Changes in the Air…

Hi Friends!

You have often been on my mind in the past few weeks. I hope you are all safe and feeling healthy!

Happy Autumn! In the Midwest, the change of seasons has been a bit of a roller coaster ride throughout October. I changed from my winter jacket to a t-shirt and back to my winter jacket from day to day as I worked in the yard and finished up an outdoor painting project. I’m delighted to report that my huge project to ‘right-size’ three garden beds surrounding our front porch is finally finished! (I still feel a few aches and pains from all the weeks of digging.) Now the garden will be so much easier to care for during this busy time in life. In the Springtime, after more front porch restoration, I will plant a few favorite, old-fashioned flowering shrubs in the new, smaller garden beds. Can’t wait to make this garden dream a reality! 🙂

♫ From the cast of Hamilton ♫

 

It’s so encouraging to hear that, as of today, over 85 million Americans have already cast their ballots! Did you change your method of voting this year or will you vote on Election Day?

Due to Covid, rather than vote in person this year, we decided to vote by mail for the very first time. On the first weekend of October, we drove out west to our County Election Commission to place our ballots into a special drop box. It felt heartwarming to see a steady stream of cars dropping off their ballots a whole month before Election Day. (We were also able to drop off my parents’ ballots. They had signed the affidavit on their envelopes giving us permission to carry their ballots to the drop box.)  BallotTrax alerted us that our ballots were accepted and processed two days later. So easy… and never more important!

From early May through early November, if you happen to drive past our little bungalow, you will see our flag flying from our front porch (weather permitting). This has been my tradition for the past thirty-three years. It is not a political statement of any kind. Instead it is a symbol of my love for my country and my hopes to help make it better for everyone. Throughout my entire life, I have strived to help our country in so many small ways.

During the past four years, however, it has been necessary to show up for my country in more visible ways. “Enough is enough” were the words we chanted at a nearby Islamic Center rally to support our immigrant families. “Enough is enough” were the words we chanted as I stood with the high school students to support their demands to end gun violence in America. We sang “Silent Night” and chanted “This is what democracy looks like” on a frigid December night rally in the park for impeachment. This year, it has been necessary to raise my voice as an ally in support of racial justice for all BIPOC Americans. There is so much work to do!! I truly hope that change is in the air…

From Election Day forward, I pray for patience and peace as we all await the 2020 election results. It’s sure to take longer to count every vote this year. Our future depends upon all of us finding ways to work together. I pray for much more kindness, especially toward those who voted differently than you. History has its eyes on us!

This Autumn, we have been savoring the quiet, healing of nature’s beauty on our walks.

Watching the season change from week to week brings a sense of normalcy during such tumultuous times.

Change can bring new growth and new possibilities!

For the past few months, I have been really enjoying the chance to follow along on You Tube as the Wander Women thru-hike the Continental Divide Trail.  It’s a truly uplifting journey along a rugged trail through such beautiful parts of America watching the seasons change! The Wander Women are three retirees, Kristy, Annette, and Lynn who just love to hike, backpack, and explore. They began this hike on a snowy June day in Wyoming. Along the way, they have encountered heat, cold, long stretches with scarce drinking water, dangerous river crossings, huge elevation changes… and the most beautiful scenery along the Continental Divide Trail! It’s so encouraging to see the kindness of strangers they meet along the way. The landscape has changed as they hike about twenty miles each day. Every five or six days, they stop in a small town to resupply and Kristy uploads a weekly video of their adventure. So far, Kristy and Annette have hiked over 2,000 miles since June. They are currently hiking through New Mexico and have less than 700 miles to complete their CDT thru-hike. I so admire their endurance and positive attitudes and am so grateful for the chance to follow along on their journey!

Take a peek at this week’s Wander Women video (Episode 22). If you enjoy it, follow along! It’s the perfect antidote to all of the news and is sure to lift your spirits!

We have already had two days of snow flurries this week. So early! This weekend we will have a leaf-raking party (just a party of two!). Our snow shovels are ready. Change is in the air…

Stay safe and healthy, sweet friends!

Sending big air hugs from my heart to yours,

♡ Dawn

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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Dreaming …

Hi Friends!

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.

With warm thoughts,

Dawn

P.S.  Are you already dreaming any garden dreams?

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Change…

Hi Friends!

There is change in the air!

Can you feel it, too?

Today we were blessed with a mild, sunny day here in the Midwest. It was the perfect opportunity to rake leaves one last time and put my perennial and herb gardens to bed for a long Winter’s rest. As I worked, I reflected on the past year in the garden. An abundance of taller than usual perennials with extra-large blossoms was our reward for all of those rainy days. It was such a joy to bring my mom bouquets of flowers several times a week!

We had a growing season filled with unexpected surprises, too. In late April, a heavy, wet snowfall buried our tulip blossoms and scattered our Magnolia blossoms like confetti over the snow. Halloween brought several more inches of snow. We wished the brave, frozen trick-or-treaters a “Happy Halloween” (and a “Merry Christmas”, too!). They all giggled! 🙂 Brightly colored Autumn leaves blanketed our snowy yard in the days that followed. We have already shoveled Autumn snow several times this month.

Every November, I look forward to gathering stems of dried flowers and seed pods to fill antique wooden boxes and baskets for the front porch. Last week, it was an incredible challenge to collect garden gatherings that weren’t crushed by the early snow. This year, evergreen branches, shiny, holly-like sprigs of Grape Mahonia (Mahonia Aquifolium), pine cones, and one large bundle of dried Annabelle Hydrangeas (hanging in the garage) came to the rescue. Containers filled with garden gatherings help warm up the coldest of Winter days! I cherish the chance to enjoy these sweet garden memories when everything is covered under a thick blanket of snow.

As the seasons change, I’ve been enjoying The Simplicity of Cozy by Melissa Alvarez. It’s lovely to read about the traditions celebrated in many countries that encourage us to slow down, enjoy time in nature, and practice mindfulness. A warm afghan and a hot cup of herbal tea are the perfect accompaniments as I read and mark favorite passages. I’m looking forward to creating a special page in my Self-Care Journal for December with ideas inspired by this book.

We have a brand new family tradition beginning this Thanksgiving! 🙂 For the past 25 years, we have gathered around the table at our home with my brothers for Thanksgiving dinner. My parents always joined us for pumpkin pie, via Skype, from their desert home in Arizona. Last Thanksgiving, I was still in Arizona helping our parents prepare for their big move back to Illinois. So, my sweet husband carried on our Thanksgiving tradition on his own, by inviting my brothers for dinner, while my parents and I Skyped-in for pumpkin pie.

This year we are all so excited to celebrate our Thanksgiving together! 🙂  We will gather at my parents’ beautiful Senior Living Community for this happy celebration. The chef will prepare Thanksgiving dinner in their elegant dining room. The pumpkin pie will be sweeter than ever because our family will all be gathered around one table together! My heart is overflowing with gratitude…

One of my very favorite Thanksgiving traditions will not change at all. Many years ago, I wanted to encourage everyone to count our many blessings, amidst the always lively conversation during our Thanksgiving dinner. As I set the table, at each place setting I placed three kernels of unpopped popcorn. Between every two guests, I placed a small, vintage, pressed glass dish. When my husband and my brothers gave me a quizzical look, I explained…

At the very first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people gathered to celebrate Plymouth colony’s first harvest. By working together, they grew maize (corn) and other crops to sustain them. The three-day celebration was a time to give thanks for their harvest and all the ways they had worked together.

Then I reminded everyone that we were also gathering to give thanks and celebrate our strong family ties. So, throughout our dinner, each time we thought of something we were thankful for, we should drop one kernel of corn into the nearby glass dish, listening for the ringing sound it made. My kernels of corn slowly dropped into a dish, ting!… ting!… ting! as I silently counted my blessings throughout the meal. Little-by-little, the menfolk followed suit, silently counting their blessings. My heart warmed just knowing that we were adding a meaningful reminder of the reason we gather together on Thanksgiving!

Each year after, as I set a harvest table for Thanksgiving, I added an extra corn kernel to each place setting. Being mindful and taking time to count our blessings, silently during dinner, was becoming second nature. Sounds of ting! ting! ting! have become part of the soundtrack of our family feasts. Two years ago, each place setting had eight corn kernels. Last year, when the men gathered together for Thanksgiving, they decided to set up the corn kernels on their own to remember to count their blessings. 🙂 Imagine my surprise when they proudly shared the news with me via Skype!

At the end of each Thanksgiving dinner, I carefully place the “blessings” (corn kernels) into a small jar. It is slowly filling up with our family’s blessings! Each year, we use new corn kernels to count our blessings and add them to our Thankful Jar. You can be certain that I will bring lots of extra corn kernels and our Thankful Jar to my parents’ lovely, new  home this Thanksgiving!

Our long tradition reminds us all to be present and mindful of the reasons why we gather around the table filled with turkey, dressing, cranberries, squash, beans, cornbread,… and pumpkin pie. We are all looking forward to celebrating in a new place, surrounded by new friends and neighbors and their families. Oh, yes! It’s much more than pumpkin pie! Feel free to try this little tradition at your Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, or next special gathering. It’s so simple, but once those who gather catch on, it is a wonderful reminder of the purpose for our gathering!

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving tradition?

♥♥♥

All year long, as I count my blessings,

(and write them on the Gratitude page in my journal),

I feel so very grateful for all of the friends

who gather here at our little blog.

Thank you all for being here!

You inspire me in so many ways!

 

Wonderful news! A dear friend of our blog has just begun writing a new blog of her own. Vicky has lived in several different countries, in very different types of homes, and has recently moved back to her native New Zealand! She is a true kindred spirit, and a wonderful writer and photographer. Vicky and I met several years ago in an international, online book club for artists and other creatives. Letter writing and Skype visits have helped our friendship blossom over the years. Summertime is quickly approaching and  Vicky’s garden is thriving. I’m so happy that Vicky is now blogging at TheSpaciousLifeRealised.  🙂 Let’s surprise Vicky! Take a peek at her first post … and say “Hi!” I think you will enjoy her blog, too!

Happy, Happy Thanksgiving to all!

With warm gratitude,

♡ 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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Chatting by the Garden Gate ~ July 2019

Hi Friends!

Shall we chat… as we walk through the garden?

A tall glass of iced tea is just what we’ll need

on this hot, sticky, July afternoon.

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.

Photo Source: Gardener’s Supply

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!

Enjoy the sweet blessings of home and of freedom!

Happy Independence Day!

Garden blessings,

♡ Dawn

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Gathering…

Hi Friends!

April showers have continued to drench the Midwest throughout May this year. We have already endured seventeen days of rain this month. Our rainiest May in 149 years has kept most gardeners indoors, as we study the weather forecast daily hoping for sunshine and warmer temperatures. Each day, our hearts have been heavy for those who are truly suffering in the aftermath of severe flooding and destructive tornadoes across our country.

May is always my very favorite month in the garden. Alas, this year’s Garden Journal holds only sparse notes of an hour here or there: tidying up the Herb & Tea garden, emptying the rain gauge, sweeping the Elm and Maple seeds from the front porch, and cutting bouquets of Lilacs and Lily-of-the-Valley. Mowing the lawn between rainstorms has taken a bit of strategic planning!

However, with our abundance of Spring rain,

 all of the blooming trees are just glorious!

While dreaming of sunshine,

I have been gathering inspiration on impromptu Artist Dates. 🙂

I took an early morning walk through a favorite park during Lilac Time.

Although I went to enjoy the beautiful Lilacs…

it was the magnificent Tulips that captured my fancy.

As I wandered through the park,

I gathered new inspiration for watercolors and ink combinations.

The designer who planned these sweeping beds

last Fall truly had an artistic vision!

As I paused to soak in all of Nature’s beauty…

I was inspired to make notes about ink colors.

Very soon, my little Paper Garden studio downstairs

will be blooming

with stamped, layered flowers for handmade cards.

Rainy days seem to call for a cup of tea, a cozy afghan, and a good book. I just finished reading The Art of Gathering, by Priya Parker. The author brings a fascinating background and her expertise in conflict resolution to this engaging book on creating transformative gatherings of many kinds. Priya Parker dives deep into many different types of gatherings throughout the world designed to intentionally bring people closer. Whether we gather for business meetings, family reunions, weddings, birthday celebrations, to mourn, or to experience something new, the author takes us step-by-step through the art and science of planning truly memorable gatherings.

As I read, I reflected on so many different types of wonderful gatherings over the years ~ those powerful moments in my primary classroom, inspiring workshops, unique gatherings of friends, and our most heartwarming family gatherings. We can all remember those very special, often unexpected gatherings that impacted us in powerful ways and created lasting memories.

Priya Parker teaches us that these transformative gatherings begin with an interesting purpose that matches a true need in our life. She shares ideas that help us understand who to include and who to temporarily exclude when planning purposeful, powerful gatherings that bring people closer together and inspire us to take action.

Oh, my goodness, I made notes as I read. I have always dreamed of bringing together the special people in my life who have never met one another in purposeful, small groups. 🙂 With thoughtful planning, just imagine the conversations and inspiration that would happen at such gatherings!

(Watch Priya Parker’s recent TED Talk here. It’s wonderful!)

Although I read The Art of Gathering on my own, I think it would make a very interesting Book Club selection. Readers would be able to share past gatherings and what made them so memorable. Creating events that bring people together with a unique purpose can have lasting power!

As I read The Art of Gathering, my thoughts also turned to our little gathering place for kindred spirits here at Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes. Our quiet, little blog is five years old now! 🙂  (You might enjoy reading about how our blog began in this post.)  I’m so very grateful for the old friends who have been visiting from the very beginning and the new friends who discover us and and join in the fun. I love to learn from you and am inspired by all that you share in your thoughtful comments. I truly appreciate you spending a bit of your precious time gathering here with us. YOU are often mentioned on the Gratitude page in my journal. Heartfelt thanks for always being here!

In anticipation of our 5th Anniversary, I have been making some changes behind the scenes here. There is a brand new About page. I have updated the Inspiration page and have included a few Podcasts that I’ve been enjoying lately. The Favorites page contains two fabulous, new stamp companies that have won my heart with their unique designs and truly wonderful customer service. The Say Hello page is an easy way to reach me anytime via email.

I also added a new Category, making it easy to search for blog posts that interest you most. In addition to Petals (gardening posts), Paper (cardmaking, bullet journaling, watercoloring posts,…), and Simple Thymes (life’s simple pleasures, family stories, antiquing, nature walks, travels,…), we now have an Inspiring Books category. Searching Inspiring Books will pull up all of the posts about books that have moved me to take action. These books taught me wonderful lessons and prompted me to make real changes! I hope that you will find them valuable, too.

It is our gatherings and connections that make life extra-sweet. Although I love the creative process of making cards, my very favorite part is sending my cards off in the mail to touch hearts. Although I am energized by the creative process of writing and shooting photos for each blog post, I find true JOY in our connection in the comments that you leave here. I love taking the time to read and answer each comment. I hope you feel comfortable chatting with one another here, too! Kindred spirits always gather here… and that’s something truly wonderful to celebrate!

Just wondering

  What gathering has made an unexpected, powerful impact on you? What made this gathering different from all of the others?

  Do you prefer gathering with people who are much like you or do you enjoy meeting people who are different, yet open to a shared experience?

  Do you find large gatherings or small gatherings more enjoyable?

  Is there a special gathering that you would love to plan some day?

Hope you will share your thoughts with all of us…

 

Please stay safe throughout this long, holiday weekend,

especially if dangerous weather threatens.

Let’s take a moment on Memorial Day to honor all those

who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy every day.

 

With love and gratitude,

♡ 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?

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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