Four and Twenty Hours

In the spring, I have counted one hundred and thirty-six kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours. ~Mark Twain

It is typical March weather – one moment full of sunshine and flowers, the next filled with snow. A few days ago, the early morning sun on a mild day lit up the glowing green of moss and the soft colorful blooms emerging everywhere. The forsythia was finally in full-tilt bloom, the Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) was covered in tiny gold bubbles, and the Japanese weeping cherry was about to burst into flower. I spent a peaceful afternoon in the garden, cleaning up beds, pruning shrubs, and listening to the lively bird song coming from the woods.

By evening, fierce winds brought winter’s return and by the next morning, wet snow clung to every branch and twig, transforming spring into a sparkling white wonderland.

The snow was wet and heavy and bright blue skies warm with sunshine threatened its demise and a quick return to spring.

But that was not to be. Within a few hours, the north wind swept through once more, creating a white out effect as it whipped the loose snow into milky clouds and froze thin layers to branches. whiteoutWP

Today, it is bitterly cold and the world outside the window is bleak once more. In a week or so, March winds will carry spring back again, an event I eagerly await. What is March weather like in your part of the world?

Anticipation

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

Winter comes and goes these days. February has embraced all of the seasons in a few short weeks, from bitter winter to balmy summer. Earlier in the month, January’s snow melted into the ground and a thick fog rose overnight, transforming the woodland into a mysterious world of gray and black.  forestfog

Later, the sun appeared and burned away the blanket of fog, revealing the bold architecture of oak trees stark against a bright blue sky. (Click on any photo to enlarge)

Temperatures continued to warm last week until many early flowers burst into full bloom while shrubs and trees began to swell with buds and leaves. The black and white and gray of winter was suddenly sparked with color.

More hellebore (Helleborus orientalis) flowers open each day, a few weeks earlier than usual. Many have self-seeded and spread under trees and shrubs; a few are named varieties. A favorite is the almost black double flowered ‘Onyx Odyssey’. The unusual green flowers and uniquely patterned foliage of the fetid hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) punctuate the edge of the woodlands.

The temperatures have plunged once again and gardeners can only hope that the early growth won’t be damaged by the return of winter. But the anticipation of spring has begun. (Click on any photo for a full size version; all photos ©2017 Lynn Emberg Purse)

Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle … a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl. And the anticipation nurtures our dream. ~ Barbara Winkler

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).

Deep Summer

Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability. ~ Sam Keen

 

treesmorningWPThere is always a certain morning in summer that seems magical, that moment when I step outside into a quiet world and say to myself “summer has arrived.” This morning, late in July, I finally had that moment. The sun in the eastern sky lit the trees along the road with a golden light, a wood thrush greeted me with its distinctive song, and the soft warm air promised a hot sunny day to come. I had no agenda other than to wander through the garden with Angel, accompanied by the drone of cicadas and the calls of robins and bluejays.
The garden is lush, almost voluptuous in its beauty, thanks to hot days and frequent thundershowers.viewfromhillWP

The daylilies are finishing their season, with a few welcome malingerers.

The roses have caught their second wind with fresh foliage and fulsome blooms.

The hydrangeas are bowed to the ground with a bounty of creamy white blossoms, fragrant and covered with tiny pollinators gathering food. Their busy wings remind me of last night, when I watched hundreds of fireflies rise up from the garden to sparkle and flicker their way into the trees.

This was not a morning to rise before dawn and do the hard work of weeding and digging for hours in order to prepare for visitors. This was a lazy quiet morning to soak in every sight, sound, and scent the garden offered, a gift of deep summer, when the burdens of the world fade for a few hours and I live in the moment.

The perfect song for a lazy summer day: Barbra Streisand’s “Lazy Afternoon” 

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. ~John Lubbock, The Use Of Life

 

A Garden in the Woods

doubledecksJuneWPAs a child, my favorite Laura Ingalls Wilder book was “Little House in the Big Woods“. When we began to look for a larger property to garden fifteen years ago, it was no surprise that I fell in love with a house tucked into the middle of an acre of woods. I wanted to be surrounded by trees in a home that was an integral part of the landscape and I got my wish. Every level of the house has a door to the outside, sometimes three or four, and two levels of decks make walking out into the landscape an every day joy. ~Lynn Emberg Purse, A Garden in the Woods (Pittsburgh Botanic Garden tour book)

toursignWPOn the last Sunday in June, I opened my garden for the annual Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Town and Country Tour – an all day event where visitors explore selected local gardens. A few days later, I was told that 500 tickets were sold; I think everyone of those people came through my garden! I had worked for months to prepare the garden for close scrutiny, still prepping until ten minutes before the garden gates opened. I was especially pleased that many visitors made a point of telling me that they chose to come here first because of the description I wrote of the garden, beginning with the paragraph above.

circlesvertWPMy generous husband serenaded everyone by playing guitar on the deck for many hours of the tour. I loved greeting visitors, answering their questions, and discussing approaches to gardening. One of the comments that I heard over and over again was “this is a sanctuary!” and I would agree with a smile.  Here is what those on tour saw as they explored the garden, with the text taken from the garden tour description. You can listen to Bill’s guitar wizardry on Woman In the Meadow (composed by Mark Lucas, recorded on the Tribute CD by Bill Purse) while you enjoy the photos (all images ©2016 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved).

 Visitors arrive outside of the fence where many plants have been tested for deer resistance. Native plants rub shoulders with polite foreigners, each adding to the beauty of the garden while supporting a variety of wildlife. Flowers, grasses, herbs, shrubs and groundcovers thrive in relaxed casual planting beds that connect to the surrounding woodland.

Inside the fence, the open areas embraced by a tall backdrop of woods contain a formal structure of circular gravel paths and beds filled with striking color.

Hundreds of roses, lilies, daylilies, clematis, Hydrangea, perennials, and hosta make up the romantic plantings that thrive protected from deer and rabbits.

Rugged stone steps lead from the gardens up to the deck where visitors can get a “bird’s eye” view of the planting beds.

Although this is a “one woman” garden, I want to extend a special thanks to my niece Carly, my friend Doug, and my husband Bill who helped me prepare the garden and grounds, and my sister-in-law Susie and all of the volunteers from the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden who helped the tour day run so smoothly.

Home is the nicest word there is. ― Laura Ingalls Wilder

This post is linked back to Jude’s monthly theme of August: Open Gardens. You can explore some fabulous gardens there!