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).

Colors, Endless Colors

Autumn in leaves of gold,
springtime a thousand shades of green unfold to
summer with its joyous Joseph’s Coat of colors,
endless colors, endless colors.
~from the song “Winter” by Lynn Emberg Purse ©2009

gardenwoodsfogWPAutumn has decidedly arrived. Wild windy storms brought rain, hail, mist and fog this past week; the green trees have begun to don their fall coats while their leaves are drifting into the garden paths and beds. The cool damp weather has intensified the colors of the garden and triggered new blossoms from many of the plants. A fuchsia rose here, a peach salvia there – scent and color hang heavy in the air. Yesterday morning, a thick fog turned pearly with the morning light and the world was wrapped in a glowing cloud. Slightly disheveled at the end of the growing season, the garden was nevertheless graced for a moment with endless colors. (Click on any photo in the montage to see a bigger image; All photos ©2014 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved)

I saw old Autumn in the misty morn stand shadowless like silence, listening to silence. ~Thomas Hood, English poet

Golden Days Ahead

One golden day redeems a weary year. ~Celia Thaxter

Weeping cherry leavesIt’s not often that turning the calendar page corresponds to a change in the garden. This August, the page and the garden turned in sync. Mild days and cool nights have ushered in a subtle change and earth’s spin towards the equinox has pulled the sun lower in the sky. Most of the July bloomers like daylilies have finished their show and the bloom palette has shifted to golden Rudbeckias and cherry red Echinaceas. Bees and butterflies abound, greedy for the late summer bounty, and the cicadas and tree frogs have begun their August serenade. In anticipation of autumn, the weeping cherry in the center of the garden has begun to turn into a golden fountain of foliage – perhaps it is just trying to compete with the golden flowers circling around it. In another month or two, the woods surrounding the garden will glow in autumn colors. For now, though, there is just a hint of the golden days to come.

Enjoy a few scenes from the garden as it shifts to gold, a fitting celebration of my 100th blog post as Composer in the Garden. (Click on any photo to begin the slideshow. All photos ©2014 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved)

The golden age is before us, not behind us. ~Shakespeare

For a different kind of gold in the garden, visit Ogee’s wonderful blog Gardens for Goldens.

Plant a Flower, Save the World

Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers. ~Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

Bee in flowerI’ve been dreaming about bees lately. I’m allergic to their stings, so it can be a bit alarming when they follow me around Dreamland. Nevertheless, I love seeing them in the garden and welcome their beauty and soft buzzing sound.

A TED talk recently reminded me of how important bees are to our planet and food supply. Each one of us can make a difference if we plant a flower. Perhaps some of you see flowers as important only for their aesthetic beauty and regard vegetables as the practical heart of the garden, but that is not the whole picture. Without flowers, we have no pollinators, and without pollinators we have no fruits and vegetables. Recent field studies show that planting a few flowers can change the ecology of any landscape for the better as well as provide food for insects and birds. So please your eye and please your palate – plant a flower and make the world a better place.

TED Talks: Why Bees are Disappearing 

Immerse your self in the wonder of pollinators with Schwartzberg’s The Hidden Beauty of Pollination (pollinator footage starts around 3:15)

For a look at how flowers affected the evolution of our world, read National Geographic’s The Big Bloom – How Flowering Plants Changed the World

The Penn State Extension has a great guide for planting Pollinator Friendly Gardens.

Doug Tallamy’s site Gardening for Life: Bringing Nature Home gives even more insight and suggestions on the importance of native plants for sustaining our natural world.

Deborah DeLong has a lovely blog, Romancing the Bee, on urban beekeeping, gardening, and cooking with honey.

If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live. ~Albert Einstein

We Must Be Mad With Joy

 “People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.” ~Iris Murdoch, Irish author

Garden after rain

Garden after rain

The thunderstorms passed by quickly, leaving a few large drops of rain in their wake and some empty threats of weather violence.  We have fared far better than our neighbors in the American West, those unfortunate victims of extreme tornados who still struggle to recover their lives. Even as I grieve for them, I celebrate my own small corner of land in the foothills of western Pennsylvania.

Tonight, the garden in twilight is luxuriating in its richness of leaf and flower and I cannot end my stroll. It is bewitching. Leaves of every shape and form spring out and blend – all of the plants in my garden touch and jostle each other – no Puritan “touch me not” unplanted spaces here! Oh, this is an excess of green and growing that sings a great chorus in the dusk of a warm early summer day.  Yes, many plants bloom in May – the insignia of iris, the globes of allium, the stars of clematis, the blooms of columbine, lilac and others.  But May is feckless in its headlong plunge into green growth from the carpet beneath one’s feet to the canopy among the trees. May is fragrant and headstrong, the vibrant green path leading and spilling us into June.

Lamb's ear rising up to bloom

Lamb’s ear rising up to bloom

The silver lamb’s ear have risen to a foot high impossibility in the past few days, ready to bloom and nourish the bees –their bright foliage outlines the beds in the garden. The swords of daylily leaves create circular swirls of green blades, predicting their July bloom – a  promise of color and form to come. Beauty bush and lilac burst with thousands of tiny flowers, mounds of color and scent that greet the morning and bless the warmth of the evening, alive with the buzzing of bees seeking nectar. And so it goes. May is so full of voluptuous beauty and scented flowers that it sends the senses reeling with the experience of it, making us mad with joy.

Wild black cherry (Prunus serotina)

Wild black cherry (Prunus serotina)

The surrounding woods are filled with the blooms of native black cherry, dangling white racemes that scent the air with their sweetness. Every day, a dozen new flowers awake and open and bring a new shape and scent to the bounty of the garden. I can hardly keep up; I mulch and trim and plant seedlings but it is as if I were on the end of the “crack the whip” game – I can only hold on tight and try my best to serve the beauty of the garden as I am flung and swung through its spurt of green growth and scented flowering. Here are a few images captured that may share some small part of this beauty; click on the first image to open the gallery. (All photographs ©2013 Lynn Emberg Purse)

It is a golden maxim to cultivate the garden for the nose, and the eyes will take care of themselves.  ~Robert Louis Stevenson

To see more photos and read more about the fragrant wild black cherry that is native to the eastern US, see Bernadette’s post Wild Black Cherry.