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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Home ‘Tweet’ Home

Foxgloves

Hi Friends!

Oh, my! These young summer days are keeping me as busy as a bee outside! I celebrated the Summer Solstice by spending the whole day in the garden. Time in the garden has been a rare blessing for the past few weeks. So, it was a real treat to make time for a bit of pruning and weeding on the longest day of the year. What a glorious morning it was!

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‘Stella d’Oro’ Daylily (Hemerocallis) and ‘Dalmation Rose’ Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) add a welcome splash of color to our white, picket fence Herb & Tea Garden in June.

 

As I worked, surrounded by a sea of bright, orange Daylilies and fluffy, white ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangeas, the butterflies and bees were busy working right alongside me. The birdsong was especially cheerful on this special day, too!

As I busily pruned the Quince bush that grows near our ‘Welcome’ arbor, I had to suddenly stop cutting the long branches.

For there it was…

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Robin’s nest with four eggs waiting to hatch.

The mother robin must have seen me approach with my pruning sheers in hand and quickly flown away. I was astonished to find the sturdy nest with four beautiful eggs!  Of course, I had to stop pruning and left the nest undisturbed, hoping the mother would return. The Quince bush has a very funny shape right now, short in front, with long branches remaining in the back to protect the nest.

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With great relief, I noticed the mother robin return shortly to her little Home ‘Tweet’ Home!

Just a few feet away, while I weeded along the Friendship Garden bed, I could hear very cheery, bubbling birdsong nearby. I quickly discovered that the music was echoing from a unique, wooden birdhouse that has been in my garden for years. I’ve always considered it decorative, with its barnwood box, metal roof, and interesting, antique metal embellishments. Mounted on a pitchfork, this birdhouse always stands waist-high in a Daylily bed, near our garage.

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Imagine my delight, as I followed the singing and peeked in to see little beaks bobbing up and down! All weeding stopped, as I reached for my camera, and watched Mother Nature’s show on this first day of summer! The happy family of house wrens continued to sing for their breakfast, while the mother and father dashed out to bring back moths and other insects. They watched me, as I sat motionless watching them. One-at-a-time, the adults would hunt for an insect, land on the white picket fence near the Foxglove, fly to the small Elm tree, fly to the birdhouse, look around and dart into the hole. It happened again and again as they worked to feed their happy, little family! (You can enjoy their bubbly birdsong here.)

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There is nothing quite like a small, happy family taking good care of one another,

in an old home surrounded by colorful, flower gardens.

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It is definitely a Home ‘Tweet’ Home kind of summer here this year!

I have undertaken a HUGE project that will truly keep me as busy as a bee for quite a while.

Working on home improvements makes me oh-so-happy!

I have always loved restoring the beauty of an older home.

In fact, that’s the reason that I moved into this cozy bungalow so many years ago.

All those years of watching This Old House and reading Old House Journal have left their mark on my heart.

As our home nears the century mark, it’s time for another project filled with hard work and tender, loving care.

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Front Porch Restoration ~ Phase One: Ceiling and Trim

While my parents were visiting us in May, we shopped together for the best tools and supplies for my big project. In early June, I began the front porch restoration. Scraping and painting the ceiling and trim took weeks. I am taking special care as I remove the old paint, so clean up each day has been long and meticulous. My husband and I wrapped the front of the house in plastic to protect it from dripping paint. (Thank goodness! There were lots of drips.) I’m so happy with the way the ceiling turned out!

This week, I will scrape and paint the four porch columns. In the coming weeks, I will work to strip and restore the floor. Finally, we will have new railings and stairs designed and built. With each phase of the project, I am learning new things. It was so exciting to discover all of the colors that the ceiling had been painted over the years! As I work, I often think about the history of our front porch and why it is so important to me to carefully preserve it. I can’t wait to hang the original porch swing again, bring out the original rocking chair, and add our vintage wicker furniture to this very special outdoor room!

Day-after-day as I work, neighbors are offering kind words of encouragement and passersby often call out, “Lookin’ good!” as they walk past. My favorite music is playing  and I’ve been singing along to keep my energy high. I’ve had to climb down from my ladder several times to do a little happy dance… because that’s just how I am feeling! ♥

Taking on a HUGE project like this really feels quite

exhausting,

achy (with sore muscles),

hot (especially wearing protective gear),

solitary (missing fun times with my friends),

challenging (as I solve problems along the way),

but most of all…

empowering!!

I love it!

♥♥♥

Waving from the top of my ladder!

I’ll be back just as soon as I can… with so much to share.

Sending happy summer wishes from our little Home ‘Tweet’ Home to yours!

Warm hugs!

♡Dawn

P.S.  When was the last time you completed a hard task that left you feeling empowered? Hope you will share with us…

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Reminiscing on the Front Porch…

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Mary Engelbreit captures the charm of playtime on the front porch! http://www.MaryEngelbreit.com

Hi Friends!

 

I  have always loved old houses. When I pulled up in front of the little house, with the pretty front porch, almost thirty years ago, I started to cry!  Happy tears! I had been house hunting in town and had visited a few houses already. When I saw this little house, from the outside, I had a feeling it was meant to be my “Home Sweet Home.”  ♡ My heart spoke… and I listened!

Our home (Now we are a family!) is a cozy, little Craftsman Bungalow, built in 1922. It is surrounded by tall, shady pine trees and colorful, perennial gardens, but it was the front porch that won my heart on that Spring day so long ago. The original porch swing is still here, just perfect for reading, daydreaming, talking with friends, sipping iced tea, and watching the world go by. The swing is long enough to stretch out and take an afternoon nap! A gentle breeze often pushes our swing on a summer afternoon, as we glide to the music of sweet birdsong.

One of the greatest treasures that came with the house, were my friendly neighbors. To the south, lived dear Mildred, a charming lady in her 90s. She wore a dainty hat and gloves whenever when she went out. A longtime citizen of our town, Mildred had such wonderful stories to share! She talked about carrying her furniture down the dirt road to her house, built one year before ours. She remembered the horses from the neighboring farm squashing the tomatoes in her garden. She showed me a Sears Roebuck home, that was delivered by freight train, and assembled down the block many years earlier.

We quickly became special friends…  always there for one another. Each year, I put my Christmas tree in the window on south side, so that we could both enjoy it. It was no problem to shovel her snow, help her lift things, or to open a jar for her. She liked to call me her “Angel Next Door.” Mildred showed me that it was possible to take care of an old house on my own, even though it wasn’t easy! Every day I watched how hard Mildred worked to care for her home, and I knew that if she could do it, I could do it, too! Without even knowing it, she shared her gifts of strength and courage with me day by day.

Mildred knew that I loved old houses and antiques. She introduced me to the local historical society, where I eagerly volunteered. The very first tomato, ripe from her garden, was an annual gift of her friendship. From time to time, she would leave a sweetly wrapped antique treasure by my front door. Each year, on my first day of school, Mildred delivered a shiny, wooden apple for the teacher, inscribed with the year. They were such heartwarming treasures from a dear friend.

Best of all, Mildred shared stories about my house! She had watched it being built. When the house was finished, she helped to plant the pine trees in our backyard, brought from her grandparents’ farm in Wisconsin.

One day, Mildred shared my very favorite story of all

In the 1920s, our front porch was a gathering place for Barbershop Quartet singers! Such a great, old-fashioned tradition!  Since ours was the only house on our block with an open front porch, it was just perfect for harmonizing on a summer evening. Very often, I wonder about the fashions, the hairstyles, and of course the songs they would sing, so long ago. Our porch swing and the front steps always welcomed the local singers. Mildred was one of those singers, serenading on warm summer evenings.

One day, she shared a little more of the story…

Each of the singers had a rocking chair on our front porch. Mildred wanted me to have her rocking chair! In the 1920s, her chair had a special place on our front porch, as they sat and sang together. Just imagine, how happy the neighborhood sounded each evening when the quartet began to sing!

Mildred’s rocking chair was such a treasured gift. For many years, it had a special place in our guest room. I enjoyed sitting and reading in her rocking chair on quiet, summer afternoons. A few years ago, we moved the rocking chair downstairs to the basement. There it held a big box filled with scrapbooks and photos just waiting to have their stories told. Yet, each time I walked by Mildred’s rocking chair, a wish stirred inside my heart… just waiting for the perfect time.

My heart told me that Memorial Day weekend was the perfect time to honor the past memories of our little house! So, early on Saturday morning, we carried Mildred’s rocking chair out to the garage. I felt so happy! Something very important was about to happen… for the first time since the 1920s!

 

 

This special rocking chair has seen a lot of history over the past century! Sanding revealed bright red paint, beneath the black paint. After some light sanding, I washed the surface gently. Tomorrow it would have a fresh, new look!

This special rocking chair has seen a lot of history over almost a century! 

We discovered bright red paint, beneath the black paint. After some light sanding, I washed the surface very gently.

Tomorrow Mildred’s chair would have a fresh, new look!

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On Sunday morning, our special rocking chair sported a fresh, cheery coat of paint.

Now it will be protected from the elements for years to come.

 

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It’s such fun to have a cozy, new place to sit…

 

… and read,

… and read,

 

 

… watch the world go by,

 … and watch the world go by,

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…  while enjoying the old-fashioned pleasures of afternoons on our front porch! ♡

Our hot, sunny Memorial Day was just perfect for viewing the flowers growing near our front porch. While rocking, we enjoyed…

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the dainty faces of Columbine, in soft purple and the very palest pink,

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Dianthus, just beginning to bloom,

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 Shasta Daisies bobbing in the breeze,

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Cranesbill Geraniums with pale purple blossoms,

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and lovely Anemones, welcoming everyone walking by!

This Memorial Day weekend brought back so many treasured memories. It also made me pause… and think about the time when our home was newly built. There was so much happening in the world, in our country, and in our little neighborhood. Just imagine what life was like on a quiet street, a long drive from the big city, in the 1920s…

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Thanks for visiting with us on the front porch! It’s always a delight to see you here!

 

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Do you have a favorite story about your house? I’d love to hear your stories, too!