Chatting By the Garden Gate ~ July

Hi Friends!

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

the mosquitoes are biting,

and late afternoon rainstorms have been blowing across the plains.

It’s July in the Midwest… 

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

♥♥♥

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

There have been more big changes,

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

inspired by this wonderful book by Kerry Ann Mendez.

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

bullet-style, in my Garden Journal.

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

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

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

Unfortunately, heavy thunderstorms are expected again tonight.

 

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

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

along the length of our garage.

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

when I moved here and learned to garden.

This month, I dug again for several days

to remove another large patch of orange Daylilies. 

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

After removing and composting this patch of Daylilies,

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

I reused the antique bricks that I rescued

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

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

past the oldest perennials in our garden!

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

it dawned on me that the same principles

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

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

and pattern repetition from nearby garden beds.

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

‘watercoloring’ with real flowers!

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

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

Now I can enjoy a full view of the History Garden

while I spend time in my Herb & Tea Garden,

the true ‘heart of my garden,’

surrounded by the white, picket fence.  🙂

Just wondering… 

What are your favorite and least favorite garden tasks?

My very favorite:

I just love deadheading the spent blossoms,

harvesting herbs, cutting bouquets of flowers,

and brewing a cup of homegrown herbal tea!

My least favorite:

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

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

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

 

♥♥♥

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

Keep blooming and growing each day this summer!

 

Perennially yours,

♡ Dawn

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

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Inspiration… Everywhere!

Hi Friends!

Early Saturday morning we drove out into the countryside ~ passing lush, green fields, tidy, white farmhouses, and faded red barns. We were both looking forward to being outside in the morning sunshine and soaking up inspiration. As we pulled into the quiet, little town of Morris, our car knew the way to our usual out-of-the-way parking place. (The perfect spot just in case we wanted to carry some inspiration back to the car!)

It was 8 o’clock and Canalport Park was already filled with people. The friendliest people gather at the 3 French Hens French Country Market very early on the second Saturday of each month, from May through October. Everyone is seeking their favorite kind of inspiration!  Young and old, couples, singles, and families with pups on leashes wander through the park in search of antiques, upcycled art, handmade jewelry, artisan soaps, fresh-baked pies and breads, flowers of all kinds, and so much more.  Locally grown produce and a variety of tempting, hot foods and cold drinks often inspire a spur-of-the-moment picnic in the park, too.

As always, my husband and I started off together looking at the tables and displays filled with antiques. Before long, we each ventured off in search of our own favorite types of inspiration. I am drawn to antique furniture, vintage dishes, antique teacups, and interesting stoneware crocks, enamelware pitchers, and Mason jars to hold bouquets of garden flowers. He is drawn to antique books, old tools, and historic memorabilia.

Before long, he will walk across the wooden footbridge crossing the historic I & M Canal ~

to find inspiration

in a quiet walk in nature.

 

He enjoys hiking the wooded path to the Illinois River

to observe the local fauna and watch all kinds of boats on the river.

This was my Saturday morning ‘Artist’s Date’ seeking inspiration for our home and garden, as I nourished my creative heart and soul.  I have been truly smitten with Farmhouse Style decorating lately. Fresh, white beadboard, walls covered with wood slats, natural wood finishes, and pops of color and natural textures have been calling my name. Old and rustic, yet simple and fresh! What better place to soak up that Farmhouse feeling than in a lovely park in the countryside! I have always been drawn to wooden signs ~ the words, the lettering styles, the rustic textures, and the soft colors. Walking through the 3 French Hens French Country Market felt like I was walking through my favorite Pinterest boards, with inspiration everywhere!

Come on along… so I can show you a few things that caught my eye on Saturday morning!

These muted colors and different textures made my heart sing!

Everything on this table could find a place in our little ‘nest.’

Bunting makes every day feel like a little celebration!

Hand lettered signs add just the right touch of warmth and coziness to any room.

I love the brush lettered style (especially bouncy brush lettering!).

I think I’m going to need some old, rustic barnwood! 🙂

This ‘Artist’s Date’

surrounded me with inspiration… everywhere I looked!

Lettering inspiration embellished

fluffy, white pillows,

embroidered, straw hats,

and more weathered barnwood!

As I walked along the edge of Canalport Park, I came upon something that stopped me in my tracks. Right before my eyes, a Tractor Parade turned slowly onto Illinois Street. Vintage farm tractors and modern tractors of every color and size passed by very slowly. Most of the tractors displayed American flags and many had shade umbrellas, too. A local artisan told me that farmers love to parade through small towns on Summer weekends in their beloved tractors, gathering for breakfast together in a small cafe. I just had to stop and watch…  🙂

This parade brought back such wonderful childhood memories of riding in antique car parades on Summer weekends. My dad drove our Model A Ford Coupe, that he had lovingly restored, blowing the ‘ooh-gah’ horn often. Dad and Mom rode inside the car, while my brothers and I waved to the parade watchers from the rumble seat! 🙂 

It’s such a wonderful thing when people discover their ‘tribe’ of kindred spirits ~

car people, tractor people, boat people, train people,

readers, gardeners, runners, cyclists, collectors, crafters,… ! 

Inspiration is everywhere, if we just take the time to look for it.

More lettering inspiration ~

on rusty metal and rustic paper!

 

These signs were lettered on upcycled kitchen cabinet doors. What a great idea!

One of them just had to come home to our cozy, little bungalow.

Can you guess which one?

It’s a good thing our perfect, out-of-the-way, parking spot was nearby!  🙂

After two inspiring hours, my husband came to find me in the park.

We had just enough time to look for inspiration in the nearby vintage shops ~

before driving one more hour through the peaceful countryside

to spend a lovely afternoon with our dear family.

♥♥♥

Thanks so much for visiting today!

Where do you find inspiration on a Summer weekend?

 

Perennially yours,

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Garden ‘Surprise’ Party!

Hi Friends!

It feels just like a garden ‘party’ here in the Midwest ~ a bit of a ‘surprise’ party! These party plans seem to have been underway since February, when we had a stretch of unseasonably warm days. Shortly thereafter, gardeners began to notice foliage emerging from our sleepy, leaf-covered garden beds. I remember taking walks through my garden in late February and early March whispering, “Slow down. It’s much too early.”

Our garden party guests might be feeling confused, as well. Migratory birds and other wildlife have been caught by surprise. This week, I noticed a robin finishing her nest under the eaves, with a southern exposure. The University of Illinois Extension reports that plant growth is 15-20 days ahead of schedule in our area. By tracking growing degree days (GDD), researchers confirm that we are well ahead of normal. Insect populations are making an early appearance. Dandelions have already been in bloom for two weeks. Our usual gardenkeeping tasks seem completely off-schedule this Spring.

My Garden Joys 2017  journal has been capturing the memories of our early garden ‘surprise’ party!

Throughout April, I’ve been extra busy making changes to our front yard as I continue to ‘right-size’ our perennial gardens. A few weeks ago, I decided to eliminate an old stone planter that was a part of this garden long before I moved here. Over the past thirty years, I have enjoyed creating many different plant combinations in the old stone planter. Now it was time to carefully move many of the perennials to other garden beds and compost the rest. (It’s never easy to say goodbye, so I had to keep repeating the mantra ~ “These are not children or pets.’ ) In my heart, I knew that I was doing the right thing… and I always listen to my heart!

Fortunately, I saved many of the loose bricks to use in the backyard. I think they should have a place of honor in our ‘History Garden,’ near our 1922 garage. Using all of my strength, I just couldn’t budge the remaining bricks. So, we called our favorite Handyman, who came with his sledge hammer. What a job! He discovered three layers of stone and slate in the foundation beneath the soil. A very talented Mason had done an excellent job of building the stone planter so long ago!

Next, we hired three strong landscapers to carry the stones to their heavy duty truck and haul them to a business for recycling. We planted grass seed in its place. Now there will be a bit more to mow, but a lot less to weed. 🙂 It felt so great to cross this garden project off my l-o-n-g ‘To Do’ list early in the season!

Some of my most treasured memories are the years that our stone planter was filled with old-fashioned Hollyhocks, in the loveliest colors. They often grew taller than me! I’ll always remember collecting the Hollyhock seeds to make little packets of ‘Seeds of Friendship’ as small tokens of gratitude for our wedding shower. It was such a small way to share the abundance of my garden with special friends.  One summer, the hungry neighborhood groundhogs kept munching on the tops of each Hollyhock stem. That year, we had ‘miniature’ Hollyhocks, only 12 inches tall, in full bloom! Passersby would often stop to comment on our tiny Hollyhocks and I would always share our groundhog tales with them. Ahhh… the garden memories that filled our stone planter over the years!

This week, it was so surprising to see what was blooming in my garden each day! ⇧ We truly are weeks ahead of our typical bloom times. So, I’m scurrying to keep up with our garden ‘surprise’ party this Spring!  The Herb & Tea Garden beds no longer have their warm blanket of leaves. Along the insides of the white picket fence, my favorite, old-fashioned perennials are thriving in this Spring garden party.  The Bleeding Hearts, Cranesbill Geranium, and Anemones are in full bloom and the Coral Bells and Peonies already have buds.

I spent a recent afternoon tidying up the potting bench in the garage.  The garden tools and flower pots are ready and waiting. After I washed the window curtains above the potting bench, I made a simple bunting with flower seed packets. Doesn’t bunting make every surprise party more festive?  🙂

The past two weekends we enjoyed surprising summer-like temperatures just right for some nice, long walks. Last Saturday, we took a late afternoon walk through lovely Lilacia Park. This treasure has over 700 Lilacs and 25,000 Tulips ~ all blooming several weeks early. Instead of a quiet walk amongst the fragrant blossoms, we were surprised to find several wedding parties and crowds of Senior prom dates and their families enjoying the colorful garden party. So festive!

This weekend, however, we are staying cozy and warm inside. Mother Nature has surprised us again! This afternoon our temperatures are in the upper 30s. April showers, along with high winds, thunderstorms, and excessive rainfall totals all weekend are ending the month with more surprises

We wonder what the merry, merry month of May will bring…

What’s blooming in your garden or nearby park this week?

Have you noticed any garden surprises this month?

Enjoy the small wonders in each day!

♡ Dawn

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

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Walking in Peace…

Hi Friends!

A quiet walk in nature always soothes my soul. Especially during these uncertain, often frightening times in our world, it helps to seek out an oasis of peace, calm, and beauty. Just one hour of walking amidst the blessings of Springtime on a Sunday afternoon really lifted my spirits! I hope it will lighten your heart as well, as you walk along with us…

As we left home, we didn’t have a definite plan about where we might walk yesterday. April showers during the past week have made many of our favorite walking places very muddy. As we drove, it suddenly dawned on both of us ~ a beautiful place of quiet and peace where we have walked in the past ~ the 40-acre grounds of the National Center of the Theosophical Society in America.  Although the Theosophical Society is closed on Sundays, the grounds are open during daylight hours and visitors are always welcome to enjoy a quiet walk.

So, we set off on our peaceful walk…

We wandered past the historic library building,

under the willow trees, across a tiny creek,

to the Perkins Pond at the south end of the campus.

A few feathered friends entertained us as we watched families of Canadian geese and ducks enjoying a relaxing, afternoon swim. Benches along the quiet pond invite visitors to pause and meditate, or sit and reflect upon the quiet beauty.

As we walked under the tall pines, following moss-covered stone paths,

we meandered from patch to patch of colorful Spring flowers,

deep in thought…

A bright patch of yellow

led us to our next peaceful place.

As we looked up, beyond the daffodils,

tucked in amongst the tall trees,

a sight stopped us in our tracks…

Our hearts smiled, as we carefully stepped

between the Spring blossoms

for a closer look.

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We lingered in this peaceful spot for a few moments,

speaking very softly,

not wanting to disturb the stillness.

Then we continued on our walk,

past an area filled with busy bee hives,

a prairie garden restoration underway,

across the squishy, rain-soaked grass,

and past a peaceful shrine

with candles aglow.

In the distance, I could see

the quiet oasis

where we have walked before.

In the middle of the peaceful, grassy area is a Cretan labyrinth. The large stepping stones set upon a field of pebbles is unicursal in design. Entering from the bottom of the labyrinth, visitors can walk its single, winding path from the circumference to the center and back out again.

Many years ago, we walked this labyrinth with a large, meditation group. I have also walked this labyrinth in quiet, private meditation. Since there is only one path to the center of the labyrinth and back out, it helps to quiet the mind while walking.

On Sunday afternoon we walked the labyrinth

peacefully,

on our own,

following the long, winding stone path.

While walking,

we lost track of direction,

of the outside world,

and although our feet were moving

our minds felt still.

Before leaving the grounds, we enjoyed a stop at the Quest Book Shop. It is a fascinating place to linger and explore, filled with books and other resources for meditation, yoga, health, metaphysics, psychology, and science encompassing beliefs from around the world.

 

Love.

Hope.

Nature.

Friendship.

Understanding.

Harmony.

Stillness.

Peace.

Namaste,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Thank you so much for stopping to visit today. ♥ Where do you enjoy walking in nature?

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Garden Memory-Keeping

Hi Friends!

My favorite days are those with quiet moments of reflection. Beginning my days by writing Morning Pages encourages me to nourish my creative soul. Ending my evenings with quiet time to write in my Gratitude Journal comforts even the busiest of days. As a new gardening season dawns upon us here in the Midwest, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the different ways I have preserved my garden memories over the years…

Thirty years ago this Spring, I bought my cozy, little bungalow with its large, mature garden. Oh, my! There was so much to learn (and remember) ~ both inside and outside!!  My dear, sweet parents would come visit every weekend to help with house restoration projects. My mom offered her sage wisdom as she taught me all about gardening. (Heartfelt thanks, Mom, for sharing your passion for gardening with me!) I definitely needed a place to hold all of this new learning!

That Spring, so long ago, my garden memory-keeping began…

My earliest garden journal was a simple, spiral sketchbook, filled with pencil-drawn maps of each flower bed. As I learned the names of my plants, I would happily add them to the little maps.  Plant tags and empty seed packets were taped into my journal as my garden grew. I took careful notes of how many flats of each annual I bought to add instant color on planting day, every year in mid-May.

Over the years, my gardening style evolved into cottage gardens filled with old-fashioned perennials… and my garden journal grew even more important. Each year, I happily dug, divided, and moved my perennials around and created new flower beds. Every Spring, I was so grateful that I had those little garden maps to help me identify the foliage as the perennials peeked through the soil!

Years later my garden grew again, as my dad and I worked together to build raised beds and a white picket fence to create my Herb & Tea Garden. My garden journal was filled with dreams, measurements, lists of culinary herbs and herbs for tea. (Huge thanks, Dad, for making my garden dream come true!)

Every year, I took photos to document the changes as my garden grew. With the advent of digital photography, my garden memory-keeping took a different turn. Instead of pencil and paper, I began recording the changes in my garden with weekly photographs of each perennial and herb bed. At the end of the growing season, I looked forward to creating a digital slide show of the year in the garden. I adored those slide shows, burned them to CDs, and shared them with family and friends. What could be sweeter on a cold, Winter’s day than to take a year-long ‘walk’ through the garden, while enjoying a cup of tea! It was also a great resource as I planned for the next gardening season.

For the past three gardening seasons, my blog has been a handy place for garden memory-keeping. It’s fun to look back to see when my perennials bloomed and to plan for changes in the garden. It has also been a great way to share plants with nearby friends. After seeing blossoms in blog photos, several friends have come to dig flowers to start gardens of their own. Sharing plants is truly one of my favorite joys of gardening!

Last summer, inspired by the wonderful book The Right-Size Flower Garden, I began making some very big changes in my garden. I decided to eliminate my large Cutting Garden bed, and transplanted several old-fashioned favorites to the borders of my Herb & Tea Garden. Next, I eliminated a very wild Butterfly Garden bed and created a History Garden bed filled with perennials that have been a part of my garden since long before I moved here. After all of these changes, I sketched and watercolored two new garden maps. Thank goodness for the garden maps! Now it is such a delight to watch the foliage of those perennials emerge in their new beds this Spring!

There will be many more big changes here during the 2017 gardening season as I continue to ‘right-size’ my perennial beds in the front yard. It feels like this could be the year that my garden will undergo the biggest changes of all.  In addition to garden maps, photos, and gardening blog posts, my heart has been wanting an extra-special way to preserve this year’s garden memories.

So, I have just begun keeping a journal of “Garden Joys.”

I think it will become a wonderful place for quiet reflection

and feelings about all of the changes ahead in my garden this year.

I’m excited to use a few art supplies from my little Paper Garden studio downstairs

as I document this year’s garden!

There will be a bit of doodling, along with bullet-style journal entries.

 So far, I’m really enjoying this style of memory-keeping!

It’s inspiring to try something so different from my earlier garden journals.

It’s a fun way to nourish my creative soul and grow…  just like my garden!

♥♥♥

Do you keep a garden journal or preserve your garden memories in some way?

Hope you will share with all of us!

♥♥♥

If you are curious about some different ways

that people document their gardens,

be sure to visit my blogging friend at Jean’s Garden.

Jean has done some interesting research on different varieties of

Garden Record-Keeping and has some very helpful tips to share!

♥♥♥

Thanks so much for stopping to visit!

Wishing you gentle showers followed by warm, sunny days…

It’s your time to bloom!

♡ Dawn

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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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