Coming Up for Air

This! This is how I’ve been feeling lately! Scattered? Yes. Overwhelmed? Absolutely.  Physically sore? Indeed. The outdoor to-do list seems endless during the spring months: unceasing weed pulling, starting seeds, working on new garden projects, assessing damage from winter and then replacing or moving the plants that aren’t faring well, and then there’s planting the vegetable garden beds, sprucing up this corner or that one, checking irrigation…phew! Now where in the world did I leave that shovel?

But here we are in mid June and as I look around I can breathe a deep sigh of relief. The maintenance will continue but we’ve made it through the spring garden chores frenzy. It does feel so good.

The air is fresh. Flowers and foliage are vibrant. Butterflies and hummingbirds are fluttering and swooping. Birds are singing. At last there’s time to sit and enjoy all the beauty in the June garden. I don’t want to miss a thing! Please join me in taking in all that’s going on in your garden too.

Here’s some of what’s blooming right now:

ClematisSpireaHollyhocks Roses, Hydrangeas, Fuchsias and Hostas.  Cheers to June!

Hearts in the Yard

Rusty wheel barrows, angels, bird houses, gnomes, mosaics, shells, flea market finds of old garden tools – don’t you just love the effect of collections in a garden? Great conversation starters, these salvaged pieces, collectibles, crafts and gathered items found in nature all tell a story and make our spaces more interesting. They give visitors to our gardens a greater sense of who we are, and I know mine bring a certain comfort to me as I’m out in the yard. Vintage European watering cans, nests, heart art, and yes, no surprise, heart shaped rocks…why, these are some of the treasures you’ll find at my home.

For many years I have collected heart shaped rocks found on hikes and walks. I’ve brought them home carefully wrapped in my luggage from my travels. Some are from Ireland, Scotland, England, Mexico, British Columbia, beaches and forests and sometimes even on a crowded street. These little love notes from nature are everywhere. Sometimes I’m surprised to find a gift of a heart rock waiting for me on my porch from neighbors who spot one and feel they belong with me. I try to remember to write on the back of each with a sharpie of where they came from, but I have a long way to go with this goal. These love rocks of all sizes fill various vessels scattered around my outdoor rooms. The heart art, along with all of the heart shaped rocks nestle in window boxes, garden beds, and pots, hang from trees or fenceposts. Who am I kidding? You can’t miss them!
Many of my heart treasures were either hand made (a few by me) or by my loved ones and given to me as gifts. To be reminded of the gift bearer as I wander and work in the yard makes the gift that much sweeter.

Even the dog kennel get’s decorated with heart art!Whether your collections and garden art are fanciful and fun, eclectic, or on the romantic side (or maybe a bit of each), I hope you display them and let your beautiful personality shine through amongst the flowers, plants and trees. I know I’d love to see your treasures!

Gentle Days of January

Hello and welcome to the gentle days of January! After all of the hustle and bustle of November and December I’m thriving on these slow, quiet days. You’ll find me mostly in my happy, little house working on organizing, cleaning, and writing; in general I’m catching up on projects and hobbies that haven’t gotten much attention lately. Dinners are made in the crock pot. Oh, January does feel so cozy, so hygge-good.

Our still-mild winter season is allowing me to put down the home project du jour for a bit, leash up my sweet furry companion and get out in nature regularly. All of these heart rock treasures were found during one morning hike recently.

I’m wishing you the gift of a cozy, quiet, heart filled January too!

Counting On Nature

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in tune once more.” ~ John Burroughs

It had been a day of constantly wiping a runny nose, rocking and comforting my 15 month grand daughter who was feeling miserable and irritable from her first cold. I bundled her up in a warm blanket and we stepped out the front door and onto the porch. “Let’s go see what’s happening outside.”

The rain from earlier in the day had let up, clouds were still heavy and low. A hint of woodsmoke filled the air and mixed with the fresh chill that November air brings. Quails were calling to each other in the brush beyond the creek bed. A squirrel scampered up an oak, chirping as he moved jerkily. Baby girl calmed and quieted, looked around. I wiped away her tears. Bright red Toyon berries hung low and glistened from the recent soaking. Autumn leaves that were still clinging on trees and shrubs danced in the gentle breeze, as a new brilliant layer of leaves carpeted the ground. Off the porch I stepped with this sweet one cradled in my arms. “Let’s go for a walk around the yard, love.”

We moved slowly just taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of the late afternoon. Listening, looking, soaking up all the gifts that this November day offered. Mother Nature enveloping us and working her peace and magic.

It was no more than ten minutes that we were outdoors but our spirits were  lifted and our moods were refreshed, just as I knew they would be. Soothed and healed once again, all courtesy of nature.

 

November Greetings

November arrived a few days ago, just as we were finishing our autumn chores. We’ve harvested the vegetable garden, added new compost to beds, planted bulbs and seeds, harvested additional seeds to plant in the spring, and cleaned up each garden bed. Mr. Hollyhocks and I are a good team, working together on many projects side by side, but there are also certain chores I take care of while he prefers others. A perfect example is the irrigation in the garden beds.  I honestly have no knowledge of re-routing irrigation lines — I just show him what is needed and he takes care of it.

Many of our weekends in September and October were spent removing plants from one garden bed or another and tucking them into areas where their needs will be better met. Never have we lived and gardened in one area as long as this particular spot has been home. And never have we had to remove all of the plantings from certain beds because their environment no longer is in full sun, as was the case so long ago when the beds were first planted. We’ll see how successful we were with that endeavor next spring. I’m hopeful though that everything will be able to put down roots and get comfy in their new surroundings. Hopeful. I think that word defines all gardeners, don’t you?

With autumn chores behind us, I now want to rest a bit more and take in every bit of this fleeting autumn beauty before the rain and winds blow these colorful jewels off the trees and shrubs. I don’t want to miss a thing. Happy November!

 

 

Dear Summer

Dear Summer,

Why the rush? You’re moving way too quickly. I’m noticing the earlier sunsets each evening and realizing that children in my neighborhood will be heading back to school in a couple weeks. How can it be that in a few days we’ll be turning the calendar to August? Already!

Time is fleeting and I find myself taking morning and evening walks in the gardens to take in all that this glorious season gifts us with. On my visits with my plants (c’mon I know you do that too!) I notice which ones need a little more water, what needs deadheading, and what’s been munched on by deer or insects. It’s definitely a busy season of yard work, but I want to focus on all there is to celebrate as I watch blooms open and vegetables ripen.

Each day and week holds the anticipation and promise of new blooms, new miracles. One week the buds are tight.Don’t blink; things change quickly!I’m still waiting for the fragrant, white Moon Flower vine to bloom (must remember to add fertilizer in my watering can this week), and also am being patient for the blue smokey blooms of Caryopeteris. The rest of the summer bloomers has already opened.

Soon I’ll be harvesting seeds for next year, and digging and dividing perennials to give to friends or move to other areas on our property. With the healthy amount of rain we received last winter the perennials really spread out. It’ll be a busy September in the garden with all the autumn chores ahead, but for now, well, I’m gratefully admiring the garden show, filling up vases with abundant blooms, and going out to pick herbs and veggies for our summer meals. I don’t want to miss a thing!“In summer, the song sings itself.” ~William Carlos Williams

A Weed or a Treasure?

“It’s a weed”, I would have told you. The Albizia tree (also known as Silk Tree or Mimosa) that was here when we moved in 25 years ago is a messy weed tree. It looks beautiful all in bloom, but don’t let that fool you!

Pretty, pink puffs dry up, turn to fluff and drop. Once the fluff/seed heads drop, the wind carries them everywhere and then we get ferny baby silk trees coming up in every garden bed. Last night I pulled up this monster hiding within an azalea shrub. Who knows how long it had been there!Year after year, our Albizia tree persevered despite our best attempts to remove it from the landscape early on.

But then, some years ago, when my sister told me that Albizias were our mother’s favorite tree, I began to notice the especially heavenly fragrance of the blossoms perfuming the air during June and July. I started appreciating the shade that the tree in our yard provides, and I noticed something interesting in the bark of the tree that has happened naturally over the years. What do you see?Yep, definitely a heart!

My mother passed away many years ago when I was just twenty. Could that heart in the bark be a message from her? Maybe not, but I’m going with it! I’m also pulling out seedlings everywhere and cleaning up the messy blossoms starting to drop. I love that tree now, and I don’t mind the annual clean up that goes on for months. I do it for Mom. Some things are worth the trouble. Tell me, is there a ground cover or vine or tree that most people would consider a weed but that you’ve grown fond of? What are your reasons for keeping it around?

 

 

 

 

The Giving Tree

We’ve lived in our home for twenty five years. Our boys grew up here, exploring and playing on every bit of the property, and climbing every tree. Tree forts were built, rope swings were hung, a hammock was strung between two, and a zip-line was swung on in between another two. Now, our grandchildren are frequent visitors and they are the ones exploring.

This past winter we had to have four beloved trees taken down from one area of the yard. Each of the trees were either severely damaged from storms or were diseased. We were sad to see them go and worried about how the yard would look with a new lawn area where the trees once stood, and how the shade gardens would do when they suddenly received sun.

Imagine our surprise when the trees were cut down and we saw the shape of this oak tree stump! We knew at once that it would have a special place in the yard once our project was complete.After the trees were removed, the four stumps had to be grinded, roots were dug out of the ground, and a mini retaining wall was built. Then came adding amendments to the soil, and installing a lawn. With each new step of the process we began to feel more comfortable about the project. It didn’t take long before we began to love all of the sunlight we now have in front of the house, as well as our new views. So far, the garden beds planted with shade loving plants are all doing well.

Have a look at our finished project. We couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out. A million thanks to that oak tree that provided a shady place for our boys to explore and play for so many years, and now is the perfect little table for us or a sweet spot for a little one (or two) to rest after an afternoon of running, playing, and adventuring.

The Story of our Lives

As I’ve been putting away the Christmas decorations over the last few days I’ve come  to realize how perfectly our decorated tree tells the story of our family each year.

If I remember correctly we bought ornaments for our very first Christmas tree at Payless. Yep, it was a rainy Sunday in 1982. When my husband got off from work we went together and picked out just a few ornaments and a tree. This is one from that first year so long ago.By the next Christmas we were blessed with our first baby.And three years later, another precious baby boy joined our family.A good amount of our ornaments are family photos in mini frames and hung with ribbon.Throughout the years ornaments have been bought that represent a move to a new home, careers, interests, and now, grand babies. We’ve saved the child-made treasures from way back when, along with the ones the children would get to choose each year to commemorate a new sport or hobby they were interested in. They don’t all go up on the tree each year, but we look through them all, carefully unwrapping each and every treasure, smiling and feeling overcome with nostalgia.

A friend made this felted heart for me a few years ago,and a sweet daughter in law made this one.Gently tucked into luggage, special keepsakes are collected from our travels. This celtic cross came from a trip to Ireland.And this streetlamp with the hanging baskets of flowers was brought home from Victoria.Each one tells a story.Each one, a memory of our blessings. Each one, a snippet from our lives. My cup runneth over.

I wish you hope, health, peace and mad love in 2017. Happy New Year!

“Here’s to the end of this chapter. To all the late nights, early mornings, learnings gained and experiences shared, Here’s to love. Here’s to loss. Here’s to honoring, letting go, and transcending. Here’s to growth. Here’s to expanding. Here’s to a life with other heartbeats that would stop their world to celebrate your magic. Here’s to you, and your blank canvas. Here’s to filling it with nothing less than vibrant aliveness.”

~Nancy Alder

 

Sunflower Cottage

“…But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye. For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall, you’ll find the tool and potting sheds which are the heart of all…”~Rudyard Kiplingimg_1827Here it is!img_1472Remember a few weeks ago I promised a post about my new garden shed? Welcome to Sunflower Cottage!

Wanting the paint and the style to match our home, but also wanting a bright pop of color for the door, I really don’t think it could have turned out any more perfectly.

Last fall I began looking in books, magazines and on pinterest for ideas for potting sheds. It was a bit overwhelming, but when our friend who built the structure for us started asking questions about how it would be used and what was most important to me, why then it all came together easily. Inside is a roomy potting bench, lots of shelving, and a pole to hang baskets and dry herbs from, and with the light from the two windows (three counting the window in the door) and a water source right outside the shed, I didn’t feel a need to have electricity or plumbing installed.

Here’s a bit of a peek inside.img_1526 img_1410I’m still organizing and finding the best places for everything, but I’m already so happy to be working in this charming and cozy little storybook cottage, just as I knew I would! A gardener’s dream come true, for certain!