Friday, June 17, 2016

A Garden Walk in a Thunderstorm

Wednesday's first official garden walk of 2016 has come and gone.   I am happy to say it was successful and we were lucky.  (Oh, so lucky.)
Martagon Lily

After taking Mom's medications and vitals in the morning, I jogged home and weeded on with a vengeance.   The temperature was in the 70's which is comfortable, but there was a clamminess in the air with an almost fog-like haze in the distance which didn't bode well.  The breeze blew hot and cold at times, and after speaking with Joel on the phone around noon, we both agreed this was a weather maker.  Though there was absolutely nothing on radar the prediction was storms would pop up and arrive in our area at six pm, coincidentally, exactly when our guests were to arrive.  

Aw, nuts, talk about bad timing.

More martagon lilies and a fly.

Carl took a half-day of vacation and was home at 12:30.  We ate a hurried lunch and stared at the weather channel as we chewed.  Still nothing on radar yet, but the meteorologists were cheerfully predicting storms and then proceeded to throw up tornado watches for at least six counties, possibly more. 

Hmmmm, maybe it's time for Plan B.  If the people do show up and it's raining, we'll have them come in the house first.  When this visit was first arranged, the tour group leader, Betty, had asked if it would be possible to give a stained glass demonstration after the garden walk.  Our basement 'studio' (ok, teeny cluttered space where we work on glass) is a disaster (like usual) so we decided to haul up a few pieces of equipment and sheets of glass to the dining room for the tutorial.

Since I knew I wouldn't be able to accomplish the rest of the weeding I wanted to finish, I declared the garden was as good as it was going to get for now and Carl and I concentrated on vacuuming and scrubbing floors again.  Once the house was presentable (nothing I can do about the vinyl floor peeling up until we remodel, oh well) back outside we went to 'pick up the big chunks'.  There was one dandelion in the front bed that was the size of a rhubarb plant, how did we overlook that thing for the last two months?

We were hot in pursuit of the biggest of the weeds when the phone rang around 3:15.  It was Betty, calling to see what we thought about the weather.  A few of her garden group people were also watching the weather and decided it was too risky to venture out.  The rest wanted to know if the tour was still on.

"What do you think?" Betty asked me.  "I'm looking at radar right now, but it looks like it will miss us and go north."

I went in the house and flopped into my Lazy Boy in the living room.  I hit the power button on my computer and when I saw the radar my heart sank.  Yeah, that doesn't look good.  We might be picking up more than big chunks of weeds and garden pails if this thing holds together.  Still, it had a northerly drift to it, maybe we'd get lucky...

"I'm calling all the members again and I'm telling them the walk is still on," Betty said.  "We won't be leaving our house until 5PM, so if things change, you'll be the first to know we're not coming.  Otherwise, we'll see you around six."

Off we went back outside.  By now the temperature had gone up a lot along with the humidity, it was dreadful.  Joel arrived after winding the clock at church to assist with Chunk Picking-Upping and anything else I had for him to do.  He moved the trailer and Carl's car, put the lawn furniture down on the lawn and asked me I wanted the Christmas tree off the gazebo.  (Just like the gigantic rhubarb-ish dandelion, how in the world did I miss the fact I still had the Christmas tree up?)  GADS, indeed, can't see the forest for the trees around here, can I?

Carl and I weeded and dashed around to and fro until 5:30 when he said, "Are we going to take a shower before they get here?"

I've been wearing the same pants and shirt in the garden for over a week.  There's no point in changing to fresh, clean clothes every day when weeding and digging hostas.  My clothes have a nice dirt patina on them, no more soil sticks to me anymore, it just falls off like Teflon.  Are we going to take a shower before the people come?  Um, yeah, I guess we should.

Once we were both presentable for company, we went out to do one last run through the gardens with the unpleasant grumbling of almost constant thunder to the south.  Joel was keeping an eye on the radar, and it wasn't good.  The sun had gone under the clouds and the sky was getting darker; suddenly a northeasterly breeze sprang up, cold from Lake Michigan, heading to the approaching storm.

By now it was almost six pm, and not knowing what to think about the weather and having some nerves to burn off, I grabbed the swoe (it's a garden tool Carl made for me, a cross between a sword and a hoe) and a rake and started to scratch at the tiny weeds springing up in the gravel driveway while Carl raked them up.  Time ticked on, the thunder grew louder, no cars arrived.  I kept swoeing, choosing to ignore the racket the not so distant thunder was making. 

Here is my swoe; you push and pull it, flat with the ground, slicing off weeds in the gravel driveway.

Yep, even the driveway needs weeding around here.  I kept swoeing and Carl kept raking.  More time passed and the thunder grew louder.

 "They must have changed their minds after all," I said to Carl as we worked.

Just then Ann called on her six o'clock lunch break from work. "How's the garden walk going?"  Ann had come out a few weeks ago to help us get the garden pine needle mulch down.  She said she finds it a peaceful retreat.  She's the only reason there was any mulch down around here, we haven't gotten around to doing that step yet.

"Well, it looks like it isn't going to happen," I said, wincing at the sound of ever advancing thunder.

As we talked, I looked down the road and saw three cars in a row coming, wait, maybe I was wrong, but nope, they drove right on by.

"Oh, well, better safe than sorry, it would be awful if they drove into a bad storm," I said to Ann. 

I continued swoeing out the weeds from the gravel as we talked, keeping one eye on the sky.  My cellphone alerted me to a severe storm in the area, 'Seek cover immediately!'  Yes, thank you, Smartphone, I can hear it.

I found a stray flowerpot had blown out of the greenhouse and went to retrieve it.  As I came back around the corner I was surprised to see a car pull in with five passengers.   Just as they started to get out of their car, a few rain drops spattered on the windshield and the thunder grew louder.  Joel was out on the west lawn watching the storm, I knew he'd say something if he thought it was unsafe to be outside.

Carl and I started the tour right off the bat, maybe we could get through the gardens before all hell broke loose.  But the visitors were drawn to Carl's ball fountain and stopped to admire it, oblivious of the incoming storm.

 Finally we were walking through the front bed, and I told them to look at the martagon lilies because this may well be the last time we see them this season; the thunder to our south was unending.

Just as we were ready to go through the garden gate to the back yard, another car arrived.  I went to greet them and they joined the earlier group in the backyard.  A few of the guests were interested in Carl's pipe ball sculpture but I was more intent on watching the southwestern sky; it was obvious we were going to get wet.  We've got a big yard and I didn't want the guests to get caught in a downpour. 

I said, "Since the storm is almost here, would you like to go in the house until it passes?  We can look at the stained glass and give a little tutorial."

We all convened in the house and Joel took over finding time lapse videos on my computer of the construction process of stained glass lamps.  About five minutes later, another car arrived and they joined us in the house.  By now, the rain had arrived full-force.  Luckily, we were spared the high winds and large hail and even a F0 tornado about twenty miles from us; we received a half-inch of rain and not even any close lightning.  In Appleton there were reports of one to three inch hail.  Flying ice of that magnitude would have put an end to the rest of the garden season, we were very lucky.
Cosmos bipannutus

Many people are curious about stained glass and the process of creating a lamp.  (I hope all of these people were, too, because we talked about the craft for a good hour while it rained.)  Carl told them about my pattern coloring and stencil cutting process, Joel demonstrated how I use the stencils to find the flowers in the glass on a light table, and also showed how to score and cut glass.  I turned on the grinder and smoothed out the newly cut piece and then explained how I have to wash and number every piece and then wrap it in copper foil for soldering.  We didn't do any soldering, but they had the idea. 

Joel took them through many pictures of some of the lamps under construction.

Finally the rain stopped and we could proceed to the soggy garden.  Joel had found my new rain gauge in the trunk of my car and installed it right before the storm, we received a half inch of rain.  Luckily with most of the yard being very sandy, we had no puddles.  Well, with the exception of the creek bottom.  No one went wading.

One of the tour group attendees is an artist with wood carving and was very interested in our old mountain ash which is starting to decline.  He said if it does finally die, he'd be interested in obtaining the trunk.  He was also interested in our honey locust tree, having never worked with the wood.  I jokingly told Joel we had a rather large limb we'd needed to trim since last summer, which prompted him to go straight to the garage and reappear with a chainsaw and a ladder.  While we continued on with the tour group, Joel was sawing off a tree limb for the artist.

By the time the tour was over, some of the ladies had spotted my cyclamen leafed Viola Koreana 'Syletta' (do you think I could remember the name of the plant then?  No.  Like usual, drew a blank.)  They were so enthused with the leaves and I asked if anyone wanted one to take home. 

  I had nine takers and as I was potting them up for our guests, Joel was packing the artist's car with the limb from the honey locust tree.  He brushed off some of the sawdust from his hair and shirt and hurried to the house for his car keys.  He'd had a long day and it was time for him to go home to Abby and baby Audrey.  As always, we so appreciate his help.

(Today is Joel's 30th birthday!  I don't know where the time has gone, but we have been so blessed to have him in our lives.  Happy Birthday, Joel!)

Our guests lingered for a little longer and then by 8:30PM the last car left the driveway.  I did invite any of them to come back later in the season when hopefully the weeding will be done and the garden will be more colorful.  They had come at the perfect time of night to view the garden had it been sunny, the long shadows on a June night make everything glow.  But we're lucky the storm spared us.

Now it's time to get out all the weed pails and finish up this garden for the next visitors, arriving next week.  

Where did I put my dirty clothes?   


Alison said...

What a day! I do hope you and Carl enjoy having so many guests in the garden. It sounds like more work than I would ever want to do, and meeting that many people is not my style, it would make me fret so much I would never get any sleep. I do wonder if the day is coming when you should both hang up your garden tour hats and start enjoying your garden for yourselves.

Karen said...

Yes, Alison, garden tours are a lot of work, that's true. The weird thing is I started gardening as solace and relief from my depression. As my depression grew, ironically, so did the garden. The first garden walk back in 1996 was a disaster with THE rudest guest we've ever had; I was truly ready to hide in the garage after meeting her. Fast forward a decade later and we've been privileged to meet some of the nicest people from all around the country. Even when my health falters, the garden keeps me going, it's been a long road. So many people have thanked us over the years for our open garden policy. This place has gotten out of hand, it's true, but if even one person in ten enjoys their visit, it's worth it to us. (And Guest Trowels are always available for their weeding pleasure.)

Beth said...

Karen, I love your gardens - the red and white martagons are so beautiful. I have a copper colored martagon but I like yours better! Your blog posts have such humor! Love them; I never miss one of your posts. I am glad Ron and I had the chance to meet you and Carl and see your beautiful gardens. Thank you!!!
Be blessed, Beth

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Dear Karen ~ What another delightful post! What a lot of work, but it all worked out in the end. They got not only a garden tour, but a wonderful lesson on your beautiful stained glass creations.

Have a great weekend dear friend ~ Love & hugs ~ FlowerLady

Karen said...

Oh, Beth, thank you! Meeting you and Ron was such a treat and I will always treasure the lovely remembrance of my dear little dog you so kindly sent. Without the garden, we'd never have met you and that would have been such a shame. I hope you will visit again if you are ever in Wisconsin. :-)

Karen said...

Rainey, yes, it all worked out despite the weather and all the other attendant silliness. This weekend will be a hot one (for us, anyway--for you in Florida, I'm sure it would be considered cool!) But I tend to melt in the sun, so I'll be taking it a little easier. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, too!

Junebug said...

Wow, I think I would be in the corner of your house shaking!!! I'm not afraid of our thunder and lighting but gosh you guys in the mid west, yikes! I'm glad the skies parted so the walk could continue. Ohhh, that stained glass!

Carol said...

I look forward to every word from you. Sometimes so funny I laugh out loud, sometimes you make me sad. We talk about coming to see your garden but from Texas and ages in the mid seventies, it probably won't happen.

Donna@GWGT said...

The lamp shade is beautiful. It would be scary with a tornado so close. Lucky you missed the hail and winds. It was good you got to wait out the storm and nice of you to offer it to the guests.

Karen said...

June, yes, I'm a bit of a scaredy cat sometimes with the weather, too. Tornadoes aren't terribly common, we do get our share now and then. We were lucky on Wednesday. :-)

Karen said...

Carol, if you ever do travel to Wisconsin, you are more than welcome to come see us, please do! Thank you for reading my blog, gosh, that means a lot! :-)

Karen said...

Donna, thank you! I was wondering, does your area have many tornadoes? We are definitely not in Tornado Alley, for which I am thankful, but we've had our share.

Larry said...

Not sure if my comment took Karen so will try again... sorry if it's doubled up... Great martagons Karen... some of mine look great this season and others not so much! Interesting that you mention glass.... I finally am working on a panel that my sister wants but the gardens consume most of our time.... Sarah is weeding like crazy and I'm mulching which is of course the thing that will save my back and likely the gardens as well over time... got 25 yards of the nice walnut colored material which I'm spreading now and will get a hundred yards of plain this week... in the mean time we're ripping out the hardwood in much of the living area and will replace it with salvaged pine more fitting the age of personality of this old cheese factory... never a dull moment!! Take care, Larry