September 13, 2016

In a spin on the ubiquitous serenity poem, some clever soul has quipped,

God grant me a vacation to make bearable what I can't change, 
A friend to make it funny, and the wisdom to never get my knickers in a knot because it solves nothing and makes me walk funny.

The past year has been spent adjusting to change and making choices. I've taken long road trips- secretly hoping to outrun myself- an exercise in futility if there ever was one. In complete candor, the bends in the road have left me feeling lost and far away from home, vacillating between a need to find my way back and an urge to move forward. Humor and tenacity have become my best friends-- and with practice, maybe someday I'll be as tranquil as these lily ponds I photographed at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens a few weeks ago. ;)

In the meantime, one of my favorite bloggers, Gigi Thibodeau of The Magpie's Fancy, wrote some great advice for creative types trying to find the way back to creative center. "... write (or paint, or sculpt, or dance) your way back," she said. And so, taking her advice, I have created a completely new blog format to debut next month from which to write about my flurry of creative activity with new gardening articles, easy-to-print recipes and a few travel posts mixed in.

See you around the corner!


August 21, 2015

Roses by Mail

Pierre de Ronsard (Eden) climbing rose in its third growing season with Clematis 'Jackmanii'

The long warm summer has been eventful and happy and nearing the end of it is bittersweet. Noisy children, my own with their cousins and friends, have lazed, and played, and passed the long days the way children do- in flip flops with beach towels a constant necessity, at endless birthday parties, on kayak trips down the river, and with hours of giggles and secrets whispered between each other. I doubt they could've been happier if it were Christmas.

My daughter and a friend. 

And in my own little happy place, in its third growing season, for the first time 'Pierre de Ronsard'  ('Eden') climbing rose has put on a really nice show.

Several years ago after futile searches locally for specific plant varieties, 'Pierre de Ronsard' climbing rose being one, I realized I'd have to get comfortable ordering plants online. Although I prefer shopping locally, I'm happy to tell you that buying roses through the mail has been a successful little venture. These were purchased from Brushwood Nursery as four-inch bands in spring 2013. They came well-packaged and healthy, and when I had questions, Brushwood was helpful and quick to respond. 

Very gradually working on covering the wall with 'Pierre de Ronsard' and Clematis 'Jackmanii'. And meet Chester, our 45-lb Airedale
Own-Root Roses: a must
I'd love to credit my own green thumb for their growing success, but really, besides testing and amending the soil before planting, giving these babies water and epsom salt for fertilizer, I've done very little. The credit belongs mainly to starting with healthy plants grown on their own roots. 

Instead of being grafted onto rootstock as most roses are, these began life as cuttings from  healthy "mother" plants and then developed their own roots. There are several advantages to growing "own-root" roses. The bud union is the most vulnerable spot to cold on a grafted rose and can be damaged easily during a harsh winter. Because own-root roses have their own root system instead, and send up shoots from the ground, they can freeze all the way to the ground in winter and still come back as the plant you purchased while also developing into a shaplier rose bush. Heirloom Roses, also exclusively a grower of  own-root roses that I've been very happy with has a great article about the advantages of growing own-root, here

And in other yard-related news: A family of robins made their home in one of the espaliered apple trees...

And a store-bought ice cream cake was relieved of its garnish and decorated with edible violas, cherries and raspberries for a small garden party...

And lastly, 'Pierre de Ronsard' makes a nice cut flower (this photo, I'm afraid, does them no justice) in my dining room next to new chairs from Wisteria. Thank you, Wisteria!

I'll leave you with these lines from the poet, Pierre de Ronsard, for whom this rose is named...

I'm sending you some flowers, that my hand
Picked just now from all this blossoming,
That, if they'd not been gathered this evening
Tomorrow would be scattered on the ground.

... and a couple links to the blog of my friend, Stephanie, who lives in Tours, France near Pierre Ronsard's abbey. This rose grows prolifically there and his poetry, Stephanie wrote to me once, inspired her to research sixteenth and seventeenth century gardens for her thesis. Her posts, here and here, are a tiny peek into their world.


(No compensation was received for this post by the companies mentioned.)

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.