In our selective memory, summer holds a special album. Given the leisure of time to do the things that we truly enjoy to do, the images of our favorite snapshots seem never ending - the sunshine and beaches, arrays of colorful flowers and glowing fruits, places we go and people we meet. Somehow, we always remember how we spend every summer; like the recharging of energy, our life's happiness simply depends on it.
Cherishing the short growing season of our region, I garden tirelessly throughout the summer. I consider the perennials in my backyard old friends who revisit every summer, the common birds, butterflies, and bees are dropping by as neighbors and rare sightings of hummingbirds or fancy butterflies as good luck.
I gasp when I spot a caterpillar of a black swallowtail among my parsley plants one morning. The experience of watching the little fellow evolving into a pupa then finally a beautiful butterfly is almost indescribable. Thereafter, whenever I see a black swallowtail flying into my garden, I believe that's the one born in my garden, coming back to revisit.
No, butterflies don't have memories like humans. What attracts them are the food sources and breeding ground, in this case, my abundant parsley and sweet fennel bushes. They are tall and intentionally unkempt so the larvae could be protected from birds and other natural enemies. Gardening can be especially rewarding when you are reminded that the plants you grow are not only sources for your own food, but also a part of the ecology network that benefits other creatures.
The people that I meet during summertime become quick friends because we talk the same language of common interests. My fellow gardeners at the community garden set up happy hours on certain Fridays as we chat feverishly about growing plants until we all get a little dizzy, by drinking too much sunlight, I guess.
Recently, I was in the Pine Barrens for a star watching gathering during the Fourth of July weekend . It was magical as we sat on the lawn under the open horizon gazing as each star appeared in the cloudless evening sky.
"We are extremely lucky for a clear night which is crucial for star watching", the fellow from a local astronomy society reminded us as he volunteered to familiarize us with the names and constellations of the planets.
By all the means, he sounded like a high school teacher. It turned out he was a jeweler by trade and owned a retail store, too, in south Jersey. What were the chances, I thought, that two jewelry retailers would show up at the same astronomical event?
I capture that familiar feeling when I meet Simona Dedek from Petal Connection in a craft show. She has developed a special solution to preserve the delicate flower petals and butterfly wings and turn them into precious pendants and earrings. I anticipate these jewelry collections will soon arrive at Enchantments; I feel they are part of my souvenirs, reminding me of the swallowtail butterflies I encountered in my garden this summer.
A few years ago, when a new Hydrangea cultivar called Endless Summer first appeared in garden centers, I jumped at the chance to buy a few to form a border in my front yard. This new breed with a name promising ongoing flowers has truly delivered. I have since enjoyed their long lasting blooms that changing colors from light pink to lavender to purplish blue, and as the temperature turns cooler, to light green with taints of mauve and burgundy. That's when I will cut some of them off to dry to make a few fall arrangements and maybe a winter wreath.
If you wish, summer always lingers.
Enchantments is a delightful shop in downtown Fanwood that specializes in unique gifts, handmade jewelry, and hand made American Crafts. Owner Helen Ling has created a truly "enchanting" experience for the avid shopper. Enchantments is located at 234 South Ave. in Fanwood. Call (908) 322-6161 or visit www.enchantmentsnj.com.
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