Hail Stone Meditations Part I

gj_dateHello friends,

I realize in my last entry I promised a feature on my Bellis Perennis and that is most definitely forthcoming. I promise. In fact, it is very nearly complete. Right now, I have this story that is begging to be written.

(Started writing this 14 June)

cover_image1According to the forecasts, yesterday was going to be a cool day by all accounts with showers appearing off and on. The prognostications proved valid. The blessing of rain did fall heavily at times as clouds rolled in and then fluttered off nearly as quickly.

And then . . .

Like any self respecting monsoonal type moisture, the cold, dark sky opened up and released a brutal torrent of moisture. This moisture wrapped in ice pounded the ground relentlessly. No amount of sun could assist in softening it before it pummeled the earth below. All I could hear from the safety of my room were the stones bouncing off of every surface followed by steady accumulation. I wanted to close myself down as I did not want to imagine what this profusion of dark, icy moisture was doing to the plants below. So much fell so quickly the earth turned white as it piled up. The resemblance to snow was perfect and like a late spring snow storm, this storm would prove just as detrimental to my gardening efforts.

inherited_risk.fw

Where I have chosen to live and garden brings with it an inherited risk. The growing season can end abruptly as an early autumnal frost is not uncommon. Yes, certain plants will recover but usually that signals the beginning of the end for my little Rocky Mountain garden. When spring arrives, the excitement of all the new growth can be hampered by heavy, late spring snows crushing emerging bulbs and slowing down the growth of certain perennials even causing a bit of frost bite. This year I tried in vane to cover some of my daffodils and alliums. The snow was so heavy it sent my little makeshift tent crashing to the ground. Generally speaking, we are usually ‘safe’ from frost by Memorial Day which is observed on the last Monday in May for those who are not from the US. We typically get some decent spring rains but with that, comes the strong possibility of hail and this hail can be devastating to a garden shredding plants down to bare stems, defoliating trees and if a plant does survive the onslaught, it will end up with holes in the foliage which leaves it vulnerable to infection and bug infestation.

Viewing the Aftermath

I could not bring myself to go outside after the storm. I am not my best in the evenings as I am very much a morning person so I knew any observations of damage would be skewed and considered worse than they actually appeared. The next morning I completed my work out, made my breakfast and with trepidation stepped outside. Upon exiting the house, the first plants I see are the annuals within the Talavera pots section. I have two large resin pots flanking the entrance to the main garden. There, I have volunteer plants growing including Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, Zinnias (though I only see one coming back this year), violas, etc. Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate should be an easy plant to grow but here, they never look their best. One hail storm and you end up with this or if the hail is really bad, worse. This photo was taken at the time of my publishing this article so there are signs of recovery.

garden_gate

I planted up some sunflowers in the other pot and thus far they are faring well and were not greatly impacted by the storm. As I progressed into the garden, I was very sad to notice that my Flanders Poppies were shredded. I then completed my tour of the disaster area and concluded that overall things were not too horrible and as mentioned, today, the garden is recovering nicely. It is this optimism that prompted me to create this post. As gardeners, we experience the best and the worst that nature has to offer and at the end of the day, like all things in life, we just have to hope for the best. We have to believe that in the end, nature’s will be done and perhaps she will be kind enough to leave us with something beautiful — a reward if you will for all of our hard work.

There is a passage in one of my favorite gardening books that summarizes what I am trying to convey beautifully. Taken from Old Herbaceous by Reginald Arkell.

The gardener is a frustrated being for whom flowers never bloom at the right moment. Change and decay in all around he sees. It is all very sad, and how gardeners manage to keep going in the face of such adversities is one of those things that no fellow will ever understand.

Thank you kindly for reading and I pray your garden has presented you with more blessings than heartache. Do you have a success story this season you wish to share? Please do! I would love to hear from you. Have a photo of a beautiful bloom you are proud of? I would love to see it. Until next time, I wish you a blessed day and Happy Gardening!

Now for some images of seasonal blooms:

Talavera pots

Talavera pots

Wasp making its home in one of my bird feeders.

Wasp making its home in one of my bird feeders.

Yarrow

Yarrow

Sunpatiens

Sunpatiens

Small morning glory type flower

Small morning glory type flower

Sedum growing in the cracks of the retaining wall

Sedum growing in the cracks of the retaining wall

Keeping the aphids away from the tansy!

Keeping the aphids away from the tansy!

Fly having a rest on a  bee balm leaf

Fly having a rest on a bee balm leaf

Faded aster bloom

Faded aster bloom

Day Lily Bloom in Whiskey Barrel

Day Lily Bloom in Whiskey Barrel

Blanket Flower in Bud

Blanket Flower in Bud

Unknown bee on small sunflower.

Unknown bee on small sunflower.

Funny Little White Flowers

Rain drops on a lily

Rain drops on a lily

18May2016Today is the 5th of May. Yesterday was Star Wars day and Sunday shall be Mother’s Day. We are now nearly two months into spring and today, for the first time since March 21st, I feel as if I can completely relax and stop worrying about unexpected cold and snow. Just a week ago, we had another storm that left its mark on all the emerging growth. The tulips were once again flattened as were the alliums but worse yet the fritillarias. I would love one season where these bulbs of the lily family were left unaffected. So it brings me to the inspiration behind the title of this post.

The peony in the cobalt blue pot (one of my favorites). As you can see, it came through all the storms just fine. Now, to determine if I need to put a cage in their to stabilize the blooms.... assuming I get any blooms of course!

The peony in the cobalt blue pot (one of my favorites). As you can see, it came through all the storms just fine. Now, to determine if I need to put a cage in their to stabilize the blooms…. assuming I get any blooms of course!

Three weeks ago, we were bracing for a major spring storm that promised blizzard like conditions and a LOT (feet) of snow. It would start off as rain and then change to snow and though I was secretly praying for just a little accumulation, Jack Frost had other ideas. I went to Home Depot to get some items which I thought would protect the plants. This project consisted of some six foot bamboo stakes, heavy duty clips and some fabric (or what I thought was going to be fabric but actually turned out to be some sort of nasty plastic material). I got it home and got to work at around 5:00 p.m. The winds were picking up, the azure blue was quickly being replaced by foreboding gray and hints of moisture fell from the sky. I was working against the wind to try and create tents of sorts around the alliums and other plants. I wrapped some of the plastic around my cobalt blue planter that is home to my peony emerging from its winter nap. Now for the fritillaria. They are against the right fence so I took some slats and leaned them against the fence clipping some of the plastic and this actually created a nice barrier I must say. I then proceeded to take some buckets and turn them upside down over some other plants (viola odorata and other emerging plants I did not want to get crushed by the pending snow) and overall I looked at my work and thought, okay, this just may work.

My Beautiful Spring Garden from the Kitchen Window

My Beautiful Spring Garden from the Kitchen Window

Let me tell you about spring snow in case you live somewhere that prevents you from the experience. Each flake that is hurled from the sky is laden with five gallons of water. This of course is hyperbole but you get the point. Heavy, wet, spring snow made quick work of my little plastic make shift tents and soon with the weight of the snow, they slid down their bamboo supports leaving me to imagine what they were doing to the bulbs and emerging plants underneath. I decided to free my mind of worry as there was nothing I could do until the storm passed which on the by and by took over three days. When all was said and done, there was indeed about two feet of snow on the ground and it was on a Sunday I took this photo of what I dubbed ‘my beautiful spring garden’ from the kitchen window. The snow was blowing hard and as you can see in the image to the right, it created a beautiful water droplet effect. I posted this photo on Facebook and the following conversation ensued:

Friend: “The flowers are so colorful.”

Me: “Aren’t they though! 🙂 Gotta love those white ones in particular…. they are very prolific this year.

Friend: “Yes, the white ones are stunning.

Me: Soon, before you know it, they will simply melt away into the landscape… disappearing almost as quickly as they arrived. But, for now, I shall enjoy them in all their bounty.

Hence the inspiration for this post’s title.

Now, let me say this. The snows have come and gone and today is actually May 18th! I have been working on this post for nigh on four weeks. Perhaps — and I have used this excuse in the past I know — it is because the garden beckons constantly. Take this moment in time for example. I vowed to used my lunch hour to work on this post with the hopes of completing it or at worst nearly so. So, I ate my left over pizza, had some tea and then looked out at the garden. Oops. I should not have done that. this grass is growing too high at the edge of the patio. I best get out the trimmer and trim it and perhaps work on the grass coming up around the paving stones as well. Thankfully (if that is how I should view it) the line for the weed eater came to an end and subsequently so did my grass trimming adventure. “Look at these dandelions near the steps!” “And the dried up debris in the herb bed?” Started cleaning those. On my way back from depositing dandelions and debris into my trash bag, I noticed my laptop looking lonely as if to say “Hey, you promised ME some quality time.” “Yes, I did. I am sorry.” I sat down and started to type.

I have so much to share and as I look up and view the beauty I have created I am at peace in my own personal heaven. So many things are coming up! First, I moved my bellis perennis (lawn daisies) and they are prolific! The Barbra Streisand rose is leafing out nicely! The lilies are coming up! The Flanders poppy seedlings are growing at a pace! Viola seedlings are abound and those I put out at the end of last season are coming back in full glory!

I could go on but if I do, I will never finish this post. So, for now, I shall say goodbye for now and until next time, happy gardening and many blessings to all who read this.

In my next episode, I will focus on reiterating some entries I created in my on line garden journal including some more detail on the Bellis Perennis project!

Thank you for reading.

Humbly, Benny

And now some photos of what is blooming now:

Wall Flowers. I am so happy these came up in beautiful masses this year. There is orange everywhere!

Wall Flowers. I am so happy these came up in beautiful masses this year. There is orange everywhere!

Tulip blooming in the side garden near the right fence. Gorgeous red!

Tulip blooming in the side garden near the right fence. Gorgeous red!

This is a bit of a fun photo. This is a macro shot of a little light globe  that is staked in one of the larger pots under my pergola

This is a bit of a fun photo. This is a macro shot of a little light globe that is staked in one of the larger pots under my pergola

One of my favorite flowers! The humble yet glorious forget-me-not. I love this flower and they are coming up nicely here and there all over the garden.

One of my favorite flowers! The humble yet glorious forget-me-not. I love this flower and they are coming up nicely here and there all over the garden.

Faded daffodil bloom. I believe there is beauty even in death and this to me is just beautiful.

Faded daffodil bloom. I believe there is beauty even in death and this to me is just beautiful.

Emerging Penstemon. I could not resist taking this photo. The way the leaves are contorted as they emerge created an amazing design.

Emerging Penstemon. I could not resist taking this photo. The way the leaves are contorted as they emerge created an amazing design.

Emerging Bee Balm. This plant is also coming up everywhere. Welcome hummingbirds!

Emerging Bee Balm. This plant is also coming up everywhere. Welcome hummingbirds!

Dried Leaf. I wanted to snap this before it fell victim to my clean up efforts.

Dried Leaf. I wanted to snap this before it fell victim to my clean up efforts.

Talavera Day of the Dead Pot. This is just a fun photo I wanted to include. I bought this from my local nursery and it was the only one of its kind. Many folks passing by complimented this as I was shopping. Gorgeous pot!

Talavera Day of the Dead Pot. This is just a fun photo I wanted to include. I bought this from my local nursery and it was the only one of its kind. Many folks passing by complimented this as I was shopping. Gorgeous pot!

Side profile of daffodil petals. I love the artistic nature of this photo.

Side profile of daffodil petals. I love the artistic nature of this photo.

Can you feel it?

16mar2016Sensations

Sight

Phacelia tanacetifolia lacy rosettes
Day lily shoots poking through in the whiskey barrels
Daffodil shoots
Strawberry leaves
Hollyhock leaves
Viola flowers
A sun rising earlier and setting later each day
A brightness foretelling glorious warm days to come

touch

Sweet, embracing, comforting warm air
Energy flowing through the ground
Dried flower heads crackling between the fingers to release its seeds
Soft viola leaves
The warming earth

sound

Stereophonic bird song
Dried grasses dancing in the wind
Seed heads rubbing against the rocks

smell

The wet earthly aroma of the ground heaving off its winter blanket
The remnants of the autumn leaves offering themselves to the earth
Sweet violas

taste

The tanginess of the first chives brave enough to emerge early

Prunus armeniaca, Armenian Plum in bloom at Denver Botanic Gardens

Prunus armeniaca, Armenian Plum in bloom at Denver Botanic Gardens

Spring, the vernal equinox is finally upon us and the doldrums of winter will soon be a memory. I say doldrums because ultimately this is how winter is perceived. I personally do not believe this but instead believe winter to be the necessary stillness and quiet our garden needs to prepare itself for the growing season ahead. It is a stillness and quiet we all need to restore our minds and our bodies.

The moment I walk out the door my eyes capture little leaves emerging seemingly everywhere. I walk to the pots near the outside table and already see small leaves perhaps belonging to a viola or hopefully a petunia. I am leaning more toward the viola though.

Interlude:

It was Alice Morse Earle who wrote about the viola being the first flower of the garden to greet you in the spring before most others. I realize this is long but here is the exact passage. I just love the way she goes on about this flower for her thoughts mimic my own as far as the excitement of seeing this flower show up seemingly out of nowhere in the bitter cold:

For several years the first blossom of the new year in our garden was
neither the Snowdrop nor Crocus, but the Ladies’ Delight, that laughing,
speaking little garden face, which is not really a spring flower, it is
a stray from summer; but it is such a shrewd, intelligent little
creature that it readily found out that spring was here ere man or other
flowers knew it. This dear little primitive of the Pansy tribe has
become wonderfully scarce save in cherished old gardens like those of
Salem, where I saw this year a space thirty feet long and several feet
wide, under flowering shrubs and bushes, wholly covered with the
everyday, homely little blooms of Ladies’ Delights. They have the
party-colored petal of the existing strain of English Pansies, distinct
from the French and German Pansies, and I doubt not are the descendants
of the cherished garden children of the English settlers. Gerarde
describes this little English Pansy or Heartsease in 1587 under the name
of Viola tricolor:–

“The flouers in form and figure like the Violet, and for the most
part of the same Bignesse, of three sundry colours, purple, yellow
and white or blew, by reason of the beauty and braverie of which
colours they are very pleasing to the eye, for smel they have
little or none.”

In Breck’s Book of Flowers, 1851, is the first printed reference
I find to the flower under the name Ladies’ Delight. In my
childhood I never heard it called aught else; but it has a score
of folk names, all testifying to an affectionate intimacy: Bird’s-eye;
Garden-gate; Johnny-jump-up; None-so-pretty; Kitty-come; Kit-run-about;
Three-faces under-a-hood; Come-and-cuddle-me; Pink-of-my-Joan;
Kiss-me; Tickle-my-fancy; Kiss-me-ere-I rise; Jump-up-and-kiss-me.
To our little flower has also been given this folk name,
Meet-her-in-the-entry-kiss-her-in-the-buttery, the longest
plant name in the English language, rivalled only by Miss
Jekyll’s triumph of nomenclature for the Stonecrop, namely:
Welcome-home-husband-be-he-ever-so-drunk.

These little Ladies’ Delights have infinite variety of expression; some
are laughing and roguish, some sharp and shrewd, some surprised, others
worried, all are animated and vivacious, and a few saucy to a degree.
They are as companionable as people–nay, more; they are as
companionable as children. No wonder children love them; they recognize
kindred spirits. I know a child who picked unbidden a choice Rose, and
hid it under her apron. But as she passed a bed of Ladies’ Delights
blowing in the wind, peering, winking, mocking, she suddenly threw the
Rose at them, crying out pettishly, “Here! take your old flower!”

Here are images of my own violas.

viola3

viola

viola2

As I finish this entry, it is cold outside as a front comes in from the west bringing in cooler air and hopefully some moisture. The temperatures will warm again though and so it will go. I have completed some tasks such as spreading some prairie seed in new beds at the top of the garden and also planting my anemones. I will discuss that more in the next edition. Until then, here is what is coming up now:

Tulips planted beneath a spruce tree

Tulips planted beneath a spruce tree

Brave little vinca flowers planted beneath a lot from a downed olive tree.

Brave little vinca flowers planted beneath a lot from a downed olive tree.

Silver lace vine leaves. I hope they don't shrivel up in the pending cold temps.

Silver lace vine leaves. I hope they don’t shrivel up in the pending cold temps.

One of my favorite spring bulbs -- iris reticulata! Love that blue!

One of my favorite spring bulbs — iris reticulata! Love that blue!

Potentilla leaves. Planted also beneath the spruce tree.

Potentilla leaves. Planted also beneath the spruce tree.

Flax leaves also beneath the spruce.

Flax leaves also beneath the spruce.

Day Lily shoots emerging from the whiskey barrels.

Day Lily shoots emerging from the whiskey barrels.

A chive bud

A chive bud

Aspen Catkin! Don't you just love it when the aspens flower?

Aspen Catkin! Don’t you just love it when the aspens flower?

One more of an aspen catkin.

One more of an aspen catkin.

I thank you for reading and until next time many blessings and happy gardening!

Just Being Nature’s Friend

gj_date25sep2015I am not your atypical gardener. My garden is not neat nor tidy and has many flaws. These are not the hypercritical flaws that only a perfectionist could point out but more of the “I let weeds grow in certain areas” type of flaws. I grow clover everywhere and pray it will replace my grass one day. Dandelions have a spot as do certain thistles. A “weed” has to become much of a nuisance (pigweed for example) before I will pull it. Some things just get too invasive if left to their own devices. It can be argued that dandelions are very invasive to let stay. In the defense of dandelions, I consider it a crop as the leaves are extremely nutritious.

Interlude
Dandelion leaves are perhaps the most nutritious green you can eat. They are packed with antioxidants and the health benefits are proven. More on that in another post.

dandelion_bowl

To add to all my idiosyncrasies, I grow certain plants for the sole purpose of being eaten – typically by caterpillars. When living in Tucson, I grew a passion flower vine native to the desert southwest of Arizona just to have it eaten by gulf frit larvae. The vines expected this however and once they were defoliated, they grew more leaves and along came more gulf frits and so the cycle went. I would never consider spraying butterfly caterpillars nor remove their larvae, etc. My garden is a reclaimed habitat for those that have been displaced.

This year I grew many host plants and the bounty of insects that arrived was a sort of homecoming I will forever cherish. First it was the ladybugs that swarmed to the yarrow and the Queen Anne’s lace. Every gardener wants ladybugs to visit their garden and yet few realize it is a simple process of including plants they love for food and raising young. My next visitor I am happy to say was the black swallowtail who by all sheer joys proceeded to lay eggs on my dill.

Interlude
For reasons that elude me, I have had difficulty in the past growing dill. I don’t know why but this year, many varieties came up including the mammoth dill. It is on this dill that the female black swallowtail decided this would be a great place to lay her eggs. I was excited to harvest the dill for myself but once I realized this was a host plant for this magnificent butterfly, I let them enjoy it instead.

dill

During a casual morning of routine watering, I looked down and there were the caterpillars in various stages of growth. Most were in their first and second instar stages. In a flash, I had full grown caterpillars decimating my dill plant to bare stems. I loved every moment of it. Here are some photographs:

black_swallowtail_3rd_instar

black_swallowtail_full_grown

black_swallowtail_third_instar

black_swallowtail_2nd_instar

As quickly as they arrived, they were gone. I would really love to know where they wandered to pupate. I never saw a single chrysalis. I was told by a fellow gardener that they are camouflaged so well that I could be staring right at one and not even realize. I just pray they all emerged and are on their way to somewhere warm.

My friends, the garden is our solace and of course we want it to look its best. Saying that, our gardens are more than just the beds, the shrubs and the décor. They are home to many critters and with habitats disappearing at an alarming rate, wouldn’t it be great to give back to nature by being a friend to all. I am not saying to welcome the aphids or sawfly larvae with open arms but perhaps those creatures that benefit us in one way or another should be welcomed.

Perhaps next year, you can grow some dill or parsley (plants from the carrot family) so to attract the black swallowtail, some Queen Anne’s Lace for the ladybugs, milkweed for the monarchs and the list goes on and on. It is easy to be nature’s friend.

I thank you kindly for reading. I apologize for the lack of entries. If I can offer any defense, it is because I have been too busy gardening. Saying that, the season is winding down and I hope to post many articles highlighting all the miracles I witnessed. Blessings to you and yours and happy gardening!

Equinox to Solstice

20July2015I think of springtime and the words I left behind. I see the images now reeling in my mind. Greens of all shades and life springing forth. Now with summer, those images have evolved into various oranges, reds and yellows. Summertime.

When I woke this morning the sun was shining in my eyes and returning again were the words I left behind. Making the most of time is in art form itself. The ground thawed, the clover sprouted, the daffodils came and went and projects needed to be done. Summertime.

My life is made of all the things I find beautiful. Summertime.

Autumn is edging its way ever forward and I still cannot find my feet. Would you agree to meet me summertime? Summertime.

The tasks mounted and I would give to them all my time. The sun was shining on my face and the tasks at times seed rather insurmountable. Summertime.

I sat and left the cravings for more tasks far behind. I enjoyed and listened and smelled and engorged on summertime.

Would the love given to the planting of a seed bring forth all the things I had dreamed? Would it fade as some plants are already starting to do? I would like some lemonade. Summertime.

I walked into the clover and grass with the snap of sandals and mowed it into submission. The flowers that began drying exhausted from the sun are dead headed. Such a fancy sort of life. I will give to you all I can. Summertime.

My eyes grew heavy at the end of day. I tried to stand but I could not find my feet. There was a familiar line emerging from all corners of the garden. Sit, enjoy, love, appreciate. This is for you. Summertime.

The rains have been a blessing and I could take some time off from irrigation. I give to you extra when you need it though. Here, some amendments, here and there. The sun is shining in your eyes now and it is at its strongest. Summertime.

I have a craving for the lazy days now. Oh, yes. I shall rest. Summertime.

First colors of spring

Sensational Cosmos and Enchanting Christmas Cactus

Author’s Note:

First, please forgive the amount of time since my last post. Next, as you will soon read, this post was written in late March. I have many more things to write about but wanted to get this posted. Thank you so kindly for reading.

30_Apr_2015Despite the cold winter, there has been a lot of indoor gardening, and the idea of this particular article has been floating around since November when the Christmas cactus proliferated in bloom. It truly was enchanting but more on that in a bit.

Spring EquinoxIt is the eve of the vernal equinox and I am taking pause to allow for some rumination. In my last entry I spoke of summer giving way to autumn and the eventuality of winter. Not only is autumn over but winter is also officially over as well. Five months, just like that. An equinox and another solstice, finished. I love all the seasons as each provides nourishment for the soul, but I suppose my order of preference would be the autumn equinox, the winter solstice, the vernal equinox, and then the summer solstice. I love cold and the peace that accompanies the short winter days. I love the snow and how it provides the perfect blanket for the slumbering plants. And now, today, a new season is about to begin. The snow has receded and all around, the soil is bursting forth with life. I shall devote an entire entry to the celebration of the vernal equinox but for now I wish to share my thoughts on two incredible plants that deserve celebration.

sensational_cosmos
Drifting oceans of pink sway in the wind as the sun glances upon their perfect flowers. Immediately and significantly the swathes of cosmos sensation I planted from seed have lived up to their namesake by inducing a sensation of appreciation of their old world beauty.

The back border makes one perfect home for this plant, or if you have the space, you could incorporate this into your wildflower patch. Regardless, this for me is one of the more friendly summer annuals. I have seen these naturalized in fields as well as in the English cottage garden and in either setting, they stand tall begging to be noticed but are not so imposing as to overshadow the other beautiful plants and flowers around them.

I am instantly attracted to any flower that has an open face similar to a daisy, and couple that with the fern-like foliage and you have a plant that is a must for the summer border or grown en masse on their own. These flowers greeted me in the garden until the first hard frost came and I shall be forever thankful for blessing me with their beauty throughout the season.

Photos of the incredible, versatile Cosmos Sensation. I have applied some artistic filters to these images and I hope you like what I have done. Any and all of the images on this site can be purchased. For details, please email webmaster (@) bennysplace (dot) com and indicate what photo you are interested in, size, etc.

Christmas Cactus

Admittedly, I have not had much luck with growing Christmas cactus indoors. For whatever reason, previous specimens became unwieldy and tattered looking. Worse yet, once the initial bloom had finished, I rarely saw flowers again. Fast forward a few years and I was given a combination of different colors in one pot. The specimen was indeed beautiful and full of gorgeous blooms but previous experience prevented me from becoming overly attached to the plant.

After its initial bloom, I repotted it, removed the spent flowers and thought to myself, well, let’s see what happens. As winter faded into spring and spring into summer, the plant itself thrived and I allowed myself to become hopeful.

Then, it happened . . .

Just before Thanksgiving the following year, there were buds abound on this lovely plant and I let my excitement get the better of me. I had a thriving Christmas Cactus! It is important to note that in its native habitat, Christmas cacti grow within rock crevices and on tree trunks and branches, so a large pot is not needed but moisture is. In my previous attempts at growing this plant, I treated it as a succulent that required little to no water. Also, because in their native environment, they are shaded by a canopy of leaves, I moved my thriving specimen out of the direct sun and now I think it is perfectly content. So much so that I am about to get some more blooms! This time, white.

The enchanting Christmas Cactus gallery. Enjoy!

As time passes I hope to write more features on specific plants. I thank you all for reading, and until next time which I promise will be very soon – Happy Gardening!

Summer Lamentations

20Oct2014I surreptitiously slip in softly, quietly, gliding along the winds of spring. The last remnants of cold and winter soon become just a fleeting memory.

Spring O! spring! What a vibrant, multi-colored tapestry you have woven! I offer all this precious new life my protection with my warmth and long days.

Heraldry! No other mornings compare to the aubades sung with such fervor by the growing numbers of my winged followers.

My fiery sun glowing strong provides all the radiant heat welcomed by the earth below.

Days o’ days. They are long, lazy and meandering which is the intent. The rising moon graces the sky albeit briefly before my sun chases it away to bask the earth in glorious splendor.

Life is flourishing, life is everywhere, life is inescapable, life is alive with love, passion and energy. Emerge my children and let me cradle you in my warmth. Sleep in peace secure in knowing you are safe.

Days o’ days passing without care, breeding happiness, excitement and laughter all the while. My strength continues to grow as does everything beneath me. My personal flowers, O! Flowers of faith, you are bounding each day only to ready yourselves for your days of endless adulation.

sunflowersHelianthus annuus they have called you. You are the embodiment of the season. You reach higher and higher, yearning to be closer to me. We were once one, you and me and so we will be again.

SHEER JOY! The virtues of patience have paid off and the day has come! Your blooms have opened and with each passing minute, your face sways, turning and contorting so that we may look into each other’s eyes until I drop out of view.

Beauty is fading. Your days are expiring and as the finches come to feast upon your leaves, your precious blooms begin to wither. I am fading too it seems. The solstice has come and gone.

Preparations of moving on. My freshness of youth is transforming into something more mature as I feel myself losing my reign with each passing hour, day and week.

Soon there will be nothing left of me but a memory.

Your flowers are gone now but you have procured enough nutrients to gather seed. Prolific you shall be when a new season comes around again. A year. Annuus.

The dog days are here and in protest I shower all below with a heat not as yet known this season. Fiery blasts upon the earth as I lament my inevitable passing.

The earth turns are constant. Days o’ days. I am forced to let go. The dog days are over now. The footsteps of the autumn equinox are drawing nearer until the inevitable day when we meet face to face.

Grinning shyly, I bow gracefully knowing I must be off to bless another part of the earth as a new spring in a different land approaches. Perpetual motion. As I bid the northern lands adieu, I embrace the southern lands. Cycles.

The land ever coaxing prompts me to stay as long as I can but autumn is waiting patiently and with her arrival comes the much needed preparation for another type of solstice – winter. One of shortened days and much needed rest. Autumn’s hands are careful and intentional as her winds summon the northern winds. Colder nights, shorter days. She sees winter approaching and knows she has much work to do before her arrival.

I cannot maintain my protection much longer and with each passing evening, I feel myself slipping further. Frosts have already fallen upon the land like a blanket as if to say, shhhhh, it is time for sleep.

Life is fading, drifting wearily and preparing for protection against the cold. Shutting down. Life functions become slower, disciplined and minimized to the bare essentials.

The clocks, ticking in unison all point to my hour of departure and I shall leave grandly with a fiery exit. Your pleas have not gone unnoticed; O! Beautiful creations! Let this be my final gift in honor of autumn. The fiery colors of my palette I shall infuse into all the leaves of all the plants below. Emblazoned now below the autumnal sun are the tones of earth, fire and sun setting the world alight with an elaborate fireworks display. Take solace, breathe in the cooler, stiller air, reflect and prepare for rest.

As my robust, energetic, invigorating, warm days end and new days of frost, cold and stillness begin,

Summer has become autumn
Young has become old
Then has become now

I leave you with your memories.

Images of Autumn. Please click on any of the thumbnails below to start sideshow. Thank you.

Images of the Garden in Late Summer. Please click on any of the thumbnails below to start sideshow. Thank you.

Breed Life in Your Garden

2_oct_2014All too often, the first thing a person thinks of when wanting to control weeds and pests in the garden is to reach for a chemical solution. Insecticides for the bugs and chemical weed killers for the “weeds”. I would like to urge you to try some alternatives. Gardening in its very nature is to offer some sort of “control” as to what grows and inhabits our outdoor living areas. Despite our best efforts, this is not always possible. There are some things you should keep in mind though.

If you allow the aphids to infest your rose for a little while, soon the lady birds, lacewings and praying mantis will come along and get rid of them. However if you go out and spray that rose with an insecticide you will stop nature in its tracks. Yes, you will get rid of the aphids but you will also get rid of any beneficial insects that happen to be around as well. While this offers a short term solution to the problem, you could end up doing more harm than good.

When I first started gardening, I was horrified by the amount of pests that were out there eager to destroy everything I worked so hard to create. Slugs where reducing plants to stems, roses were becoming deformed because of the aphid damage, caterpillars were turning the beautiful foliage into a patchwork of holes. The first thought I had was this has to stop! I went to the gardening center and purchased insecticides, slug pellets and anything else that looked “good” to rid my garden of all the evil little uninvited guests. I sprayed the sprays and spread the pellets and yes, the pests disappeared after a short time. Then I noticed something. There were no butterflies, not so many birds, no lady birds and very few bees. That was not the worst of it. When removing some garden debris, I found a dead bird. It had eaten one of the slugs that I poisoned. I killed it. That was the very last day I used any sort of chemical in my garden. I sought out alternatives.

I purchased some lady bird houses which came with attractant along with some slug traps. I was ridding pests the natural way. No chemicals Soon the pests came back again but then so did the predators to kill the pests. I was trapping slugs and snails in my traps by the dozens, aphids were disappearing as lady birds and lacewings colonized to stop the little monsters in their tracks, birds were reappearing as were the bees. Let me assure you there are few greater pleasures in a gardener’s life than when they can sit back in their favorite chair and bear witness to all the life that can inhabit a garden — spider silk blowing in the wind, birds by the dozens, bees pollinating, flies darting, lady birds landing on your knee and the list goes on. When we garden we should perhaps look beyond the plants and flowers and truly breed life in every form.

I would like to ask that if you are opting for chemical solutions that you reconsider and try alternatives. I think you will be happier with the result.

To get started, I ask that you please consider visiting the Planet Natural site and Facebook page. This company is an absolutely wonderful resource when it comes to gardening naturally. Please note, I am not affiliated with them in any way and received no compensation to recommend them; I am just a customer who buys their products and can say without reservation the products work.

Image Credit:
The image is from Wikimedia Commons. Here is a link to the photographer.

We Need Some Plants There

11_Sep_2014From age 10 through age 18, I lived in a modular home in the small town of Mountain View, Wyoming. Although my parents owned the plot of land where our home was, they never did anything with it. The yard was full of rocks and the only plants that grew were hard stubbly grass and of course dandelions. I remember that some of our neighbors actually grew things in their yards. Some even had proper gardens with snow peas and flowers and I knew then how important it was to beautify the outside of your home just as you would the inside.

I did not try to persuade my parents to grow plants or flowers. Instead I went about growing my own. Please bear in mind I was only ten and my resources were limited of how and what I could grow. I knew that when the dandelions were no longer yellow and instead little puffs of white, that the things that blew off were in fact seeds. I went around and gathered up as many seeds as I could fit in my little hands. I then went about digging a hole with an old shovel and at the same time clearing out rocks near the side of the house. I couldn’t dig very far because the ground was extremely hard. I put all the seeds I gathered into a neat row in the hole I dug. I then buried them. I went into the house, got a glass of water and watered them and continued to water them daily after that.

I can not recall how long it took the seeds to sprout but I would like to say two weeks. I do remember how excited I was when I saw green poking through the dirt. For me, there are not many life experiences that compare to the excitement of helping something grow from a seed to a plant. It is magical. You start out with little fluffy seeds, you bury them, water them and before long you have brand new plants emerging from the ground. I loved my little row of dandelions. Yes, I realized this was only a “weed” but I helped these particular “weeds” grow.

Every day I would rest on my elbows and take a mental note of how much they were growing. I always made sure they were watered and they thanked me by getting bigger. After some time had gone by, I was blessed with flowers. I remember taking one of the flowers and putting it in a book so I could have it forever. I of course don’t have the book any longer but it would sure be great if I did.

As the weeks turned into months, I was quite pleased with myself. What started out as a rocky barren piece of ground in front of the house now had several dandelions growing and thriving. When winter came, they would die back but would return again in spring in larger numbers.

And now some photos from the garden. I hope you do not mind but I got a bit artistic with some of these. I thank you for reading and until next time, happy gardening!

Dandelion seed head isolated on artistic background.

The humble dandelion in seed.

Violas in bloom. Post processing includes scratching and lavender overlay

Viola with lavender effect

Hummingbird enjoying the penstemon blooms

Heavenly Hummingbird

sunflower seedling with cloud effects

Heavenly sunflower seedling

Poppy flower with artistic post processing

Artistic Poppy

Red Yarrow

Bright Red Yarrow

Will It Rain Today?

gj_16JulyYes, actually, it will and has done so off and on for the last week. This in itself is a blessing. I have once again the unintended miniature pond I spoke about in my last blog post all the way back in September. Funny that the last blog post I managed to create was when we were having so much rain and here I am again writing when the rain is plentiful.

Prior to last week, it was not so plentiful and the idea for this blog post has been one that was formulated as I sat staring at my garden — thirsty, begging for water. Grass, non-native perennials, vegetables, etc. It does not help that my garden is sloped which makes watering a tricky task to say the least. That aside, I began to contemplate the very life force that made my garden….. a garden. WATER. I think constantly and by that I mean, several times a day every day about water. It is the life giving force on our planet and I become so exasperated when it is taken for granted. It seems some of our fellow travelers on this planet do not give a second thought when it comes to littering or what it means to have pure, clean water. So long as a faucet can be turned on and this precious liquid flows freely, there is not much more to think about or so it may seem.

As I was saying, I sat staring at my garden and I thought of the moral aspects of tending a flower garden. I do grow a few vegetables and herbs, it is true but nothing substantial and if I am being honest, these plants are not nearly as cared for as my non-edible plants. As such, my contemplative self realized I am using up precious water for mostly aesthetics. This plagues my conscience and it is something I must reconcile in some way. This growing season is just about half over so there is not much sense in changing everything now though it is tempting. Gears are grinding though and already I am formulating a plan to ease my conscience and my dependency on supplemental water.

First, I believe I should reverse my habits and focus on growing more vegetables and fruits. This way any water I use is for something substantial and life supporting. I know I can convert many of my planting areas for this purpose and with proper mulching, etc., I could use very little water that does not fall from the sky. I have a 70 gallon water barrel and when there is a good amount of rain, I ensure I am out there filling up five gallon buckets so I can almost double the amount of water I am saving. As I type, my barrel is full as are ten five gallon buckets along with eight three gallon watering cans. I have not had to run the sprinkler system for the week it has been raining and that is a blessing.

The cool temperatures that have brought this bounty of moisture will soon end and with it, my supplies of water will also run out. To top it off, in a week I will have to run the sprinklers again to keep that grass green. Oh yes, I am making strides there by trying to replace grass with varieties of clover. Interesting note here — once, in the not so distant past, lawns were PRIMARILY clover in arid areas (of which Colorado is definitely one of those areas). Then, folks started moving around and upon arrival to new destinations — that may or may not receive the same amount of moisture — they brought along their desire for grass lawns and so it began. I digress but will write more on that subject later.

I am sitting near the window as I create this entry and gazing out at the garden I am condemning. Thunder is rolling, small drops of water are falling from the sky and that beautiful cloudy diffused light is gently illuminating my creation. I do see some plants that would suffer in my quest to wean myself from supplemental irrigation but I am now realizing that I do have a lot of water smart plants. Let’s consider this entry a preface of a new evolutionary step in my garden. As days pass, I will monitor what does and does not do well with supplemental irrigation. Plants may have to be replaced but if I am half the gardener I think I am, I should be able to come up with ways to mulch and cultivate the earth so I can enjoy the beauty I so long for. The grass is a different animal altogether however and should my clover experiment not pan out, well, it has to go.

What are your thoughts on this? I would love to hear from you.

Until next time, blessings to you all and happy gardening!

And now some photos:

Cyanotype Pansies

Cyanotype Pansies

Penstemon Leaves in Sepia

Penstemon Leaves in Sepia

Spotlight on Geranium Flower

Spotlight on Geranium Flower

Elderberry Flowers

Elderberry Flowers