Happy Trails to Me

I’m recently back home after a two week art residency spent working with seniors in Granville, Ohio with funding from the Ohio Arts Council and its Artful Aging Ohio program. You can see more about it on my artist website.

On most days, I was finished teaching by mid afternoon. What to do then? I challenged myself to find interesting places to visit and to explore the area. I found lots of nice places to walk outdoors, and that’s what I enjoyed most. It was a beautiful part of the country, and it was a beautiful time of year to be visiting (though the weather was a little too warm for me).

Granville, itself, was a beautiful town. There was so much beautiful landscaping everywhere. One nice spot was the Robbins Hunter Museum. I particularly liked the plant shown flowering below. It’s taken me a while, but I finally identified it: a calycanthus.

Calycanthus

I spent one afternoon walking around Inniswood Metro Park and enjoyed the gardens there. (Remember, you can click on any of the photos in the following galleries to get a bigger image.)

On a couple other afternoons/evenings I walked around the Dawes Arboretum. I didn’t discover it until my second week or I would have spent even more time there. Of course there were some amazing trees, but there were also plenty of wonderful paths through a variety of gardens and ecosystems. The following photo gallery gives a hint at it all, but there was so much more. There were so many birds singing and flitting around that I wished I had my binoculars. I also discovered how much insects love common milkweed and how sweetly it smells.

I was near my alma mater, Kenyon College, so I also spent one afternoon/evening visiting it. Again, I wished I hadn’t waited until the second week to do so. Even though it was a 45 minute drive, I would have gone back a second time.

I began my visit in one of my favorite places: the Kokosing Gap Trail. I love the old railway bridge across the river and the views of the countryside. At the bridge, I was surprised to find that there is now a whole system of hiking trails around the campus and I had a great time exploring some of them. I could have easily spent another evening or two exploring more.

After enjoying the wooded River Trail, I went up to campus and did a quick walk around to see the old buildings and new construction. Unfortunately, since it was an evening in the summer everything was closed and no one was around. Before I left, I stopped at the Brown Family Environmental Center to see the gardens there and to try a few more trails. I’m glad the late-setting sun allowed me extra time to explore.

I’d never realized how many Native American earthworks were in the area. There are a large number in Newark, near Granville. I drove by them often as I traveled from place to place for my residency. They were interesting to explore.

earthworks wall

photogenic tree

My lodging for the two weeks was at the beautiful Orchard House Bed and Breakfast. I enjoyed my stay and appreciated the scenic, rural location. I enjoyed going to sleep while watching lightning bugs glitter in the treetops outside my window. I enjoyed watching the swallows, wrens, chickadees, cardinals, chipmunks, and pet cat every morning from the breakfast room. The new owners Dean and Jody are committed to local foods, so my breakfasts ranged from deliciously simple (as in: eggs from the owners’ chickens, local sausage from free range hogs, herbs from the owners’ garden, locally baked bread, and locally roasted coffee purchased directly from Central American farmers by the coffee shop owner) to berry-filled bread pudding, quiche, sausage and sweet potato scramble, and cinnamon roll pancakes. I even got to watch the sun set on the summer solstice while sitting next to a campfire near grazing goats, sheep, a llama, chickens, and peacocks.

 

The Season’s Feast Begins

I have a very small garden, but it can still pump out way more produce than John and I can possibly eat. Already this summer I’ve treated my friends to salad after salad at potlucks and gatherings. I’ve made pots and pots of spring soup with sausage, cream, and any kind of green that was growing in excess. And yet the arugula, cilantro, and greens are still growing so fast they’re going to seed. The garlic is almost ready and the first tomatoes aren’t far off.

Meanwhile, my favorite fruits will be coming into season in quick succession. Cherries are ripe now, blueberries are imminent, and then there will be lodi apples and peaches. I’ll be traveling for the next couple weeks, so I’m worried I won’t be able to get enough of the good stuff stored up in my freezer for the winter! There is so much to harvest, so much to cook, and so much to eat!

cherries so fresh they haven't lost their shine

strawberry cherry pie

I’ve created a new piece of garden art. It’s inspired by some that I’ve seen online. I love the piles of kitsch and glitter. I realized that I could make my own and decided to put it in a corner of the garden where it can add color all year long. It’s made from odds and ends, a metal vegetable steamer, Mardi Gras beads, rally bells from an Evansville Otters baseball game, and a suet feeder that the woodpeckers didn’t seem to like.

new garden art

I’ve discovered some tiny leaves unfurling from the fig trees that I thought were dead, and that the tunnel of blackberry leaves is inviting.

tiny fig

green blackberry tunnel

My cat has enjoyed watching it all and even got to feel the earth under his paws when he “escaped” for some supervised time in the great big outdoors.

Shamoo enjoying the view

Shamoo outdoors

And I’ve begun on a new and ambitious garden art piece that will probably take me all summer. Can you see what’s different in the photo below?

the new color

I’ve been eyeing the back yard for a few years and wondering what additional art I could add. I thought perhaps a mural on the little shed, but I like the way its dark brown is a nice canvas on which to showcase the plants. Finally I realized that I’ve been pretending that the ugly grey of the metal fence doesn’t exist. I knew it would be perfect for some art. Phase one is to paint it all yellow (after sanding and priming–argh!). Phase two will be to add some more colors. I love it already!

yellow wall

paint spatter on the hostas

My newest plants are blooming at the front of the house. I’m enjoying seeing them for the first time. As an added bonus, they should do a good job attracting butterflies, which is the theme for the summer at Patchwork where I work.

There is yarrow:

yarrow

Coneflower:

coneflower "Julia"

Veronica:

Veronica

And coreopsis:

coreopsis

And that’s not all! Here’s just a sampling of the other things happening around my garden in the last couple weeks:

 

 

Welcome to the AMAZING WALL OF SCENT

It’s a wonderful time of year for my garden. The honeysuckle that forms a green fence around the garden is in full bloom and the scent is amazing. It’s a massive, enchanting scent. I’ll miss it when the blossoms are over.

honeysuckle wall

new honeysuckle bloom

yellowed honeysuckle bloom

The honeysuckle in the front looks stunning, but doesn’t smell at all. Luckily for it, the scent in the back often is strong enough to make its way up front, giving the illusion of scented flowers.

these blooms do not smell

close up

I’ve had the pleasure of hosting a couple groups of friends in my garden in the last week. It’s always fun to get to show it off in person, and I’m grateful for their interest and for the fact that they humor me and all my plant talk. Several people were interested to see my garden but weren’t able to come in person, so here’s a virtual garden tour.

Looking East

looking east

Looking West

looking west

Looking North

looking north

The Vegetable Garden

vegetables

The New Garden

just starting out

And here’s a new garden space that I just planted. It looks pretty sparse, but the plants should all spread. I’m interested to see how it develops and which plants will thrive. Since it’s in an exposed area at the front of the house, I was concerned that the neighbors would give me a hard time for spending time and money on silly plants, but everyone I talked to was nice, interested in what I was doing, and adding their own two cents. So, it was a great get-to-know-your-neighbor event.

One of my big accomplishments for the year is getting a black iris bloom. My friend and neighbor Alan has a nice little patch of them in his garden. I transferred one of them to my garden 5-6 years ago, but no bloom. So I transferred a second one in case the first had died, but no bloom. But finally this year…

black iris

In other news of the extraordinary, early one morning I awoke to birds’ alarm calls and looked outside to see a hawk perched on the alley streetlight while holding a dying dove. It was pretty interesting. The hawk sat there for a while before flying away.

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And an interesting bird skull I discovered while mulching the new garden in the front…

bird skull

And a sampling of other photos from around my garden (remember, click any one for a slide show with captions):

 

 

Happy Garden of Rainbow Unicorn Dreams

This time of year is perfect. My garden looks beautiful, in part because everything in it is so fresh and new and excited to be alive. I bought several new plants at the annual Master Gardener Plant Sale a few weeks ago (held, funnily enough, on World Naked Gardening Day (no one was naked)) and I shoehorned them into my stuffed perennial bed so it’s an even bigger and fuller mass of colors and textures. The whole garden is a chartreuse land of rainbows and unicorns, and I’ve been spending all my spare minutes in it.

There are no death zones where plants have decided that I pushed them a little too far and they really don’t like where they’ve been planted. The raccoons haven’t held a kegger in the middle of the perennial bed. Nothing is deflated in the summer heat. No bug or slug infestation has wrecked the place. No single plant has decided to crowd out its neighbors until they die. The neighbor hasn’t lobbed bottle rockets into the yard. The next door landlord hasn’t killed my honeysuckle with Round-Up just because he blames the world for his shortcomings.

It’s a paradise that will fall soon enough. I’m just trying to enjoy it while it lasts.

Early May Garden 2015

bits of color

The plants have all emerged from the ground and most are nearing their full size. You can click through the slide show below to see what’s going on in more detail. See if you can spot my cat surveying his domain!

 

The Garden Unfurls

Things are emerging from the ground at a very rapid pace. It’s amazing to me how quickly the space is transforming itself. Here’s what it looked like about a week and a half ago:

April 9, 2015

And then a week later:

April 17, 2015

Suddenly the world is blooming and growing (click on any photo to find out a little more about what you’re seeing):

Of particular note is the wonderful way that the ferns seem to crawl out of the earth, unfurl, and expand:

And water droplets on hostas are always beautiful:

The Next Phase of Spring

This year, the magnolia bloomed for Easter. It is always such a treat to smell the flowers as I walk up the front steps and to see the grand tree covered in happy blossoms. Unfortunately, the blooms are considerably muted this year because so many were damaged by the cold and never opened. Still, the ones that remain are gorgeous.

Magnolia 2015

Other signs of the quickening spring are appearing everywhere in the garden (click on any image below for a slide show of larger photos):

  • The grape hyacinth blooming (I always loved my grandma’s grape hyacinths: the teeny tiny, knobby blooms and the fragrance!),
  • unexpected little blue blossoms,
  • the Japanese painted fern emerging from the ground like a cluster of cramped bird claws,
  • hops (reminding me of my family in Germany) that’s quickly ascending its support,
  • tiny lettuces,
  • tiny blackberry leaves greening the formerly bare branches,
  • asparagus shoots–the garden’s first edible produce,
  • multi-colored and multi-textured leaves emerging from the ground,
  • a healthy patch of wild ginger and Solomon’s seal unfurling skyward,
  • and violets that fill my yard and refuse to give way.

Here’s an overview of my garden now:

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For Easter, we had beautiful weather in Evansville. I had the afternoon to myself, so I decided to ride my 1968 Schwinn Hollywood Red Line bicycle along the Evansville riverfront and down the Pigeon Creek Greenway Passage. It was the perfect day for it. Photos below are: the pedestrian bridge along Ohio Street, the Fligeltaub scrap yard, the flooded Ohio River, and the tulips at the Pagoda.

 

 

Spring: Yeah, It’s Happening.

Spring is undeniably in the air. The first brave crocuses opened at the beginning of February, but were quickly pummeled by the snow. Now, the reinforcements have arrived and are covering the lawn with bright colors and attracting plenty of honeybees. The yard is coming back to life!

The garlic is beginning to rise from beneath its leaf mulch blanket. I’m glad to see it doing well.

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This weekend was beautiful, and I planted lettuces in my raised bed. While doing so, I enjoyed the sedums growing along the edge of the bed.

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The hellebores have popped up within the last few days and are blooming happily. Their blooms are always so welcome at this time of year. I need to plant more!

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And I discovered the first signs of other plants–the ones that will reign over my garden during the summer months. They’re there: emerging just above the soil, deciding that perhaps it is just warm enough now.

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