The Close of Summer

Sept 19 001There are plenty of evenings during the course of the summer that I don’t have dinner outdoors-It could be too hot, or too buggy, or I might just be too tired to take everything outside only to have to bring it back in again.  I also believe I have no end of summer days to choose from, but end they do.  Yesterday it was benignly summer; today the weather is is cold and blustering towards fall.  I know when I start coming to work in the dark, the close of summer can’t be far behind. As many nights as possible now, we all have dinner outdoors.

sept10 010Buck does all the cooking-lucky for me.  My idea of dinner on my own consists of cans of black olives, chick peas, tinned tuna, slabs of good cheese and chips of some sort.  I am also likely to eat this over the sink; who would make the effort to set a table, and then wash dishes over this? On my own, I don’t cook, I survive.  I take care of what needs doing in support of the cooking, and I am happy with this arrangement.  Buck decides to do a roast on the grill for our close of summer dinner.

Sept 19 015One doesn’t need to cook in order to appreciate great china. I could get out of hand easily; there are plenty of great china patterns out there.  I get by with 2 sets; one is on permanent view on a shelf just sixteen inches below the ceiling in my kitchen. I take it down once a year to wash it; it’s out of the way, but always there for me to see.  I built a painted Welsh cabinet for my other set.  It took a long time to accumulate a service for eight, and even more time for the platters, breadbaskets and such.  It was worth the wait; it is as much pleasure to look at as it is functional. 

Sept 25aa 015This French china is handmade by Veronique Pichon. None of her pieces have that perfect shape and repetition of design characteristic of machine made china. It is heavy, chunky and chip resistant-a good choice for china used outdoors.  The green and ochre ground, with handpainted pink and rose flowers, looks good set in my garden. 

Sept 25aa 013My stainless flatware has olivewood handles set in pewter ferrules.  The color variation in the wood has everything to do with the dishwasher.  The handles of the utensils I use every day have gone dark.  As we only have dessert once in a great while, the olivewood is still pale colored.  As much as I like limestone steps that are worn from all the walking, I like things that look like they have been used. 

Sept 25aa 010Of course we need flowers.  The boltonia, Japanese anemone and asparagus from the garden look good in a McCoy ceramic vase from the forties.  Cut flowers last such a long time outdoors-it must be the light. Cut flowers have a decidedly different feeling than flowers planted in the ground, as they are arranged.

sept10 066Buck loves to cook, and he says the rotisserie on the grill makes the work of it easy. If you are not a fan of cleaning the oven, cleaning a drip pan takes a lot less time and effort.  The big design idea here-a terrace which is close to the kitchen makes it as easy to dine outside as it is to picnic-maybe easier.  Good tools make quick work of the prep and cleanup. Sturdy china doesn’t mind being stacked for the trip back to the kitchen.    

Sept 25aa 049I like fresh food simply prepared-probably as I have been exposed to how good that can be.  Food for me is not the main attraction-it is the place, the friends, the season and the weather and the food all rolled together that makes for a great time. 

Sept 25aa 052A pavlova for dessert-definitely out of the ordinary.  A shell formed from a baked meringue is loaded with whipped cream and mascarpone cheese; this melt in your moth extravaganza is topped with a mix of the fruit of the season.  Invented in New Zealand in honor of a visit by Anna Pavlova, it is my favorite summer dessert. 

Sept 25aa 046
The dark is coming early now. The porch light is on for the first time in a very long time.  Though we will no doubt get a few more chances to have dinner outside, we might need to bring blankets. Though I regret the changing of the season, I am glad to have had for a time however short,  a good gardening summer.

Still Growing Strong


Hudas 05 (29)

There are those clients that love that grassy, wispy, pastel and herb look.  For lack of a better term, I call these my “roadside” weed plantings.  As pale and fragile as they appear, they just hit their stride as the summer begins to wind down.  Cooler night temperatures don’t faze them one bit.  One of my most favorite weedy combinations-the big wispy species, verbena bonariensis, and an ornamental grass. 

Hudas 2007 (39)I am a fan of ornamental grasses-espcially the thin bladed wiry types that stand up well.  This hedge of panicum virgatum is a welcome textural change from the dark stiffly formal yew hedge pictured above.  When I add verbena bonariensis in front of this grass, something good starts cooking. It might very well be that orangy cast typical of a panic grass setting seed; the lavender verbena flowers seem more intensely lavender.

Hudas (14)This simple and soft flower/grass hedge transforms a strictly formal evergreen garden for the summer months.  Running the entire length of the landscape on both ends of the pool, its cloud-like appearance is on one hand in stark contrast to the modern chaises, and on the other,  friendly in feeling and color to the loosely planted pots. 

Hudas 05 (10)Alyssum, lavender, silver posie thyme and tricolor sage make a pale ruff around a blue foliaged escheveria in this old stone box.  The peach flowers of the echeveria-a bonus.  Though delicate in appearance, these plants are drought and frost resistant.  It interests me that something so fragile in appearance can withstand hit-and-miss care. Plant combinations such as this one are as foolproof as they come.  Deadhead the lavender, and shear the alyssum once in a while-that’s all.  Their only enemy-too much water.   

Hudas 05 (20)jjThere are other grey foliaged plants that are just as rugged.  Though I am not so fond of the cut-leaf annual dusty miller, the paddle shaped leaves of cirrus dusty miller I find very appealing.  The texture of simple shaped leaves, repeated in a smaller version with the silver helicrysum, is a great contrast to the needle foliaged icicle plant. The saucy and ferny foliaged plant in the center-a silver centaurea.  Only the white nicotiana in this basket would fuss if you forgot to water.

Hudas (20)The trailing plant front and center in this pot-showy oregano.  Though they show poorly in pots early on, they fill out beautifully.  The papery bracts are the palest green, lavender and peach. 

Sept 24 046

Once you have seen Kent Beauty oregano, you will want to grow it.

Hudas 05 (9)These plants are fairly diminuitive growers, so not so much grooming and shaping is necessary. Though it is late summer, no plant is overgrown, or threatening the well-being of a neighbor.  This pot has shown well the better part of four months.

Hudas 05 (13)
The big pots have grass, a broad leaved bamboo, and a tall dahlia as centerpieces.  The pastel petunias have that same loose weedy look as the grassy beds.  One would never suspect this planting was photographed in late September.  This pleases me, as I so hate to see a season come to a close.