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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

DSCN5809I seem to be drifting under panels of panes lately; and so it was at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan last weekend.

As we toured this inspiring living gallery of plants and art, in and out of rooms of glass and paved paths of wonder whilst under a stormy sky, I could not help but wonder in awe at how art and horticulture articulate so well with each other.

The sculpture below changes as one walks around; first a man, then a woman, surrounded by shrubs and greenery.

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A queen bee rules from her throne, frogs guard benches, and conservatories house exotic plants that thrive in the upper midwest lakes region.

I’ll stop writing now, dear reader, and just show you a few photos of the delights of the Meijer gardens.

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Wednesday, there was a rare opportunity to tour the greenhouse in the Biological Sciences Learning Center at the University of Chicago . It was a brilliantly clear day in Chicago with calm waters along the many miles of lakefront and an azure sky tempting the skyscrapers and architecture.

Susan, our guide and sister-in-law of one of our Garden Club members, was extraordinary in her knowledge, commitment, and sense of humor as she took us through prep areas, down hallways, one glassed room after another, and atop the greenhouse roof hosting cold frames. It was an illuminating tour amid one of the most respected institutions of higher learning, research, and development in the world.

Can you find the greenhouse? It is mid-right, about 5 stories up, shot from a passageway leading to the facility. The greenhouse needed to be rehabbed because of the emerging structure behind it. This is Chicago, my friends; always changing, rearranging the sky along its magnificent lakefront.

After our tour of the greenhouse, we went for lunch in the Sky Lobby Food Court; a seventh floor cafeteria that is always open, 24/7. You can see it below, viewed from the rooftop area of the greenhouse, it is the glassed rim trimming the building across from where we were standing.

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DSCN5512What better way to start or end one’s day than with a little dip into the honey pot, especially in September, which is National Honey Month?

During the harvesting season, I seek out vendors at local farmers markets and farm stands for jars of this liquid gold. It is said that consuming local honey has health benefits, especially for those with seasonal allergies. I don’t know how scientifically true this is, but, I do know that I don’t sneeze as much when I’ve had a wee tad of local honey on a regular basis.  I always find honey farmers are eager to talk about their honey and that this year they say their bees are producing more.

My gardening friends and I all agree, we are seeing more bees in our gardens. A good sign that leaves one hopeful, in a very tentative way.

I’m a romantic, at heart, dear reader, but, a realist in mind, and the plight of the bee is precarious. This should be alarming to all of us, for without bees, we no longer have the pollination we need to grow fruits and vegetables. Our food supply is in danger in a very large way.

It is more than honey, and More than Honey is an intriguing, stimulating, frightening film that I would like to encourage you to view. Celestia, my co-chair of our garden club’s conservation and education committee, arranged for our club to have a viewing of More than Honey before a recent club meeting. It is a fascinating documentary of bees; their origin in Europe, colonization in North America, how bees are being genetically modified, the plight of migrant bee farmers (I didn’t know there were migrant bee farmers), and much, much more.

Through modern technology, we enter the beehive and soar with the queen. We cringe as we see, first hand, colony collapse and disease, and ooh as a minuscule camera is attached to a bee that we follow as it seeks a new hive. We watch hand pollination in China and explore the lives of killer bees, which may give us hope rather than something to fear.

Please take a moment to click below to see the trailer for the film. I’m sorry if there is an advertisement. It is the trailer you want to click.  You can, of course, buy it from the website or rent it from sources such as Netflix.

This trailer for the film was on YouTube.

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DSCN5391It is the in-between time, here on the Cutoff;  not quite the end of summer, nor yet the beginning of fall.

The ornamental and prairie grasses are reaching their peaks and starting to show their plumes. A few late-blooming hostas are holding court, issuing their intoxicating fragrances, and the Sweet Autumn Clematis is promising a splendid display atop the arbor . . .  the days grow shorter and shorter.  Bittersweet days of August, these are, and none the more so than today and yesterday, as I snipped the last of the daisies.

Deadheading is always such a painful chore.

A week before the Fourth of July, I fretted, hoping that the daisies would last for the holiday. They did! Now, some six weeks later, they are finally spent. To say they put on a good show, and stayed for an encore performance, would be an understatement. The snip, snip, snipping has finally brought the curtain down on their long performance.

The flower beds are a bit tidier now that the daisies are tamed. There is more to do, however, as we begin the long goodbye to summer. Just for a while, though, I’ll dream again of daisy chains and the sunny centers of my imagination.

DSCN5070The daisy follows soft the sun . . .  Emily Dickinson

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After the misty morning fogs, the recent rains, and the August heat, the weeds have been advancing aggressively  into the flower beds, chasing me around the garden like a snake slinking in search of supper.  My nails are split and my ankles are ringed in mosquito bites. A sense of accomplishment reigns, however, each time I bring order to the jungle of overgrowth here.

I found refuge in the tall  grasses, camouflaged.  Can you find me hiding? I top 5’3″. These tall grasses, divisions from my friend Jan, are twice as tall as me – and they have not as yet showed their plumes!

It has been a most pleasant summer here on the  Cutoff.  We have had more nights than not with the windows opened., breezes wafting in; the tree toads and crickets crooning and strumming in late night chorus along with it.  The daisies have been resplendent, showing off from before the Fourth of DSCN5409July, just now starting to fade. The Echinacea and Rudbeckia have been proudly wearing their seasonal crowns of glory and the finch are finding their seeds; a sign of summer’s long farewell at hand.

Just a few feet away from the grasses, Joe Pye Weed,  divisions from the Wilder herb garden last year, have been prolific, with a host of flitting and buzzing visitors enjoying their sweet, sweet nectar.

I am encouraged by the emergence of more bees this summer, and the return of monarchs. While their numbers are low, there is marked resurgence in our winged friends, and I choose to take hope from their presence, especially since I only saw one Monarch on our property last summer.  I was not quick enough, nor was my camera, at capturing the Monarchs on the Joe Pye Weed, but, did catch in the lens a few other butterflies, just before I posed again for Sports Illustrated. DSCN5484

 

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Morning

Glory

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24Clippers in hand, I made my way down the drive to the patch of August Lily hostas. They had bloomed with heavenly fragrance for several weeks, the tall, white spikes attracting bees and showing off in their seasonal splendor.  Now, unattractive spindles of a past life remained. It was time, past time if truth be told, to trim them back, tidy them up, make the large, thick skirted leaves presentable again.

The neighbors were out, a vintage set of wheels emerging off of a trailer. A congregation of teenagers and eager adults reliving their own youth transported the muscle car onto their drive. Trying to be inconspicuous, I moseyed around to the front yard and started clipping the spent stalks from the hostas.

Intent on my work,  I pulled weeds and started tidying up the hostas. There I was, trying to favorably adjust my own vintage posterior in a pseudo plie′, snip snipping away, until I suddenly found myself in a clump.  There I was, indelicately on my moon shaped bottom with my cabbage-like face looking out from amongst the hosta leaves and giant ferns, an antique Cabbage Patch Kid, lost in a fern gully.

Yep. They saw me, I’m sure, for the giggles and snorts had nothing to do with the muscle car being revved up a few decibels louder than my own laughter.

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