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“Often a butterfly stopped to rest there.

Then Laura watched the velvety wings…”

On the Banks of Plum Creek – Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

Like the young Laura Ingalls of the Little House books, I watch the “velvety wings” of butterflies. I squeal with girlish glee when a Monarch flits by, dipping around as if by the mere breath of the breeze, partaking of the abundance of native flowers flourishing in our prairie garden.

The plight of the Monarch butterfly has been well documented and its migratory flight has been monitored for more than a decade. I have often shared photos and thoughts about the Monarchs and bees in the journey of this little blog, from travels afar to what is right under my nose here along the Cutoff.

Last summer was alarming, especially here when I saw but one Monarch. One. This year, I have spotted at least a dozen and have found Monarch eggs and caterpillar on the milkweed – enough times to have perfected my happy dance. Butterflies have been flitting about and stopping to sip on the Joe Pye Weed, the Monarda (bee balm), and Echinacea (cone flowers) which are all a bloom in these dog days of summer. There are bees and moths and other pollinators that also show up on sunshiny days, sipping sweet nectar from the cups of flowers. It is a regular insects’ tea party, if ever there was one, here among the native plants and some of their distant relatives.

This increased activity is encouraging for those of us who have worried about the changes in nature that have occurred in these past decades; we counters of bees, planters of pollinators and taggers of “velvety wings” who have become a small army of citizen scientists. I am cautiously optimistic.

As I brandished my watering wand, I reflected on how much is yet to be done and how much has already been accomplished on our little acreage . I watered some newly introduced cone flowers and pulled that rascal, Creeping Charlie, who was cavorting  among the feverfew and indigo, and I imagined Laura’s life along Plum Creek.

How our little prairie has grown! Established in August, 2013, it is now a crowded confusion of exuberance and joy that will need dividing and some expansion of plots come Autumn. For now, I’m enjoying watching those velvety wings of nature as the plants reach for the sun and spread their arms in a blowzy embrace of prairie life.

I remain appreciative of all the green thumbs who shared their plants in our little adventure, and I am optimistic with this glimmer of hope for the Monarchs and the bees.

Here are a few photos of the prairie garden being developed in 2013

and recent photos of the garden today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“I have found, through years of practice, that people garden in order to make something grow; to interact with nature; to share, to find sanctuary, to heal, to honor the earth, to leave a mark. Through gardening, we feel whole as we make our personal work of art upon our land.”
– Julie Moir Messervy, The Inward Garden

I have not read Julie Moire Messervy’s book, but, as soon as her quote appeared to me it brought to mind the gardens on this year’s Elmhurst Garden Walk. I hope to read this book sometime soon.

From the homeowner who reverently said “my garden is my sanctuary” to the garden that was overflowing with plant divisions from family and the garden abundantly planted with garden art, the six private and one public garden weave well into Ms. Messervy’s words.

The day bloomed with all the glory of a made-to-order day. A soft breeze, low humidity, blue skies and sunshine – it could not have been a better day for An Afternoon in the Garden. 

Along with the gardens, the Faire in Wilder Park was bustling with a wonderful mix of vendors and a Monarch Festival.

Would you like to take a walk with me to the Faire, the private gardens, and the public gardens of York Community High School?

The Faire

York High School’s Inner Courtyard Garden

The private gardens.


I wish you could have been with us in the gardens, at the Faire, among the personal work of art that filled the day.

I wish, as well, that you could have met the homeowners, the teachers, the students, and a few of our scholarship recipients that also came to the Elmhurst Garden Walk and Faire. Scholarship and helping local endeavors, which include the activities that involved children and students this year are why the Elmhurst Garden Club holds this event and where funds raised are allocated.

Have you attended a garden walk or public gardens this year? Have you read this book, or another garden related book that moves you to garden, to explore nature?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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