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A Long and Lovely Garden Day: A Solstice Diary

June 21, 2011

The summer solstice is my favorite day of the year, bar none – better than Christmas or Thanksgiving or my birthday or the last day of school. It comes at a time of year when Maine weather is typically at its best, with blue skies and sunshine, dry air and temperatures in the mid-upper 70s (about 25C). My goal is to spend as much of the summer solstice outside as possible. Before I had a garden, I usually went camping at Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine for the solstice. One year, I spent it in Kotzebue, Alaska, enjoying 24 hours of sunshine above the arctic circle. This year, I decided to celebrate the summer solstice with a day of garden-related tasks and pleasures.

View of the back garden in June from my favorite perch on the deck (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

Not wanting to miss a moment of this special day, I was up before 5 a.m. to watch the sunrise – in the east-northeast at this time of year, coming up through the trees behind the site of the new serenity garden. In a few years, the serenity garden will be the perfect place to sit and enjoy the summer solstice sunrise.  After an early morning walk in the cool, clear air, I devoted the morning  to light gardening work – my morning tour of the garden, deadheading and pruning the rhododendron that  just finished blooming, and digging up some volunteer tradescantia seedlings that need to be relocated. These tasks were punctuated by periods of just relaxing on the deck or gazing at the garden.

I had noticed some ripe wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana) while I was mowing yesterday, so I went out before lunch to pick the first strawberries of the season. It turned out that very few berries were ready to be picked, but this tiny handful is a sweet promise of what is to come. The first of this season's wild strawberries (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
Tradescantia 'Osprey' on the way to the garden of The Violet Fern (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) The afternoon was designated for a variety of horticultural errands. First stop was the post office to mail a package of Tradescantia (spiderwort) seedlings to fellow blogger Violet Fern, who is providing a new home for them. Then I drove about twenty miles south to a local garden center to buy the soil amendments I need to begin preparing the soil for the new serenity garden. From there, I drove north again to Summit Springs Farm to pick up my first CSA share of the season. Yum.


First weeks delicious food from Summit Springs Farm CSA (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)As the sun finally sets at the end of this perfect summer day, I will be back in my favorite chair on the deck to watch as the light slowly fades and the stars come out.

31 Comments leave one →
  1. June 21, 2011 10:23 pm

    A great day from start to finish! Your garden looks fresh and lovely. Happy Summer!

  2. June 22, 2011 2:17 am

    Jean, sounds a perfect day. Isn’t the solstice meant to be the perfect moment to harvest herbs? So I hope yours from the CSA share tasted particularly good. And I bet those little strawberries did too! Jill

    • June 24, 2011 9:31 pm

      Deb, It really was a perfect summer day — which was good, because as soon as summer was officially here, the weather reverted to April (rainy and cold). I’m hoping to see the return of summer in a couple of days.

      Jill, I had no idea that the solstice was supposed to be a particularly good time for harvesting herbs, but all my goodies have been delicious.

  3. June 22, 2011 3:33 am

    I love the Tradescantia what a pretty flower! Horrid to think we’re on our way back to winter now, but hopefully lots of sunny days to come before winter. Sandra

    • June 24, 2011 9:35 pm

      Sandra, I do love the Tradescantia. In my cool climate, they bloom for most of the summer without going dormant, and the flowers (which close up in the heat) will often stay open for most of the day. This white and blue ‘Osprey’ variety is a special thrill because they come true from seed. Most of my many self-sown Tradescantia seedlings are in the blue-violet range, so it’s always a treat when these seedlings pop up.

  4. Gigi permalink
    June 22, 2011 6:41 am

    Wow beautiful, Jean! You popped up because of my search for Kotzebue, Alaska. I am moving there in a week and a half, due to a last minute job opportunity & have been trying to get some first hand info on the area. Especially concerning conditions, people, fresh foods (milk, eggs, organic veggies). ANY input, advise would be very much appreciated. I will be there for 1 year & 3 months.
    Thank you so much in advance!

  5. Gigi permalink
    June 22, 2011 6:42 am


    • June 24, 2011 9:41 pm

      Gigi, What an adventure!! I spent less than 48 hours in Kotzebue, so I didn’t really get a good sense of what was available in the community. I spent about a month travelling in Alaska more generally that summer, though, and my memory (this was 15 years ago) was that most fresh food was flown in “from the outside” and was very expensive. I know there are organic farms in the southeast, but I don’t know if farming is possible on the permafrost in the north. I do remember that there were wild berries that people picked and ate in Kotzebue. I think the traditional diet in this part of the world centers on getting most nutrients by eating fish.

      It’s good that you will get two seasons of light in your time there. I hope you don’t suffer from seasonal affective disorder. I bet the star-gazing and aurora borealis are amazing in Kotzebue during the dark season. Is your employer providing advice on proper clothing for winter? Good luck, and I’d love to hear more about your adventure. (Maybe you should consider blogging about it.)

  6. sequoiagardens permalink
    June 22, 2011 9:12 am

    Ah! And I was finishing off reports before we break up on Friday… From a North-South ridge along which my access road runs I saw the sun set at 5.15pm on Tuesday and watched it rise at 6.45am today, give or take a few minutes, on my way to and from school. Not much of a midwinter by your latiude, I guess: 10 /2 hours of sun!

    • sequoiagardens permalink
      June 22, 2011 9:14 am

      = 10 1/2 hrs

      • June 24, 2011 9:49 pm

        Jack, Interestingly, the length of day here at the winter solstice is less than two hours shorter than yours. It’s a reminder that we are somewhat closer to the equator than the north pole. The difference is actually greater between my latitude and Soren’s in Denmark. The big difference here from you is less in the length of day and more in the temperature (and all that snow we get in winter). I bet it feels good to have those reports all done!

  7. June 22, 2011 9:13 am

    Jean, your day sounds perfect. That is exactly what I chose when my family asked me what I wanted to do for Mother’s Day. Although I also supervised the planting of my gift, a Black Tulip magnolia (as you know one cannot have too many magnolias). I know exactly the kind of Maine weather you are talking about and can’t wait to experience some of it directly. I thought of you yesterday when I found out that Sheila a Chapel Hill blogger goes to Chebeague Island next to Cliff. As you said the Maine world is small and all connected. Carolyn

    • June 24, 2011 9:54 pm

      Carolyn, When are you coming up? I hope the perfect June weather returns before you get here. It has been raining for the past two days, and the high temperature at my house today was 51F(!!). I learned about Sheila’s Chebeague connection when she did her post on commercial compost a couple of weeks ago. She had a photo of her truck with a Chebeague Island bumper sticker on it. (I’m feeling a chorus of “It’s a Small World, After All” coming on. :-))

  8. June 22, 2011 10:26 am

    Sounds like you are having perfect weather to enjoy being outside. I remember those days in the 70’s…how nice! Your garden looks very pretty with the beautiful hostas. Enjoy being outside!

  9. June 22, 2011 10:31 am

    I so enjoyed stopping by and joining you as you celebrated the summer solstice. It seems like such a special day. And your take from the CSA looks so yummy…made my mouth water.

  10. June 22, 2011 11:47 am

    sounded like a great day! I love those days too. Perfect weather, working in the garden, enjoying my flowers and then sitting on deck by pond relaxing after I have showered! Best days of the year!!

    • June 24, 2011 9:58 pm

      Amy, It was a perfect day, and I’m hoping for the return of that perfect weather soon.

      Michelle, I thought it was so perfect that the first CSA pick-up fell on the solstice. The first CSA day always feels a bit like Christmas — so exciting and the anticipation of seeing what we’ll be getting. And I love knowing that all that yummy food was just harvested that morning.

      Gabrielle, Ooh, a deck by a pond! Sounds wonderful.

  11. June 22, 2011 8:34 pm

    It sounds like you had a delightful day Jean. What a wonderful way to celebrate solstice.

  12. June 22, 2011 8:42 pm

    You had beautiful weather and a beautiful day, Jean. Your garden is looking great. Enjoy!

    • June 24, 2011 10:01 pm

      Marguerite, The high pressure area over Maine that brought such gorgeous weather at the beginning of the week, has moved off to the east and is pumping in east winds that bring us cold, wet weather. But perhaps it is bringing the Maritimes the great weather we had earlier?

      Diane, I do love the way the garden looks at this time of year. It’s such a long wait through winter, and then — woosh!

  13. June 23, 2011 1:40 am

    Looks like it was a lovely day custom made for your serenity garden. I love the solstice, but it’s also a really bittersweet day for me, signalling the beginning of the long slide into the dark of winter. At least things are so full of life it’s easy to forget and take in what suffer offers in abundance.

    • June 24, 2011 10:05 pm

      James, It would be a day custom made for the serenity garden if only the serenity garden existed yet! This weekend, I’m off to a local nursery to begin buying plants, which will push me to start preparing ground for them.

      It’s funny, but I don’t have that bittersweet feeling about the summer solstice. I think the days are so long here at this time of year (and start so early!), that I don’t really notice them being significantly shorter until August.

  14. June 23, 2011 4:16 pm

    Jean, It sounds like you had a lovely day. I wish I knew the secret to being able to harvest a few wild berries…the squirrels and chipmunks take every berry that ripens well before I can get to them.

  15. June 23, 2011 9:21 pm

    What a great day! I so miss strawberries, be sure and eat some for me.

  16. June 24, 2011 1:39 pm

    Your summer solstice day with fresh picked berries for lunch sounds quite perfect. I like the idea of creating a serenity garden. The name even sounds soothing.

  17. June 24, 2011 8:51 pm

    Your wild strawberries look lovely Jean. We have a wild woodland strawberry that grows here, and produces tiny fruit, but as we grow Seascape strawberries in the garden, I give the wild ones to the chickens and turkeys. They really seem to relish them as treats. They’re so spoiled. Your first CSA of the season looks most delicious! Looks like you have some lovely French Breakfast radishes in there too…ours are done for now, but I’m looking forward to some more in the fall!

    • June 24, 2011 10:13 pm

      Karen, I have also had to battle the chipmunks for the wild strawberries. Fortunately for me, I’ve had a fox family living in the woods east of the house for the past two summers, so the rodent population has been significantly reduced, and the chipmunks that remain are much less bold! I don’t know if the foxes will keep the wild turkeys away; the turkeys usually get all the wild blueberries, because they are quite happy to eat them before they are ripe.

      Deborah, I put an extra large helping of strawberries on my breakfast cereal this morning in your honor!

      Jennifer, That is exactly the idea behind the serenity garden — to create a calm, soothing environment for quiet relaxation and contemplation.

      Clare, Have you tasted the wild strawberries? The chickens and turkeys may be getting the better part of the deal! The fruit on mine are very tiny, too (about the size of a blueberry), but the flavor is amazing. My theory is that each strawberry in the world is allotted a certain amount of flavor, which is compressed into an intense, tiny package in the wild strawberries. To tell you the truth, I was never a big strawberry fan until I moved here and discovered the wild strawberries. I’ve developed an appreciation for the cultivated ones, but I definitely consider them second best. I’ve been eating strawberries for breakfast and sandwiches made of French Breakfast radishes for lunch (and lots of ginormous salads!).

  18. June 25, 2011 4:08 pm

    Can’t think of a better way to spend the solstice…I had high hopes but ended up inside with a migraine…..wonderful to live through the solstice perfectly through your post…thx

  19. June 25, 2011 10:07 pm

    This is the time of year I enjoy most too. I love being outside as much as possible. Great post.

  20. Lula ( permalink
    July 8, 2011 1:48 pm

    A good harvest for the start of the season, the berries looked great!

  21. Potuzhek Claudius permalink
    April 21, 2016 7:18 am

    Hello, I just read your name, and asked myself if we are familiarly related in a way?

    Greez from Germany,

    Claudius Potuzhek


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