Year of the Sunflower

One day I came home from work to find a surprise of four packets of sunflower seeds on the kitchen table – two packets of dwarf variety (‘Sunspot’ and ‘Teddy Bear’) in sunny yellows, and two of the taller-than-me sort in the autumn colors I enjoy (‘Autumn Beauty’ and a “Fun Sunny Hybrid Mix”). My thoughtful husband had picked them out for me knowing I love the charm of sunflowers.

Sorry, forgot to take a photo BEFORE I carried the seed packets around in my garden apron.

You may find it hard to believe, but I don’t have much in the way of garden space to plant sunflowers. They are heavy-drinkers, so like to be watered a lot. I get rather negligent in that department once mosquitoes begin chasing me around the garden. Consequently, other than the squirrels who steal or scatter seed from our birdfeeders, I rarely plant sunflowers in my garden.

I did grow them in 2017 to add to a wedding bouquet for my friend Wendy.

Wendy’s bridal bouquet

One other year (2009, according to Facebook) we had a fabulous, show-stopping sunflower display in what I call my “driveway garden” – the plot of land where our driveway ends.

That over-crowded flowerbed now hosts many perennials, weeds. and rabbits, but I snuck in a few sunflower seeds here and there this year. I planted a few of the taller variety in the center of that bed and a few of the shorter variety on that garden’s edge, hoping that the bunnies won’t snack on them. I am also planting some of the dwarf varieties betwixt and between my bushes in the front yard in places where tulips and daffodils have finished their spring performance. A few more have been added to the now sunny (due to tree loss) bed of languishing hostas on the SE corner of the house – maybe the sunflowers will provide at least a little shade for the poor sun-burnt hostas. Last year I grew zinnias in two of our raised beds – this year, I hope those beds will be gracious hosts to sunflowers.

We have a HUGE bunny population this year, so I won’t be surprised if my smattering of sunflower seedlings become their next snack. However, I hope they will save me at least a few to provide late summer splendor and autumnal color. I’ll keep you posted. In the meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about sunflowers, I think you’ll find this post to be amazing.

Every year, the National Garden Bureau, a non-profit organization promoting the pleasures of home gardening, selects one annual, one perennial, one …
2021: Year of the Sunflower

Barefoot Gardening

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you probably know I love to garden barefoot. If this is news to you, I invite you to click on the “Meet Cindie” tab and read a little background on my blogger name.

It’s not just being too lazy to put on my shoes (though that factors in some days), but something about my feet feeling the soil connects me to my garden. After a few hours of tending my flowers, I hose the dirt off of my feet and any stress and worries seem to have been washed away too. I am left with a sense of calmness, joy, and a deeper love for and awe of the Creator of it all.

But barefoot gardening does have its unpleasant hazards. The time when I missed my apron pocket and dropped a pair of garden shears onto my big toe immediately comes to mind. In that moment, there was no calmness and joy; it hurt so bad I couldn’t even muster a scream. Most of the time though, the painful moments are small ones, like the ouch of stepping on a thistle that needs pulling, a sharp rock, or the thorn of a stray rose clipping. Sometimes I even step on a desirable plant and feel a heart-sickening snap—my brain warns my bare feet to watch my step and tread more carefully.

The other night I was walking around the backyard deadheading and pulling weeds when I felt a sharp stab in the heel of my foot. My brain instantly sounded the pain alarm and told my foot to recoil and not bear down with all my weight.

Can you guess what this is?

Thankfully, my tough and summer-hardened soles also helped prevent this sharp, rusty object from penetrating my foot, but it still hurt like the dickens, causing me to hobble around for the better part of the night and next day.

As far as I can figure, after years of being buried when the McKee family farmland was bulldozed to become a Fitchburg subdivision in the late 1980’s, winter’s frost finally heaved this old screen hinge to the surface of our lawn, and there it stayed until it met up with my unfortunate foot. It made me wonder about the history of the land? What kind of building once sat here? A farm house? A dairy barn?

My foot has forgotten the painful mishap. I will continue my barefoot gardening, but sincerely hope my feet do not meet up with another one of these pain-inflicting gizmos. In the meanwhile, shoes or no shoes, happy gardening my friends.

Growing Old Together

It’s a beautiful summer Saturday, so my husband and I decided to enjoy our lunch outdoors on our backyard deck. It’s a lovely place to sit and enjoy the various late spring peony and iris show and watch birds splash in our birdbaths.

Between bites, I shared with Wayne that I saw my first swallowtail butterfly today. It had fluttered about some flowers, then stopped on the edge of a birdbath to enjoy a little sip of cool water. He said that he had also seen one while fishing with a friend yesterday.

Between bites I pointed at the birdbath nearest us and proffered the thought that maybe I should put some stones in the middle of that birdbath to give visiting bees and butterflies a landing place where they can sip water more easily. The words were barely out of my mouth before my husband of nearly 45 years put his sandwich down and set about fetching a few rocks from our garden’s edge. He then carefully piled three bits of flagstone in the center of the birdbath in immediate fulfillment of my simple wish.

“Perfect!” said I with a smile, knowing just a little bit more of why I want to grow old together with this man I love.

As we finished munching our sandwiches, Wayne spied our caddy-corner backyard neighbor in her yard a few doors down. She is a long ago transplanted southern lady who enjoys spending time in her own backyard feeding the birds. Even in the bitter cold of our Wisconsin winters, we see her zipped up in her royal blue parka faithfully trekking through the snow armed with birdseed for her feeders and pails of fresh water to fill a birdbath we cannot see from our vantage point. More than 20 years have passed since we first met her and today Wayne notes out loud that she looks old. It caused us to both wonder how old she was, so my husband pulls out his phone and finds that information on the web (crazy and kinda creepy what information there is about us there).

“She’s 72,” says Wayne matter-of-factly.

With Wayne being 70 and me at the ripe old age of almost 64, funny how that suddenly didn’t seem so very old. As we watched her walk about in her backyard, there was no denying the fact she had grown older. I know that age is no respecter of person, causing me to ponder whether the neighbors who see me out and about in my yard think the same thing about me. I’ve been feeling more of the aches and pains of getting older lately – a bum shoulder, arthritis in my hands, cataracts brewing, and a general “hitch in my giddy-up,” as dad would say. My hair has definitely grown grayer, my smile lines are now better classified as wrinkles, my step is slower and less sure, and I’m no longer hoisting 40-lb bags of topsoil and composted manure around with relative ease.

My own thoughts about aging caused me to recall the “old-people humor” in Mitch Teemley’s recent blog post. While many things about aging are no picnic, thankfully, I can still see the humor associated with the aging process. I thought some of my readers might enjoy it too, so will share Mitch’s post in the link below and then get back out to working in my garden before I am totally lacking the “zippity” part of my “do dah day” and need another nap.

https://mygoodtimestories.com/2021/05/20/growing-old/


All Things Bright and Beautiful

Peonies and Iris have a way of pointing my heart to the Creator of all that beauty. Let me share a few verses of a hymn that came to mind, along with a tiny bit of my little plot in God’s Creation

“All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.”

“Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.”

Iris ‘Honky Tonk Blues’

“He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.”

All Things Bright and Beautiful, hymn by Cecil F. Alexander
Paeonia ‘Bartzella’ (Itoh Peony)

If you’re not familiar with this wonderful hymn, you may want to give this beautiful rendition by Julie Gaulke a listen.

Sunset Gardening

I am not by nature an early morning riser, but am told that the glow of morning’s first light is the best time to photograph a garden. The dew is still kissing petals unfurling and the light is soft enough to let each flower’s beautiful color speak for itself. A night-owl by nature, I rarely see my flower gardens in that light. My favorite time of day for barefoot gardening is in the hours after supper when the sun sets low in the sky, the heat of the day is over, and the setting sun casts it warm glow over the splendor of God’s handiwork.

From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised!

Psalm 113:3 ESV

Upcycled Firewood Ring in the Garden

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

~Margaret Atwood

Encore Tulip and Daffodil Performance

Last fall I planted some “late” season tulips and daffodils. While not all of them seem to have bloomed, many have, so I am blessed with an encore performance of mostly white or pale yellow flowers (not planned). The delicate beauty of the various shades of white and yellow stands in lovely contrast to the riot of color I had going on over the past few weeks – almost like a different garden. To add to the beauty, I have some of the flowerbeds edged in various succulents, which are looking pretty impressive filling in the front row and edges.

Continue reading “Upcycled Firewood Ring in the Garden”

Just Mimicking Nature

The calendar reads May 1st today, but our temps are in the high 80’s and winds are blustery with gusts up to 50 mph. It feels more like summer than spring. I gardened a bit today, but it’s a little too windy to enjoy it. My hubby suggested we go visit the Allen Centennial Garden. This beautiful public garden is really an outdoor classroom nestled within the heart of the UW-Madison campus.

We smiled as university seniors donned their cap and gown and posed for friends taking informal iPhone portraits along the paths of this picturesque place. On other occasions, we have seen professional photographers taking engagement or family portraits, and we have even stumbled upon a wedding taking place in a reserved area of the garden.

This garden often mirrors my own in its stages, so I was not surprised to find that we were catching just the tail end of this garden’s tulip and daffodil show. A few weeks from now, the “show” will change once again as iris and peonies put on their own performance.

It was so windy, it was hard to take photos, but here are a few tulips which were still looking pretty fabulous. I especially loved their collection of potted tulips.

Once in awhile I am able to observe the student interns and volunteers hard at work planting and maintaining this beautiful place. I sometimes wish I could borrow them for a weekend or so to help spruce up my own place. As I’m growing older, I will admit that I am having more trouble keeping up with the tasks of gardening. But as we walked the garden’s paths today, I couldn’t help but notice that some areas seemed a bit unkempt. One sign pointed to the reason this garden seemed less than tidy. I had to laugh when I read it and told my hubby that I needed this sign for my own garden.

Weeds or not, no matter what’s happening at any particular time in this lovely place, I know I will leave having been glad I had been there. That’s just how I want people to feel when they visit my little plot of God’s creation.

Hand a (Grand)Kid a Camera

Having grown up a few states away from my own grandparents, I vividly recall those long “summer vacation” trips from Wisconsin to Ohio and West Virginia…and back. Three sweaty siblings elbowing each other in the backseat of our sedan in the years before our family car had air-conditioning. I loved seeing my grandparents, but the trip, not so much. Memories of that once a year trip make me feel particularly blessed to have our daughter Beth and her family living about ten minutes away from us and able to stop by often.

Continue reading “Hand a (Grand)Kid a Camera”

Mr. and Mrs. Robin Return

Mr. Robin Redbreast perches like a king on the purple garden chair - 
Pudgy tummy rounded and very handsomely red-vested.
I wonder where he and his queen have built their perfect cup-shaped nest?
In the eaves, atop the downspout, or in the leafy shelter of the crabapple tree?

Cheerily, cheer up! Cheerily, cheer up!

My robin friends require nothing from me, not even to be fed.
Crabapples and blueberries are choice morsels, and juicy worms make a fine dessert.
Their hop-run-run-run hunt for tasty fare is entertaining to watch.  
How many baby robins will join them this year; two broods or three?

Cheerily, cheer up! Cheerily, cheer up!

My robin friend takes wing abdicating his backyard purple throne,
Landing on the fountain, he cocks his head, first left, then right. 
Mrs. Robin joins him from her treetop perch for a splish-splashy fountain rendezvous. 
Then, off they flit to the locust tree where the king serenades his queen with his song.

Cheerily, cheer up! Cheerily, cheer up!
Photo by Skyler Ewing on Pexels.com