Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Survivors: Oakleaf Hydrangea and Blue Billow Lacecap Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangea

My summer garden relies heavily on hydrangeas. About 10 years ago, Rick and I decided to prepare for old age gardening by moving away from labor intensive perennials and putting in more shrubs and ornamental trees. We planted lots of hollies for the winter; quince, early blooming rhododendron and redbud for early spring: lilacs, azaleas for mid-spring; rhododendron and Mt. Laurel for late Spring; and for summer crape myrtle and hydrangea—lots and lots of hydrangea.

This has been a sad year for hydrangea lovers; many of our beloved hydrangeas are just little green clumps with no blooms. Although most died back, they are sprouting new leaves from the base. Mophead hydrangeas bloom on old wood (now lifeless sticks), so no flowers this year. They will live to bloom another day—that is if we haven’t moved into a new climate pattern of severe winters like last year’s.

However, there are some hydrangea that can withstand severe winters—oakleaf hydrangea ( pictured above) which has gigantic fragrant white blooms, spectacular deep purple fall foliage and very showy bark for winter interest.

Many of the lace caps are also very hardy and Blue Billow Lacecap is putting on its usual show and making the bees very happy.
Blue Lacecap Hydrangea

Then there’s Endless Summer which is supposed to bloom on new wood (that is woody stems generated this year) and thus can bloom when the old wood is damaged by severe winters. So far no sign of bloom on Endless Summer, but I haven’t given up hope.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Block Island is Magical in June

Rick and I have been to Block Island many times—we’ve lost count of how many. We have always gone in the summer (July and August and in early September). The beaches were covered with rugosoa roses, festooned with rose hips rather than flowers. We’ve wondered what the island is like when the rugosas are in bloom. This year we found out.

And it’s not just the rugosas with their wonderful fragrance; there were other gorgeous wildflowers we had not seen on Block Island before. Another advantage: weather in the 70’s with low humidity. True we did get rainy days, but we had several days which were glorious.

And although Block Island beaches are never crowded in June, on weekdays we had the beaches practically to ourselves. And all the beaches are open, with none of the beach access problems we encountered in Martha’s Vineyard where the public beaches were disappointing and beach access was severely restricted. The mega mansions took up large stretches of precious beach.

Another advantage of Block Island in June: you can walk into any restaurant without a reservation—-generally not the case in July and August. For a tiny little island, Block Island has quite a few very good restaurants. Our favorites: Atlantic Inn, Manisses, Winfield’s, Eli’s, and newcomer, the Surf Hotel.

Some of these advantages (no crowds, reduced rental prices) apply to September and we certainly enjoyed our September vacation on Block Island, but the flowers in June have decided it for us. From now on we go in June!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Remembering Karen DeCrow

I was not involved in NOW in the mid-1970's and never had the opportunity to meet Karen DeCrow,but I learned a great deal about her when doing research for my book Feminism in Philadelphia: The Glory Years, 1968-1982. The obituaries in the NYT in the Huffington Post did not convey her radical vision. She was a pioneer in bringing what we now call an intersectional approach to the feminist movement. From the section on the 1975 national NOW conference in Philadelphia described in Feminism in Philadelphia:

In her keynote address Karen DeCrow declared:

“This is not a woman’s movement; this is a people’s movement.” She made a public apology to lesbians and gays noting that “our failure has been in not seeing the unbreakable connection between sexual stereotyping and fear of gay people.” She also made an apology to women and men of color, pledging that NOW must use its resources to fight against racism in America, and affirming “this is not a white organization." (p.205)

The “Majority Caucus” which DeCrow led adopted a new slogan reflecting its vision for NOW:

The Majority Caucus adopted the slogan, “Out of theMainstream, into the Revolution.” This was quite a departure from the Statement of Purpose adopted at the first NOW conference in 1966: “The purpose of NOW is to take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all the privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men.” In sharp contrast, national NOW President Karen DeCrow stated in 1975: “Most feminists have concluded that it is time for our aspirations and our actions to go out of the mainstream and into the revolution. To emerge from trying to get a piece of the pie which is tasteless and unfulfilling at best—to changing the very fabric of life for women and men and children alike." (p.200)

The new slogan disappeared at some point after the end of Karen DeCrow’s presidency. From Feminism in Philadelphia:
Interestingly, NOW went from its 1966 founding statement, “to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society” to its 1975 slogan “out of the mainstream into the revolution” to the1979 assertion thatwomen are part of a “new mainstream.” With the backlash against feminismgrowing stronger, framing feminism as a “revolution” was probably not the best rhetorical move.(p.295)

Karen DeCrow was ahead of her time; I think her radical vision would resonate with many young feminists today.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A good year for peonies! For hydrangeas not so much

Fernleaf peony

I thought this might be a good year for peonies. They’re reputed to like cold winters and those gorgeous peonies we saw in Russia certainly suggested a connection between frigid winters and spectacular peony blooms.

The peony season began with the early blooming delicate fern leaf peony followed by the most spectacular of all, the non-herbaceous peonies commonly known as tree peonies.
pink tree peony

My favorite combination is a bright white that I planted next to a deep burgundy tree peony.

Tree peonies may have the showiest flowers but they are certainly the most evanescent, lasting at most a couple of days.

Then the herbaceous peonies which combine gorgeous blooms with fragrance to die for—although unfortunately some of the new varieties have weak to non-existent fragrance

a very fragrant herbaceous peony blooming right now in my garden.

My husband deeply regrets that when his father sold his house and moved into assistant living that he didn’t dig up the astonishingly fragrant peonies which bloomed in that garden as far back as he can remember.

The cold weather that may have been responsible for a very good year for peonies was certainly responsible for the hydrangea disaster—-not just in my garden but all over the Delaware valley. My oak leaf and some lace caps have buds, but the mop head hydrangeas didn’t make it. I will really miss them.