Up North

John and I are just back from a vacation in Northern Michigan. It’s been too long since we were up there last. We had plenty of time to explore favorite haunts and go on new adventures. We also spent plenty of time reading in the solitude of the cottage under big trees near Crooked Lake. This time we had a fuzzy tag-along: we brought our cat who is elderly and in need of thrice weekly fluid treatments. Surprisingly, he seemed to enjoy himself and adjusted to a new window to look out of every day.

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Shamoo

On our first day, we stopped at a farmer’s market on the top of a hill. The vegetables were beautiful and there were several things that I love but just can’t find in Southern Indiana: apricots and red raspberries.

Flower Field on a hill

delicious veggies

There’s a wonderful bike trail near our cottage that’s been finished since our last trip. It’s on an old rail line that cuts through forests and meadows and skirts two lakes on its way to Petoskey. One day we biked to Petoskey and another day we walked to Alanson where there are the best donuts ever at the Dutch Oven Bakery.

In Alanson, there’s also a great little boardwalk on an island. You reach it on a small ferryboat that’s guided by an underwater cable and powered by a wheel that one rider turns by hand.

ferry boat

Crooked River

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And one day John and I went to the shores of Lake Michigan.

Followed by a trip to a fantastic garden on the grounds of the Three Pines Studio in Cross Village. The studio sells locally made art, including some garden art. There was an artist’s statement in the garden: “As the greenery grows and surrounds the glass, the art becomes part of the living floral setting, blending the brilliant colors of both the flowers and the glass. Gentle breezes often make the flowers sway and lend kinetic motion to the hanging glass as the birds and butterflies flit in and out.”

I was so envious of the garden. (Click on an image below to enlarge it. Flip through the slide show and see if you see all the faces!)

And then John and I walked through the forest to a bog. The guide book said that carnivorous plants lived in the bog. We didn’t see any of them, but we did find that it was full of wild blueberries! Joy!

We were sad to leave Crooked Lake.

 

Crooked Lake at night

Not-So-Famous Bike Tours of Evansville

I was inspired to go on another oddball neighborhood garden tour last weekend, and I figured that the best way to do it was on my cute 1968 Schwinn Hollywood bicycle.

I started at my friend Jane’s new garden. Recently, she and her husband have become part of the landed gentry by obtaining a couple lots next to their house that were empty due to the city’s urban blight reduction through empty house demolition. Jane has a great yard aesthetic, and she has applied it to her new yard. My favorite part is that she’s used bouncy balls as garden art. She just tosses them out to ornament her lawn.

Bouncy Balls as Lawn Art

I also like her wild front gardens, especially her bowling ball gazing balls.

Front Right

Front Left

Bowling Gazing Balls

Next on our tour, my friends Phyllis and Anitra who have a great, grass-free lawn out front filled with lots of interesting bits of art and plants including a branch riding a bike. I was sorry I didn’t get better photos of the many points of interest up there, since that was what I’d originally gone to photograph.

Grass-less garden of art

Out back, they have a great little garden space that includes several things that I wish I had in my own garden including okra (if only for the beautiful flowers), fully blue/purple tomatoes, and giant sunflowers. I got some stunning photos of the sunflowers.

Sunny Sunflower

Blue Tomatoes

Sunflower and bee

From there, I stopped to wistfully gaze at an amazing piece of garden art. It’s a huge windspinner that I happened to notice in someone’s lawn. It’s at least 6 feet tall and has all kinds of moving parts. Here it is for you to enjoy:

I was almost at Evansville’s waterfront, by this point, so I detoured there for a photo.

Evansville

Next, I stopped in Patchwork’s garden for some more plants I wish I had growing in my own garden: zinnias. They’re so bright and cheery and the butterflies and goldfinches love them.

From there it was a quick jump over to another of my favorite neighborhood gardens at my friends’ Billy and Tom’s house. Tom’s cultivated a loose, wild garden whose color matches their house.

Yellow sparkles

Jerusalem artichoke

Finally, I stopped by my friend Alan’s house where there are more zinnias and Mexican sunflowers. There is also a great ground cover that squeezes itself into the cracks in his walkway. I tried to transfer some of it to my garden last summer but I was disappointed that it didn’t work.

Desirable crack plants

Mexican SUnflower

mass of flowers

And finally, there is the most amazing tree that can be seen from the alley between Alan’s house and my own. I’ve tried to capture its immense beauty, but so far I haven’t quite done it. It’s a box elder and the trunk has to be 5-6 feet across. It’s knobby and lumpy, it spreads beautifully, and it has a wonderful spirit about it. It’s back behind an empty house.

 

 

In Contrast

Sometimes it’s a challenge to capture with a camera what your eyes are telling you. You see a beautiful moment. A beautiful combination of shapes or colors. Contrasts. Something marvelous and unique. Something touching. Something odd.

But when you try to capture it with a camera, the result looks flat. It may be an exact replica of what is sitting in front of you, but it’s not what is really there. Your eyes and your brain interpret in ways that the camera does not.

So there I was, trying to photograph a very cool new tomato and it just wasn’t working. The golden flecks, the blue shoulders, the bronze streaks. It didn’t translate. So then I turned on the fancy high contrast camera setting and, pop! there it was in all its glory.

It looked so good that I decided to point my camera at other things in my garden, even though I don’t normally do extra camera settings of digital editing. Here’s the result. Click through for a slide show.

 

I Grew Corn!

Over the 4th of July weekend, I finally had a chance to put my feet up and watch the corn grow.

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Knee high by the 4th of July? Well, it turns out that my “Jade Blue” heirloom corn never gets taller than knee high and is now ready to harvest.  With 2″-4″ long ears, it’s a fun novelty. It’s beautiful, tasty, and fun to eat…but not very filling.

 

The cucumber and melons have grown to epic heights. I’ve been enjoying the calligraphy of their tendrils for a while now.

I picked the first melon this weekend. John and I decided it tasted good. Because of the small space I have available, I’m limited to varieties that can climb a trellis and have small fruits. I was surprised at how quickly the fruit had gone from being a little knot on the vine to being ready to harvest. The second variety of melon is still ripening. That plant is loaded with fruit.

And there are other summer harvests just around the corner. The first tomato and the first blackberries are just ripening now.

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And we’ve reached raccoon #20! And on that note, here’s a photo of my concrete raccoon with a baby lizard on its butt.

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Favorite Places Around My Garden

I’ve been busy lately, so I haven’t been posting as much, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been taking photos of my garden. Here’s a collection of some of my favorite moments around the garden during June. All of them are set up as slide shows, so if you click on one thumbnail, you’ll get to flip through the show.

1. Blooms and foliage in the perennial bed. First came the flaming astrilbe blooms, then the hostas. Hostas blooming below are the tiny “mouse’s ears” and my favorite “golden tiara” that has a beautifully variegated bloom that’s beautiful with the chartreuse leaves.

2. My brick wall garden continues to make me happy. The ferns, begonias, coleus, and sedums are happy, colorful, and beautifully textured.

3. Sedums scattered here and there around my garden.

4. My old cat watching it all.

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Summer Growth

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A lot has happened in my garden in the last month. The big thing is that my raccoon count has increased by four. It all started several weeks ago when I noticed a few plants out of place and some damage here and there.

My super fancy begonia: CRUNCH!

The sedums on the top of my brick plant wall: What a GREAT perch!

The sedum-filled bird bath on the ground: DIG, DIG, DIG!

Then one morning I awoke to find a good part of my perennial garden flattened. It was as if a bunch of juvenile raccoons had shimmied down the tree and had a kegger underneath it. Irises, coral bells, hellebores, hostas, Solomon’s seal, wild geranium: all crushed, “I’m sorry, but was there something growing under my butt?”

One neighbor asked how I knew the damage was done by raccoons and not something else like a cat. The answer is that it looked like the damage was done by a bunch of real jerks–the tell-tale sign of raccoons.

This was exactly how it all started three years ago when minor backyard trashing led to John and I discovering that the raccoons had moved in with us. This time, John and I decided to trap prophylactically before the raccoons got too comfortable. In the last week and a half we’ve hauled off three juveniles and an adult. The juveniles are a problem because they decide to get defensive as you try to release them instead of running for freedom. John’s tired of their attitude.

MEANWHILE, I chopped down my forest of greens in early June, stowed them for use in tasty soup, and then planted basil in their place.

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Note the awesome, poorly spelled garden marker created by the kids at Patchwork. I’ve got a fun collection of the oddly spelled and spaced ones. Here’s another:

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I’ve also harvested my garlic. I’d cut the scapes off a couple weeks before the harvest and John and I just used the last of them in a garlic scape and pistachio pesto last night. Tasty! Above ground the garlic plants were huge, but below ground I still haven’t achieved consistently large garlic cloves. Still, I think it’s a fun plant.

scapes

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I’m cautiously optimistic about the corn. Maybe it will work! A few ears have beautiful purple silk on them. The other day I was watering the raised bed and it was as if the corn plants sighed a breath heavy with the scent of corn pollen. I could have closed my eyes and been transported back to my time growing up in Northwest Ohio.

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The lima beans have a new trellis to climb:

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And it’s blueberry and apple season!

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Gardening from All the Angles

Real human visitors actually standing in my garden! I’ve had quite a few of them lately and it’s been really, really fun!

If you weren’t able to visit my garden in person, here’s a virtual tour. I had the place looking pretty neat and tidy, if I do say so myself, though it was nice of the plants to cooperate with me! Particularly noteworthy was the honeysuckle, which was in full bloom for the garden tours. I wish I could bottle the smell and spread it over the whole year. It’s so sweet and joyful.

Click on any photo below to get a slideshow tour.

And a view from closer up (again, click on any photo for a slide show)…

My elderly cat has been enjoying the sights, also. He’s starting to have trouble getting around but still enjoys watching birds, getting rubs, and eating his fancy cat food. To make it easier for him to look out the back door, I gave him a chair. He’s incredibly happy about that.

Shamoo watching the yard