R. S. Williams

All I want is to get the words right.

Tag: The Natural World (page 1 of 4)

Friday Photo: 6/16/17

“Afternoon Light with Pecan Leaves”
Heard County, Georgia – 21 May 2017

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Hillside Monday: 6/12/17

“Tornado Sky #1”
LaGrange, Georgia – 23 November 2014

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Hillside Monday: 6/5/17

“Metal Roof and Storm”
LaGrange, Georgia – 23 November 2014

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Wednesday Photo: 5/31/17

“Water Oak Leaves with Rain and Window”
LaGrange, Georgia – 1 May 2017

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Friday Photo: 5/26/17

“Handed Down in Stone”
Heard County, Georgia – 7 February 2015

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Wednesday Photo: 5/24/17

“Old Rose in Bloom”
Heard County, Georgia – 13 May 2016

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Hillside Monday: 5/22/17

“Peony Globe”
LaGrange, Georgia – 10 May 2013

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Wednesday Photo: 5/17/17

“Hello, Tiny Friend”
LaGrange, Georgia – 25 April 2015

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Hillside Monday: 5/8/17

“Cat Waiting, with Light and Shadow”
LaGrange, Georgia – 16 November 2016
Model: Smokey

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Friday Photo: 5/5/17

“Piedmont Azalea with Night and Rain”
LaGrange, Georgia – 31 March 2017

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Hillside Monday: 5/1/17

“Gardenia Ghost”
LaGrange, Georgia – 6 June 2016

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Hillside Monday: 4/10/17

“Daffodils with Painted Concrete”
LaGrange, Georgia – 9 March 2014

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Friday Photo: 4/7/17

“Skeleton with Camellia”
LaGrange College Department of Art
LaGrange, Georgia – 24 March 2017

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Friday Photo: 3/31/17

“Daffodil Knocked Over by Storm, No. 1”
LaGrange, Georgia – 8 March 2012

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Peony Problems

Here in the Deep South, peonies are a hit-and-miss gardening affair. Sometimes, the weather and bugs and fungi and soil all manage to cooperate, and POOF! an early-blooming variety gives you two weeks of gloriously ruffled, heavily perfumed blossoms six to eight inches wide. (Unfortunately for us all, Southern weather gets too hot too soon for the late-blooming varieties.)

Seeing and smelling these flowers is the gateway drug to a serious gardening habit. You can’t help wanting moremoreMORE after an experience like that. Before you know it, you’ve got three, six, a dozen of them in the yard.

You tell yourself, “I don’t have a problem. I can quit any time I want.” This is while you’re sneaking plant catalogs into the employee restroom at work. You start showing up to important meetings with dirt still under your fingernails. You call in “sick” so you can stay home and dig several cubic yards of composted sheep manure into your garden beds.

It gets worse. You find yourself unable to sleep from your gardening high, so you order even more plants online at 3:00 in the morning. Your spouse gets suspicious. The cycle of lies begins: “No, honey, I don’t know who would order twenty rare peonies, ten Japanese maples, six Himalayan lilies, fifty ‘Pheasant’s Eye’ daffodils, twenty blackberry canes, and a Piedmont azalea all at the same time.” And the peonies started it all.

Most of the time, though, the weather and bugs and fungi and soil refuse to cooperate. You’re left with apricot-sized flower buds that turn to soggy brown mush just as they’re about to open. Then it’s all weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth while you walk around in sackcloth and ashes. Sad, but true: this has been my peony story for most of the ten years I’ve had them in my garden. It’s a rotten way to live.

The exceptionally cold winter of 2014 made this old-fashioned, finicky plant happy—which made me happy. 2015 brought a mild winter and brown ruffled mush. 2016’s joke of a winter will probably mean the same for this spring’s peonies. Guess I’ll hope for a repeat of three years ago, and then take whatever I can get.

Who am I kidding? I’ll be heartbroken without those six-inch, heaven-scented, crinoline-ruffled light pink pom-poms. But it’s no big deal. I’ll be okay, eventually. Besides, I can quit any time I want.

Photo: “Pink Peony Ruffles” (LaGrange, Georgia 8 May 2014)

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Note: This post first appeared here in July 2014, here again in April 2016, and has since been revised.

 

Friday Photo: 3/24/17

 

“Morning Coffee, Morning Booze”
Denver, Colorado – 1 March 2017

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Hillside Monday: 3/20/17

“Another Storm in Hillside”
LaGrange, Georgia – 10 April 2015

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Friday Photo: 3/17/17

“Autumn Leaves with Kiddie Pool”
Heard County, Georgia – 24 November 2016

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The Other Vine That Ate the South

In the Deep South, spring smells like grape soda. Not name-brand grape soda, but the cheapest-of-all-cheapo-store-brands grape soda. Or perhaps it smells more like wonky year-old bubble gum, the kind that’s so powdery and bland nobody will even shoplift it off the dollar store clearance rack.

Whatever it smells like, that scent means wisteria, or, as I like to call it, the Other Vine That Ate the South. (The original Vine That Ate the South is kudzu, which blooms much later in the growing season, and is a topic for a different post or twelve.) In March and April, wisteria treats us to two or three weeks of glorious purple clouds in the trees. After that, it finishes leafing out to spend the rest of the season devouring everything in its path—fences, trees, houses, cars, pets.

It’s certainly breathtaking in the garden, but you have to tame it by pruning it hard every year.  Don’t slack off and skip a year. You will regret it. And don’t let its beauty fool you: wisteria sinensis is invasive. Unless someone keeps it in check, it takes over—a simple gardening fact.

But for whatever reason, the majority of people don’t control their wisteria. Or maybe it’s more like can’t control it. I’m not sure. When early spring passes, so do those amazing foot-long purple drupes. By the time summer gets here, its dark green leaves are so plentiful and thick that we can’t even see what it’s smothering 80 feet above the ground.

Other than adding stunning Pointillist color to the landscape and providing food for bees, wisteria doesn’t have much going for it. Oh, wait—it will also hide any place that you mean for people to forget. Don’t believe me? Just follow these two simple steps:

  1.   Plant wisteria.
  2.   Move.

Give it a few years, and voilà! Nobody will know the place ever existed.

People can say what they want about wisteria. I still look forward to its luxurious hues draped over roadside trees every spring. This is probably because I’m lucky enough not to have any on my property. As much as I love the Other Vine That Ate the South, it’s probably best that I leave it where I found it—far away from my own yard.

Photo: “Wisteria No. 471” (LaGrange, Georgia – 21 March 2012)

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

Originally published here on 8 October 2012, this post appears today with revisions. It was also one of my most popular posts in 2016.

 

Wednesday Photo: 3/8/17

“One Glowing Maple Leaf”
Heard County, Georgia – 12 November 2016

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