Organized chaos vs. needs medication

24 05 2008

“Organized chaos,” was Michael’s response yesterday when I asked him to describe the front yard garden. I also asked him to guess what passersby might be thinking. I’m thinking they think I have too much time on my hands…or perhaps I have an illness that could be regulated with medication. I must say that when I’m in the kitchen, near the windows overlooking the two sides of the garden, and someone goes by—I try to catch their expressions and see how long their eyes linger over the garden. So many just pass by without even a glance to their right. How in the world can they do that? Those that take time to pause from their running, walking, jogging, baby-stroller-pushing, dog-walking jaunts get a silent stamp of approval from me. Aside from my own visual gratification, I create this “organized chaos” for them, too.

Recently my friend Gina spent an entire afternoon helping us clean up the backyard and plant those last few bulbs and impromptu plant purchases from the Green Springs Garden plant sale last weekend. I cajoled her into taking leftover bulbs, excess plants, garden ornaments, an old table, empty pots, etc…anything to just get my backyard looking like paradise again. She and Michael kept shaking their heads every time I came up with a statement like, “oh…um… I forgot about the free sundrops someone abandoned in the parking lot. Where should we (shove) those?” Or, “if we just stake up that bunch of plants, I’m sure we can find several inches of valuable real estate in which to plant these lily bulbs I forgot about.” Or, “we’re almost done, guys, just six more things to plant. Okay…I forgot about those, okay, eight more things, and then we’re definitely done.” I confess. I’ve never met a plant I didn’t like. I take great comfort in knowing that I am far from alone with my disease. I’m in such good company with other plantaholics!

The front part is about half in bloom. Right now, the penstemon, beard’s tongue, sweet william, catmint, yellow yarrow, sweet william, coreopsis, thyme, veronica, rose campion, salvia, ice plants, and sedums are in various stages of bloom. My ‘Purple sensation’ alliums are past their prime, now in their architecturally-interesting “koosh ball” stage. The multitude of lilies are just starting to form buds. Tiny blue forget-me-nots, a gift from Peggy’s garden, are still flowering. The bearded iris (a gift from my friend Karen’s garden several years ago) are almost done with their show. The false sunflower plant surrounding the iris is about halfway to its height and will reach 8-9 feet before bursting with small yellow flowers against the blue summer sky. (Insert amusing sidebar here: I bought this plant a few years ago when my friend Debbi took me onto base at Fort Belvoir. The tag on the plant read, “sun-loving perennial, reaches 4 ft., profusion of yellow flowers throughout summer.” The plant proceeded to reach “Jack-in-the-beanstalk” proportions—9 feet the first year—forming a swaying canopy over the steps before it finally spewed forth beautiful miniature sunflowers! Several friends asked if we were growing corn that year.)

The liatris, a favorite of bees, are just a quarter of the way to their height. A bank of lovely lamb’s ears, started with cuttings from Karen’s garden, offsets the other plants with their silvery green hue. The Autumn joy sedums are puffing out, waiting until everything else steps out of the spotlight for it to shine in the fall. Michael’s olfactory favorite, the moonflower, is slowly making its way up a trellis on the front of the house.

Yesterday, I planted mina lobata (firecracker vine/Spanish flag) in a pot at the bottom of the steps (just so I could get more photographs like this beautiful one I shot last summer: In front of the pot I planted three new coneflowers and another shasta daisy. We added another hellebore to the large bank (another offering from Karen) in the shade. On the front porch, there are two topiary frames planted with hyacinth vines. My beautiful (and very photogenic) stargazer lilies have returned, making their way upwards from a terracotta pot. Three baskets hang over the railing, filled with verbena, sweet potato vine, allysum, marigolds, portulaca, and marguerite daisies.

Farther up, in front of the morning glory trellises, everything is verdant. When that area begins to peak this summer, there will be a profusion of lavender, multi-colored lilies, silvery purple thistle, yellow black-eyed susans and sundrops, take-your-breath-away Heavenly Blue morning glories, red bee balm, deep pink butterfly bush blooms, grayish-greenish-blueish sea holly, blue-eyed grasses, shasta daisies, various other sedums, and white, purple and orange coneflowers….I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

I replied to Michael, “Organized chaos presumes I did not have a plan.” To which he countered, “There was a plan?” Of course there was a plan. My plan incorporates textures, scents, colors, varying heights, creepers, crawlers, climbers, and a botanical variation of Noah’s Ark—two of everything, please. How is that not a plan?

I’ll accept “organized chaos.” It’s preferable to “needs medication.”

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


18 05 2008

Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella damascena) is a beautiful Victorian garden annual blooming in soft shades of blue, pink, white, and lavender. Because its fern-like leaves look similar to fennel, it has also been called fennel flower. This annual herbaceous plant is in the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), readily self-seeds, and is common in old-fashioned cottage gardens. It grows in full sun to partial shade and blooms from late spring through fall. Nigella is short-lived, so for continuous bloom, repeat sowing every four weeks. You can cut and deadhead this plant to keep it flowering longer.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

A day of bliss

18 05 2008

More images from our day out at Green Spring Gardens…

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Glorious poppies

18 05 2008

This morning, Debbi and Regina and I went to the annual Green Spring Gardens Plant Sale. Since I have almost no spare room in my garden, my intent was not to buy plants. I did, of course, succumb to my obsession. I didn’t go too crazy with purchases, though. If you live in the D.C. area, this annual plant sale each May is a must for plantaholics. Be sure to bring a granny cart to carry your loot!

I did pick up the following:

Swamp milkweed:

Mina lobata (Firecracker vine or Spanish flag)

Two hyacinth bean vines:

I also bought an unusual hybrid of black-eyed susan (with skinnier petals than the usual black-eyed susan), a two-tone pink and yellow coneflower, a deep sunset orange coneflower, and two different liatris plants. See there? I can control myself! Put it this way, everything I bought fit into the car (with room for plants that Debbi and Regina bought, too). I spent most of my time flitting off to photograph one of the many hundreds of things flowering in the gardens.

Between the trip with Debbi and Regina this morning and the return trip later this afternoon with Michael, I shot almost 1000 images today! I shot exclusively with my new Nikon D300 and my 105 and 150 macro lenses. I’m loving the D300’s really bright viewfinder, huge screen, speed, tons of features, and the way it feels in my hands. Read Thom Hogan’s review here:

This is a series of poppy images I shot today. As beautiful as the crepe-paper-like unfurled flowers are, the curvy seed pod heads are just as lovely. I believe the red poppy is the Red Shirley Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) shown here:

Here’s a great site for ordering poppy seeds (and for identifying the ones I haven’t yet!):

Learn more about growing poppies here:

The Green Spring Gardens website has a great list of “Plant Information Sheets” in pdf format available for download here:

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Bladder Cancer and “Inside Politics 2008”

15 05 2008

Last night Michael and I attended a fundraiser for the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN), a client of mine. BCAN will soon celebrate its third year anniversary. The reception was held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., with an “Inside Politics 2008” panel discussion afterwards. I’ve been invited to past events but this was the first time I was able to attend. I offered my services as her complimentary photographer for the evening.

Diane and John Quale founded the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) three years ago, after discovering that there was little knowledge among the general public and general medical community about the causes, symptoms and treatment of bladder cancer. It is the 5th most commonly-diagnosed cancer in the U.S., but the lack of public recognition of the disease results in less funds allocated by the federal government to research devoted to the diagnosis, treatment and cure. To learn more about BCAN, visit their website at

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Left to right:

Journalist David Gregory is currently the NBC News Chief White House Correspondent, occasional guest host on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews and Meet the Press, substitute co-anchor of Weekend Today, occasional fill-in for Matt Lauer on The Today Show, occasional fill-in for NBC News Weekend Nightly News, and now host of his own show, Race for the White House, on MSNBC.

Columnist David Brooks writes a column on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard, a contributing editor at Newsweek and the Atlantic Monthly, and currently a commentator on Newshour with Jim Lehrer. He is also a frequent analyst on NPR’s All Things Considered and the Diane Rehm Show. His articles have been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, and many others. He is the author of Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There, and On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense, both published by Simon & Schuster. Mr. Brooks worked for nine years at The Wall Street Journal.

Journalist Gwen Ifill is moderator and managing editor of the PBS program, Washington Week in Review, and is also senior correspondent with the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. In 2004, she moderated the vice presidential debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards. She has worked for the Boston Herald, the Baltimore Evening Sun, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and NBC.

Diane Zipursky Quale is co-founder and Director/President of BCAN. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Stanford University and a Juris Doctor from the National Law Center, George Washington University. She was in private law practice until 1996 when she became Washington Counsel for the National Broadcasting Company, Inc. (NBC), and was later promoted to Vice President, Washington Law and Policy for NBC. Her husband and BCAN co-founder, John Quale, holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Harvard College and a Juris Doctor from Harvard University. He is a partner with Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and heads the firm’s communications practice. John is a bladder cancer survivor.

Journalist Bob Schieffer is anchor of The CBS Evening News, and has been the anchor and moderator of “Face the Nation” since 1991. In 2004, he was the moderator of the third presidential debate between President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry. Bob has won six Emmy awards, and has written two books about his journalism career: Face the Nation: My Favorite Stories from the First 50 Years of the Award-Winning News Broadcast, and This Just In: What I Couldn’t Tell You on TV. He was a regular guest on the Don Imus morning radio show. Bob is a bladder cancer survivor.

Regina and Dusty

14 05 2008

I shot this photo of my friend Regina and her sweet cat, Dusty, a few years ago. The original was shot in color but I think the b&w version is stronger. It is said that some people begin to resemble their pets and I certainly see that with these two and their big expressive eyes!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Preparing for pointe

12 05 2008

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.