November 24, 2014

Tulips Understand

This may be the most wonderful time of the year, but for me it has its difficult side. These beautiful late fall days are a reminder of the stark winter that's just around the corner, and like spending Sunday afternoon dreading Monday morning, it's easy to waste these beautiful days on melancholy.

Darwin hybrid 'Pink Impression' tulip bulbs.  (photo:

That's why I like to plant tulips. Tulip bulbs are my friends. They know that when late September and early October rolled around, I was still walking around barefoot with iced tea in hand pretending summer was going to last forever. They know that when I saw the first light frost of the season, I shrugged my shoulders and smiled to myself that it would warm up later in the day, leaving the morning to wear a new sweater. And when a light snow fell awaking me from my never-ending-summer fantasy, they were still there, patiently waiting to be planted without being worse for the wait.
This auger does most of the dig work. Similar here $32.

The tulip bulbs know that when I finally take to the task of planting them, I'll remember that this is where the best of spring gardening begins, and that after the grays of winter, I'll be rewarded with huge colorful blooms, and waiting for their arrival somehow makes winter not quite so long.

From a few years ago, around 100 'Pink Impression' tulips in front of my house.

This year, I've massed around 100 of the Darwin hybrid 'Pink Impression' tulip bulbs in street-facing flower beds around my house. I've planted a few dozen other varieties, too, including the late spring blooming and nearly black, 'Queen of the Night', planted in pots that will sit in a corner of the garage until spring, and will be used to fill in late spring garden gaps.

 'Pink Impression' tulips are apricoty-pink on the outside and deep pink inside.

I like to plant tulip bulbs after the first hard morning frost, and because they are so "understanding", they can be planted as long as the ground is still workable. I've dug up freezing soil in December when I could barely feel my fingertips, plopped them in and still had a remarkable show in spring. (If you wait past fall to plant them, the bulbs do appreciate being kept in a cool, but not freezing, spot.)

Voila! Bulbs in spring. They usually bloom for me (zone 6a) around April 15... perfect to lift the gloom of tax day.

All winter you can congratulate yourself for how forward-thinking you've been about the garden, and in spring when the tulips are blooming in all their glory and your neighborhood friends are thanking you for the beauty you've added to the world, you can graciously accept their praise while enjoying their visits. The tulips won't mutter a single "ahem".

This is why I plant tulips. Tulips understand.

Learn more about how to plant tulips, here.
I hope all you American pals have a wonderful Thanksgiving! gobble-gobble
Catch me on Instagram between posts.


September 17, 2014

Chincoteague and Assateague Islands

I have a white-knuckled grip on summer. Blame it on Atlantic Ocean salt breezes and island music. I've just returned from the islands of Chincoteague and Assateague off the coasts of Virginia and Maryland, voted #1 on Coastal Living's list of happiest seaside towns.

From my hotel room balcony overlooking the bay and neighboring restaurant, Jackspot.

I'm pretty sure this beautiful place still has me in "slow" gear as I'm having a little trouble resuming life as usual. But that's the best kind of vacation isn't it? -- the kind you can give 5 stars because regular life got left behind somewhere.

Oversized Adirondack chairs by the bay.

Speaking of 5 stars, Chincoteauge and Assateauge Islands are destinations that consistently get more 5 star reviews than anything else on TripAdvisor

A monument honoring 'Misty' of Chincoteague.

The popularity of the islands is a credit to the power of the well-written word. Once small, unknown fishing villages, author Marguerite Henry put them on the tourism map with her children's novel, Misty of Chincoteague. Written in 1947, the tale is fictional but is centered around real people, places, events, and wild horses

The islands are known for the herds of wild ponies that roam Assateague. For hundreds of years, they've survived on marsh and dune grasses and fresh water from ponds. Read more about the islands and ponies, HERE. Locals have passed down the story for generations that the ponies are descendants of surviving horses from a Spanish galleon shipwreck. 

Wild ponies grazing on Assateauge Island. 

The wild ponies get a lot of press as the islands' main attraction, and they were certainly a hit with my children, but it was the easy non-fussy, laid-back vibe, friendly people and beautifully clean beaches that won me over. Watching dolphins play in the bay from my hotel balcony didn't hurt anything either! 

Lunch on the patio at Jackspot, Chincoteague Island, VA

Soon my grip on summer will be useless.  A sure sign are the ripening apples on my backyard espaliered apple trees... :)

I'll be back soon! 


July 2, 2014

The Summer Plan

Though some of us might've thought it wasn't actually going to happen this year,
(kind of like an update to this blog, ahem)
it's officially here! 
And like the inevitability of Midwestern thunderstorms, 
I'm right back to the computer, finally blogging again. I've missed you, by the way.

"Summer in Paris" by Lana Moes. See her shop here.

The best plan for the long, warm days of summer, according to moi, is just that: Have a plan. For me, summer is precious & too short-lived, so soaking up every last minute is absolutely mandatory.

The plan might go something like this...

How To Pack the Most Sun & Fun into Summer:

1. Road Trip

There's nothing like packing a few light things and leaving life-as-usual behind for somewhere less familiar. The Wall Street Journal's Off Duty edition recently featured 50 reasons to love the road trip. Numbers 1 & 2 on their list: no planes. Translated into plain English, that means "no TSA". Which means the freedom to pack with cute luggage and find it recognizable when we've reached our destinations...

2. You Might Have Baggage, but at least it's Cute
Bric's Bellagio Luggage from Horchow. psst.. on sale over the 4th of July weekend here.

3. Shop, Stroll, Take Pictures
Snarkiness back under wraps, a road trip is the perfect excuse to adhere to the schedule of your whims, buy a new sun hat (ladies, try this one), stroll along sidewalks and poke your camera  lens through the gates of someone else's garden. Which is just what I was doing a couple weekends ago in one of my favorite day-trip destinations: Historic St. Charles, Missouri...
This garden adjoins The Conservatory Wedding Chapel, Main St., Historic St. Charles.

The English Shop, Main St., Historic St. Charles, is full of British food & eccentricities. From my Instagram.

Historic St. Charles (part of the greater St. Louis metro) is a laid-back destination situated on the Missouri River. The final embarkation point of The Lewis & Clark Expedition, it's full of late 18th & early 19th century homes, buildings and history. History aside, it's a fun weekend getaway-- the kind with bike rentals, old-fashioned soda & ice cream shops along old red-brick streets, & small-time entertainment. St. Charles deserves a post all its own, so more about it later this summer.

4. Sun without the Burn
       photo: J. Crew
July is UV safety month.
As with a lot of other things, having little people in my life gave my cavalier attitude toward sun protection a come-to-Jesus moment.
My youngest daughter's early sensitivity to most sunblock lotion was a problem that sun-blocking rash guards uncomplicated for me. Mini Boden's rash guard top & bottoms, below, is my 4-year-old's favorite swimsuit.

There's a great rash guard for everybody. For Women & Kids: Here & Here, Men: Here

5. ART

After spending weeks on facial feature studies drawn in graphite, I'm taking on what is for me a challenging, but I hope rewarding, summer drawing project-- a triple portrait of my two daughters and me based on a photo taken by my husband two weeks after our second daughter was born. My biggest trouble: getting all prickly-eyed looking at how fast they've grown. Wish me luck. 

6. Gardening, of course!
A favorite in my baby garden, my Pierre de Ronsard ('Eden') climbing rose - from my Instagram page.

Summer wouldn't be summer without a little gardening thrown in
poster from Magnolia Box, here

Catch me between posts on Instagram

Happy Summer!