Personal renewal in summer’s introspection

September 2nd, 2010 Posted in Summer plants, books

Well, it’s about time. My Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) finally got around to blooming.

Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)

They’ve been gorgeous around town for weeks, while mine is still a pathetic little stick with a paltry tribute to summer. It was in bad shape when I got it a few years ago at the end of the season. I thought I could revive it, but I haven’t yet found the secret. I’m sure it heard me grumbling, “Okay, I’ve just got to get another one.” In a panic, it pushed its little cells as hard as they would go. You can’t reject that kind of effort, so I’ll see what I can do for it.

I’ve heard from many gardeners that their summer bloomers haven’t performed as usual. Perhaps the severe freezes hindered their schedule. I still haven’t seen one flower on my healthy shrimp plants, and my plumbagos aren’t at typical magnificence.

Blue plumbago auriculata

For us, summer is the season when we most seek personal renewal. In the heat, our physical energy lags, so we go inside, both into our abodes and into our souls. We crave the garden of words for perspective and strength to tackle the coming year. During this introspective time, I found my strength through Susan Wittig Albert’s book, Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place.

Susan Wittig Albert Together Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place

For years, I’ve been a fan of her China Bayles series.

Susan Wittig Albert China Bayles Spanish Dagger

Along with the intelligent mystery puzzle, plant history and applications, and recipes, I can connect to China. She’s independent and cautious about getting too close. Susan captures the real life struggles that face us all, from details like the kitchen floor to working out relationships and making the next professional or personal step.

In Together, Alone, Susan’s brave enough to reveal her own heart and the struggles, from marriage to career (and the garden), that frame her choices and direction.

Although I’d never considered a silent retreat before, I’m exploring Lebh Shomea in Sarita, Texas to discover the peace and insight that she has found there. Like Susan in her first experience, I know I’d be a balking bag of worries about being so disconnected, fearing that the world would crash if I veered from my on-target responsibilities. Not sure if I’ll do it, but Susan’s honest revelation of her journey of renewal at Lebh Shomea is one we can all embrace, wherever we choose to do it.

Even if we journal, the hardest thing is to respect what our own words tell us. How do we read between our own lines to see our next destination? Through Together, Alone, Susan’s journey will assist you on yours.

Energetic Susan also launched a new series, The Darling Dahlias.

Susan Wittig Albert The Darling Dahlias

Set in 1930s Alabama, Susan adopts a completely different voice, with a cast of characters that you’ll recognize among our contemporaries. It’s a good “cozy” mystery with the benefit of what life was like in the economic downturn of the 30s.

Especially I like her subtle connections to modern life. Twitter: think party phone lines. Blogs: the young garden writer who discovers a wide audience beyond her local newspaper garden updates. Recycle/reuse: Makin Do: 10 Ways to Stretch Whatever We Have.

Platforms for communication will always change. But what remains the same is our concern for our plants, figuring out life choices, and how to divide that special iris to pass along to a new gardener. Until the heat abates, revel in your inner garden. As you well know, the outside one will demand all your attention soon.

Next week, CTG launches the fall season. We’re about to get introspective with the shovel! Until then, Linda

  1. 31 Responses to “Personal renewal in summer’s introspection”

  2. By Michele on Sep 2, 2010

    No Pride of Barbados blooms for me at all. boo hoo.
    Books looks wonderful! Thanks for the recommendation!


    Linda reply on September 2nd, 2010 4:43 pm:

    Yea, what’s the deal on these guys! Glad you like the book recommends, though how you have time to read is beyond me!


  3. By Linda on Sep 2, 2010

    My Pride of Barbados still hasn’t bloomed this year. I have the yellow form (actually two; started one from seed a while back–will it be yellow? Hasn’t bloomed yet, so who knows?) The original is in a large pot, and while it has never bloomed as well as the red ones, it has always bloomed most of the summer, off and on. It still doesn’t even look like it’s going to bloom. The “baby” is in the ground. Has barely made it back to a foot tall from the winter freeze. No blooms there, either, but I must admit that it looks nice when it stays compact like that! Still, now I have some hope…


    Linda reply on September 2nd, 2010 4:42 pm:

    Well, I’m sorry that you don’t have flowers either, but at least we’re not alone. I think they just got the pants scared off them last fall!

    Your yellow is probably C. mexicana. Cool that you started from seed. Need to try that too.


  4. By Marlene on Sep 2, 2010

    My blue plumbago have just started their show. I agree…I think the winter was a shocker. I recently read up on how to keep algae out of birdbaths and saw several suggestions to place a copper pipe or tube in the birdbath. People swear by it. Have you tried that? Thanks for your posts, I love this website!


    Linda reply on September 2nd, 2010 5:10 pm:

    I love that idea of the copper tube. I scrub the birdbath with a kitchen brush. But in the bottom of the fountain patio, I’ll try the copper tube. Thanks!


  5. By Susan Albert on Sep 2, 2010

    Linda, I very much hope you’ll be able to manage a retreat somewhere (Lebh Shomea or elsewhere). The silence, the alone time, is a powerfully healing restorative. We can find that time in our gardens, but those are usually brief moments, too brief–and always with us there is the knowledge that the work world is waiting. Getting away means letting go and acknowledging that things aren’t going to go smash without our guiding hands on the helm. (And anyway, if you’re not there, they’ll appreciate all you do that much more–won’t they?)

    Thanks for being a reader and for sharing my work with *your* loyal readers. I appreciate it more than I can say.–Susan Albert


    Linda reply on September 2nd, 2010 6:22 pm:

    Thank YOU for providing such inspiration for us all!


  6. By Iris/Society Garlic, Austin on Sep 2, 2010

    I can’t believe I still haven’t read any of Susan’s books. They really sound up my alley–thanks for the reminder and recommendation! I feel lucky to have a great view of my neighbor’s profusely blooming Pride of Barbados.


    Linda reply on September 2nd, 2010 7:08 pm:

    Oh, yes they are right up your alley! To get the full story, start with the very first, Thyme of Death. They are all just fabulousa.


  7. By Kathleen Scott on Sep 2, 2010

    Lovely thoughtful piece today. You shared your heart too. You’re right, we all need renewal from the sometime-scorch of life.

    My experience with Pride of Barbados is that they take a full year to establish. And with last year’s drought, probably longer. If yours gets enough sun, it will probably be 6 feet tall AND wide next year. And bloom its head off. My established plants came out later than usual this year (which was also cooler than usual in spring) but have been rioting in bloom for a month and look like they’ve got a month more to go. The young plants, no blooms.

    As to plumbago, we’re toward the northern edge of happiness for them. I’m not surprised that mine took so long to come back and have bloomed so sparsely. Am thinking to pick them up and make a raised bed for them in October, maybe then I’ll have the abundance I remember from Florida.

    We handed out your Anacacho Orchid writeup and picture tonight at the neighborhood garden club, with your credit and website. I appreciate piggy-backing on your work and hope you get new fans from it. They’ll be lucky to find you.


    Linda reply on September 3rd, 2010 3:54 pm:


    Thank you for sharing CTG with your garden club, and thank you for sharing your knowledge with me. Wildflower is coming along beautifully!!

    Yes, try that with your plumbagos, especially if you can give them a more protected area. Maybe mulch heavily this fall. But last winter was unusual.

    My PofBard is probably 3-4 years by now. It is getting a little bigger each year but only by a few inches. It gets some scorching sun but perhaps not enough. I’ve got an idea of a spot where I can move it, though! You’ll be moving plumbagos and I’ll be moving Pof Bard. Can’t wait for cool weather.


  8. By Katina on Sep 2, 2010

    I’m in the same boat with the shrimp plant. Really the only plants that have put on any kind of show were the turk’s caps.


    Linda reply on September 3rd, 2010 3:50 pm:

    Yes, isn’t the weird? My turks are going crazy. But I bet any day now the shrimp plants will surprise us. I don’t mind if they don’t flower; I love the foliage and they’ve grown like crazy.


  9. By Cheryl in Austin on Sep 3, 2010

    I’ve been lost in a garden of words as well…I haven’t read any of those books but thank you for the recommendation! Your Pride of Barbados looks lovely:)


    Linda reply on September 3rd, 2010 3:50 pm:

    I love collecting book ideas! I bet you will love Susan’s.

    I’ll be sure to tell the PofBar what you said!


  10. By Jane B on Sep 3, 2010

    I too love all the China Bayles series and as a Wildlife Habitat Steward had a chance to visit Susan’s home(unfortunately I wasn’t yet up on my native grasses and wasn’t much help in id’ing anything!).

    Check out her writing about the Hill Country, gardening and life at Lifescapes-


    Linda reply on September 3rd, 2010 3:49 pm:

    Wow, I envy you your chance to have seen Susan’s garden in person!

    I love her blog Lifescapes! In fact, she was the one who encouraged me to start blogging.


  11. By Hella Wagner on Sep 3, 2010

    I do not have any luck whatsoever with Plumbagos but my Pride of Barbados has been going strong all season long.

    My Esperanza is the late bloomer at my house – I have the orange one and it just started to bloom.

    About the copper pipe: If you do not have any, try throwing some pennies in the bottom of the birdbath after you have scrubbed it.

    Regarding talking to your plants: John Drumgoole says to let them know that if they don’t perform, they will have to leave. Worked on my Mexican Buckeye that would not bloom for three years, now it does in the Spring but the blooms are really nothing to write home about. I like the red Texas Buckeye a lot better.


    Linda reply on September 3rd, 2010 3:47 pm:

    My esperanza still hasn’t bloomed! I will try the penny idea.

    Yes, we can only talk to our plants so much and do what we can for them. It’s part of being a gardener to realize that something just isn’t happy in our spot and it’s time to try something new. It’s hard but there’s no tried & true rule for every garden. But then it wouldn’t be so much fun!


  12. By Sue Ford on Sep 3, 2010

    My orange Pride of Barbados has been blooming for about 2 weeks. Plumbago and shrimp never did. I’m still getting tomatoes which is really late!
    I read 2 of the China Bayles books and realized I wanted to start over with the first one. They are like my special treats to enjoy each day and anticipate the next day’s read.
    China and her family feel like good friends.
    Hope the bunnies and kitties are doing well!


    Linda reply on September 3rd, 2010 3:45 pm:

    I bet our late bloomers will surprise us yet. Oh, yes, you must start with the first China to get the whole impact of her story. I’m like you; they are the special treats. And everyone does become a friend. Starting at the beginning, you’ll get the whole story behind everyone and how they change.


  13. By Miki K. on Sep 3, 2010

    Hi Linda, I want to congratulate you on winning the 2010 Garden Writers Association’s Silver Achievement Award in Writing-Electronic Media. I’m so happy for you.
    Loved your article this week, plan on starting with Susan’s first book.
    Your favorite mother-in-law MIKI


    Linda reply on September 3rd, 2010 3:43 pm:

    You ARE my favorite mother-in-law! Kisses!


  14. By Nancy on Sep 11, 2010

    My shrimp plants never bloom. Do I need to move them out of the dappled shade area? The foliage is beautiful, but there are no blooms. I am ready to pull them out of this area. Thanks!


    Linda reply on September 11th, 2010 6:43 pm:

    Hi, Nancy! How long have you had them? Mine are in dappled shade but they do get a bit of sun. Please let me know more about the situation with yours.


    Nancy reply on September 11th, 2010 11:37 pm:

    The plants are at least 5 years old if not older. They do get a little sun in the afternoon. They sometimes bloom a little in the fall. Should they be blooming all summer? I have put flower power in that flower bed twice this summer.


    Linda reply on September 14th, 2010 1:52 pm:

    Hi, Nancy,

    Yes, they bloom all summer. I think we’ve found the answer here! Don’t give them flower power. Their flowers are really bracts so don’t give them high phosphorous like that.

  15. By Robin at Getting Grounded on Sep 16, 2010

    Linda, I went to Lebh Shomea following my divorce in 1993. It’s a gorgeous place, but be sure to go in the winter time. South Texas is even hotter than here, except they get some breezes that we don’t get. Enjoy it!


    Linda reply on September 16th, 2010 5:55 pm:

    Wow. Oh, I’ll be getting in touch with you about this. What a great connection! And believe me, I already planned to go in winter, if I go. Will talk to you personally about this.


  16. By sallyanne on Sep 20, 2010

    I am so sorry about Spencer.


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