May I Live In Your Garden, Sir?

May I Live In Your Garden, Sir?

That may sound like a rather impertinent question, but it was indeed how I felt on Friday.  Except the “sir” in question was not a person, but rather a company, and the idea of actually living there would not be practical or allowable.  But it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Shelter Gardens, located in Columbia, Missouri, is just one of the ways Shelter Insurance® gives back to the community, and this month’s view is just the tip of the iceberg.  To help while away some time in between appointments, my recently retired friend J’Teena met me there, and we strolled the carefully tended grounds of the Gardens, a place I hadn’t visited in several years.  She waited patiently as I stopped repeated to take photos with my trusty iPhone, while I kept wishing I’d remembered to bring a better camera.  The redbud and dogwood trees were blooming, a few tulips and daffodils were still putting on a show, the rose bushes were leafing out with great promise, and the violet patch near the back was next to heavenly.  There were flowers blooming that I don’t know the names of (yet), but the pictures I snapped are preserving the images for later research.  It was an inspiration!

Many of the trees and plants are labeled, and we both felt amazed by the beauty of a very large bush with snowy-colored clumps of small white flowers.  “Korean Spice Viburnum” the tag read.  I immediately took a photo of that, just so I wouldn’t forget the name.  Among all the landscaping efforts I’ve made over the years, the category of bushes seems somehow to have been overlooked, but darned if I know why, and this specimen has me rethinking that approach.  The spicy-sweet scent was strong enough to attract us (and the bees, like last week’s apple blossoms!), but not overwhelming.  And whatever fertilizer they’re using over there, it’s working really well, because this bush could easily be mistaken for a small tree!

So today I’m thankful once again (or still) for all the spring things blooming around us.  Lilacs, violets, azaleas . . . I love them all.   I am thankful for a good friend who drove into town just to help me enjoy the day and catch up on what’s been going on in our lives.  I am thankful for companies who look for ways to “return the favor”, so to speak, to the customers, neighbors, and tourists who might have (or maybe will) support them.  And I’m thankful that I live in a place where all these wonders surround me.

What are you thankful for today?  Leave a comment and tell us about it!

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Do You See What I See?

Do You See What I See?

Here’s a guest post from my friend Melissa Yost.  It was meant to fill in while I was gone to Scotland, but I failed to follow through on pre-loading.  Thank you, Melissa, for contributing!

“Do You See What I See?”

Please do not be alarmed. This is not a big box retail store premature ejaculation of Christmas before the end of October, let alone Thanksgiving. I am a believer that Christmas begins with    Advent. This post could have easily been titled ‘You Say To-may-to, I say To-ma-to’. I am shamelessly taking advantage of the title to make two points. Bad me. But I digress.

I direct your attention to the photos above and below:

cascadethistle

Now, I ask you. What do you see? Fields of wild flowers or weeds. Nature in all its splendor and diversity or a blight on the face of a respectable suburban neighborhood worthy of numerous citations from local government agencies. I did not catch any photos of the Gold Finches taking advantage of the seeds nor the Swallowtail and Monarch butterflies sipping nectar. However, I think you can see where I’m going with this. I am proud to say, this is my yard.

By happy accident, I was unable to keep up with the demands of my large garden. I had no choice but to let some beds go wild. As a result, I have never had so many colors or drifts of blooms, the likes of which gardeners spend years cultivating. I did not water. I did not spray insecticides, fungicides or herbicides. I did not fertilize. The result is a pantheon of color and variety of huge proportions. My yard has never seen so many feathered or winged visitors.

As to those pesky village inspectors who have repeatedly cited and tried to fine me?  I finally put them in their place with two simple words:  Wildflowers and Nature-scaping. And as a daily reminder of nature’s bounty, and my own self-admitted contrary nature, I am rewarded with the sight of sunflowers gone wild on the sides of highways and roads, along with the thistles, chickweed and choke vine in my yard. And truth be told, even the rag weed is beautiful.

 

 

Got Hips?

Got Hips?

First of all, my apologies for being on hiatus so long without arranging for a sub or working up some posts in advance.  The reason was a worthy one, though:  the Trip of a Lifetime!  After more than two years of planning and saving and anticipation, my particular friend Peggy and I were super-fortunate to be able to take a 17-day vacation in historical, scenic Scotland.  It’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit, and each day was such a discovery.  Still floating!

The temperate weather and abundant rain lend their efforts to what must be a national devotion to gardening.  The flowers (like the castles and the churches, and the mountains and the lakes–er, lochs), were plentiful and amazing.  Along with a plethora of stone walls, there were more hedges than I ever imagined could grow in such a relatively small country, and many of those hedges were comprised of old-fashioned rose bushes.

If you’re not familiar with an old-fashioned rose, they’re similar to a multi-flora rose bush, with several blossoms grouped closely together on the stem.  The blooms open out a bit flat, since they don’t typically have a lot of petals, but the fragrance is rich and pleasing.  And if the flowers aren’t clipped for display, or pruned before this time of year, they produce their seeds in a round or oval-shaped pod called a “hip”.  The hips start out green, then turn yellow, then sometimes progress to a deep red or even burgundy or almost black, depending on the breed of plant.  Deer, rabbits, and squirrels have the common sense (or God-given instinct) to eat these morsels, which are full of Vitamins C and A, antioxidants and all sorts of other good stuff.

Provided that no chemical pesticides, herbicides or fungicides were used on the plant, we can enjoy the benefits of rose hips as well.  For centuries, they’ve been harvested for use in tea, jams and jellies, and even soup.  Rose hip oil is used in cosmetics and in ointments for treating burns and acne or scars.  They may be helpful in preventing cancer and treating arthritis.  The more I read about their various uses, the more I start to think I should plant a rose hedge of my own!

The pity is, that I didn’t harvest a sackful of the little things myself, when they were right in front of me, since 24 hours after our return, Peggy and I both turned out to have contracted a cold somewhere along the way.  All that Vitamin C from a good dose of rose hip tea might have helped.

Have you used rose hips?  Were they good, and did they accomplish what you hoped?  Let me know!

Roses in Scotland!

Surprise!

Surprise!

One of the first signs that Spring is on its way–sometimes even before I see the crocus buds peeking out of the dried leaves and mulch in the flower bed–is when the thin blades of the leaves of the Surprise Lily plant knife their way up through the brown of winter. An inch or so wide, and very thin, they stretch up a rich green, droop over, turn yellow, then brown, then disappear from sight. Just about the time that we’ve forgotten that they were ever there at all: Surprise!  The buds of the Lycoris Squamigera raise their heads.  The hollow round stems shoot up two-to-three feet into the air within just a couple of days, and the flowers open out to release their sweet, heady fragrance, which perfumes the air all around them.  It’s an annual event of which I never grow tired, and which never ceases to amaze me.

The Surprise Lily is known by many names:  Miracle Lily, Hurricane Lily, Resurrection Lily, Magic Lily, Pink Flamingo Flower, and even Naked Ladies, referring to the fact that the leaves are long gone before the flowers show.  One online site I read spelled it “Nekkid Ladies”, but I tend to agree with Jeff Foxworthy on that.  “Naked means you got no clothes on; Nekkid means you got no clothes on AND you up to something!”  And while these flowers are surely “up to” something spectacular, I don’t think that’s what Mr. Foxworthy meant.

Whatever you call them, though, they are a delight to see; in my own yard, in yards about town, and sometimes, just along the side of a road, where they truly are a surprise.  My sister was visiting from Texas one summer, and as Mother Nature would have it, she was just in time to see the yearly eruption of Surprise Lilies all over Missouri.

“We don’t have those in Texas,” she lamented.

“Why not?”  I asked  “They won’t grow there, or they just haven’t caught on?”  She didn’t know.

The next December I called a local garden center to ask if they sold the bulbs.  Indeed they did, saving me the trouble of digging around to locate and divide mine in the cold.  Eight of them, individually wrapped in paper towels, then tissue paper, made an interesting Christmas present to ship to Texas.  Sis and I were on the phone together when she removed the bow and the gift wrap and opened the box.  There was a long pause as she disrobed what must’ve looked like an oversized owl pellet. . . then a loud squeal . . . “SURPRISE!  Oh, you sent me SURPRISES!”  I’m not sure I’ve ever had so much fun out of one simple present.

Well, she planted the bulbs, and each spring she gets the leaves, but it’s been about four years now, and not a bloom to be seen.  So maybe they don’t thrive in Texas.  But maybe . . . just maybe . . . one of these summers I’ll get a call from my sister, or a text, or a photo, and it’ll begin:  “SURPRISE!”

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Bloom Where You’re Transplanted

Bloom Where You’re Transplanted

John Denver gained great popularity with his song “Country Roads” when I was just starting to pay a lot of attention to what got played on the AM stations.  Late in the summer nights, with the window sash raised to allow any stray breeze that might happen by to come through the screen, I would turn the volume really low on my little black plastic transistor radio, turning the dial on the side of the box up and down in search of a tune to help lull me to sleep.

“Country roads . . . . take me home . . . . to the place . . . . I belong . . . .”

Somehow, growing up in the suburbs, I was convinced that I was supposed to live in the country, on a farm.  Six of my cousins (two households, one from each side of my family) did just that, and my weekend and summertime visits in their homes are some of my fondest childhood memories.  “When I grow up,” I would think to myself, “I’m going to live on a farm.  Then I can be happy.”

As it turned out, that wish came true, and I’m still happy to be here, as you’ve maybe read here before.  It’s great to have goals and work toward achieving them, but what if things don’t fall into place within the timeline we’ve set in our heads?

Students tend to think:  “Oh, when I just get done with high school (or college, or finish my Master’s degree, etc.) then I’ll be content.”  But once they’ve done those things, and entered the workforce it’s “well, I just need one more promotion, then I can relax” or, “once I have met that special someone and settled down, then everything will be fine.”  We’re all looking for that Happily Ever After.  But life isn’t a Disney movie or a romance novel, and even with dedication and perseverance, we don’t always attain what we’ve set up as the ultimate goal.

Maybe some of your best work can be done right where you are today, rather than where you see yourself as having reached The Finish Line.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t dream.  Let’s keep the ideal existence as a potential for Someday, but in the meantime, how’s about we just slow down and enjoy the journey?  Sometimes, the view is breathtaking.

Williamson County, Tennessee

Williamson County, Tennessee

Wordless Wednesday #7

Wordless Wednesday #7

(actually, it’s still Tuesday, but give it a couple of hours . . .)

Lilac Time

Lilac Time

My Bradford Pear trees have finished blooming. In town today I saw several Redbuds in full color (it’s actually more of an orchid pink/purple color, but it would sound silly to say Orchid Pink/PurpleBuds, wouldn’t it?).  My apple trees have blossoms all over them, but the wind over these past two days has littered the ground with tiny white petals to the point that I wonder if they’ll get pollinated.  Another of my favorite things, however (see last week’s post for My Favorite Teacher!) is to step out the back door and smell the purple lilacs in bloom.  Ohhhhhh, my!  There’s no other scent in the world quite like it.

I have always wanted a lilac bush.  In spite of the extensive time and effort my folks have put into their very nice lawn, and the wide variety of flowers, shrubs and trees Mother has selected over the almost 59-years they’ve lived at their present location, I don’t recall them ever having a lilac.  Some people tell me they’re hard to get started, and that even after you plant a starter bush, it’s sometimes seven years before it’ll bloom.  I don’t know if this is true . . . somebody leave a comment, please, if you know for sure!  Anyway, you can imagine my delight in April of 1993 when it became apparent we’d purchased a property with not one, but two lilac bushes, one with lavender blossoms and one with white.

The white one is near the driveway, and it spreads by sending up little shoots from the root system in a two-to-three foot area next to the bush.  A honeysuckle vine snuck its way over into the branches and suffocated some of them, so the deadwood had to be pruned out, but it’s still going strong.

The purple-bloomer is on the northeast corner of the house, at the edge of a flowerbed.  A small hosta plant is leafing out under the shade of the shrub now, and later in the season I’ll put out some impatiens.  My hope is to get some starts of the fern and Lily-of-the-Valley from the area on the north side of my parents’ house, and transplant them into this bed next to the lilac.  If memory serves, Mother obtained the starts from her grandma, making them somehow more special than those I could easily get from the store.

My great-grandmother Peirrie Belle May went gradually blind from glaucoma.  But great-grandpa Stanley knew how much she loved her flowers.  The story I was told was that they’d brought starts of all their favorites from the farm when they retired and moved into town, and that during the season, Grandpa Stanley would pick a different flower each day.  He’d take it inside to grandma, take her hand and carefully close her fingers around the stem, then help her raise it to her face to smell.  “OK, Peirrie”, he’d ask, “which one is this?”  She’d inhale the scent and feel the stem, the leaves, the petals, and make her pronouncement.  What a beautiful way for him to help her keep those senses alive.  I’ve always thought it was one of the most tender tales ever.

And when–in my mind’s eye–I picture my great-grandpa coming through their door with a sprig of lilac, something tells me his sweetheart didn’t even need to touch it to decide.  The nose knows!

Happy Easter

Happy Easter

Several years ago I did something right, and not only purchased, but also planted (!) flower bulbs in the Autumn for something pretty the next Spring.  That may sound like a fairly basic and simple concept to you, but one of my many character flaws is sometimes biting off more than I can chew, so to speak.  The photos on those perennial packages are enticing, though, and it seems like my cousin Jeffrey had inspired me by describing all the bulbs he’d managed to put into the ground a year or two beforehand.  The semi-circular flower bed around my front porch was already installed when we moved in, complete with a native rock border.  Our arrival at the farm in October of 1992 was greeted with a bed full of marigolds, so it wasn’t until early the next summer that we realized there were established poppies in there too.  The idea of something coming up and blooming on its own, year after year, with no effort from me beyond the initial planting was more than I could resist.

Nearest the border I put the crocus bulbs, because those plants are the smallest of the ones I’d chosen for this location, and the first to bloom.  Granted, they sometimes get cut short by snow (and this year a little freezing rain), but even the least little dab of color at the center of those delicate strands of green is welcome by the time winter is coming to a close.  Just behind the crocus, and staggered between in case of overlap, come the hyacinths, then a row of mixed daffodils and jonquils behind them, and various tulips behind those.  As the weeks go marching into Springtime, the colors just keep coming until finally it’s warm enough to start putting in some annual bedding plants among the poppies.  The sway those flowers have over my mood is amazing.  Each and every day I see them, I marvel at what an artist our Creator must be, and what an endless imagination it took to come up with these beauties.

Easter is about resurrection.  As a Christian, tomorrow I celebrate the anniversary of the Greatest Gift of all:  Jesus Christ dying on the cross to buy redemption for our sins, and then raising from the dead and ascending to heaven to give us all the hope of life everlasting.  The flowers from those bulbs symbolize, to me, much the same sort of miracle.  They are signs of hope, rebirth, and renewal . . . the things I am so thankful to have, and the things I wish for each of you.

Happy Easter
Easter Beauty!

Springing Forward

Springing Forward

Following one of the coldest winters we’ve seen around here in a long time, Spring seems to have arrived.  I say “seems to”, out of an abundance of caution, maybe because I don’t want to jinx anything.  Also, this is Missouri, and just about anything can happen.  Last year we had snow on May 1, although that is not the norm by any means.  Nevertheless, almost everyone appears hopeful that it’s real, and that Spring has officially sprung.

Jackson & Perkins catalogs arrive in the mail almost weekly now, with hybrid tea roses so luscious-looking that I’m tempted to forget all about past experiences with Black Spot disease and Red Spider Mites, and spend vast quantities of money and time replanting the entire flower bed that surrounds my covered front porch.  My saving grace came last week when–just after the storms blew through–the first daffodil bloom of the season materialized.  And nearby is a super-fragrant pink hyacinth.  Both of them are close to the concrete steps on the south side of the porch, making me wonder if the heat of the sun on the old rough concrete radiated just enough warmth out into that part of the ground to induce those particular bulbs to produce their yearly beauty show first.  Other plants are sending up shoots, too, reminding me that there’s more color to come.  Their blooms don’t last very long into the season, but at least the bulbs keep producing, year after year.

Pink Hyacinth

Providing, of course, that the moles don’t get to them.  As you may recall, my D.G. dog Albert is quite the mole digger (see Archives!) but he’s still no good on backfill.  And replanting the bulbs that get tossed along with the soil if he finds a varmint in the flower bed?  Not a chance!

 

Wordless Wednesday #5

Wordless Wednesday #5