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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

We are fast approaching the Elmhurst Garden Walk and Faire, which is on July 9th this year. The homeowners are busy as bees weeding, planting, adding flourishes and embellishing with their individual styles. This year has been cool and wet and erratic, a challenge for sure – but each year brings its own trials. I am always amazed at the ingenuity and fortitude of homeowners preparing for hundreds of strangers to walk through their gardens. I am also very grateful for it allows the club to provide very generous scholarships along with community endeavors.

This year, I have the pleasure of writing the garden descriptions, which means I see the gardens as they are emerging and until the crunch is on to go to print. We don’t release the names or addresses until the day of the event, but, dear reader, I CAN tell you that the gardens are as amazing as they are varied. From newer construction to a century old homestead, they reflect the character of the gardeners and their many ways of gardening and there is something of interest for everyone in attendance.  The York High School gardens are an added feature this year and they are as inspiring as they are educational. There is also a Faire in Wilder Park with vendors selling garden related products and plants and there will be a butterfly festival as well. More information is here.

While I cannot show you the gardens, I did want to show you this one element I found in one of the gardens, which harkens back to my previous post on nests. The gardeners, a most charming couple, have incorporated nests in several spots of the garden. I found this one quite enchanting coupled with Emily Dickinson’s words.

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Emily Dickinson

 

 

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I find it amazing to discover what birds will use to build their nests and how some will determinedly hang on to the dribs and drabs of life to construct a home.

We often find fallen nests, especially after high winds, in our garden. Sometimes they are nests that have been raided by birds of prey or squirrels. It happens when you live in a woodland area. We take the good with the not so. Some of the fallen nests make it onto the Arbor House, they might hold a succulent, or find themselves in our Christmas tree. We have had one nest for at least ten years. It sits on a bookshelf. It is an oriole’s nest and it amazes me. The nest came down in a nasty storm and landed on the chaise lounge on the deck. It took me a some moments to figure out what it was. Eureka moments are so grand, aren’t they? At any rate, how do birds make a nest that looks a purse or sock, and attach a handle from which to hang it from a limb? I can’t keep my shoulder purse on my shoulders, yet, orioles can fashion intricate pocket purses to raise a family in the very tops of old trees.

I was thinking about whatever the day’s news was, weeding out in what has become our Elmhurst Garden. We have our Prairie Garden and the Big Island, a teardrop that is, at this moment, a wild and weedy adventure. A few years back, before the Prairie, Tom dug this smaller garden. We moved a twig of a ginkgo tree, a sapling from my friend June. An oakleaf hydrangea was put in and a patch of lamb’s ears. These were from dear Sharon divisions of divisions of lamb’s ear that I gave her some years before. Don’t you love how plants spring up in a gardener’s life? In time, a peony and a barberry from Marilyn’s yard found their way into our soil,  as did a rose from a woman whose name escapes me now. Then, a number of plants that were saved from the Wilder Park Conservatory renovation got their feet dirty here on the Cutoff. I purchased a few plants over time; salvias, marjoram, lavender. I try to put in plants the deer don’t favor; always an “iffy” proposition. A woman one town over sells off her own plants, seedlings, not a bad little cottage business. I know if they grow in her yard, they will grow in mine, so try to pick up something every year. Some have thrived and perform quite nicely in late spring. Most of the plants in the plot are from friends from Elmhurst and so, this is the Elmhurst Garden.

So, there I was, weeding and dead heading and otherwise ruining my fingernails. I was near the barberry which was really quite a show-off this spring. She was a magnificent riot of colors and textures. I noticed something just a wee bit out-of-place. It was a string. A thin, paper string, perhaps one little piece of packing material that escaped someone’s recycling bin. I reached out to remove it, then halted. It actually looked like it belonged on the barberry and who am I to determine whether or not it belonged. The large sycamore stands nearby and is where oriole nest. There are also elms and maples and oaks. Perhaps the bird from whose beak or claws this string escaped would come back – or another bird would see it and use it to build a new home.

It is gone. The string is gone. The orioles aren’t singing right now. I’m hoping, with the hope we gardeners and dreamers have, that the oriole, or another bird, have this little piece of building material woven into their summer homes.

Here’s to all the nesters out there, especially the dads who have passed on and to those who are still with us, especially my Antler Man, a great Dad and Papa –  who understands why his wife leaves ribbons of paper where they are woven.

Happy Father’s Day!

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First, the woody stems swell,


then a tight bud pushes forth and changes,

a petal at a time,

from winter wear into a silken skirt. Stylish Springtime flair..

Tree Peonies.

The epitome of how to dress for tea.

half a mind
to dress up and bow down
to the peony
~ Shiki

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We used to make popcorn in a pan. The bigger the pan –  the more popcorn. The pan would be put on the stove top, the burner ignited, a few tablespoons  of oil and two or three kernels of popcorn would be added. Then, we would wait for those three kernels to pop, which often seemed like forever.

POP!  POP!  POP!

It seemed like forever to children waiting for an after school treat and to grown-ups needing a late-night snack. Eventually, that signature triad of pops indicating that the oil was hot enough would erupt and we knew it was THE MOMENT to put a cup or so of kernels into the pot, put on the lid, and pop the corn.

 Spring has felt much like that long wait for the first kernels of popcorn to pop.

Here in the Chicagoland area, we have had hot days and cold, stunning sunshine followed by endless days of gray and gloom and rain. It was actually been one of the warmest of Aprils with early blooming of seasonal bulbs, ephemerals and flowering trees. May Day, however, brought cool weather in the 40’s and endless rain. Creeks are filled to overflowing, rivers rush past well beyond their banks.

The many trails and paths I wander have been closed off, but, there are spots where the pavement is clear and evidence of springtime is apparent.

In our own little neck of the woods, the celandine poppies have been welcome bursts of sunshine, the tree peonies are ready to unfurl and the brunnera have not forgotten us.

Spring is always such a hopeful season to me. In spite of the weather, the turmoil that bubbles around the globe and the troubles that intrude into our lives, Spring eventually shows up!

So, dear readers, here’s to Spring (or Autumn) wherever you are planted – and here’s to popping corn!

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I wish I could wear a hat with style.

My sister has a flair with hats. She knows right wear to position them and how to tilt the brim just so. My dear friend, Cori can pluck a plume laden bonnet from a rack in an antique store and, tada, she is THE model for the picture hat. Me? It’s more like trick-or-treat time.

It is what it is, and it doesn’t stop me from wearing a hat now and then, but, these hats, ah, these hat are worn in special a way.

Aren’t they creative?

This one held spring ephemerals from the garden.

These hats were a few that members created for the 100th Anniversary celebration of the Oak Park and River Forest Country Club. I had the pleasure of attending this lovely affair, and hope they don’t me showing some.

This hat was planted with spring ephemerals currently blooming in the garden .

These lovely bonnets make me want to try and toss hat into the flower ring.

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Like a Lion

img_2807March arrived full of fury and growling thunder, with flashes of lightning and strong, gusty winds. He brought with him hail and havoc and fast rising rivers. March’s bravado –  the fiercest of  lions if ever there was.

As March exhibited the height of madness, the daily mail arrived. There were the usual bills and advertisements, a save-the-date announcement as well as a lovely invitation to a spring luncheon, which I set aside in a prominent place, a visual reminder to respond.

It was not, however, these usual postal suspects that caught my attention on this damp, dark day. It was the splash of color with petals and leaves on the covers of much-anticipated garden catalogues that brought the hope of Spring on an otherwise blustery day.

White Flower Farm continues to publish one of the finest catalogues with trusty perennials, plants, even gardening tools. It is, in fact, such a well crafted publication that it calls itself a garden book.

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One long ago and equally blustery day, though not a March day, I ordered a passel of spring bulbs from White Flower Farm. Tete-a-Tete and Thalia, King Alfred and other daffodillian royalty were purchased in bulk, planted in Fall, and filled the garden of our first house with delight the next spring and many springs thereafter.

The catalogue is exceptional, as is the staff at White Flower Farm. While ordering some plants on the phone, the helpful employee I spoke to patiently took my order. It was a bit lengthy. There was one plant, I no longer remember which one, but as I named the plant she advised me against purchasing it, stating it did not do well in my zone.  She then suggested a few similar plants that were suited for my area.

It has been several years now since I have ordered anything from White Flower Farm, but, this periodical “garden book” continues to arrive and it is something I always look forward to; not only for its beautiful photography and offerings, but, for the descriptions of plants and suggestions for where and how to settle them into a garden.

Then, there was this . . .

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. . . a new and welcome discovery!

Prairie Nursery’s publication is touted as an ecological gardening guide – and it is. Not only is it a worthy source of native and prairie plants, it is a welcome resource for those of us establishing prairie gardens, or just interested in learning more about the midwest prairie.

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The Table of Contents is amazing.

Most gardeners in the Midwest deal with some of these soil types listed. Here on the Cutoff, we actually contend with all of these soils – medium, clay, dry and sandy, moist, shade! I look forward to digging deeper into these pages and hope to establish some of the plants offered.

I was appreciative of sections of this guide that cover planting issues that include Protecting Water Quality, Hometown Habitat, Planting Guides, Land Restoration – and, of course, Deer Resistance.

These two gardening catalogues came just when I needed encouragement to tamp down the madness of the March lion – and think about a No Mow Lawn.

http://www.prairienursery.com

http://www.whiteflowerfarm.com

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when the bee stings,

img_8652

when I’m feeling sad

photo-on-11-12-16-at-2-55-pm
I simply remember my favorite things

 

and then I don’t feel so bad.

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Just a few of my favorite things.

img_2151What things make you happy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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