An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. ~ Thoreau
Each morning this week began with a walk through an ever-changing garden. Spring is building up to an astonishing crescendo of color and texture and growth, all laid against a ground of fresh green. The early dawn chorus of birdsong masks the ordinary noises of the world – robins, bluejays, cardinals, and red-tailed hawks zoom through the woods as they raise new families, argue over territory, and search for food. As I wander through the garden every day, the same song comes to mind. “Morning has broken like the first morning; blackbird has spoken like the first word.” Yes, each morning this week feels like the first morning, fresh, new, full of life.
On one particular morning, the garden sparkled in the morning sun from the previous night’s rain, and as I walked through the wet grass, more lyrics came to mind. “Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven, like the first dewfall on the first grass.”
Tulips are the rising stars. One of my favorites is ‘Shirley’, white with feathered purple edges and a stunning center of blue. White daffodils and wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata) are fitting companions to its beauty. (Click on any photo in the mosaic to see a larger version)
Wild blue phlox
Daffodils and tulips
The center of ‘Shirley’
Lilac ‘Beauty of Moscow’ is adding its sweet scented blooms to the mix as it cascades over the fence, while in the woodland, the trees and shrubs are still leafing out and shade loving peonies bloom quietly amid the emerging ferns and hostas.
Lilac ‘Beauty of Moscow’
Woodland peony (Paeonia obovata)
Gold host and violets
Each day feels like a miracle, a new chance for new growth and life. I wish you all a beautiful morning walk in your daily life. “Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden . . .”
Here is the 1971 version of Morning has Broken that I hear in my head as I walk through the garden (original text by Eleanor Farjeon, 1931, set to a Scottish hymn tune).
The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day. ~ Robert Frost
Spring 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.
Nevertheless, 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.
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.
Nature’s message was always there and for us to see. It was written on the wings of butterflies. ~Kjell B. Sandved
The garden in August is as much a garden of creatures and sound as it is of flowers. As the flowering season comes to a crescendo, the garden becomes a “last chance buffet” for every creature gathering food stores for winter or for migration. The cicadas buzz in the woods throughout the day; in the evening, the frog chorus breaks out into pulsing serenades of courting. Bees of every size and shape buzz around the richest sources of pollen, butterflies flitter and float through the air and compete with the bees for flower landing space, hummingbirds visit every tubular flower for nectar. This is the time of the year that the gardener needs to step aside and enjoy a ringside seat to the panorama of life in the garden. Here’s a sample of the frog chorus at night. (Audio recorded and edited by Bill Purse)
A few years ago, a serious health crisis made me an observer rather than a participant in my garden for a season or two. Even as the weeds grew unhindered, the flowering plants also bloomed without my help and were covered in bees and butterflies for months. It became apparent to me that tidiness was not a priority of Mother Nature; her priority apparently was growth abundant, unruly and rich with life. While I still enjoy playing with color and texture and form, my garden priorities are now more aligned with those of Mother Nature to support the life of creatures around me. Happily, creating a refuge for pollinators can also result in a beautiful refuge for the gardener.
We have entered an age of environmental gardening. Given the afflictions of our planet, this is overwhelmingly positive as long as we remember that the one creature most in need of refuge in the garden is the gardener. ~Adrian Higgins, The Washington Post
Each morning, Angel and I explore the garden. It is lush and overflowing, full of wings and buzzing and singing.
The hillside that in July was covered with daylilies is now overflowing with the cheerful gold of native brown-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta and R. triloba) that are favorites of both butterflies and bees.
Golden flowers abound this time of year and are a favorite of pollinators. For the first time, the Silvery Checkerspot butterfly has made an appearance. (Click on any image in the mosaic to see the full size photo).
Silvery checkerspot butterfly on Rudbeckia triloba
Rudbeckia hirta ‘Viette’s Little Suzy’
Bee in species daylily
Bee headed for Digitalis lutea
The deck garden is anchored on one end by a large stand of purple coneflowers and on the other end by single roses and Persicaria ‘Firetail’ – all attract a bevy of native bees and butterflies throughout the day.
Echinacea purpurea ‘Ruby Star’
Bee and Echinacea
Single rose ‘Carefree Beauty’
Bee on Persicaria ‘Firetail’
Yellow swallowtail butterfly
Lush Hydrangea blossoms form a backdrop to a tall swath of native Phlox paniculata in shades of lavender and purple, a favorite of the yellow swallowtail butterflies. Planting in groups helps pollinators gather food with the least energy expended, so I’ve begun to allow their favorite plants to increase and spread. Birdbaths tucked into flower beds provide essential water.
Pollinator on Hydrangea ‘Limelght’
Phlox paniculata ‘Franz Schubert’
Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’
Phlox and Hydrangea
Birdbath, ostrich ferns, and hosta
Every garden is a work in progress and changes over time. I have been gently steering my garden toward one that supports winged life – this year it was certified as a Pollinator Friendly Garden through the Penn State Master Gardeners program. Just one more step in creating a place where all the parts fit and work together as a whole. Want to know more? Visit pollinator.org for information on National Pollinator Week and easy steps you can take to support life on our planet.
The first law of ecology is that everything is related to everything else. ~Barry Commoner, American scientist
Fast away the old year passes,
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses ~ from Deck the Halls
Reflection and anticipation vie for my attention at this time of the year. Like Janus, for whom January is named, I look back at the year that has passed even as I look ahead to the new year to come. A busy fall semester and the hubbub of the holidays has kept me away from my blog until now, but in the lull before the new semester begins, I have been reflecting on this past year in the garden. It was eventful, partly because of the work done on the garden paths and the deck, and the day I welcomed visitors to the garden. I’ve created a few “time lapse” slideshows of the seasons passing in the garden as a way of sharing my memories of the year’s delights.
The gravel paths that were installed this summer have been a joy to walk on in all kinds of weather; more than ever, they define the shape and the structure of the garden.
Some areas of the garden change more dramatically than others as the seasons bring new colors, new blooms, and new heights of growth. I was particularly happy with the border below the deck, set off by the new path, and the meadowy bed outside of the gate that I call the “herb circle” anchored by a terra cotta birdbath.
Perhaps the most iconic element in the garden is the arbor that connects the outside garden to the garden hidden inside. Designed to echo the roofline of the house, its simple shape becomes the one unchanging element as the seasons pass.
I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. . . For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. ~Wendell Berry, American poet and visionary
November has been a turbulent month. October was a slow graceful dance into the dying year, still filled with bloom and color, but November’s winds and weather grabbed and shook the world into the gateway of winter. For the first time in many years, I ordered bulbs to plant in the garden. Inspired by the renewal of the garden paths (see The Big Picture), I imagined a glorious spring filled with bulbs blooming in impossible beauty. What I forgot was how low one must bend to plant them in the earth!
We learn from our gardens to deal with the most urgent question of the time: How much is enough? ~Wendell Berry
Wendell Berry, poet, book author, gardener, and environmental visionary, was interviewed by Bill Moyers last year. See the amazing video here at Wendell Berry on His Hopes for Humanityand listen to him read “The Peace of Wild Things” (20:36).