South Bristol, Maine,  June 12

A summer of travel — two round trips to Boston,  ten days in Wyoming,  wandering a bit through New England and sharing Boston with Vivian,  where she’ll start school for her third grade year on Wednesday the 4th.  She’s joined our family of eager readers –and I’ve joined her in giggling over Ivy and Bean.  We saw the Ware Glass Flowers at the Harvard Museum of Natural History –their beauty an astonishment indeed after a lengthy hiatus for restoration.  Vivian,  however,  expected more of a sparkling eye candy feast,  ‘Oh,  but Grandma,  they look so real!’

  Lupines in Maine,  glorious fun — and a brief visit to the island home of the woman who inspired the children’s book about lupines painting the landscape.  In Wyoming,  the sorrow of my sister’s husband’s death — John Schiffer served Wyoming as state senator for  21 years,  including presiding over the Senate.  His services –beautifully planned by Nan and her children—brought together nearly 800 people to honor him.  Honor they did,  with military honors,  the presence of governors,  and the tears of friends and family who knew him as legislator and life-time rancher, as husband, father, and grandfather.  To read the tributes to his integrity and his service as the model of what we could wish for in all political servants,  look up John Schiffer.

  September 1 will bring my New Year celebration — always,  as student and teacher,  the year begins now.  The garden’s seriously dry,  with even native plants drooping.  My vow to avoid watering — and my choice of plants that can cope with dry weather — has been challenged by the last 3 weeks.  Perhaps this year I will truly contemplate some variety of cistern so the plants thrive more happily and I won’t need to water with potable drinking water.  

  Health continues stable — another clear CT scan two weeks ago ‘nothing there but what was already there.’   I cherish the days and time to write and think.  Happy New Year to all.  Mary


Pleasure again,  back in the garden — the last quiet months have brought writing,  speaking,  and travel — all activities renewed as I heal more.  My 73rd birthday this month finds me well,   just returned from an Ohio visit.  I went to see the spring wildflowers,   in the woods where I lived from age 8 through college.  Then,  sugar maple and beech dropped leaves that helped create perfect growing conditions for trillium and hepaticas,  spring beauties,  bloodroot,  trout lilies,  and mayflowers.  Happily certain that I’d timed my travel perfectly,  I arrived April 24 to find bare branches,  few emerging plants,  the residue of a long challenging winter.  Naturalists I spoke with say that hepaticas now are rare;  deer have destroyed many trillium patches.  My memories of the forest floor stay vivid in spite of the absence of my favorite spring ephemerals.

  Northern Ohio along the Cuyahoga River now has a national park — I walked and looked with the surprise of finding almost no change,  because the area is now the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  The old canal locks and channels remain,  small towns like Boston and Peninsula offer park museums.  I came home to observe abundant trillium in Valerie Parker’s Kala Point garden,  scores of hepaticas  growing at Far Reaches Farms.  I’m trading nostalgia for the continual coddling these treasures require in my (mostly) dry garden.

Thank you,  Valerie,  for the leaf mold to receive the extra summer water  my tiny woodland patch gets.

  The photo here shows peony ‘Athena’ — thriving though I still count the blooms and note their timing.  I like single peonies,  for the interior elegance of  their stamens.   These began opening April 29.  Exquisite.  Life and spring hold me gently.  I’ve also started pruning and reviving the garden after nearly 2 years of neglect — today I worked so long I lost my focus and began trying to pull up a weed I was standing on.  Gardening keeps me quite humble.



Mary Robson and Sue Jackson-Quinones at the old Ira Cemetery,
within Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Raining — daffodils for her
parents. We’ve been friends since 1952.


Outside this afternoon, I’m bargaining with the wind.
Before you get down here from the Fraser River Valley, stop off at a hot springs. Get some of that icy air mellowed a bit. Winter of 2012-13 stayed moderate, without heavy freezes as are predicted for the coming week.

This garden lives in zone 7. Mahonia flourishes in flower now, Arbutus unedo keeps it coming, laden with creamy bells. Last year’s deer damage is over; the Arbutus has never looked lovelier. Buds on hellebore and winter-blooming hazel; the start of sarcococca’s fragrance. Today the brief light penetrating clouds gave all the winter colors their best harmonies.

When I worked advising people about gardens, I smiled to myself. Their worry seemed extreme.
If a plant died, or suffered from frantic frostbite, time would bring repair. Now I feel the winter changes as more personal — what time will be needed for re-growth if freezes ruin the buds? Years?
Where are these years?

I’ve brought in flowering branches and find consolation in this: without the threat of weather changing,
I might not have appreciated this garden as I have this afternoon.
Welcome to the new season…Marymahonia




Summer of the vegetables — sharing Velda's big garden, 12 raised beds in sunflower shape, with irrigation tweaked by David –we've found the joy of summer in ripe tomatoes (try the hybrid called 'Siletz' –big enough to slice for BLT sandwiches). Warmth and more warmth gave us nearly unstoppable crops of slender filet beans, peas peas peas, spinach, broccoli, chard. We've discovered that bees can't resist broccoli flowers –we've allowed half the crop to go on to bloom. The blooms are good salad color, brillant yellow. Chard isn't being eaten as much as it might be, so it becomes the foliage for flower arrangements. Prettiest — to me — so far — is the purple-stalked with deep cosmos. Ever noticed that the flower you prefer above all is the least present? We're deep in white cosmos, sweet peas just finishing their fragrant season, and one sunflower the slugs missed. I'm a new convert to gladiolus.

Fall finds the ground holding beets, Yukon Gold potatoes, leeks, onions, and –best bliss–buckets of shallots. They grow so willingly I'm not certain why they are expensive in stores.
One shallot bulks up to 6 or 7 full sized shining bulbs. How do they accomplish this in only a few months? I want to be underground watching them.

Such a summer here that it will be referenced for decades as — remember when we had warmth in June, July, August, and September? The novelty of this may startle most of the US, but here we are, feeling afternoon sun on our shoulders. I've been well and joyful to be strong and present to enjoy the beauty around me. That may sound ordinary, but at this point, as my aunt once wrote 'there are no ordinary days.' Mary

nan delphinium

Time with my sister Nan and her impossible English-style garden in Wyoming’s Powder River Country — the river, pumped up a bluff and distributed across the garden by a gaggle of hoses, keeps her roses, delphinium, peonies, and hundreds of annuals thriving through dry hot summers.Her flowers become wedding decor as gifts for brides in Johnson County, bouquets and church flowers she’s created for the last 25 years. She starts 1200 or so seedlings in her heated garage, defying cold spring weather to bring them to plantable size for the late May installation. Natural precipitation is less than 10 inches a year, and less than that in the recent droughty times. Watching her tend the garden reminds me how much water must sustain a delphinium or a tomato.

Home again, appreciating the view of Discovery Bay and the ease of turning on a faucet to make coffee or water the hepaticas. I’m well this summer, back to full energy (I think) and surrounded by blessings. I hope you are too. Mary

ImageSiberian iris ‘SuperEgo’/  hosta ‘Halcyon’/  lady’s mantle

Blossom rain, that delicious phrase,  comes from folklore of Tibet and Bhutan,  describng the moment of ‘rainbow light’ when rain and sun happen together.  This afternoon showed blossom rain across the garden,  sunny enough that raindrops had shadows.   Valued,  blossom rain may metaphorically soothe the soul that all too often wants one clear event.

  How the plants develop bloom when we’ve had prevailing shady days  — it’s an amazement to me. Roses bud,  iris opens,  sedum sends up wavering shoots.  Plants respond to the length of days,  and here we are in the Pacific Northwest,  damply approaching the summer solstice.  I’m taking Blossom Rain as a blessing,  even when the rainbow that must exist is hidden behind soggy Douglas fir trees. Tomato plants still shelter in greenhouses and windows;  summer seems far far away.

  Cherishing it all — I am still free of chemotherapy,  finding more energy and more appreciation daily.  Nathan and I walked in Kubota Garden this week — to appreciate the history of the Kubota family and the trees planted from seeds and cuttings,  from 1920 on,  don’t miss it. Seeing trees full-size has much more power than looking at them in 5 gallon containers.  Seattle Parks department budgets stay skimpy but the park itself is beautifully furnished with Tom Kubota’s choices,  and those of his sons.  Their generosity in returning to the garden after World War 2 brought them internment can teach all of us.