A Beautiful Habitat

In the past, we have asked one thing of our gardens: that they be pretty. Now they have to support life, sequester carbon, feed pollinators and manage water. ~Doug Tallamy

I went out in the garden during a break in the rain this weekend and the bumblebees had already emerged to feast again on Agastache ‘Black Adder’. New to the garden this year, this plant has been feeding pollinators for months as it spread its long arms and blue flowers through the blue and peach garden.

It has been a perfect summer for the garden, with plenty of rain and sun. In October, the growth is still lush in the cool temperatures and autumn rains.

After a strong pruning last year, the flower heads of panicle hydrangea ‘Limelight’ are enormous this season and a showpiece in the October garden. I’ve had my hands in the dirt (well, dirty gloves) all summer, leaving little time to write or share until now. In July, my garden was on a garden tour to benefit a local library and I taught a class in it for Phipps in September. It was the first time visitors have been here in three years. The “to do” lists for prepping the garden were long but with the help of my garden guys and my hubby, all was made ready for the hundreds of visitors. It was a joy to have people in the garden again, wandering through to the sound of Bill playing guitar on the deck. A special thanks to the volunteers from the Shaler Garden Club for their invaluable assistance and to my friend and fantastic photographer Mary Pegher for taking photos of the day (Photos below ©2022 Mary Pegher). (click any photo in the mosaic to see a full size image)

Last year was a year of rejuvenation – the garden beds were half empty by October after invasive and non-productive plants were removed. The remaining plants thrived this spring and hundreds of new plants, mostly natives for pollinators, were planted. The results made for a garden full of bees, butterflies, birds, and many other happy well-fed creatures.

The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway. ~Michael Pollan

The gardens outside the fence got an infusion of Monarda (bee balm), Agastache  foeniculum (anise hyssop), milkweed (Asclepias), Liatrus and Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea), much to the delight of the bumblebees and hummingbird moths. The anise hyssop continues to bloom with the goldenrod and zinnias.

I let the sun loving natives take over the south facing hillside and they attracted so many bees that my garden crew couldn’t work there on a sunny day.

The decks were stuffed with pots of salvias and Agastache rupestris which drew in the hummingbirds and bees and a poodle.

I made room in the blue and peach bed for a swath of great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) and tall phlox (Phlox paniculataamid a new set of glass globes in the blue garden.

The garden has buzzed for months with pollinators, more birds took up residence in the woods including some I’ve never seen or heard before and they fledged many babies over the season. And I learned to look more closely, listen more intently, and feel more connected to the garden than ever before.  Pixie and I spent many wonderful hours together in our little paradise.

I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. ~Wendell Berry

Here is a short video of the pollinators in my garden throughout this year; enjoy!  

All text, photos, and video ©2022 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.

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!

Hope is the thing

Blossom by blossom the spring begins.

~ Algernon Charles Swinburne

Angel and I stood out under the almost full moon last night. She was restless, so was I, and the moonlit woods beckoned to us, mysterious and full of the sounds of night creatures awake and moving. I stood and watched the sky while she investigated every rustle and sigh – it was nearly midnight before we returned to the house. We were up early this morning to catch the sun.

Spring is here and the world is growing greener. I’ve been walking the garden every day, starting with the morning sun and ending at dusk and still I wish for more. Angel, at age 15, is a little gimpy, a little slower – we make a fine creaky pair as we circle the garden beds and pause for a closer look at each new flower that appears. 

The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size. ~ Gertrude S. Wister

I finally had to admit that if I wanted to keep my garden, I would have to hire help for the heavy lifting. I called my friend Bill, who built the stone walls in my garden.  

He and Ron have been weeding, pruning, moving shrubs, and mulching garden beds for me for the past few weeks. Finally, the garden that was slowly going to ruin has now re-emerged, its bones intact and eager to grow. 

The bones of the garden

I can take pleasure in the easy stuff of gardening, knowing that I have able and knowledgeable help for all of the tough jobs that I no longer can manage. I designed, dug, planted and maintained this entire garden by myself for twenty years and now wonder how I managed to do that. But being forced to slow down has its pleasures. I’ve long enjoyed the contrast of the white daisy-like flowers of Anemone blanda ‘White Splendour’ against the dusky purple foliage of Euphorbia dulcis‘Chameleon’.

For the first time, I noticed the pink and purple tones of the anemone’s flowers and stems when its petals close for the night, entangled in the purple arms of the euphorbia.

Nearby, creeping sedums (S. rupestre ‘Angelina and S. spurium purpureum) have mingled together in a jazzy gold and burgundy combination.

White forsythia (Abeliophyllum) has pink buds before it opens but I’ve never noticed them before.

White forsythia buds

Delicate as a ballerina’s pink slipper, the buds eventually give way to the sweet-scented white flowers that gives this early blooming shrub its name.

White forsythia flowers

I had the pleasure of watching daffodil ‘Verdant Meadows’ open as a yellow and white flower before it slowly paled over a few days in the spring sun, eventually becoming creamy white.

My sisters-in-law gave me a lungwort (Pulmonaria) from my mother-in-law’s garden after she passed – its first bloom of the season opened this week on her birthday, a lovely synchronicity. 

The weather is mild enough to sleep with the window open; what a joy it is to awaken to the pre-dawn bird chorus. The garden is awake and this gardener has hope that she will be able to tend to it with ease and joy, and revel in nature’s beauty. May you also have hope and beauty in your daily world as spring works it magic.

Cornus mas blossom

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.

~Emily Dickinson

In a quiet time

There are few machine noises these days, just the occasional car in the distance or neighbors working in their yards. The bird song has been astounding, as if they can now hear each other clearly and are no longer struggling to communicate through a wall of manmade sound.

The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear. ~Rumi

I was weeding near the ‘Snow Fountains’ Japanese cherry tree yesterday when I heard a loud buzzing sound. It was the first bumblebees of the season as they dove through the branches and nuzzled blossom after blossom.

“What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.”
~ Kobayashi Issa

I love the quiet moments in my garden. Did you know that scientists have discovered that as we isolate and stop our frenzied pace, the earth itself has become quieter?

waterbowl

Spring holds hope for a new beginning and this year is no different, but perhaps it is more important and more longed for in these strange times. The sun shining through blossoms of the spicebushspicebushbranch

and the light on the footpath lightonpath

seem to promise renewal and fresh beginnings at a deeper level – I hope so.

It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart. ~Rilke

The daffodils and Virginia bluebells are opening . . .

along with late blooming double hellebore ‘Rose Quartz’. hellebore1

Life is uncertain yet we can still be kind, still be thoughtful, still be loving. Each step in the garden reminds me that Mother Earth and her creatures are flourishing even as our human world is turned upside down. My greatest hope is that we will find a way to live in harmony with each other and with the earth. Many people are in desperate need now – I encourage you to do what you can in your own way to help, whether it is to call a friend or contribute to your local food bank. If you are in need, please reach out to others for help – we are all in this together.

If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring. ~ Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Thank you for walking with me in the garden. I wish each of you gentle silence and peace of heart.

Listen to silence. It has so much to say. ~Rumi

All photographs and text ©2020 Lynn Emberg Purse, except where noted.