The Fever

“She turned to the sunlight

And shook her yellow head,

And whispered to her neighbor:

Winter is dead.”

~A.A. Milne, When We Were Very YoungIMG_7776IMG_7848IMG_7980Trips to four different nurseries within a week. Vases filled with Daffodils and Daphne throughout the house. Checking on each and every plant and tree to see how it fared during the winter. Soil under my nails. Yep, I’ve definitely got it. Spring Fever!

It’s only late February but the high temperatures have been hovering in the high 60s and even 70s for a couple weeks now. I’m really hoping March brings much more rain, but right now, well, right now I’m loving all these bursts of color. Right now, it feels like spring is bustin’ out all over!

Here, the Weigelias are just beginning to leaf out. IMG_8083I’m filling pots with colorful Primroses, Pansies and Violas.IMG_7702IMG_7969The air is scented with the heavenly fragrance of winter Daphne. Is there a sweeter smell in February? Not in my book!IMG_7977A row of blooming flowering plum trees heralds our arrival along our driveway.IMG_8081And a hedge of tall Photonia brightens up the yard with shiny new red leaves.IMG_8082Flowering Quince and Forsythia are putting on their shows,IMG_7830IMG_7968while graceful Hellebores nod hello.
IMG_7846Oh, I know it’s still early, but I can’t get enough of these happy harbingers of spring. What’s blooming in your gardens right now in late February?

“Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.” ~Gustav Mahler

Treats For the Birds

IMG_7691Bird watching in my yard brings me great enjoyment. I try to make sure my bird feeders are clean and full of a variety of seed and suet cakes for them, at all times. Actually, it’s the least I can do for all of the concerts and amusement they provide to us!

The children and I made special treats for the birds recently and hung them in trees.  We threaded cheerios onto pipe cleaners (even the littlest hands were able to push the cheerios down once I had placed it on the tip of the pipe cleaner), we hung sliced oranges with twine, and then we smeared bird booster onto pinecones and hung those as well. The recipe  for bird booster came from Sharon Lovejoy’s Toad Cottages and Shooting Stars book, which is jam packed with fun activities to do with children.

Bird Booster Recipe:

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 cup canola oil

4 cups yellow cornmeal

1 cup white flour

A few spoons of sunflower seeds or raisins (I used our no waste birdseed that we always have on hand)

Pinecones tied with twine for hanging

IMG_7628IMG_7629Mix ingredients together in a bowl and then slather the mixture onto and into the scales of the pinecone.

Now it’s time to hang the treats.IMG_7694IMG_7686IMG_7689The wonderful books, Winter Walk by Virginia Brimhall Snow, and Night Tree by Eve Bunting provided the perfect follow up activity.

Sweet November

It’s true, I have always had a love affair with autumn, but have you ever seen one as beautiful as this year’s? Who can resist the brilliant shades of red, gold, and orange that the trees and gardens are wearing this time of year?

Come with me, won’t you, on a tour of some of my favorite areas on our property.

Here we are at the pergola sitting area.IMG_6444And this is across the lawn looking toward that area with the pergola.IMG_6455The Eastern Redbud’s heart leaves are a favorite of mine.IMG_6258Ornamental grass, Miscanthus is in the foreground near the seasonal creek bed with birch leaves just starting to change to yellow, and maples putting on a fiery show.IMG_6578This old wheel barrow is planted with Coral Bell’s, Violas, Euonymus Sunny Delight, and Evergold Carex.IMG_6398I love the lawn covered in these beauties.IMG_6062I had been on the hunt for two child sized adirondack chairs and found them last weekend in Sutter Creek at a favorite shop called Antique Gardener. I had envisioned them in white, but I love how these look right now with the terra cotta pots in the background and the reds of the maples in that area.
IMG_6587And now let’s head over to the front porch. This sweet old yellow chair greets us with some of autumn’s vibrant bounty as we walk up the sidewalk. Purple Love Grass is in the pot behind the two pumpkins to the left of the chair.IMG_6221IMG_6589IMG_6588IMG_6590IMG_6557 (1)Sweet November, indeed.

Treasures, Unearthed

Once in awhile while working in the yard I come across something that floods my heart. My breath catches, and life pauses while memories take me back to a time when my sons were children. Recently, two little figures from yesteryear have presented themselves as I’ve been digging in the soil. I found an armless Playmobil knight character and then a few months later, a little matchbox car.

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Each, covered in dirt. Each, a treasure from so long ago. I now keep them in their current state, in a dish in our home office to remember that special time.

Those boys are grown men now, but this is the property where they spent countless hours building, creating, exploring, and discovering. We moved into our home when our children were 5 and 8 years old.  For many years forts were built in the trees. Rope swings hung from each. Hideouts were formed inside blackberry brambles. An area of our property was made into a baseball diamond for awhile, and then later it evolved into a paint ball war zone. Obstacle courses were created for bikes and then for 4 wheeling. My oldest built a large half pipe for skate boarding, and a red go cart was driven all around the property and neighborhood by two boys with wide eyed grins.

The places where they played have now been turned into gardens, wide paths and lawn areas.IMG_5611IMG_5610Five years ago my son and daughter in law were married under this pergola.IMG_5609 How quickly  time has passed. How precious were the days. The past may be gone, but it has been replaced by a wonderful future with new adventures, and best of all, once again, little ones play here.

Dog Love

This is Gemma. This pretty girl just had her 6th birthday. She’s been with us since she was 8 weeks old when I could hold her little piglet body in my two cupped hands. She was an anniversary gift. IMG_3619She has brought so much joy and amusement to our lives. She is our morning walking partner. Our hiking and snow shoeing companion. Ball catcher extraordinaire. Excitable home coming greeter. Protector of her people and her property. Foot warmer. Day brightener. A loyal and cherished member of our family. IMG_5593She’s gentle with the babies, and patiently puts up with them chasing her, or sitting and lying on her when they visit at our home.IMG_4938And even endures cuddling with Riley, our cat.IMG_5594

Happy birthday Sweet Gemma. You’re such a good girl.

“Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift.”

~Mary Oliver

Toadstool Seating Area

 

A few months ago I was in a public children’s garden in San Luis Obisbo and I came across these enchanting toadstool seats made out of tree rounds. About the same time, we had a Gray Pine that came down on our property during a storm. Wanting to create something similar for our little ones here at home, we set to work. I am so pleased with the results.

First, I cleared a path by removing large cobbles under some oaks. We chose pieces from the trunk of the pine that had the least damage to them and cut each down to size with a chain saw, and then placed them in the setting under the oaks.IMG_5416Next, we added gravel and raked it in for the path. During a trip to Home Depot we found this circular piece, and once home, my husband nailed the circular piece to the center round to make a table. I then brushed a coat of primer over the table top and the tops to each chair.

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Once the primer was dry I added three coats of exterior red paint, and then to make the white dots, I used a round make up sponge, painting directly on the sponge and then stamping each polka dot with that.IMG_5445 A clear protective coat was brushed on the finished table and chairs to try to protect it from the elements, but I also plan to cover the area with a tarp during storms.

Our dear grand children, ages two and a half, and fifteen months spent two days with us over the weekend. This little toadstool table and chairs was definitely a hit. For snacks, climbing, and exploring, it’s a special place just their size. Pull up a toadstool and have a seat!

Pretty in Pink

The flowering shrubs and plants that I have in my garden are a palette of pinks, purples, blues, yellows and whites. For me, it’s a harmonious combination that works beautifully together. This morning while doing a bit of dead heading in the garden, I noticed the sea of pink flowers that are blooming right now. Come join me in a little walk so I can show you.

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As we step off the porch theses happy echinaceas greet us. The variety is Magnus. They are dazzling, yet hardy, with long lasting blooms. I am also loving my Green Jewel and Green Envy echinaceas that are also blooming right now, but I’ll show you those another time.

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To our left, this cleome is begging to be noticed. This is an annual in my foothills garden, but I love their bold, long lasting, fire-works blooms and so I plant them as seedlings in the spring, and look forward to their show throughout the summer season.

IMG_4521I wish I could remember the variety of this pink floribunda rose. I planted it at least fifteen years ago and it does well every year. It’s definitely a stunner.

IMG_4689Just look at this double blossom hollyhock showing off her pink, ruffled petticoats! Those petticoats were made for dancing. The hollyhock and the rose above are both in the same garden bed as the cleomes. Just beyond the hollyhock is Clematis Jackmanii.

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Further along the path in a shady area, this pink foxglove with her freckly throat peeks over the trellis. It’s late in the season for foxglove blooms; all of her sisters have already bloomed and have been cut back, but this one had an extra gift to give! And I thank her!

IMG_4682Now we’re back by the porch but on the other side. This ballerina variety of fuchsia lives in a pot in yet another shady area. Because it’s close to the house and in a pot, it’s protected from the snow and freezes we get. I cut it back each winter and by spring she’s ready to don her tutus and pirouette through another summer! The little garden stake in the pot was given to me by a dear friend, Sharleen, as I became a grandmother. Thanks for coming along with me. Enjoy your day.

Around Here 7/22/15

Here we are in late July, already half way through our summer season. With our water restrictions from the drought, coupled with our high temperatures, many of my garden beds are looking a bit bedraggled and some of my shrubs are sporting some deer damage. However, I want to focus on and share a few areas around here that are still putting on their own spectacular show, not quite ready to call it quits just yet.

IMG_4986Blooming in this shady spot in front of the fountain is Hydrangea Limelight. Blossoms start out chartreuse, then turn creamy white, and finally deep rose by autumn.

IMG_4987Putting on a show behind the bench and picket fence we have a few roses, some spindly double hollyhocks, black eyed Susan’s, and cleome.

IMG_4983This just makes me smile! It looks like my statue of Saint Fiacre, patron saint of gardeners, is holding a Shasta daisy.

IMG_4924Echinops, black eyed Susans, Shasta daisies, and pink Veronica, along with pink sapanaria and verbena light up this garden bed. I love this combination of tough, hardy, drought tolerant perennials. Together, they are a sight to behold.

 

IMG_4779Here’s a happy little corner with pots of shrubs that overflow with purple wave petunias, alyssum, bacopa, dianthus and lobelia.

IMG_4953And many thanks to these two swallow tail butterflies who provided great entertainment to our grand babies and us on Sunday morning for at least fifteen minutes with their dancing, swooping and chasing. Thank you all for the sensational show!

Naming My Blog

IMG_4388Why the name Hollyhocks and Heart Shaped Rocks, you ask? Well, I love all kinds of gardens, but my all time favorite type is a cottage garden just bursting with blooms. No cottage garden is complete without the old fashioned charmers, Hollyhocks to add color, height and even a bit of dancing in the summer breeze.

IMG_4812As for the heart shaped rocks — I first started collecting them many years ago. I find them often on walks and hikes, but sometimes they’re right in my path on a busy sidewalk, just waiting to be picked up and treasured. Some have even come home with me from as far away as Ireland, Mexico, and British Columbia! I also have dear friends who’ve given me their found rocks to add to the collection. I’ve never counted them all, but their numbers are perhaps as many as 100. I’ll get back to you on that someday. I have them displayed on window sills, in window boxes, some mingle in a tray or dish together, while others are placed around the gardens on our property. They really present themselves everywhere. Their message? Love is all around us. It’s up to us to open our eyes to nature’s masterpieces and receive her bounty.