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.

A lapse of time

No matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. ~Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

When I looked back over the year, I was surprised at some of the moments of beauty in the garden. Perhaps it was because I didn’t write about it or share many photos of it, or just that my attention was required elsewhere. My first blog of the year was in March and the second was in November, a long stretch of time without words, without pictures. It seems fitting at the end of the year to share some of the garden moments from April to October, the missing moments of the garden.

It was a turbulent year from the start, with weather alternating sharply between freeze and thaw, blue skies and gray, sunshine and fog, rain and snow. I cut some forsythia buds before a March snowstorm and brought them into the warmth to bloom.Forsythia cuttingsThe gateway to the garden changed quickly over the seasons, from a sudden snow in early April to the lushness of June. (click on any photo to see a larger image in the gallery)

Once through the gate, the steps and hillside leading to the lower garden went through the same transformation, from a hint of the garden to come to the lush growth of early summer.

The lower garden, distinctive in its concentric circles, transformed quickly in April beginning with the flowering of the weeping cherry in April then slowing down through the lushness of June and into late summer. By then, the deep transformation of the garden beds through months of pruning and removing unwanted plants left only the Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ and the native Phlox paniculata blooming.

There were some beautiful moments where flowers took front and center throughout the seasons.

Drastic weather events continued in June, when a tornado ripped through our neighborhood for 15 minutes, downing hundreds of beautiful oak trees. We suffered little damage on our property, losing one tree and another one injured, but our neighbor’s oaks crashed across the road and into our driveway, hanging by the electric lines. Until the power was turned off, we were trapped in our property with live wires in our side yard. Eventually, we were able to creep through the downed trees and several days later, they were cut down by the electric company and removed by the township. We were lucky to escape with only inconvenience and little damage to the gardens; others were trapped in their wooded properties for weeks, only able to leave by foot.

The upper deck became a small sanctuary during the summer as my garden helpers and I worked on a long overdue transformation of the garden beds. The bees and butterflies found their way up to the blooms and the cherry tomatoes were a sweet treat on hot summer days.

By October, a few plants were still in bloom, the autumn crocus, some roses, but the season was coming to an end.

I had two cataract surgeries in October, restoring my sight and my ability to take and accurately edit photos, something that had been difficult this year. Fortunately, I was able to shoot photos with my cell phone and press my finger to the surface to focus! It has been a challenging yet rewarding year of sudden starts and stops, crazy weather, loss of loved ones, yet also a year of renewal and regeneration both in my garden and in my self.

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.  ~Lao Tzu

I leave you with my favorite photo of Angel from this year, as she stood beneath an arbor of roses. May all good things come to you in the new year, my dear readers – thank you for your patience with my absence on these pages and your kind gift of time and attention. May the year of 2022 bring you great blessings and joy!

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

New beginnings

Celebrate endings—for they precede new beginnings. ~Jonathan Lockwood Huie

This week, and the last few months, have been about endings and beginnings. I am nearing the end of the mixing and mastering of my Watershed CD , a three year effort. We hope to send it for duplication in a week, thanks to the engineering wizardry of my husband/sound engineer Bill. We spent the last half of the spring semester teaching from home because of COVID restrictions and realized how much we liked being home all of the time. I spent hours at the piano, sketching new ideas while looking into the green woods.

piano

Angel was delighted to have us home 24/7; we snuggle a lot on the sofa.

The garden got some extra attention too – early summer was beautiful, in spite of  the late hard frosts.

Heat and drought were hard on the garden in June and July; although some plants bloomed, the flowers were short lived. It rained last night, with loud thunderstorms and heavy downpours – this morning the trees and plants are green and glowing and the garden looks lush again. gardenafterrain

We liked being at home so much these past several months that when the chance came to retire earlier than expected, we both took it.  Bill and I are now officially retired from our teaching jobs of 30+ years. We have been celebrating with cake, cake

with wine,

pianowine

and with mornings on the deck complete with guitar music. billgtr copy

All the things I love the most are here – the sound of the wind in the trees, the dance of a hummingbird at the flowers, the ebb and flow of the seasons, my piano, a house full of books and of course my husband and Angel. I am leaving a large part of my life behind with no regrets – it was a good ending – and now I am ready to begin the third act. I am still a composer, a gardener, a writer, a photographer – but now I have time to reflect, to explore, and to be more present on this page.

The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. ~ Steve Jobs

whiteoak

I hope that you are all well in these most difficult times and that you are able to stay safe, full of hope and surrounded by love.

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning. ~T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

Serenity in the garden

We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. ~Sri S. Satchidananda

The garden is waking up and I am a frequent visitor. When I cannot bear another word or warning of the world’s calamities, I step outside. A month ago, the world was white with snow. FebSnowgate

Then the March winds came and turned the sky blue. marchskies

The robins and a pair of mourning doves are regular visitors to the birdbath and their songs ring out in a quiet world that has begun to bloom. The snowdrops appeared first, tiny clusters of white that nodded in the early spring sun and shrugged off the snow. The Tommy crocus (Crocus tommisinianus) appeared soon after, to the delight of a few early insects.

Now the hellebores are stealing the show. Some are named varieties with strong colors and sometimes doubled in form. (click any photo in the mosaic to see a full size image)

Others are chance seedlings of a few plants gifted to me by a friend many years ago. They seem to have crossed with the fancy ones and made some pretty color combinations.  A few even lift their faces up to the spring sun.

Forsythia and Cornus mas (Cornelian cherry) are bearing their cheery yellow flowers while a few daffodils come into bloom.

I leave behind worry each time I step into the garden and embrace the serenity that I find there. May you find inspiration in the beauty around you and dream beautiful dreams.

My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful. ~Abram L. Urban

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