Growing Things

Sometimes Mondays

. . . look like rain.

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But that's just fine by me!

It's so good for my thirsty, growing garden.

And wet soil makes it much easier to pull weeds.

And it gives me a perfect excuse to run around in my chicken boots.

"The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain."
                    --- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Flowers are Magical

"Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful.  They are sunshine, food, and medicine for the soul."
                                                                                                    --- Luther Burbank

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Now that SPRING has decided to show up around here (thank you!), I'm scrambling out in the garden.  There is so much to do out there . . . that sometimes I just spin around, not knowing where to begin.

But then I just begin.

Clipping and pulling and raking and digging.  (And sometimes shaking my head . . . as in where did that come from???)

After three big days in the garden . . . my nails are crap, my arms are totally scratched up, and my back is tired.

BUT.  I'm also better, happier, and more helpful!

Flowers are magical -- and gardens, indeed, are medicine for the soul.


3 Blooms on a Cold, Dreary Day

Last fall, I ordered 6 amaryllis bulbs from White Flower Farm.  Bulbs from WFF are stupidly expensive -- but worth every penny to me.  I consider it an Investment . . . in my health and well-being during the Dark Months.

Now, every amaryllis is a beautiful amaryllis -- don't get me wrong.  I have purchased many a box-store or grocery store bulb over the years, and I have enjoyed their blooms immensely.  But they tend to be rather short-lived, and in my experience, seldom get another bud after the first is spent.  That's why I started ordering my bulbs online.  (There are several other great online amaryllis sources out there.   I just settled on WFF.  It's where I order all my bulbs -- spring bulbs like daffodils and tulips and the amaryllis.)  When it comes to blooms -- color, variety, bloom-time -- you really do get what you pay for.

I like to have some sort of amaryllis blooming beginning in January and continuing right on through February.  They do an amazing job at brightening up my house -- and my spirits.  This year, my choices are doing the job splendidly.  One of the bulbs is just now opening for its first bloom, and two of them are in the process of blooming from their second set of buds.  

Here are the 3 blooms bringing light and hope to the dreary day outside right now:

One. . .

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(This one is in its first bloom.  The blooms are smaller and more compact than the more "standard" amaryllis -- and the colors are very intense.)

Two . . . 

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(This one is beginning to bloom from its second bud.  It takes a few days for this amaryllis to completely open because it's a "double" -- it has two layers of petals.   You can see the interior layers just beginning to unfold.)

Three . . . 

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(This one is just beginning to burst open, also from its second bud.  The blooms are deep red and kind of shiny -- living up to its name "Ferrari.")

This year, I think my blooms may take me all the way into March.  

You see, I have two other plants that I thought were finished after their initial set of buds.  They started putting out their leaves, which is usually a sign of  "done-ness."  But the other day, as I was giving them a water, I noticed these . . . 

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Each plant has a second bud coming.  

Bring it on!  
(Because these dreary days of winter will be hanging on for a while yet, I'm afraid.)

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Be sure to hop on over to Carole's today to read more Three on Thursday posts!

 


Look Up (and then Look Down)

25/30

Every year after we eat Thanksgiving dinner, we head out to our patio and take family photos.  I think the process started when my kids were small, and I was hoping for a good Christmas card shot.  Whatever the origin, it's a tradition that remains today -- and everyone humors me and willingly heads out back for photos.

Through the years, we've had our Thanksgiving photo shoot in all kinds of weather -- wind, snow, biting cold, melting slush, you name it.  But there is one thing we've never had in our Thanksgiving photos . . .

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 -- it's fall color as a backdrop.

Yes -- look up!  While most of the trees are bare now, as you can see . . . some are still hanging on.  And colorfully, at that!  (It has been a strange season in terms of fall leaf color and drop.)

As if that weren't strange enough, let's look down now.

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Yeah.  Those are daffodil bulbs.  It was warm enough yesterday that I could (finally) finish getting my spring bulbs in the ground.  That is . . . the air was warm enough AND the ground was warm enough to dig comfortably and easily.

At the end of November.

After Thanksgiving. 

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I ended up lugging my bags of daffodil, crocus, and grape hyacinth bulbs all around the yard yesterday -- planting with abandon. I also put in a flat of sedum.  And started worrying about the weeds -- which are still going strong out there.

Usually, this is my time to rest and not be actively gardening.  But I'm thinking my garden-time might be expanding.

I surely never thought my nails would look like this . . . 

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after an afternoon in the garden . . . in NOVEMBER.

 


Tulip Tales

7/30

Last spring, I created a Mom-garden in memory of my mom, and I planted it full of her favorite summer flowers on Mother's Day.  (You can read about it here.)  The little garden grew and flourished , bringing me smiles and happy memories all summer long.

I've cleared the garden out for the season now, though.  It's resting again until spring.

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Earlier this fall, I ordered spring bulbs from White Flower Farm, and I've been . . . waiting . . . to plant them.  The weather hasn't really been cooperating when it comes to bulb-planting this fall.  Although we've had cool, wet weather, we haven't had a real frost yet -- let alone a freeze.  So it's still a bit early to plant bulbs (but, surely, getting close).

Included in that bulb order?  Mixed tulip bulbs -- for my Mom-garden.  I don't usually plant tulips in my own garden.  I love tulips -- but they tend to be a bit more hit-and-miss than most spring bulbs.  The squirrels really love them, they don't naturalize well, and they perform best if you dig them up and replace them each season.  Which is really too much work for me. . . So I tend to enjoy tulips in other people's gardens!  

But.

My mom LOVED tulips!  

Late yesterday afternoon, I happened to glance out my kitchen window at the now-empty Mom-garden.  It was bathed in sunlight.  (In fact, it was the only spot in my garden still getting any of the quickly setting sunlight.)

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The garden beckoned!

I grabbed my gardening stuff and headed out to plant my 30 tulip bulbs.

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And while I was digging and planting and filling, I thought about my mom and her tulips.  I remembered . . . 

How she used to cut stems of spring tulips for me when I was a little girl, and then carefully wrap them in a wet napkin and a baggie so I could carry them to school to give my teacher.

How she planted tulips in her own gardens each fall -- with a variety of bloom times so there would be maximum tulip bloom throughout the spring.

How a couple of years ago, the two of us worked together on a very miserable-cold afternoon to plant bulbs for one of her neighbors who was struggling with a health issue and unable to plant her own bulbs.  My mom wanted everyone to enjoy the magic of colorful tulips after a bleak winter.

How much she loved volunteering in the Tulip Time Festival Information booth each May in Holland -- tiptoeing through the tulips in her own wooden shoes!*

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My memories made for a wonderful bulb-planting afternoon.  It was almost like . . . gardening with my mom again.

(On a roll, I decided she would probably like some grape hyacinths, too.)

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When I was finished planting, I packed up my stuff and turned to head back to my garage -- and was awestruck by the sun shining over my back gate -- looking down on me with warmth and light.

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I'm thinking those tulips are going to be especially gorgeous next spring.  Y'know?

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* We donated my mom's Tulip Time costume to the folks who run the Information Booth, so it will continue to greet visitors to Holland's Tulip Time Festival each spring.

 


All Things Must Pass

Garden Buddha has been sitting sentinel in my garden for 6 years now.

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Sitting in the middle of a dying fall garden or nearly hidden by summer blooms; covered in winter snow or surrounded by spring crocus . . . my Buddha is a constant in the garden.  I love looking out my kitchen window and seeing the sun shining on my Buddha.  He brings a peaceful presence to my garden every day.

But.  All things must pass.

We've decided to re-locate the path that leads through this garden bed.  Which means . . . Buddha needs a new home.

Yesterday was his moving day.

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Tom prepared the ground in his new location, loaded him up in the wagon, and settled him into his new space.

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(You can see that Garden Buddha got an upgrade:  waterfront property!)

I think this will be a perfect location for him.  He'll appreciate the calming water and the shade of the larch tree.  And, while I'll miss seeing him out my kitchen window, now I'll be able to keep my eye on him from the living room.

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In honor of Garden Buddha's move, Tom has written a poem.  (Haiku, of course!)

Buddha relocates
Garden eminent domain

He remains sanguine


Still Hanging In There: A Three on Thursday Post

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm still actively working out in my garden.  Not with as much vigor and enthusiasm as in the spring, surely.  But I'm still out there every day.  Shifting and pruning and lamenting and, yes . . . celebrating.

This has been a tough year, weather-wise, for my garden.  Until just this week, we've been in a drought here in my area.  Pretty much no rain all season.  Our summer wasn't too bad heat-wise -- and, in fact, it was on the rather cool side.  Until mid-September.  And then all hell broke loose (as in hot as hell).

My entire garden fried.  The lush, green foliage looks like potato chips now.  Fall blooms lasted about 2 minutes in the heat.  If plants didn't wilt, they just shriveled.  It's been . . . Not Good.

Still.  Flowers are magical.  They continue to bring joy.  Here are three things blooming in my garden even now . . . after a really wacky weather growing season.

1 - Autumn Joy Sedum (now showing with potato chip hosta leaves in the background. . . )

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Some of my gardening friends wrinkle their noses at my Autumn Joy sedum, considering it "too common" for their own gardens.  I say FOOEY!  It's hard to find a more hard-working plant in the fall garden.  It looks lovely for months -- and attracts bees and butterflies like crazy.  It even looks great in the winter, because it's dead seed-heads catch the frost and snow in delightful ways.  I'll never plant a garden without it.  

2 - Toad Lily

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I was sure my toad lily wouldn't bloom this year.  Toad lilies are shade plants -- with the most delightful fall blooms ever.  They look so exotic and fussy.  But they're not . . . as long as you give them what they need:  shade and water.  I've been pushing the envelope in terms of shade with this little guy for a couple of years now -- ever since we chopped down the cherry tree (a black cherry that was split and dying and in danger of falling on the house).  But this year?  WAY too hot; WAY too dry.  (You can see the burned leaves in the picture.)   Still . . . I've got some blooms!  (And I have plans for a new tree to bring back some shade to this corner of my garden.)

3 - Rozanne Geranium

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This plant is another of my "workhorse" plants.  It does a lot of heavy-lifting in my garden all season long.  Although this (kind of crappy) photo doesn't really show it, this plant is a mound about 3 feet across (yeah, this one is on my divide-and-transplant list) and FULL of blooms.  In fact, it starts blooming in May and never quits!  It's still blooming - and attracting bees - even now.  It winds in through neighboring plants and helps them look lovely, too.

Even though it's been a tough gardening season, I'm still enjoying some color and blooms out there - even in October.  

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Today's post is part of Three on Thursdays.  Check in over at Carole's to read other Three on Thursday posts.


Curb Appeal

I've said it before and I'll say it again:  Our yard is weird.

Our house is built into a cross slope, which means . . . we have a steep, downward slope -- in two directions.  Because of the hill, our front yard is completely dominated by this (rather extreme) hill.  To manage the sloping front yard, we depend on retaining walls.  There are two:  A long, high stone wall that moves across much of the front of the yard, and then a two-tiered timber wall up at the front of the house along one side.

In the nearly 30 years since our house was built (we've been here for 14 years), the original retaining walls have gotten a bit . . . tired.   These two retaining walls have been evolving into, well, eye-sores for a while now.

(Just as a side note . . . I don't garden much in the front of our house.  The gardens I spend most of my time growing and tending are in our backyard.  Where the slope is less extreme, and where we spend most of our time.)

Here's a photo of our front wall taken early last spring as Tom was . . . considering and assessing the situation.  Which wasn't good.

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English ivy (planted by the former owners) had taken over the rock wall.  Should we pull it off?  Would it look better?  (No.)
Weed-trees had rooted themselves between the boulders.  Impossible to pull them out, though.  The only option was to cut them back.  (Ugh.)
Boulders were dislodging and rolling off the wall and into the lawn below.  (Landslide waiting to happen.)
Ground bees had nested behind the boulders.  (And there were likely snakes comfortably sitting behind that ivy.)
Plus . . . the whole thing was just not attractive anymore.

And up at the house?  Things were no better.  The timbers were ugly -- and rotting.  There were gaps.  And weeds.  And bees.  Plus, the wall was no longer . . . retaining!  Soil was washing out, and our front porch was collapsing.

Tom - always willing to tackle a challenge - watched a few You Tube videos about building retaining walls.  But with a job of this scope, he knew right away that he was out of his league.  So we called in a landscape architect last spring.  He gave us options and designed new walls for us.

And then we waited.  With the wedding and other summer vacations and plans, we asked to be put on the schedule for fall.  Knowing that we were going to be tearing the front yard up come fall, we just let everything go, garden-wise, up front . . . all summer long.  (Which was kind of freeing, y'know?)

Here are photos from the morning the work began (and after we had rescued the few plants I wanted to save).  

Before:

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The work itself took about two weeks.  Two weeks of mess, noise, and WAY more tearing up of our lawn than I anticipated.  (Because I just failed to realize what two bobcats would do, y'know?)

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The project is finished now, though.  And I must say . . . it turned out better than I ever imagined!  

After:

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We love it.

(And . . . look at that blank gardening canvas, would you?)

If you're ever in the neighborhood, be sure to come around front, okay?