30 August 2008

Hometown Boy makes Good


This is an off-topic post, for those who worry about such things. It's also very brief because we got in late and are leaving for the day very shortly.


We went to Blue Springs to see the mural that the high school kids from Blue Springs South created to honour their hometown hero, David Cook. He was there with his mamma, his brother, and assorted other family members. It was way, way cool to stand at the fringe of the crowd and experience his joy. (and tears.)



Honestly. It was just one of the nicest events I've ever experienced. Til last night when we went to the first concert of the American Idols Live! tour 08.
We had really, really good seats. I mean, REALLY. And the place was packed, and the crowd showed a whole lotta love to all the singers, most of whom were awesome. (I have pics of most and will eventually do a recap sort of post after I sleep and digest the experience a little better.)


This is for Kylee. David Archuleta was simply, utterly amazing. And he's sick, but he just brought the crowd to incredible volumes.


But this guy? I'm sure you could hear the noise in the Sprint Centre a long way away. Probably in Ohio. And he got soggy again. How could you not, with, oh, I dunno, 18,000 or so of your fans singing 'Time of my Life' back to you? He sure IS having the time of his life. Well deserved.

I love good news stories, can you tell?

29 August 2008

Day 2 in Kansas City: Powell Gardens and thunderstorm



Whew. We had such a full day yesterday that by the time we got back to my friend's place, put our assorted stuff away, downloaded photos, answered email etc...it was time to get a few hours sleep because today is another hectic one. So I'm going to essentially post a pile of pics and promise to write more later.


First adventure today was to go out to Powell Gardens, about half an hour's drive outside the city. Wow. All I can say is any of you from here who haven't been there...GO. At any time. It was breathtaking in late August and with some things winding down, so it must be incredible throughout the year. There's a travelling show of Zimbabwean sculptures and sculptors installed at the Gardens for the season, and these magnificent, magical, whimsical pieces are casually installed throughout the garden, and they just work.


The hummingbird garden was a riot of colour and sound and scent, as hummers and pollinators rushed from flower to flower.


My favourite part of what we saw--and we didn't take it all in because the trolley wasn't running and it was HOT walking from one place to another--was the water gardens/island garden.




I love living walls. Someday, I hope to have one myself. Talk about the ideal way to grow plants demanding perfect drainage!

The 'Living Wall' at Powell Gardens is 600 feet long, the longest of its type in North America. And it's wonderful, with brilliant bursts of colour and wonderfully textured plants all along its perimeter.

The waterlilies, lotus and other plants were being tended by a staff person who was cleaning out the big pond.


A nice display of prairie plants and others showed what the natural colours of the prairie are like. I was completely fascinated by the plantings of giant Luna-type hibiscus along water edges, which were all blooming like crazy.

This chapel, across a swathe of prairie grasses and wildflowers, is a popular site for weddings. Not surprising, that.


Okay, this? Is a new annual to me. I've never seen it before, and of course the red isn't perfectly captured, but what IS it? Anyone?


I loved the huge size of the grasses, and the counterpoint of their textures and grace against other plants. Stuff sure does grow right some big here..."


There are hints of autumn in plants, though, such as the foliage colour change in this blue leadwort.


But there was still plenty in bloom, and everything was drenched in colour--and in some cases, in water, as the sprinkler system was running in the perennial garden area.




On the way back, we waved as we went past the exit to Blue Springs.


We had a couple of personal things to do, so it was later in the afternoon when we landed at Union Station, which we'd seen from the Liberty Memorial the day before. Union Station is a remarkably beautiful edifice in the heart of the city, not far from the Liberty Monument and other attractions.


When we came back out of there, I remarked that it looked like a thunderstorm was building. In a matter of minutes, it wasn't just building. It was here. Along with torrential rains. It was quite remarkable, and it went on and on and on and on for hours. We got to appreciate it while heading out to a mall to do a little shopping, coming back to my friend's place, going back out to go meet another friend for a late supper. Have I mentioned being totally smitten with the sky here? To say nothing of everything else?


Today, however, has dawned clear and warm and lovely. And we're off for a full day of enjoying more of the city, and of course tonight we have a concert to attend. The hometown guy from here? Is going to see a LOT of love from his hometown people, if the buzz in the papers, etc is any indication. He'll be one Soggy Cookie. And not from rainstorms.

27 August 2008

'Cross the Wide Missouri


Day one in Kansas City, Missouri, and I gotta say, this is a very, very pretty city. But first, I gotta give props to United Airlines, because I had two of the best flights i've ever had today, both on United or its affiliates. Both left on schedule. Neither was full. Both landed on schedule, and my luggage made it from Halifax to Dulles, Washington to KC with me. So take THAT, Air Canada, where i've never had a really good flight experience!

My buddy Angie picked me up at the airport, and despite the fact that both of us had been up all night (she's a babynurse, and i left home at 0200 for an 0600 flight), we went right into action with seeing what the city has to offer. The first stop was the Acadia Steamboat Museum. The Acadia hit a tree snag in the Missouri back in 1856 and sank, with the loss of only one life but with the loss of its entire cargo of supplies for communities downriver from its point of origin.


Over 130 years later, five enterprising men unearthed the Acadia's remains--and her cargo--from a cornfield where the Missouri had formerly tracked. The entire list of inventory still has not all been put on display, 20 years after it was first unearthed. Dishes, ironworks, fabrics and leather goods, and many other supplies were found and salvaged and put into the museum that bears the steamer's name today.


There were many bottles of preserves, and one of the adventurous discoverers of this cache actually sampled some of the preserves (twenty years ago) and found them to be quite palateable).


The only casualty of the ship's sinking was a mule, the remains of which have become something of a mascot to the museum and its staff. And you'll love the humour that they nicknamed the mule 'Lawrence."


The afternoon found us at the recently opened National World War 1 Museum and the Liberty Memorial. Being a proud Canadian, I know my own country's role in that first terrible war quite well, and while the US didn't enter the battle until 1917, their participation certainly helped to revive the exhausted Allies and turn the tide to victory. I didn't take many photos in the museum, content instead to wander among the exhibits and films and static displays and just pay silent homage to the dead, of that war and of others since then.

But the 217 foot tall tower really caught my breath and my admiration. Dedicated in 1926 five years after its initial commissioning, the limestone tower is flanked by two sphinxes, "Memory" and "Future". You go up in an elevator then walk up another 40 or steps to the observation area, where you get a 360 degree view of the city skyline.


Though it was hot and hazy today, there were several impressions that really caught me. One, the greenness of the city. My friend says that they've had above average rainfall this summer so that things are not so sere and brown as they might normally be. Lots of trees and shrubs, flowering containers, ornamental grasses and of course, the fountains that I'll be writing about in future posts. Gardens look well tended, though we'll inspect them more closely tomorrow.

This is the greensward leading up to the memorial, as viewed from the top of the memorial.

I'm not an architecture buff, and can't tell one style too much from another (I recognize they're different but not so much what is georgian or what is art deco.) But I was completely fascinated by some of the older buildings we saw in the downtown core, many of which have been exquisitely restored or are being restored.



There are some wonderful newer buildings too, and they fit well with the historical buildings. One that caught my eye today was all shiny mirrored glass, reflecting a classically styled older building in its facade. I didn't get a photo as we were zipping down a street at the time, but tomorrow after some rest and a change in footwear, we'll go exploring properly. And yes, I'll take a photo of the Sprint Centre. And yes, for those who are wondering...I'm going to both concerts at this venue. This is David Cook's hometown, after all, and it's going to be incredible. Happy (early) birthday to me!

26 August 2008

The Fragrant Garden


I'm about to go off on an adventure, so I thought I'd post again before I start packing in earnest.

One of the most important parts of gardening for me is fragrance. You can regularly find me wandering around our garden savouring the scent of the roses, running my hands through the lavender or monarda or rosemary and sniffing happily. While not everything in our garden has fragrance by a long shot, we do have plenty that do. In fact, I will often forego varieties with no fragrance for those that have plenty.


What does heliotrope smell like to you? Cherry Pie? Cream Soda? Vanilla? Whatever the case, it's wonderful, and an ideal plant to put right beside walkways and doorsteps so that you can savour its fragrance regularly. This plant likes sun but doesn't like to dry out, so make sure you water it and deadhead it regularly to keep it flowering until frost.


Ah, the wonderfully and accurately named hummingbird mint is another of those plants I need to have. Its flowers and foliage have this delectable lemony minty fragrance, but it grows in a polite clump rather than running. I think it would overwinter outside if I didn't forget where I planted it. Usually I have it in containers, but this year I've put several plants into the ground and I will mark them to see if they make a return.


Here's one of those cases where I cheerfully hold to the oldfashioned roses rather than newer hybrids that might be pretty but not fragrant. I love my rugosas, even though they're thorny as all get out, many of them sucker quite generously, and some have leaves that turn pretty ugly by this time of year. All those things however are forgiven because the fragrance of the rugosas just makes me exquisitely happy. This is the common everyday 'Hansa', which is generous with its growing behaviours and heady of fragrance.


This is my favourite rose, hands down. Snow Pavement makes me deliriously happy. It flowers like a mad maniac with these lovely lavender tinged creamy flowers that smell like heaven must smell. The only thing about this variety is that the fog will cause the flowers to ball and turn brown, necessitating a big deadheading festival, but that also guarantees that it will promptly put up another flush of blooms.


Ah, bee balm. At last count, we have five or six varieties of monarda around our property, and I keep moving some of it around so that it will spread even more than it has. This is 'Raspberry Wine', which is approaching triffid-like status because it spreads wide and grows way tall, at least in my garden, where it's attempting to overwhelm the weed-beleaguered gardener.


Yummy tall phlox make me extremely happy too, with their brilliant colours and lovely spicy scent. I love this one for its bicolour foliage as much as for the flamingly bright flowers...


But this is 'David', my absolute favourite. I think it's one of the most fragrant, it grows into impressive clumps, I've not needed to stake it, and it's been oblivious to mildew--not that mildew is something I ever worry about anyway.


And this is currently the fragrant centre of my gardening universe, with 'David', 'Stargazer' oriental lily, globe thistles, Snow Pavement rose, and hummingbird mint and heliotrope (not seen in the photo) all combining to load the air with divine fragrances. Somehow, they all seem to work together very, very well.


This autumn and next spring I will be putting in more oriental lilies as well as trumpets and orienpets. Their fragrance is simply the best.


This is a daylily, Victorian Days, which has a pleasing fragrance and is just a lovely exotic colour combination. Our daylilies continue to flower like gangbusters, courtesy of the cooler weather, and they don't seem to care whether it rains or fogs or is sunny--they just perform like the stars they are.


As far as I know, this is the oriental lily Willeke Alberti, but I could be mistaken. Whatever it is, it smells simply glorious. Last year it was the last to flower (it was planted last spring) and produced only a couple of blossoms. It's gaining in enthusiasm, hugely, this year, with large flowers and quite a few of them.

And with that...I'm off to Kansas City, Missouri, on a bit of a break from what has been a challenging summer. While part of it is for work purposes (I'll be exploring such delights as Powell Gardens, some of the many public fountains of the city, and the reputedly awesome barbecue), I'll also be doing some highly fun stuff with some friends of mine, a few of whom are flying in from other parts of the US for a couple of events we're taking in on Friday and Saturday evening. This is a big step for me, who just got a passport, and maybe, just maybe, it'll mean that I'll get to Austin next spring, if there's a Spring Fling to be enjoyed.

I'll try to post while I'm in KC, but no promises. Reports when I get back, though.

24 August 2008

The Week the Sun Came Back

Finally, the sun has remembered where we live. Even if there's a skein of fog along some of the rivers in the early morning,


It's gone within a couple of hours. We've had a baskingly lovely week--not too hot, definitely not muggy, and refreshingly pleasant at night.


The garden has yawned and stretched, shaking off its malaise of wetness and those plants that have been waiting for their entry cue are starting to put on their late summer performances. I have several of the lower-growing helenium, which tend to bloom a little earlier than the 5 foot tall ones out in the back garden. I love the deep rich colour of this particular variety, which reproduces almost as dark as it is.


Despite the fact that we're moving into the season of many hot coloured flowers, yellows, and oranges and bronzes, I have a lot of blue and lavender-purple yet happening. One of my blue favourites are the gentians, with their rich cobalt blue to purple-blue flowers.


And while some of my echinops are more blue than others, they're all wonderful, scented, strikingly architectural, and just plain awesome plants. Bee magnets, too, which is 90 percent of the reason I let them come up wherever they want.


This dandy plant is a groundcover, blue leadwort or plumbago, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides. The flowers are glorious, as you can see, but this plant will really come into its own come fall, when the foliage turns all kinds of splendid shades. I think I have it located in a good spot for it to overwinter, but we'll see come next spring.


I mentioned hot-colour plants earlier, and these are among my favourite of brilliant-hued flowers. The annual ice plants make me very, very happy, although some of them suffered greatly from the excess moisture we were enduring until earlier in the week. Only those in containers or with excellent drainage managed to fight off the dangers of rot from all the wet, and those that did are doing splendidly.


I buy these as annual transplants and my summer garden would not be complete with out them, in containers, in areas with good drainage, where their brilliant colours make me smile until a hard frost--last year it was late October or early November!


The osteospermums, relatives of the ice plants, didn't like the wet we were having either. But those that survived have shrugged it off and rewarded me for not giving up on them by blooming in incredible colours.


One of the most amazingly floriferous and wellbehaved verbenas I've ever encountered, this hasn't paused in its blooming since I planted it out in mid May.


I go gaga over lantana, despite the unpleasant smell of the foliage (it reminds me of tomato foliage somewhat) because the flowers just rock my world with their complex colour combinations. Butterflies love this plant too, and the varieties I've planted out in containers have done well despite the wet sogginess we were having.


Pincushion flower is another of my favourites; this is Scabiosa, not the Knautia that is also referred to as pincushion flower.


I've been explaining to a friend of mine about the vagaries of the tide here on the upper Bay of Fundy, and how when it goes out, it goes WAYYYYYYY out. I gotta get down to this wharf in Delhaven at high water to show you the full effect, but here the boats sit at low water, resting their keels on the mud.


And look, a real, genuine sunset--not a fog-set. We've even seen the moon a few nights in a row now. Here's hoping that we're past our season of excess fog and into some decent weather, for what's left of the season.

Great Gardens and More

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