The front window


“Mrs. Herman Perry in her home at Mansfield, Iron County, Michigan,” May 1937, by Russell Lee, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Look through the net curtains at her tomato plants in tin cans. I wonder if she really waited until the average last frost date* for zone 18 — which is currently between July 1 and 10 — to put them in the ground.

Lee took the photo on assignment for the U.S. Farm Security Administration. Mrs. Perry was “the wife of an oldtime iron miner who worked in the mines before they were abandoned.”


*The average first frost date is between September 1 and 10.

In a vase on Monday: peonies

For each of the last two springs in this house, the peony plant in the back yard has given me exactly one bloom. This week, there were eight — all but two opening fully on the same day. Their stems are very curved from being knocked over earlier in the month by a late snow and then rain and wind.  Next year, I will try to remember to rig up some sort of support before they emerge.

The blooms look red, but they’re actually a very dark pink, and they have a nice light scent. I arranged them with some wild pink geranium that comes up along the back fence (maybe G. palustre?) and some sweet woodruff. The Westerwald salt-glazed pottery pitcher is from this Saturday’s flea market.

To see what other bloggers have put in a vase today, please visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. She hosts this Monday meme.

My Chelsea list

While we’re all waiting for the Chelsea Flower Show to open next week and for pictures to emerge, here are a few things that I particularly liked when I visited the original Chelsea — the Chelsea Physic Garden — about a week and a half ago.

The four-acre London garden was founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in order to grow medicinal plants and train their apprentices. It is the second oldest botanic garden in Britain, after the one at Oxford.

1. The Pond Rockery area (also shown at the top). The sides are planted in Mediterranean and alpine plants.

2. This giant fennel. It was a beacon in the Botanical Order Beds at about 8′ tall.

It did not have a label, but I have since looked it up — Ferula communes.

The species is part of the carrot family, Apiaceae. (Common fennel belongs to another genus, Foeniculum.)

This tamarix in the center of the beds was a star too.

3. The plant supports of bamboo, string, and shrub and vine cuttings.

4. This neat little kitchen garden arrangement and its beautiful cardoons.

And the nearby beehives.

5. This trunk of a Catalpa bignonioide, which is supporting a huge Rosa Brunoni or Himalayan musk rose.

The rest of the tree was cut off.  It may have died, but it may also have been too large for the space.

6. The greenhouse area.

Plants from the Canary Islands, Madeira, The Azores, and St. Helena.

7. This primrose display, which — with the giant fennel — made my “most desired” list that day (along with this).

8. My tea towel from the gift shop.

(And the café is excellent.)

Redistribution of produce

Cabbage distribution, Library of Congress
Lady Henry Somerset and T.P. O’Connor in a garden distributing cabbages to children, between ca. 1910 and ca. 1915, Bain News Service, via Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Lady Henry  (born Lady Isabel Cocks) was an heiress who married the second son of the Duke of Beaufort.  After the couple separated, she turned to charity work on her various properties. She later became president of the British Women’s Temperance Association and a campaigner for birth control and women’s suffrage. In 1913, the readers of the London Evening News voted her their choice for first female prime minister of the United Kingdom.

Thomas Power O’Connor was an Irish journalist who founded and edited several newspapers in London. He was also a member of Parliament for the Irish Nationalist Party and later as an independent (representing Galway and then Liverpool).

I cannot tell what plants are growing in the flower (?) beds, but they are sectioned off — perhaps by bloom color?