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. . .

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!

A March moment

Our life is March weather, savage and serene in one hour. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Even as I prepare a series of posts about the evolution of the garden, I am drawn into the drama of March weather. This past weekend was gloriously warm and sunny, full of blue skies and singing birds.

The light through last year’s hydrangea blossoms was magical  and the colorful sunset above the bare trees inspiring. But soon the wild winds of March blew in from the west, bending and creaking the bare trees. A day later, the snow began to fall, enormous fluffy flakes that coated everything in a magical layer of white. Never mind that the winter had already expressed itself in snow and ice many times, the effect was charming and worthy of a short video.

The snow melted by mid-afternoon, leaving the spring garden tasks visible once again, awaiting my pruner and loppers and shovel. And so March goes, an unpredictable yet compelling time of the year, promising so much for the months to come.

March is the month of expectation, the things we do not know.~ Emily Dickinson

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