Chatting By the Garden Gate ~ August

Hi Friends!

Hope that you and your families are safe and healthy! Our thoughts are with everyone currently experiencing the wild forces of nature, in the midst of a pandemic. How are you doing? ♥ Please let us know…

The Farmers’ Almanac predicted that our 2020 growing season would be one of “drizzle and sizzle” throughout Northern Illinois. So true! During May, we had a record-breaking 9.52 inches of rain in our area. (Our Spring rain totals also broke records in 2018 and 2019.) Our perennials were taller than ever with an abundance of blossoms. During June and July, temperatures were above normal many, many days.

Most recently, the Midwest experienced a derecho, a widespread, long lasting, straight-line windstorm that caused tornadoes, heavy rains, and hurricane-force winds. Mid-afternoon on July 10th, as we were bringing inside anything that could be blown away, our tornado sirens sounded. We retreated to the basement for safety as 95 mph winds blew through our area. Thirteen tornadoes were sighted in the greater Chicago area. More than 800,000 homes were without power. Our neighborhood lost power for four days as the power company worked to remove fallen trees from the electric wires. Thankfully, everyone was safe and neighbors helped neighbors. We were so grateful for power companies from across the country who sent crews to help restore our power. Just down the street, we saw a power company truck from Alabama helping to replace the electric wires. It has been a challenging summer for so many!

Let’s stroll through the garden as we chat today! 🙂

These old-fashioned Phlox have bloomed in my cottage garden for over 33 years! I have moved them from bed to bed several times. They seem very happy near the arbor in my Friendship Garden bed.

 

Phlox blossoms add a pop of color to our garden every August. The pollinators just love them!

 

Transplanting Phlox from place to place in my garden always feels like ‘watercoloring’ with real flowers. These closeups inspire me to mix watercolors on my palette and paint Phlox blossoms one day. 🙂

It’s so hard to believe that August is winding down already. During our many months of staying at home, it feels like the days are long… yet the months seem to fly by quickly. Noticing the perennials in bloom helps me keep track of each month. My garden palette slowly changed from the bright, orange Daylilies of late June and early July (seen in the top photo) to paler shades of the ‘Stella d’Oro’ Reblooming Daylilies.

‘Stella D’Oro’ Daylilies make wonderful cut flowers. Although each blossom lasts only one day, there are several large buds on each stem.

 

The ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea blossoms turned from bright white to the palest shade of green as they began to dry on the plants. I love this shade! Now they are changing to a darker shade of green. It’s time to cut them to decorate some grapevine wreaths!

 

My perennial garden is bathed in bright, sunny blossoms

of Rudbeckia and Black-eyed Susans every August.

The Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ are much taller than me! I have to wait in line with the pollinators when I cut blossoms to fill vases. A nearby bee bath keeps the pollinators happy.

 

A bee bath in the Friendship Garden encourages the pollinators to stay longer in our garden. The Garden Stones encourage me to be mindful of my special ‘word’ for each year while I savor time in the garden!

 

 

Black-eyed Susans and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ line the walkway to our front porch. Such a lovely combination of sunny yellow and pale purple! This week’s garden bouquet for my mom featured Black-eyed Susans and delicate, purple stems of Hosta blossoms. Such a happy combination! ♥

 

Very sadly, this summer’s garden view was obstructed by huge, yellow construction equipment parked in front of our house nightly. A huge city project dug up a nearby street to bury new water main pipes. The project lasted from early May through just last week. Oh my! Our little home was shaking as huge equipment pounded the pavement day after day. (My antique teacups were rattling until I packed them away for safety!) We kept our windows closed as clouds of construction dust drifted across the garden each day. I often wore a dust mask in the garden and while I cut the grass each week. However, many days it was just healthier to stay inside! So many of our outdoor projects had to be put on hold.

The past few weeks, though, I have been busy as a bee working on this summer’s plan to ‘right-size’ the three perennial beds along our front porch. Being a sentimental gardener, I have spent many hours digging… while reminiscing about all of the changes I have made to the front porch beds over the years.

When I became a homeowner, 33 summers ago, there were two narrow beds with tall hedges and a tidy border of annuals. The bed on the south side of our front porch had a tall pine tree, a ground cover of Bishop’s Weed, and pale, pink shrub Roses. My parents helped me to cut down the Pine tree that was much too close to the front porch. With more sunshine and room to grow, the aggressive Bishop’s Weed and shrub Roses thrived. That began my annual challenge to dig out the Roses and the quick-spreading ground cover.

I planted annuals in my first two years as a gardener… until I discovered the ‘magic’ of perennials!! 🙂 Each summer, I cut away just a few inches of grass so that I could add a new plant to my front porch gardens. Little-by-little, the garden beds slowly expanded over the years. More room for perennials… and more space for the roots of the Roses and ground cover to twist and twine beneath the soil.

It was such fun to make changes to the sunny bed to the south of the front porch over the years! I planted a lovely white Lilac tree where the Pine had been. Within two years, the underground root systems of the Roses and ground cover choked out the Lilac. For the next few years, beautiful Hollyhocks blossomed there. Later I planted a mature, purple Aster that attracted so many butterflies. However, the Bishop’s Weed and Roses would twist and wind their way throughout the perennial bed. Every two weeks, I spent time digging them out to no avail. Enough!  I decided to add a thick layer of wood chips surrounding the perennials several years ago. That would surely solve the problem!

I just happened to have an antique wheelbarrow tucked in the corner of the garage. So, I rolled it onto the wood chips and filled the wheelbarrow with containers of bright annuals. A few years later, I tucked the wheelbarrow back into the garage and placed an antique picket fence gate on the wood chips. It was fun to hang different folk art pieces on the picket fence throughout the year. Alas, nothing seemed to solve the ‘root’ of my problem…

As I recalled the evolution of this special part of the garden, my strongest memory was all of the weeding as I battled the roots of the shrub Roses and rhysomes of the Bishop’s Weed. My heart told me that now is the season of life to ‘right-size’ the front porch perennial beds. Taking advantage of the shade early each morning, I can still be found digging down deeply into the soil to remove those aggressive roots one-by-one.

Inspired by author Kerry Ann Mendez, I often repeat her words of encouragement: “These are not children or pets.” I have been composting the perennials as I remove them. I certainly don’t want to share those ‘problem roots’ with friends and neighbors. I strategically worked my way through the bed allowing each plant to bloom one last time.

The south side of the front porch is almost empty now. My favorites, the Daisies and ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea, will be the last perennials to dig up in this bed. A bittersweet task!  (Repeat after me… “These are not children or pets.” 😉 )

Newly planted grass seed has already grown a few inches tall in this space now. It ‘sparks joy’ each morning as I look for rainbows in the water spray while I sprinkle my new, grassy, ‘right-size’ garden bed. 🙂

I would LOVE some tried and true garden advice ~

What kind of weed barrier do you recommend I use in the area right along the front porch lattice work? I’m planning to cover the weed barrier (the length of the porch, approximately 4 foot wide) with wood chips.

Shh! I have a ‘secret’ plan for that small area of wood chips! In our basement, there is a very heavy antique that would be so lovely sitting on the wood chips holding colorful, container plants. It would be just perfect in the garden of a retired second grade teacher! (We also have a very friendly, very strong, young neighbor who always offers to help us!) 🙂  Hmmm. Any guesses?  😉

I have been tending this little ‘garden plot’ on the Internet

for six years now.

Nurturing the friendships we have grown is so heartwarming.

Writing nourishes my creative soul.

YOU inspire me to keep growing and blooming!

♥♥♥

Thank you for joining me

for a very chatty, garden walk today!

 

Stay safe, sweet friends!

Be well.

 

Perennially yours,

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

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Peaceful, Easy Feeling

Hi Friends!

As our busy Summer slips away, it feels like the perfect time to share one of our very favorite Summer days. Visiting the Chicago Botanic Garden is always a treat for all of the senses! On this delightful, late August day, the gardens welcomed us… as my heart overflowed with a sweet song of Summer.

Strolling together along quiet lakes with my husband has always been a beautiful part of “our story.” In fact, we will always cherish one of our very early dates here, at the Chicago Botanic Garden,  as we walked hand-in-hand while getting to know one another! ♥♥

The early morning stillness felt like a walking meditation. The pollinators were already busy at work while we had the garden paths to ourselves.

I always find so much inspiration here that it quickly turns into an Artist’s Date! I’m drawn to nature’s color combinations that would be so lovely in my cottage perennial gardens and the delicate petal forms that I long to capture with watercolors in my new sketchbook. My camera roll quickly fills with all of the beauty… along with a ‘wish list’ of perennials that would feel right at home in my garden!

 

This has been my Summer to learn more about Mason bees because we were gifted with a beautiful Mason bee house for our garden. Each morning, I check on their progress as these hardworking pollinators fill the tiny, hollow tubes with eggs. Little-by-little, they seal each full tube with wet, clay soil.

In nature, Mason bees often lay their eggs in tiny cracks, in pine cones, in bundles of sticks, and other protected spaces, then seal the opening with wet soil. We really enjoyed this large display about Mason bees.

Isn’t this a truly charming Mason bee house? Nestled in among the Hydrangea blossoms, the house rests on a tree trunk. Bee-still my heart… even more inspiration! 🙂

My heart was all a-flutter as I glanced at my watch.

It was time!

The main reason for today’s visit was to enjoy the Butterflies & Blooms exhibition at the Chicago Botanic Garden. From late May through early September, visitors have a rare opportunity to spend time with live butterflies native to South America, North America, Asia, Africa, and some Illinois natives, as well. Just six people at a time entered the vestibule for our introduction and instructions. We were reminded to look down at the ground often, especially after standing in one place to observe or photograph. Butterflies often rest on the ground and care must be taken to preserve their safety.

As we carefully stepped inside,

such a peaceful, easy feeling washed over me…

A beautiful garden of host plants in full bloom welcomed us inside the large screened-in exhibition space. Hundreds of butterflies fluttered about landing on the colorful blooms. (To learn the name and country of origin of each butterfly, just click here.)

I enjoyed seeing so many of the same flowers that grow in my perennial garden beds. 🙂 (To learn about the flowers from the exhibition, just click here.) It was so interesting to observe the how blossom colors and forms attracted the butterflies.

We headed toward the Pupa Room to peek through the window into the Emergence Chamber. Every Friday throughout the exhibition, 300 to 500 new chrysalises arrive here. All of them are raised on butterfly farms for  educational purposes. The butterflies and moths for this exhibition are never caught in the wild.

The chrysalises hang inside the hot, humid Emergence Chamber (80 degrees F, 80% humidity) until they are ready to hatch. Butterflies usually emerge in the morning as the sun shines down on the Emergence Chamber. It only takes a few seconds to emerge! The new butterfly hangs onto the chrysalis until it is ready to unfurl its wings. As soon as its wings are dry, it begins to fly around. Then it is carefully lifted out for release. What an amazing Morning Science lesson!

We were delighted to observe several brand new butterflies being released into the exhibition. I just love new beginnings! 🙂 The new butterflies immediately flew over to a nearby feeding dish.

Four feeding dishes are scattered throughout the exhibition space. The dishes are filled with rotting fruit and a sponge filled with blue Gatorade. Butterflies like to eat bananas, watermelon, mangoes and pineapple (the more rotten the better). They sip sugar water from the sponge and flower nectar through their proboscis, a straw-like structure. Butterflies do not have chewing mouth parts.

Enjoy the delicate beauty of a few of these “flying flowers”…

We also had a fascinating opportunity to view a large atlas moth (native to Southeast Asia) up close. It is one of the largest insects on the planet. The atlas moth does not feed after emerging from its cocoon. During the day, it doesn’t move from its resting place. It uses all of its energy while looking for a mate at night. This beautiful moth only lives for one or two weeks.

This close up shows the intricate, detailed wing of the atlas moth.

Awe inspiring!

 

When a butterfly landed on my wrist, it was a perfect time for an impromptu Science lesson with some young visitors. (Once a teacher, always a teacher!) 🙂 Another visitor walked by wearing a straw hat adorned with visiting butterflies.

  A short Butterflies & Blooms video (courtesy of The Chicago Botanic Garden)

As visitors came and left, we lingered in this peaceful oasis for 1.5 hours. There was so much beauty to savor and enjoy! My sweet husband has been a Lepidoptera enthusiast since childhood. So, he was truly in seventh heaven! Spending time among hundreds of colorful butterflies gave me the most wonderful, peaceful, easy feeling!

As we left the Butterflies & Blooms exhibition, special Butterfly TSA volunteers carefully checked us for any butterfly ‘hitchhikers’ that might ride out with us. In the outer vestibule, each visitor spun around at a mirror to check for possible butterfly escapees. We must be very careful to avoid introducing non-native species to our environment.

We had such a lovely morning! It was simply delightful to watch the young children interacting with the butterflies. Photographers focused their long lenses as butterflies sipped nectar from blossoms. Gardeners dreamed of new perennials to attract butterflies to their gardens. My heart was overflowing with gratitude for this peaceful, enchanting experience!

Heartfelt thanks, dear blog friends, for continuing to visit

over the past several weeks.

I am truly grateful for your friendship! ♥♥

Special family time is keeping me extra busy.

I still have SO many stories to share…

♥♥♥

Sending crisp, cozy Autumn blessings,

from my heart to yours!

 

With gratitude,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  When did you experience a peaceful, easy feeling this Summer?  Hope you will share with us!

 

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Happy Things…

Hi Friends!

When the world feels unsettled in so many ways, it’s always healing to stop, catch our breath, and focus on happy things. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing the past few weeks…

Intentionally…

Mindfully…

With gratitude…

Our family recently gathered for a very special celebration in honor of our parents’ 67th wedding anniversary! What a joy it was to be together for such a happy reason! There were flowers, balloons, cards, and a delicious dinner in a very elegant setting.

Most important of all, there were so many heartwarming memories shared! The stories of how our parents met, their dating years, and the proposal on a very snowy night so long ago.

They reminisced about how my dad made it home from the Army the night before their wedding day and their honeymoon on Mackinac Island. They shared how it felt to leave their families behind, as newlyweds, when they moved to Texas where my dad was stationed next.

Months later, Mom and Dad were separated, in service to our country, when the Army shipped Dad off to Korea. They faithfully kept in touch by writing letters to one another every night. Their bundle of precious love letters, still tied with a ribbon, holds the day-to-day stories of that challenging time in their young marriage. I wonder if they will read their letters to one another again? I hope so!

Over the years, we have celebrated our parents’ wedding anniversary in many special ways and special places. However, this was one of the sweetest celebrations ever! ♥♥

After weeks of record-breaking rain totals in May, we finally have a bit of SUNSHINE!  In fact, we just had four sunny days in a row. 🙂 It truly lifts our spirits and fills us with solar energy!

We have been taking long walks, chatting with neighbors outside, and enjoying quiet times on the front porch. Our days and nights have been cooler than usual… and feel oh-so refreshing!

 

My Friendship Garden is in full bloom. It has been a delight to watch the colors change daily! The dainty, white Anemones have been dancing in the breeze. The pale purple Iris blossoms appeared next. (They always feel like a special ‘visit’ from my dear friend, Iris, in Germany!) The sunny, yellow Irises added a bright pop of sunshine to the Friendship Garden. The deep purple Siberian Irises added such depth of color to this special garden bed.

All of the plants in my Friendship Garden were gifts from the gardens of special friends. So, in addition to all of the color they add to the garden, they fill my heart with special memories of loved ones!

 

Old-fashioned Peonies added lush beauty to the Friendship Garden. They were already here 32 years ago, when I became a first-time homeowner and gardener. I often think of Mrs. G. who lived here and loved her garden for so many years. Perhaps she planted the Peonies?

Due to our abundance of rain, the bright, pink Peonies are taller this year than I can ever remember! It has been such fun to cut bouquets from the Friendship Garden for the front porch and to share with my parents.

 

After so many rainy days, I’m still busy planting containers for the front porch and our flagstone patio near the Herb and Tea Garden. “No rain, no flowers!” So, I’m grateful for the rain showers.

Although Lavender thrives in dry Mediterranean soil, our Lavender is happily blooming in its container in a corner of the Friendship Garden. Nestled along the edge of its pot are two small ‘lovebirds.’  They remind me of my sweet husband and I who will always be newlyweds! This month, we will happily celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary. The years have flown by so quickly! ♥♥

 

 

Earlier this month, a rainbow of welcoming doors was constructed and installed on the grounds of a nearby church. This artwork, created by the congregation, shows visitors to our town that ALL are welcome here. What a meaningful, heartwarming symbol of love!

 

 

A dear friend and I have a special tradition of celebrating her birthday at our beautiful Arboretum each year. This month, we were captivated by the creative artwork of Sean Kenney. Wandering along the tree-lined paths, we admired several intricate creations of insects, animals, and plants completely formed using Lego bricks. (Click to enlarge the photos to read the descriptions.)

 

Sean Kenney designs his fascinating creations to remind us that all of nature is connected just like the Lego bricks are connected.

 

 

The insects, animals, and plants are nature’s building blocks. We are reminded to take care of our fragile planet which connects us all.

 

 

Thick clouds overhead grew darker as two best friends walked and talked. Before long, we were caught in a very heavy downpour. Dripping wet as we burst into laughter, we promised to return again soon, to see the rest of these awe-inspiring creations!

 

 

For the past few months, I have been absolutely fascinated following a very special hiker on You Tube. It was her You Tube name, Radiate Joy, that first caught my attention. Yvette is documenting her 2,000+ mile journey as she hikes along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail from Georgia to Maine. Carrying her 25 lb. pack with camping essentials and 5 days worth of food at a time, Yvette is vlogging her Thru-Hike on the narrow trail, up and down mountains and across National Parks. She remains so upbeat and inspiring throughout this huge challenge!

I hope you will take a peek at her latest video on her Radiate Joy You Tube channel. As of Day 59 on the trail, Yvette has hiked northbound 865 miles, following the tiny, white ‘blaze’ marks painted on trees along the narrow footpaths. She has a beautiful way of filming her trek, with breathtaking sights and sounds of nature and wonderful music. I’m so impressed that she is filming on her iPhone and editing her videos in her little tent in the evenings. Yvette’s bubbly personality shines brightly through the rainiest of days and the countless obstacles she encounters along the AT.

In this video, Yvette shares her reasons for beginning this journey:

In this video, her journey begins:

 

Such an inspiration!! Although I would never attempt an AT adventure, I think of Yvette very often. Her joy is contagious! She inspires me to walk a little further along our nearby prairie and to meet the challenges I face along life’s journey with courage, determination, and as much joy as possible.

What Happy Things are you enjoying these days????

Do share with us…

 

Take time to smell the Rosemary!

♡ Dawn

 

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Cultivating Patience…

Hi Friends!

The garden always teaches me important life lessons…

and this Spring it has cultivated

a valuable

mindfulness practice,

with help from Mother Nature.

Ever-so-slowly…

Springtime, in the Midwest, seemed to

tiptoe

into my garden

this year

with its usual early bloomers.

The dwarf Irises started the garden party,

followed by Crocuses days later.

The first blossoms always take my breath away!

They were the perfect reminders to look for

tiny blessings

tucked into the corners of each day.

Ever-so-slowly…

The petite Siberian Squill

flourished in spite of

our wild, weather roller coaster ride!

They taught me to stay

strong

during the challenging times.

Ever-so-slowly…

The sunny, yellow Daffodils bounced back

after being flattened by two

wet, heavy snowfalls

in April.

Their strength is

an important reminder

to us all.

We can bounce back after multiple setbacks.

Ever-so-slowly…

The Irises, Bleeding Hearts,

Tulips, and Hostas

endured

the heavy, icy snowfall.

They remind us to look toward

the sunshine

when we need it most!

Our Winter weather began with an extremely challenging

blizzard in November and surprised us

twice with snowstorms in April.

I can’t remember ever watching my garden

bloom in the snow

until last weekend!

This snowstorm

brought our snowfall total to

49.5 inches (126 cm).

Our average Winter snowfall is

36 inches (91cm).

Magnolia petals were tossed about

like confetti

during the latest Spring snowstorm.

Most of the petals held fast to the branches,

reminding us to ‘hold tight’

and weather the storms

together!

Ever-so-slowly…

The trees and perennials soaked up

an abundance of precipitation

for this year’s growing season.

Ever-so-slowly…

The Spring snow melted.

Finally, heavy rains

brought the month of April

 to a very soggy end.

Ever-so-slowly…

I began to document

Spring 2019

in my Garden Journal.

Alas, there were only a few hours

of raking and gardenkeeping

during April.

My busiest day in the garden

so far this year

was April 23rd:

♥ mowed the lawn for the first time this year

♥ hung birdhouse in the Magnolia (in full bloom!)

♥ placed a pair of colorful Wellies and

a vintage watering can filled with Forsythia cuttings

beside the front door

♥ planted a large grapevine basket

with colorful Muscari and Daffodils

for the front porch

(and added a tiny bird’s nest

found in the garden last Autumn)

♥ planted Violas in a pretty, sage-colored pot

to bring a bit of Springtime to the

front porch

 

Ever-so-slowly…

I’m learning the importance of being more flexible…

and just taking things moment-by-moment.

Nature can’t be rushed.

My garden is cultivating a

deep sense of

patience

in my soul.

♥♥♥

I’m so very grateful

for all of the life lessons

my garden

teaches me each and every year .

Springtime anticipation

feels extra-sweet

this year!

♥♥♥

It’s marvelous, magical May!

Take time to enjoy the blossoms each day!

 

Sending sunshine!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Have you been busy in your garden?

What’s blooming in your neighborhood?

Quiet…

Hi Friends!

Our native plants are in full bloom here in the Prairie State. We are very fortunate to have several prairie areas nearby, just perfect for a walking meditation on a recent Summer morning.

The gentle, winding path took me past a quiet marsh area. Peaceful lilypads, slender grasses, sunny coneflowers, and delicate Queen Anne’s Lace inspired me to pause and reflect…

Native wildflowers have long roots that run so deep,

much like our family roots.

The Native plants support one another.

Growing together in the prairie ecosystem

allows the wildflowers to survive the difficult times and thrive.

As I walked, the silence was only broken

by the song of red wing blackbirds and crickets.

Then the stillness and quiet returned.

I wanted to let everyone know that, much like the quiet of the prairie, our blog will be quiet for a little while. I will be dedicating my time to helping my family and there just won’t be time to write and edit posts for a while. As soon as possible, I look forward to writing again. There is so much to share!

In the meantime, I hope you will peek into the blog archives to enjoy stories you may have missed during your busy times. Be sure to read through the comments, for these little conversations are always the highlights of every blog post here!

I will pop in to check our blog each day, so please do continue to leave your lovely comments on any post. Replying to your comments brings me such joy! You can always reach me, by email, through the ‘Say Hello’ page. I very much look forward to hearing from you!

Heartfelt thanks for always being here!

With love,

♡ Dawn

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Summer Songs

Hi Friends!

Ahhhh, the lovely soundtracks of Summer days…

Summer songs are all around us.

Can you hear them, too?

Each morning, as I step outside and stroll through the arbor into the backyard, I feel so grateful for all of the rainy days we have had this summer. The pitter patter of raindrops has been one of our most popular Summer songs! Over the past few weeks, we have had another 7 inches (17 cm) of rain.

In fact, our garden hose is still tucked away in the garage. Mother Nature has been watering for me all Summer long! 🙂 She even refills our bee baths and birdbath. I’ve been helping a tiny bit, using a vintage watering can to water the containers on the front porch.

Our perennial, cottage garden is quite lush and the weeds are most definitely thriving, too! The clematis blossoms that adorned the top of the arbor have been artfully rearranged by a frisky squirrel. I’ve been watching him climb up and down the arbor as if he were climbing a ladder. Although concerned at first, now I’m just tickled by the way the squirrel has arranged the pale purple clematis vines!

The garden has also been filled with a symphony of delightful birdsong this Summer!  Our feathered friends made themselves right ‘at home’ in the birdhouses throughout the garden and built a nest under the eaves. Their sweet songs always entertain me while I am busy gardenkeeping. My favorite garden task this month has been cutting bouquets of blossoms to fill stoneware crocks and Mason jars on the front porch. 🙂 What a peaceful way to begin each day!

Pops of color from the Asiatic lilies and wide drifts of orange and yellow daylilies in full bloom have been just lovely. This week, as I cut down millions hundreds of spent daylily stems, my heart smiled with gratitude for their glorious show during the past few weeks! An abundance of Annabelle hydrangeas allows me to cut armfuls of the huge, white blossoms to add cozy, old-fashioned charm to our front porch and dining room. It’s fun to send visitors home with a bouquet, too!

Now in the mid-afternoon, we can hear the cicadas tuning up. Their loud, boisterous chorus continues until  evening, when the daylight fades and the fireflies entertain us while we relax on the front porch.

The buzzing of the bees as they work to pollinate the garden is one of my very favorite Summer songs. When the bees are happy, the gardener is happy!

This month, the bees are also creating quite a buzz in my Self-Care bullet journal…

I played with a hexagon stencil and Distress Ink as I set up my July pages.

Each morning, I graph the number of hours I slept.

Every evening, I jot down things that I was grateful for that day.

My Gratitude page fills up very quickly each month.

It is always the most important page in my Self-Care journal.

Each day, I track my workouts,

the glasses of water I drink,

and my number of steps.

 

There is no mention of food

in my Self-Care journal.

(It’s so easy to track my healthy meals each day in the Weight Watchers app.)  🙂

This special journal highlights all of the other things

that make my life a healthy, happy one!

 

My sweet husband and I each wrote

‘Six-Word Love Stories’ about our marriage

and I added those heartfelt words recently.

The final July page in my journal holds a few heartwarming quotations.

Although it takes many hours to create my journal pages,

it only takes 10 minutes each evening to fill them in.

This reflective time always feels like

a special, little gift to me!

 I’m already thinking about an August theme

for my bullet journal.

Hmmm, perhaps… sunflowers!

 

There is still one more favorite Summer song…

Every year, one song becomes a celebration of my Summer days.

It’s been that way ever since my high school days. 🙂

My ‘Summer song’ seems to choose me,

very much like my ‘word’ for the year does.

This song has been following me

everywhere I go ~

whether I’m driving

or creating in my little

Paper Garden studio downstairs.

I’m always singing along!

♥ ♥ ♥

♫ ♬ This is my wish for all of you!

(With huge thanks to Jason Mraz for his wonderful lyrics!) 🙂

I’m so grateful that you stopped to visit today!

What kinds of Summer songs are making you smile this year?

Hope you’ll share with all of us…

 

Just keep singing!

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

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Beginnings

Hi Friends!

My fingers felt cold, but my heart was warm. The beginning of a new garden season is always one of my happiest moments of the year. I just love new beginnings! So, I headed out early this morning wearing my winter jacket, a warm hat… and a colorful, new pair of garden gloves. 🙂  It would have been much more sensible to wait for the warmth of the afternoon, but I woke up with ‘garden fever’ today. The thermometer read 43 degrees as I headed out the door.

Although I have been walking through my Midwest garden almost daily for the past month enjoying sneak peeks of Springtime, today I fully embraced the 2018 garden season and jumped right in. A few hours of gardenkeeping was the perfect way to welcome my favorite season! Again this year, I am documenting the small moments spent in my perennial and herb gardens in my Garden Joys journal. The day-to-day changes in the Springtime garden are so exciting. Each tiny sprout or blossom feels like a celebration! I’m so grateful that there are enough blank pages to continue writing in last year’s journal.

The Magnolia bed, near the front porch, was my first destination. As I carefully cut back all of the dried stems and seed heads, I thought about how much I enjoyed the ‘shadow garden’ they created.  While I shoveled during our snowy February days, I was able to enjoy sweet memories of last year’s garden. The dried seeds provided food energy for the birds and squirrels. The dried leaves of the daylilies also made plentiful nesting material. Although we raked lots of leaves last October, our Magnolia tree always waits until long after we have put away our rakes for the season, then drops all of its large leaves at once onto the perennial bed beneath it.

As I worked, I was mindful not to step onto the soil in the garden bed. A few Yoga stretches and an occasional arabesque helped me reach across the bed to rake the leaves without causing soil compaction. Walking on the damp soil in the Springtime affects the top six inches of the soil, making it difficult for the roots. Water just runs off compacted soil instead of soaking in. Adding a layer of mulch also helps to prevent soil compaction because it attracts worms that help break up the soil.

As I raked away the curled, dried leaves, I uncovered the most wonderful green surprises. The Spring bulbs have been vigorously producing beautiful, green foliage beneath their warm, leafy blanket. The daffodil buds are growing larger each day. Just a hint of bright blue is peeking up from the heart of the Siberian squill foliage. Surely, it won’t be long now…

While very carefully gathering the leaves for composting, a flash of deep purple caught my eye and took my breath away. The Iris reticulata were in full bloom today! They are always the very first blossoms in my Springtime garden. There *may* have also been a little Happy Dance in the garden. It happens every year! 🙂

As I continued to carefully rake leaves and snip dried stems, I reflected on all of the digging and transplanting that was going on at this time last year. I am so thankful that I eliminated several perennial beds last Spring as I worked to ‘right-size’ my garden. This year, I will most certainly enjoy the abundant blessings of a more manageable garden. “Less is more” continues to be my mantra in all areas of my life. Less work means more joy! Another flash of color caught my eye as I moved the leaves and spotted a delicate, white crocus. (A peek back in my Garden Joys journal reveals that these bulbs are blooming one week later than last Spring.)

The front porch needed a touch a Springtime, as well. So, I composted the dried Annabelle Hydrangea blossoms, seed heads, and holly-leaf Mahonia aquifolium branches that have filled an antique wooden box, since my final days in the garden last November. I put away the antique sled decked with dried Hydrangea, and a pretty basket filled with dried garden gatherings. Next, it was time to fill a vintage watering can with Forsythia branches to force their early yellow blossoms. A colorful pair of floral rainboots now stands near the front door, just in time for April showers. I also carried out a twig basket planted with muscari bulbs that spent the Winter in our unheated garage. Very soon, we should have a delightful basket of Springtime blooms on the front porch!

Although the next few days will bring clouds, rain, and possibly snow flurries, my heart will be warmed by the memories of a few hours in the garden… and new beginnings!

Wishing you a very Happy Easter!

Thanks so much for stopping to visit today. ♥♥

 

Springtime blessings!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  I have a question for all of our gardening friends. What kind of mulch do you use in your garden beds?

 

 

 

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Chatting By the Garden Gate ~ July

Hi Friends!

The birds are singing sweetly, the cicadas are even louder,

the mosquitoes are biting,

and late afternoon rainstorms have been blowing across the plains.

It’s July in the Midwest… 

and I’ve been spending lots of time in the garden!

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Most days, this little sign on our front porch lets visitors know where to find me.  🙂

There have been more big changes,

as I work hard toward my goal to ‘right-size’ my cottage perennial gardens,

inspired by this wonderful book by Kerry Ann Mendez.

Throughout this busy month, I’ve also been doing a bit of garden memory-keeping,

bullet-style, in my Garden Journal.

In our area, we have had over seven inches (18 cm.) of rain so far this month.

Northern Illinois has had twice as much rainfall and rivers there are overflowing their banks.

Our thoughts are with everyone experiencing the terrible, widespread flooding.

Unfortunately, heavy thunderstorms are expected again tonight.

 

Fortunately, we have had plenty of dry, sunny days, too…

Last year, I dug out a huge bed of Daylilies to create a special History Garden

along the length of our garage.

It is filled with favorite perennials that were growing in this garden 30 years ago,

when I moved here and learned to garden.

This month, I dug again for several days

to remove another large patch of orange Daylilies. 

Of course, I waited until they were finished blooming!  🙂

After removing and composting this patch of Daylilies,

now we can fully enjoy the blossoms in the History Garden!

I reused the antique bricks that I rescued

when we removed a stone planter in the front yard this spring.

It made sense to use the oldest bricks to create a simple garden path

past the oldest perennials in our garden!

As I pondered what to plant along the path (left side in photo),

it dawned on me that the same principles

that I use in my artwork would be perfect in the garden, too.

So, I transplanted Hostas and Artemisia to create a limited color palette

and pattern repetition from nearby garden beds.

Digging and moving perennials around in the garden feels very much like

‘watercoloring’ with real flowers!

                          Finally, I planted grass seed in the bare soil in the foreground.

Just this week, it felt so wonderful to complete another big gardening goal!

Now I can enjoy a full view of the History Garden

while I spend time in my Herb & Tea Garden,

the true ‘heart of my garden,’

surrounded by the white, picket fence.  🙂

Just wondering… 

What are your favorite and least favorite garden tasks?

My very favorite:

I just love deadheading the spent blossoms,

harvesting herbs, cutting bouquets of flowers,

and brewing a cup of homegrown herbal tea!

My least favorite:

I’m constantly battling with Creeping Charlie (ground ivy),

and Bishop’s Weed as they spread through my garden.

Digging up Daylilies is just exhausting. So glad that task is finished!

 

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Heartfelt thanks for chatting by the garden gate with us today.

Keep blooming and growing each day this summer!

 

Perennially yours,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  We just returned from a wonderful, little adventure! ♥♥ Can’t wait to share it with you very soon!

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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 2017  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. 🙂 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.  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!  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.  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.  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?  🙂

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

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!

♡ Dawn

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

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A Sense of Wonder

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Hi Friends!

New beginnings ~ I have always loved them! Whether it is the beginning of a new school year or a brand new calendar year, I am always excited by 365 new opportunities to learn and grow! Sometimes, all of this newness can feel a bit scary or intimidating. Having a thoughtful plan, though, can help new beginnings feel joyful!

For each of the past five years, I have chosen ‘One Little Word’ to guide me along this path of learning and growing. What a difference it has made for me each year! In late November, I began listening closely to my heart so that I could choose OLW for 2017.  Within a few weeks, my word ‘chose’ me.  As I was reading, one word jumped right off the page and into my heart! At that very moment, I knew that this was the word to guide me through the new year. I didn’t tell anyone… I just let this word settle into my soul. It felt perfect! As we rang in the New Year, I celebrated my new ‘One Little Word’ 2017! With paper and ink, I created bunting, a card, a bookmark, and a magnet to keep my word visible each day. Now it’s finally time to share… 🙂

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Family and friends have watched and encouraged as I have followed my creative heart during my Renaissance (the ‘R’ word that I use for my Retirement). So, now it’s time to take the next step ~ one that feels so important to me. My ‘One Little Word’ will help me in so many ways…

nourish

   1.   to sustain with food or nutrient;

                                           supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth

     2.   to cherish, foster, keep alive, etc.

          3.   to strengthen, build up, or promote

Source: Dictionary.com

Throughout my entire life, I have always been a “Work before play” kind of person. This philosophy served me very well throughout my career. A few years into my Renaissance now, it is time to make a change.  It is my intention to prioritize my creative time, downstairs in my Paper Garden studio. Rather than taking care of our home and garden first, often feeling uninspired to be creative later in the day, I am planning to take time in the morning to be creative! Mornings were just made for paper, inks, stamps, paints, brushes, and being messy in my little Paper Garden studio! 

Fortunately, I have found the most wonderful book to guide me as I nourish my creative side!

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The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, has been inspiring creative souls for twenty-five years. It has been on my reading list for a very long time. As I shopped for the book last Fall, I discovered that the author has a newly published version of The Artist’s Way Program for Retirees and Other Creative Souls, called It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again.  It holds so much inspiration to nourish my creative path! I’m already on my way…

It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again is

a step-by-step, twelve-week program with four basic tools:

Morning Pages (daily)

Artist Dates (once a week)

Memoir (weekly, with five tasks)

Walking (twice a week)

So, I’m excited to share a bit about the ways I have been nourishing my creative side this week…

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I’ve always loved writing, so Morning Pages are becoming a part of my early morning routine. Filling three pages, in longhand, with my morning thoughts has been quite pleasurable ~ and powerful!  For quite a while, I have been thinking about ways to bring more creative time into my day. While writing my thoughts on January 1st, I actually formulated a real plan. The slow, thoughtful process of writing can be a beneficial way of problem-solving, setting intentions, voicing worries, and putting dreams into action.

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Since this whole process feels like a wonderful gift to myself, I am writing Morning Pages in my nice handwriting (just as I do when I write cards to loved ones). Soft music and a cup of tea accompany me as I write. It takes time and my hand feels tired, but so far I am enjoying it immensely! Julia Cameron reminds us not to share our Morning Pages with anyone, so my husband understands that he cannot peek.  🙂

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On Wednesday morning, I planned my very first Artist Date.  I bundled in layers to protect me from the -8 F windchill and headed off to a tropical paradise ~ a very large Orchid grower’s greenhouses! It is one of my favorite places to visit each winter. Since we are having such a frigid week here, it was the perfect way to combine my Walking in nature with an Artist Date.

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At first, my focus was on Walking throughout the 150,000 square feet of greenhouses. Julia Cameron encourages two 20-minute walks each week, without a companion, phone, or even a pet. It is a time for quiet thinking and observing.

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Then it was time to begin my first Artist Date (and take out my camera). Rather than focusing on the names of each variety of Orchid, my attention was drawn to the colors and patterns in the blossoms and foliage. As I meandered, I found colors just like the inks on my studio desk ~ Spiced Marmalade, Picked Raspberry, Scattered Straw, and Worn Lipstick distress inks, and Blushing Bride, Daffodil Delight, Wild Wasabi, Elegant Eggplant, and Gumball Green dye inks.

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These graceful orchid forms will truly inspire my stamped and watercolor floral designs and layouts.

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Julia Cameron encourages each Artist Date to be thoughtfully planned in advance. One must go alone, rather than invite a friend. This intentional, mindful tool benefits our creativity and independence as we visit inspiring places of interest. I have a growing list of places for my weekly Artist Date ~ old favorites and new adventures!

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I have always wanted to write Memoir and have even participated in a Memoir workshop in the past. So, I am really looking forward to filling my new Memoir Journal with treasured memories! Each week, Julia Cameron assigns five different writing tasks around a weekly theme. Our first week’s theme for our writing prompts is “A Sense of Wonder.” 

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Each week, my Memoir writing will focus on a five-year span of my life. In our first week, we are writing about discoveries, cherished memories, and surprising connections from birth through age five. What fun to read through my Baby Book (Thanks, Mom!!) and reminisce with old photo albums! I’m going to love, love, love this walk down memory lane… and can’t wait to see what connections and discoveries are made! It’s just exactly the inspiration I need as I nourish and rekindle my love of scrapbooking!

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Adding The Artist’s Way tools to my very busy life will be both challenging and exciting. It will most certainly nourish my creative heart and soul in unknown ways! Since my days are so full already, I plan to stretch out The Artist’s Way a bit longer than twelve weeks. I truly want to savor each weekly theme (Purpose, Joy, Vitality, Connection, Motion, Adventure,…) as I learn and grow on my creative path this year.  I will be enjoying mornings in my Paper Garden studio, too! ♥♥

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Do any of The Artist’s Way tools sound interesting to you?

If any of our kindred spirits would also like to take this creative journey this year,

I would love to connect and quietly share our discoveries! (Just contact me through ‘Say Hello’ on the blog.)

Please let me know, in the comments, if you would like to read a few blog updates

as I travel along The Artist’s Way!

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Thanks so much for being a part of my creative journey!

Warmest hugs!

♡ Dawn

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