around the garden

Click on any photo to bigify.


honeysuckle and friends

A few brilliant and scented flowers for my storm-battered buddies.  Any kind of storm qualifies. More

four springtimes for my lilac to recover

When we bought our house in April 2008 (OK, rented it from the bank), the front yard was tidy:

front grass yard 2008

front yard grass 2008

In February 2010, I was made redundant and went to town on the front yard, working fast and hard for several months because I knew I’d be back to work in no time (that didn’t happen):

after the sod cutter:  bye-bye grass!

after the sod cutter: bye-bye grass!

Near the front wheel of that purple bicycle is the scraggly lilac that had languished in a pot for years.  The roots were terribly pot-bound.  <:-{

Note in the picture above that Big Mister had already built the pergola for me, seen here (in a blast from the past digression) using the manly-man machine:

Big Mister and the Augur

Big Mister and the Augur

monster machine

monster machine

We now return from our digression.

In the chill of March 2010, I started transplanting from my root-bound pots right away, after hauling cubic yards of soil all round that 900 square feet:

first year garden

first year garden

first year coming along

first year coming along: the scraggly, transplant-shocked lilac is vaguely under the purple bicycle. (That window to the right of the red-flowering shrub became the viewing spot from my recuperation room.)

Ah, the garden grows in a bit:

second year garden (?)

second year (?) garden, with bowling balls atop rebar as hose guides.

[I’d already painted the (unlovely) front door orangey-red, too, which helped!]

Standing on a ladder at the front sidewalk:

front yard "aerial" view

front yard “aerial” view

The lilac still was unhappy last year:

turns out, the lilac does hate me!  it only has ONE blossom!

it only had ONE blossom!

I had a plan when I planted the lilac at the top of the garden:  I wanted that fragrant, shade-providing view to be near the front door so that my steps would be slowed by the scent and the sight.

The lilac and I have a lot in common.  Once we have room to breathe, leave us to get ourselves untangled and we start to blossom.

This spring, right now:

lilac near the front step

lilac near the front step

lilac anchors its bed 2013

lilac anchors its bed 2013

lilac blossoms once again!

lilac blossoms once again!

[there’s the front door orangey-red (poppy!) with a great glass-fronted storm door.]

poppy heads

Jude of Jude’s Photography over in the Dordogne in southwest France (“surrounded by beauty in the form of wildlife, rivers, medieval villages and châteaus”), recently posted a photo of Oriental poppies.  Gorgeous!

I love the color!  Orangey-red.  Yum.  Here’s a poppy just opening from last year in my garden:

poppy hat

poppy hat

Here is the state of my poppies right now, a sunny day in mid-April:

poppy fronds

poppy fronds

early spring poppy head

early spring poppy head

poppy head

poppy head


Press This: gardenhistorygirl: Words with a Garden History: Favela

It’s a short bit about words and gardens.  What’s a better combination?!  And we get to learn about Brazil!

gardenhistorygirl: Words with a Garden History: Favela.

She says:  “What is your favorite word with an unexpected or forgotten garden meaning?  Mine is vignette, which means something short enough to be written on a vine leaf.”

Writing from the Edge: The Goddess of Plenty

Writing from the Edge: The Goddess of Plenty.

I love this blog.  Just do.

Here is how Lorely, an evocative writer from the Wild West Coast of Ireland, captures this particular blog post:

I looked around my own small patch of earth, my generous share of the goddess of plenty’s gifts, with all its plants – flowers – beauty – healing and power.

It is all given to us, I thought, in infinite variety – to see, to hold, to use, to pleasure our senses, to heal our bodies, to quiet our minds, and – as is the way with the earth – everything links into everything else, but it is up to us how we use it, how we see those connections.

So – I pondered – let’s do it – let’s look at the bounty around us, admire it, celebrate it, share it and spread it around.

(She is celebrating her one-year blog anniversary by giving away something very special.)

For her, I add a photo of the twisted willow in my yard, Salix tortuosa.

the healing willow tree

This lady leads a rich life–she shares about gardens, dogs, Napoleon, cats, skinny dipping (!)….  wait–here’s a screen shot of her tags/categories!

Go on.  Off with you.  Go visit and stay awhile.


Ah, there I am.  I’ve been walking around in a verbal fog for the last month.  My writing voice has been stilled.  My poor old beaten up brain can only do one big thing at a time, apparently.  I will assume that once my verbal re-wiring is complete (enough), my writing will return.

I miss my community here, but there is so very little to do about that.  More waiting.  6-1/2 months post hospital.  I could not imagine that life would be this strange and that it would continue un-know-ably.  That is to say, the re-wiring of so many facets of me continues to take me by surprise, except for expecting the surprises.

The good news:  I’m improving.  I’ve been working with a physical therapist who understands brain trauma and that even in minimal brain trauma, the most mundane and “I learned that when I learned to walk as a toddler” tasks can be affected.  Hence the difficulty and resulting exhaustion of taking a walk on a familiar cobbled beach.

Now I understand why JustI of JustUsSociety posted that video back in April about the brain researcher, Jill Bolte-Taylor, who watched herself suffer a catastrophic stroke.  At the time, I didn’t get the significance.   So many commenters here seemed to understand that I had suffered brain trauma; I depended on your feedback because I didn’t know, being stashed behind that benign fog, but I listened.

I’m having trouble forming memories and when I try to search for a previous moment, the effort is often too great, too tiring.  Sometimes I confuse memory with dreaming.  It does make me realize how inconsequential most memories are as single moments, but how as a whole those memories give breadth to a life.

I have since discovered a US Veterans Administration PTSD website that discusses minimum brain trauma (they call it minimum traumatic brain injury or mTBI) and its logical relationship to PTSD.  I have been fascinated, and relieved, by the neuropsychiatry discussed (this link takes a bit to load because it is a Flash file).  The PTSD symptoms are still very much with me and force me to keep a low profile.  But I’m stubborn so I keep trying, keep pushing my boundaries.

I’m also in the mosaics studio most days for a couple of hours.  Creativity is still blunted, but I am able to better “see” the patterns and line expressions in the works I copy.  Very good news indeed.

I do have moments of rage against the medical machine, sending me home without a hint of what the next year could hold.  How could you leave me twisting in the wind?   You left my family twisting in the wind, too.  Ripple effect.

This writing has been very difficult–I am having trouble recognizing grammatical structure and misspelling so often that the delete key has a divot in it now, plus I’m typing words backwards and even typing words I don’t intend to type. (!!)  (Hope this essay is readable because I can’t edit it for sh*t!)  The effort required is reminiscent of the attempts to make conversation or the effort required to compose a post in those early days.

I will close with pics of my garden so we all can relax now.

globe thistles covered in bees!

Oriental lilies

crocosmia and honeysuckle backed by lily

shade inside the pergola

The backyard pergola quickly became an outdoor room that I could adorn however I wanted!  All I required was an entrance, scented plants, and interesting shade possibilities.  Herewith:

entry into pergola–the entry is to the left side of the picture. there’s my jasmine right smack in front and just beginning to bloom!

jasmine! (it’s fuzzy, but I’m too lazy to go back outside)

Shade, how to cast shade?  I had a shade sail over it last year, but my goal was to have a flora-ific effect that would cast shade.  I got a Chinese wisteria this year and hope it will spread!  For now, here are baskets o’ fuchsias.

shade inside the pergola cast by baskets and fuchsias

Closer to the fuchsias:

wasn’t sure the fuchsias would get enough shade, but they seem to be very happy!

shade-loving fuchsia overhead seems to be working!

I even hung up a kite!

casting shade inside the pergola


sail ho! here comes the sun!

We got the shade sails up just in time for mid-80s temps (about 27C).  Big Mister is the ladder guy and could thoroughly do without these dang things, but he helps me anyway.  The shade sail is made by Coolaroo and I recommend them highly!

shade sail and hops keep the west side cooler

On the south side, we have a pergola that is filling beautifully with more shade-providing hops!

pergola with hops on south side. purple campanula going nuts!

And here come the prickly globe thistles, rising above the bed of non-prickly foliage and flowers!

Globe thistles coming on (Echinops exalatus)–will be blue!
The pink is scented phlox and the purple is campanula.

poppies got hats!

caught this poppy before its petals popped open and drooped over.

front yard garden

Lots of action in the perennial garden.  I love being a passive participant this year–worked my bum off in spring 2010 and this is my reward.  This is only about 1/8th of the front yard (street-side) that is dead-on south-facing, so has lots of possibilities.

(I apologize for the weird spacing below.  It’s probably a Buddhist expression of peace and moving slowly.  I’m making that up.  I’m not very good with WP, but I also am not a perfectionist, so there!)

BuddyBoop hung out with me:

He's fluffy, really! By the time he finishes shedding, he won't be a foot wide!

shade garden

I created the shade garden by planting tall ornamental grasses on the south and west sides of the existing Picea spp (spruce tree).  There is bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis), several species of hosta, three species of Heuchera, delphinium, columbine (aquilegia spp.) with double, pink, lacy 1-inch flowers, and two species of ferns.





the lilac bed

The lilac I placed close to the front door so the heavenly scent would greet me every time I walked to and from the car.

Also in the bed:

perennials–bachelor buttons (Centaurea montana ‘Amethyst Dream’); hosta being shaded by the lilac; grape hyacinths

ornamental grasses–Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima) in pots so they’ll wave above the bed; Japanese Forest Grass (the striped grass) (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’).

shrubs–Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’–it’s the yellow blotchy thingie; Weigela (Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’)–wonderful deep red trumpet-shaped flowers.

and rocks!  I LOVE rocks!



bachelor buttons in the lilac bed

There’s a rose bush to the right of the buttons (the red growth).  It was probably original to the house and had been planted in a peculiar place quite far from the house.

Last year, with a horribly painful shoulder, I dug it out–humongous roots–and put it next to the lilac. I found its tag way down in its roots–it’s called ‘Almost Wild’ and I understand why because it looks more like a wild rose.  And!  It’s scented!

There’s just something amazing about a scented garden being warmed by a south-facing sun… primal and earthy!






What else do we have here close to the house?

black mondo grass with funny berries, plus columbine leaves

turns out, the lilac does hate me! it only has ONE blossom!

bluebells right near the front door



Poppy leaves spreading out behind. Hops vines poking into the pic.  To the left of the bluebells is a grand clump of phlox, a pink scented variety.

close-up of the bluebells







Saturday Sharesday: garden history girl

I discovered this blog, gardenhistorygirl, when I was researching Chinese and Persian gardens last year during my year of landscape design study.

I love to wander through her posts.  So much inspiration that she brings to us regular ole gardeners!  Enjoy!

And I didn’t laugh when I read she had a Master’s degree in garden history; I felt delighted and a little bit of wishful thinking!


spring flowers

Not up for working in the garden, so sat under the pergola and read, but was quickly distracted by the garden coming to life around me.   Herewith a few pics:

the garden becomes

Right after I got laid off in February 2010, I headed for the front yard to do something about that expanse of sun-baked, south-facing lawn (see the pic in the gallery below).

I rented a sod cutter, a bruiser of a machine, and sliced away the grass, about 900 square yards.

Then I hauled yards and yards of potting soil and plonked ’em down in the beds I designed in my head.  My plants were in pots, lots and lots of pots.  I began the process of finally designing with those collections.  That spring, it was cold–in the 40s–and rainy.  How lucky that was for the newly planted garden–lots of cool weather to allow the transplant shock to wear off gently.  That cool weather was much easier on the gardener, too!

Three months after I began, I had transformed that front yard into a place that gives me solace, delight in the scents, colors, and textures, and provides a living buffer between the world and me.

Now, it is two years later, and as I wander through an unexpectedly long recuperation from serious illness, I potter around in the garden, an hour at a time.  I forget that I feel horrible because I immerse myself in the lively spot I created, sometimes transplanting or just weeding.  But always watching and examining.  My lilac that I thought surely hated me for transplanting it shows its flower buds this spring.   Today, I thinned out some ornamental grasses and put the bits among the more structured shrubs and perennials to add movement, color, and sound in more places.

I am at my most serene when I am playing in the garden–the scent of newly turned soil, seeing earthworms by the kajillion, setting up the bird bath mister, or just sitting on a wicker chair on the porch and seeing my garden.  I hauled all the dirt and planted every last thing there.  I remember sitting in a cold mist teasing apart roots with fingers so cold I could hardly feel what I was doing, but going through pot after pot, and setting those roots into the ground.

Sometimes I take my drawing board outside and work on those geometric figures, sitting in the warm sun and thinking of nothing except creating lines on the page.  Then, looking up and reveling in the sight of my garden.

Now, I only go outside when the sun is shining its springtime warmth; I have become sensitive to the cold, me, the person who comes alive in the winter.  I will hope that this is a temporary state and will depart once the whole of me becomes whole again.

These pics are not current, but soon my garden will look like this again, only a little different because after all, I potter in the garden and move things here and there, which subtly changes the shapes and textures.

More Autumn in the garden

Ornamental grasses rank very high on my list of must-haves in the garden:

  • 4-season interest
  • food for the birds
  • screening
  • noise-reduction

Here is a red switch grass in its Autumn splendor.

red switch grass (Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah')

See the red coming on?

red coming on--red switch grass

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