Monday, August 22, 2016

A Gardener's Diary: Tiny Birds and Extended Dog Days

The Dog Days ended over a week ago, but you wouldn't know it in these parts. The heat is still oppressive, if down slightly: about five degrees off the day and night-time highs. So 90 daytime, 70 at bedtime.

When the temp drops, the TV weathermen start pushing the heat index and other contrived measurements to make it seem like 110 again. We have to be anxious about the weather as they are: Channel 9 reports from Severe Storm Center after all. About ten days ago they were running ads about a cluster of storms that caused flash flooding in Statesville. It seems they were the only station with a meteorologist "on the ground."

That meant they made the late-night and substitute head Severe Storm Center guy drive up there to stand in front of flooded places and tell us it was flooding there.

Weather is a ratings driver, it seems. No longer can you find out the forecast before the sports report. They do a Mother Nature striptease now, revealing bits and bobs about the weather to come through the broadcast to make people sit there through all the Breaking News stories. Everything is Breaking News these days, and all reported, almost as fast as Morning Edition reporters on NPR, in the present tense, even if it happened the previous day.

Me? I just look outside. I grew up in the first days of satellite photos of the weather, and so imbibed a certain amount of pre-space age weather knowledge. As Yogi Berra said, you can observe a lot just by watching.

The humidity is fierce; the only saving grace the last week has been that the sky clouds over late in the . There's no thunder; it just starts raining, nice and steady, and in about fifteen minutes it stops.

So I continue not to get much done in the yard. The dry stream bed to handle the runoff from big storms is months behind. Weeds go unpulled. I manage to keep the plants suffering the worst from the heat in a state of near-death but not quite there yet.

My next door neighbor, whose yard I keep up as she is unable to and can't afford a service, has come down with a pretty dire case of supervisoritis this summer. She bade me stop with pruning the giant overgrown bushes left unattended for a decade, and barred me using her abundant pine straw from one side of the house as ground cover and weed suppressant in the big beds I restored last year on the other side.

She doesn't like how the cones let seeds loose that generate with ease and promiscuity. I don't know how she can tell. I pull them up.

Mostly my neighbor likes to tell me, after I have done something, that I shouldn't have. I tend to take this with a grain of salt, as she cannot tell an azalea from poison oak. Her new formulation, "You're doing a wonderful job, but..."

So now the beds are almost as overgrown as they were when I started clearing them two summers ago.  I lose ground every day, as hard digging and pulling when it's 95 out is ill-advised.



I'm hoping for mild weather in September. A few days of hard yakka next door and I can put her yard to bed for the fall. Even the birds have seemed tired this year. I've not seen nearly as many different visitors this year as last. Today, however, as I was standing in the doorway onto the deck, looking out at projects undone, baking in the heat, a ruby-throated hummingbird, zipped up, chest high on me, and hovered, looking expectant.

"Sorry, bud," I had to confess. "I got nuthin'. I'm as little use to you as I am to humans these days."

"Hmph," he squeaked, and was gone. But he was species #37 on the guest list for this little half acre avian resort.

I got out two evenings this week, just before dark as the fake-rainstorm clouds gathered and the winds whooshed and howled as I remember them in the Dana Andrews supernatural film, Curse of the Demon (1957), and mowed the lawns- mine, and my neighbor's. It was cool for a bit, and that was a welcome change. But we got no rain. I don't know how many inches we are down this summer, except a lot.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Election Countdown: August 19- The Donald's Charlotte Policy Rap




Today is the birthday of Ivanka Trump, Woman of the People, celebrated for her simultaneous embrace of $138 J.C. Penny dresses made in China, and a favorite artist whose paintings sell for up to $19 million. She’s the one her dad ogles and says if she wasn’t his daughter, he might date her. He also says "many people are saying" she should be a cabinet member.

There are 81 days left until the presidential election.

Yesterday, Donald Trump held two fundraisers in and around Charlotte. Both were organized by Ed Broyhill, whose family was, for two generations, the Bush family of North Carolina.  In the way of such people, Ed has given up making a living doing anything. He is an “investor.”

The fundraisers, which bundled cash for the RNC, Trump campaign, and the NCGOP Honduran Flag Fund, charged a top ticket price of $50,000, and made $1.5 million- less than the $2 million haul they predicted.

Trump- who just replaced his NC field chief just ahead of the latter’s being sued for threatening to kneecap a campaign worker with his pistol during a drive across South Carolina- also announced an $850,000 TV ad buy for NC TV stations.

Governor Pat McCrory warmed up the crowd again with HB2 and transgender jokes at the Westin Hotel dinner, and was followed by Rudy Giuliani, whom Joe Biden has preserved in history’s amber as “a noun, a verb, and ‘9/11’”.

Conservatives have mocked President Obama for a decade over his use of teleprompters, as though reading a prepared text without having to look down is somehow less skilled than just reading the text from the podium. Oddly, they celebrate when Donald Trump does this. It shows he can be disciplined and presidential, they insist.

Trump’s Charlotte speech last night was a teleprompter version.

In his use, prepared speeches- even in transcript- are lifeless corpses on a dissecting table. Everyone- reader and hearer- knows Trump is simply reading something set out in front of him by minders who have managed to capture his attention span.

Last night, Trump mentioned Hillary Clinton 21 times, and never once called her “Crooked”. He did, however, call her "one of the greatest liars of all time, a woman who "never tells the truth."

He then assured his restive listeners, "But one thing I can promise you is this: I will always tell you the truth. I will never tell you something I do not believe."

No one has noticed how baldly Trump steals from Jimmy Carter's 1976 promise, "I'll never tell a lie. I'll never make a misleading statement. I'll never betray the confidence that any of you had in me."

The tee shirt vendors outside the Charlotte Convention Center. “Hillary for Prison” and “Smokin’ Babes for Trump” did a brisk custom among Trump's law-and-order and family values supporters.

“Sometimes in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing,” he told the rally.

The crowd paused, waiting for the punch line, then began chanting, “Trump! Trump! Trump!”

Then Trump added, “I have done that. And, believe it or not, I regret it. I do regret it. Particularly where it may have caused personal pain.”

The crowd fell silent. They didn’t know what they were supposed to think.

“Too much is at stake for us to be consumed by these issues,” he told “the unusually subdued crowd at the Charlotte convention center," according to The Guardian.

“As you know I am not a politician,” he added, to initial cheers. “I have never wanted to learn the language of the insiders, and I’ve never been politically correct – it takes far too much time, and can often make it more difficult to achieve total victory.”

"The rally, which began with a long tribute to victims of flooding in Louisiana, was also unusual for relying entirely on a teleprompter. Previously the campaign’s use of prepared remarks has mostly tended to be reserved for formal policy addresses, rather than standard stump speeches at rallies," The Guardian reported.

"Often stiff, the sight of Trump reading out lines rather than ad-libbing seemed to perplex a crowd not used to hearing him saying phrases such as: 'I’ve travelled all across this country laying out my bold and modern agenda for change.'"

The crowd also fell silent after Trump explained his new “I’ll trade you your civil liberties at home for not being killed by Muslims” plan:

“Those who believe in oppressing women, gays, Hispanics, African-Americans and people of different faiths are not welcome to join our country.”

"If African-American voters give Donald Trump a chance … the result for them will be amazing,” said Trump. “What do you have to lose by trying something new?”

This is an update of his June 15-16 plea, “Ask the gays! Who’s your friend?”

With recent polls show Trump getting 0% of the black vote in Ohio and Pennsylvania, the NC GOP is doing its part to lower the number of votes he needs to carry the state. 55% of Charlotte voters cast their ballots in early voting; the Republican-controlled county elections board just reduced early voting hours by almost 10%.

History will record Trump’s Charlotte speech as the last hurrah of the Russian political consultant Paul Manafort, who resigned this morning as Trump’s campaign chair. Trump has gone through three in as many months, which does not seem to connect at all with his supporters' mantra that he can get things done because he is a brilliant businessman and only hires the best.

For his part, Trump is in Louisiana today with his stable-mucker, Mike Pence. They plan to skip some stones across the flood waters and blame upriver illegals for flushing all at once.

Election Countdown: August 18



Today is August 18. There are 82 days until the American presidential election.

It’s the first day for Donald Trump’s latest campaign CEO, Stephen Bannon. He’s the former Goldman Sachs banker who, in the way of Wall Street’s dark arts, made himself rich in one of his company’s deals, by helping finance the TV series Seinfeld.

He then went into conservative film and TV production with such effectiveness that Breitbart News site founder Andrew Breitbart dubbed him “the Leni Riefenstahl of the American Tea Party.”

Bannon considered that a compliment. As he ought. You don’t mess with the Breitbart Machine.

Ask Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s first campaign manager. He got crossways with the Big B over claims he roughed up their woman reporter.

That led to Trump’ second campaign manager, Paul Manafort, now edged aside after trying to make the candidate sound less Breitbarty- and revelations that while Trump's suits are sewed in China, Manafort's come from Kiev.

Breitbart’s news hole has always been the deep end of the Trump media pool, quick to bid readers join them in the scum-filled waters. Trump critic Bill Kristol got headlined a “renegade Jew” for his trouble. Among its other gutter perchers is a bottle-blonde antigay gay, Milo Yiannopoulos, recently banned from Twitter after a harassment campaign against an African-American actress.

Just three days ago, Milo- who likes to call Trump the “God-Emperor Daddy” (you can look it up) argued Trump’s new “Do you like gays?” test for screening Muslim immigrants (a guarantee that LGBT Americans will never lose their legal rights or their lives except at the hand of native-born Christian fundamentalists) puts the Republicans in place as the most pro-gay party in history.

But the silence that greets such claims among politicovangelicals puts paid to any notion that the GOP has given up its cherished gay-bashing. Richard Land, Franklin Graham and veep pick Mike Pence will never stand for that (Family Research Council head Tony Perkins gets a pass. He is busy trying to understand how, after invoking natural disaster after natural disaster to show God’s animus toward gays, God sent a thousand-year flood to destroy Perkins’ Louisiana home this week, and didn’t even tip him off to head for the hills of Kentucky’s Ark Experience).

Trump is back in North Carolina today. He seems to return whenever he really needs to fly his freak flag. Nine days ago, in Wilmington, he launched his reboot of former Arizona senate candidate Sharron Angle’s “Second Amendment remedies” dog whistle: this time, toward Hillary Clinton.

July 5, in Raleigh, was when he praised Saddam Hussein as a bad guy who knew how to kill terrorists.

Trump also likes North Carolina because it’s a state where Republicans actually want to campaign with him. Senator Richard Burr and Governor Pat McCrory- who acts as Trump’s Ed McMahon, telling jokes about transgender people to warm up the crowds- are the co-chairs of a Westin Hotel Fundraiser for Trump tonight at Charlotte’s Westin Hotel.

The top ticket price for access to the Great Cheeto is $50,000 post-Citizens United dollars.

Between that and another money-hoovering do at his golf club in Mooresville this afternoon, Trump is expected to lug $2 million back to New York, not to mention what his club bills his campaign.

The Donald will wrap up the evening with an evening rally at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Today is also the start of LGBT Pride Festival in Charlotte. In light of the Orlando mass killings (the two month anniversary of which Trump celebrated last week by opening a campaign office across the street from the nightclub, and attending a prayer meeting with anti-LGBT evangelicals laid on by Kim Davis’ lawyer), the police here have declared Charlotte Pride “an extraordinary event” justifying much tighter security.

For Republicans, “Extraordinary Event” means Be Somewhere Else. Two hundred thousand people- most of them voters- will be in Charlotte the next four days.
Not a single Republican candidate will be anywhere near them (not even Attorney General hopeful Buck (We’ve got to keep North Carolina's straight!” Newton). Republicans don’t need those people.

They've got them all stacked in gerrymandered districts so they can retain their veto-proof majorities, and the county elections board, pleading poverty, just cut back early voting hours while opening 22 new Mecklenburg County polling places in white, Republican districts.

Donald Trump doesn’t need them, either. On June 15, he declared himself the best friend LGBT Americans have ever had. “Ask the gays,” he urged. “Who’s your friend?”

A Gardener's Diary: My New Excuse

J.B. Priestly wrote that "one of the pleasures of age, unknown to the young, is that of Not Going."

For me, as we enter the second month of 95+ degree, 70+% humidity days, the pleasure lies in Not Mowing.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Death and Dying and the Modern Presidential Campaign

RIP, John McLaughlin


Sunday, August 14, 2016

A glimpse of the 80s- when the world lay at my feet, and I wasn't sure I'd live to see it.



Facebook- to those fond of Greek mythology- displays all the caprice of the ancient gods.

Today- a year and a half after anyone thought to tell me he'd died, nearly three after he actually did, the keepers of a longtime friend's Facebook page decided to grant my request to see it.

It was nice to see a couple of unidentified appearances I make in photos as he is recrafted, in death, by those who run the page. I was, at one point, one of his daughter's godfathers, pictured here at the christening (I'm the guy on the far right, ironically).

I am the first to admit I was a poor godfather. While his parents were married, there was nothing for me to do; after their divorce, mother and daughter moved to California and I fell off the radar and the Christmas card list (the daughter kindly found me and sent me one last year: I am still wrestling with what I can say, do, or be, that will be useful now that she is grown, married, and about to have her own child).

My friend and I parted ways, as has been the case with nearly all my Republican friends for a quarter-century, over LGBT rights. I resented his having tacked rightward, from being a pro-LBGT Republican legislator in the late 80s to the anti-LGBT marriage advocate a decade later, brandishing our friendship to the press as proof it was nothing personal. As Mrs Palin used to say, even she had a friend who was gay.

But he was a remarkable man, and I suppose that is why we all want to say we were present at the creation, and treasure the memory of when we were in the presence of squandered greatness.

Friday, August 12, 2016

And all the while, they complain about the gays cramming stuff down *their* throats.

This story hasn't gotten much ink, literal or pixellated. 

It doesn't fit anywhere in NBC's Olympic Vision, and Donald Trump sucks up most of the rest of the brain space of the US public.

At the gut-reaction level, it's an easy story to dismiss with a sneer and a bit of Luke 18:11 pharisaical self-congratulation.

"Gay people looking for sex at the Olympics on the internets? It figures. Bodies like gods, all they do is think about sex, not God who gives them their gold. Glad nobody *I* know's like that."

LGBT people are not normal, the standard narrative holds, which is why religious, social and political institutions spend so much time creating, and expanding, spaces where they can safely denigrate, occasionally beat or kill, and deny the protections of law to them in a penalty-free affirmation of what is right and normal in life.

It's the kind of attitude I grew up with in Shelby, North Carolina, where parents- who'd have thrown their sons out for coming out- forked over for abortions when their boys got their girlfriends pregnant.

Randy straight teens had a different rule book, and it was - and remains- all theirs.

That's why the price of admission to several major world religions remains celibacy for LGBT people. Again, they aren't normal, so normal rules don't apply. Straight people, as E.M. Forster wrote of England, have 'always been disinclined to accept human nature.'

Most of the nations most of the 11,000 athletes represent in Rio criminalize being gay and/or foment social prejudice to do the dirty work for them.

Imagine the pressure LGBT elite athletes must feel in those lands, knowing their ticket out of poverty is not only peak performance but not being found out.

So you work like a demon, pretty much giving up most of the trappings of normal life, however defined, and you get a chance to spent several weeks a long way from home in a supposedly safe environment of your peers.

I got a sense of that during two years I lived in England after college. It was the first time- and the last, for another fifteen years, when I could just be me. And even then, I was mostly afraid to try me on for size. Neighbors came to town with regularity, wanting the tour. A friend at Christ Church turned up in Shelby as best man for a college mate of his who married a highs school friend of mine (in the 1990s, when I had a partner, another high school classmate called me, keen to meet us when she was in Seattle on business. We invited her to dinner, only to be required to take an oath, after the waiter took our orders, to never let her mother in Shelby find out she had seen us).

But at least in those days, anyone who wanted to speculate about me had to either do it to my face, behind my back, or in the anonymous calls I got on visits home (Y'all didn't disguise your voices nearly as well as you thought).

So that's why The Daily Beast story struck a nerve. Most people can't conceive of what it is like to not feel like there is anywhere in the world you can go without someone turning up to out you or hurt you, for your entire adult life. You may get some respites- a nightclub, an online chat- but you never know when someone is going to turn up to reclaim that, too.

So you're in Rio, and think it's safe to look at online meeting sites that use GPS to not only tell you who might be interesting but how close they are. Only 43 athletes in Rio are out- 0.0039% of all of them. And if you're in the closet- perhaps counterintuitively, to folks who have never had to consider life this way- out LGBT folk aren't necessarily the first ones you seek out to dip a toe in the water near. After all, being seen with them might rub off.

So you try the phone apps. Wrong. A married American journo with kids pitches come-ons to you, only revealing his peeping-tom purpose after you respond. And then he publishes an article that makes it easy to identify you. And then his publishers say, "We didn't mean anything by it." On the long flight home, you wonder whether the government will have found out, and you are about to lose all.

I get memes from less-thoughtful friends from my Shelby days asking why they don't get to have "Straight Pride" parades.

You don't need them. You've never had to constantly carve out safe spaces to just be left the hell alone by some other group that can't get enough of wanting to know what you are up to. In your world, marriage is your right, and you hold the power to deny it to others, then denigrate others for not being able to form lasting relationships amidst all your other efforts to blow them up.

Because Bible. Because God. Because you can.

I tried, for a little bit, to think of what situation could be visited upon the author and editors and publishers of this story- and their families- to do them what they did to these athletes.

I gave up. I wouldn't wish that on the worst person I know. Not even the Nashville songwriter.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Monday, August 8, 2016

Talking for one minute without hesitation, repetition or deviation is harder than you might think.

Penmanship? 'bout a C+, I'd say.

Fifty-two years ago today, I wrote a letter to my Sunday School teacher, Betsy Ross Gatlin, in Raeford, North Carolina. She was moving away to get married and become Mrs Wilson.

Astonishingly, she kept it, and sent it back to me recently.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

What's a few case of mal de merde among friends?

Invitations are hereby extended to one and all. Your topic? Explain why the situation described in this article ("Brazil’s Olympic Swimming, Sailing Venue Is ‘Basically Raw Sewage,’ Investigation Finds") is a bad thing.

The Republicans just held their national convention in a city whose river is famed for catching fire once or twice a decade until the EPA was created and ended the spectacles. Nostalgic conservatives wrote the party's platform to promise repeal of enough environmental regs to get the Olympics back in American waters.



Indeed, one of the signature elements of NC Governor Pat McCrory's Carolina Comeback has been comprehensive legislative efforts to make NC rivers and lakes attractive to international sporting events.

Why waste so much tax money on making water cleaner than it needs to be? Rio is the new gold standard.

A brilliant Rio opening night segment, lost to budget cuts-

Brazil's economic problem forced Olympic organizers to cut the opening and closing ceremonies budget in half, then get a government loan to cover the half that was left.

This is part of what had to be cut:


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Never brag about outlasting the competition when the competition gave up and got a life ten years ago.


As usual, I forgot to wish Waldo a happy birthday August 1. He turned nine.

Like a reliable sitcom whose producers refused to jump the shark, Waldo has outlived his two spinoffs, Waldo at Home, and Cooking With Waldo.  His biggest audience remains the spamcrawlers of Russia, and their cousins in China, Slovenia, Ukraine and Romania.

US readers are #2 with about a third of page views, and Waldo has minuscule followings in the UK, France, Spain, and Italy. His most popular post remains his shortest: on August 11, 2014, under the title, "Well, damn." Waldo wrote, "Robin Williams is dead."

164, 952 visitors have honored Waldo with a visit. They don't stay long. The average read is 2.2 pages.

Blogs, I suspect, are dying off with their owners. A 2006 report by Sysomos found only 7.1% of bloggers were over 51 years of age- spot on for me. A few years before that, a fairly widely-traveled article said the average lifespan of blogs with huge followings was only about three years.

In 2016, an article appeared in The Guardian that made me fell like a man who opened the world's most modern buggy whip factory in, say 1916:
Between 2002 and 2006, it seemed you could hardly move a digital muscle without someone proselytising about the rise of blogs and their potential impact on marketing and communication. 
The buzz prompted an outpouring of personal journal entries, and the emergence of tools such as Technorati to index them all. By 2008, 41% of UK internet users had visited a blog, according to comScore. 
And then, it seemed, the blog went bust. Blogging by US teens halved between 2006 and 2010 and declined among millennials, according to PewResearch. Technorati, while still operational, is now a mere footnote to the format. 
It was no mere coincidence that during this period we saw the mainstream adoption of social networks such as Facebook and microblogging platforms Tumblr and Twitter. These services allowed users to express themselves through short updates or single-click republishing. Their rise was further reinforced by the prevalence of smartphones, since mobile expression demands the short form. Consequently, blogs fell off the radar. 
Jason Kottke, one of the most celebrated of blogging's old guard, who has been at the coalface for 16 years, recently declared "the blog is dead". If that's the case, we should all enjoy the afterlife. The "death" of blogs may be an exaggeration – but it's also great news for anyone connected with the format in terms of media and marketing. 
Blogs haven't disappeared – they have simply morphed into a mature part of the publishing ecosystem. The loss of casual bloggers has shaken things out, with more committed and skilled writers sticking it out. Far from killing the blog dream, this has increased the quality of the blogosphere as a whole. 
Waldo averages 5-6,000 page views a month, having peaked at 11,000 in July 2010. It was probably higher in 2008, when Waldo had a vogue among South Carolina political bloggers (all but one of which are long gone), but I don't remember. Laurels wither fast on the internets. All told, I cranked out about 14,000 Waldoposts these last nine years, then excised about two-thirds in 2013.

Waldo's come full circle, moving non-political topics back into the mix after eight years at Waldo at Home. One halfway decent blog beats three crappy ones, I reckon.

I go from year to year now. Next year will be Year Ten. Maybe I will keep on, maybe a decade of blabber will  finally strike me as enough, long after it did my long-suffering handful of readers.

The promised land, at last in sight.


I have argued, for years, that the Republican Party and the people it welcomes have been in a long, "After you, Alphonse", "No, you first, Gaston" routine to return to the long-missed time when you could use the N word in public and be considered mainstream.
I rest my case.

The Gardener's Diary Archive:Miss Lawrence's Birthday, from Henry Bemis Books, May 27, 2015

Elizabeth Lawrence (1904-1985)
Gardener, author, correspondent, newspaper columnist


Miss Lawrence, a famed gardener and writer who spent her career in Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina, was born this date in 1904. Her memory- and Charlotte home- is preserved in the Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary.


Even thirty years after he death, those who know Miss Lawrence’s books- I keep A Southern Garden- at the ready, year ‘round- or remember her Charlotte Observer columns, think of her as a friend, a delightful correspondent, and a companion in the yard. Here’s an appreciation of Elizabeth Lawrence I wrote in the series, “A Gardener’s Diary,” at the blog Waldo at Home, April 12, 2015, during a fit of hay fever:


I was in a right funk, honking into a handkerchief on the front steps, when my neighbor, Mildred, ambled over.


"Did you plant that azalea?" she asked.


I had no idea what she was talking about, and not just because my ears were started to plug up from the storm surge of mucilage rising past my eyeballs.


"No. Where?"


"There," she said, and pointed. I could see it across the street this morning. I don't remember there being one there."


Mildred would know. She has been watching out the front windows for thirty-four years. If it's knowable about this neighborhood, she knows it.


I turned to where she was pointing. Overnight,  a spindly overshadowed azalea I'd freed from adjoining boxwoods and more or less forgotten, so unpromising were its spavined limbs and shaded location, had turned into a beauty:




Well, that was cheering. I remembered I needed to tell Mildred I'd heard from one of this blog's readers, the self-styled "Old Jane in NC", about the yellow-flowered bush in Mildred's yard. I noted the other day that neither of us could remember what it is:




Jill commented, "I think the yellow blooming shrub is Kerria. Here in the mountains just north of Asheville, we are probably about 10 days behind you on dogwood, creeping phlox, etc. Again, thanks for the pretty pictures and pleasant conversation."


I looked up the suggestion. Jill is correct! What's more, the kerria japonica, or Japanese rose, is famed in music:


Besides "Japanese Rose," other common names for kerria japonica pick up on the fact that it is a member of the rose family. The common name, "Easter Rose" alludes to its early blooming period (during Easter, in some regions). The flowers' color accounts for the common name, "Yellow Rose of Texas" (with an assist from the song by the same name). Meanwhile, others commonly refer to it simply as "Kerria rose" or "Japanese kerria."


Others call it the Chinese rose; it is found there as well as in Japan and Korea. The name may also be an association with William Kerr, a Scots gardener discovered worked at Kew by Sir Joseph Banks early in the 19th century. Banks plucked Kerr up and sent him to China in 1804, Kerr became the western world's first plant collector, shipping home 238 varieties of plants over eight years, including the nandina, euonymus, begonia, and the rosa banksiae, wisely named for his patron's wife.  The kerria japonica cultivar bears Kerr's.


All of which, after I retreated indoors in search of more handkerchiefs, prompted me to pull down Elizabeth Lawrence's last book, Gardening for Love: The Market Bulletins (Allen, Lacy, ed, Duke University Press, 1987). Lawrence (1904-85) edited The Charlotte Observer's weekly gardening column from 1957 to 1971, and wrote a number of books beloved of gardeners, especially in the Carolinas.


Elizabeth Lawrence


I read Miss Lawrence's columns as a boy; her style was always entertaining and- as I read more of her over the years- it was easy to see how she was almost equally famous in gardening circles as a letter-writer (her collected correspondence with Katherine White, The New Yorker's gardening correspondent,and wife of E.B., is fascinating; they got on much better by mail than in person). Eudora Welty put her on the mailing list for The Mississippi Market Bulletin, one of a number of state publications in which farm people traded plants. Her correspondence with people throughout the South through those publications, was the inspiration for Gardening for Love, which documents the now-largely-lost world of plant trading:

Reading the market bulletins is like walking through a country garden with sun on the flowers, in their very names: princess feather, four-o-clock, love-in-a-mist, bachelor's buttons, Joseph's coat, touch-me-not, kiss-me-at-the-garden-gate, ladyfingers, redbird bush, rainbow fairy,  pink sunburst. Sometimes the names have a darker tone: devil's shoestring; devil's-nip, devil's-walking-stick, graveyard moss, graveyard vine, and a good many others with demonic or funereal names.

Charlotte, North Carolina's Touch-Me-Not Lane, part of the heritage of gardening.


Many of these ring bells for me, from half a century ago: visits to family and friends often meant coming home with cuttings, or sprigs offered to hosts, and transplants from old home to new were part of moving- they were from the family old homestead, or some important connection (for years as a teen, I grew strawberries from starters my maternal grandmother gave me). And, as Miss Lawrence notes, the names were an infinite source of delight- and some confusion:


Love-entangled is an old name for nigella or love-in-a-mist, but as often happens when old names linger, the farm women have transferred it to another plant. Love-tangle vine is their name for Kenilworth ivy, an old favorite for  hanging baskets. Kenilworth ivy, incidentally, I have also seen advertised as Kettleworth ivy. It often happens that as plants pass from the hands of one gardener to another, their names change in odd ways, through oral transmission. Some of these alterations in spelling when they are written down are: Eli Agnes for Eleagnus; the Festive Maxine peony for Festiva Maxima; Ellen Bouquet amaryllis for the rose-colored crinum, Ellen Bosanquet; Virginia's Philadelphia for Philadelphus x virginalis; red star arise for red star-anise; rose-of-Charon; and watery spirea for the spirea named Anthony Waterer. I am reminded of the gardener who asked me to come see her "wiggly rose," which turned out to be Weigela florida, and of another who called the rose Etoile de Hollande, Miss Estelle of Holland.


One of Miss Lawrence's many correspondents was Mr. Kimery, who had an acre nursery at the Tennessee-Mississippi border; she describes the challenges of identifying many of his colloquially-named plants. One,

"The rose of Texas," Mr. Kimery wrote, "is double yellow. I sent you all I have. They will live. Hope so." I hope so, too, for the one I got earlier died before I had a chance to tell anything about it except that its thorns were sharp and numerous, which made me think it was the old brier, Harrison's Yellow (1830), common in gardens and of American origin. The yellow rose of Texas appears often in the market bulletins, but sometimes it is not a rose at all, but double kerria (Kerria japonica).


I like to think my neighbors and I- and correspondents in the market bulletins of the Internet- are keeping these old folkways alive a little longer. Mildred has made me promise to take some cuttings of her Chinese rose; my neighbor Cindy has offered me some of the hostas that have sprung up from recently cleared and restored beds at her front door:




I came to love hostas living in Seattle, where their colors fit the cool, often muted light of the Pacific Northwest, but where they are also an endless buffet for the endless supply of slugs. It will be nice to have some new ones to put out before long.

After I get the dandelion rebellion suppressed, of course. And the allergies under control. And, after that, perhaps a visit to Miss Lawrence's house and garden, a National Register of Historic Places site here in Charlotte, now part of the Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary.

The Gardener's Diary Archive: Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Weather permitting, 1 to 3 in the afternoon is Gardening Time. The rest of my waking hours are spent at a computer, trying to persuade people they really, really need to spend some money on one of my books.

Today was a grey, Pacific Northwest sort of day; the left-behinds of a storm that passed through last night. We got a good soaking: my rain bin, parked under a leak in the gutter, collected 25 gallons.

The ants are hard at work, building new communities all through  my front and back yards. The red clay of the Piedmont is so hard it has already started to crack, but the ants are implacable: they drill right up through it, creating ant condo complexes and shopping malls with dozens of entrances and exits over a few square feet.

The seven willow oaks in the yard, all 30 years old and 65-70 feet tall, are leafing out. That vague greenish-yellow haze that envelopes them has given way to leaf buds, and pollen. Long strings of it, draped like Chinese lanterns from every branch. A walking allergy collection, I am in for it the next week or two:


I usually have some tasks in mind when I head out. I have two adjoining yards I work on- an acre in total, both of which sat, unattended except for mowing, for a very long time. My yard was neglected for a decade; the next door one, for about six years. Vines and creepers are everywhere, and up into the trees; another neighbor contributes to the disarray by neglecting what he has planted in the past, while fussing over new trees he planted last fall. From him we get lots of flowering weeds whose seed bow in the wind over to us; I have spent the last week separating his grape vines from two of my neighbor's border trees; the vines were up 20-25 feet into them, firmly attached by their little aerial rootlets. The neighbor may have once had some wire to support them but it has long since given way to the tangle that follows long inattention, and the two trees were so much more attractive a prospect for the vines.

Today, however, Task 1 was Dealing With Dandelions. I am the ISIL of dandelions: today I beheaded 356. I find the best time to tackle them is when the flowers first come out; their brilliant yellow is an easy target. I walk around the yard snapping them up and, every fifty or so being a handful, dump them next to Mother Compost, the first of my my three piles (when you have seven willow oaks and a quarter-acre wooded lot next door, you need three piles). Mother Compost is the first and farthest along, about nine months old, and decaying nicely.

Next up? The potato patch. I discovered, years ago, potatoes are ridiculously easy to grow. Cut them up, bury them, and when the above-ground greenery dies back, dig them up. In the depths of this dreadful '14-'15 winter, grasping at some hope of warmth again, I let some smaller russets sprout on a pantry shelf, put them out a month or so ago to harden, and today I cleared a small bed against the back of the house, one that gets sun nearly all day. In went a row of six potato cuttings, and an equal of garlics cloves I let sprout in the pantry. Part of me worries, without articulable reason, I have waited too long and the spuds and garlic have gone off. If that is the case, I will get some new ones and start over, for a fine end of summer crop.

"Spring is over so fast," my across the street neighbor, Mildred, remarked the other day. We both wish the colors would last longer. Maybe we have a heightened sense of the passage of time: we have 145 years between us, and as we slow down, time speeds up. Today I thought I'd get some snaps for the diary, and maybe print a few out for Mildred and me to gaze upon next December, when the darkness seems never-ending and the TV weathermen exult over the prospects of ice storms.

So I wandered around the neighborhood, camera in one hand, shears in the other. I keep a vase of flowers in my windowless bathroom; the red camellias I have enjoyed the last few weeks have run their course and it was time for a new arrangement.

There was much to choose from. Mildred's azaleas are coming out; as are my neighbor Cindy's; I took a couple of snips of the reds, and some red and pink camellias for the foliage and contrast. I stopped to pull some vines out of the pink camellia, and, while rooting around in it to find the big vine and behead it, I came across a fine example of the nesting art, complete with a fringe of moss around the remarkably ovalized straw inside.


I walked over to snap Mildred's dogwood. It is a fine specimen, one that has grown roundly in its location; getting sun all day.


In the foreground, the lilac and the Chinese rose have seen their best this spring, but a week ago, ya shoulda been here.

I only have one dogwood, on the edge of the wooded lot next door. The trees there have grown densely over time, crowding each other out and either growing tall and spindly before falling victim to storm winds, or sideways, outward to try and get the sunlight. The dogwood is a one-sided tree, stretching out over the driveway to get some afternoon light. The long, narrow lot behind it, dense with foliage, cuts out nearly all the morning sun.


A visit to Mildred's yard is a visit with Mildred, and we celebrated the ongoing gifts her husband left in the plantings over the thirty years they shared in that yard. Some violets are peeking out in their across-the-street narrow, wooded, next door lot, sort of cross-street nature corridor with ours.


We couldn't, for the life of us, remember what this is called, but it sure does brighten up an overcast day:


-as does a patch of thrift. I've never seen it climb a fence before. I guess that is what "vigorous habit" means.


We strolled over to look at William's azaleas, scattered through the woods. Planting them in wooded settings is an inspired choice. When St. Andrews University, my alma mater, was being built in the late 1950s, a donor gave them truckloads of azaleas: so many, they couldn't find places for all of them around the new buildings and so started putting them out in the pine groves that meandered through and round the campus. By the time I arrived, fifteen years later, hiking the wooded areas meant coming across sudden explosions of color, ten feet or more tall. The only thing to rival it is the corridors of mountain laurel one hikes through on the North Carolina portions of the Appalachian Trail.



We chatted about the usual things- the weather, the curse of the spiky balls the gums across the street produce in such excess, the tendency of the neighbors in the newer subdivision down the street to take the speed limit as a suggestion- when suddenly Mildred cried, "Ah!" I looked over and there were two vivid- and hardly common- common yellowthroats perched at her birdbath.


And if that wasn't enough! Three eastern bluebirds dropped in as the yellowthroats- thirst slaked, flashed off.


The bluebirds seem to like the neighborhood; I first saw them March 26, after a heavy rain forced up a back yard of gasping worms. But the yellowthroats are a first, and push my neighborhood bird list up to sixteen.

I came home and, inside, got the vase refilled for some wake-me-up color blast tomorrow morning:

Yes, I read Donald Kagan's The Peloponnesian War in the bathroom.

Working solo, at home, is a pretty solitary business, and there's times I wish for some company to tell what I do all day, and ask if it makes any sense. But bookselling is, in many respects, a pretty damned boring proposition, especially if one is not drawn to the magical search- almost never fulfilled- for all thirteen errors that make a true first printing of The Great Gatsby. Or, in more contemporary terms, to try and get someone else's opinion of where I ought to put more social media effort: Twitter, where I have vastly more followers; or Facebook, where I have far fewer, but those I have are more communicative and visit my business's website more often. For most of my friends, these are MIRB talks- My Eyes Roll Back.

So it's nice to get outside, when I can. I am six weeks into the book business, and it is slow going building the kind of market reach that will prompt one or two people to buy a book per month: once I hit that modest goal, I  won't worry as much about the moths in my wallet and the echo when my bank's teller opens my account balance. Getting out clears my mind from the hyper-rational side telling me- pretty persuasively- why the "it will all work out" side is nothing but codswallop.

Getting out- having the time, during daylight- to do stuff, is a wonderful gift, and has the added advantage of being free and requiring little travel. For the first time since I was, maybe, fifteen? I have the time to pay attention to what is going on around me. I can watch bulbs come up from the ground, note the appearance of another species of bird in my yard, talk with my neighbors. In her wonderful book, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, Kathleen Norris writes of a women's Bible Study group in the Presbyterian Church of her tiny, windblown Dakotas town:
When I dared to speak, I said that my favorite passage in the chapter  had always been Mark 4:27, because it speaks so eloquently of an ordinary miracle that the farmer "should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how." That seems to apply to so much that I do, I said, commitments that I make when I have no idea what I'm getting into, and somehow they grow into something important, before I know it. My marriage, for instance, I said, and the women laughed, knowingly. It also reminded me, I told them, how mysterious are so many of the things that we take for granted. We know how to plow a field, and how to seed it. But germination and growth are hidden from us, beyond our control. All we can do is wait, and hope, and see. "Only last Saturday, a woman interrupted, "at the Lutheran fall bazaar. The place mat was real different. I saved mine." She drew it from her purse and unfolded it. There was a picture of a wheat field and a quote from Martin Luther: "If you could understand a single grain of wheat you would die of wonder."



The Gardener's Diary Archive: As the worm turns, April 9, 2015

The last few days have been delightful out. It's been warm- into the low 80s- and mostly sunny, with a nice breeze.

It has also been The Time of The Spring Cankerworm.

"The little bastids", as my pal Boston Eddie would call them, climb up trees in late fall, lay their eggs, and play canasta still spring. Then the new generation, frisky and full of promise, parachutes out of the trees, suspended by long, virtually transparent filaments, a Normandy air invasion of Lilliput.

But walk anywhere near a tree and you will find them all over you, as you walk through their slo-mo zip lines. I look up and see them dangling from the brim of my Stetson straw hat- at least they don't get into my hair that way. But I find them all over my shirt and pants, placidly making their way upward, as if to relaunch from my nose. Charlotte has been besieged by them for over twenty years, and still they proliferate, aided by the seemingly endless stands of tasty willow oaks (I have seven).

They don't like being photographed, either. I tried to catch some in flight and they always seemed to waft out of range at the last sec, no matter how close I was. One, however, was slow on the uptake (or downdraft):


A little above the center of this snap, see the little yellow stick-like thing? That's a cankerworm, about four feet above the ground.

Dandelions? I'm their Pol Pot. Yesterday I deflowered 218, including a dozen or so that opened their bright yellow blooms in areas I had finished pulling half an hour earlier. In a bit, I am out to see how many have dared to show themselves.

The Gardener's Diary Archive: Saturday sneezefest, and what's in a name? April 12, 2015

I was prepared, yesterday, to bill myself as the Malthus of Bizarro World- where everything is reversed, and my war on dandelions was proceeding in a pleasingly logarithmic manner.

I started counting my casualties first of the week, as beheading the yellow peril gets to be, well, pretty boring pretty fast.

And things went well this week:

4.07: 356
4.08: 284
4.09: 164
4.10: 76

I was pretty chuffed last night when I turned in. Less so when I looked out the window this morning. I'd been the victim of a sneak attack.

For one thing, the dandelions have clearly been cultivating allies, and the buttercups in the yard have suddenly opened up. This means new profusions of yellow, in which dandelions hide in plain sight. The dandelion-slayer must therefore be doubly alert. While most dandelions are brazen creatures of the soil, especially when they bolt suddenly and turn their yellow flowers into seed-spewing puffers, some are craven little so-and-sos, lurking close to the ground, This is particularly the case when they are in league with the buttercups.

More telling, however, were two other steps the dandelions took overnight. They got word- I have an informer in my camp, it seems- I was developing a major allergy outburst today: Niagara nose, one side of the head filled with concrete, endless sneezing, the whole lot.

"He'll be off his feed, let's blindside him" seems to have been the message passed from camp to camp, front yard to back.

So they went right to it and at it, and all I could see out the window today was newly-blossomed dandelions. I charged out, gasping only slightly at every new intake of pollen on this sunny day, and their final counterattack started: a new bout of canker worms. Everywhere I walked in the yard, I picked them up: hat brim, shirt, pants, shoes. Not to mention the increasingly wind-tangled filaments from which they make their way to the ground. Why don't birds go for these things? They could just swing through, beaks open, about four to five feet up from the ground, and make like the great whales snacking on krill.

I was momentarily set on my back foot by this multi pronged attack, but I am nothing if not a gardener with a will. In no time flat I equalled yesterday's casualty total. I had barely cleared any ground.

By the time I was done, I'd pulled 399 dandelion blossoms and buds- which look remarkably like okra pods before they go all smiley-face Mike Huckabee on you and you find out how quickly they can morph into an existential menace.

By the time I got the last of the little bastids- as my friend Boston Eddie would call them- into the bin, I was in full flow, nosewise.  Misery loves company, and now as I looked around me, I fond my irises- while doing well, mind-


-but as nothing to my neighbor, Doug's- right across the street!


The grape hyacinths in the front yard are a good three weeks behind their backyard counterparts, blossomed with brio and went their way:


And the ones up the walk aren't even this far along. "No photo for you," I snuffled, and I am sure what they heard was "Doh bobo fufhfu."

Another nearby neighbor has a dogwood so elegant not even the vandals Duke Energy hires to keep its lines clear have been able to do their worst:


Their oaks are farther along, too.

I was in a right funk, honking into a handkerchief on the front steps, when my neighbor, Mildred, ambled over.

"Did you plant that azalea?" she asked.

I had no idea what she was talking about, and not just because my ears were started to plug up from the storm surge of mucilage rising past my eyeballs.

"No. Where?"

"There," she said, and pointed. I could see it across the street this morning. I don't remember there being one there."

Mildred would know. She has been watching out the front windows for thirty-four years. If its knowable about this neighborhood, she knows it.

I turned to where she was pointing. Overnight,  a spindly overshadowed azalea I'd freed from adjoining boxwoods and more or less forgotten, so unpromising were its spavined limbs and shaded location, had turned into a beauty:


Well, that was cheering. I remembered I needed to tell Mildred I'd heard from one of this blog's readers, the self-styled "Old Jane in NC", about the yellow-flowered bush in Mildred's yard. I noted the other day that neither of us could remember what it is:


Jill commented, "I think the yellow blooming shrub is Kerria. Here in the mountains just north of Asheville, we are probably about 10 days behind you on dogwood, creeping phlox, etc. Again, thanks for the pretty pictures and pleasant conversation."

I looked up the suggestion. Jill is correct! What's more, the kerria japonica, or Japanese rose, is famed in music:
Besides "Japanese Rose," other common names for kerria japonica pick up on the fact that it is a member of the rose family. The common name, "Easter Rose" alludes to its early blooming period (during Easter, in some regions). The flowers' color accounts for the common name, "Yellow Rose of Texas" (with an assist from the song by the same name). Meanwhile, others commonly refer to it simply as "Kerria rose" or "Japanese kerria."
Others call it the Chinese rose; it is found there as well as in Japan and Korea. The name may also be an association with William Kerr, a Scots gardener discovered worked at Kew by Sir Joseph Banks early in the 19th century. Banks plucked Kerr up and sent him to China in 1804, Kerr became the western world's first plant collector, shipping home 238 varieties of plants over eight years, including the nandina, euonymus, begonia, and the rosa banksiae, wisely named for his patron's wife.  The kerria japonica cultivar bears Kerr's.

All of which, after I retreated indoors in search of more handkerchiefs, prompted me to pull down Elizabeth Lawrence's last book, Gardening for Love: The Market Bulletins (Allen, Lacy, ed, Duke University Press, 1987). Lawrence (1904-85) edited The Charlotte Observer's weekly gardening column from 1957 to 1971, and wrote a number of books beloved of gardeners, especially in the Carolinas. 

Elizabeth Lawrence

I read Miss Lawrence's columns as a boy; her style was always entertaining and- as I read more of her over the years- it was easy to see how she was almost equally famous in gardening circles as a letter-writer (her collected correspondence with Katherine White, The New Yorker's gardening correspondent,and wife of E.B., is fascinating; they got on much better by mail than in person). Eudora Welty put her on the mailing list for The Mississippi Market Bulletin, one of a number of state publications in which farm people traded plants. Her correspondence with people throughout the South through those publications, was the inspiration for Gardening for Love, which documents the now-largely-lost world of plant trading:
Reading the market bulletins is like walking through a country garden with sun on the flowers, in their very names: princess feather, four-o-clock, love-in-a-mist, bachelor's buttons, Joseph's coat, touch-me-not, kiss-me-at-the-garden-gate, ladyfingers, redbird bush, rainbow fairy,  pink sunburst. Sometimes the names have a darker tone: devil's shoestring; devil's-nip, devil's-walking-stick, graveyard moss, graveyard vine, and a good many others with demonic or funereal names.
Charlotte, North Carolina's Touch-Me-Not Lane, part of the heritage of gardening.

Many of these ring bells for me, from half a century ago: visits to family and friends often meant coming home with cuttings, or sprigs offered to hosts, and transplants from old home to new were part of moving- they were from the family old homestead, or some important connection (for years as a teen, I grew strawberries from starters my maternal grandmother gave me). And, as Miss Lawrence notes, the names were an infinite source of delight- and some confusion:
Love-entangled is an old name for nigella or love-in-a-mist, but as often happens when old names linger, the farm women have transferred it to another plant. Love-tangle vine is their name for Kenilworth ivy, an old favorite for  hanging baskets. Kenilworth ivy, incidentally, I have also seen advertised as Kettleworth ivy. It often happens that as plants pass from the hands of one gardener to another, their names change in odd ways, through oral transmission. Some of these alterations in spelling when they are written down are: Eli Agnes for Eleagnus; the Festive Maxine peony for Festiva Maxima; Ellen Bouquet amaryllis for the rose-colored crinum, Ellen Bosanquet; Virginia's Philadelphia for Philadelphus x virginalis; red star arise for red star-anise; rose-of-Charon; and watery spirea for the spirea named Anthony Waterer. I am reminded of the gardener who asked me to come see her "wiggly rose," which turned out to be Weigela florida, and of another who called the rose Etoile de Hollande, Miss Estelle of Holland.
One of Miss Lawrence's many correspondents was Mr. Kimery, who had an acre nursery at the Tennessee-Mississippi border; she describes the challenges of identifying many of his colloquially-named plants. One,
"The rose of Texas," Mr. Kimery wrote, "is double yellow. I sent you all I have. They will live. Hope so." I hope so, too, for the one I got earlier died before I had a chance to tell anything about it except that its thorns were sharp and numerous, which made me think it was the old brier, Harrison's Yellow (1830), common in gardens and of American origin. The yellow rose of Texas appears often in the market bulletins, but sometimes it is not a rose at all, but double kerria (Kerria japonica).
I like to think my neighbors and I- and correspondents in the market bulletins of the Internet- are keeping these old folkways alive a little longer. Mildred has made me promise to take some cuttings of her Chinese rose; my neighbor Cindy has offered me some of the hostas that have sprung up from recently cleared and restored beds at her front door:


I came to love hostas living in Seattle, where their colors fit the cool, often muted light of the Pacific Northwest, but where they are also an endless buffet for the endless supply of slugs. It will be nice to have some new ones to put out before long.

After I get the dandelion rebellion suppressed, of course. And the allergies under control. And, after that, perhaps a visit to Miss Lawrence's house and garden, a National Register of Historic Places site here in Charlotte, now part of the Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary. 

The Gardener's Diary Archive: You learn something new every day, April 15, 2015

I thought, as the flowers first appeared, they were grape hyacinths, but the leaves weren't like those of the ones in my back yard. Now I learn, thanks to NC State Cooperative Extension, I have wood hyacinth, also known as Spanish bluebells, in my front hard:


The Gardener's Diary Archive: Catbird, seat nearby. Rain, endless, April 19, 2015.

I think we have had rain for a week now; the days- overcast and dark- seem to run together. Since last night we have had a very steady rainfall. The weatherman on Channel 9 last night was predicting a couple of inches. As I see water standing in places in the yard I have not seen water standing before, I think he may be right.

Standing water and red Piedmont clay are rarely a happy combination; the top little bit of the clay soaks in as much as it can and turns soupy and generally disagreeable to be out and about in. The grass- already running riot- is going to be a hot mess to mow, as my friend Brian would say.

But I am not complaining. A week ago I was laid low by pollen, so thick about that breezes pushed it into berms and dunes all over the yard, and into my eyes and nose. Surely this mini-monsoon will drown most of it. Then we'll just have the revivified late-bloomers to deal with.

So I've been indoors, mostly. The temperatures have been clement, so on a day like this I have been able to work at my desk with the windows open, listening to the rain fall. The sonic effect is worthy of a relaxation CD.

During a lull this afternoon I ventured out to run my dandelion picket lines. Only 29 captured today. They will cut loose at the first sunshine, now predicted for Tuesday. While I was out, wringing their little yellow necks, I heard a new bird call, loud and shrill, and it finally penetrated my attention. I realized I have heard it for several days running; a little research revealed it is the call of the gray catbird, mimicking a woman shouting, "Heeeere, kittykittykittykittykitty...Heeeere, kittykittykittykittykitty..."



It's a good fit for the neighborhood, as Roger Tory Peterson says, in A Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies (1st.ed, 1st printing, 1980, paperback; yes, I will sell it out from under myself), says the are partial to undergrowth, brush, thorn, scrub and suburban gardens. Bit of a flirt, too: Peterson adds, "Flips tail jauntily." We're a bit west of the boundary of its breeding and year-round ranges, on the breeding side, but as I see reports that ranges are moving north as things warm, we may be new turf for them. Now I know what to in the coming months. The gray catbird is the the twentieth species I've noted on this little half-acre since last fall.

We have a lot of Bewick's wrens in the yard most days. They like gardens, underbrush and thickets, all of which we have around us; they also like nesting boxes, and our neighbor, Mr. Doug, has a number of those across the way. They are fairly quiet little birds; we had a set last fall who liked to hang out in the woodpile and let meals crawl out of the woodwork without having to go out. The robins have been busy hauling off nesting materials from the compost piles in the back yard; pine straw is popular for inner padding.

One can only work at the computer so much in a day, so I've been working my way into Elizabeth Lawrence's classic, The Southern Garden. I have the 1990 trade paperback; I was finally able to get it yesterday when eight crates of books I called out from storage were delivered. I'll be a typing fool the next few weeks, getting them all photographed and written up for Henry Bemis Books' summer catalogue (if you'd like the current spring issue, just hop next door to Henry's website and fill out the order form; I'll be pleased to email you one). Our weather this week- indeed, this year- is just as she described in 1942:
In the Middle South the difficulty is not that it is too hot or too cold, or too wet or too dry, but that the changes from one extreme to the other are so frequent and so sudden. In summer we cannot depend, as England, on steady moisture, nor, as in our Southwest, on continued drought. Instead, weeks when no rain falls are followed by weeks when it rains every day...