Black elderflower cordial

I have three elderberry bushes. One is a traditional culinary variety that my friend Barbara gave me  (don't know the name, but Sambucus canadensis I think). One is a Black Lace, and one is a Black Beauty (both Sambucus nigra). I wanted to make elderflower cordial, but I just couldn't spend the flowers of the culinary variety on a cocktail mixer, when my mockingbird would be so distraught over the loss of his future berry harvest that he would have to throw himself off of something very high, and not flap on the way down.

So instead we made the cordial from the Black Lace and Black Beauty elders, which in my garden do not produce many berries. Black Beauty has pink flowers, and oh, what an exquisite color this cordial came to be... A luminous ambered pink. The smell is indescribable, unless you're familiar with the liqueur called St. Germain. I think this cordial could stand in as a poor man's version of that.

I used this recipe, but might cut back a bit on the sugar next time.


Rosa rubrifolia

Rosa rubrifolia is the first rose to bloom in my garden, and maybe my favorite. Delicate and wildly graceful... she is everything the rest of my roses, with their crappy foliage and unfortunate forms, are not. I have her growing in The Thicket, which is a tight mass of Hydrangea arborescens, Black Lace elderberry, peony, lavender, bronze fennel, and assorted other roses. There might also be trolls, or at least toads, living in The Thicket, too - it is good dark habitat.


Did you know...

...that woodchucks love chamomile? This particular woodchuck, who I've recently made acquaintance with, enjoys most herbs (dill and cilantro also being, in his book, "choice edibles"). Though we are Arch Enemies, he and I agree on a lot. For instance, he prefers kale to lettuce, just like me. (I didn't know this, but if you're dining al fresco, a cushion of lettuce is good for sitting on, while you're eating the kale.)

And here is something else I've learned, which I'll share because I think it might be helpful. Do you have a "jet" setting on your hose nozzle? People probably use it to clean their cars, I don't know - but I like to hide behind my gooseberry bush and then, when my woodchuck comes around the corner on his way to the vegetable patch, I blast him with it. If I get good contact, he doesn't return for at least twelve hours.


Lady's slippers

Archbald Pothole State Park is sort of a forgotten local landmark. The pothole is a geologic formation - a deep, narrow hole in the rocky ground - that was once a tourist attraction. Now the hole is ringed by a chainlink fence, which you can lean on while tossing your Red Bull can into the abyss, if you are so inclined. So the pothole itself has largely lost its appeal. The park still sees regular traffic, though: it's a renowned spot for picking up dudes, if you're a dude.

But there's something else special! A few years ago a friend tipped us off to the lady's slipper orchids, Cypripedium acaule. We see them now and then in this area, but never in the numbers Archbald has. They like well-drained soil, I read, and this place has it: talusy bumps and hummocks left over from the coal mining days.

It's a pleasant way to pass a Friday morning... sitting on one of those little hills inside a small forest of orchids, enjoying their smell and the sun.


Lonicera sempervirens

This morning when I let the dog out onto the back porch to barf, the sky was just beginning to lighten, and I could hear orioles in the maple tree. Yippee! These days, when the baker gets out of bed to start his workday, the robins are already at it. This is 3am, or maybe 1am, I am not quite sure, because I am for the most part still sleeping.

Rafts of warblers have been blowing over in the spring rains. Today I finished my last two client gardens. I cursed my last lawnmower-man for mowing clippings into the beds instead of out of the beds. I peed my last desperate pee at the Pump'n'Pantry after having held it for hours in a garden where the door was locked and the bushes were too thin for modesty.

From the final garden, my favorite garden, I helped myself to a little bundle of lily of the valley stems, because I knew my client wouldn't mind. I threw them in my weed basket and they got all dirty, but that didn't matter, because they were for Grandma, and she can't see (but her sniffer still works just fine). We ate chocolate, talked about roasted lamb and peanut butter pie and a dog called Baxter, and smelled our fragrant flowers.

Lonicera sempervirens, trumpet honeysuckle, is budding up. It is native here, and this one came from cuttings of a plant that scrambled around at the bottom of my parent's dirt road.