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.

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.

Catching Up Again

Our computer is finally up and running after about two months of a busted hard drive. So here I am, catching up on over a month. It’s still early in the gardening year, so the pace has still been slower. Highlights include:

  • My orchids did not disappoint this year. There were a couple fewer bloom stalks than last year, but I still got an impressive show. Three different varieties were blooming at once!
  • My many varieties of crocus put on a colorful show scattered across the lawn. Most years I’ve added a few new colors and I love all the variety that I have now.
  • The hellebores are blooming. They are really interesting as they emerge from the ground. I first got them because I thought the name was interesting, but now I love them for their complex flowers.
  • Snow! I love the way the snow looks on the daffodils and crocuses. It’s such a pretty combination. The flowers are tough, though, and pop back after the snow melts.
  • Everywhere there are signs that spring is well on its way.
  • The poor magnolia has been waiting and waiting for the perfect blooming weather. It’s been holding back on a full bloom for weeks now. Today it started a halfhearted bloom in the middle of a swampy, rainy day. I miss its usual magnificence.
  • I have some beautiful tomato plants that are eager to get in the ground! It’s the best looking set of seedlings I’ve had since I lost access to a greenhouse. This year I found grow lights at Lowe’s. I should have bought some sooner. These are cheaply made, but that also makes them really light and portable, so I tucked them away in a corner of our upstairs bedroom.

So there you are, caught up on my garden at least. I’ve got a whole bunch of cat pictures, too, though they will have to go in another post.

 

Catching Up

For the last month my computer has been on the fritz, and it’s really cramping my style. With it out of commission, I don’t have my photo file organizer or my photo editing software. Normally I take a lot of photos, download them to my computer, sort and organize them there, and edit each one–even if it’s only to reduce the file size to help keep me within my allotted online storage space. I’ve not been able to do any of that for a while.

Luckily it’s the slower time of the year for garden photos. Below is an assortment to update you on my garden in the last month. It’s Southern Indiana, so the weather has swung from cold and icy to a balmy 70 degrees last week. However, because it’s been mostly colder this time around, my first crocus blooms have been a little later. The first one opened on Feb 8. Then with the warm day, others exploded across my lawn. I’m always glad to see their reminder that the seasons are slowly changing.

The warm day also meant that the Ladies could survey their domain from the back door and Perry could try out his new walking jacket. I hope that walks will offer him another positive activity to keep him occupied. I’m still not sure what he thinks.

And finally, the squirrels found the little bird feeder I’d put up for the Ladies. It was full of the good seed, too! I came home from work at lunch on Friday and the base was off the feeder. I had some suspects at the time, and my suspicions were confirmed today when there was a sudden skittering going up the window screen and the Ladies went on full alert. Stupid squirrel!

Another Not-So-Famous Garden in my Neighborhood

Walking around my neighborhood, it’s fun to get glimpses of interesting gardens that other people have created in their back yards. There will be a sunflower here, a rose there, and a tomato plant over there. Actually, there are some fantastic gardens hidden here and there near downtown Evansville.

One such garden belongs to Dee. She works at Patchwork and has lived in this neighborhood for a very long time. I saw a small part of her garden earlier this summer and wanted to see more of it so I stopped by last week with my camera.

Dee’s back yard is a lot like mine in that the Victorian family that built her house paved the entire thing. As a result, Dee has narrow raised beds along the edges of the property that are densely packed with vignettes of plants and art.

I love Dee’s quirky combinations of figurines and garden art. I envy some of the weirder pieces in her collection. Some spots in her yard are elegant and then there are the places where her fantastic sense of humor shines.

Here’s a tour:

Rare Harvests

I have figs! I have figs!

Perhaps six years ago, I got to taste a fig straight off a friend’s fig tree. It was the most unique and amazing flavor. I decided I wanted to grow my own, and so the saga began.

The winters here are borderline for growing figs. The first winter mine all died. The second winter I wrapped them in burlap and moved them to a protected corner of the yard. And they still died. I thought.

After I planted new ones, the roots of the previous years’ sprouted fresh. That winter I brought them inside when it got below 20 degrees outside, but then it stayed cold and they stayed indoors and came out of dormancy. They leafed out and sprouted fruits but didn’t get enough light and the tiny figs fell off.

Last winter I brought them inside when it got below 15 degrees outside, but got them back outside quickly. The winter didn’t have too many cold snaps, and they happily started growing at the first signs of spring. Like every other year, this summer they were nice and green and leafy. Unlike other years, I saw figs forming!

I held my breath, ready for the figs to drop too early, but, no! They turned dark and heavy with sugar. Would the flavor be as extraordinary as I remembered?

Yes indeed.

Another rare harvest is the butternut squash. I got four small ones off of that volunteer vine! It looks like it’s true that the squash vine borers don’t like butternut squash because the vines never succumbed. I will definitely plant more in the future. The only problem came when we brought Larry the cat inside after he’d spent a month roaming my garden. It only took a week before the squirrels were making a mess of it.

I’ve also harvested a couple melons (one too early, sadly), the corn is looking good from a distance but aphids have damaged the ears, the okra is blooming (really the flowers are the main reason I grow okra!), I’m collecting one blackberry at a time in the hope of having enough to make jam (though with Larry the cat outside, the birds and squirrels left me more berries this year), the beans finally started to amount to something, the flowers are blooming, and tomatoes continue to ripen (although I have yet to taste some of the most intriguing varieties including Dragon’s Eye and Cosmic Eclipse).

Larry the cat has been doing OK in his life indoors. He is a difficult cat, which we anticipated when we brought him in. He has tons of energy, he is a gawky teenager, and his brain seems to short out regularly which results in people being bitten. He’s loving, too.

This morning I felt like I bargained for his soul. It turns out that he belonged to the relative of a neighbor but had come to live with the neighbor when the relative lost her apartment. No one at his new home could stand him indoors, so they put him outside. Then he disappeared for the last week and everyone was worried.

I told them we’d taken him to the vet and were treating him for problems that the vet had found. I told them I could tell that he’d been cared for. I offered to take over caring for him and said I had been planning to see if we could work him in with our other cats. His previous caretaker seemed a little relieved and agreed.

She did make sure I knew his real name is Raja and that he’s part Bengal. She said if she could find them she’d drop off his vet records.

He always turns to look when he hears voices across the street. He still considers her his person.

Meanwhile, the Ladies are a little stressed about another cat being around, even though we can’t officially introduce them all until Larry’s intestinal parasites clear up. The one good thing for them now that he’s indoors: they can sit uninterrupted at their back door once more. They can’t complain too much about their life of leisure and luxury.

Growth

Looking over photos from the last month in my garden, I can clearly see its mid-summer expansion. My new raised bed holds corn, okra, edamame, and red raspberries. Just when I’d doubted that the corn would produce anything, it shot up and started to tassel. Hopefully it doesn’t fall over before it’s all said and done. I harvested my soybeans this week. The okra is just now starting to think about blooming. All is good.

Expanding even more are my mystery vines. This spring, I spread compost on a section of my garden before planting melons, one squash, and cucumbers. Lots of little volunteer vines of some kind popped up from that compost, and I was curious to know what reminders of good food past they would become. I kept a few and clearly they were something big. The plants headed out of the official garden space (partly due to my attempts to steer them away from the plants I’d meant to plant).

I went out of town for a short vacation at the end of June and when I got back, I got a note from the person garden-sitting for me that marveled about how well my squash plants were doing. So, that was the grand reveal. I checked the backyard to see what she was talking about and found a beautiful little butternut squash forming on the vines.

I haven’t intentionally planted winter squash for years. I tried it twice and had the heartache of watching them wither and die as squash vine borers burrowed into the heart of each vine and did their dirty work, pooping sawdust-like excrement where the plant met the earth. I looked for remedies, but there was nothing that seemed like it would work for me. It was also a heartache that after the plants died I had a big hole in my garden that represented the missed opportunity to grow something else that would have thrived in my space. With not much space to grow things, that lost opportunity is huge.

The first little squash on the vine has been joined by several more. I’m sending positive thoughts their way and hoping to get at least one ripe one before squash vine borer or some other disaster strikes. It will be a great achievement to eat a squash meal grown in my garden. [Though while working on this post, I saw an article that said butternut squash is less susceptible to squash vine borers, so maybe my happy compost accident will lead to future years of fruit!]

The one squash I intentionally planted this year was a quick-fruiting summer squash. I hoped that it would be able to stay ahead of the squash vine borer and produce some fruit for me (the borers have to have a certain number of warm days before the larva stage that burrows into squash vines becomes active). I did manage to get a couple mature summer squashes from the plant, but then the borers swooped in and killed it.

The melons and cucumbers are doing fine, but I knew they would. They aren’t bothered by the borers. Actually, I’m not that fond of cucumbers, but they grow so well. And their flavor has its good points.

And there is a lot of other great growth and bounty to be had around my garden and kitchen:

  • June apple season came and went. I managed to get enough lodi apples to make a batch of applesauce, although I’m ready to upgrade my squeezer and may go online to get a vintage one like my mom used to use.
  • I also picked and froze gallons and gallons of blueberries. By now, the people at Wright’s Berry Farm in Newburgh know me by name.
  • My “Bobcat” orchid is blooming again. It looks like a bunch of roaring cats’ muzzles.
  • I have a couple planter areas where I add annuals every year. I use similar types of plants, but each year’s arrangement unfolds differently and I enjoy the subtle variations. One such spot is my brick pile garden. Another is my mosaic planter.
  • I harvested my carrots and I’m enjoying some blackberries and the first of my tomatoes.