An April Day

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day. ~ Robert Frost

bentdafWPSpring has arrived with great hesitation, or perhaps I only greet it this way. Warm days abruptly end in snow or frost, pouring rain soaks the ground and triggers green growth which is then stopped short by another deep freeze. I’ve never witnessed such extreme disruption in the garden. Although many of the early daffodil blooms hang to the ground in surrender, other growing things, especially ones native to this area, are coping with the dramatic and abrupt changes and reveal their beauty to the eye.  I must admit to a deep uneasiness – will this scenario continue in the future as we grapple with climate change? How will the creatures who depend on pollen and other garden foods at crucial times cope or even survive? Here’s what the National Wildlife Federation has to say about gardening for climate change and the problems that changing bloom times create between pollinators and the plants they depend on.

AprGrdnarchWPNevertheless, each day brings new growth and beauty. The hellebores continue to spring back after the worst conditions and a few sleepyheads are just beginning to bloom now. Bird song is a constant soundtrack to my journeys through the garden and a pair of robins follow me around as I expose the earth while digging up dandelion roots. The first blooms on the weeping cherry that survived sudden sub-zero temperatures are nuzzled by a native bee desperate for spring pollen. Tiny wind anemones and grape hyacinth bloom amid the warm rock walls. Foliage in shades of green and red rises up from the ground, displacing the last of the fallen oak leaves that blanketed the beds all winter. Now is the time for cleaning up the garden, trimming roses and shrubs, and planting seeds indoors in anticipation of summer. Prolific rains have created vernal pools and streams through the woods and spring peepers have been singing their high chweeps of courtship on warmer evenings.

Shades of pink and rose – click on any photo to see a larger image or trigger the slide show (all photos ©Lynn Emberg Purse 2017, All Rights Reserved).

Spring blooms in white, yellow, and purple.

But days even earlier than these in April have a charm, – even days that seem raw and rainy . . . There is a fascination in walking through these bare early woods, – there is such a pause of preparation, winter’s work is so cleanly and thoroughly done. Everything is taken down and put away . . . All else is bare, but prophetic: buds everywhere, the whole splendor of the coming summer concentrated in those hard little knobs on every bough . . . ~Thomas Wentworth Higginson, “April Days,” 1861

A special thanks to The Quote Garden for a seemingly endless source of literary inspiration.

At the Heart of Nature

Every New Year must be celebrated at the heart of nature – in the middle of a forest or by the side of a lake under billions of stars – because it is nature who has made our existence possible! ~Mehmet Murat ildan 

It is probably no surprise to anyone that I consider the heart of nature to be in the garden. The day after Christmas was so mild that I spent it quietly potting up all of the bulbs that didn’t get planted in November. A few days later, I managed to rake the last layer of leaves from the garden paths so that their patterns would emerge under the snow. Winter is here in fits and starts; snow covers the ground today but rain is predicted for tomorrow. On this last day of the year, Angel and I are snuggled up on the sofa, looking over the photos of the garden this past year.

PollinatorSignThis was the year that the property became certified by the Penn State Master Gardeners as a Pollinator Friendly Garden, a landmark step in my efforts to create a haven for wildlife in general and pollinators in particular.  With the help of my niece Carly, an untended garden bed along the road got an extensive  makeover and was filled with native plants to further support pollinators.

toursignWP

In late June, 500 visitors meandered through the garden as part of the Town & Country garden tour to benefit the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden. I worked 6-8 hours a day, six days a week for two months, to prepare the garden for close inspection. I realized as I was writing the garden description for the tour booklet that I had always thought of this garden as a “garden in the woods” inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book Little House in the Big Woods. The trees that surround the house and garden are an integral part of the landscape and are beautiful in every season.

After all the visitors were gone for the season, the plants on the hillside garden were temporarily moved to make room for a new pair of handsome stone walls.  I look forward to seeing them covered with blooms next season.

Other echoes inhabit the garden. Shall we follow? ~T. S. Elliot

The gardening year really begins in the spring, fresh and full of potential.

Memories of summer bring to mind an explosion of flowers amid warm days.

Autumn arrived with a new palette of colors.

The calendar year begins and ends in winter:

Tomorrow brings a new year, full of the hopes and ambiguities of an unknown future. I wish all of you a new year of joy and I hope that you spend some of it in the heart of nature.

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice . . .
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning. ~ T.S. Eliot, “Four Quartets: Little Gidding”

(All photos [except pollinator sign] in this blog post ©2016 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved).

Continuum

Continuum: a coherent whole characterized as a collection, sequence, or progression of values or elements varying by minute degrees (Merriam-Webster)

arborfogWhen I step into the garden each morning, it has changed somehow. Perhaps it is a discrete change – a few more blooms open, fog instead of sunshine, soft summery air instead of a damp chill.

hostawoodsOther times, the rate of change is more dramatic – many plants have bloomed overnight, or the leaves have suddenly transformed the woodland trees into a dense green canopy. It is this continual shift and change in the garden that intrigues me and challenges me to become more aware of each moment as it passes.

 

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. ~Alan Watts

Each plant has its moment to shine; the trick is to plant enough varieties so that as one plant winds down, another rises to take its place in the spotlight.

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When I teach garden design, I give my students a chart to plan their seasons of bloom, but what appears as clearly delineated boxes on a planning page is far more blurred in reality; throughout the day and throughout the seasons, the garden changes. Last week, the tall alliums gave way to the peonies and foxgloves, even as the roses and daylilies are beginning to move on stage for their moment of glory.

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Blossoms are ephemeral, foliage is seasonal, but even the rocks change over time. In the evening light, the lichen on the steps glow a pale turquoise and silver, illuminating the passageway between garden levels. stonesteps

This is what the garden teaches me – the continuum of change. While I can alter the rate of change through tending the garden, and I can capture a single moment in time with my camera, those are mere attempts to slow the continual flow. With apologies to Heraclitus, I am learning that the gardener can never step twice into the same garden – and that is the joy of it.

Enjoy the gallery of garden images, each a discrete moment in time. (Click on any photo to enlarge it. All images ©2016 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved)

 

Everything changes and nothing remains still … you cannot step twice into the same stream. ~Heraclitus

 

Spring Unfolds

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

Even though we have had light snow all day on this vernal equinox, the garden is unfolding into spring. Bloom started with the snowdrops at the end of January, followed by tommy crocus. Last week Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ added its deep purple notes to the pink and purple flowers of hellebores. Forsythia began blooming yesterday, along with the delicate golden flowers of Lindera benzoin, the host plant for spicebush swallowtail butterflies. Every day brings another bloom, spring is truly here.

The Time Between

Liminal: “of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition” Merriam Webster.com

xmastrees_vertWPThe week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day has always been a special time for me. The everyday world seems to pause and recede, leaving time for inner reflection, time to consider the past year and the future to come.The Norwegians have a name for this season – Romjul. According to My Little Norway “the time from Boxing Day [day after Christmas] until New Years Eve is called Romjul (Christmas Space) which is the ‘space’ between Christmas and New Year’s.” Traditionally, this time is spent with family and out of doors.

XmasMoonriseWPI’ve often thought about liminal space (The Space Between) but until now, I hadn’t considered the idea of liminal time. Liminality, as the moment “betwixt and between” is the time for transitioning from one state to another, and that is exactly what this week serves. After the intense activity of the end-of-semester deadlines and the rush to prepare for Christmas, nothing is more welcome to me than to stay quietly at home for a week, reading books, meandering through the garden in any weather, and looking over photos from the year. Angel and I even spent several balmy nights entranced by the rising of the Christmas moon, its brilliant light a reminder of longer days to come..

New Year’s Eve is considered to be an important liminal time – the threshold between one year and the next. The many traditions associated with the holiday – midnight fireworks, kisses, and toasts, are ancient and worldwide practices associated with our need to pass safely from one state to another. And did you know that the oldest record of a New Year’s resolution is over 4000 years old from ancient Babylonia?

seedsWPAs I reflect on the year past and prepare for the year to come, the garden is on my mind. I hope to have my garden open to visitors this summer and have been busy preparing while the weather remains mild. The first packet of seeds came this week, along with a book on propagation techniques. More seeds are on their way, the light table in the basement is clean and ready, and visions of the coming garden season creep into my dreams.

Here is a slideshow of this past year’s highlights of the garden, from the snows of February to the autumn colors of November. Enjoy! (all images ©2015 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved)

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All blessings to you and yours in the new year!

Fast away the old year passes,
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!
~Deck the Halls