Growing Things

Over the Top on the Fun-O-Meter and a Garden Surprise

Ahhhh.

Summer.

The days are long and the pace is slow.

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Except . . . when it's not!

For me, this has been a non-stop kind of summer.  High on the Good-Things-and-Fun-O-Meter, for sure!  But the pace has been relentless.  (Someday, maybe I'll have a chance to actually sit and rest in this lovely corner of my garden.)

I have nothing to complain about here, truly.  I've enjoyed a long visit with my sister, visited Mackinac Island and Chicago, co-hosted a super successful fundraising wine tasting event . . . and a summer solstice party (in the same week), (finally) spent a week up north, helped Brian and Lauren move into their new digs in Grand Rapids (on the hottest and muggiest day of the summer).  And now?  Well . . . I'm headed to Alaska with Tom later this week.  So.  Really . . . nothing but fun.

Still.  Constant activity - even when it is the fun kind - is always tiring, y'know?  

Okay.  Enough whining.  
Let's have a cool garden story instead, shall we?  

I have this WILD butterfly garden. 

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I do my best to keep the path clear, and I try to keep the weeds down.  But, mostly . . . I let it do it's own thing.  It's an . . . organic, flowing, constantly-changing kind of garden.  Easy care.  Friendly to pollinators.  Always packed with bees and butterflies.  (It looks pretty good, too.)

There is lots of milkweed in my butterfly garden -- common milkweed, swamp milkweed, and butterfly weed.  (Plants in the milkweed family are the ONLY plants Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on -- and the only plants Monarch caterpillars will eat.)

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butterfly weed

Over the weekend, I happened to be checking out one of the milkweed plants to see if I could find any Monarch eggs -- and was thrilled to find this instead. . . 

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common milkweed

See him down there?  Near the bottom of the photo?

Here's a close up . . . 

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A Monarch caterpillar . . . just munching away on my milkweed.

I love a good garden surprise!

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How about you?  How's your summer coming along?


On the Clock

So.  Let's get back to wellness.  Specifically, physical fitness.  

If you remember my last post on the topic, we were talking about what "counts" when it comes to exercise.  Because really, as it turns out, anything that gets you moving counts as exercise.  And it happens that a lot of us move . . . by gardening.

So I decided to give it my best "scientific" test.

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On Saturday afternoon, I gathered my gardening tools, and set my Apple watch for a workout.  (I had to choose "Mixed Cardio" because Apple doesn't have a category for "Gardening.")  (Although they should.  As I'm about to demonstrate.)

For the next hour and (nearly) thirty-nine minutes, I gardened.  It was pretty heavy-duty gardening:  cleaning beds, digging weeds, cutting back shrubs, hauling debris -- standard early-spring garden chores. I was pretty intentional about doing as much of my work as I could on my feet (like . . . without sitting for long periods of time on my trusty little garden cart), so I was doing a lot of squatting, bending, carrying, and walking about.  

It was tiring!  But . . . how good a workout was it?

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Turns out . . . it was a pretty good one!

In an hour and (just under) thirty-nine minutes, I burned 341 active calories with an average heart rate of 100 bpm.  That's MUCH more of a workout than I would have predicted.  (Thanks, Apple watch.)  In fact, I had burned nearly the same number of calories on a 5+ mile walk with JoJo and a friend earlier that morning.

Bottom line?  Not only does gardening "count" as exercise -- but it is an effective workout, to boot!  (No longer am I going to wonder why I'm so tired after a session in the garden, that's for sure.)

How about you?  Have you discovered any new ways to move?


When Spring Gives You . . . Snow

On Saturday, we had a freak Spring snowstorm in the forecast.  

My first thoughts went to my garden.  Everything that is blooming or budding right now can take cold temperatures (our average last frost date isn't until mid-May after all), but heavy, wet snow?  That's enough to crush delicate blooms, for sure.  

I kept my fingers crossed that the forecast was wrong (as it often is. . .).  But once I saw the first "snow chunks" falling, I ran out into my garden to Save the Daffodils!

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I cut every blooming daffodil in my garden and brought them all inside.

They made quite a bouquet -- and it gave me a chance to really see all the varieties play together, gathered in one spot as they were.

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I'm so glad I cut them and brought them in!  We ended up with enough snow that they would have been crushed under the weight of it.  (And I still have at least as many daffodil buds out there in my garden, so there are more blooms to come.)

In typical, fickle Spring fashion, the sun was shining brightly on Sunday morning, and by early afternoon, all the snow had melted.  (But for a while there on Sunday I did something I've never done before:  I gardened while there was snow on the ground.)

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When Spring gives you snow . . . make lemonade!

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(Be sure to visit this space on Friday!  Something new and exciting is coming . . . and you won't want to miss it.)

 


All It Takes

. . . is a bit of sunshine and a couple of warmer days to get things popping in my garden!  

A couple of years ago, I planted a big bag of "mixed daffodils," not really sure what I'd end up with when spring came around.  Now, I love the variety -- and I also love that they bloom in waves.  (Some are early-bloomers, some are late-bloomers.)  Here are three different types that are blooming in my garden today:

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I just love them!  And I love their glorious steadfastness, too -- standing straight and tall through heavy rains and roller-coaster temperatures.  (Those spring bulbs are tough!)

What's blooming in your garden today?

 


Greeting Spring In My Garden

"I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose, I would always greet it in a garden."
                    --- Ruth Stout

Spring is fickle, to be sure. 

But it's also. . .  here.  (Finally.)  
And Ruth Stout is right: I will always choose to greet it in my garden.  
Which is definitely coming back to life!

Sweet crocus are blooming.

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My hellebores are waking up.

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And my larch tree is greening up again.

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My garden is the perfect place to greet the spring!
(Even though it's cold and windy today.)  (But, hey.  No snow.)

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Head over to Carole's today for more Three on Thursday.


Going to Seed

It's the time of year for garden clean-up.  Time to prepare the plants for winter and maybe even get a head start on next year's garden.  

But . . . I'm kind of a lazy gardener in the fall.  I've grown tired of weeding and the more tedious garden chores.  I want to just sit back and relax at this point.  (And, besides, I still have plenty of things blooming!)

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Really, though, I do a lot of garden "prep" in the fall.  I move plants around.  I weed (it never ends).  I cut back some of the plants that really need it.  I plant bulbs.  I make a lot of notes for next year.  I bring in all my little garden tchotchkes.  I pull out the annuals and empty my hanging baskets.

But.  I don't tend to cut back my perennials.  I don't mind a garden (even in the off season) that is . . . less than tidy.  I leave seedheads that are . . . interesting.  Or that provide food for the birds.  Or that will seed in a way I want them to seed.  Or that will collect snow in a particularly beautiful way (when that happens) (because it will).

Besides . . . I find seedheads to be quite lovely all on their own.  Here are three that have caught my eye this week:

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Penstemon.  When at it's peak, this penstemon - called Husker's Red - features white blooms on reddish stalks.  I often cut these stalks with seedheads for fall flower arrangements. 

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Butterfly weed.  At it's peak, the blooms are bright orange and a staple in butterfly gardens.  Butterfly weed is in the "milkweed family," so is especially beneficial for Monarchs.  I often share the seeds with friends (intentionally)*, and with my neighbors (unintentionally, but purposefully).  (They love me so.)

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Clematis.  At its peak, this particular clematis ('Tranquilite') sports huge white blossoms with a burgundy/purple center.  Although I go a little weak-in-the-knees for pretty much any blooming clematis, I also love their interesting seedheads once the blooms have faded.

How about you?  Are you a neat-and-tidy gardener come fall?  Or, like me, do you let seedheads . . . do their thing?

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Be sure to visit Carole for other Three on Thursday posts today.

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*If you'd like some of my butterfly weed seeds for your garden, send me an email or let me know in the comments and I'll mail you a batch.

 

 


Public Service Announcement

Back in the deep, dark days of last winter . . . when nearly every blog post featured an amaryllis in bloom . . . many of you asked me to remind you to order bulbs when it was time in the fall.

Well . . . IT'S TIME!

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I ordered my amaryllis bulbs from White Flower Farm over the weekend.  Some of them will be shipped soon (for holiday blooming), but most of them won't be shipped until the middle of November (for dead-of-winter bloom).

Although there are plenty of places to order amaryllis bulbs (just do a quick search of The Googles if you're interested in shopping around), I highly recommend the bulbs from White Flower Farm.  They have a huge variety of lovely, easy-to-grow amaryllis -- and they perform just the way you want them to:  big, long-lasting blooms . . . when you think winter will never end.

(If you're interested in WFF bulbs, you can use this link to get to their site.  Once you click in, a pop-up window will appear with a code for a $5 coupon.)

There you have it!  My order-your-amaryllis-bulbs-now Public Service Announcement.

 


My Very Hungry Caterpillar

For many years now, I've had a thriving butterfly garden.  (See my post from earlier this summer about my garden and how easy it is to plant and certify your own Monarch Waystation.)  And over those years, I've seen many a Monarch butterfly, flitting among the blooms.  But I had never actually seen the Monarchs laying eggs on my milkweed plants.*  And I had never seen a Monarch caterpillar.* Until this summer!  

* (I'm sure they've been there, doing just those things.  But I had never been there to see it.)

In July, I happened to be out in the garden and noticed a Monarch laying eggs.  I was thrilled!  (I posted this video on Instagram.)

And early last week, I found a very hungry Monarch caterpillar.

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He's gone now . . . off becoming a butterfly!  I look everyday to try and find the chrysalis, but so far?  No luck.  If I do find it, though, it will be the true triumverate of butterfly gardening:  eggs, caterpillar, chrysalis.  (I'd be over the moon. . .

To celebrate my caterpillar, I thought I'd share three quick facts about Monarchs with you today:

  1. Monarchs can produce four generations during one summer. The first three generations will have life spans from 2 - 6 weeks and will continue moving north. During this time they will mate and have the next generation that will continue the northward migration. The fourth generation is different and can live up to nine months. These are the butterflies that will migrate south for winter.  (My caterpillar falls into this fourth generation.)
  2. In their larval stage, Monarch caterpillars feed almost exclusively on milkweed, and as adults, get their nutrients from the nectar of flowers. The monarch will always return to areas rich in milkweed to lay their eggs upon the plant. The milkweed they feed on as a caterpillar is actually a poisonous toxin and is stored in their bodies. This is what makes the monarch butterfly taste so terrible to predators.
  3. During their migration, Monarch butterflies can travel between 50 - 100 miles a day.  It can take up to two months to complete their journey to winter habitats.

Beautiful, fascinating creatures!  I'm so happy to share my garden space with them.

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Be sure to visit Carole today -- to find more Three on Thursday posts.


Instrument of Grace

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.  Gardening is an instrument of grace."
                                                                        --- May Sarton

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Gardening is so easy in the spring.  Everything is exploding into green and foliage and colorful blooms.  It's exciting and fresh and new . . . everywhere you look.

In the fall, it's a bit harder.  Enthusiasm wanes.  The garden is tired, dying back, preparing for the dormant season.

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I love my bedraggled, heading-into-dormancy late summer garden, though.  It has a skeletal beauty that can only come from age and wisdom.  Successful young flowers turn into future-thinking seedheads.  Dead stalks shelter overwintering insects.  Spent foliage and grasses become cover for birds and rabbits and other woodland creatures.

Slow circles of nature.

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A garden . . . as an instrument of grace.