Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Is it Spring Yet?? March GBBD

Goodness, it's been awhile since I have participated in Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.  But I haven't had much to show off the past few months.  There have been no forced bulbs indoors to brighten up a winter's day--I never did find those amaryllis bulbs I stored away last fall; they will probably turn up in July:)  And I really didn't think anyone would want to see the straggly plants I potted up to over-winter and then promptly neglected.  So I opted out of the past few Bloom Days, waiting for the first spring blooms to appear so that I had something worthwhile to share.

It has been such a weird winter weather-wise.  We haven't had enough snow all season to do much more than cover the ground for a few days before it melted, and I don't think the temperatures ever dropped below 0, both very unusual for Illinois.  February was the warmest February on record for our area, and I fully expected to have an early spring.  We spent last week visiting the two youngest grandchildren in Texas, where the temps were in the 70's nearly every day, so I was expecting to come home to see a garden full of daffodils.  Instead, I found this:

And this:

Poor little Scilla and daffodils shivering in the snow.  Once again, winter has returned, though not with the vengeance that has struck the Northeast--again, just enough snow to cover the ground.

I really had high hopes for an early spring, after the early appearance of some blooms in February:

On February 18 the first snowdrops appeared.  They always come as such a surprise to me--I had been looking for signs of them for days with no luck, and then as if by magic, they appeared in full bloom on this February morning.

On February 23, the first crocuses opened up,
 a new record for the earliest crocuses in my garden, I believe.

That last week in February was so warm that I spent some time cleaning up in the garden--what a treat to finally be able to work outside!  I was ready to call it a day after a few hours, but I decided to check the shade garden where I found these fat Hellebore buds.  I promptly put on the gardening gloves once again and began snipping away all the old foliage so they could get the attention they deserve.  They're probably blooming by now, but unfortunately, they're covered in snow, so I can't tell.

But back to today--instead of all the spring blooms I thought I might have by now, everything is in a holding pattern.  More crocuses have opened up in the past week or two, but for now they are huddled up waiting for the sun and warmer temps.

A few Scilla have been brave enough to appear, though most are waiting, too, for the snow to melt.

The big old lilac has budded up--the only plant I'm concerned about now.  I'm afraid these early buds may be doomed after this latest cold spell.

But other than the lilac, I'm not too worried.  Daffodils and tulips are up all over the place, waiting for the right time to bloom.  Spring will arrive whenever it is good and ready.

Thanks to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for hosting another Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, and congrats on the new book, Carol!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Summer Road Trip and Blogging Friends

Every day the news coming out of Washington seems to get worse and worse, and my blood pressure is on an uphill climb.  I could really use some garden therapy!  Nothing like lopping off some dead stems and pulling some weeds to get rid of the frustration of feeling helpless.  But of course, it's much too cold to do anything like that in my garden right now.  Adding to to the doom and gloom are the gray skies which pretty much have been continual lately--sunny days have been few and far between.

Since I can't get out and actually garden, let's do the next best thing--take a virtual tour of some gardens I visited this past summer with a group of fellow Midwest gardeners.

This is the third year that Beth of Plant Postings and I and a few other Midwest blogging friends and gardeners have met up for a day of garden touring.  This year we met in early September at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin. Olbrich contains sixteen acres in the city, just small enough to stroll through the entire garden in the half-day we were there.

We finally had the perfect day--after a scorching hot day the previous year and a cold, rainy day the year before that--with comfortable temperatures and plenty of sunshine to enjoy the variety of garden spaces and diverse plantings.

Before we set off to explore, we were welcomed by the director who gave us a brief history and the mission of the gardens.  Months later, I don't remember her name nor do I remember much about what she told us.  But I do remember being impressed by Olbrich's partnership with the University of Wisconsin and public schools, especially the writing workshops they offer. Can you imagine a better place to sit and be inspired to write?

The Perennial Garden features a mix of conifers, grasses, perennials, and a gentle stream.

One area is devoted mostly to different kinds of grasses.

Although the gardens feature many native plants, tropicals and colorful annuals are also included.

Sometimes a surprise will be waiting around the corner as you walk from one area to another. 

One of the things I enjoy about visiting gardens like this is that I always come away with some new ideas for my own garden.  Annual salvia is one of my favorites, but mixing it with different shades of pink gomphrena, as they did here, adds even more interest.

This Eryngium 'Purple Sheen' also caught my eye.

An unusual plant that also caught all our eyes was this Gomphocarpus Physocarpus, also known as Hairy Balls.  Even if I had the space for this in my garden, I'm not sure I'd want to explain to visitors what it was called:)

One plant I do plan on adding somewhere in my garden this year is Calamint.  You can't tell from this photo but the bees were swarming all over this!  Doing a little research on this plant I discovered it's in the mint family, so I guess I'd better be careful just where I plant it, however, if I don't want it to take over.

The Monarchs were out on this lovely fall day, too, enjoying some tropical milkweed.

The Olbrich Garden is home to the only Thai pavilion in the U.S.  It was a gift from the Thai government to the University of Wisconsin and was built in Thailand, then disassembled and shipped to the U.S. where Thai artisans re-assembled it.

The gold leaf etchings on the ceiling and interior walls are stunning.

The area surrounding the pavilion is planted to resemble an authentic Thai garden.

Of course, visiting a beautiful garden like this is always much more fun when you can share it with other gardening enthusiasts.  Linda of Each Little World and Beth of Plant Postings take a moment to stop in one of the lushly planted gardens.

Friends Beckie and Lisa of Greenbow were my traveling companions and made the drive up to Madison an enjoyable gabfest:)

Blogger Danielle joined our group for the first time this year, and naturally, when gardeners get together, no one is a stranger for very long.  Danielle reminded me not to forget the tactile beauty of plants.

The Olbrich Botanical Gardens is definitely worth a visit if you are in the Madison, Wisconsin area.  After spending the morning here, the six of us had a delicious lunch at a local deli/cafe and spent more time getting acquainted and talking about--what else?--gardening.

After lunch, Linda invited us to see her own garden.  She and her husband have spent the past ten years converting their back yard into a Japanese garden, and all I can say is--Wow!  Their garden deserves more than a few photos here, so I am going to wait till I hopefully have more time to write a whole post about it.  Needless to say, I was entranced by this serene getaway in the middle of suburbia.

Our last stop of the day was at the Wisconsin Arboretum. The Arboretum is concerned with land sustainability and contains the world's oldest restored prairie as well as a small remnant of original prairie.

As a Master Naturalist, Beth volunteers here and introduced us to Susan who is in charge of native plants at the Arboretum.  One of the highlights of our stop here was hearing her talk about the rusty-patched bumblebee, which has recently been put on the Endangered Species list.  This rare bee has been spotted at the Wisconsin Arboretum, one of the few places in the Midwest where it can still be found.

We enjoyed walking the trails through the tall fall-blooming prairie plants, but eventually the mosquitos got the best of us and we decided to call it a day.

I have attended a few of the Garden Bloggers' Flings, which I've thoroughly enjoyed, but these smaller get-togethers are a great way to meet other bloggers within an easy driving distance.  Many thanks to Beth for organizing this day and to Linda for opening her beautiful garden to us.  I'm looking forward to another "Midwest Meet-Up" this summer!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Reflections on 2016

The new year is already a week old, but now that the Christmas decorations have finally been put away, I have some time to reflect on the past year.  2016 was certainly eventful, full of dizzying joys and the depths of despair.  But one of my resolutions for this year is to try to find something positive in every day, so I want to focus on the good parts of 2016.

January 2016 was truly an awful month for me, full of personal loss.  But in spite of all that, the many birds at the feeders provided for some quiet moments of enjoyment and a reminder that life goes on in spite of harsh conditions.

February brought its share of snow, and more time was spent enjoying the wonders of nature from the comfort of my living room window.  By the end of the month, however, we had a reprieve from winter, and daffodils began an early emergence from the soil.

March--can there be anything more uplifting to your spirits than the appearance of the first spring flowers?  March is a fickle month in the Midwest, sometimes bringing the worst of winter weather, but last year all I remember is that it was warm and beautiful.  By the end of the month, daffodils, hyacinths, and many other spring bulbs were in full bloom, and I was busy getting an early start on cleaning up the garden.

April, too, can sometimes break your heart with a teasing of spring that disappears under more cold or constant days of rain.  But not so last year--April 2016 was glorious!  Spring, as I've often said, is my favorite season of the year, and last year's spring was exceptional with warm weather and a daily explosion of blooms from all my tulips.  New green growth was sprouting everywhere.

A warm April meant that most of the tulips and other spring bloomers had faded by the first of May.  Irises and peonies took center stage instead, although the month was more of a transition time in the garden.  May is always the busiest month for me, as I plant containers and annuals in the flowerbeds and try to complete a host of other garden chores.  My resolution for this year is try to slow down and enjoy this beautiful month more, although I suspect that will be hard to change.

Ah, June--my favorite month of the year.  The garden was bursting with color by mid-month, but it didn't take me long to choose one photo of the many I took during this time: coneflowers and butterflies--two of my favorites!  If it was possible to freeze time and just live one day over and over again, I would pick a sunny day in June with swaths of coneflowers blooming and alive with bees and butterflies.

July brought even more color as coneflowers competed with lilies, a new one blooming each day it seemed.  I've become addicted to all kinds of lilies and can't really pick a favorite although 'Stargazer,' which grew to new heights this year, would definitely be a contender.

If coneflowers represent June and lilies represent July, then the perfect choice for August would have to be zinnias.  I've shown the 'Zowie' zinnias, one of my favorites, over and over again on Facebook and on summer posts here, but I did grow other zinnias as well.  All of them performed exceptionally this year, probably due to the weather.  It was a warm summer--not ungodly hot, but consistently hot throughout the season so that garden work was relegated to early mornings only.  Besides the warm weather, we had consistent rainfall as well, so that everything seemed to grow taller and fuller than ever before.

September brought asters, goldenrod, the 'Limelight' hydrangea, and Japanese anemones as well as a few other fall-bloomers. The heat continued through the last month of summer, and I spent many moments enjoying the shade of the front porch watching the goldfinches feast on the fading coneflowers and the antics of hummingbirds.  The warm weather meant the hummers stayed longer than usual; my last visitor stayed until the second week of October.

By October, much of the garden sensed the end of the year, though continued warm weather--and no frost!--kept many things blooming longer than usual.  The Amsonia hubrichtii, which usually has a golden hue by October, stayed nearly green until November.  The trees were slow to turn as well, and many didn't drop their leaves until December.

If one month symbolizes the extreme highs and lows of 2016, it has to be November.  On November 2, the Cubs won the World Series, ending a 108-year drought for long-suffering Cubs fans like myself.  Unless you're a baseball fan, you probably won't understand the joyous delirium we all felt. But you will understand the joy I felt just three days later when my 8th grandchild, a precious little girl, was born.  The other two granddaughters are older, so I am looking forward to tea parties and princess and fairy make-believe once again!

As for the low, well, the following week was the Presidential election.  Nothing else needs to be said, although I have vowed to try to be kinder and to be more active, speaking up for what I believe in the coming year.

As for the garden, the first frost finally arrived on November 12, the latest first frost ever recorded in our area.  So whatever else can be said about 2016, it was a great year in the garden--the longest blooming season in my memory!

By December, bulbs had been planted, and the garden was going into its long winter's sleep.  There was time at last to prepare for the holidays and to make the much-anticipated trip to Texas to meet my new granddaughter.  This may not be the best photograph, technically speaking, but it's my favorite of 2016 because the year ended on such a positive note.  This is what it's all about--family and sharing life with those you love.

We don't know what 2017 may bring for the garden, but I know whether it's an outstanding year or just a mediocre one, we gardeners won't give up hope.  And that is what I wish for all of you in the coming year--hope, peace, and love.  As Ellen says, "Be kind to one another."  💕

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

November GBBD: End of the Season

What a November this has been so far!  The month began with the Cubs winning the World Series, the first time in 108 years.  This die-hard Cubs' fan was ecstatic and walked around in a joyful delirium for at least a day.  Three days later, a new baby granddaughter entered this world, and Grandma was filled with joy, not to mention impatient anticipation as we wait to make the drive to Texas to see her for the first time.  And then three days after that was Election Day.  Like many others, I watched in disbelief as results came in that night, and woke up the next morning filled with dread and worry.  Talk about running the gamut of emotions in just one short week!

But I'm not going to talk about politics today, nor the fairy-tale ending to this year's Cubs' season, nor am I even going to show off my precious granddaughter today.  Instead, let's talk about the garden.  The beginning of November was amazing with warm weather and many annuals still blooming in the garden.

Just a few days ago, November 10, to be exact, I was admiring this 'Senorita Rosalita' Cleome.  I've planted this cultivar in pots the last several years, and it never did particularly well. This year I decided to plant it in a bare spot in the sidewalk garden, and what a difference!  Topping out at 3 1/2 feet tall and spreading even more in width, it is obviously much happier here with room to grow.  Lesson learned for next year.

On the same day, I walked around admiring the zinnias, knowing their days were numbered.  To my surprise, I found a late visitor enjoying the blooms.  This poor Monarch looks like he's had a rough time, and sadly, I don't think he had time to make it South before the cold set in.  Many of the zinnias were looking just as tattered, but there were still enough fresh blooms to enjoy one last time.

One last time...because this was the scene the next morning.  Our first frost arrived on November 11, and what survived that first morning was given a final blow the next morning with even colder temperatures.  Seeing the end of summer/autumn blooms is always a bit sad, but I'm not complaining.This was the latest first frost ever recorded in our area, so we had an unusually long season to enjoy the garden this year.

While the frost pretty much zapped the garden, there are still a few annuals blooming.  'Victoria Blue' Salvia is still looking good as are the geraniums, and surprisingly, some verbena in a pot survived the cold.  Of course, the few pansies I have are thriving.

As is the ruffled kale, which seems to get more colorful as the temperature drops.

The few roses I have don't mind the cooler weather either; 'Zephirine Drouhin' has even put out a few new blooms.

As the garden winds down for the year, it is a good time to enjoy the last days of autumn color.  The leaves turned late this year. My maple, the star of our front yard every fall, still is hanging on to many of its leaves.

Grasses are at their peak right now, and the seedheads of switchgrasses, for example, add beauty to the garden as they rustle in the breeze.

One of my favorite vignettes in the garden each year is this, Amsonia hubrichtii with a Beautyberry next to it.  My camera wants to wash out the color for some reason, but this Amsonia is a dramatic gold right now and positively glows in the sunlight.

While November doesn't have the riot of colors that summer has, there is still much to enjoy in the garden.  Even seedheads have a beauty all their own and sometimes an extra surprise if you look closely enough.

 I've really appreciated the extended season this year, especially this past week as I've found once again that there's nothing quite like gardening for soothing your soul.

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is brought to you each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.