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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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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Happy Things…

Hi Friends!

When the world feels unsettled in so many ways, it’s always healing to stop, catch our breath, and focus on happy things. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing the past few weeks…

Intentionally…

Mindfully…

With gratitude…

Our family recently gathered for a very special celebration in honor of our parents’ 67th wedding anniversary! What a joy it was to be together for such a happy reason! There were flowers, balloons, cards, and a delicious dinner in a very elegant setting.

Most important of all, there were so many heartwarming memories shared! The stories of how our parents met, their dating years, and the proposal on a very snowy night so long ago.

They reminisced about how my dad made it home from the Army the night before their wedding day and their honeymoon on Mackinac Island. They shared how it felt to leave their families behind, as newlyweds, when they moved to Texas where my dad was stationed next.

Months later, Mom and Dad were separated, in service to our country, when the Army shipped Dad off to Korea. They faithfully kept in touch by writing letters to one another every night. Their bundle of precious love letters, still tied with a ribbon, holds the day-to-day stories of that challenging time in their young marriage. I wonder if they will read their letters to one another again? I hope so!

Over the years, we have celebrated our parents’ wedding anniversary in many special ways and special places. However, this was one of the sweetest celebrations ever! ♥♥

After weeks of record-breaking rain totals in May, we finally have a bit of SUNSHINE!  In fact, we just had four sunny days in a row. 🙂 It truly lifts our spirits and fills us with solar energy!

We have been taking long walks, chatting with neighbors outside, and enjoying quiet times on the front porch. Our days and nights have been cooler than usual… and feel oh-so refreshing!

 

My Friendship Garden is in full bloom. It has been a delight to watch the colors change daily! The dainty, white Anemones have been dancing in the breeze. The pale purple Iris blossoms appeared next. (They always feel like a special ‘visit’ from my dear friend, Iris, in Germany!) The sunny, yellow Irises added a bright pop of sunshine to the Friendship Garden. The deep purple Siberian Irises added such depth of color to this special garden bed.

All of the plants in my Friendship Garden were gifts from the gardens of special friends. So, in addition to all of the color they add to the garden, they fill my heart with special memories of loved ones!

 

Old-fashioned Peonies added lush beauty to the Friendship Garden. They were already here 32 years ago, when I became a first-time homeowner and gardener. I often think of Mrs. G. who lived here and loved her garden for so many years. Perhaps she planted the Peonies?

Due to our abundance of rain, the bright, pink Peonies are taller this year than I can ever remember! It has been such fun to cut bouquets from the Friendship Garden for the front porch and to share with my parents.

 

After so many rainy days, I’m still busy planting containers for the front porch and our flagstone patio near the Herb and Tea Garden. “No rain, no flowers!” So, I’m grateful for the rain showers.

Although Lavender thrives in dry Mediterranean soil, our Lavender is happily blooming in its container in a corner of the Friendship Garden. Nestled along the edge of its pot are two small ‘lovebirds.’  They remind me of my sweet husband and I who will always be newlyweds! This month, we will happily celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary. The years have flown by so quickly! ♥♥

 

 

Earlier this month, a rainbow of welcoming doors was constructed and installed on the grounds of a nearby church. This artwork, created by the congregation, shows visitors to our town that ALL are welcome here. What a meaningful, heartwarming symbol of love!

 

 

A dear friend and I have a special tradition of celebrating her birthday at our beautiful Arboretum each year. This month, we were captivated by the creative artwork of Sean Kenney. Wandering along the tree-lined paths, we admired several intricate creations of insects, animals, and plants completely formed using Lego bricks. (Click to enlarge the photos to read the descriptions.)

 

Sean Kenney designs his fascinating creations to remind us that all of nature is connected just like the Lego bricks are connected.

 

 

The insects, animals, and plants are nature’s building blocks. We are reminded to take care of our fragile planet which connects us all.

 

 

Thick clouds overhead grew darker as two best friends walked and talked. Before long, we were caught in a very heavy downpour. Dripping wet as we burst into laughter, we promised to return again soon, to see the rest of these awe-inspiring creations!

 

 

For the past few months, I have been absolutely fascinated following a very special hiker on You Tube. It was her You Tube name, Radiate Joy, that first caught my attention. Yvette is documenting her 2,000+ mile journey as she hikes along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail from Georgia to Maine. Carrying her 25 lb. pack with camping essentials and 5 days worth of food at a time, Yvette is vlogging her Thru-Hike on the narrow trail, up and down mountains and across National Parks. She remains so upbeat and inspiring throughout this huge challenge!

I hope you will take a peek at her latest video on her Radiate Joy You Tube channel. As of Day 59 on the trail, Yvette has hiked northbound 865 miles, following the tiny, white ‘blaze’ marks painted on trees along the narrow footpaths. She has a beautiful way of filming her trek, with breathtaking sights and sounds of nature and wonderful music. I’m so impressed that she is filming on her iPhone and editing her videos in her little tent in the evenings. Yvette’s bubbly personality shines brightly through the rainiest of days and the countless obstacles she encounters along the AT.

In this video, Yvette shares her reasons for beginning this journey:

In this video, her journey begins:

 

Such an inspiration!! Although I would never attempt an AT adventure, I think of Yvette very often. Her joy is contagious! She inspires me to walk a little further along our nearby prairie and to meet the challenges I face along life’s journey with courage, determination, and as much joy as possible.

What Happy Things are you enjoying these days????

Do share with us…

 

Take time to smell the Rosemary!

♡ 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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Sunshine in My Soul

Hi Friends!

Happy Eclipse Day! There is excitement in the air across America today as a total solar eclipse travels across our country. After a lovely morning in the garden, I am currently watching the progression of the eclipse in a live tv broadcast. Although I won’t be looking skyward during the eclipse, I will spend time on the front porch listening to the changes in the birdsong and the cicadas, as the sky darkens and the temperature quickly drops. Our area will experience 87% totality. Several of our friends and family have made the five hour drive to experience 100% totality over southern Illinois. Are you watching the eclipse today?

My garden is all abuzz with pollinators hard at work. I have also been working hard, week after week, to ‘right-size’ my perennial garden beds. There is sunshine in my soul today as I reflect back on all of the big changes that I made in the garden throughout the Spring and Summer. My big garden projects are now complete for 2017. 🙂  There will be a bit more time to enjoy my perennial favorites…  all abloom in in mid August.

‘Blue Mist’ Bluebeard,  ‘Royal Standard’ Hosta, ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea, and ‘Early Blue’ Hydrangea

I have been enjoying documenting my garden memories, too. Bright, yellow perennials always have a starring role in my cottage gardens in August. So, of course, I doodled a few yellow coneflowers in my ‘Garden Joys’ journal this month. It’s lovely to look back over all that has happened in the garden so far in 2017.

Pleasant, cool mornings were a delight as I finished the last of the big garden projects that I planned for this summer.  🙂

There will still be lots of gardenkeeping tasks in the coming weeks, but my thoughts will now turn to a few indoor projects.

Best of all, there will be more creative time in my little Paper Garden studio downstairs! I have been longing to practice more Chlorophyll Printing using the herbs from my garden. My first experience with this technique was last December. At that time, my garden was already asleep for the Winter. I couldn’t wait to try this interesting technique again during the Summertime!

So, the other day I walked along the garden path to my Herb & Tea Garden and happily snipped a few of my favorite herbs.

Using my Big Shot tool (Tab 2), I pressed herb leaves on different types of paper to create prints. (See Lydia Fiedler’s full tutorial here. She is my Chlorophyll Printing inspiration!) Instead of ink, Nature’s colors were pressed onto the paper. Heavenly herbal scents filled my little studio as I worked! 

I was most successful using Recollections 110 lb Ivory cardstock. Although I really thought that watercolor paper would work well, it didn’t turn out that way for me. I also tried different types of kraft cardstock without too much success. I will definitely continue to experiment with Chlorophyll Printing!

I think it would be lovely to make prints using ferns, too. It will still take more practice to create better prints. Wouldn’t it be fun to create vintage-looking botanical prints of ferns on a kraft background, with the botanical names hand lettered? Oh yes! I  can envision a series of framed prints as yet another way of preserving and displaying garden memories! 🙂

Printed with with Candy Cane mint from my herb garden

I used the best of my Chlorophyll Prints to create a few notecards.

Chlorophyll Print using Chocolate mint from my herb garden

 

Chlorophyll Prints created with Sage from my herb garden.

Sending ‘happy mail’ while sharing the bounty of my garden with family and friends is one of my favorite ways to ‘give love.’ Finding new ways to combine my passions for gardening and card making truly puts sunshine in my soul!

Lately, I have been very intentional about finding ways to bring sunshine into my soul. Writing ‘Morning Pages‘ continues to help nourish my creative heart and soul. Taking a break from watching the news helps, too. Recently, I lit a candle as I wrote, in remembrance of the terrible events in Charlottesville and Barcelona that have touched all of our lives. 

This weekend will be a big opportunity to bring sunshine into my soul. I will be joining with papercrafters from across the globe for the Papertrey Ink Stamp-a-Faire 2017. Although we will be working in our own creative spaces, we will all be working on the same Challenges and sharing our projects with one another online. Video tutorials by the amazing Papertrey Ink design team will present a new Challenge every two hours. (I am a little bit worried because I am a very slow cardmaker!) It’s sure to be three days of learning incredible new techniques and watching our skills grow! If you are interested, take a peek at the Stamp-a-Faire details and the weekend schedule. There will certainly be plenty of sunshine in my soul this weekend!

May your soul be filled with much sunshine, too!

 

Perennially yours,

♡ Dawn

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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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Hello Summer!

Hi Friends!

Early mornings in our Midwest garden fill my heart with both comfort and joy! Those relaxing busy hours spent garden-keeping have been the perfect time to watch my garden dreams materialize. It’s so exciting to see all of the changes in the garden!

Throughout last Summer and Fall, I worked diligently to ‘right-size’ my large perennial gardens. Early this Spring, we removed two more perennial beds and two bushes from the front yard, replacing them with grass. We just love our new, simplified front yard!

We are not finished making changes yet. The large Magnolia bed, Front Porch bed, and Side Porch bed continue to keep me very busy. This Summer I am pondering ways to ‘right-size’ these garden beds next. The guidance (and courage!) offered by garden author Kerry Ann Mendez, in her book The Right-Size Flower Garden, continue to inspire me to make changes throughout my garden.

Last Fall, I removed a large Cutting Garden near the deck, ‘rescuing’ and transplanting several of my favorite, old-fashioned perennials to the white, picket fence border of my Herb & Tea garden. Creating garden ‘maps’ last Fall proved to be one of my most useful garden ‘tools.’  Several times this Spring, I carried the ‘map’ out to my Herb & Tea garden as the plants emerged. It has been such a joy to watch all of the changes come to life! I will continue to edit my garden ‘maps’ as I move plants around and make new additions. Recently, I added Lime Basil and Cinnamon Basil to the herb bed. 🙂

Last Summer I also worked extremely hard digging up a huge bed of Daylilies, providing space along our garage to create a new History Garden bed. In the Fall, I transplanted several old-fashioned perennials that were already growing here thirty years ago, when I moved here and learned to garden. To me, these plants are true treasures! Again the garden ‘map’ has been so helpful. As the plants bloom, I will fill in the missing colors on the ‘map’ using watercolors. I’m still saving a spot for one new perennial from my ‘Wish List.’  🙂

This year, my new Garden Joys’ journal has also become a very helpful tool as I document the changes in our garden. I’m noting the bloom times of the perennials in their new beds, hoping to provide continuous color throughout the garden.

Just looking back over all of the changes so far has been a joy!

It makes the time spent on this bullet-style garden journal feel so worthwhile.

I’m never alone in the garden…

The robins, cardinals, wrens, bees, butterflies,

squirrels, and bunnies are welcome guests.

It’s such a joy to watch the mother wren flying into the Herb & Tea Garden birdhouse

to care for the eggs in her nest!

I am always happiest when I am working in my Herb & Tea Garden.

Just stepping through the garden gate fills me with sweet memories.

It truly is the ‘heart’ of my garden ~ built with love!

We have our garden challenges this year, as well.

There is a very hungry groundhog in residence who has devoured

all of the Mums and the patches of Black-eyed Susans throughout the garden!

He (oops!) She now has five young groundhogs who are nibbling everything.

They have been climbing through the Herb & Tea Garden fence

and helping themselves to Oregano, too.

Although they really are cute…

 I do wish our groundhogs would develop a healthy appetite for weeds, instead.

(We have more than enough weeds to share!)

The first two weeks of June were extremely dry, but recently we have had lots of rain.

So, garden-keeping has kept me extra-busy this week.

The wet soil has made weeding so much easier.

I just keep weeding, weeding, weeding…

and picking pretty bouquets

of Summer blossoms. 🙂

 

What’s happening in your garden?

What challenges do you have in the garden?

What kind of blossoms have you been cutting for bouquets?

Hope you will share…

 

Perennially yours,

♡ Dawn

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