Prospect Gardens Summer Time

Prospect Gardens Summer Time
Summer Scene

Sunday, September 17, 2017

"What We Need Is Here"

The following Wendell Berry poem expresses my feelings about today (September 16th), which included a pleasant and productive session caring for the Prospect Gardens. The poem was featured in the September's "The Madison Unitarian", our church's monthly newsletter.

The Wild Geese
Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer's end. In time's maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed's marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

The deep blue Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii, to be precise) signals the approaching end of summer.  The 87 degree day, along with brilliant blue skies, made caring for the Gardens especially sweet. These Gentians are transplants from the backyard of the home we once owned on Keyes Avenue. The few original transplants are thriving and spreading over the rocks.

Contributing to my sense that 'What we need is here" are   neighbors who helped prepare the Gardens for the inevitable winter. To my left, is Percy. She is a Master Gardener,  maintains public gardens located in Wingra Park and is involved in restoring Glenwood Children's Park.

Starting in 1949, Jens Jensen, known as the dean of the naturalistic style of landscaping, begin transforming the once sandstone quarry into a children's park.  Stone from the quarry was most likely used to build North and South Halls, on the UW campus. North opened in 1851 and South Hall in 1867. I often walk to the nearby park and sit on sandstone slabs that make up the council ring designed by Jensen.  Sitting in the shady council ring helps me, to quote from the poem, be "quiet in heart, and in eye clear."

To Percy's left is Laura, one of our dedicated volunteers. Behind me is Loren and next to him is Steve. In the back row and behind Loren is Ken and to his right is Bob. We are on a break enjoying Hungarian pastry made by Ann, my wife. Picture courtesy of Ann.  These volunteers contribute so much to what is needed to maintain the Gardens.

Here's Ken and Steve trimming back plants. Thanks Ken and Steve for helping out today.

Ken just finished cutting Joe Pye Weed. Surrounding Ken are more green plants. If you look closely over Ken's left shoulder are purple blooming Asters. As these glorious summer days transition into fall, the Asters, along with other plants, will turn brown and go into dormancy, finding what they need as winter descends on the Gardens. 
Ken pauses to show us his form and technique. He is using Laura's Fiskar clipper. A wonderful tool that I have been saying we need for the last year. I think these will be on my Christmas list.
Percy emerges with a handful of weeds. Thanks Percy for pitching-in. The lovely purple Asters, plentiful throughout the Garden at this time of the year, make up the lower right corner of the picture. Japanese Sumac fill up the upper left corner.
Here's Bob pausing from his labors. Is Bob attempting to mimic Edward Scissorhands, the gentle, artistic character from the 1990 movie played by Johnny Depp?  Unlike Edward, Bob will never be an outcast from the Prospect Garden Crew. He is our valuable "Mulch King."   
This is a great picture of Loren that shows his capacity to laugh. I feel so fortunate that Loren is part of the regulars. Thank you, Loren.
Laura was so busy pulling weeds that she did not have time to look up. This picture captures her hard working spirit. Thanks Laura for your continued contributions to Prospect Gardens.

As we worked, geese did not fly over the Gardens as they did in Wendell Berry's poem. About a dozen appeared in the blue sky early this morning as I did my Tia Chi on the patio of our apartment. Living on the third floor has its advantages, including watching geese fly by, just above eye level.

The next time you see geese or while enjoying this season of transition, take time to reflect on Berry's poem.  Along with him pray, " not for new earth or heaven, but to be quiet in heart, and in eye clear. What we need is here."


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Crew, Bugs, Bird, City Support and a Poem

Labor Day is just around the corner, as is the end of summer. August was a busy month at Prospect Gardens and especially this last week. Ann and I worked for a few hours on Friday, the 25th. I continued weeding and restoring a bed in a section that was washed out during an early summer storm. Ann weeded and cut grass along the Dudgeon-Monroe side of the Gardens using a hand clipper.  She now wants one of those old styled sickles. I checked Amazon and a Japanese steel grass sickle goes for $13.16. Perhaps a Christmas present?

On Saturday, four volunteers joined Ann and I. We were a hardworking crew that enjoyed each other's company.  We always share a few laughs. Pictured to the right is me in the middle with the floppy hat. To my left are Laura, and Joyce, with the orange hat. On the top step is Eli and on the first step is Ann N.  Thank you all for pitching in.  We were feeling contented because we just finished enjoying Ann's homemade lemon bars, which are always a hit.   

We continued to work despite occasional light rain sprinkles. I spent most of the four hours pulling rudbeckia from the raspberry patch. Here's a picture showing the profuse rudbeckia, now somewhat tamed.

Several years ago, rudbeckia were planted in the top right  corner of the picture. According to the label, when mature, they would be three to four feet tall. They are now at least five feet tall. As you can summarize, rudbeckia spread easily and to my surprise they were threatening to shade out the raspberries. I say surprised because when we planted the raspberries, I was worried that they would spread and conquer this section of the Gardens. The conquerors are the rudbeckia.

The raspberries attract grandparents and their grandchildren and bring joy to both. The patch is the most popular section of the Gardens. Bike riders even come to a screeching stop to savor the berries.

Here's a wheelbarrow full of rudbeckia. I must admit I felt some remorse about removing these cheerful yellow blooming plants. Removal sure illustrated the adage that any plant in the wrong place at the wrong time is a weed. They were fairly easy to pull, offering little resistance.
Here's Ann N. looking over her work on the bed of ajuga, a wonderful, colorful ground cover. The other objective was removing bishops weeds. Removing bishops weeds is a challenge because its tubers are several inches below the rocks that cover much of this section of the garden. Plus the green leafy tops easily break off, leaving the roots still in the earth.  Picking up the rocks to dig out the tubers is part of the weeding process.
Here's Joyce also working on removing bishops weeds. Joyce is an expert at removing bishops weeds. Notice she does it with a smile.
Another volunteer, Laura, temporarily hiding behind the asters, also pulled bishops weeds for much of the time. She too is an expert weeder.

Some asters that are in more sunny areas of the Gardens are already in bloom, another sign of the emerging fall season. Asters add fall color. Yet, like the rudbeckia, left on their own, asters rapidly spread and overtake other plants. They too, must be occasionally thinned out.
Here's Joyce and Eli teaming up to combat the bishops weeds. This was Eli's first time volunteering. Eli, thanks for joining the crew on Saturday.
Saturday was a reminder that other beings make gardens their the home and I assume enjoy gardens as much as humans. My previous blog entry featured a bee.

Here's an interesting bug that hitched a ride on my sleeve as I was pulling out the rudbeckia. I gently returned him to the Gardens so it could enjoy the remainder of its life.
Another being enjoying the Gardens is the Cat Bird. This noisy, gray bird continued to chatter away and enjoy the fruit of the black elderberry, as I took the picture. I was surprised how close I got when taking the picture and the bird remained feasting for some time afterwards. Usually, Janice and her husband (former neighbors on Keyes) harvest the berries. Hopefully, the Cat Birds will leave some for Janice.

Another bird that frequently visits the Gardens is the flashy Goldfinch. These small darting flashes of yellow feed on Purple Cone flower seeds. 
Gardening at Prospect Gardens would be even more challenging without the support of the city crews. Here are two picking up the large pile of plant material and cleaning up afterwards. I can't imagine bagging the material and hauling it to the city refuse collection site. An email to the supervisor, Dan, for pick up sends this smiling crew. Thanks so much for making gardening at Prospect easier and more enjoyable.

The next work session will be on September 16th from 9am to noon.  Preparing the Gardens for winter will be on the agenda. Please come join the crew, if you are in the Madison area.  Caring for the Gardens is a very satisfying experience. Interacting with neighbors, including chit-chatting with volunteers, is always enjoyable. Finally, savoring Ann's homemade treats is the icing on the cake.

I end with a Robert Louis Stevenson poem about summer. The poem ends with a foreshadowing of winter. 

THE summer sun shone round me,
The folded valley lay
In a stream of sun and odour,
That sultry summer day.

The tall trees stood in the sunlight
As still as still could be,
But the deep grass sighed and rustled
And bowed and beckoned me.

The deep grass moved and whispered
And bowed and brushed my face.
It whispered in the sunshine:
"The winter comes apace."

Friday, August 11, 2017

Bumble Bee

Yesterday my friend, Barb, visited the Prospect Gardens and photographed this red-belted bumble bee (Bombus rufocinctus, according to Barb) nectaring on Joe-Pye-Weed.  She thinks it is a male because of having a third red segment on its abdomen. I would never have known. Barb also reports that the bee was not gathering pollen as the females do. Another fact that I did not know. Barb entered the handsome male on Bumble Bee Watch. Thanks, Barb, for sharing.

Here's an Emily Dickinson poem about this visitor to the Prospect Gardens:

Like trains of cars on tracks of plush
I hear the level bee:
A jar across the flowers goes,
Their velvet masonry

Withstands until the sweet assault
Their chivalry consumes,
While he, victorious, tilts away
To vanquish other blooms.

His feet are shod with gauze,
His helmet is of gold;
His breast, a single onyx
With chrysoprase, inlaid.

His labor is a chant,
His idleness a tune;
Oh, for a bee's experience
Of clovers and of noon!