Thursday, May 28, 2020

Unexpected Tradgi-Versity 31 1/2

There was a frost a few nights ago and it killed the basil... you know what that means! Happy Non-Anniversary to Bob and me! Okay, so the fact that our non-anniversary typically lands towards the end of September or beginning of October means nothing when you get a bizarre and unexpected frost that obliterates your only-just-planted basil but every other tender annual you tenderly started from seed... Oh the horror! The horror!
I lost two full flats of zinnia linearis (from my own saved seed!) which are impossible to buy at nurseries nowadays. A full flat of heliotrope (that I started from seed) and a number of individual "premium" annuals that I'd secured for filling containers succumbed, too. I was pretty much devastated but then Bob and I decided to celebrate 31 1/2 years...
So I had to re-purchase the plants that I could (tomatoes, peppers, basil etc) and simply mourn the ones I couldn't (whole flats of odd ball annuals). I lucked onto a slew of calendulas (in the same color range as the zinnias I'd planted) and bought enough to fill the bed that empty. It will look fine by mid-summer but I really LIKE those zinnias I lost!
Here's the replacement calendulas... all things considered, they'll look pretty good quite soon.
There's Maggie in the background. Hello Maggie! (She likes to watch Robin and I plant.)
So other things going on...
Be still my heart! We all know I am crazy for Delphinium; oooooh! This is a long running love affair. And wouldn't you know, I go to Stop and Shop for something and I see- across the parking lot, despite my face mask fogging my sunglasses- a truck unloading flowers at the other door. I make a bee line, but am told they have to unload the truck before they can sell the flowers. (Yeah, it's eight feet up on a huge rack.) So I procure whatever food was I needed, put it in our car (shout out to Trusty!) and immediately reapproach the plant people who have now offloaded. Sold!! I have to go all the way back in to the store, but this Delphinium is coming home with me, baby!
In a heavy mist today, I got a lot done in all parts of the garden, including the Shade Border which looks quite okay despite my sort of ignoring it while I plant many other things. Here's a close up of the Kerria Japonica:
Nice! Single orange blooms, impeccable variegation... this is a winner. Lots of nice things erupting here, suitable for my next post.
And I know you can't smell it from there, but the Abelia is amazing! Loaded with blooms- top to bottomus- and just great:
Also, the lilac that Mommy gave me a million years ago is blooming. I'm so happy about this. This particular offspring is from a white lilac that Mommy had- in Durham!- like fifty years ago is now residing and flowering in my Lilac Border. that made me happy (and a bit sad). But it smells so nice...

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Gardening Like There's No Tomorrow

So it's started: that mad scramble to buy, assemble and compose, feed, and plant. This part of Spring is so incredibly busy... that's MY excuse for not having posted sooner. I take my vocation as a "life style coach" VERY seriously and it's on me when I neglect my hungry followers. I apologize! But sometimes, living that heady, fast paced life style precludes the reporting on it.
So the picture at the top represents my initial foray into container planting. It's so much fun gathering all these colorful and seductive annuals and arranging for them to spend the summer together. Sometimes my head spins with the possibilities. Here's a shot of some of my raw material:
These are some of the plants I kept having to move out of my studio and back in every night when the weather was still chilly! It became quite the ordeal. Now I'm of the mindset that if we get a cold night- too bad! And that's only a fraction of what I've already planted.
Here's a shot of the amazing tulips that we obtained through our friend Hanneke who works at a tulip importer called ColorBlends. We can't say enough good things about their bulbs! Spectacular! So much better quality; the tulips and daffodils bloomed longer and were altogether bigger and more vibrant. Our Spring displays were amazing. Of course the irony is that few people got to see them as COVID 19 has put a cabosh on visitors!
Here's another tulip bed. These were inferior "Big Box" tulips and are already gone by. They also did not stand up well to the harsh weather and winds we experienced. I sound like an advertisement but boy there was a noticeable difference. I'm planting this bed in with cannas and zinnia linearis. That will be posted soon enough!
And Bob has been busy in the vegetable garden. We have been devouring salad after salad of wonderful delicate little greens.This is the same bed I featured in a previous posting. You can see how much these seedlings have grown. And take a look:
Bob meticulously transplants all those individual plants so they have room to grow. We eat the thinnings... I'm so lucky. Nothing I like better than tiny tender lettuce!
So forgive me if it's another few days before I post again; we're both busy in the great outdoors. We've also started grass seed in the horse field, mowed the lawn, Bob's planted his birthday present azalea (Delaware Valley White) and peonies (Festiva Maxima, Scarlett O'Hara and Do Tell) in a completely new display garden by the driveway. That way, when people pick up their metal plant supports (mostly peony rings!) they can see his work in action. It looks terrific! No wonder we're tired!

Sunday, May 10, 2020


At what point do I get to wake up somewhere other than Vladimir Putin's America? Here it is- May 9th- and I'm swaddled in my winter clothing, picking through the woodpile searching for a few sticks to burn? It's actually flurrying with the sun out and we're all still quarantined from COVID 19 and WTF!! When I walked back from the mailbox, it was near white-out conditions...
I have begun the lovely task of assembling annuals, perennials and shrubs and vegetable plants to populate our many gardens and beds but I had to hustle them all back into my studio so they didn't freeze to death last night. And what of the hummingbirds?!  There have been a bunch of them- right on schedule!- flying around and landing on our feeder; I may have to install a nectar heater! But where do they spend the night?
This isn't half of them! The seedlings and tender things are all over our dining table and every available window sill. (We have temporary shelving on several windows...) Even today, the wind is so strong and sharp that they're all hunkered down inside.
So I had an exciting adventure yesterday morning. I called our local hardware/feed store and ordered and pre-paid for the horse food I need so that I wouldn't have to enter the building. As is typical protocol now, they said they'd leave the two bags on the rear loading dock. I drove our trusty car (running like a top!) to the back of the store, put it in reverse and hoped for the best. I say this because the driveway leading up to the loading dock is seriously narrow and surrounded on both sides high concrete walls and a chain link fence too boot. Add to the already trying circumstances is that I have my sunglasses and face mask on so that the mask was causing the sunglasses to fog slightly. I carefully calibrated that the right passenger side of the car was the trickier side to gauge my proximity to the imposing wall and backed up... BAM!!! Oh, I hit something!!
I pulled my car forward, exited and went to survey the damage. Trusty the Car looked fine but when I turned around, I realized that I had hit the corner post and it had caused the chain link fence to bow out. Yikes!
See? Nothing! Bernie didn't even get scratched! (I had feared having smashed a taillight or dented the fender area.)
Needless to say, I was mortified and knew I had to do the right thing. So I gloved up- already in my mask- and entered the store, which of course, was packed with customers and there were no sales people free. I exited and instead confessed by cell phone what I had done. I also walked to the back of the store and found three (3!!) male employees on the loading dock (all wearing masks) shaking their heads and... LAUGHING! Like "hahahaha; dumb blonde!!" In this case, I really didn't care as I confided just how stupid I felt and offered insurance information if they needed to press charges or put in a claim. But they were great and made plans among themselves to straighten it out. (In truth, it wasn't that bad!) They actually asked if I had gotten my two bags of beet pulp okay (yes, but need I remind you, these weigh 50 pounds apiece!) and told me to "have a nice day". I told Bob that the next time he went to our hardware store, he should view my signature "Damage by Rita" installation. I may avoid the store myself for a while as I'm certain they'll all be giggling at me when I come in...

Friday, May 1, 2020


Between Quarantine in general and the dark, cold, rainy days in particular, I'd just as soon crawl back into bed. Or stay in bed once it reaches something called "morning". I need sun! And flowers! And... trips to nurseries and garden centers!!!!!
I remarked to Bob that I'm sort of a junkie. I started itching and scratching and twitching and generally behaving in unpleasant and unattractive ways because I (and I'm assuming many others) am experiencing a spring in which I can't do one of my very favorite things: go to nurseries.
So I called around. Many garden centers/nurseries are open- but only if you pre-buy and pick up at curbside. This really cannot work in the horticultural arena. I need to look at and mentally combine combinations and colors. Also, I need to pick out my own plants; how can anyone else know which
specimen I think is best suited to my purposes?
I did locate one garden center in the next town over that said as long as you wore a mask and practiced social distancing, you could wander around and get your fix. Needless to say I was in my car and barrelling towards nirvana in a matter of minutes...
And here's Bob (and one of his new sculptures) proudly displaying his mighty row of garlic. He's done a fine job of organizing and weeding and mulching the vegetable garden. Bob is also displaying a more stoic approach to the cold wet weather and seems more inclined to spend time outside. Just yesterday, I got all excited and gathered tools and tarps only to find that the clouds had rolled back in and the sun had retreated. I retired to my studio.
Here's a shot of the lettuce row. The cover protects the tiny seedlings against too much rain, sun or even spatter after a quick rain shower. Bob is going to transplant the seedlings soon; I can't wait for those first tender little shoots! One of Spring's great pleasures!
Here's another view of the seedlings. It's so important in this time of death and uncertainty and lack of leadership and tragedy to have a hopeful outcome to look forward to. Great organic things to eat! Not having to run to the store for picked over produce! Yay!
This is why I'm craving warm, sunny weather: I need that time outdoors to move plants around and remake and remodel garden beds that have become chaotic and weedy. Just to dig in the dirt. Even our perpetually sunny dog Robin the Good has been melancholy and not sure she really wants to go out. (Lots of standing at the door but not moving when the door opens. Sigh.) My mission today is to cheer her- and me!- up.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Earth Day!

(This post was going up yesterday but some ghost in the machine wouldn't let me add pictures!)

Happy Earth Day! I guess our present to the Earth has been diminished travel by airplane and car and decreased factory production leading to an all around cleaner environment. Something good had to come out of COVID 19! We're all breathing better if we've been fortunate enough to NOT contract Corona Virus.
But Earth Day dawned majorly cold and windy so quick strolls sufficed for any outdoor celebration. My one big effort yesterday was mixing organic Holly Tone with a wheelbarrow full of compost and applying this to the rhododendrons. I hope they enjoy as they're covered in buds and need nourishment! But I also had to yell (yes, YELL!!) at "the dog" (otherwise known as Robin the Good (ha!) who liked the smell of the Holly Tone and wanted to try and eat it. I hate to yell at (or otherwise reprimand Robin- who can generally do no wrong) but I was so afraid she'd get sick.
So here are pictures of all the lovely white daffodils, surrounded by vinca:
I couldn't be happier with my Spring Garden! The lilacs are all budded- even the small ones. Even in the midst of pandemics (you will notice that I haven't mentioned that mess) I am trying to be upbeat, happy and yes! "positive" in this time of plague and pestilence. Again, I stress how lucky Bob and I are that we have a yard and an outside to run around in.
Also, I continue to acknowledge how lucky we are that we both have studios. I've been creating up a storm... well, a few of my new works allude to  the COVID 19 pandemic and how fucked up things are in general...Here's a quick view of two pieces in progress in Atelier Rita:
This one is tacked/pinned together as I arrange the words and get the spacing right. I wanted the text to read as sort of Philip Guston-inspired*(1) lumpy, exhausted schlumpy words. Bob astutely noticed that some of the letters resembled poop emojis *(2). Hahahahaha! I like that as a reference! Remember when "Our Fair Leader" (otherwise known as "The Orange Menace") said that we'd be "so tired of winning"?  Well, somebody better tell him that I am!
And I'm also playing with this beauty:
Yes, "Thoughts and Prayers", another one of those ineffectual "sounds nice but does nothing" hollow sentiments that needs to be retired fast. I actually think they may have stopped intoning this after every mass shooting as that became insulting pretty fucking quickly! I'm working white on white because I felt that summed up the "hard to see how this makes a difference" theme visually. I'm going to be spending the next three weeks of my life embellishing this with equally white beads. Keeps me out of trouble! *(3) *(4)

*(1) A "typical Philip Guston looking Philip Guston.
 Stories — Pain and Resilience: Philip Guston at the Crossroads ...

  Stories — Pain and Resilience: Philip Guston at the Crossroads ...*(2) In case you missed poop emojis somewhere along the line.

 💩 Pile of Poo - Royalty-Free GIF - Animated Clipart - Free PNG ...

*(3) Boy do I like foot-noting my blog posts!
*(4) And why did my formatting go hay wire?!??! 💩 Pile of Poo - Royalty-Free GIF - Animated Clipart - Free PNG ...

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Checking In During Quarantine

More precious than gold... rarer than emeralds... more in demand that contemporary art! Toilet paper! the stuff of dreams!! A friend dropped two rolls in our mailbox; it was like Xmas. In fact, I confided to Bob that despite it's being on our toilet paper dispenser, I've been afraid to use it. I feel like I should save it for a special occasion. *1.)
Anyone else suddenly sick and tired of COVID 19? It's sort of like the Donald Trump of pandemics. Every time you turn on the news or look at the Internet... or decide it would be a nice afternoon to visit a museum or go shopping, there it is, being awful and you wonder what did we ever do to deserve this!!?!?!?
And it's been a boring slog having to wade through unemployment applications on line, arranging for simple shopping trips that used to be a cinch. Wanting to go some place else, but having no place to go as most destinations are shut down. And going to the store is scary stuff: everyone masked or now wearing those plastic face shields*2.) and furtively eyeing each others carts to see who got that last roll of toilet paper. Some odd price gouging going on: ice cream (for which I've had a hankering) is over $5 a pint (fuggedaboudit!!) and eggs are over-priced and tiny. But gas is ridiculously cheap! I marveled at a sign advertising $1.89 a gallon and then saw another station offering gas for $1.79. Those cynical rethuglicans again. There's some price was going on in OPEC and we have no where to go so our prices come down. We're no doubt bailing out EXXON and Shell...
Bob and I finally got around to cleaning (a few parts of) the house today. I keep reading about people who claimed to have immediately set to cleaning their apartments once the quarantine was announced. I kept feeling like I had better things to do, but today- maybe in advance of the holiday to which no one can come, we cleaned.
So tomorrow is Easter, a good pagan holiday of earth reawakening and fertility. It will be quiet and I miss my family members not coming. Hell, I miss everyone right about now. Talking on the phone is one thing but I wish friends and family could see how nice our gardens look. (I promise to post pretty flower pictures next time.)

1.) This is what has been starring as toilet paper at our house. My sister Beatrice asked if it was "septic safe". How the hell should I know??! It's what we have. But it's time to admit that I've always suspected I'm either a bit on the Asperger's scale or mildly OCD. Even as a child, I searched for patterns where there should have been patterns (like on kitchen tiles or ceilings.) I found it alarming when none was discernible and kept looking, hoping I'd missed the pattern somehow. Well, as an adult, this behavior still dogs me. The damned pattern on the side of this particular kleenex box is driving me bonkers. Every time I look at it, I insist there must be a reason they blocked in the deep orange and paler orange and beige in the way they did...

*2.)But there are a few cavalier, no-doubt-rethuglicans striding through the stores with no protection of any kind, wearing a disdainful "look at the bunch" of pussies expression. They make me so angry, but their fearless Orange leader has decried he will wear no mask!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Day Something Something Something: Bad Sci Fi

At least I'm hard at work in my studio. Above, "Medal of Freedom" (Feminazi)  honoring a brutal portmanteau from none other than recent Medal of Freedom recipient Rush Limbaugh. I proudly clutch onto that title and make it my own. It's in process but it looks good so far. And that's not the only piece I have fermenting in my studio...
Other than us working in our studios, Bob and I seem to be holding up just fine. We've been working out doors, still cleaning up from that crazy tornado from two years ago. We're hauling off piles of brush and opening up new areas- it'll look great once we're done. But it's been chilly so I haven't really begun to garden; I need to transplant some things and move a few other things and clear yet more leaves (a refined detail clean-up. I already did the rough clean!) We have plenty of time so it'll all get done. Today is sunny so far but very windy so forgot those leaves!
But this is all seeming a tad like one of those cheesy sci-fi movies; surreal images of people shopping in masks and gloves and tractor trailers being turned into morgues. The quiet continues on our road and in the sky over our house, except for our returning ducks quacking up a storm. Our neighbors are not to be seen; not sure why they're not all outside enjoying the sunny weather. I start picturing them all turning into zombies or vampires inside their houses. Probably not a good mental image to have!
So here's the other piece I have going on in my studio. That's actually an earlier state as I've begun sewing little beaded COVIDs onto it:
 (Note the bacterial/petri dish delight back round material! I've been saving that for ages, waiting for just the right piece to use it in. The  back round also alludes nicely to modern painting with the sort of smeary, painterly fields running together- maybe a hint of Jasper Johns? See below*).
Here's a funny coincidence: A friend Facebook messaged me a funny song about "Staying the Fuck Home" (thanks Bill!!) and I kiddingly said, "Sounds like a new piece for me!". He responded with a thumbs up and then I got to thinking, why (the fuck) not? I also went to work on this as I was solicited to be in an on-line art show of work created while quarantined and what could be more appropriate? (I'm hoping to finish this piece this morning if I could only get off the computer and get some real work done!!) And then we turn on the Jimmy Kimmel show and he's talking to Samuel L. Jackson who reads from the new book, "Stay the Fuck Home"! Talk about synchronicity!!!
So take that advice- Stay the Fuck Home!!!
 258 Best Johns images | Jasper johns, Pop art, Neo dada
*See? Same sort of painterly impulse. Thank you Mr. Johns!