A Time of Fairies

It’s the most beautiful time of year in my garden! Everything is green and fresh. Some things are newly planted. Some things are newly sprouted. Bright flowers are in bloom. The heat has not had an opportunity to dry things out too much. And, best of all, the honeysuckle is in bloom! It’s a wall of fragrance.

Now I have three varieties. One native variety on the shed (red, below), one unidentified variety in front (orange, below), and the invasive but oh-so-sweet variety on the back fence (white/yellow, below).

The honeysuckle on the back fence and its blossoms add a beautiful and magical backdrop to everything else going on in my garden. It’s a particularly enchanting. Every year at this time I feel like I should look for fairies.

It’s the time of year when it’s hard for me to stop taking pictures of everything. So here is my yard from all (or mostly all) the angles. I’d recommend flipping through them as a slideshow instead of simply looking at the gallery as a whole:

And here are some closer looks at everything in and around my house:

I’ve started on my garden art projects for the year. I’ve got plenty of plans. The first one I tackled was changing an old chandelier into an outdoor solar light. A friend of mine gifted me the perfect light fixture for the project. It was kind of wonky and bent up, so it wasn’t the best for indoor use, but it has a flower theme that’s perfect for a garden. I glued solar lights on in place of light bulbs and voila!

The other project that I’ve started is to invite some actual fairies into my garden. Last summer, I sculpted one of the two apple tree stumps in our side yard, turning it into a bottle tree with a raccoon on top.

This summer I plan to work on the second stump. So far, I’ve added the two apple pickers that came with the house for use in harvesting the trees’ apples. I thought it was fitting to work them into my apple tree trunk sculpture. I started adding bottles (including an apple brandy bottle to add to the theme) and will put plenty more on. Last fall, I’d begun carving a few little niches in the trunk and now I’ve painted the niches and added ceramic fairies created by the children in Patchwork Central’s children’s program. I’ll work on the tree all summer, but I like where it’s gone so far.

I’ve got a few more little fairy vignettes scattered around my garden.

Summer Too Soon

It’s been hot. Hot enough to have had the air conditioning on for well over a week. In the 90’s hot. Humid hot. And we’re only mid May!

It seems to be hard on my plants. They were in the tender, young stages of spring and hadn’t really hardened to the heat. Still, the garden moves along. This weekend was the magical, fairy garden stage when the honeysuckle is in bloom and the greens everywhere are varied and vibrant. But more on that later! With so much blooming, there’s a lot of catching up to do!

Way back in the middle of April, the later spring bulbs were blooming. That included the last few daffodils and my fancy tulips as well as a few more fritillaria, some less fancy red tulips, and wildflowers like trillium, wild ginger, and wild geranium. At the same time, the many varieties of fern were stretching out of the ground and unfurling.

I also had a fun little bird spotting. I looked out of the back door mid April and thought I saw a butterfly. It was so bright and it was flitting around the ground. Then I realized it was a Kentucky warbler. It was a little ahead of the rest of the migrating crowd, and extremely unusual for me to see in my yard. It must have been very tired, because it stuck around near the ground in my back yard for a few hours. It was great to get such a good look at it, and I was very glad to have all indoor cats so I didn’t have to fear that one of them would eat it.

As the bulbs and wildflowers faded, the time for the azaleas and irises arrived. The ferns developed further, and the redbud blossoms fell and were replaced by tiny heart leaves. Finally, it was the alums’ time to bloom. I love their lavender constellations of star-shaped flowers.

My lettuce finally took off. April was unusually cold, so it took a little while for my salad greens to decide that it was a good time to grow. In previous years, the squirrels have dug huge chunks out of my lettuce as they searched for their hidden food caches.

“Not this year!” I thought to myself. This year I put bird net over the greens to discourage the squirrels’ digging, but then the lettuce had a growth spurt and I couldn’t get the net off. I’ve decided it’s an idea worth fine-tuning, though. The squirrels were successfully deterred even though I had a couple salads that included plastic netting.

A batch of bluebells came with my garden when I started it more than 9 years ago. They originally were located in the area I turned into my vegetable garden and have proven difficult to eradicate. I pulled them and pulled them, and still they came back. I chucked them into the yard area under the magnolia, and they didn’t die. They don’t really get enough light, they don’t always bloom, and just get overgrown, so they haven’t particularly endeared themselves to me.

But this spring something happened to make me like them much more. A hummingbird happened through my yard. I saw him, and I apologized to him as I usually do for not having any spring food out.

I’ve attempted in the past to put a feeder out, but I just can’t keep up with the maintenance, even as much as I like hummingbirds. Making more syrup, changing it out every few days, cleaning the feeder. I just can’t do it.

So, I’m glad to have plants around that can do the hummingbird feeding better than I ever could.

The beginning of May brought the annual Master Gardeners’ Plant Sale. I don’t need any more plants, but I love going so much that I went anyway. It’s a huge room full of interesting plant colors and textures. This year there was a special preview sale and I made sure to go at the very start of that to get first pick, like usual.

The next day, I drove to one of the local plant nurseries. I have fond memories as a kid of riding 45 minutes in the car to get to my mom’s favorite greenhouse. My sister and I would spend quite a while looking through all the greenhouses. We’d pull our shopping wagon behind us and fill it with some plants for our gardens. Mom spent even longer picking out her plants for the year.

This year at the greenhouse I got a bunch of succulents and annuals for several planters around my garden.

By this point, things were really starting to shape up in my garden.

Finally it was time for the peonies, baptisia, and the honeysuckle to bloom. I love the way the honeysuckle buds contort into such interesting shapes, particularly the honeysuckle variety on my front fence. Unfortunately, that plant tends to be plagued by aphids. On a few lucky years, the plant is almost finished blooming before the bugs appear. But not this year. See if you can spot the photo below that includes the aphids.

The baptisia is on the east side of the house, so it was beautifully backlit in the morning sun when I went out to get the paper with Perry. He didn’t really appreciate it, but did love to watch the starlings.

Meanwhile the cats are their usual selves. The Ladies are as lovely as ever. They continue to enjoy sitting at their window and looking out on the back yard. They love to watch all the goings on but have zero desire to actually go outside. They enjoy each others’ company. I love the exchange I caught below in which Morgaine seems annoyed by her mother’s public kisses.

And Morgaine continues to show her love of burrowing into things. Here she is burrowing into a bunch of receipts that I laid out on the bed for her and burrowing into the bed upstairs. She’s everyone’s sweet girlfriend.

Meanwhile Perry is still…Perry. He has made some improvements but is still difficult and bity. He also continues to be a goofball. While the weather has been nice I’ve been trying to take him out for walks more often. It was nice during lilac season. I could smell my neighbor’s lilac tree and Perry could nibble on my neighbor’s grass. He’s playful and goofy, and John and I think he enjoys being an indoor cat.

 

 

 

If You Don’t Like the Weather in Indiana…

So much has been changing in my garden and it’s doing it so quickly that it’s hard to keep up. Then the weather changes dramatically around it. One day I see an interesting leaf pattern or color combination. The next day it has changed and developed in a new and interesting way. All this makes it a time of every-changing beauty.

I haven’t been able to keep up.

At this point, my garden is now through the mid-spring blooms. The magnolia has put on its brilliant show, though it was a little muted by cold-damaged petals. Still, there was beauty in their brown freckles and spots. The peony has stretched its tentacles up and out of the ground. Soon it will look like a pretty unassuming green, leafy plant. My many varieties of daffodils have bloomed. So have my favorites, the fritillaries and epimedium. And the ferns have unpacked themselves, uncoiling cell upon cell.

Then an April snow fell on it all. Then rain. Then sun.

It’s a beautiful time of year.

A Frosty Start to 2018

2018 started out with an icy cold blast that wouldn’t stop. On the coldest night my thermometer hit -1. That cold stuck around for over two weeks, but we thankfully had a warm home to be in. The furnace created an impressive stalagmite under the exhaust pipe. I thought it was interesting to see all the differently shaped furnace stalagmites around the neighborhood.

After a brief break from the frigid cold (one day the high was in the 60’s) we got a nice little snowstorm with 4″ – 5″ of photogenic snow. Frigid temperatures have returned with it, so the snow will be sticking around for a few more days. It looks festive, but our cars are completely stuck.

I’m sure the cats don’t know how good they have it. They’ve been spending a lot of time by the heat vents and on their heated cat beds. In between they have play time and Perry does his all-important laundry inspection. They’ve also thoroughly loved watching the throngs of birds at the feeders trying to survive the cold. I’d failed to stock up on the safflower seeds that the cardinals and other bigger birds eat, so I made an emergency run to Rural King today so I wouldn’t run out. The cats were very happy that their “stories” went uninterrupted.

Last week I got a window bird feeder for the Ladies. The birds finally found it yesterday, and Lady Ygraine quickly found the birds. They haven’t been back since she lunged at the window, but she’s eagerly awaiting their return. The sales woman at Wild Birds Unlimited assured me that she has a the same feeder and a cat and eventually the birds learn that the cats won’t get them. I hope so!

Here’s a slideshow of the first two weeks of 2018. Click on any photo for a larger image and a description.

Closing Out the Year

Everything is pretty well tucked in and dormant in my garden. We’ve had several blasts of frigid air and surely many more will descend on us before spring. Really, winter has barely arrived.

2017 has been stressful, and 2018 promises to have new challenges all its own. John and I didn’t even feel like we could manage a Christmas tree this year, but I did put up Christmas lights outdoors. It’s enough to feel festive, shining light with abandon into the darkest, longest night.

I continue to rejoice in the beauty of the changing seasons, including the deep, earthy colors and the pale decay seen throughout my garden. They are what the end of the year looks like, so I’ll leave you with them–and a little bit of pre-Christmas snow.

The Cost of Frost

The weekend before last began warm and beautiful. A few leaves were still on the trees, but the forecast was for a sudden change in the weather. I did some organizing and cleaning as the cold front blew its way through the treetops and into my yard.

In the time since then, my garden has seen a beautiful collapse of the leaves and plants. They’ve been invisibly broken apart by the jagged edges of internal ice crystals as we’ve finally had many nights in the 20’s and low 30’s.

Below are a series of photos that I took in this time period. You can spot the same plants as the frost changes them. Some colors deepen. Some leaves grow translucent. Some grow leathery.

After the frost had worked its way into everything and most of the final leaves had come off the trees, I spent the day with my leaf blower coaxing all the leaves on the ground into one garden bed or another. As part of the process, I took down my bean trellises and found a few final dried beans to add to my collection. There was a mixture of pretty limas and several more Mostoller Wild Goose pole beans that I think are gorgeous.

And finally, something freshly cooked but completely out of season–blackberry jam! For many years, my blackberries have fruited well but never produced enough at one time to make much of anything. Mostly, the birds would eat the berries as they ripened a couple at a time. Patchwork’s blackberry bushes were larger, so if I wanted to make jam I could collect enough berries there.

But for the last few years the Patchwork bushes haven’t done well. John’s eaten all the jam I had from recent years, so I decided I needed to do something differently. This year I collected the blackberries in my garden and froze them one at a time. By the end of the summer, I was pretty sure I had enough for a batch of jam and over Thanksgiving weekend, I finally had time to make it.

I used my strainer to separate out all the seeds, running the pulp through the hand-cranked machine over and over to try to get as much moisture out. I knew I wouldn’t have any pulp to spare. In the end I was a cup short, but thinking back to some jam I’d seen sometime this year, I steeped some sage leaves in hot water and added the water to the blackberry pulp.

The result? 4.5 jars of particularly delicious jam!

You’ve Peaked, Evansville.

Every fall in Evansville there is a beautiful moment when the leaves have changed gloriously and enough have scattered across the ground that we are surrounded by a world of autumnal color. The streets are lined with reds, rusts, pale oranges, and yellows. My back yard is bathed in golden light filtered through the maple leaves, and it’s the color of happiness. But, the moment is always brief and an instant later the branches are bare and the leaves on the ground are dry and grey.

(Click any of the photos below for a bigger image and a slideshow of the changing leaves.)

My garden has fully embraced autumn. We didn’t have freezing temperatures until a few days ago, so most things were still growing though they seemed to anticipate the killing weather. Many leaves were tinged with orange and yellow and seed pods were prominent. I picked the last of my beans and brought my house plants indoors for the winter. The Ladies enjoyed adventuring in their new jungle in the kitchen.

Meanwhile, a few photos of the cats. We keep working with Larry to improve his behavior, though he’s still a challenge and very bitey. One thing that we’ve discovered he loves: clicker training. So far he can touch a target with his nose, stand on a mat with all four paws, and sit. He seems happy to do it and happy to have very positive interaction with John and me.

Of course, the Ladies are simply delightful, as always.

All three have the following advice as winter approaches:

Find a warm spot…

 

Enjoy your warm bed…

Wrap your tail around your nose to keep it warm…

And enjoy the changing seasons.