Garden ‘Surprise’ Party!

Hi Friends!

It feels just like a garden ‘party’ here in the Midwest ~ a bit of a ‘surprise’ party! These party plans seem to have been underway since February, when we had a stretch of unseasonably warm days. Shortly thereafter, gardeners began to notice foliage emerging from our sleepy, leaf-covered garden beds. I remember taking walks through my garden in late February and early March whispering, “Slow down. It’s much too early.”

Our garden party guests might be feeling confused, as well. Migratory birds and other wildlife have been caught by surprise. This week, I noticed a robin finishing her nest under the eaves, with a southern exposure. The University of Illinois Extension reports that plant growth is 15-20 days ahead of schedule in our area. By tracking growing degree days (GDD), researchers confirm that we are well ahead of normal. Insect populations are making an early appearance. Dandelions have already been in bloom for two weeks. Our usual gardenkeeping tasks seem completely off-schedule this Spring.

My Garden Joys 2017Β  journal has been capturing the memories of our early garden ‘surprise’ party!

Throughout April, I’ve been extra busy making changes to our front yard as I continue to ‘right-size’ our perennial gardens. A few weeks ago, I decided to eliminate an old stone planter that was a part of this garden long before I moved here. Over the past thirty years, I have enjoyed creating many different plant combinations in the old stone planter. Now it was time to carefully move many of the perennials to other garden beds and compost the rest. (It’s never easy to say goodbye, so I had to keep repeating the mantra ~ “These are not children or pets.’ ) In my heart, I knew that I was doing the right thing… and I always listen to my heart!

Fortunately, I saved many of the loose bricks to use in the backyard. I think they should have a place of honor in our ‘History Garden,’ near our 1922 garage. Using all of my strength, I just couldn’t budge the remaining bricks. So, we called our favorite Handyman, who came with his sledge hammer. What a job! He discovered three layers of stone and slate in the foundation beneath the soil. A very talented Mason had done an excellent job of building the stone planter so long ago!

Next, we hired three strong landscapers to carry the stones to their heavy duty truck and haul them to a business for recycling. We planted grass seed in its place. Now there will be a bit more to mow, but a lot less to weed. πŸ™‚ It felt so great to cross this garden project off my l-o-n-g ‘To Do’ list early in the season!

Some of my most treasured memories are the years that our stone planter was filled with old-fashioned Hollyhocks, in the loveliest colors. They often grew taller than me! I’ll always remember collecting the Hollyhock seeds to make little packets of ‘Seeds of Friendship’ as small tokens of gratitude for our wedding shower. It was such a small way to share the abundance of my garden with special friends.Β  One summer, the hungry neighborhood groundhogs kept munching on the tops of each Hollyhock stem. That year, we had ‘miniature’ Hollyhocks, only 12 inches tall, in full bloom! Passersby would often stop to comment on our tiny Hollyhocks and I would always share our groundhog tales with them. Ahhh… the garden memories that filled our stone planter over the years!

This week, it was so surprising to see what was blooming in my garden each day! ⇧ We truly are weeks ahead of our typical bloom times. So, I’m scurrying to keep up with our garden ‘surprise’ party this Spring!Β  The Herb & Tea Garden beds no longer have their warm blanket of leaves. Along the insides of the white picket fence, my favorite, old-fashioned perennials are thriving in this Spring garden party.Β  The Bleeding Hearts, Cranesbill Geranium, and Anemones are in full bloom and the Coral Bells and Peonies already have buds.

I spent a recent afternoon tidying up the potting bench in the garage.Β  The garden tools and flower pots are ready and waiting. After I washed the window curtains above the potting bench, I made a simple bunting with flower seed packets. Doesn’t bunting make every surprise party more festive?Β  πŸ™‚

The past two weekends we enjoyed surprising summer-like temperatures just right for some nice, long walks. Last Saturday, we took a late afternoon walk through lovely Lilacia Park. This treasure has over 700 Lilacs and 25,000 Tulips ~ all blooming several weeks early. Instead of a quiet walk amongst the fragrant blossoms, we were surprised to find several wedding parties and crowds of Senior prom dates and their families enjoying the colorful garden party. So festive!

This weekend, however, we are staying cozy and warm inside. Mother Nature has surprised us again! This afternoon our temperatures are in the upper 30s. April showers, along with high winds, thunderstorms, and excessive rainfall totals all weekend are ending the month with more surprises.Β 

We wonder what the merry, merry month of May will bring…

What’s blooming in your garden or nearby park this week?

Have you noticed any garden surprises this month?

Enjoy the small wonders in each day!

β™‘ Dawn

P.S.Β  Thank you so much for taking the time to visit today. β™₯ Hope you will join in the conversation…








30 thoughts on “Garden ‘Surprise’ Party!

    • So sad, but very true, Marcia! We must all do our part to care for our planet. I’m excited to keep a Garden Journal this year because I am making so many changes in my garden. It’s hard work ~ but good exercise. If only I could keep up with those flourishing weeds! The blossoms are especially beautiful this Spring. Thanks so much for visiting today, Marcia! β™‘

  1. What a lovely Spring you are having. I long for spring the way I remember it, in my Ohio life. Here Spring lasts about 2 weeks!! Last year we had a real spring, with rain and moderate temperatures, not this year! Temperatures have swung wildly, almost bumping 100 and the next day in the lower 60’s. Crazy. Mostly windy and dry. Yesterday we had wind gusts of 50mph and as I type this morning it is still blowing out there. My old blush roses and Jim’s hybrid teas are all done blooming. Honeysuckle blooms are sparse. Agarita is blooming across the countryside, great bee food and the mesquite trees are putting on bloom, a good indication of a dry year. My mother, undaunted by it all, gardens away in her expanded vegetable beds, while I putter away in my herb garden. Hot and dry, cool or wet, it just doesn’t matter…..we will be out there gardening away. Because that’s what gardeners do!
    I know you are having a great time with the changes you are making. It is always exciting to have new plans and a new vision! Look forward to the updates!

    • It seems to be a wild, crazy Spring everywhere this year, Chris! I had to look up Agarita to learn about it. What a beautiful Texas native! I can see why the bees love it! I love your mother’s passion for gardening. I’m sure that having important work to do in the garden keeps her going. I’m so happy that you are making your dream=come-true herb garden a reality this year, Chris! πŸ™‚ I would love to see pictures when you are ready to share. Gardening is just what we do! During the Winter months, we dream our garden dreams and make new plans. So, our passion for gardening carries us through the year. I am working extra hard to ‘right-size’ my garden beds so that there will be less to weed, and more time for family time, papercrafting, long walks, and reading on the front porch. πŸ™‚ Thanks for always being here, Chris, Hugs for both you and your mom! β™‘

    • Such a sweet thing to say, Chris! By using a few of my art supplies in my Garden Joys journal, I’m hoping to be inspired to continue it all through the gardening season. I love that it has both lined and grid pages ~ very practical. Wishing you a wonderful start to May (my favorite month in the garden)! β™‘

  2. Your garden walk is lovely in every possible way, Dawn. Those close-ups are particularly amazing and there is the Fritillaria! Gorgeous! I was unable to do a fall clean-up and now so slow in getting to it this spring, yet, the daffodils were respondent and the Lily of the Valley – well, they’ve taken over a few beds. I like to think I am in charge, but, this spring has been a reminder that I am definitely not in charge. πŸ™‚ I love your β€˜miniature’ Hollyhocks and am inspired by your garden journal. Today? Well, today, I think, is a good day for a good book or and old movie.

    • Have you visited Lilacia Park this Spring, Penny? It’s in full-bloom extra early this year. I hope that our pounding rain hasn’t destroyed the blossoms on the tulips and daffodils there. That’s where I’m drawn to those amazing Fritillaria blooms each Spring. They always make me think of Dr. Seuss because they are so unique! But I never think to smell them. Next time I will.

      We are definitely not in charge. I can see that here, too. Our rains this weekend will make our weeds easier to pull, but I’m sure they will flourish. It’s so nice to see the bees and some butterflies visiting the garden. The robins have been so busy building nests. So, I am never alone in the garden!

      It has been fun to bring in vases of flowers so early this year. I have been cutting Forsythia, Lilacs, and Daffodils. This week, we will put the wicker furniture out on the front porch. So, there will be more places to put vases, crocks, and pitchers filled with Spring blossoms! I can’t wait to start a ‘traveling vase’ of my own. Heartfelt thanks for the inspiration, my dear!

      Those ‘miniature’ Hollyhocks had a will to bloom, in spite of their challenges that summer. πŸ™‚ It’s a great lesson for us all! Today is a perfect day for reading and sipping tea. I’m also looking forward to an afternoon in my little Paper Garden studio downstairs, where the sun always shines. (Daylight bulbs are my secret sunshine source! πŸ™‚ ) Wishing you a good week in the garden as May begins, dear Penny! β™‘

      • We took a very short walk at Lilacia last week, Dawn. We were at the medical building across the street and decided to drive around the park block afterwards. I did hop out when I saw the fritallaria and took some photos. They are mysterious and glorious. I’ve never had luck with them, but, may just try again. I’m thinking that the smell just may deter the deer. πŸ™‚
        I’ve not had much time in the garden this spring. Two separate family concerns are taking top priority right now – all-the-more reason to stop and take a photo of beauty when I can.
        I always put flowers on the front porch of our first home. Your flowers and wicker and porch sound so inviting.
        I hope you enjoyed your time yesterday in your Paper Garden. The sun just peeked out as I sit here tapping away. Hope! πŸ™‚

      • Sending heartfelt hugs, Penny! I’m keeping you and your family close at heart. It’s so important to embrace the small moments of Springtime joy in each day. For me, stopping to take a photo makes me mindful of the small moments that I want to remember. I’m holding them close to my heart in my Gratitude Journal. Tomorrow will be the day that I bring out the wicker furniture, hang the flag, pick a bouquet of flowers for the porch,… and hopefully, read and relax for just a bit on the porch. It’s a little celebration of Spring that I always enjoy! Extra hugs, my friend! β™‘

  3. I will send pictures when things start to fill in a little! I am excited about it.
    I have to tell you this cute story. ( I mentioned it in comments on SB’s blog, but you may not have had time to read all the comments.) My mother’s younger sister, age 85, called my mom to wish her happy birthday. They talked about family and then talked about gardening. My aunt told mom she had just planted an apple tree. Mom didn’t skip a beat, she just asked what kind? Can you imagine planting trees at 85! I want to be like that!!

    • Oh, how I love that story, Chris! πŸ™‚ Both your mom and your aunt are amazing! You have strong genes, my dear. I think you will be just like them! πŸ™‚

  4. Dawn, it’s hard to believe how early everything exploded into bloom for you and for me! How wonderful you are continuing on with your project of downsizing your garden. Your porch must be so welcoming with its newly stained stairs and lovely touches. Your photos are so lovely, Dawn. I love the closeups! What a special gardening journal you are creating. It’s beautifully written with lovely artwork as well. It reminds me of another favorite artist–you know her, Susan Branch. My Cl Pinkie rose on the trellis is blooming so lovely now. The only issue is it’s early by about 3 weeks. As much as it delights me, it concerns me for our planet. I hope you have a wonderful week ahead as you find more enjoyment in your lovely garden. β™₯

    • I feel the very same way, Martha Ellen! Although I am happy to enjoy my favorite season a bit early, I’m very concerned about the dangers of global warming of our fragile planet. My parents are noticing the very same thing in the desert Southwest. The climate is changing in so many ways.

      I’m still working very hard to ‘right-size’ my perennial gardens. This month, I eliminated two perennial beds and two shrubs in the front yard. There are two more very large perennial beds in front that I would like to scale down by at least 50%. I am still very passionate about gardening! But less time spent weeding will allow more family time, time with friends, time for card making, scrapbooking, long walks, and reading on the front porch. πŸ™‚

      I’m inspired to continue this new bullet-style in my Garden Joys journal. I’m trying hard to include garden facts and my feelings about all of the changes in my garden. Just recording a few facts whenever I spend time in the garden is quick and easy. I thought I might do some stamping on the pages, but decided to try a bit of doodling and lettering instead. I’ve always collected gardening quotes, so it’s fun to include one here and there, as space permits. (I know why it reminds you of Susan ~ it must be the white space on the pages. πŸ™‚ Wouldn’t it be amazing to fill a journal with Susan’s handlettering and watercoloring!! Oh my!) The chance to use a few art supplies in my garden journal is keeping me motivated to keep writing.

      Hope your knee is beginning to feel better, Martha Ellen. β™₯ Have you been able to spend a bit of time in your beautiful garden in the past week? I know that Grayden will watch over it for you, while you rest and enjoy it from the patio. If we were neighbors, I would stop by to help out. β™₯

      We have had excessive amounts of rain this weekend, so May will bring lots of new growth to the garden. Waving my garden gloves across the miles, dear one! β™‘

  5. Dawn, I love your Journal. It is so pretty. Your handwriting is beautiful. I sometimes use Susan Branch’s art (I copy it and cut it out) in my journal, but I need to do something like you’re doing to help me write in it more often–not just when I plant something.

    • Thank you so much, Cathy! It’s fun to try something new in my Garden Joys journal. So far, I have kept it going through March and April. πŸ™‚ It’s quick and easy to write bullet-style. It’s just very informal… and fun! It’s another chance to play with some art supplies, while doing a bit of garden memory-keeping. I already had the Lang journal here. As I write, I have found that I love having both lined pages and grid pages. So, if you are shopping for a new journal, that might be a feature to consider. As the season progresses, I think it will be a nice place to make garden plans, too. What fun it will be to look back through my garden journal on a cold Winter’s day!

      I hope you are enjoying your garden this Spring, too. Are you making any big changes in the garden this year? Hope the merry, merry month of May will be a good one for you, Cathy! Thank you so much for visiting and chatting over the garden gate today! β™‘

    • I’ve been thinking of you, Karen… and missing you! I’m so happy that you stopped to visit today. πŸ™‚ It’s fun to try something different with my Garden Joys journal this year. So often, I start strong but my time and enthusiasm fizzle as the growing season goes on. I think that using a few art supplies will keep garden memory-keeping more interesting this year. I’ve been writing bullet-style journal entries for the past two months and still love it!

      My favorite time to photograph flowers is in the late afternoon sunshine. The breezes always seem to blow at that time of day, making the flowers dance around. Sometimes I wish I was taking videos instead! πŸ™‚ Hope you are enjoying your garden this Spring, Karen. All of the California rains must make your garden so happy! Wishing you an abundance of beautiful Spring blossoms! β™‘

    • Happy May Day, Julie! I don’t think Hollyhocks come miniature-sized. One summer, however, a very hungry groundhog used our stone planter as a ‘salad bar.’ Every morning, the top of all the Hollyhocks were nibbled off. Those flowers just kept on blooming ~ only 12 inches tall! πŸ™‚ So cute! I’ll always remember that summer. Wishing you happy Springtime days, Julie! Thank you so much for visiting today! β™‘

  6. Love hearing the joy ring through your writing. The photos are superb, as always. You have such a good eye. I have herbs happily growing in pots and await a new lime tree for another big pot. Happy May, rabbit, rabbit.

    • Rabbit! Rabbit! dear Anne! I just knew that you would pop in for a visit to celebrate the merry, merry month of May! πŸ™‚ I’m actively looking for the small joys in each day and holding them close at heart in my Gratitude Journal. It’s easy to do, since May is my very favorite month in the garden!

      I can just imagine you tending to your herb garden, Anne! What a treat for all of the senses! It will be so wonderful to have a lime tree of your own. It will feel like a garden party in your yard every day, my friend! Enjoy! Sending warmest hugs, Anne! β™‘

  7. First, there is nothing blooming here except Daffodils, but they are lovely. πŸ™‚ I enjoyed your planter story because I had a somewhat similar project. I took out an old wooden planter, and was going to right size that bed by reducing it by about 1/4. The only problem was when I tried to dig up the boxwoods ringing the area I couldn’t even get my shovel in the ground because of their roots and the roots of an old maple tree that is now gone. So…I took the spirea out, transplanted four other perennials, shoveled and spread four wagon loads of dirt that was in the planter, put the spirea back but on level ground, moved the small stone wall a little to make up for the extra space, and called it good. It’s not what I wanted, but I can live with it. Now I need mulch so I don’t have to weed it. πŸ™‚ That square of grass may be one of the most beautiful grassy areas in your yard when you gaze out at it.

    • Spring is on the way, Judy! You had such a big ordeal with those tree roots. I keep running into roots in unexpected places, too. It always alters my plan just a little bit. I had to smile because I dug out two spirea shrubs as part of my front yard project. Usually I am a ‘preservationist’ who tries to save all the relics from the past. So, I was surprised at how happy I felt seeing that pile of rubble stone antiquities. I knew that eliminating our stone planter was right thing to do because my heart felt so happy! πŸ™‚ I’m quite certain that we spent more having helpers take it apart and haul the stones away to be recycled than the cost of building it originally.

      It just feels so great to see progress happening as I ‘right-size’ our front yard gardens. So far, we have eliminated two large perennial beds and two spirea shrubs. Now I will have to learn a new pattern for mowing the lawn! πŸ™‚ For thirty years, I have been mowing around these four areas. That square of new grass will always make me smile! It comes with a long history of colorful blossoms! Wishing you a wonderful week in the garden, Judy! β™‘

  8. Dawn, I’m fascinated by the early arrival data. I’m going to see if there is something similar for California. It just never occurred to me to look. Your garden journal is breathtaking. You have the neatest printing, beautiful handwriting and lovely data and quotes and drawings to round out your gem.

    Your garden flowers are *gorgeous*. Ah, spring.

    Isn’t fun to “rearrange” the garden. I’m glad you got to check that brick planter removal off the list. I find the tasks that take the longest to get to are the ones that involve several people to get it done. I’m still waiting six moths later for someone to come and remove the shrubs under our office window. I spent hours pruning them back as low as I could, but my foot and my back no longer allow for that kind of deep digging. I’m so ready for them to be gone, with something healthier in there place.

    I hope your 30’s turn into 60’s and 70’s soon. It’s going to be 87 here today, a little too hot for early spring (and this gal’s fair skin). I did some pruning early after taking my son to school. Now I need to get some work done, but not before I visited your garden. Happy week!

    • The growing degree days data was really interesting, Alys! Planting, fertilizing schedules, birds, wildlife, and insect populations are all feeling the impact. Our changing global weather patterns are affecting our fragile planet in so many ways. During April, we had 6.5 inches of rain. Half fell on Saturday and Sunday alone. We will really see lots of new growth as May begins. Typically, our frost-free planting date is in mid-May.

      I’m having fun with my Garden Joys journal this year! Thanks for your very kind words. That’s my second grade printing! (I had many, many years of practice!:) ) I think I will really enjoy looking back through this journal, while sipping tea on a cold Winter’s day!

      So true, Alys! I really thought that I could dismantle that stone planter on my own. The top layer of bricks was quite loose. So, I rescued those to save for a border for my ‘History Garden’ bed. πŸ™‚ It was shocking to discover that the rest of the stone planter was so strong and secure. I couldn’t budge it! Thank goodness for helpers! Hope your helper comes soon to finish the job for you.

      It’s warming up a bit already. This week, we are expecting sunny days in the 50s and 60s. The California sunshine sounds really warm this Spring. Wishing you a nice week, too, sweet Alys! β™‘

  9. What a wonderful post Dawn. I enjoyed taking a stroll around your garden and admiring nature in all its glory! Absolutely a brilliant time of the year is it not? I have taken a lot of pictures and am at the moment composing a gardening post for the blog. I do have a separate garden category, but I’ve not posted anything since early spring and like you say, things are just going crazy! I am in awe of your gardening diary. I love how neatly you’ve itemized it all. I keep promising myself that I will be doing something similar, but as of yet, I have not done a thing about it, just scribblings here and there in my notebook πŸ™‚ Keep up the wonderful gardening posts, I am enjoying them.

    • May is my very favorite month in the garden, Loretta! It’s always amazing to see the daily changes in the garden. I’m having fun with a new style of garden journal this year. It’s a nice way to be creative while capturing some special garden memories. Hopefully, I will keep adding entries all season long. I’m very motivated by the opportunity to use a few of my art supplies in my Garden Joys journal! I’ve been making some big changes as I work extra hard to ‘right-size’ my perennial gardens. So, this is a perfect year to document all of the changes! πŸ™‚ I’m so glad that you are taking lots of garden photos, too. Can’t wait to stroll through your garden soon, Loretta! Wishing you sunny days in the garden! β™‘

    • Happy Springtime, Ricky! Isn’t it amazing that you can peek into my garden all the way from India? It’s such a special part of the magic of blogging! I have been very, very, very busy helping my family and friends recently. I’m longing for time in the garden and sunny days to dig in the dirt.

      Right now, my ‘Friendship Garden’ bed is just filled with colorful blooms. We have had lots of rainy days, so the garden is growing very quickly. I’ve been documenting all of the changes in the garden in my new Garden Joys journal. It’s fun to use a few art supplies for garden memory keeping. πŸ™‚ I promise lots of garden pictures very soon! I’m sure that your mother’s beautiful garden is a riot of color at this time of year. Hope your busy days slow down a bit in the summertime, Ricky! Thank you so much for stopping to visit today. Your visits always leave a smile in my heart! β™‘

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.