The Most Beautiful Time of the Year

I’ve been so busy taking pictures of my garden that I haven’t had time to edit and post them! All through April, I saw wave after wave of beauty come through my garden and the entire city. The soft greens, bright spring bulbs, pastel redbuds, frothy cherry trees, pink and white dogwoods, fluorescent azaleas, and deepening greens make the world feel airy and light. Everything is new and perfect.

My garden emerged from dormancy. At first I was still waiting to hear what the EPA contractors and subcontractors would do to it or not do to it. Now, however, I am much more hopeful. If everything goes as I’ve discussed with all the workers, things will be OK. It’s taken plenty of energy, though. I’m really not one to complain and put up a stink, so it’s been a lot of work to continue to be “that crazy lady” to all of them. Hopefully it pays off in work I’m happy with.

Below is a slideshow that takes you through most of April 8-27 in my garden. You will see things emerging and expanding to fill their spots in my different garden spaces. I love the way the plants change and develop throughout the process. There are also a few cats mixed in for good measure.

Spring Arrives, but Where Will It Go?

Spring is firmly upon us now. A bright greenness seems to hover over my garden as the new, tender growth unfolds. It’s the same cycle that has passed over my garden for years now: the first shoots, early bulbs blooming, the hints that things are alive beneath the soil, then quick growth skyward. You can see the progression of things in the slide show below. Remarkably, these photos were taken over the course of only one week–from 3/31 to 4/7. There is a lot of growth there. If you flip through the photos, you will find captions.

The plants are growing happy and energetic as usual, but I still see so much uncertainty when I look at them. I met with the EPA subcontractor several weeks ago, and it didn’t go well. Now the contractor is supposed to be meeting with me to go over my concerns, but I haven’t heard anything for weeks. I still hope that things will work out better, but it’s incredibly stressful.

It seems appropriate that this is the first year that I’ve lived in this house that the magnolia blooms were destroyed by cold during their early stages. Instead of the usual exuberant explosion of color, there were only scattered blossoms. It matches my mood.

I’m not planning to buy plants or seeds. It makes me sad. But then a new catalog arrived in the mail and there was a little hope. It was the catalog for next year’s spring bulbs to be planted this fall. That is something I can hope for.

The nice weather has meant that Perry gets to go out for walks on most days. We usually spend a half hour just wandering around our yard and our neighbor’s yard. It’s his daily attitude adjustment time, and the fresh air seems to help with his bitey-ness and aggression.

Yesterday evening, John and I were out walking Perry and a couple kids who live further down the block were riding their bikes on the sidewalk. They were about 5- or 6-years-old, so, young enough to notice and comment on weird stuff going on. One boy looked through the fence at us and said, “Look at that do…CAT!”

Later he rode his bike past while John kept Perry out of the way. The kid looked at Perry and reassured him, “It’s OK, kitty.” It was very sweet. We felt it necessary to tell the kid at that point that he couldn’t pet Perry because Perry bites. He seemed oddly to have already figured that out.

Meanwhile, the Ladies are fluffy and fantastic. They do not need daily attitude adjustment time in order to be good. They are always perfection!

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.

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.