Happy Autumn! (Happy Spring!) I hope you are feeling well and are safe from all of the wild weather as the seasons change. Our weather suddenly changed from hot and humid to delightfully cool just in time for the equinox!
My Midwest cottage garden is flourishing again after several rainy days. The perennials are showing off their white, yellow, pink, and purple blossoms. The herbs seem to have doubled in size overnight!
For the past week, however, I have only been able to hobble through the garden a few, short times. I fractured a bone in my left foot and will be spending the coming weeks wearing an orthopedic shoe while the broken bone heals. My foot definitely lets me know whenever I have taken a few too many steps! Ouch!😢
Time in the garden has always filled me with creative inspiration while healing my heart and soul. No wonder that the garden is my favorite place to be! Nature’s colors, patterns, and shapes inspire my use of inks, papers, stamps, dies, watercolors, and more…
Bunnies are always welcome to nibble the clover, Creeping Charlie, and wild violets from our ‘meadow’ lawn. Recently, a few bunnies have been visiting my little Paper Garden studio downstairs, too.
The pollinators have been so busy in the garden all Summer long. They have been making an appearance on my handmade cards recently, too.
What could be sweeter than using a dried ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea blossom, in place of a bow, on a gift for a dear gardening friend?💕
Our ‘Hidcote’ Lavender in bloom inspired me to add Lavender stems to handmade cards. I even tucked a few paper stems inside each card!
Do you wear garden gloves? I always wear them while I play in the garden and somehow, I still get muddy hands.😉
I’m really looking forward to harvesting herbs in the coming weeks. I’m going to experiment with an easy, very clever way to dry a few of the herbs. (I’ll report back soon.😊) Herbal inspiration is already on its way to my Paper Garden studio!
Just the other day, as I hobbled past our ‘Autumn Blaze’ Red Maple tree, I spotted the first red leaf nestled in the grass. Very soon, there will be watercolored leaves in my sketchbook and miniature twig wreaths created with ink and paper in the studio. I’m also dreaming of tiny, paper, patchwork quilts! So cozy!
Last week, I began my fourth consecutive Creative Cluster book study for The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. Over the next twelve weeks, our large group of artists from all disciplines will continue to grow as we travel along our creative paths. It feels like such a blessing to nurture our creativity in community with so many talented artists seeking joy!
You might enjoy the Artists for Joy podcast, with Merideth Hite Estevez, our very talented facilitator/coach/musician/writer/friend! (You can find it wherever you listen to podcasts. Always inspiring!)
🌻Thank you so much for visiting today!
What excites you most with the change of season?
🌻Hope you will share with all of us in the Comments!
Today seems like the perfect time to slip off our garden gloves and have a nice, relaxing chat over the garden fence. So glad you are here!
Hope you will let us know what garden projects you have been working on, your garden joys, and your garden challenges, too. 🌻
This has been a very interesting gardening season for me with a huge, new home under construction right next door. I have learned to ‘go with the flow‘ each day depending on what is happening just beyond the tall, chain link, construction fence.
I’ve been enjoying every busy moment in my garden…
My new Sunshine perennial bed is now growing where our woodland Shade garden grew, beneath our towering Pine trees, for nearly a century. (Read that amazing story here!)
After weeks of digging and chopping long Pine roots, it was such fun to transplant colorful perennials to create this new border bed. I have been moving tall plants, like Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ to attract pollinators.
This year, all of our birdhouses have remained empty. I’m convinced that all of our feathered friends have chosen to live in the new 4 bedroom, 4.5 bathroom ‘nest’ nearby! As I worked, cardinals, wrens, robins, and swallows would line up on top of the tall fence and fly in and out of the open windows. (They have very expensive taste!😉)
The lovely, abundant ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea blossoms bring me special joy all year long! Throughout the month of June, I cut the large, white blossoms to fill stoneware crocks, pitchers, and large vases for our front porch.
As the summer progressed, I closely watched the lush ‘Annabelle’ blossoms slowly dry on the huge bushes. I was waiting for their dry, petals to turn a lovely shade of green. This week, they were ready!
I spent an entire morning choosing just the right size, dried blossoms to fill baskets, an antique wooden box, an old crock, and a vintage pitcher with Hydrangeas. They will fill our home with sweet garden memories for a whole year!
Then I adorned a simple, grapevine wreath with dried Hydrangeas, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ blossoms, and seed heads from Rudbeckia and Bee Balm. It warms my gardening heart every time I open the front door!
Next week, I will gather more dried Hydrangea blossoms to save for Autumn and Winter decorations on our front porch. I will also hang more dried Hydrangeas from the ceiling rafters above my little Paper Garden studio downstairs.
Shhhh! Don’t tell the other perennials in my cottage garden, but I think Hydrangeas, Daisies, and Hollyhocks might be my favorites! On our wedding day, I carried a beautiful bouquet of Hydrangeas tied with satin ribbon. (I asked our talented florist to create a bouquet that looked like I had just gathered the blossoms from my garden!)💕
I’m currently in the midst of another garden project. For the past thirty-five Summers, I have been hopping over Hostas and jumping though a large, naturalized bed of Daylilies every time I wanted to chat over the garden fence with our neighbors behind us. I’m getting older now, so I really should have a nice, safe path alongside my white, picket fence Herb & Tea garden all the way to our back fence.
So, I’m busy digging out Daylilies to create a wide path, adding a layer of cardboard, topped with a thick layer of wood chips. When it is ready, I will add large Pine slices (a final gift from our beautiful trees💕) to create ‘stepping stones’ along the garden path. Can’t wait for this new, easier way to chat over the garden fence! No more hopping and jumping will be necessary! 😊
Our Hosta ‘Royal Standard’ plants were my biggest garden concern this Summer. They were thriving in the Shade beneath our Pine trees for over thirty-five years. In the Spring, I began dividing and moving these special Hostas to several different parts of our garden, hoping that they would continue to survive without deep shade. With lots of extra watering, all of the transplants have survived. I’m sodelighted that several of these old-fashioned Hostas are now rewarding us with their fragrant, white August blossoms!
Very sadly. I have one epic garden failure to report…
In May, I splurged and treated myself to a beautiful Spanish Lavender topiary. It looked so lovely in a large container in the center of my Friendship Garden bed. Oh, how I loved that topiary!! It was doing so well for the first month. I carefully pruned the spent Lavender blossoms and it began to produce new buds all over. Suddenly, a very sneaky garden creature began climbing into the container, digging holes in the soil, and chewing on the roots of the Spanish Lavender. I think it was a chipmunk! I tried so hard to outsmart the culprit by carrying the topiary into the garage overnight for safety. I also tried shaking black pepper onto the soil in the container. Each rescue attempt only helped for a few days. Then the culprit was back chewing on the roots. In the morning, the topiary would be leaning sideways in its container. So sad… Soon the leaves dried and fell off. I continued to water my Spanish Lavender topiary stick to no avail. What could I have done differently to save my topiary???? I welcome any suggestions…
How is your garden growing this Summer (or Winter)? What garden joys are you celebrating? What projects are you working on this month in your garden? Have you experienced an epic garden failures?
🌻 Please share with all of us!
We just LOVE garden chats here!
P.S. I’ll be back soon with garden-inspired art from my Paper Garden studio!
Throughout each and every day, there is one ‘word’ that continues to guide me through 2022…
FLOW (verb) ~ to move or proceed smoothly and readily; forward motion; with abundance and ease; “go with the flow” (noun) ~ the creative moment when a person is completely involved in an activity for its own sake; showing no sign of stopping; performing vigorously and enthusiastically; “in full flow”
I can feel this current of change as I write my Morning Pages and as I work with ink, paper, stamps, and watercolors in my Paper Garden studio downstairs. This year, I can also feel the flow of grace as I head out to the garden each morning!
Photographing the perennials in my garden always brings me such joy! This year, most of my garden photos are close ups, with good reason.
The ‘heart’ of my garden has always been my Herb & Tea garden.
When I look up while tending the herbs and mints used for tea, the view has really changed over the past few months!
Now as I walk through the arbor, there is an exciting, new view from my perennial garden.
My days in the garden begin even earlier now, as I gather my garden tools at 6:00am and get started. This lets me enjoy a whole hour of birdsong before the contractors begin working with their very noisy tools and machines at 7:00, on the dot!
My huge garden project this year has been redesigning the large garden bed that had been a woodland, shade garden, nestled beneath our two, towering 100-year-old pine trees. (See what happened here.)
I spent many weeks removing shade plants that have happily lived there for over 35 years. I tried to find new homes in other garden beds for hostas, ferns, European ginger, and pachysandra.
I bid a fond farewell to the grape mahonia and Lily-of-the-valley. Although I combed through the soil diligently to remove every root, next year should any reappear, it might feel like a nice garden memory!
As I struggled to chop and dig up very long tree roots day after day, I often wished that I had some of the heavy equipment just a few feet away beyond the tall, chain-link, construction fence.
After a while, we learned one another’s work patterns. The friendly workers tried to muffle the deafening sounds of their machines with big pieces of plywood to save my hearing as they framed the new house. Each day, when the contractors stopped for their 11:00 lunch break, I just kept digging. It was so lovely to enjoy the birdsong again while the crew took their break!
Once the large area was cleared, it was time to begin creating my new Sunshine bed! Oh, how I loved transplanting perennials from other parts of the garden that should thrive in this new sunny garden bed. It felt almost like ‘watercoloring’ with real plants! I transplanted beautiful, old varieties of Phlox that grew in the garden before I came 35 years ago. I added several Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ and Stella d’Oro daylilies. As I planted, robins, wrens, cardinals and bunnies stopped to enjoy the show!
Then I made several early morning trips to our city’s free wood chip pile. That’s where I met Jasper, a very friendly yellow Labrador, who also loves free wood chips! It felt so good to finally mulch the new Sunshine bed with wood chip walking paths. No more muddy shoes.😊
Last week, it was such a joy to scatter grass seeds along the edges of my new, ‘right-size’ garden bed. Although my plans often changed over the past weeks, I just went with the flow! I can’t wait until all of the transplanted perennials are in bloom. It won’t be long now…
I’m sure I will make more changes to the Sunshine bed next year. This year, I just used plants that I already had. I’d love to add a few native plants and some flowering shrubs, too.
The new house next door won’t be finished until December. After it is sold, the new neighbors will very likely put up a privacy fence next Spring. I’m so curious to see what kind of fence they will choose… and how my garden might change again!
🌻 The flow of gracecontinues…
Our hearts and prayers are with the families of seven beautiful lives lost and more than thirty injured by gunshots in the senseless, tragic mass shooting during the Highland Park, Illinois Fourth of July parade.
This is such a complicated, worrisome time in our nation’s 246-year history. We must find ways to work together to end gun violence, preserve women’s health, ensure racial justice and fair voting rights, as we care for one another. Enough is enough.
Rabbit! Rabbit! Wishing you the very best as we begin this new month together! I hope that you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy… and warm! Know that I am keeping you close at heart as February begins.
I’ve been singing this song for the past few days…
Today is the perfect day to take a little walk through my garden! In Illinois, we have been experiencing a snow drought due to warmer than usual weather throughout November, December, and most of January. Over the past few days, though, my garden has turned into a ‘marshmallow world.’ Last Tuesday, we had six inches of snow. A big snowstorm on Saturday and Sunday added at least ten more inches. (Just over 40 centimeters in all.) Bundle up! Let’s take a walk!
Gazing at all of the snow covered buds on our Magnolia tree, near the front porch, gives me such a feeling of hopefulness.
With the snow almost to the top of my boots, I made my way to the backyard. The towering Pine trees look lovely with their heavy boughs frosted in white.
The huge Rhododendron (nearly my age) grew in my mom’s garden when I was young. Today it looks exquisite adorned with sparkling snow and tiny icicles. The large buds fill me with even more hope as I dream of the billowing, pink blossoms that await us!
The Yucca plants, cloaked in white, also were gifts from my mom’s garden many years ago. I’m dreaming of their tall spikes filled with cream-colored blossoms. In the words of garden writer Sydney Eddison, “Gardens are a form of autobiography.” So true! I treasure all of the stories that my garden holds. They truly warm my heart… even on the coldest of days!
The Mason Bee house hanging from our deck has been decorated by Mother Nature, as well. Last year, we noticed that several new bees emerged as the warm weather arrived. I hope they enjoyed our colorful, old-fashioned perennials and the blossoms on our herbs and mint plants!
The snow reached over the top of my boots as I peeked into the ‘heart of my garden.’ My Herb & Tea Garden will always be my very favorite place to while away the hours, savoring the heady scents of the culinary herbs and mints for tea.
It looks like Benjamin Bunny was hopping through the garden very early on this first day of February! I have noticed so many different tracks in the snow the past week. In addition to the rabbits and squirrels, I spotted some unusual animal tracks in the snow. The neighbors on both sides of us have seen coyotes and red foxes in our yard recently!
♥ ♥ ♥
My garden is such a special blessing in my life all year long! While the garden sleeps, protected under a thick, white blanket of snow, I especially enjoy the blessings of my little Paper Garden studio downstairs. Ink, paper, watercolors, paintbrushes, stamps, dies, and stencils are my ‘garden tools’ as I enjoy winter gardening in the studio. It’s chilly downstairs, so I always bundle up and bring hot tea to keep me warm as I make cards.
The most wonderful stamps and dies, from The Greetery, keep me inspired to do a bit of winter gardening!
Sprigs of winter berries and mistletoe, created using layered stamps and Distress Oxide inks, are ready to fill tiny paper Mason jars, vintage bottles, stoneware pitchers, and watering cans for future cards. I just love the chance to gather garden ‘bouquets’ all year long! 🙂
I have also been creating tiny Shiplap boards to build backgrounds on cards. First, I blended Distress Oxide inks onto white cardstock. The Shiplap die (also from The Greetery) embossed the wood grain as it cut these little, wooden planks. It was so relaxing to create tiny wooden walls for upcoming cards!
Feeling creative during the pandemic has been a realchallenge for me. Our lives have been turned upside down for almost a year now. So, I’m trying extra hard to spend some of my time at home creating more handmade cards. I’m certain that receiving a ‘paper hug’ in the mailbox will warm hearts… when we need it most!
Are you finding it hard to be creative in this moment?
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.
Springtime is almost here! Today I am savoring the glorious first day of meteorological Spring! The buds are already swelling on the trees. There is a brisk freshness to the air and the warmth of the sun feels oh-so lovely. Our afternoon temperature reached 57 degrees F today. It’s just a tiny taste of Springtime. 🙂
Midwesterners know that it is much too soon to put away our Winter jackets, scarves, hats, gloves, boots, and snow shovels. Last Spring, we had a surprise snowstorm in early May! As we wait patiently, it’s the perfect time to dream our garden dreams…
Last week, during incredibly busy days, I made time to soak up a burst of Springtime at the conservatory in a nearby park. As I walked through the door, the colors and scents truly took my breath away. My heart spoke softly, reminding me to slow down, linger, and savor the gift of this quiet time in Nature. As the sun streamed in through the sparkling conservatory windows, intense gratitude and my love of gardening filled my soul with joy!
“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food, and medicine for the soul.”
~ Luther Burbank
“From December to March, there are for many of us three gardens – the garden outdoors, the garden of pots and bowls in the house, and the garden of the mind’s eye.”
~ Katherine S. White
“The lesson I have thoroughly learned, and wish to pass on to others, is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives.”
~ Gertrude Jekyll
“Gardening is an instrument of grace.”
~ May Sarton
“May our heart’s garden of awakening bloom with hundreds of flowers.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
“Gardening, reading about gardening, and writing about gardening are all one; no one can garden alone.”
~ Elizabeth Lawrence
“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”
~ Frances Hodgson Burnett
“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; and above all it teaches entire trust.”
~ Gertrude Jekyll
Our gardens teach us so many helpful, important lessons as we cultivate our best lives. ♥
During this challenging, very unsettled time for so many people across the globe, may we ALL work together responsibly, share our scientific research, our medical expertise, and our resources as we take good care of ourselves, our families, and our neighbors.
This December has been a time of poignant reflection. I have been intentional about honoring the past year and all of the lessons that it taught me. There were many difficult lessons, ones that I never dreamed I would encounter. Life can be a great teacher! By embracing the small moments and big milestones, I have grown in so many unexpected ways.
‘Comfort and Joy’ is the theme of my Self-Care bullet journal this month. The Winter botanical illustrations were inspired by artist Shayda Campbell. ♥
I have been intentionally focused on
creating moments of Comfort and Joy.
Just last week, as I hurried from place to place,
the bright afternoon sunshine drew me to
a joyful, unplanned destination.
The Winter Flower show at our nearby Conservatory
was in full bloom!
Wrapped in the love of family and friends,
I am happily celebrating
a simpler, quieter holiday season this year.
The magic of the season glows
with sweet reflection,
small handmade gifts of love,
and time spent connecting with those I hold dear.
Favorite holiday traditions warm the heart…
and new traditions add cozy, comfort!
TIME is my most precious gift ~
time with loved ones,
time to learn and grow,
time to give and share …
and time to just BE.
Sending big hugs and warm thoughts
to anyone hurting during this holiday season.
Look for small moments of Comfort and Joy
in each and every day.
Celebrate in your own special way!
May we all step into the new year (and new decade!)
with light, grateful hearts!
Merry Christmas, sweet friends!
So grateful for your visits and thoughtful comments
As our busy Summer slips away, it feels like the perfect time to share one of our very favorite Summer days. Visiting theChicago Botanic Gardenis 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.
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.
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!
P.S. When did you experience a peaceful, easy feeling this Summer? Hope you will share with us!
Our Summertime weather arrived much later than expected this year. After a very cool, rainy Spring, Midwestern gardeners are playing catch up. In late June, our temperatures suddenly rose to ‘hot and sticky.’ Now whenever the sun appears, I run outside to do a bit of gardenkeeping. Heavy rainstorms often drench our gardens as the afternoon heat builds.
My perennial gardens are thriving with all the rain.
I just love watching the color palette change
with each passing week.
The Clematis is climbing so quickly that I haven’t been able to help weave its long, graceful stems through the arbor. It’s putting on a spectacular show completely on its own!
The Asiatic Lilies add a bright pop of orange to our History Garden bed. These plants have been ‘at home’ in my garden for so many years.
The Annabelle Hydrangeas are spilling over the picket fence of my Herb & Tea Garden. Two years ago, I transplanted a tiny root from the huge Annabelle near the deck, and it is really happy in its new home.
This week, I began cutting big Annabelle bouquets to fill crocks and pitchers for the front porch. It’s my very favorite way to begin my mornings! 🙂
The first of the ‘He Loves Me’ Daisies mixed so sweetly with the last of the Anemones to fill another pitcher. Mother Nature’s timing is wonderful!
Just yesterday, the orange Daylilies blossomed. Every year, my Daylilies bloom in mid-June, just in time for Father’s Day. Our cooler weather really slowed them down this year. All of the rain made their slender stems grow longer than I can ever remember. Some of the blossoms are at shoulder height this year! The Daylilies will be bobbing in the breeze for the Fourth of July. Mother Nature’s fireworks!
We have welcome guests in the Herb & Tea Garden birdhouse. There is a new nest inside and a mother robin can often be seen sitting on the peak of her roof and peeking into her doorway. The birdsong is extra sweet as I tend to the herbs in the Summer stillness.
We have a brand new addition to our garden this year! This bamboo Mason Bee House, a gift from a dear friend, should attract more non-stinging pollinators to our garden. There are over 140 species of native mason bees in North America. In the Spring, the females collect pollen and nectar and pack it into a tube cavity. When there is enough food stored, the mason bee lays an egg in the tube. Then she seals the end of the tube with wet mud and begins to fill another tube. Although I haven’t actually seen the female mason bees at work, I have noticed a few tubes have been sealed closed already. (Read about these fascinating bees here.) As always, I have several homemade bee baths scattered throughout my perennial beds. We want to encourage these vital pollinators to stay in our garden, rather than leave in search of fresh water. Large sweeps of colorful blossoms also keep our bees busy and happy! It will be fascinating to see what lessons the mason bees teach us this Summer! 🙂
An abundance of rain can only mean an over-abundance of WEEDS (and mosquitoes, too)!! I hereby declare that this will be the ‘Summer of Weeds’ in every garden bed. 😦 My time in the garden is quite limited and and the weeds are unlimited. Whenever time allows, you will find me hard at work, in one perennial bed or another, pulling weeds for composting.
Several years ago, I tested out a ‘friendly’ way to prevent weeds on our small patio. It works beautifully! First, I pull all the weeds growing between the flagstones. Then I generously sprinkle baking soda (Sodium bicarbonate) into all of the cracks. I water it in… and enjoy the magic! For several months, no weeds grow on our patio. Now I buy large, inexpensive boxes of baking soda to use as a natural weed preventer on cracks on our driveway and sidewalk, too. Have you tried baking soda as a natural weed preventer? Do you use any other natural solutions for weed prevention?
Our rain helped our Peonies bloom with great abundance in June. The palest pink, brightest pink, deepest maroon, and the purest white blossoms all bloomed at once a several weeks ago. I recalled reading a tip a few years ago in Garden Gate magazine about delaying the bloom time of Peonies. This was the perfect year to test it…
On June 15th, I cut a few, small Peony blossoms at various stages of bloom. I shook off the ants and brought the Peonies inside. Right away, I placed them into a large, clear plastic bag and tightly sealed it with a twist tie. (I also taped the bag closed, just in case any ants were hiding in the blossoms.) Then I placed the bag of Peonies on a shelf in the fridge. I waited and watched… and waited and watched… for almost three weeks.
The Peonies in our garden have long since bloomed and have been deadheaded. Wouldn’t it be fun to have just a few more Peonies to enjoy? So, just this afternoon, I cut open the bag. I wasn’t prepared for the amazing fragrance that rushed out as I cut the bag. Oh my! It was glorious! I admired the Peonies as I placed them in a small vase. We’ve never had Peonies from our garden for the Fourth of July! It’s amazing how one appreciates just a few small, delayed blossoms! They will have a special place on our kitchen windowsill. I’m sure that I will try this again next year. Next time, I will gently flip the bag over every few days to help preserve their round shape. This weekend, I will truly savor these blossoms… and my husband will enjoy having more room in our fridge! 🙂
We also have a BIG garden mystery this Summer…
A very hungry critter, with a special fondness for Coreopsis and Coral Bells, has been enjoying our garden, too. In years past, groundhogs could be seen gobbling up their favorite flowers. However, this Summer we haven’t seen any groundhogs at all. I’ve seen lots of bunnies nibbling our clover blossoms. (I just LOVE them! I really hope they aren’t doing all of this damage!) Yesterday, for the first time ever in our garden, I saw a cute, little chipmunk scurry across our deck stairs. Could chipmunks be our very hungry critters?
Hope you will share your garden wisdom and tips with us! ♥
Thirty-two years ago this week, I bought this cozy, little home with its big garden. Many of those same plants are still a special part of my beloved perennial gardens. My sweet mom taught me all about gardening and still shares her garden wisdom with me. My garden is one of my favorite blessings! I cherish the plants and the stories they hold ~ stories of the people who shared them with me and the places these old-fashioned plants came from. My garden continues to fascinate me, reward me, and teach me important lessons every day!
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…
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.