About composerinthegarden

A composer by vocation, a gardener by avocation. My garden and my life as a composer are deeply intertwined - the yin and yang of my creative life. . .

When June comes dancing

When June comes dancing o’er the death of May,
With scarlet roses tinting her green breast,
And mating thrushes ushering in her day,
And Earth on tiptoe for her golden guest.
~ Claude Mckay, A Memory of June

The last days of May and the first days of June have been dance worthy. Days of warm sunshine alternating with days of cool rain have triggered lush growth and spectacular bloom. Early summer was ushered in by peonies, alliums, and viburnum (click on any photo to see a full size image)

while the banner of bloom was then carried on by irises of every type, size and color. The bearded iris (Iris germanica) were first to bloom, with ‘Tiger Eyes’ and ‘Beverly Sills’ creating a river of color up the stone steps of the hillside.

Close on the heels of the bearded iris were the Siberian iris (Iris siberica) in a whole new color palette. The brilliant blue of ‘River Dance’ pulsed in contrast to the peachy pink of ‘Beverly Sills’ while ‘Reprise’ bloomed in a soft shades of moody blue.

I have a fondness for peach and caramel colors and was delighted when Siberian Iris ‘Buttescotch Fizz’ bloomed so freely this year, set off by the foliage of Heuchera ‘Caramel’ beside and behind it under the Japanese maple ‘Garnet’.

Native iris were the last to come into bloom with the sky blue flowers of Iris virginica and the purple violet blooms of Iris versicolor ‘John Wood’.

And then the roses came.

On this June day the buds in my garden are almost as enchanting as the open flowers. Things in bud bring, in the heat of a June noontide, the recollection of the loveliest days of the year – those days of May when all is suggested, nothing yet fulfilled. ~Francis King

From the tiny polyantha rose ‘Margo’s Sister’ to the lush old rose ‘Rose de Rescht’ surrounded by geraniums and penstemons, June arrived in earnest.

What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.  ~ Gertrude Jekyll

Rose ‘Complicata’ is one of my favorite roses. Almost thornless, it covers the arbor leading into the lower garden and is one of the first to bloom. The huge single flowers are sweetly scented and visited by bumblebees throughout the day.

A single peony in the same color combination blooms at its feet, clothing the arbor from top to bottom with pink and yellow flowers.I suspected last year that there would come a day in the garden when the loss of Angel Eyes would strike me suddenly. It happened while I was photographing this arbor of roses – I have many years of photos of Angel standing under the arbor – she loved the scent of the roses and always paused here to smell them. Suddenly the arbor was empty without her  with only fallen petals to mark her favorite spot on the path. I had to put my camera away for the day but the next morning, Pixie insisted on staying near me, “helping” me to pot up flowers on the deck and making me laugh again.

Later that day, Pixie went to a different rose covered arbor, thick with the scent of white rose ‘Darlow’s Enigma’ and turned to look at me, as if to say “I’m here with you, Mom, no worries.” What a gift she is.

The beauty of that June day was almost staggering. After the wet spring, everything that could turn green had outdone itself in greenness and everything that could even dream of blooming or blossoming was in bloom and blossom. The sunlight was a benediction.
~Dan Simmons, Drood

I wish you all a beautiful June full of dancing, staggering beauty and joy. May you recognize and treasure each gift that comes your way.

All photos and text ©2022 by Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved except where noted.

Honey-sweet May

At last came the golden month of the wild folk—honey-sweet May, when the birds come back, and the flowers come out, and the air is full of the sunrise scents and songs of the dawning year. ~Samuel Scoville Jr, Wild Folk

Today is one of those perfect days in May. Birds are singing outside of every open window and soft breezes keep the air fresh and cool. Pixie and I have been gardening at sunrise for the past few days – she keeps a close eye on the wildlife while I work.There was no hurry or bustle this morning, just a task completed here and another one begun there with no sense of a clock ticking or a checklist to follow. Time was instead measured by new flowers opening, the sudden low buzz of a hummingbird passing, and the occasional visit from a fat bumblebee.

Queer things happen in the garden in May. Little faces forgotten appear, and plants thought to be dead suddenly wave a green hand to confound you. ~W. E. Johns

In just a few days, the woods have shifted from a misty breath of new growth that barely shaded the garden

to a lush green canopy that creates shadows and mystery in the late afternoon sun.

Horticulturally, the month of May is opening night, Homecoming, and Graduation Day all rolled into one. ~Tam Mossman

The garden beds are burgeoning with growth as new flowers emerge every day.The spring bulbs have finished for the season – one final blossom of the summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) lingers among the ferns. Allium and Camassia, the bulbs of May, come forward to have their say in shades of purple and blue while Lilac ‘Miss Kim’ is just starting to bloom. (Click on any photo to see the full size image)

The lovely Geum ‘Mai Tai’ – whose buds are as pretty as the flowers – blooms with abandon

while the hardy geraniums and woodland phlox bring a frothy grace to the garden beds.

The delicate yellow blooms of heirloom Iris germanica ‘Flavescens’ reign over the garden from their perch along the stone wall.

I discovered a native tree in the woods below the garden, blooming for the first time ever. Pennsylvania hawthorn (Crataegus pennsylvanica) is self-pollinating so its berries should feed the birds this fall. In the meantime, I am enjoying its white blossoms and graceful shape.

Last evening, Pixie and I sat in front of the yellow iris and listened to a wood thrush sing; it was the perfect end to a perfect day. Have a listen and enjoy the honey-sweet days of May. 

And a bird overhead sang follow, and a bird to the right sang here. And the arch of the leaves was hollow, and the meaning of May was clear.” ~ Algernon Charles Swinburne

This post is part of the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, hosted by Carol at May Dreams. Visit her site to see what’s blooming around the world today.

Carry the universe in your heart

I believe in strong women. . . You face the world with a head held high and you carry the universe in your heart. ~C. JoyBell C.

This morning, the full-throated pre-dawn bird chorus mingled with the sound of rainfall as Pixie and I walked through the dark wet woods and back to the house. (you can adjust the volume in the player).

home viewed from woodsThe rain has transformed the garden into a lush paradise ready to burst into a new round of blooms and the woods are beginning to take on hints of their green cloaks of summer.

The leaf buds of the hickory trees unfolded in a matter of days, revealing the remarkable geometry of nature. (Click on any photo in the mosaic to see a full-size image)

The birdsong and the lushness of early May mark a year today since my mother’s passing. Ruth Bach Emberg lived a long life, 97 years (though she was hoping for 100) and accomplished so many things. She was a doer, a fast walker, and a no nonsense woman with a kind heart and a smart creative mind.

To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. ~Maya Angelou

Born in the 1920’s, she grew up in the Great Depression with four older brothers who taught her to drive a car, walk proudly, and stand up for herself.

She was recruited in the early 40’s as a Curtiss-Wright Cadette, one of 900 young American college women who learned 2.5 years of aeronautical engineering in 10 months at universities in order to do technical work on fighter planes for the war effort. College student in 1941I remember visiting the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. with my mother to see the Curtiss-Wright fighter plane that she contributed to in her work. The wartime efforts of the women Cadettes have finally gained recognition in the past few years (see linked article above) as an important precursor to the STEM movement.

Ruth went on to work in technical industries, teach high school math, serve as Dean at a community college, and work as the chief assessor in a rural Pennsylvania county – she was a strong woman in a man’s world.

She raised a family, gardened like a goddess, cooked so well that she wrote a cookbook, and served on many governing boards while running a basket shop and teaching others the art of basket making. Yes, she was a doer.

Living independently in a senior community in her mid-nineties, she was still lively as ever and we frequently went out to eat breakfast at the diner around the corner.

In the gorgeous green days of last May she suddenly fell ill and passed a few days later. When I accompanied her to the hospice, a beautiful place tucked deep in the woods, a large tom turkey was pacing outside her window as if welcoming her. The next evening, Bill and I took our pup Angel to visit her – while Angel ran into her room and kissed her hand, Bill brought his acoustic guitar and sat beside Mom’s bed, quietly improvising beautiful music. Although she couldn’t open her eyes or move much, she smiled when she heard the guitar and I could feel her relax. As we sat in the dark together, the room overflowed with light and love and we sensed her letting go. She passed peacefully the next day and when I left the hospice for the last time, the bird song outside was so beautiful that I stood to listen to the evensong of the day and of her life.

Mom lived a remarkable life, held her head high, and truly carried the universe in her heart.

The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to children. ~Elaine Heffner

May each of you have a blessed Mother’s Day and hold your family dear.

All text and photos ©2022 and 1984 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved except for historical documents or where noted/attributed. 

For the love of trees

Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky. ~Kahlil Gibran

I fell in love with these woods 21 years ago when we found the house set within them. After living in a small stone cottage in a charming city neighborhood, I wanted to be surrounded by trees.  Growing up in an era when kids played endlessly in the woods, I spent hours by myself exploring paths, climbing trees, admiring wildflowers, listening to birds. Now I can step outside of my door and walk through the woods at any time of day or night with Pixie by my side. Since we have been walking in the woods so often, we’ve created our own path

and I’ve been learning how to identify the trees along the path by their bark and buds.

The dawn chorus has been lively as the birds prepare to mate and nest. A pair of robins have built a beautiful  and intricate nest on the spiral steps to our upper deck, undeterred by our efforts to encourage them to move elsewhere. We’ll take the inside steps to the deck until the babies fledge.

The garden is waking up and feels magical after such a long winter.

Pixie fearlessly explores the garden; it is surviving.

After working hard last year to eliminate invasive plants on our property and in the garden (an ongoing effort), I spent the winter attending online seminars on native plants, bumblebees, and gardening to support pollinators and wildlife. Even though I garden organically and support birds and pollinators, I’ve decided to step up my game and be more proactive in planting for the creatures around me. So much recent research has revealed in detail and in practical terms the intricate web that connects life on our planet and I continue to see my role as gardener and caretaker of the woods change and evolve.

Trees exhale for us so that we can inhale them to stay alive. Can we ever forget that? Let us love trees with every breath we take until we perish. ~Munia Khan 

Oak trees in budToday is the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day and the 50th anniversary of the Arbor Day Foundation, an organization devoted to planting trees throughout the world. Entomologist Doug Tallamy has changed the way gardeners see trees – his research revealed that native trees supports hundreds of pollinators which in turn support birdlife. What a wonderful day when we found this property filled with oak and hickory and black cherry, some of the best trees for nourishing the world around us.

Enjoy a short video I made of life in the woods and garden this spring, full of bird song, the buzz of pollinators and the beauty of trees.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. ~Herman Hesse

May is Garden for Wildlife Month. Are you planning any projects to support wildlife in your garden this year? This post is part of the #GardenBloggersChallenge sponsored by Gardencomm for the month of May. You are invited to join in and can see more details at gardencomm.org

April Moon

The moon, like a flower in heaven’s high bower, With silent delight Sits and smiles on the night. ~William Blake

These past few nights, Pixie and I have wandered through the garden under the light of an almost full April moon. The tiny flashlight I carry stays in my pocket, unneeded, as we travel the light gravel paths, stop to smell the cherry blossoms, and admire the way the lichen on the stone steps reflects the moonlight. I sit for a while in a garden chair and watch Pixie explore the woods; sometimes she sits and looks at the sky as if she admires the stars too.

Winter has returned again and again these past few weeks, sometimes with mounds of snow and sometimes just with bitter plant-slaying cold. Mark Twain was exactly right when he said “in the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of forty-eight hours.” Pixie didn’t seem to mind the snow but the green lady was definitely not amused.

Fortunately, the snow that covered the patio furniture last month

has melted into the ground to nourish the flowers. And finally, they have emerged. The hellebores (Helleborus orientalis)are always the first to bloom (click on any photo in the mosaic to see a full size image)

along with the cheerful blue blossoms of Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’.

Now that the temperatures have warmed and the sun has returned, more flowering bulbs emerge and bloom every day.

The Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) always blooms early

while the leaves of our native Hydrangea quercifolia (oak leaf hydrangea) are just beginning to emerge in their perfect geometry.

The promise of more to come is held in the new foliage of Phlox paniculata and purple sedum along with the flower buds of lilac ‘Miss Kim’.

The dawn chorus has been glorious – the birds are here and nesting and the woods are full of their songs. Robins are building a nest on our front porch, they are sociable and don’t seem to mind our comings and goings. In fact, they tap on our front door when they want more water in the birdbath.

One never knows the idyllic charm of our northern woods who has not seen them in April, when it is all a feast of birds and buds and waking life. . . This month belongs to the birds and flowers; but most of all to the robin. ~Fannie Hardy Eckstorm, American writer and ornithologist

Last evening, the April sun slanted through the circle garden to the buzz of hungry bees and wasps feeding on the weeping cherry blossoms. Spring has finally arrived, beautiful and welcome. Tomorrow night, the April moon will be full and I expect that Pixie and I will again walk in the garden under its brilliant light. 

What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished. ~Deng Ming-Dao

Did you know that the first full moon after the vernal equinox determines the date of Easter? Read about it here.

This post is a part of the April edition of Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day, hosted by Carol Michel at May Dreams Gardens. Click on the link to see other gardens blooming around the country!