Growing Things

Flowers are Magical

Last night, a gardening pal and I joined a group of our fellow Master Gardeners for a couple of "garden walks."  These walks are usually fairly close to town -- but last night we drove far out into the country.  Dirt roads, barns, corn fields stretching on for acres, and even a big Christmas tree farm.  We were so far out in the country that Siri wouldn't have been able to help us if we had gotten lost!  (Luckily, we didn't.)

We almost didn't go.  I've got a wedding in (gulp) 9 days.  My friend - who just returned from a week's vacation up north - is flying out to the west coast for another this morning.  Really.  Neither of us had time for this.

But we went.  And I'm so glad we did!

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Both gardens we visited . . . were dahlia farms (one for business; one for sheer love of dahlias).

Dahlias are just gorgeous flowers.  Stunning, in fact -- and especially so when you see big fields of them, all different types and colors and sizes!  They are truly the stars of late summer and fall gardens -- blooming and putting on quite a show when pretty much everything else is winding down.  

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But.

Dahlias are also a lot of work -- and especially at a tough time of year to be out in the garden!  Because dahlias grow from tubers, and those tubers need to be dug up each fall (but not until AFTER the first hard frost) and lovingly stored in a cold (but not freezing), dry location where they overwinter until the threat of frost is passed each spring.  I can't even begin to imagine the work these gardeners do -- to dig up and overwinter and re-plant thousands of dahlia tubers each year.

But, oh my!  What a payoff!

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In addition to their obvious charms, dahlias hold a very special place in my heart.

My mom loved dahlias.  

She always grew them in her own garden, and was constantly trying various methods of overwintering her tubers.  (Her condo did not quite have a cold enough storage space, so often her tubers got moldy over the winter.)  When I was going through my mom's files last fall, I came across a huge file folder stuffed with articles and information she had printed out from the Internet -- all about overwintering dahlias.  (Hope springs eternal when you're a gardener. . .)  I always gave my mom at least one dahlia plant for Mother's Day.  We marveled at their beauty every year when they bloomed -- and especially when they made it through to bloom the next season.

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I've been thinking about my mom a lot these last few weeks.  

It was a year ago now that my mom's health was in rapid decline.  It was a very hard time for me.  I was struggling with decisions, shock, feelings of helplessness, the burdens of responsibility.  But most of all, I was struggling with overwhelming sadness.

Those feelings are all re-surfacing now, a year later.  Missing my mom . . . and replaying all the not-so-pleasant parts there toward the end.

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But being surrounded by dahlias last night turned out to be a surprising gift.

It was like I flipped a switch in my head.  

Instead of remembering all the hard stuff of a year ago, I started remembering all the happy times of gardening with my mom instead.  

How much she loved dahlias.  

How delighted she would have been to see so many dahlias -- all in one place. 

How each dahlia . . . was kind of like my mom . . . smiling right at me.

I'm in a much better place now.

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Flowers are magical.

 


Deadheading: Good for More Than Gardening

In gardening, deadheading is a particular maintenance practice that prolongs blooms, prevents seeds from spreading where you don't want them, and keeps things looking neat and tidy in the garden.

Basically, it means pinching or snipping off spent blooms -- those blooms way past their prime.  (My favorite gardening mantra:  If it's brown, cut it down.)

Some gardeners hate this chore, but I love it!  I find it very meditative and centering -- and it's a great way to keep in close touch with what's happening in my garden.  

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(That's a look down into my bucket after a good deadheading session last weekend.)

So, last weekend - as I was deadheading my perennials and containers - I started thinking about the value of getting the spent "stuff" out of the garden.   

It certainly makes things LOOK better.  (Because a clump of dead daisy heads is really not attractive, y'know?)  

And when you pinch off dead-and-dying blooms, you provide more energy for the plant to produce NEW blooms -- or to grow deeper roots if the blooming period is really over.  (Roses respond especially well to deadheading.  And those daisies?  Once I deadhead the dead daisy heads, I get a second round of blooms.)

And deadheading allows you to gather seeds to share or to plant where you want them.  (Rather than the wild self-seeding that can happen with some plants if you're not careful.)  (I'm talking to you, Japanese anemone.)

All good things . . . for the garden.

But.

Isn't the same true of our lives?

Perhaps we should also be doing some "life-maintenance" once in a while. . . deadheading out the "spent" stuff in our lives.

Relationships.
Situations.
Habits.
Notions.

With regular deadheading, we can create space and energy for our own new growth.  We can keep old, negative seeds from spreading and growing where we don't want them.  We can keep our minds neat and tidy . . . and ready for new blooms.

Deadheading.  Turns out it's good for more than just garden maintenance!


The Little Things

It's a beautiful day here.  Rainy earlier; sunny now.  Not too hot.  And my schedule cleared up rather unexpectedly.  Sounds like a perfect day to mess around outside, non?

I often share what's blooming in my garden.  For a change, I decided to share a few of my favorite things that never bloom in my garden!  Little things.  Things that you might miss when you're busy looking at blooms.

Things like . . . Namaste Frog.

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This little guy has been sitting near the waterfall in my pond for many years.  (So many years . . . that Brian, who still lived at home then, gave him his name.)  He's a little worse for the wear now (the frog, not Brian), because one year he spent the winter at the bottom of the pond -- having fallen in during the shut-down phase and not discovered again until the following spring.  Still, he just sits . . . a bit faded but very chill . . . and a great reminder for me to live in the moment out in the garden.

This year I added a little Fishing Frog.

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I especially love how there is a silhouette of a "real" fish there on the sign.  Because Fishing Frog?  He may be whimsical and totally animated, but he's going for the Real Deal.

I tuck lots of little birds here and there in my garden.

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There are plenty of actual, singing birds in my garden, sure.  But I like having a little bit of bird-whimsy around, too.

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I stick some things in my garden just because they make me smile.

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I love picking out the "hair" for this planter every year.

And I love the stone chimney on my little house.  (I keep this one near the edge of the patio, right near the house, where it is less likely to get wet in a rainstorm.)

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And then, there's always THIS "little" thing in my garden.  She never blooms -- but always makes me smile!

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Enjoy your day -- and take time to find the little things that bring you joy.

 


Bloomin' Friday

Most mornings, I start the day with a walk around my garden.  Sometimes with a cup of coffee, sometimes with a bowl of cereal, sometimes with my camera.  And always with the dogs!

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It's good to start the day with flowers, I think . . . but walking around in my garden each morning also helps me figure out my daily gardening to-do list.  (Which, by the way, is NEVER finished.)

Since it's Friday, I thought y'all might want to come along and see what's going on in my garden today!

While there are a few things in bloom -- this clematis (one of the oldest plants in my garden), for example . . . 

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my garden - as a whole - is in a kind of bloom-lull right now.  When I design my gardens, I work hard to have something (and often lots of somethings) in bloom from the very earliest days of spring to the very latest days of fall.  Generally, I've done a good job at that -- and you can see that there are some things in bloom today.  But . . . there are definitely a few peaks in the blooming throughout the summer.  (You should've seen it last week!  EVERYTHING was bursting with color and bloom!)

We're about to hit another peak bloom time -- probably next week, or so.  Lots of things are on the verge of blooming.  See?

My oak leaf hydrangeas are just starting to pop.  By next week, they should be quite showy!

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There are little allium flowers just ready to pop open all over my garden.  They'll just kind of hover there . . . in their purple-y-pink-y way . . . above the foliage in the shade.

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And out in my butterfly garden, by next week I imagine the bright orange of butterfly weed (a form of milkweed especially preferred by the Monarch butterfly) will be hard to miss!

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When I walk my garden each day, I keep mental track of what's blooming, what's finished, and what's likely to be in bloom next.  

On my walks, I also figure out where I need to focus my weeding and deadheading efforts for the day (it's a constant game of Whack-a-Mole in my garden!) . . . 

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and I check out the ponds each day to see if the filters are clogged (or if anything has fallen in during the night) . . . 

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I water my annuals and re-fill my birdbaths . . . 

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My walks always show me what's "wrong" with my garden -- what needs tending or fixing or adjusting.  But they usually also show me what's "right."  (Or, at least, "right" . . . right now.)

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Which is really why I garden in the first place!

Enjoy the weekend!

 

 

 


Bloomin' Friday

I have a little herb garden.  It's right off my patio, which is right off my kitchen . . . which is a super handy place to have frest herbs.

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It really doesn't look like much now, but it will fill out and grow into its space.

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In fact, before long, I'll have plenty of my favorite herbs to snip for cooking or for drying and preserving.

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I love having fresh herbs right outside my kitchen door.  It's one of my favorite things in my garden!

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Enjoy the weekend!

 


Full Disclosure

The other day, I was looking through old photos, and came across a few from Erin's high school graduation . . . now 10 years ago.  I was kind of shocked at how drastic the changes to my landscape have been!  (A future blog post, perhaps.) Over the last 10 years, I have added garden beds to my yard in a rather significant way.

What this means, in practical terms, is that I've pretty much reached my limit of what I can possibly maintain.  (Actually, I've probably exceeded my maintenance capacity.  But, oh well.)  So there are always "good parts" of my garden . . . and "bad parts."  It's like a constant game of Whack-a-Mole to keep everything looking good.  

At this time of year especially - when everything in the garden is exploding - the "bad parts" are really, really bad.   (Especially in the areas that suffered from my neglect last year.)

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Case in point.  

This is actually my butterfly garden (officially certified as a Monarch Waystation).  But now totally overrun with weeds and random grass and and dandelions and out-of-control knautia volunteers!  I re-named this garden bed The Prairie earlier this spring -- but couldn't get to it right away (because other priorities in that great garden game of Whack-a-Mole).

But last Sunday, I was able to spend about 4 hours out there.

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I actually find weeding to be relaxing and therapeutic -- kind of like meditation.  Or yoga.  Or knitting.  Only with birds.  (And the occasional garter snake and a few toads.)  On Sunday afternoon, this was a great place for me to be.  I was missing Erin, mulling over some new ideas, and working out a few troublesome life-issues.  

Before I knew it . . . I'd filled up 10 or 12 buckets of weeds, located my wayward garden stones (thanks, Tom!), and enlisted my digger (Tom again) to remove some overgrown plants I no longer want in this space.

And . . . voilà!

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Not a great view . . . but you can see that the weeds are gone, the mulch is in place, and the stones are ABOVE the ground now.  Not so much with The Prairie motif anymore.  There's still PLENTY of work to be done in this particular garden, but I can consider this "mole" "whacked" for now.  

(And - in full disclosure - I've got 3 more "bad" garden areas to "whack"!)

 


On Celebrating in New Ways

I often wonder when I got "bit" by the gardening bug.  It might be just be in my blood -- because for generations and generations, my family (on my dad's side) were farmers.  (My dad was raised on an Illinois farm.)  

I like to think, though, that it happened when I was a very little girl, sitting next to my mom at the strip of flower garden planted along the side of our house.  She would name the plants for me . . . moss roses, four o'clocks, snap dragons . . . and show me magical things.  How to collect seeds from the moss roses and four o'clocks.  How to make the snap dragons . . . snap open their mouths.

I'm pretty sure it was there . . . alongside my mom . . . that I discovered the magic of flowers.  (And combined with my agricultural heritage, well . . . gardening seems kind of inevitable, doesn't it?)

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My mom and I spent many a Mother's Day over the years . . . planting.  Or shopping for plants.  Or planning what to plant.  Mother's Day and time in the garden with my mom . . . it's just the way it always was.

So this Mother's Day, my first without my mom, I decided to create a special garden in celebration of her.

It's right there . . . at the very front of the garden bed next to my pergola.  

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We had to have one of the pines removed last fall, so there was new space in the front of the bed.  Tom dug it all out for me on Saturday and prepared it for my planting.

Yesterday, I planted my mom's favorite flowers.  Dahlias.  Alstroemeria.  Snap Dragons.  And, come fall, I'll plant some tulip bulbs there.  (Because my mom loved her tulips!)  Many of the hostas in this garden bed came from my mom's garden over the years.

The location is perfect -- because I can see my new Mom-garden from my kitchen window or from the patio.  And it's right next to the pergola.  I used to sit on the pergola swing and talk to her on the phone nearly every day during the warm months.  She loved to swing.

It doesn't look like much today (you know how new gardens are. . . ), but it will grow and bloom and be a wonderful celebration of my mom all season long.

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The little red bird and the fairy house came from my mom's own garden, but I purchased the memorial stone especially for this space.

Planning - and planting - this garden helped me through a tough day.  I still got to celebrate and garden with my mom -- just in a new way.

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My sister, who loves to bake, celebrated Mother's Day by baking up some of our mom's special recipes -- using Mom's recipe box and baking pans.

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My mom's rhubarb pie . . . as baked by my sister.  New ways to celebrate, indeed!

 

 


Another Bloomin' Friday

Every day, something new in the garden!  It's such an exciting time to stroll around - seeing what's popped into bloom overnight.

Today, we have . . . 

My favorite spring bulb - grape hyacinth.  I just love the contrast of purple and green.  I use that particular color combination all over my garden throughout the season -- but this is really my first real taste of it each year.

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Red buds are nearly exploding.  They're so subtle -- and make such a lovely scene when I look out my window and see my little red bud . . . with my neighbor's blooming trees as background.

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Lilacs are moving up the bloom-list with a bullet.  This is a new lilac bush I just planted last year (in a corner where something else had . . . failed to thrive) and these are my first blooms.  I'm so excited.

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Virginia bluebells just dancing in the breeze.  (Like so much dancing that I can't get a good shot.)   Virginia bluebells are so lovely while they last -- but they only last about 5 minutes, so enjoy what you see -- bad shot and all!  (Those are celadon poppies in the background, in case you were wondering.)

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The hops are already trying to take over the world.  I love the way they climb the arbor -- and Tom loves growing them.  But.  They are very high maintenance!

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Ferns are unfurling (at least the ones that live up close to the foundation).  These are actually "volunteer ferns" that seeded themselves (or whatever you call it when we're actually talking about spores) up near the foundation.  Later, I'll dig them up and plant them somewhere else.  But for now, I'll enjoy watching them up against the warm foundation.

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And then -- a big surprise!

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Yep.  That sad, little pot?  Nestled in among the biggest weed patch in my garden?  It's a Little Honey oak leaf hydrangea I bought last May at the Master Gardener Plant Sale.  Yeah.  Last May.  I couldn't figure out where, exactly, I wanted to plant it when I first brought it home (which is a problem I often have - sort of the gardener-version of eyes-too-big-for-the-stomach) -- and then, well.  Last summer was a bit of a mess, and it just sat there.  All year.

Anyway.  LOOK!  It has leaves!  It LIVES!  It survived both my neglect AND our mild winter.  I will happily find the perfect spot for it this year!

I just love watching my garden come alive again each spring!

Enjoy the weekend.


Bloomin' Friday

Spring is here, that's for sure.

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But it's that one-step-forward-two-steps-back kind of Spring.

Teasing, fickle Spring.

A warm and 75ºF day . . . followed by a few (too many) chilly, dreary, rainy days.

Ugh.

Tedious.

I'm just not very patient.

But my garden is letting me know that it won't be long now.  Leaves are beginning to emerge.  My daffodils are blooming.  I have "lawn violets" and dandelions feeding the bees in my yard.

What else is going on in my garden?

Well, I'm eagerly watching my little redbud.  Maybe blooms next week?

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And my grape hyacinths (at least the ones in the West-facing beds) are beginning to pop.

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And the first blooms are emerging on my star magnolia tree -- with the promise of many more to come.

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Right now, though?  It's the hellebores that are the real stars of the show in my garden!

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Hard working.  Super showy.  Loaded with buds.

Best of all?  The deer won't touch 'em!

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And, just to keep me smiling, the hops are suddenly up . . . and spreading fast.  Ready to take over the world!

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Here we go!  Just like that . . . it's gardening season again.