*Sigh*

In just a few short weeks I’ve gone from fairy sightings to a few melancholy sighs. I’ve reached the point in the year when it is clear which plants didn’t like the spot where I planted them and aren’t going to make it. I’ll never see the really cool flowers that were promised or the full, mature foliage. It’s also the point in the year when the Tree of Heaven growing just beyond my garden relentlessly sends a forest of suckers up into my garden. They get in the way of everything I’ve planted and look terrible as they die. I use extremely limited chemicals in my garden, and the Tree of Heaven is just about the only thing that gets herbicide treatment. If you simply pull it, one sprout turns into two then four then six. It’s a terrible, invasive plant.

As much as I notice the holes and weeds in my garden, I’m sure most anyone else wouldn’t see any problems at all. Really, there are many, many, many things that are growing happily and healthily, and my yard is a mass of green. I guess there are still plenty of fairies hiding here and there.

I’ll start a little garden tour with the space on the east side of the house. This spot has a lot of sun-loving plants and some native plants. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to get an attractive photo of the whole garden. It looks like a kind of a shaggy, straggly mass with peeling house paint behind it. Focusing in on the plants, though, you’ll find orange butterfly weed, dark lilies, and several echinaceas blooming right now.

I only began building the little strip on the west side of the house last year. It’s a difficult spot because it only gets afternoon sun. I thought that it would be a little less sunny than it turned out to be, so I used plants that like shady sun. Some are just fine with it, but others that I really liked haven’t been able to manage the harsher light. My first hostas to bloom for the year were located here along with a blooming astrilbe. There’s also a nice little clump of hardy begonias surrounding a tassel fern that is happy in this spot when it wasn’t happy elsewhere. Again, the photo of the strip doesn’t really do it justice.

And there is a lot of great stuff happening in the main part of my garden. Let’s start with a snake! A couple weeks ago I spotted this black rat snake. It’s the first one I’ve seen in my garden, so it was pretty neat. Last week, Squire Percivale and I were out for a walk and Perry almost caught a mouse in the same spot, so I guess the snake knew where its supper was.¬†On the same night I saw the snake, I cut the scapes off the garlic. When I was looking through my photos, I liked the similarities between the two things.

Also in bloom are the hydrangeas. In my yard I’ve got a variety called “Lady in Red”. It was the big statement plant I got to serve as a centerpiece back when I first started my garden. Just across the fence from my vegetable garden are my neighbor’s hydrangeas. They’re very nice, and I’m glad they serve as kind of an extension of everything blooming in my yard.

This year I’ve got red raspberries lining my side of the same fence. They look great with a birdhouse created last summer by a kid at Patchwork Central. I managed to string up bird netting over the raspberries. The birds got almost all of them last year. I know I’ll only get a few handfulls this year, so every one is precious. They are one of my absolute favorite fruits, but I’ve never found anywhere around here that grows them. That means I have to grow them myself.

There are plenty of other things growing and blooming in my garden, too. I encourage you to flip through the photos below as a slideshow. I’ve labeled them so you know what you’re looking at.

People who have seen my garden only through my blog are often surprised how small it really is. The best angles for photographing everything tend to be the ones that offer a broader panorama. I stick to the ones that show off my garden well. You would never know that to get them I’ve backed all the way up to a fence or my neighbor’s yard. I realized that this photo taken from all the way in my neighbor’s yard gives you more of a sense of just how narrow the space is between the back door and the shed. The alley fence is on the other side of the shed.

And here are a few final sights and sounds from my garden: rain out the back door and my cool wind spinner.

I’ll do another blog post soon that will star the cats!

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.

Warming Up to Summer

The seasons are changing in my garden. The garlic is out of the ground. The lettuce is getting bitter in the heat and I should pull it. The beans are in the ground (and I love the many variations in color and shape and great names). The cucumbers, squash, and melons are starting to explode (particularly the surprise ones that popped up from the compost I emptied into the garden this spring). The tomatoes have green fruits forming.

Soon I’ll be tasting summer coming from my garden!

Summer flowers are also starting to bloom next to my summer vegetables. The hostas have started blooming along with hydrangea, lilies, coneflowers, yarrow, and butterfly weed.

And the weather has been [mostly] lovely lately. I’ve rediscovered our side porch, how easy it is to take a quick break in its shade, and its great view of the garden.

Here’s a view with my wind spinner, sun catchers, and wind chimes all in action:

And one in the evening with the fireflies, night insects, and my sprinkler (I know it’s not best to water plants in the evening, but you’ve got to go with the opportunities that you get). The sprinkler makes nice rain sounds:

And with the weather being so nice, John and I have taken many sunset walks to the Ohio River. Here’s a nice one from a time when I thought to bring my camera:

And it was particularly great to have brought my camera this particular time because we passed an actual human being carrying her cat in a baby carrier.

She told someone as we passed by that it was a standard Walmart baby carrier. She said she’d tried to put her cat on a leash but he didn’t like it at all. He seemed pretty chill. It was only later when I looked at my photo that I noticed the woman’s shirt. The shirt is as awesome as taking your cat on a walk (click the photo to get a closer look).

My only complaint at present is in regard to the bunnies. Recently, I noticed a bunch of my plants slowly shrinking in size. Hmmmm. Did they look nibbled?

Then one afternoon Ygraine went on high alert in her doorway window:

She definitely saw something. What was it?

Dun, dun, dun…

Notice the sad flower heads all over the ground on the right where the bunny already nibbled away their stalks. Apparently these flowers are extremely dee-licious. So much so that they’re only a few inches tall now. And the bunny started eating my beans, too! I’m hoping I can still salvage everything, but maybe I’m being too optimistic. I suggested to Ygraine that she hand the bunny some threats of physical violence, but she’s too sweet for that.

Plus, if the bunnies were gone, she’d loose a serious source of entertainment:

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 ūüôā ), and number 12 is the one that’s unrelated to the rest.

orchid bloom diagram

two orchids

The Tastiness Continues and the Critter Count Goes Up

Lots of things are blooming and growing in my garden. I tried alums this year and I like them so much I’ll add more next year. They¬†add some nice sparkle among the other plants. For anyone unaware, they are the globes of purple flowers set on long stems that are in the first two photos in the slide show below.

I’d always resisted them because they were something I always thought was cool when I was 5. I’d look through the seed catalogs my family got in the mail and cut out my favorite plants and alums were always among them. So, I’ve been avoiding them as an adult as being too gimmicky (along with with rainbow ponies and magic talking cats).¬†It turns out that they’re great!

They bloomed along with plenty of other things including the¬†Asian greens that we couldn’t eat fast enough (yellow flowers below) and hydrangeas everywhere including my pink one and my neighbor’s blue ones. My cone flowers out front are blooming. The cilantro grew into a forest before I cut it to turn it into cilantro pesto. And the garlic has grown scapes. They are beautiful when cut.

I also added some new garden art which is an original painting by Billy Hedel that I found in the alley behind his gallery one day. It’s not a spot I frequent, so I guess it was meant to be. I confirmed that the art was really available for the taking. It goes great with my yellow wall.

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We’ve had many recent meals that celebrated produce from my garden and from nearby farms. They’ve included tuna with black garlic sauce, tomatoes, cilantro and a side of asparagus; strawberry tart; salad with strawberries, goat cheese, and pumpkin seeds; and fresh cherries.

While I was photographing my neighbor’s beautiful hydrangeas, I happened to notice…evidence…of critters. We got the trap loaded and in position and caught two possums and a raccoon last¬†week. Blech. It was evening by the time we could transport the raccoon elsewhere, so because of it we¬†did¬†get to see a beautiful sunset over Bluegrass FWA.

And here’s a cute, non-invasive critter for you: Shamoo continues to live out his happy little life with me as his person and John as his staff. He has arthritis and we recently started him on new medication and that may be why he’s been a little perkier as of late.

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Shades of Winter Falling

For some reason, this year I’ve been more aware of the changing beauty of my garden as the plants respond to colder weather, then are touched by frost, are finally frozen, then thaw and refreeze.

The colors deepen, mixing across single leaves while the damage from the cold is still mild. Then the sharply expanding ice crystals break structures, change shapes, and leave plants with a watery translucency. Then the plants dry, darken, and shrink back.

Maybe this year it’s taken longer from the first fall weather and falling leaves to the first frost to the first freeze. Maybe this has given me more opportunity to observe the autumnal changes in my garden. Whatever it is, I’m glad to have noticed them. It’s the inverse of the garden slowly unfurling from the ground in the spring–the slow and beautiful dying back and drawing back into the earth.

For instance: one day I was admiring the combination of yellows and greens of a hosta against the reds and purples¬†of the hydrangea behind it and the oranges and yellows of my glass garden art, and the next day the hosta’s leaves had frozen, the color was gone, and the leaves had collapsed. Similarly, one day I was admiring the bright red glimpses of zinnias still blooming among the piles of leaves I’d heaped in my vegetable garden, and a few days after the freeze, I realized the zinnias were transformed into brittle, rusty stars.

Looking back over the month of November, I’m surprised at how clearly I can see the changes. Here is my garden on November 6, at the height of the fall color:

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Then a couple weeks later after some light frost:

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And finally a week later after a freeze:

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And here are the changes from closer up (click any image below for a bigger image). They’re in chronological order from the last couple weeks.

The Ice Storm Edition

In the last round of winter storms, we were blessed with just enough ice to make it really pretty outside, but not so much that it caused major damage (though I’ll admit that it was pretty slippery and nasty to try to get around outside). I’ve been out with my camera quite a bit to try to capture the brilliant, crystalized world.

my garden

Above you can see my newly refurbished¬†flags looking so nice and bright. Below¬†are some details from around the yard. I loved the extra icicle flourishes on my tree jewelry and the crystalized hydrangea. (If you click on any of the photos in the collages in the rest of this post, you’ll get a slide show that you can flip through.)

I really liked all the interesting lines created by my blackberries, their support, the fence, and the ice.

And then there was the fringe of bird netting that’s been forgotten along the back fence.

It was great that last weekend it was warm enough for me to install the new weather station that I’d gotten for Christmas. I didn’t need to look at the temperature readout to know it was cold. I could tell by the icicles hanging off of it. It was fun watching the icicle merry-go-round on the anemometer.

weather station

Then I walked over to Patchwork and found more interesting things to photograph.

The next two days, the sun was out and the bejeweled plants were sparkling. It was difficult to capture the full effect, but I tried.

Stuck inside, instead of eating fresh fruits from my garden, I’m eating exotic fruits brought to me from Germany by my sister. Germany may not want you to know how much of their German engineering they have applied to their gummi candy in order to create perfect marshmallow-y clouds of color swirled, sour sugar coated, gel-filled goodness.

Gummi Fruit

And as a final thought, here’s a photo I posted this time last year:

Happy Bees