Discovering a Secret Garden

Alas, today’s snow flurries and nippy temperatures are just a foretaste of what is yet to come. My gardening checklist has quite a few tasks yet to complete in order to finish preparing my flowerbeds for winter’s sleep. How can it be mid-November already? It seems only yesterday that I was happily plodding barefoot through my gardens, planting this, transplanting that, and digging out weeds, and muttering under my breath at the voracious bunnies who happily brought their family and friends to my flowerbed buffet.

It also seems that not long ago I took a wrong turn detour and found myself driving down a street on which I had never traveled and found myself in an older section of town in what appeared to be an industrial park. Upon making a Y-turn to head back to the known route, I spied a sign to a public garden tucked in a messy-but-pretty flowerbed between what looked like two warehouses.

It was a beautiful summer afternoon, so I parked my car at the curb and accepted the sign’s invitation to wander down a footpath toward what looked like the garden’s entrance. Native plants seemed to hum with busy bees and butterflies. Flowers criss-crossed and lapped over the edges of the ungroomed pathway. The busy bees didn’t seem to mind my presence, so I carefully ventured further down the winding path, and there I found a hidden slice of peaceful beauty to explore.

I invite you to wander its pathways with me, courtesy of a few photos I snapped as I walked and explored.

Upon crossing this rustic footbridge, I entered the most enchanting prairie.

Flowers lured me in to wander pathways, and God’s creation beckoned me to praise Him.

I’ll be back…

I am joining (last minute on a Thursday) the Five Minute Friday writing community for a little writing adventure hosted by Kate Motaung. This week’s writing prompt is, “Wander.”

The Day the Caregiver Cried

This story still makes my eyes well with tears when I think of the things my mom endured in her journey through the last few years of life with Alzheimer’s. While I would never want to relive those moments, I’m glad God led me to provide care for her, as God used this incredibly difficult time to help me grow in my faith and trust in Him. I’m reposting this for those friends who are still traveling this road in life called Alzheimer’s. May God bless and keep you and give you wisdom for the journey. I’m here if you need someone to listen to you, share caregiving ideas and thoughts, and pray for you. ~Cindie

Barefoot Lily Lady

Momma had a good day on Saturday – well, as good as days get when you have Alzheimer’s. Wayne was out of town visiting a friend, so it was just the two of us most of the day. She had been alert, busy, and had a great attitude. I turned the clocks back one hour, looking forward to the possibility of an extra hour of sleep. But it was not meant to be – by the time my head hit my pillow she had her light on in her room and was rummaging through her drawers.

It was my turn to teach Sunday School the next morning, so I tried to sleep a little, staying on the edge of sleep, listening and keeping a sleepy eye on the monitor throughout the night, only intervening when I thought it was essential. Sadly, no amount of “redirection” on my part was going…

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‘Fall back’ is Garden Cleanout Time

Not all of the ideas I had for my garden this year actually happened, but each flowerbed had its time to shine. My job as a part-time baker has caused this old gal no small shortage in the energy department too. I typically think of several tasks I want to do in the garden on my way home from work, but most days I somehow end up in my comfy chair in the living room with my tired feet up.

I do try to get a few gardening tasks checked off my to-do list on my days off — even if it’s a finished task noticed by myself alone, it feels good to accomplish something. This weekend’s efforts resulted in many spent plants being cut back or pulled out and added to the city’s compost heap, several flowerpots emptied, and the front porch swept clean. I decided to be finished with covering plants whenever there is a frost warning and just let nature take its course. So I’ve been bringing a few of my favorite plants in before the killing frost so that I can attempt to overwinter them and replant them in the spring. A favorite pink pelargonium got scooped out of its summer pot and planted in its own pot. I doused it thoroughly with Neem oil and kept the digging on my 3-season porch before placing it on my kitchen windowsill for the winter. It must be happy because there are several new buds.

My pelargonium in its winter home, happily rewards my effort with a pink blossom

I also dug up quite a few of my spent peacock orchids (which I wrote about here) and am drying them out a bit before harvesting the rhizomes and storing them for the winter. I’ve never done that before, so am relying on YouTube tutorials for guidance . We’ll see how that goes.

Likewise, I dug up the rhizomes from a favorite calla lily my daughter gave me for Mother’s Day. I’m going to make a valiant, Pinterest-inspired attempt to create some new divisions from the rhizomes. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I took some cuttings from several very happy Livingstone Daisies (a.k.a. ice-plants) which spent their summer spilling out of the pots on my front porch. I snipped a few of the best stems to water-root, but also scooped a healthy-looking clump out of one of the pots, trimmed it back, and repotted it in fresh potting soil, as I have read somewhere that it can be kept as a succulent houseplant. I gave that plant a dousing with Neem oil to kill any bugs attempting to hitch-hike their way into my house. After a few days of transition from the chilly outdoors to my slightly warmer porch, I brought it indoors and gave it a place of honor on a family room window-seat which receives a generous amount of indirect light. I wrote its name on a plant stake because I can never remember what it’s called.

Also coming in from the nippy outdoors were a few of my succulent groupings, a languishing sansevieria plant, and two plants given to me by Melinda, my friend who enjoys playing in the dirt in Louisiana: an ‘Angel Wing Begonia’ (a.k.a. porch begonia) and a plumeria.

My Sansevieria (a.k.a. ‘mother-in-law’s tongue’ or ‘snake plant’) got a little scorched during some extremely hot weather during its annual foray on the front porch. I dug it out of the pot it’s been in for years, teased the roots apart and salvaged a tiny bit of the original plant. I filled the pot with new potting soil, then added a few different varieties of Sansevieria I purchased at a local nursery to add some interest. It now resides in our ‘Gathering Room’ in a spot nearest an east-facing window, but also benefiting from indirect light from a nearby south-facing window. I am trying not to overwater it, as I am prone to do, and hoping it will reward me with vigorous growth.

My garden frog came in for the winter too…and look what he brought with him!

We set our clocks back one hour before going to bed Saturday night — a precursor to shortened gardening hours and the winter months ahead. That’s okay though. One of the blessings of living in Wisconsin is being able to tuck the flowerbeds under a blanket of snow for a winter’s nap and the gardener’s respite. It’s the season for thumbing through garden journals and seed catalogues in order to make plans for next year’s garden. But, before I get too cozy, I need to check one more thing off my to-do list:

Plant lots of tulip bulbs!

So, until next Saturday when my post will hopefully include a report of all my tulip bulbs being planted, that’s my Six for this Saturday. To see other SOS posts, visit our host at  http://www.thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com.

The Garden Center Stalker

Facebook kindly informed me that one of my favorite garden centers was having a sale on mums and asters.

The ad looked like this.

The garden center is on my way home from work (well, sort of), so I stopped in today. Wow, Fitchburg Farms has an amazing array of healthy, colorful mums, and gorgeous asters in shades of purple! As I mentioned in a recent post, I’m noticing that my flowerbeds are in dire need of some more color. Well, “dire need” might be a slight exaggeration, but they are looking a bit drab.

I drove slowly down the gravel drive into the garden center, admiring the nicely shaped trees along one side and could see that the front of the store was awash in autumn colors. I pulled into one of just a few paved parking spots, then donned a face mask and made my way over to the area where the carts and flatbed wagons were corralled. Three mums and three asters was the “buy limit” I had in mind, so I chose one of those flatbed wagons and set off in search of just the right colors to complement the mums Wayne bought me earlier in the week. There were just two customers shopping in the outdoor section of the garden center, so I picked an area other than where they were shopping so that I kept adequate social distancing in mind.

Since I was in my own spot, I could play with colors. I’d find two or three that I liked and then play with the combinations on my little flatbed. I couldn’t help but notice that there was this lady staring at me as I played. I wondered if she thought she perhaps knew me from somewhere, but couldn’t quite recall. Before I knew it, she was in the same garden aisle as me, so I moved to the next one over to give her (and me) some space to shop.

She followed me.

I couldn’t help but notice that she kept an eye on me the whole time I was there. Wherever I moved, she moved.

Strange. It wasn’t creepy. Just weird. It reminded me of those detective shows where a private eye detective is tailing a suspect and trying to stay incognito (and doing a bad job of it).

I moved to another aisle where I spied more amazing colors that I could play with. She tailed me again. This time the lady finally spoke up and said, “Please, don’t mind me. I am watching you as you’re arranging and rearranging the colors.”

I chuckled, “Oh! I was hoping I wasn’t getting in your way.” She grinned as she shared that she had been there for awhile before me and just couldn’t make up her mind. When she saw me breeze in and start playing with the color combinations she knew what she would do. My garden center stalker-friend shared, “I like the color palettes you are creating and decided, whatever you buy, I’m buying.”

Sure enough, weird turned into a compliment when I looked at her cart and she had duplicated every flower I had chosen.

Six on Saturday: Need More Color

My husband Wayne has been trying out a new hobby – flying a drone. So far he has been sticking close to home as he practices maneuvering his new toy. I asked him to take a few aerial photos of my gardens. One thing I noticed was that color is quite lacking in my fall garden. I have a few mums and asters to plant, so maybe that will help.

May be an image of tree and outdoors
An aerial view of my backyard…and my hubby, the drone navigator

While the gardens are a bit drab at the moment, I do have a few things which are looking quite pretty. Maybe you’ll remember the pots I planted (with a little help from a squirrel). My theory was correct. He stole the seed from another area and planted a sunflower seed in the middle of one of those pots. It ended up being ‘Teddy Bear’, a short and bushy variety, which sports a long-lasting golden yellow flower. I will probably plant more of them next year.

Here’s an update on Datura ‘Blackberry Swirl’. It’s still blooming in my garden and I’m still undecided as to whether I will keep it. The flower IS pretty spectacular, but it is an evening bloomer, so is rather ‘meh’ during daylight hours. This post explains my thoughts concerning the drawbacks of Datura. I did go ahead and snip off the seed pods so as to not invite more of the plants.

I planted quite a few peacock orchids earlier in the summer. They’re blooming now and quite lovely. The flower is rather demure, but the fragrance is incredibly beautiful, reminding me of jasmine. The flower isn’t an orchid at all – it belongs to the iris family. I plan to dig them up and store the corms for the winter to replant in late spring. Next year I will plant them in larger groupings, as I think they’ll make a bigger impact that way. If I plant more of them in the little flowerbed by the mailbox, the neighbors who pass by on their walks just might get a whiff of their perfume.

My garden does have a few areas which still have color. The clematis on the arbor that leads to the backyard is finished, but the phlox planted at its base is still strutting its stuff. The sedum in the foreground is still hosting parties for the bees and butterflies too.

One last photo of the shaded area beneath our locust tree. The color is courtesy of potted impatiens in my favorite shade of pink. I’m really happy with how this flowerbed turned out this year.

Next year I plan to plant up more pots to help layer my garden with color at various heights. I shared my thoughts about that plan with my husband. Next thing I knew I had a stack of pots and bags of potting soil in the garage. Yep, he totally supports my barefoot gardening endeavors.

That’s it for my Six on Saturday. Many thanks to our host, Jon the Propagator. It’s always a pleasure for me as a gardener to see what fellow gardening enthusiasts all around the world are doing in their respective garden spaces each week. I hope you’ll check it out and perhaps share your own six next week.

Memories of Mom

Tuesday’s Caregiving Tip: Keep a journal of those special moments with your loved one.

To my fellow caregiving friends who are still in the hustle and bustle of caring for a loved one with dementia, be sure to take time to write down those special moments. I wish I had kept an actual chronological handwritten journal, but am so glad I blogged and took photos…and posted cute stuff on Facebook.

I moved in with mom for a period of about 9 months. It seemed long and tedious in the midst of it, but just a tiny blip on the radar of life in retrospect. I’m glad I posted this fun memory on Facebook and hope it will bring a smile to someone’s face today.

Me and my landlady

Mothering Moments

Okay friends, you are going to need to cut me some slack on this mothering moment that I’m going to share. I had only been 20 years old for about 14 days when my first baby arrived in the world and probably not even 22 when this story took place.

I was pregnant with baby #2 and exhausted. Usually a good sleeper, lately Matt seemed to sense the moment my weary head hit my pillow. Well, on the night this story took place, I was settling in for sleep for what seemed to be the umpteenth time when my not quite two-year-old little Matt cried out for me from his crib with his loud toddler voice,

“Mommy!”

I shudder to think of what I did now because it is so contrary to good sense, but I was a gullible young mom who apparently believed this ad.

On that night I grew tired of getting my very pregnant self in and out of our waterbed (anyone remember those?). I desperately wanted to get my little guy to lie back down and go to sleep, so I gave him a bottle hoping he would fall asleep and let me get some sleep. I wanted to save the little bit of milk we had in the fridge for breakfast in the morning, so watered down some Tang breakfast drink and put it in his bottle.

Not two minutes had passed after I dragged my weary self back to bed when I heard the familiar squeak of Matt’s crib. We had a tiny house and I didn’t want him waking his sleeping daddy who had to get up early to go to work, so I got up and went to his room. He was standing in his crib again, arm extended out to me with an empty baby bottle in hand.

“More, Mommy, more.”

I couldn’t believe he had drained that bottle so quickly. I made him another bottle of the stuff then checked to make sure his diaper was dry. He took the bottle and snuggled in for what I had hoped would be the last time until morning’s light. Bleery-eyed with weariness, I then crawled back in my own bed hoping not to make too many waves.

Unbelievably, before I could pull the covers up under my chin, Matt was again yelling,

“More, Mommy, more!”

I made the trek of five or six steps to his room again and turned on the little Humpty-Dumpty lamp on the dresser. I couldn’t believe my eyes – his bottle was empty again! Checked his diaper again too – it just had to be wet, but it wasn’t.

Bordering on sheer exhaustion (and also a wee bit suspicious), against my better judgement, I fixed him another bottle. I turned off the light and then headed out of his door, this time waiting around the corner to spy on him and see what on earth was going on. Sure enough, I had every reason to be suspicious. My clever and mischievous little guy sat up in his crib, unscrewed the top of the bottle, then stood up and proceeded to pour that orange drink down the wall, then picked up the nipple end of the bottle and screwed it back onto the empty bottle.

I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. I did know that if he could figure out how to do all of that, he was much too old to still be drinking from a bottle. I took the bottle out of his hand before he could say, “More, Mommy, more” and told him to say “bye-bye” to his bottle.

Matt never saw the bottle again.


Churchly expect Image
Pastor Matt and his wife Kelly

Interesting note: Now, 40-some years later, Matt is an elder and discipleship pastor at Wildwood Church in East Moline, Illinois. On a recent Sunday, Wayne and I were able to worship with Matt’s faith family at Wildwood and were blessed to listen as our son preached from Luke 22 using this story from his childhood as a sermon illustration. I’m not proud of this mothering moment of mine, but it did make a pretty nice sermon illustration. It warmed this momma’s heart (and his dad’s too) hearing Matt sharing God’s Word as he preached. I invite you, dear readers, to give that sermon a listen right here.