Springtime Blessings!

Hi Friends!

Sunny Springtime greetings!

Today I’m counting my blessings out loud

as my very favorite season begins…

Bougainvillea in bloom in the Sonoran Desert, with the Superstition Mountains in the distance

I have been enjoying precious family time

in the Arizona desert.

Prickly Pear cacti in bloom

Admiring spectacular sunrises

and sunsets…

Saguaro silhouettes at sunset in the Sonoran desert

Sharing wonderful family memories with my parents,

as we talked about their childhood stories

and my childhood years.

Such delightful blessings to cherish!

Brittlebush in bloom fills the desert with sunshine in the Spring

Savoring long talks with my dad,

whose sage wisdom always guides me.

Strong, sturdy Saguaro cactus

Taking long walks with my mom,

a most charming gardener who teaches me so much

about living a sweet, joyful life.

It made my heart blossom as I helped them each day,

in the smallest of ways.

It is such a blessing to be able to help my parents now…

as we spend time together.

Helping to weed, deadhead, transplant, and water

in my mom’s desert garden

reminded me of how this charming gardener

taught me to garden,

thirty years ago,

when I bought a little house

with a large, mature garden of my very own.

Ocotillo cactus blossoms

My beloved husband took care of everything here at home,

so that I could spend time with my parents.

He is one of life’s sweetest blessings!

Purple Trailing Lantana spilling over the red rocks

Brilliant blue skies, gentle breezes, and temperatures in the mid 90s

made the last days of Winter fly by much too quickly.

Just as my favorite season began,

I returned home to

the Midwest.

Today I spent hours in my own garden

(wearing a winter jacket),

as I pruned the ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea,

cut back the remaining stems and seed heads

left standing for the birds,

and peeked at all of the new growth in my garden beds.

From across the yard, I suddenly spotted

patches of  brilliant purple!

These miniature Irises are always the first blossoms of Springtime in my garden!

What a wonderful blessing to discover

miniature Irises

and Crocuses in full bloom…

just in time for

the first days of Spring!

♥♥♥

Wishing you abundant Springtime blessings, too!

(Be sure to count them out loud!)

Choose joy!

♡ Dawn

     P.S.  Hope you will share something you are grateful for as Spring begins!

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Gathered Sunshine

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Hi Friends!

January is typically our snowiest month here in the Midwest. However, January 2017 has been one of the least snowiest months on record. In addition to our snow drought, we have also been lacking much-needed sunshine all month long. In January, we only enjoyed six sunny days. Few and far between… those days were glorious indeed!

So, throughout this month I often called upon the wisdom of

a teeny, tiny kindred spirit for inspiration…

Have you met Frederick?

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This wise, little field mouse is the heartwarming hero of the wonderful children’s book,

Frederick, by Leo Lionni.

During the long, cold, difficult, winter days,

Frederick helped his little field mice friends feel warmth as he lifted their spirits.

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For you see, Frederick was a gatherer.

He gathered bright sun rays

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Frederick gathered breathtaking colors from nature…

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… and Frederick gathered wise words when the days were warm,

and held them until the days grew cold .

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Over the years, I have always felt a strong connection to our little Frederick, the poet-mouse.

For I am a gatherer, too!

I gathered these photo memories last April, while visiting dear family in Arizona.

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Tohono Chul Park, located in northwest Tucson

near the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains,

is a true gem!

Their mission is to enrich people’s lives

by connecting them with the wonders of

nature, art, and culture

in the beautiful Sonoran Desert,

while inspiring wise stewardship of nature’s gifts.

Tohono Chul Park is truly one of the loveliest places we have visited in Arizona.

It’s the perfect place to gather warm sun rays, breathtaking colors, and wise words!

I’m sure that Frederick would agree.

♥♥♥

If you haven’t read Frederick lately, do take a peek…

Frederick is celebrating

its 50th Anniversary this year.

He just might be your teeny, tiny kindred spirit, too!

♥♥♥

Thanks so much for stopping to visit today!

Scatter kindness and gather sunshine!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Do you have a favorite place to gather bright sunshine, beautiful colors, or wise words? Hope you will share with us!

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Seasoned with Love

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Hi Friends!

Rabbit! Rabbit!  What an unexpected joy to make garden memories as December begins! On Tuesday afternoon, I took advantage an unseasonably mild day to walk around the garden. A few remaining leaves crunched underfoot as I unlatched the garden gate and stepped into to my Herb and Tea Garden. With garden snips in hand, I clipped small bunches of sage, oregano, and lemon balm.

Earlier that very morning, I found the most wonderful inspiration on Lydia’s blog, Understand Blue. Lydia always has something interesting to share! On Tuesday, Lydia shared a great video tutorial about “Duoprinting with Chlorophyll.”

The sun was shining and this was a perfect day

to connect my passion for herb gardening with my passion for cardmaking.

Pure serendipity… and so much fun!

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Heavenly, herbal scents filled my Paper Garden studio downstairs, as I placed fresh sage leaves on cardstock, between the plates of my Big Shot embossing/die cutting machine. (See Lydia’s video tutorial for her step-by-step directions.) As I cranked the paper ‘sandwich’ through the machine, the sage leaves and stems printed on the cardstock. Mother Nature’s colors were more perfect than any ink color in my studio! The Chlorophyll transferred the beautiful, subtle colors of the sage perfectly. I was in awe as I gently peeled the flattened sage leaves from the cardstock!

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I matted each herbal print on kraft cardstock. Then I reached for the perfect sentiments! The ‘Sage Advice’ stamp set from ‘Power Poppy by Marcella Hawley’ (one of my forever favorites) had just the right words to complement the Chlorophyll Prints. Using Crumb Cake ink (Stampin’ Up) and the MISTI stamping tool, I added the sentiments.

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After successfully making single Chlorophyll Prints, I was ready to try Lydia’s ‘Duoprints’ technique. So, I sandwiched another bundle of fresh sage between two pieces of cardstock and cranked them through the Big Shot. Both of these sage prints were produced at the same time. The details and colors were just lovely. Look closely…  Mother Nature even provided beautiful shading for the images, as the essential oils were pressed onto the paper. The sage prints were adhered to cream-colored cardbases.  I stamped the inside of the cards with herbal images from the same Power Poppy stamp set. Finally, I handlettered the name of the herb on the back of each card, near my signature. If only you could smell the amazing scent of sage on these cards!

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Hmmm! What next? I decided to try printing with lemon balm. It worked beautifully, creating soft shadows, as the fresh, lemony scent filled my studio!

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I continued to experiment with different herbs and other foliage from the garden. Although the images weren’t quite as sharp and crisp, I was able to make Chlorophyll Prints with oregano, the holly-like leaves of mahonia, and the heart-shaped leaves of wild ginger.

Oh my! I can’t wait to work with Chlorophyll Printing again. I must try rosemary, my very favorite herb!  It will be such fun to bring my garden herbs and foliage into my Paper Garden studio throughout Spring, Summer, and Autumn next year. I’m also planning to try Chlorophyll Printing on watercolor paper next time. It will be lovely to create cards, gift tags, bookmarks (for cookbooks), and framed botanical pieces seasoned with love and kindness!

If you feel inspired to try Chlorophyll Printing, be sure to let us know how it works for you!

img_1220Creating gifts from the heart... and the heart of my garden is just my ‘cup of tea.’  ♥

Thanks so much for stopping by today!

Warm hugs!

♡ Dawn

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A Fascinating Walk!

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Hi Friends!

It’s a wonderful tradition that began early on, when my husband and I were just getting to know one another! Very often, we found ourselves walking near water, with moments of peaceful silence and interesting conversations about anything and everything. Oh the beautiful places we have walked together! Not the types to sit on a beach, we have strolled along Lake Michigan beaches, the beaches of Waikiki, and along the North Shore of Kauai. Walks along the River Seine, the River Rhein, the Lower Salt River in the Sonoran desert, and the Illinois River hold so many dear memories. Over the years, we have enjoyed walking along rushing waterfalls, meandering creeks, and a quiet marsh. Yet, there has always been another watery destination on our long list of places to walk ~  a bog!

So, Sunday morning, we packed a picnic lunch and drove north quite a distance to the Volo Bog State Natural Area. Our walk was filled with unexpected surprises, lovely views, and new learning. We both agreed that it was one of our more fascinating walks… and I couldn’t wait to share our walk with you!

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With our first glimpse of the Volo Bog, we were very curious about the large patches of pink in the distance. It was time to explore!

This bog originated about 12,000 years ago as the Wisconsin glacier crept into northeastern Illinois. As the climate warmed, the ice melted and glacial lakes formed. The trees (in the photo above) mark the edges of the old glacial lake. 

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Volo Bog has a floating boardwalk, allowing visitors to view various parts of the bog while walking just above the bog’s surface.

This was our chance to walk just inches above the surface of a bog! We could feel the floating walkway moving gently underfoot with each step. We walked very slowly, as dragonflies and butterflies floated overhead and a chorus of nearby crickets and frogs sang for us. Below the boardwalk, the 50-foot deep bog was filled with plants growing in this unique wetland.

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From time to time as we walked, there were views of peaceful, open water, surrounded by cattails and sedges. However, most of the bog is now lush with plant growth.

A bog is a very unique type of wetland. It forms in a glacial lake that has very poor drainage and no inflow of water from streams. Rain water and melting snow fill the bog. A floating mat of peat, which is partially decayed plant matter, began to form long ago at the Volo Bog.  The roots of living plants support this thickening peat layer.

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Volo Bog is the only ‘Quaking Bog’ with an open water center in Illinois. Its floating mat of sphagnum moss and other plants is so thick in some places that a person could actually stand on it. However, this would not only damage the bog, but would be incredibly dangerous. The floating boardwalk allows visitors to safely explore the bog.

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Cattails turn to seed in mid-August at Volo Bog.

As early as 10,000 years ago, the Native Americans settled in northeastern Illinois. The Volo Bog, a distance from large waterways, would have provided good hunting grounds and places to gather arrowhead roots, cattails, blueberries, and other edible plants.

BogFloraColorful wildflowers were in full bloom throughout the bog and the pollinators were very active on this mid-August day.

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The wooden boardwalk leads visitors through four different plant communities at Volo Bog. As we made our way, the changing plant species seemed to take us back through time. Winterberry Holly, Dogwood, and Poison Sumac were among the tall shrubs in this part of the bog. During times of high water from rain and melting snow, some of the Tamarack trees in this area drowned. Ancient ferns also grow in this shady area of the bog.

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This diagram shows the different plant zones we observed as we followed the boardwalk (yellow dotted trail) to the ‘eye’ of the Volo Bog.

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The ‘eye’ of the Volo Bog is not an ordinary pond. It is 50 feet deep and everything you see is floating… even the Tamarack pine trees in the distance! As the plant layers in the bog continue to grow and decay, scientists predict the open water at the ‘eye’ will be overgrown with vegetation in the next 100-150 years.

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Tamarack pine trees grow in this part of the plant community. These unusual pines are deciduous! In Autumn, their needles turn golden yellow and fall onto the peat soil below. The Tamarack trees, with their shallow, spreading roots, float up and down as the water levels change in the bog.

Sphagnum moss carpets the ground in this area of the bog. Native American mothers gathered and dried this moss to line their cradle boards, as a sort of diaper. Early soldiers used dried sphagnum to cover their wounds in the battlefields, since this moss produces acids with antibacterial properties.

BogFaunaThe bog is a wetland habitat for so many animal species.

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This circa 1900 dairy barn was renovated to create a wonderful, educational Visitor Center at the Volo Bog.

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As a result of our rainy summer, water levels seemed high in this open water area of the bog.

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Waterbirds searched for food in the moss-covered water, while a family of turtles took turns sunning on a floating log.

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The bog is a beautiful, fragile ecosystem that we must carefully preserve.

As we walked along the boardwalk, observing the variety of plants and animals that make their homes in this habitat, my thoughts turned to my own garden. Years ago, as I added new flower beds, I would occasionally buy a large bag of peat moss to mix into the soil. Never again!!

Most of our commercially harvested (actually, it is ‘mined’) peat in North America comes from Canadian sphagnum moss. Our walk reminded me once again that bogs are fragile wetlands that must be preserved! There are much better (and cheaper) alternatives to amend the soil in our gardens ~ local leaf mold compost, wood chips, composted garden waste, and green kitchen compost. Continued use of these plant materials will keep my garden a healthier, more responsible little patch of nature for years to come!

Thanks so much for stopping to visit today!

This is my 100th post at Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes… 

and your visits and thoughtful comments are always such a treat for me!

♡♡♡♡♡♡

Enjoy your week!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Do you enjoy walking near water, too?  Please tell us about your favorite places to walk…

 

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Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

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Hi Friends!

Native plants are in full bloom here in Illinois, the ‘Prairie State.’ So, early Saturday morning, we decided to explore a very special prairie. It was a rare, cool, end-of-July day, with skies threatening rain one moment and offering bright sunshine the next. My husband dreamed of walking through the prairie in the rain observing the insects, while I wished for blue skies, just right for taking flower photos. Off we went… both of us watching the skies!

The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is the first national tallgrass prairie in our country. Once native prairie, this area then developed into a community filled with homes. Years later, the land became the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant producing ammunition used in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the first Gulf War. In 1996, the Department of Defense transferred ownership of the 19,000 acres to the U.S. Forest Service to create Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. With the help of  local conservation groups and countless volunteers, the USDA Forest Service has been working to restore this land to native tallgrass prairie. Today more than 13,300 acres are open to the public.

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We stopped in the Welcome Center first to pick up trail maps and learn about the prairie restoration in progress. Restoring a prairie of this size will take decades. Much of what happens at Midewin is an ongoing experiment of trial and error as USDA staff study the small patches of native prairie that remain. Vast amounts of native plant seeds are being collected and spread each year by the dedicated volunteer workforce. Over time, Midewin staff continue to learn how the different parts of a prairie ecosystem work together.

Midewin, in the language of the Potawatomi People means 'healing.'

Midewin (pronounced ‘mih-DAY-win’) has made amazing progress toward its goal already. Friendly volunteer Rangers were eager to share the history and progress of Midewin with us.

We began our prairie hike at the Iron Bridge Trailhead. As we hiked along the winding trail, it was exciting to see the progress of  the largest prairie restoration underway in the United States.

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Queen Anne’s Lace

Our hot, rainy weather during July has helped the native plants put on a spectacular show of colors.

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Late July at the tallgrass prairie

Walking through the tallgrass prairie helps us to imagine the time when 60% of the landscape of Illinois was covered in prairies.  The grasses and native flowers often grew as tall as a horse and its rider. As covered wagons made their way through the prairies in the early days, only the tops of their canvas-covered wagons could be seen above the tallgrass prairie. They truly looked like ‘prairie schooners’ bobbing slowly through the waves of the tall prairie grasses.

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Left:  Prairie Sunflower; Right: Purple Coneflower, Blue Aster. Red Clover

While the prairie wildflowers and grasses grow to impressive heights, most of the plant is below the soil with its extremely long root system. In addition to the roots, microbes, insects, and burrowing animals also play a critical role in the underground ecosystem of the prairie. Over time, the tallgrass prairies created the deep, rich topsoil of the Midwest. Once the valuable soil beneath our prairies was discovered, the tallgrass prairies disappeared quickly. In just 50 years, the prairies were replaced by farm crops and pastures for livestock.

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Queen Anne’s Lace

Today, there are less than one hundredth of one percent of the tallgrass prairies remaining in Illinois.

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Yellow Coneflower

We are so fortunate that volunteers are working to restore Midewin. They carefully harvest the seeds of wildflowers and grasses, spread the seeds, remove invasive plants, maintain the trails, and teach visitors about this valuable prairie.

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Top: Red Spotted Purple butterfly, Black Swallowtail butterfly  Bottom: dragonflies on native grasses

The prairie wildflowers and grasses attract many pollinators vital to the restoration process. As we hiked, we were entertained by the birds, bees, butterflies, and dragonflies. Cicadas were singing loudly in the afternoon sun.

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We hiked along the Iron Bridge trail in search of  bison grazing on the prairie. Chatting with other hikers, we learned that none of them had seen any bison and were returning to the trailhead. So, we decided to turn off on another trail. I stopped to admire the Queen Anne’s Lace blooming profusely, and something moving near the horizon caught my eye. Could it be?

 As we watched, we could just barely see a line of bison moving through the tallgrass and native flowers. We decided to quickly hike up to a higher place on the trail and stopped to watch the herd of bison moving. It was truly an unforgettable moment to see these huge, iconic creatures moving across the prairie!

Bison played a very important role in our history, as the Native American hunters followed them across the plains. Bison provided food, clothing, and shelter to the Native Americans.

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In the Fall of 2015, Midewin introduced bison to the prairie, in an experiment planned to last 20 years. Midewin prairie ecologists are studying the bison to see if their grazing patterns will benefit the ecosystem of the tallgrass prairie. Bison feed only on grasses, opening the prairie to more flowers and other plants. This attracts a variety of birds, insects, and other animals, increasing the biodiversity of the tallgrass prairie.

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The bison herd at Midewin, relocated from Colorado and South Dakota, includes 24 adults and 12 young bison. Just this week, two bison calves were born. As we watched them walking in a straight line, tails swishing, I was able to count 18 bison in this herd. Next time, we will bring binoculars!

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Hedge apples (Maclura pomifera), also known as Osage oranges and Bois d’arc

Turning off onto the Hedge Apple Trail, we passed a tree laden with this bumpy fruit. The Osage People used the strong, flexible wood from these trees to make their bows. These trees were often planted as wind breaks to prevent soil erosion. Their sharp thorns turned rows of Hedge Apple trees into cattle-deterring hedges, before the invention of barbed wire for fences.

As we walked along the trail, we were greeted by vast areas filled with Queen Anne’s Lace in bloom. We followed a smaller trail deeper into the prairie. I stopped and spun around very s-l-o-w-l-y taking in all of this natural beauty. It felt just like I was standing in the middle of a beautiful, watercolor painting!

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As we hiked, these Yellow Coneflowers, with their drooping yellow petals were among my very favorite prairie plants. It was fascinating to discover that so many plants from my cottage gardens at home are native wildflowers. Aster, Spiderwort, Beebalm, Purple Coneflower, ‘Blazing Star’ Liatris, Marsh Phlox, Obedient Plant, Allium, Black-Eyed Susan, and Anemones grow in the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and in the garden at our ‘Little House Near the Prairie.’  🙂

If you ever have the chance to walk through a tallgrass prairie, it is an experience that you will always remember! Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is a treasure… and one that will continue to teach us to care for the land in so many important ways!

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Thanks so much for walking through the tallgrass prairie with us today!

Have you ever visited a prairie?

Do you grow any native prairie plants in your garden?

Happy August days!

♡Dawn

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Chatting By the Garden Gate

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Hi Friends!

Springtime days in the garden just make my heart sing! Warm, sunny days seem extra-special this Spring because they have been so rare. We are experiencing cooler than normal temperatures and twice the normal rainfall here in the Midwest. In fact, 17 of the last 24 days have been rainy days. This week alone, the rain gauge in our garden has collected two and one-half inches of rain! More storms are on the way…

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Delicate blossoms of ‘Cranesbill’ Geranium brighten our perennial borders.

Each time the rain stops, a bit of gardenkeeping begins. Everything is growing so quickly! The pollinators have already been very busy doing their important work in the garden.  The bee baths are collecting rainwater and encouraging the bees to stay in our garden, rather than leaving to find fresh drinking water.

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I have been dividing clumps of Spring blooming Anemones in our Friendship Garden bed.

Our Friendship Garden bed always beckons me first when gardening season begins. As I work, I try to watch my step, hoping to prevent some soil compaction in the wet, fragile earth. The ‘perennial’ chore of digging up invasive Bishop’s Weed seems endless in our garden. I divided several perennials before adding a fresh layer of mulch to this large backyard bed. Very soon, this special flower bed will be all abloom in the colors of Springtime!

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Ferns unfurl in our Woodland bed, beneath the towering pine trees.

The additional moisture this season has encouraged the ferns and hostas to unfurl so quickly! We have an abundance of small ferns this year.  This week, I transplanted a few into pots for the front porch. It’s a bit of ‘trial and error’ research! Have you had success transplanting ferns into containers? A few years ago, I transplanted hostas into containers with great success. They thrive on our shady front porch and overwinter easily in our unheated garage. I’m so curious to see if the potted ferns will be just as happy and content!

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Lily of the Valley add their heady fragrance to the Woodland garden bed.

The month of May has always been my favorite time in the garden. It’s truly enchanting to see lush foliage, pops of color, and swelling buds that seem to change daily! May holds the promise of all the months yet to come. I have been mowing the lawn often and digging up dandelions, too. Today as I worked, the first peony opened its petals. A short time later, the first ‘he loves me’ Daisy bloomed. It’s always fun to reward all of my hard work by picking bouquets of blossoms!  It was a treat to fill a stoneware crock with Lilacs for the front porch last week. Yesterday I filled a small, pink vase with Bleeding Hearts and Lily of the Valley to bring a bit of Springtime inside. It’s the little things that make life so sweet!

After mid-May, I look forward to planting some new additions in our Friendship Garden. Hyacinth bean vines will climb a trellis and historic Western Jacob’s Ladder will grow along our white picket fence. There is also a new addition for our Herb Garden. For the very first time, we hope to grow our own Red Kuri pumpkins for our favorite Autumn soup. Next week, it will be time to fill containers with colorful annuals, too. This weekend, our nighttime temperatures will drop into the 30s. So, I’m trying so hard to patiently wait… just a few more days!

I hope that you are enjoying a bit of time in nature, too. Whether you are working in the garden, walking in a park, or hiking through the woods, listen closely to the birdsong… and the song in your heart!

♥♥♥

I’m so happy that you stopped to chat by the garden gate today!

Can’t wait to share the most wonderful way to spend a rainy afternoon… next time!  ♡

Sunny wishes!

♡Dawn

  P.S.  What flowers are blooming in your garden this week?

A Desert Dream-Come-True!

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Hi Friends!

What an amazing surprise we had on our recent visit to Arizona! Every year, in March or April, I love to spend  Spring Break visiting family in the Phoenix area. During my very first visit, over twenty-five years ago, I fell in love with the majestic Saguaro cactus. These beautiful giants only grow in the Sonoran Desert. Each time we hike in the desert, I always make the very same wish!  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see my favorite cactus in bloom ~ just once in my lifetime?

The Saguaro typically blooms in May and June. Those are always busy months in my Midwest garden. I just love to be home tending my perennial and herb gardens in late Spring and early Summer. This Spring Break was a truly memorable one! Following a warmer Winter season in the desert, the Saguaro cacti are in bloom earlier than ever this year. So, we were able to enjoy these special blossoms for the very first time!

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We chose one of our favorite hiking places, the Usery Mountain Regional Park, to soak in all of the beauty of the Saguaros in bloom.  Ranger Brennan shared so much fascinating information about the Saguaros, along with great tips for the best hiking trails to see these long-awaited blossoms.  While the Saguaro flowers are usually very high on these tall cacti, Ranger B. told us to look for a Saguaro that had been touched by the frost, making one arm droop much lower.  If we could find one, we would have a chance to enjoy these special flowers at eye level. (Special thanks, Ranger B, for all the great tips!) Off we hiked, camera in hand, to make my dream come true!

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A Saguaro cactus must be at least 50 years old to make flowers. Production from bud to flower takes 10-14 days, depending upon the elevation and temperature in the desert. One Saguaro produces an average of 295 flowers, blooming two or three at a time, throughout May and June. Saguaros have a reproductive lifespan of over 100 years.

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The waxy, white, trumpet-shaped Saguaro flowers are about 3 inches (8cm) in diameter. Each flower lasts less than 24 hours. The flower blooms at night and closes by mid-afternoon. Since the pollen is large and heavy, the Saguaro flower cannot be pollinated by the wind. Saguaros have a very short time to attract pollinators!

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The Saguaros’ bloom time matches the northern migration time of their pollinators. The flowers are well-suited to the bats that come to pollinate the flowers at night. Rich in nectar, the strong flowers can withstand the bats’ weight. They bloom high above the ground near the bats’ flight path, and the blossoms emit a strong fragrance so that they are easy to locate in the dark.

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Saguaros continue to produce nectar in the morning and early afternoon. So, honey bees and birds come to pollinate the flowers during the day. The white-winged doves migrate from Mexico just in time for the Saguaro bloom in Arizona each year.

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As we hiked, we were overjoyed to find one Saguaro with a low-drooping arm. This was our chance to view the state flower of Arizona at eye level. What an amazing opportunity for a little ‘Morning Science’ lesson of our own!

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The droopy arm of the cactus was growing up toward the sun, with about 20 large buds. Earlier in the day, Ranger B. told us that he has even seen Saguaro cacti laying dead on the ground, with one arm still blooming prolifically! A dead cactus uses its stored moisture to nourish the flower blossoms. (Contrary to popular belief, the water stored in the Saguaro cactus is undrinkable and mildly toxic for humans.)

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Up close, the Saguaro flowers were all abuzz with pollinators. We had to wait in line for our chance to examine the blossom. It was such a thrill to touch the thick, waxy flower! We observed its center filled with yellow pollen. We could also see fruit beginning to form nearby.

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After the flowers are pollinated, they mature into ripe, red fruit. In June, a red ring first appears around the top of the growing Saguaro fruit. Soon the entire fruit ripens, splitting open to reveal its juicy, red pulp. Each Saguaro fruit contains up to 2,000 small, black seeds. This occurs during the driest time of the year, when rain has not fallen for over 100 days. So the ripe fruit will provide much-needed moisture and food for many desert creatures. Finches, woodpeckers, doves, and bats find nourishment from the fruits at the top of the Saguaro.  Javelinas, coyotes, and other desert mammals come to feed on the fallen fruit. Many people also enjoy eating the Saguaro fruit!

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The Native American, Tohono O’odham people have always harvested the Saguaro fruit. They continue this important tradition today. Using long poles, often made from Saguaro ribs, they pick the ripe fruit. June is the time when the Tohono O’odham people celebrate the beginning of summer and the new growing season. To bring rain, they drink a fermented juice, made from the bright, red fruit. (To watch a fascinating video about harvesting Saguaro fruit, click here.)

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What a wonderful, dream-come-true hike in the desert!

We feel so blessed to have experienced

this amazing bouquet of desert beauty up close.

(Hmmm…  I wonder what the Saguaro fruit tastes like?

Perhaps we can taste it on our next visit to the Sonoran desert!)

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Thanks so much for walking through the desert with us.

I have two other beautiful places to share soon.

Each time we visit Arizona, there are always exciting, new discoveries awaiting!

Sending sunshine!

♡Dawn

           P.S.   What interesting flower have you dreamed of seeing one day?