Well now, it seems I have once again been remiss in keeping this blog up to date. Take this post for example. It was actually completed back in February. I really need to step it up and update this blog in a more timely fashion. With that said, thank you for reading and thank you for your patience!
Originally written February 7th 2018
It always happens around this time every year – right around the time of my birthday. The winds are shifting, the days are staying awake longer and the sun is warming the earth. As in all previous years, I see signs of life. Already, daffodils are beginning to poke through, the flax is greening up, irises are poking through and insects are darting about. Yet, it is still only February and just the beginning of February at that.
Spring officially returns March 21st but here, in my little Rocky Mountain garden we will be flirting with winter well into the third week of May – typically. I mean, this could be an off year but I won’t be planting anything that doesn’t like the cold until after Mother’s Day. Just like The Who once lamented … I won’t be fooled again.
On this glorious day of days, I am afforded the opportunity to just sit outside. I wish you – you being any kind soul who happens upon these words and reads them – could be here sitting with me now, outside under my pergola, on my dusty, dirty chair and enjoying this quiet… this solitude.. this moment with me. Perhaps I would make us some iced tea. That does sound good and I was halfway tempted to stop writing this post and go inside and make some but this white tea I have is so strong, I find the effects of the caffeine to be too long lasting. So, perhaps, if you were here, I would make an iced tea but some sort of herbal blend. Hibiscus perhaps.
Oh, the GLORY! The sun is warming my aching bones and I can feel the healing transformation. There is a breeze and it is cool but not cold. It is blowing my wind chime about. Don’t you just love the sound of wind chimes? I would love to have them all over my garden. This one above me is a soprano chime so I quite fancy a bass or alto chime to accompany it.
As each day lengthens and warms, already I am feeling it. If you are here, reading this post, you must be a gardener of some sort or at least someone mildly interested in making something of a bit of earth, or container or something along those lines. I say this because if you have any appreciation for the natural world and how it invigorates the gardener, you know what the ‘it’ is.
“It” is abstract in form and changes with each passing day. “It” is a desire, a passion, a longing and a purest form of love. “It” is what is inside me, you and well, everyone really. “It” is what makes me feel alive. “It” is the perfection of a connection that is discovered – and not by accident. In my life, there are only a few core desires that equate to need. Beyond the tangible, the “it” for me is to sink my hands inside the warming earth, letting it slip through my fingers – but not before inhaling its aroma and mold it into something beautiful. It is this love I breathe into it that produces a garden.
My friends, I thank you so kindly for reading. Please accept my apologies as always for any and all delays in between posts.
Until next time, I wish you all the very best of all things. May this day and all days be blessed. Happy Gardening!
Please enjoy these photos of my Rocky Mountain garden in February:
I have just come in from a garden much different than the one I will be talking about in this week’s post. There are so many tasks to complete in the spring garden. I leave all the dead growth as is until winter releases its grasp. I like to imagine that by doing this, I am providing the resting plants blankets of sorts. When the frigid temperatures arrive, the once lush green dies and the stems turn all shades of golden yellow and brown. When the snow falls (of which there was not much to be had this year), the stems break and the cozy blanket is formed. Come spring, all this dead growth is in the way and must be cut back not only to allow for the new growth to poke through but also to beautify the garden a bit.
The dead growth may provide a sort of beauty in texture when contrasted with the white of the snow of winter but in the spring garden, it is an eyesore. And, so, the work continues. It seems that no matter how much I trim back (asters, mums, roses, borage, tansy, cone flowers, mints, etc.) there seems to be so much more left. I am getting there though – or at least I like to think I am. I guess I could be ruthless and just grab everything, yank it out, bag it and then smooth over the dirt but this is not my style. Further, if I were to do this, I would run the risk of ripping out the new seedlings (when it comes to self-seeding annuals) or (and I did this today by accident) rip out the new growth of a perennial. I was cutting away some gray, decaying borage when I grabbed a hold of what I thought was a dried borage stem but it was my globe mallow! I ripped it clean out and I noticed the tiny leaves at the base. “Oh no!” I exclaimed. But then I wondered what the plant actually was. It had a longish, horizontal stem. “That’s right! The Mallow” When I bought it, it had a long horizontal stem so I planted the whole thing along that horizontal edge in hopes little babies would spring from it. Well, my hopes have been realized but since it was completely unearthed, I hope I did not cause it too much harm. This is a VERY hardy plant so I am hopeful.
I have a very funny way of working in the garden. I will clear a bit but then I notice a pot that needs to have the soil churned. Once I get it cleared of old growth and roots and have all the soil within smooth and ready for planting, I grab some seeds (borage and mints are a favorite), remove my gloves and create my little rows with my bare fingers. There is nothing like the feel of cool, freshly prepared garden soil. I will often bury my hand deep within a pot searching for rogue root balls from last year’s annuals and then bring a whole handful to my nose where I then I inhale deeply. The aroma is so glorious! With my gloves still off, I will often notice some rogue dried plants that need clearing so without putting the gloves on again I will grab them all and break them up. This results in some very chaffed and cut up hands. I currently have some raspberry hairs in my fingertips not to mention the borage hairs. It’s okay though as this is all part of being connected to my little bit of earth so therefore no complaints. Well, the hairs are irritating if I am being honest. I have some wonderful gardener’s scrubbing soap that I bought from Botanical Interests. It is textured with poppy seeds so I will pause this post for now to really scrub my fingertips in hopes of getting some of these plant hairs to dislodge.
I am back and this exercise was pretty successful. Most if not all of the embedded hairs appear to be gone. This is a great soap!
I have learned over time to not underestimate Mother Nature during the spring months in Colorado. We can enjoy a week of beautiful weather in the mid 70’s and then, in an instant, it can change. The mercury can drop 30 – 40 degrees and then instead of the April rain showers, we get snow – heavy, wet snow. This happened a couple weeks ago and instead of stressing, I just let nature take its course. Usually I would be in a panic – “What about the daffodils! They will break! And the tender foliage emerging… The snow will flatten and ruin everything!” Well, let me just say, this storm did damage many a daffodil and yes, there were some plants completely flattened by the wet snow but they are bouncing back and in the end, my blood pressure was none the worse for wear.
I need to move beyond the tendency to mollycoddle my garden. Either the plants will survive or they won’t. With this concept in mind I really need to steer clear of plants that are not meant for my region. If I stick with natives (or hardy plants capable of surviving the unpredictability of the Colorado climate) I will have a much easier time of it. Not only would these types of plants adapt to our dry weather but they would also have sense enough to leaf out when they should and survive accordingly. Like most gardeners though, I am often tempted by all the beautiful plants on display at my local nursery but I am resisting these temptations this year. I mentioned in an earlier post I am growing a lot of my own plants from seed this year – hardy vegetables and annuals. This coupled with my existing water-smart perennials, I should be able to enjoy the garden more without fussing over it as much and worrying about hail, dry weather and the like. As time goes by, I will convert the entire garden to water-smart, xeriscape and other hardy varieties of plants and MAYBE, I can get to the point where I don’t even have to run the sprinklers. As I think of my pending water bills I realize how nice that truly would be.
For anyone trying to make something out of a little bit of earth – whether as a gardener or as a farmer, we find ourselves at the mercy of nature. Drought, hail, winds, late snows, early snows, sudden frosts, extreme heat, pests, opportunistic ‘weeds’ and the like can test the patience of a saint. And yet, through it all, we continue, we persevere, we learn and in the end, it is WE that adapt.
I thank you very kindly from my heart for reading the posts on this blog. It is my strongest desire that after you read my words, I have inspired you in some way to make something out of a bit of earth. A bit of earth – this reminds me of Mary Lennox in the ‘Secret Garden’ thus I will leave you with these words. Until next time, many blessings and Happy Gardening!
“Might I,” quavered Mary, “might I have a bit of earth?”
In her eagerness she did not realize how queer the words would sound and that they were not the ones she had meant to say. Mr. Craven looked quite startled.
“Earth!” he repeated. “What do you mean?”
“To plant seeds in–to make things grow–to see them come alive,” Mary faltered.
He gazed at her a moment and then passed his hand quickly over his eyes.
“Do you–care about gardens so much,” he said slowly.
“I didn’t know about them in India,” said Mary. “I was always ill and tired and it was too hot. I sometimes made little beds in the sand and stuck flowers in them. But here it is different.”
Mr. Craven got up and began to walk slowly across the room.
“A bit of earth,” he said to himself, and Mary thought that somehow she must have reminded him of something. When he stopped and spoke to her his dark eyes looked almost soft and kind.
“You can have as much earth as you want,” he said. “You remind me of some one else who loved the earth and things that grow. When you see a bit of earth you want,” with something like a smile, “take it, child, and make it come alive.”
“May I take it from anywhere–if it’s not wanted?”
“Anywhere,” he answered.
And now some photos from a winter’s garden in April
The wind blows gently but steadily throughout my winter garden. The chimes provide the melody while the swaying dried grasses create the chorus. There are still leaves blowing about the lawn and the patio seeking a home for the remainder of the winter. I leave them wherever they end up. They will hopefully find some place nice to settle in, sleep and transform. As they decay, they will provide much needed nutrients for the worms within the earth allowing for the cycle of life to complete. All summer they cleaned the air I breathe. Bits of flowing green gathering carbon, singing and dancing allowing the odd insect to have a nibble now and again. As the days grew shorter and the nights cooler, the roots sent the signal to the trunk who sent a signal to the leaves – it is time for rest. The leaves responded. Now, there are only a few clinging dried leaves on the trees but that will change.
It is days like today where I feel the pull to garden a bit stronger than usual. It got up to 65 today and I took a leisurely stroll through the entire garden. If Alice Morse Earle were here, she would be absolutely delighted by the viola blooms. I have two of them if you can believe it! Not to mention, there is a snap dragon beneath the cluster of aspens near the house that still has green leaves. How inspiring nature can be with her tenacity and fortitude.
I wanted to include this segment from Alice’s book “Old Time Gardens”. The words are so wonderful and beautifully characterizes this humble little plant.
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 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 booms 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 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.”
It is now nearly 4:30 in the late afternoon and I am sitting outside allowing the setting sun to wash against my face. I filled up all the bird feeders and a group of finches and nuthatches are darting about enjoying a feast of shelled sunflower seeds, whole sunflower seeds and a variety of nuts. In the distance a jay is calling out. Yes, I have food for you as well. Just come and look. I have a whole feeder of cracked corn and whole peanuts just waiting for you.
I went off topic a bit there. As I was saying, I took a leisurely stroll through the entire garden. Beyond the two little brave violas and snapdragons, verbascum leaves are popping up everywhere, the ajuga chocolate chip is also demonstrating its desire to wake from its winter slumber. Well, don’t be fooled my friend. The cold, bitter temperatures will return with a vengeance I am sure. Then again, we may get lucky as we sometimes do and the rest of the winter will be mild. The snow-in-summer leaves are gorgeous right now and they are faring wonderfully. The leaves on the early spring blooming phacelia have been pretty much evergreen. I am already looking for their gorgeous lavender clusters of flowers. Oh! Just near the ajuga and one of the small violas, I can see the tips of some bulbs! The only bulbs in this area are daffodils – unless a squirrel played gardener again. It is a bit early for them but still this provides an early reminder that spring will soon be here.
At the top of the garden in the water smart garden, the silver edged horehound is still green and of course the sedum is draping beautifully over the rocks. Under the kitchen window the dragon’s blood sedum and vinca have been enduring the cold and I know they are eager to stretch their legs a bit. At the bottom of the garden where a grove of bee balms grow, I was amazed by how perfect the creeping Veronica looks. Once those warm days and evenings arrive, I have much to look forward to with this plant.
The excitement is building and already I have visions of what I hope to see this spring and summer. Last year the anemone Coronaria provided me with some exquisite blooms. I did not remove the corms so I am hoping they will survive the winter though odds would suggest they won’t. The star attraction under the kitchen window where the vinca and sedum grow are the old fashioned irises. Last year I had plenty of foliage but no blooms. I am hoping to be greeted by fragrant blooms this year.
In my mind, I have a myriad of tasks to carry out and it won’t be long before I can get to work. In the interim, the sun is setting on this small winter garden so I should think about getting inside. I ordered some biodegradable pots from Botanical Interests today and when they arrive, I shall get some lobelia and peppers started and maybe a few herbs. I am getting a bit of a head start considering I won’t be able to put my plants into the earth until mid-May. No matter. They can grace the inside of the house with wonder as they emerge and grow all the while staring outside waiting for their day in the summer sun.
I thank you kindly for reading! Blessings to you all and happy gardening!
And now some more winter garden photos!