The Usual Drama

Hard to believe, but my garden has been around for about 8 years now! Every spring it unfolds itself in such a beautiful way. By now I know what to expect and the beauty to look for, but its predictability doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

The daffodils have only now stopped blooming. I was inspired by a friend to get a couple new varieties every year and in no time I’ll have a wide array blooming throughout the spring. Already it’s a successful strategy.

I loved my dramatic orange tulips last year, so I ordered more for this year. Again, they were fantastic. This year, I noticed the beauty as they changed. First they were green buds with a hint of orange around the edges. Then they were oranger buds whose tight petals held interesting shapes. Next came brilliant blooms that looked great with the curvy green leaves of the hostas, and finally the fading blooms fell open but continued their color variety.

Every year it is also amazing to see the ferns appear from the ground as small knots that slowly unpack themselves and expand into the form they will keep throughout the summer and into the fall. It’s another process that carries a different beauty in each of its stages.

And there are many other things emerging, growing, changing, expanding, and blooming.

And the hostas are slowly reaching toward their final height. They are reminding me that summer is just around the corner despite the continuing spring blooms from the bulbs I’ve planted. Looking at their leaves, I think of July when they dominate my shade garden.

And for good measure, here are some photos of the cats. They’re wonderful ladies.

With the nice spring weather, I’ve been thinking of Shamoo and how much he enjoyed spending mornings sitting on a chair at the open back door while I read the paper. So far this spring we’ve had several days that he would have thought were perfect.

I still like to have the door open, and Ygraine in particular has been drawn to it. I tried putting a chair in front of it to boost her up like Shamoo, and though she looked at it with interest she seemed to repeat to herself, “No! I must not get up on the furniture. I must not get up on the furniture.”

Last weekend, the bird sounds were too much for her and she launched herself at the screen door, first climbing up it and then bouncing off of it. She seemed to know that this was bad kitty behavior, but I could also see that she couldn’t help herself.

I got the chair and put her on it.

She jumped down in horror: “I must not get on the furniture!”

I picked her up again and held her there. I tried to point her toward the screen window, but she turned to try to leave.

I patted her and told her she would enjoy looking outside from the chair and that I knew it was what she really wanted.

Still she fought me.

Then she saw a little bird motion behind her and she turned to the door and was entranced. It’s been her happy morning spot ever since.

Suddenly Spring

Within the last week, there has been an amazing transformation and spring has truly taken hold. Things are bursting out of the ground and new growth is everywhere.

The daffodils are suddenly all blooming. The tulips are not far behind. The hostas have appeared out of nowhere. The figs are leafing out. The ferns are unfurling.

And the hawks are in love. They’ve been calling to each other, flying over our house, and perching in our trees. They’ve been too preoccupied to threaten the birds at my feeders.

Then Along Came Snow

February was warm and toasty. The magnolia bloomed early. The crocuses were up. Leaves were starting to bud. Other plant sprouts started to poke their way out of the ground. I planted a few patches of lettuce because everything looked so nice and because regular precipitation was forecast. Maybe a little of that precipitation was supposed to be snow, but they always say that and it never happens.

Then the forecast got more foreboding. A freeze warning. Snow.

I prepped my bird feeders for the cold weather by adding the seed squirrel I’d gotten around Christmas. I was going to hang it inside my squirrel cage and watch the squirrels be thwarted in their attempt to eat it. But it didn’t fit inside the feeder, so I had to wire it in place and watch the squirrels have their way with it. It was a little disturbing to watch its eyes buggy over being cannibalized butt first.

Because the freeze warning lasted several days, I also cut and brought in all the daffodils that were blooming. I thought of my mom as I did it. When I had my senior art show in college, she brought me a huge bouquet of daffodils that she’d cut from her garden. She said she’d cut them because it was going to freeze at home. They were a special gift.

And then the snow came and it was beautiful. Nothing perks up the drab end of winter like snow covering the early flowers. Many of the magnolia petals had fallen to the ground, which made interesting pink undertones for the snow. The magic was all gone by afternoon.

And the deep freeze hit. It was rough on the plants. What was left of the magnolia blooms turned brown on the tree, but my crocuses persevered. I gave up on the little patches of lettuce seed that I’d started back when it was warm, but then last weekend I noticed a small spot of tiny green leaves: the year’s first seeds were up.

Early Early Spring Blooms

Our magnolia has bloomed about a month earlier than usual. The buds dropped their protective outer husks mid-February. I thought for sure that a subsequent cold snap would ruin the flowers. They did turn a little brown but stayed on the tree, and now we have a successful and beautiful bloom. Here’s their progress over the last week and a half:

And there are plenty of other blooms around the yard. Every fall I’ve been planting new varieties of crocuses, daffodils, tulips, and other spring bulbs. It’s always a surprise what comes up and where.

And the hawk has been back. Two weeks ago, I looked up from my breakfast to see it perched on the fence only a few yards away and finishing off a meal caught at my bird feeders. I hope it wasn’t one of the more unusual feeder birds that it had caught. It was pretty amazing to see so close, though.

hawk eating breakfast

I wasn’t the only one who thought so. I glanced over to the cats’ window perch and realized that Lady Morgaine had been watching the entire thing. She was clearly thinking, “WOW. Best cat TV EVER!!!!!”

OMG OMG OMG

The Ladies continue to acclimate to their new home with us. They play a lot and run around a lot. It’s much different than having a 19-year-old cat. They’re 3- and 4-years-old, so they’ve got many more running-around-years left.

One final story from their adoption: John and I had gone to the Humane Society on a Friday to have a serious look at cats. We visited with both these ladies and another pair. We weren’t sure which cats to take, or even if we were ready, so we went home to think about it.

Both of us thought that these two ladies would probably be our choice, but the others needed a home, too. Maybe we’d go back the next day. Maybe we’d go back in a week, and if they were still there it would be our sign.

“But what if we go back in a week and only one is there?” I asked.

We went back the next day, but didn’t get there until later in the afternoon. “We’ll just look again and see how we feel,” we told ourselves.

As soon as we walked in, we realized that there were other people looking at them. Not only that, the other people seemed to be looking at only one of the two. I didn’t want to be rude, but I couldn’t stand the thought of watching two friends get separated.

I spoke up and said, “Uhh. We’d actually just come to adopt both those cats. We looked at them yesterday.”

“Both cats?” the other people asked.

“Yeah. They’re a mother and daughter.”

“Wow, really? Well, you’ve got yourselves some cats.”

And that’s how we made up our minds.

“Should I box them up for you?” the Humane Society staff person asked.

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Lady Ygraine

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Lady Morgaine

Starting Fresh

There are finally some brilliant blooms in my yard. The earliest of the crocuses have been up for about a week now. Today was a particularly warm and sunny day, so they were glowing in the sun. I guess it’s time to start thinking about spring!

My orchids are in full bloom now, and the final blossoms managed to open just before the first ones expired. All 12 bloom stalks blooming. It’s an amazing feat.

all in bloom

variety 2

Meanwhile, John and I got new cats. It’s sooner than we had imagined, but the world seems so big and there feel like there are so many concerns and threats out there both for the marginalized people we serve and for ourselves. Both of us missed having a cat to come home to–a fuzzy head to pat and soft rubs against our legs.

We wanted two cats who were already friends and who would be happy to find a new home together. We went to the Humane Society and found a mother and daughter who clearly wanted to stay together. Every time we saw them they were smashed up against each other. They’d been adopted once before but were returned because of their adopters’ “unrealistic expectations” (the Humane Society staff’s sarcastic commentary on the cats’ paperwork). They are shy cats, and their previous adopters were upset that they didn’t come out to socialize right away. We’ve had them for three weeks now, and they’re slowly acclimating to our house, though they’re still skittish.

It was not necessarily our intention, but these two cats are very different from Shamoo. They’re fluffy girls who don’t have Shamoo’s air of being impeccably dressed while drinking a martini in the library, reading a deeply intellectual novel, and looking at you with disdain.

However, they have seemed like Ladies from the beginning, so we chose names for them from the Legends of King Arthur: Lady Ygraine (Arthur’s mother) for the grey and white mother cat and Lady Morgaine (Ygraine’s daughter and Arthur’s half-sister) for the calico daughter cat. They are beautiful cats and seem ready for a romp and an adventure in the great out-of-doors and maybe some magic, drinking mead, organizing medieval power plays, or roasting some dead thing on a spit in the fire (they will be doing none of this–well maybe the magic…and the power plays (they did manage to get themselves an extra serving of canned cat food yesterday morning, after all)).

They’re three and four, so there’s definitely the potential for them to be energetic and destructive. John and I hope we’re ready for cats who can jump more than two feet off the ground, though it is nice not to have to provide at-home veterinary care on a regular basis.

The joy of new cats is tempered with some continued sadness for Shamoo. As good as it is to have them around, I still miss him and his ways.

And speaking of cats in a roundabout way: the hawks have been haunting my bird feeders again. I’ve seen at least two of them on three or four occasions in the last month. It has really cut down on the bird activity at my feeders, which Lady Ygraine and I are both sad about.

A couple weeks ago, I was taking photos of the hawk and I went upstairs to get a better angle. It was then that I realized what, perhaps, the hawk was looking at:

the hawk and the pussycat

There was one of the neighborhood tomcats taking a happy bath in the sun. Dude, look up, LOOK UP! Later the hawk was gone, but the cat was still there, and I was relieved.

January Update

There’s not too much to report from my garden. We’re in the dead, brown season but with no snow, ice, or the usual early crocuses to add just a little variety and sparkle. However, I decided that an entire month should not go by without a garden update.

hydrangea

crocuses were blooming this time last year

the early crocuses are behind time

Moon Flower Pod

I finally put in my seed orders this weekend. It felt like even more of an act of faith this year, both on a personal level because I have no idea where I’ll find the greenhouse space that I need to get them started and on a much larger level as I watch news of policy changes that I fear will cause harm to our public lands, our environment, and all the people and creatures that live in this beautiful land. As it is, I breathe some of the most polluted air in the entire country.

bonus orchid

One hopeful point of color is in my kitchen where my orchids are blooming with abandon. I started with one orchid about 16 years ago. That orchid is now three separate plants with 11 bloom spikes among them. I also have another bonus variety of orchid in bloom, too. I’ve never had so many blooms all at once before.

In case you don’t believe me, here is a diagram of them all. Numbers 6 and 7 are obscured by leaves in this photo (so maybe you still won’t believe me 🙂 ), and number 12 is the one that’s unrelated to the rest.

orchid bloom diagram

two orchids