Friday, August 9, 2019

Red Oak House Garden Notes no. 53

Wide Wide World daylily
I'm awake before dawn this morning at Red Oak House with a long task list which includes an overdue Garden Notes post. Between painting the house, ailing elderly parents, a trip to Yellowstone, and preparations for my upcoming adventure, I have fallen behind in my writing. Yet, I write for pleasure and have no deadline so it is "all good."

Abundant rains and mostly cool temperatures have made for robust growth, both in the perennial beds and the vegetable garden. The garlic has been harvested and Jim has begun to harvest the potatoes. The garlic crop is in the basement and it is a fine crop indeed!

Last weekend, I divided and moved a few irises that I had flagged in need of new sunnier locations. We had a downpour and hail the next day and I haven't been back there to check if the newly divided plants are still covered in dirt. It is just dawn here and raining, so that will have to wait.

Speaking of dividing, the hostas I divided in June are thriving, surprising me by even putting up blossoms in late July. Here is a current photo with the recently divided hostas in the foreground, in front of the Red Oak Tree.

When I've had a spare moment, I've documented how other hostas I divided last year are doing and I delight in the fruits of my labor. I bought War Party (pictured below) in 2013 from an acquaintance in Bismarck who grew designer hosta and was selling her house. She dug a small shovelful and cautioned me that while hostas will "sulk" the first few years, this one would get huge. I placed a blue ruler next to the boulder for perspective. I adore its turquoise hue and ribbed texture. Clearly, it is thriving.

War Party Hosta

Gold Drop Hosta
This gal specialized in miniature designer hostas so I brought a number of those from her as well, tiny plants in 1" pots. Gold Drop hosta (pictured above) was small in 2013, but I divided the healthy plant last year and now I have three robust plants.

Sunlight Child Hosta
It is the same story with Sunlight Child Hosta (pictured above), I divided last year and have eight plants! At some point this fall I need to make some notes about other plants I need to divide next spring.

Right now the daylilies are glorious and each day I have a new favorite. Next week I will fly to England for a month, a dream I've had for forty years, and while I know I will miss the pleasure of my garden this time of year, I will be visiting some spectacular gardens there, along with castles and museums and more. I hope your life is as full of color and happiness as is mine.

Mom's Pink Divinity daylily

Baja daylily

Alabama Jubilee daylily

Yellow Titan daylily is like a beacon in the gloaming before a thunderstorm

Primal Scream daylily

Stella's Ruffled Fingers daylily

Patio pot lantana, butterfly heaven

Dakota Sunshine daylily

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Wild By Nature: Guest Blog by my daughter, Chelsea Sorenson, with her photographs

A guest blog by my daughter, photographer Chelsea Sorenson, Wild By Nature Photography, including a small selection of the thousands of photographs she took on our visit to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks last week.

Chelsea at the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River (photo by WildDakotaWoman)
Last Christmas, I asked my mom to take me to Yellowstone National Park for my upcoming vacation, because when you're a kid, being 'dragged around' Yellowstone National Park multiple times, you don't appreciate it, and you have to go back as an adult. Especially when you enjoy photography as much as me. Thus it was that we spent the past week there.

I'm normally a night-owl, but it was worth going to bed early and getting up early to beat the crowds. I was rewarded with multiple grizzly bear sightings, lots of yellow-bellied marmots, Trumpeter Swans (new bird for me), an American Three-toed Woodpecker (another new bird for me), and lots of other wildlife, including wolves, elk, Canada Geese, pikas, mountain goats, and more. Another highlight was the busy Great Blue Heron rookery we located on the banks of the Yellowstone River in the Hayden Valley.

Although I wasn't much interested in seeing the thermal features on this trip, a special treat was getting to see Steamboat Geyser spouting (it erupted at 2 a.m. the day we were in the area of the Norris Geyser Basin so we stopped). Steamboat is the largest geyser in the park and "when it erupts, it can rocket a column of scalding water 90-120 meters in the air--two to three times the average height of Old Faithful. Odds are against witnessing this drama, however, since Steamboat's major eruptions occur 4 days to 50 years apart," according to the NPS signage at the geyser. We made the obligatory stop at Old Faithful on the day someone was thrown by a bison and were not the least bit surprised at this news given the amount of stupid behavior we witnessed especially around the wildlife.

We also made a day trip to Grand Teton National Park, where I spent a week years ago when I was in grade school attending Teton Science School. Although both parks are crowded this time of year, we found many places of relative solitude for picnics and hikes.

The long drive was well worth it and I already miss the cool temperatures of the mountains.

High-res versions of my photographs are available for purchase. You can also follow my work on Facebook at Wild By Nature Photography.

My first mountain goat sighting, on the Beartooth Pass

Yellow-bellied marmot


Trumpeter Swans, Hayden Valley

Hayden Valley at dawn

Lower Yellowstone Falls

Three sleepy bachelor elk

Grizzly at Dawn near Fishing Bridge

Canada Goslings, Yellowstone Lake

Saturday, July 20, 2019


I was in grade school, living in El Paso, where my father was a drill sergeant at Fort Bliss, the summer of the moon landing and walk, fifty years ago. Fifty years!

Like most everyone else, we avidly watched the TV coverage, on a little black & white TV in our living room. Life Magazine was always on our coffee table, with its extensive coverage of the Apollo and other missions. We drank Tang and watched "I Dream of Jennie." We listened to AM radio and my father's reel-to-reel player. 

My family frequently visited nearby White Sands Missile Range (as well as White Sands National Monument), and when I see film clips of Wernher van Brauhn there with the missiles, it takes me back to those days. I remember being a tad bored with the missile displays, and eager to get to the sand dunes.

My paternal grandparents visit us from Mississippi. I'm in blue. Don't I look bored?

Me, second from left, with my siblings, at White Sands National Monument, 1960s

My science teacher in 1969 had a brother working in Houston in the space program so I've always felt that as her student I had a special window into that world. Certainly, Texans were especially proud of Houston at that moment in history.

As the 50th-anniversary approached, there have been many excellent documentaries on the topic. I would highly recommend the three-parter on PBS' "American Experience" -- Chasing the Moon -- the best of the bunch.

Tonight, I'm going to gather with friends for a party to celebrate the moon landing, an idea I cooked up. Phase One of the fĂȘte will be a garden party with 60s appetizers at Red Oak House, and for Phase Two, the potluck, we will all move to another house where they have a more clear view of the sky.

What are your Apollo memories?

Friday, July 5, 2019

I Painted the House, Past Tense

Well, I did it. I painted Red Oak House, including two doors and some trim. It is the first (and I'll bet last) house I've painted. It is a very big house, with two extremely tall sides. We should have rented scaffolding, but Jim held the tall ladder when I reached to the very tops and there were no major falls. All along I listened to the wise counsel of my good friend, Linda Suchy, who told me "move the ladder, don't reach too far." I have a great sense of accomplishment and my body is tired. We are thrilled with the results.

I'm ready to enjoy the rest of the summer now and watch my daylilies bloom!

This was the shorter of the two ladders

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 52 : I Paint the House

Sum & Substance Hosta 2019. Tiny plant in 2013

After all of that snow and good spring rains, the gardens are lush at Red Oak House. Jim finally got the rabbit-proof fence perfected so the vegetable beds are going to produce bountifully. We are eating lettuce and radishes and the peas are just around the corner. The weeds are flourishing too and we barely keep up with that chore.

I'm painting the house and what a job that is turning out to be! Hence, not much blogging. I can hardly wait to see how it turns out. I started on the back patio because there is a climbing perennial on the wall and I needed to get ahead of it, plus we use the patio so much we needed the commotion behind us in that space. We think the "Almost Charcoal" color is going to look very nice with the new burgundy steel roof. Meanwhile, I couldn't be more tickled when I watch it rain on that beautiful new roof and none comes in the house. But I discovered pretty quickly that going from 60-year-old white clapboard to almost black required two coats. Hence, I'm painting the house twice.

I could not be more tickled with my Zen front yard as the hostas have grown so much this year and some are massive (see first photo). It is good to remind myself what it looked like nine years ago. Just a couple of boulders and lots of dirt.

Eight years ago, I planted 3 little Blue Cadet hostas. Now 8 robust plants, the rewards of dividing and patience.

Old Glory Hosta; tiny plant in 2010

Fledgling robin in the midst of the Zen garden

Wish we had thought to take a "before" picture in the backyard ten years ago. Trust me, it was nothing but grass and some trees along the back fence. Now, it is my vision of an English garden. Enjoy!

Magical Encounter Iris

Devils Lake Iris - the prize winner this year 

The peonies are huge this year!

Here Comes the Sun Iris

Peak Purple, including Badlands Iris (purple on upper right)

Badlands Iris

Good bean crop in the forecast

Poesie Iris

War Chief Iris

Father's Day on the patio. My Pa loves my from-scratch German Chocolate cake