Category Archives: Gardens

In Honor of Earth Day

Ice at West Branch State Park
Lake Shoreline

I started this post on Earth Day, but got sidetracked because we were working on starting a fruit orchard just outside the back door. We now have five blueberry bushes and a plum tree there. Two of the blueberries went in last year and we just added three more, plus the plum tree. We still want to buy two peach trees and add those to the mix. Elsewhere on our property we already have serviceberries, plums, a pear tree, heirloom cherries, and black raspberries.

Blueberry Bush

So, although I missed publishing this post on Earth Day, we did honor the day by planting and that benefits the planet. Yay!

Newly transplanted plum tree

And this post is a two-fer, a two for one if you will. It includes below, what I wrote with the intention of posting on Earth Day.

Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day is celebrated each year on April 22, with its inception in 1970. Earth Day started in the United States, but has grown to be acknowledged worldwide. It’s goal is to make people aware of environmental issues. That is also the year the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came into being, so focus then was obviously on our environment.

It can be a bit frightening to look around our world and see the state it is in. So many animal species are extinct, endangered, or threatened. Even some of our favorites, rhinoceroses, gorillas, lions and tigers, to name a few , are in danger of leaving this world forever. Many plant species and ecosystems such as the rainforests, seem to be on their way out of this world too.

The outlook feels grim. But, it is not too late. Most of these changes have occurred because of man and his impact on our small blue sphere. Men (and by this I mean Homo sapiens, men and women, humans. Us!) have behaved in a very egocentric way. For generations, we have thought only about what is good for us. Our immediate selves. We didn’t consider plants, animals, or the planet as a whole. Heck, we rarely even thought about other humans unless we knew them.

We can no longer afford the luxury of this way of thinking. The planet will soon no longer be able to sustain us in the way we have become accustomed to, or eventually, at all. But as I said, it is not too late. One of the heroes of my adult life is Jane Goodall. She was one of the first female field researchers of modern times. I suspect everyone is familiar with her story. She studied chimpanzees in Africa, fulfilling a childhood dream. She went on to be a spokesperson for saving our world and the environment. She has made it her life’s work. And after devoting a lifetime studying these things, she still has hope. And I believe her! She is after all, a scientist.

Jane has programs, works, books, and teams with the goal of helping our world. She has programs for children, conservation, primates, and even one to promote hope. Home – Jane Goodall’s Good For All News You can check out what she has to say at the link. My point is, if she believes it is not to late to save our world with all she knows about it, let us do what we can too.

I realize that we can’t all do historic acts like Jane. But, we can all do something!

A Disjointed Morning

Zekie assisting momma during her on-line college class.

Today is one of those days. My activities are varied and unrelated. Do you have those days too? There is no flow and they don’t make any sense.

View of our burning bushes over the dog yard fence.

First off, remember how I said Mother Nature was confused? Mother Nature Is Confused Well, was she ever! I woke up to three inches of snow this morning. On April twenty first. In Ohio.

Azalea blanketed in snow.

We were more fortunate than others. I saw on my Facebook feed this morning that some of my friends who live closer to Lake Erie had seven inches of snow. Ours’ is mostly melted now that it is mid-afternoon. So far, our plants don’t seem to have sustained a lot of damage. We will be better able to tell when things have thawed out again tomorrow.

View out the back door this morning.

So, more about my morning. Since I didn’t want to go outside, I thought it would be a fine day to our our dog rescue’s taxes, so I did. I worked on the filing and figures for a bit the previous days. Non-profit taxes are due on May 15th, so don’t worry, I wasn’t late. And non-profits don’t actually pay taxes, at least for smaller groups. There may be a filing fee on a sliding scale, but mostly the filing is to make sure you are legitimate.

After that was out of the way, I moved on to baking. We were out of sweets, except for ice cream, which is nearly always in the freezer and it is too cold to eat that today. I baked cranberry-orange scones with maple icing. They turned out to be very tasty. I will provide that recipe another day. I also baked lime-ginger cookies made with spelt flour because hubby is on a low-gluten kick. The cookies taste good, but they are very flat and dark in color because of the spelt flour. Not the best thing I have ever made but they serve the purpose.

Refer back to the first photo in this post. This is how Zekie decided that I should attend a portion of my college course on The Science of Well-Being this morning. It’s ok, the lectures are pre-recorded so no one knew. Apparently, I was paying too much attention to the computer for too long to suit Zekie. I get a kick out of this dog. He is so interactive. After I petted him on my lap for a while, he got down and went back to sleep. A few other dogs nosed me for pets throughout the class too, but none are as insistent as Zekie. This is the major benefit of working from home. There are dogs.

And that is how I passed my morning. Once again, life is good.

Mother Nature Is Confused

Garden Entrance on a Spring Day. Dogwood in foreground.

This is the time of year when Mother Nature can’t make up her mind. Should I be warm and sunny or warm and cloudy, perhaps rainy, or should I make it snow? It has been mostly warm and spring like and our plants have taken off and produced beautiful blooms and leaves. The overnight forecast is for 27 degrees and snow.

Blossoms on one of our plum trees.

We are not happy about the cold temperature and the possibility of snow. Mother Nature wreaks havoc on our yard. Frost now is likely to kill off any potential fruit for this year on our plum, cherry, serviceberry, mulberry, and pear trees. Not to mention the flowers that will suffer. We got a late freeze last year too. Even the hydrangeas in the walled garden were set back and didn’t bloom until later in the summer.

Redbud tree.

Before I invested so much effort into gardening, the weather didn’t matter so much to me. It was, what it was. If it was cold for a night, then the heater ran in the house and the next day was better. It wasn’t on my mind. Now, one night like this can do irreparable damage for the growing season. For us, this is mostly an inconvenience. For farmers, this can be catastrophic. Their livelihood relies on plants and trees. A late frost can drive up prices for the next year as produce must be shipped from far away until next year when we can try again. I notice these events even more since I retired and spend so much time gardening.

I have blueberry bushes to worry about this year too. From what I read, they should be ok since they are just getting their leaves for the year and don’t have flower buds yet. We planted two blueberry bushes last year and I am picking up three more bushes on Thursday. I hope to be inundated with blueberries in a few years.

Viburnum blossoms.

So, we enjoy the blooms while we can and hope that the weathermen are wrong!

Are You Happy? You Can Be!

Heirloom Cherry Blossoms

Did you know you can take actions to make yourself happier? Apparently, you can.

I am currently taking an on-line college course that was offered for free by Coursera. (Not all Coursera courses have a free option.) I had never heard of them, but now that I am aware, I will be taking more of their free classes on my computer. The class I signed up for is through Yale University. Other classes may be provided by other institutions. If you want a certificate at the end, you have to pay, but I don’t care about that. I am auditing the course.

This class is about happiness. It is taught to Yale students, and during this time of Covid, they wanted to offer it to others who might benefit as well. I first became aware of the opportunity when it was mentioned in the newspaper. The name of this particular class is The Science of Well-Being. It lasts for eight weeks and requires about two hours per week of effort. Lectures are pre-recorded video clips and there are quizzes and a bit of home work. I’m having fun!

Double Daffodils

The lectures first tell you some of the science behind happiness and various theories, studies, and experiments. Then it moves on to how this pertains to us. I am learning a lot through the course and having a good time doing it. Some of the ways to be happier are not news. The one that everyone has heard about is gratitude.

Narcissus

Gratitude is an easy outlook to apply. Just look around you. What do you see that you are grateful for? I see flowers, plants, trees, and gardens that I am grateful for. If I look at my more immediate surroundings, I see dogs, books and magazines, and coffee in a gifted mug that I am grateful for. One of the dogs is currently gazing at me adoringly and that is a true blessing. And there are so many more. We have but to open our eyes and hearts and see.

What are you grateful for? Yes, I really want to know. There may be things that I am overlooking, and I care what others see as blessings.

Namaste. Peace be with you.

Appreciating Spring Time Flowers

Spring Still Life

It’s that time of year. Spring has sprung. The weather has changed to pleasantly warm days that are excellent for being outside and working. And also, for appreciating the new life erupting forth from the earth. This statue has seen better days. She was left here by a former owner of this property, but her work is not done. She still elicits a smile as she ushers in each season.

I love the way this euonymus (above, behind the statue) has chosen to grab hold of the fence post and climb. This plant is usually a ground cover. I don’t know what got into this one, but I love it. We have two euonymus, one green and yellow, the other, green and white. Both were given to me by friends and I think of them often when I walk by this bed.

Daffodils

This is a close up of the daffodils in the statue bed above. I love their pastel color and their fancy, ruffled “skirts”. I don’t know their provenance. They pre-date my coming to live here and will probably still be there when I have gone.

More daffodils!

This is another type of daffodil we have. I think of them as the standard daffodil. We have them all over the place. There are giant clumps in the perennial bed beside the house and in many other flower beds as well as throughout our woods and growing across the street along the roadside. I have begun splitting them in the fall of the year, so we continue to have even more! Last year I split a clump that I moved there about ten years ago and dug up over 50 bulbs! If you know me, you know that I do not like the color yellow. Truth be told, I have thrown things away because they are yellow. Daffodils are my exception. They are one of the earliest flowers to bloom and bring so much joy. I can’t help but like them.

Daffodils in the woods.

This shows just a few of the clumps of daffodils blooming in our wood right now. There are many. Taking yard debris back to the far end of the property where we dump it is a pleasant trip.

View coming out of our woods.

This is the view coming out of our woods which covers the back half of our property. You can see more clumps of daffodils, and the garage and workshop on the left. On the right hand side of the path is a portion of next year’s wood, split, stacked, and seasoning for next winter.

Primrose.

I include this shot of a primrose that I planted last year. I bought it at a big box store and it sat on our bathroom window sill all spring and into the summer. It was beginning to die, so I stuck it in one of the patio flower beds to see what it would do. This year, I was encouraged when it sprouted up out of the soil. You can’t tell from the photograph but it is the biggest primrose I have ever seen in my life. I had no idea they grew this big. Might this be a metaphor for life? Don’t give up, you still have the ability to flourish? I choose to believe this is so.

As we move farther into spring, followed by summer, you can expect more gardening posts from me once again. But never fear, there will still be lots about dogs. Follow my blog if you want to keep up to date!

Remembering Summer, On a Winter’s Day

Patio fountain in summer
Our patio in the summer time

It is mid-January now, the heart of winter. Each year around this time I like to write one post that features some pictures from my gardens during the previous summer. Something to bring back memories of flowers, gardens, swimming, and summer warmth. I love winter, but even I am ready for a bit summer by now. The lush green plants and vibrant colors of the flowers bring me flashbacks to fun time spent on the patio last year.

Having the break of winter makes time spent on the patio, and gardening, that much sweeter. I would not enjoy either season as much without the break of the other. By autumn, I am tired from planting, splitting, weeding, fertilizing, deadheading, pruning, watering, and all the other work that accompanies keeping up multiple flowerbeds.

Garden aerial view
An aerial view of the west end of our enclosed garden. Hydrangeas in bloom.

Now that we have had cold and snow for a bit, I am starting to think about planning for this summer’s gardens. What flowers to plant, where to put each and when. This month would be a good time to order any seeds that we need. Last year I made the mistake of ordering seeds when I wanted them. Everyone else decided to order seeds last spring too and garden while they were sheltering at home. I did not get most of my seeds until it was nearly too late to plant them. This year, I will order early. I would advise you to do the same.

It is always a gamble in this climate (northeast Ohio) on when to start seeds indoors. The start of warmer weather is never guaranteed by any certain date. Some years it is safe to plant in April, and other years not until late in May. Sometimes I get away with planting early by covering my seedlings with sheets if frost is forecast. Other years it is too cold even for that.

If I plant seeds in trays early and plan to keep them inside as long as necessary, many of my plants get too tall and leggy, and lack good support. If I start them in trays later, they are small when I put them in the ground or containers and more susceptible to bug and bird damage. I guess if I could plant the same way, at the same time every year, it would not be as much fun.

I do start my seeds on our enclosed porch so the temperature must stay above freezing there for me to get started. We have a vegetable garden as well so our porch can get quite crowded with the various pots, trays, and containers. It is always a mish-mash of saved containers, supplemented with assorted cans and bottles that I have pulled out of the recycling bin to augment my collection.

By the time I slip those little plants into the soil, it is reminiscent of sending a child off to school. I have fed, watered, and sheltered them for so long that I am invested in their well being and survival. When one is attacked by slugs or picked out by birds, I take it personally. Hopefully I will have more sprouts as back up replacements. Those I may cover at night with upturned soda bottle or little screen cages in an attempt to help them reach maturity.

Perennial flowers beside the house
Phlox in full bloom scattered with hostas and bee balm.

We also buy new plants each year. Some are annuals and others are perennials to add to our collection. Even the perennials take work. Most of my perennials, I split or relocate in the spring. They also need pruning and shaping. Any dead sections that didn’t survive the cold must be removed. The roses need fertilizing when the time is right so they will produce blooms. I fertilize my roses monthly with a solution that also contains chemicals for fungus and Japanese beetles.

Trees may need to be trimmed if they have grown over plants that require full sun. Specifically, for the peonies and roses. They will grow but not flower if they do not have enough sun. Growing a garden involves a lot of doing your best to control nature. The growth of other plants and insects. Adding nutrients. Watering. It is an attempt to find a balance that allows your plants to thrive.

You can see why I am relieved when that first frost comes. Gardening is tiring work. But it is also rewarding and life giving. That is why so many people garden, and it is something that has lasted across the landscape of time. And that is why I plant.

The Fall Garden

Datura and Mandevilla

These cooler temperatures are a gift. Most of the flowers are still in bloom. And I can sit outside to enjoy them anytime. It is not so hot that I have to carefully plan time to be out in the cool of the morning or wait for evening’s shade.

Climbing Rose

I passed time this afternoon by reading a book and hanging out with dogs on the patio.

Cleome

I did take time for watering, but even that doesn’t have to be done as often now. Fall has become my favorite time of year.

Sedum with a burgundy dahlia

Beauty Born

When your gardening goes awry and there is an accident, you make flower arrangements.

I was tying up gladioli blooms and inadvertently snapped one off. It immediately when in my rose gold vase from the Stan Hywet gift shop. I love this vase, everything looks good in it. And it’s my little bit of the glamorous life, after all it was purchased at a mansion’s gift shop.

The hydrangea blooms had to be trimmed off after heavy rains caused them to hang to the ground. And the orange trumpet vine cutting was sacrificed so the electronic eye on our outdoor light would function. They are displayed in a milk glass vase which suits them well.

Out of garden detritus, beauty is born.

On Not Lounging

Well, today I was NOT sitting in a lounge chair enjoying the patio. And not just because it was so hot.

First I helped tie up some loose ends from a construction project. Then I picked up nails from said project. After that it was time to pick green beans. Picking beans seems to be my new hobby. Either that or cleaning and snapping them.

This afternoon consisted of making rice pudding for this evening’s dessert and then working on cleaning up the office. I never did get around to writing which was the whole point of cleaning up the office.

Oh well, as a line from a great movie says (in a wispy southern accent), “Tomorrow is another day. “