Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

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Ever since reading Frances Hodgson Burnett’s “A Secret Garden” as a child, I have been intrigued by garden doors, imagining myself as Mary Lennox, wondering what is beyond a locked door.

So it was upon entering the Rotary Gardens in Janesville, Wisconsin that my imagination grew like Jack’s beanstalk and I squealed in girlish glee “oh, this is wonderful“. There I was, hopping around, opening and closing garden doors, peering into windows and otherwise embarrassing Tom who, after all these years, is used to my childish ways about these bookish gardening “things”.

There were doors opening on doors as groomsmen in gray – and senior citizens in greige -averted their eyes to the gleeful granny and her indulgent companion.

Isn’t it grand to discover something creative and open your imagination for a bit? Maybe it was because we had just spent several days with our darling grandchildren who love to pretend that images of Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy and Toto following a yellow brick road came to mind.


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Well, dear reader, when one door closes another opens, and so it did as something else caught my eye.

Can you see it? Click on the photo for a better look.


Scattered about the gardens were many of these boxes. They reminded me of the Little Free Libraries and were painted in all manner of whimsy and creativity.

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A volunteer in the gardens told us that the boxes were made by a group of men. They were sold at a nominal cost to be painted and appointed however the artist saw fit. They will be raffled off (or was it auctioned?) and I, of course, imagine them filled with gardening books and secret doors.

What would you fill them with?


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“To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers


is a delectable form of defeat”

Beverley Nichols

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IMG_0953Slogging about the mire and mud which has captured our lawn, I caught a bit of sunshine illuminating the lemon grass.

The lemon grass was one of several plants we brought home one fine day almost two years ago. They were from the Herb Garden which needed to be excavated for pipes and such when the conservatory was refurbished.

Last summer, the lemon grass struggled a bit to claim the soil, wilting and tilting, but, hanging on. This year, it has a good grasp and is established, waving among the other grasses and, in this photo, next to an indigo (baptista), which is trying to bloom in spite of the wind and rain. The indigo was one of few purchases for this area, our wildlife habitat/grassy knoll/prairie garden. Most of the plants beyond the arbor were divisions from friends, Herb Garden transplants, from my garden club’s member plant sale, or gifts.

This was two years ago. A mound of what has become known as the Thor Hill. Our friend Thor gave us day lilies which were planted on the hill.  I had just added some lemon balm here, escapees from the front island. grass-areamayThis is the same area, right after the first big planting from the Herb Garden and some grasses from our neighbor, dscn2682 My friend Jan has given us many divisions of grasses that are seen here, but also populate other areas of the yard. Friend Phyllis has also shared grasses and several clematis, which are currently twisting their way up both sides of the arbor.


Donna gifted us with a plant called Bear’s Breaches two summers ago. It is the white flowering plant and it stands seven feet tall with the most heavenly scented blooms, just beyond the thalictrum, which is approaching eight feet in height.


This garden has been a continuing delight. Native ageratum were divisions from Jane and have multiplied ten-fold, as has the oat grass in the center, descendants of one plant that was a Father’s Day for Tom. Several varieties of Joe Pye Weed are just starting to show blooms.

Forgive me for rambling on. It is just that I love this garden so. It has been so rewarding, in part for how fast it has grown, and more so because it is alive with the orphans and rambunctious plants of gardening friends. We have attempted to put as many natives in the garden and have among the native Joe Pye Weed a Big Blue Stem, spiderwort and further back a compass plant, which is just starting to show buds.



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DSCN8676I sometimes wonder if my fascination with bees started with Romper Room and Mr. Do-Bee. I was a serious child, my head often between the covers of  books  – or playing school – which never quite worked out as planned. I was usually the teacher with everyone else declaring recess within minutes of me writing on a pretend blackboard.

First paragraph in and I already digress.

I always wanted to be a “do bee”; make the right choices, behave, be polite, etc. Words still slip out of my mouth when a young child needs a little guidance, buzzing phrases like “is that what a do bee does?”.

Growing up, there were always lots of bees buzzing about Yia Yia’s zinnias and zucchini plants. I knew to be respectful of the bees from an early age, mostly to avoid a sting.

It wasn’t until my late-blooming years of the past decade or so that the plight of the bumble bee has caught my attention, especially the last several years of news of colony collapse and the overall lack of pollinators. The past several years it has been evident in my own garden that the bees are in trouble. Where blooms used to bow under the weight of bees, few came, so, it has been my utter delight to find three bees enjoying happy hour on the perennial Salvia, which have been ravishing this year.

Upon reading Dawn’s delightful post at Petals. Paper. Simple Thymes., I found a shallow bowl and a few rocks to place inside a small bowl, and headed out to my bee-friendly island of flowers and herbs with a bee bath.


Then, there was this charming post about tickle bees. I already knew that some bees burrow underground, for one autumn day some year’s past, I unwittingly dug up a hive – and paid the price in a series of stings. Tickle bees, however, are quite docile, at least in spring after a long winter’s nap.

As we become increasingly concerned over the very real loss of bees and how this threatens our food supply, we are encouraged to invite them into our gardens with bee-friendly plants. Organizations, such as the National Garden Clubs, partner with various bee-keepers to erect bee boxes, and while we all can’t be bee-keepers, we can put out simple houses to attract Mason bees, which are great pollinators, though they do not produce honey.

I’ve been thinking about setting a bee box out, maybe even putting a bug in my Antler Man’s ear to construct something similar to what a boy scout troop did with this bee-dominium, just steps away from the Herb Garden in Wilder Park.

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If you are interested, you can see a short video here on tickle bees.


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I am so excited that the Northern Illinois Iris Society will once again be participating at the Elmhurst Garden Club’s annual Garden Walk and Faire on July 12, and am quite grateful that I was able to attend their flower show at the Morton Arboretum on Saturday.  It was a cold, windy, rainy day  –  the perfect time and place for an indoor viewing of some one hundred  iris blooms. Each one was exquisite, as were the floral arrangements in which both adults and youth had entries following a theme of shoes.

As I walked around the exhibition room,  I hard the soft tones of admiration within along with the pattering of rain without. I was in awe of the elegant beauty of so many irises. My favorite tree, the Copper Beech, was a backdrop for a few of the blooms through the windows. The small courtyard outside was set up for a wedding ceremony. It was such a cold and wet day, but a bride and groom managed to come inside and had a few wedding photos taken among the floral splendor.

Enough fairy tales. These, dear reader, are a but a few of the irises that were on display. If you ever have a chance to see a flower show from a garden club or society in your area, I strongly encourage you to go.


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DSCN8377Walking around my gardens in the misty morning hours is like a wandering prayer; a Praise the Lord here for the indigo just about to bloom and a Hail Mary there at the graceful grasses bowing in the breeze.

I wonder at the miracle of the growing grandeur and gasp in glee at the flight of a bumblebee, dusted in pollen, hoping that her friends will come and dance inside the wells of nectar upon the garden path.

I love to find the reflective beads of moisture on m’ lady’s mantle, or the august leaves of hostas, and is it not refreshing to find such powdery white snowballs on a warm May morning?

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My morning walks are melodic carols with the joyful noise of cardinals, chanting to the heavens and the call and response of the a pair of orioles high atop the trees, whilst a hop, skip, and jump away one of God’s little creatures heads home to breakfast at Toad Hall.

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So it goes today, here along the Cutoff; a wandering prayer of thanks for the riches on my garden path and for you as well, my friend, for you as well.


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“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.”

Ray Bradbury. Dandelion Wine. 

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