was EVERYWHERE in the house. We removed most of it during the remodel but the back room still suffers from a severe case of trapped-in-a-lemon-meringue-pie-itis.

I think we've decided the easiest route is to take the ceiling down. We'll replace it with tongue-and-groove pine that I'll paint out. Once we do that all of our downstairs rooms (other than the living room which technically both floors) will have wood ceilings so it should help make things more cohesive.





• It's time for a change in the living room. This has been brewing for a few years now and it's time to change things up. We've been living with the same living room color scheme for 13 years now. We had a red couch and the mustard-colored chair and ottoman in our apartment and we bought a new red couch after we bought the house. The couch has not worn nearly as well as I had hoped (and I'm not happy about it because I seriously thought this was an investment piece that we'd be recovering rather than replacing) and I'm really over the whole French country color scheme. I've been dreaming of navy and gray for awhile (as evidenced by the office renovation I did last year) and when we picked the colors for the living room I had that in mind. I tried to order this rug from an online vendor but they sent me the wrong rug THREE times. It was a huge pain to deal with and then they told me the rug I really wanted was backordered until December and they never refunded my money, intending to hang onto it more than seven months until December rolled around. I demanded an immediate refund and swore to never do business with them again. But another online vendor has it coming into stock in a few weeks and I'm going to order it then. I think the dark navy will contrast well with the light floors and will hide all manner of dog hair, and I'm going to order it in an 8-by-10-foot size, vs. the 6-by-9-foot rug we currently have. I hope to find a new tight-backed couch in a durable light gray type fabric. It will be the first neutral couch I've ever purchased. We've bought two couches and both have been bright red. I love the mustard chair and ottoman and those are in really good shape so I'd like to have them reupholstered. I realize that will probably cost the same (and maybe more) than buying new pieces, but I like these and I think they are classic. I don't like throwing away things that are in good shape.


Of course navy, gray and white would be way too boring, so I will bring in an accent color that will probably be some version of orange or red, but we'll play that one by ear.

• Restain the coffee table. This was a hand-me-down, hand-me-down table. It originally belonged to my parents. I think my mom got it as a sample for her catalog (she used to operate a nautical gifts and gear mail order and brick and mortar store; I miss it). I know it's old because the smoked glass in it has the sailplan for a boat my parents owned a very long time ago on it. They gave it to my brother and sister-in-law, but they stopped using it when they had kids prone to bashes their faces into furniture when they were learning to walk. So I took it and love it. I think it's the perfect size for our seating area. But it's seen better days. I'll sand it and restain it (lets hope it goes better than my countertop staining project) and I may replace the glass with clear. I kind of like the sailboat on it because it makes it unique, but I hate the smoked glass.

With all that happening, here's what's NOT happening this winter:

• The hideous downstairs bathroom. Ironically this was the room we both hated the most when we bought the house and we swore we'd redo it immediately. It's funny that it is literally the only room in the whose house we haven't touched in the decade we've been here. But bathrooms are expensive and while it's ugly, it's functional, so this will wait for now.



• The kitchen. I'm really anxious to make a few changes to the kitchen. I don't want to replace the cabinets, but I want to reface them and modify them so that they go all the way to the ceiling, if that's possible without totally replacing them. I also really want new countertops and a tile backsplash. But we agreed that our savings account has to hit a certain number before we will do the kitchen and I don't think we'll be there yet this winter. So we'll keep on saving and I'll keep on dreaming.


At last, a partner for rudbeckia

Happy Tuesday everyone! Are you all just soaking up this last bit of summer like I am? Last weekend we did pretty much nothing productive after noon on both Saturday and Sunday. We read books on the beach, ate lots of taco dip, drank Coronas at 2 and I got to go paddleboarding (my new obsession and so much fun) in a very balmy Lake Michigan. It was lovely.

This is always a good time for the garden. Things do tend to get a little overgrown and a bit floppy but everything is so lush now thanks to a good amount of rain we got while I was gone.

I've written about plant combinations before and I've admitted that it's something I sometimes struggle with. So when a plant combination comes together I do a little jig. I've struggled with the rudbeckia in my garden for years. On one hand, it blooms for an insanely long time and is covered with blooms. But on the other hand, it spreads like wildfire and is a rather bossy yellow color that I've found to be difficult to pair with other plants. Last year I pulled out dozens of clumps of it to create a much more manageable patch of rudbeckia, which was definitely a step in the right direction.


This summer I added some hyssop in the areas that I had relieved of some of that rudbeckia. Even though both plants are a little taller than I'd prefer to have so close to the edge of the border, I am thrilled with how these two plants are working with each other. The medium blue of the hyssop is a good match for that bossy orangey-yellow of the rudbeckia and their contrasting textures play well together as well.

It's a relief to finally be at peace with rudbeckia. It's a good plant, it just needed the right partner to shine.

On an unrelated note, I've joined Instagram. I don't really understand Instagram and some of those old-timey photos sort of annoy me, but it seems to be a good way to quickly share photos. I've been posting them on Twitter and I'll put some of them up on Facebook (I think I have that figured out), but you can also follow me on Instagram @impatientgardener. Leave me a comment if you're on Instagram with your user name (or account or whatever you call it) so I can follow you.

Here are the first two pictures I took using Instagram.

The bees are incredibly active at our house and are loving the anenomes and Oso Easy roses right now.  There is the most lovely buzzing audible in the garden at almost any time of day.




I've not shown you my purple beans, but I grew some Velour beans this year. They are so beautiful and really look like velvet. They taste the same as a green bean and when you cook them they quickly turn sort of a drab green (not a nice bright green like a regular green bean) so I'm enjoying using them raw in salads. Last night I made green bean soup with both green and purple beans and BLTs for dinner. It might be the most perfect summer supper ever. And the best thing is that I have leftover soup for lunch today and that soup gets even better the second day.


Cracking up

I think most gardeners sort of lust for the perfect tomato (not ALL, since we know that oddballs like Kylee at Our Little Acre and Steve aka The Grumpy Gardener are proud freaks tomato haters). And I'd say I probably do grow a perfect tomato every summer. But I'm not content with one perfect tomato. I want bushels of them. This year I have nine tomato plants growing in three areas and despite the fact that we've had a hot summer, which the tomatoes should have loved, I'm disappointed with the yields I'm seeing so far.

What's even more disappointing is a rather mysterious thing that is crashing my perfect tomato party. In almost every case, I've picked a perfectly lovely tomato, admiring its ripe red skin and perfect form (or if it's less than perfect and one of those oddball tomatoes then I admire its uniqueness) but by the time I get it to the basket in the house its skin is split. Sometimes these splits show up longitudinally and sometimes in a pattern that looks like a bloodshot eyeball.

This Black Krim was darn near perfect when I picked it off the vine. Five minutes later it had cracked almost all the way around its equator.
It's not the end of the world, of course. The tomatoes are still perfectly good for eating. But you can't really keep them and you certainly can't share them with friends, so it's another excuse to hurry up and eat them quickly. That's not really a problem now when they are taking their own sweet time ripening, but if they all decide to ripen at once this could become a big problem.

So what's behind this cracking skin? Watering. Inconsistent watering makes for weak-skinned tomatoes and with the drought we experienced in the middle of summer, the watering of the tomatoes was as inconsistent as it could have been. This is the same reason that tomatoes crack on the vine. Basically they suck up all the water they can, expand and their skins just crack under the load. But that doesn't really explain why they crack within 10 minutes of picking them as mine have been doing.

I have an unscientific theory: As soon as the nutrient and water source to the tomato is cut off (that is, once it's removed from the umbilical cord of the vine) the skin loses just a tad of moisture content, causing it to shrink. And with its plump, juicy, meaty tomato guts lurking inside, the skin just can't contain all that without cracking.

An interesting note is that the one tomato that has not cracked yet is the one my dog Hudson is growing in a container on the patio, which has received extremely consistent watering (virtually every day).

My mom told me to try cutting them off the vine and therefore taking a bit of stem with the tomato but I've not noticed that this made much difference. I've now resorted to trying to pick tomatoes before they are completely ripe—which most tomato scholars insist is just find as they will ripen fully off the vine once they get to a certain point. I've not had any skin cracking on the tomatoes picked before their peak.

So the dream of a haul of perfect tomatoes isn't dead yet. I'll just have to be a little more patient instead of biting into them in the garden. 

Back to summer

Hi everyone! I'm back from a whirlwind trip to England. I was so busy working on the sailing event the whole time that I didn't get to do much in the way of tourist stuff. I didn't even get to the London 2012 store before it shut down to pick up stuff for my nephews and niece. Massive aunt fail. I did pick up some truly cheesy T-shirts that they'll never wear in the airport.

I was out on the water every day and loved every minute of it. I can't tell you how inspiring it is to see people strive to achieve their goals when you know how long in coming this moment was. The hardest day was the cut to the semifinals when the three top ranked teams in the world, including the Americans, were eliminated. I can't imagine working as hard as these girls have to not even have a chance a medal. For four years, they've gone to the gym every day, sailed almost every day, traveled the world and given up time with their families to train, not to mention eaten spinach for breakfast. And like that it was over. It was that much worse because I'd grown to know a number of them throughout the years. Watching a person's dream get crushed is no fun.

Of course the flip side to that is that I got to watch the dreams of three other teams come true and I can't tell you how inspiring that is.

The sailing venue was a bummer. Not only was it removed from the rest of the Olympics (about a three-hour drive from London), but the grounds were completely closed to the public which seemed excessive (not to mention doing no favors for a sport already seen as exclusive and inaccessible).

So here's what I came home with for photos. Prepare to be really impressed.




We were on our way to a Thai restaurant that turned out didn't exist (we ended up with takeaway Chinese) but I saw this massive hydrangea driving down a side street and made Mr. Much More Patient pull over so I could take a picture. The garbage bins give you an idea of just how massive it was.




This was the only medal ceremony I got to, which was for the women's match racing event, which is what I was helping out with. Spain won, Australia got second and Finland got the bronze. Those black sticks in the distance are the boats docked nearby.




In a pretty painful turn of events, the teams who didn't make it to the semifinals had to come out and sail for fifth through eighth places the next day. If I were them I can't think of anything I'd want to do less, but they were such good sports and had fun with it by having a water fight. I know it's not centered, but can you believe I caught that with my iPhone?




That's Mr. Much More Patient at work making an adjustment on the Spanish team's boat. He doesn't have the best hearing and they didn't speak the best English so that was sort of an amusing exchange. The angle was horrible because I was hanging onto their boat with one hand while I took the photo with the other.



If you follow me on Facebook, you already saw this picture but I have to get as much mileage as possible from my brush with royalty.




And that, folks, is Winsor Castle. Instead of taking the trail back up to London, I hired a driver so I could actually see a bit of England other than the butterfly bushes that grow wild along the train route. Unfortunately the marathon was going on so I couldn't go into the city but at least I got to see the queen's house. That's as close as I got. I can report only that it is huge. As in enormous. Also, the driveway is long.

I'm writing this on the plane (which is loaded with athletes) and I'm eager to get home and see the garden and of course the four-leggeds. Less eager to go back to work in the morning. Now it's time to make the most of the rest of summer. That means enjoying the best of the harvest, making some pickles, lots of gardening and of course a few projects involving spray paint. I hope it lasts a long time!

Across the pond

I don't usually give you a head's up when I'm heading out of town, but I have no idea if I'll be able to post on this particular trip and I didn't want you all to think I'd up and died or something.


That's a little hint about where I'm going (subtle, right?). I'm off to join Mr. Much More Patient across the pond to help him at the Olympics. He's in charge of managing the fleet for the women's match racing sailing event and I convinced him he needed my help. He took that very cool picture of the Olympic rings at the sailing venue, which is about three hours south of London.

I won't get to see any of the Olympics other than the sailing stuff and I'm not sure how much of London I'll get to see (that's sort of up in the air, I'm not sure how much of the crowds I'll want to deal with) but I'll get to see lots of Weymouth where the sailing events take place.

I hope to have lots of interesting things to post, but frankly, I'll be on the water every day so I just don't know much time I'll have for interesting things (beyond the obvious, that is).

As they say ... I'll be back.

Garden tour by horse-drawn taxi

As you probably know by now, every year I end up on Mackinac Island after sailing 333 miles to get there. The amount of time I have on the island depends on when we get there and how much work there is to do once we're there.

This year left precious little time for any sort of island sightseeing. Thankfully it's easy to snap photos of flowers wherever you go on the island. I can report that it looks like the drought that has affected much of the country extended to Mackinac Island because even some of their containers looked a bit spent, which is highly unusual.

Here are a few iPhone shots I grabbed while walking by, or in the case of most of them, from the taxi (horse-drawn, of course) on the way up to the airport. Imagine this scene: Me and 10 other people are in a big wagon thing pulled by Jack and Nipper (you must ask the horses names) and after securing a preferred spot on the outside in order to take pictures, I keep leaning out to try to avoid getting, literally, a horse's ass in the shot. This is high-quality photography work I tell you.

Doud's Market always has beautiful window boxes. I assume that Jack Barnwell (who I interviewed for this blog post) designed these again. I apologize in advance for the glared-out pictures. I was up early and there was no one on the streets so it was a good time to snap a few. I think I preferred last year's plantings from this window box (see them here), but I can appreciate a new look each year.


I love how Jack is never confined by what you might think of as traditional window box plants.  Basil is an unexpected addition but the bright green foliage looks great.



The plantings at the Grand Hotel (which the taxi up to the airport goes right by) have a very autumnal feel to them this year. I'm not sure I'm really liking it.




Compare  that to this picture I took of the same garden in 2009:


But back to this year. Red geraniums are the signature flower of the Grand Hotel and I don't think this little wall could be improved upon.



This is the garden outside the gift shop at the hotel, which I find much more summery than the plantings along the dining room. I do love the ornamental cabbage they stuck in all the gardens. A great texture and just as appropriate for summer as it is for autumn.


Just up the road from the Grand Hotel is this lovely house (with and even lovelier view. Their annual plantings are simple but colorful. But mostly I adore the pig peeking out from around the shrubs at the end of the path.

This house (or maybe it's a B&B) is downtown, but every year I pass it I'm reminded of the power of mass plantings. Behind that fence is nothing but those pink astilbes, not my favorite flower most of the time, but I absolutely love this layered look. 



And then I was off, far too soon, but I got to sit in the co-pilot seat of the small plane on the way home, which was really cool. I snapped this photo of the famous Mackinac Bridge as we passed over it and I thought about how interesting it is that within 36 hours I sailed under it and flew over it. I've done one of those things (fly over or sail under) at least 45 times in my life (probably much more) but I've only driven over it once.



I write a lot about the gardens on Mackinac Island, including here, here (one of my favorite Mac Island gardens), here (a great container) and  here (a chair I'm still obsessed with and have plans to kind of recreate in a month or so).