DIY Gardener

The summer of 1982, my neighbor Adele reached over her backyard fence and handed me a freshly dug perennial from her lovely garden. In passing me that tiny bit of her garden, she inspired me to create my own garden. I have been a do-it-yourself gardener ever since. Like my gardening inspiration and mentor Adele, I use traditional tools like cultivator hoes, trowels, and other hand tools, rather than power this ‘n thats to get the job done. My idea of a rototiller is to go in the house and ask my hubby to come outside and dig for me. He can dig in a matter of minutes what it would take me days to dig.

Likewise, most of the other members of my “gardening staff” all call me “Grandma.” Other than occasionally paying a grandchild to help pull weeds or pick up seed pods from our locust tree, or a friend who is temporarily out of work, I have never hired anyone to help me in the garden.

Okay, I will admit to a tiny twinge of jealousy as I see landscaping trucks in the neighborhood. It sure would be nice to hire a professional landscape artist to draw up a plan for that Pinterest-inspired garden space I have been dreaming about – complete with the cozy two-story structure with a little sitting room beneath and a cozy bunkhouse above which would provide a grandkid-friendly (and fun) summer sleep space. It would be so cool to have a landscaping crew, each with more muscles than Wayne and I combined, jump out of those trucks and in a matter of days transform my garden space into the luscious dream garden I have in my head.

Oh, I have loads of ideas!

As nice as it would be to have a professional landscape team doing all the grunt-work, I must admit there is a special joy and satisfaction when I look at God’s wonderful artistry in our gardens robed in summer’s splendor and realize that “we did this” ourselves.

No one can rightly call his garden his own unless he himself made it.
~ Alfred Austin, Poet Laureate 1986

My Garden Frog

One day while wandering through Pier1 Imports, a ceramic frog called my name from atop a sale rack. My sweet hubby bought him for me and Mr. Frog has stayed with us ever since. He customarily sits on our kitchen countertop and keeps busy much of the year holding oranges or apples for us. At Christmas you might even spy him holding a few especially pretty ornaments.

I looked at my frog today and decided he needs to make a return engagement to my garden this summer. He’s been so happy there in the past.

I have been nurturing a few garden succulents over the winter months, so planted the survivors in the little leafy bowl this afternoon. I think he looks rather spiffy.

“Mr. Frog” just doesn’t suit this dapper guy. I think he needs a name. What shall it be?

A Garden Memory to Savor

Our local weatherman says we’re in for a few days of chilly temps, so I decided to take advantage of today’s fleeting afternoon warmth to rake leaves out of the flowerbed on the east side of our home. This flowerbed has never been a show-stopping focal point of our landscape and few people actually see it, so it’s usually the last flowerbed to garner any attention whatsoever from me. With a little more effort, I mused, I could create something eye-catching and special in this particular garden space.

I thought about that as I gingerly pulled the rake through the bed, gently coaxing last year’s leaves and debris toward the edge of the bed. Moving more slowly than usual because of a grumpy shoulder, I raked very carefully, slowly uncovering the new beginnings of unfurling leaves and flowers yet to bloom. Among them, a dozen or more clumps of hosta push their spikey heads above the earth; a Siberian iris and a daylily send leafy blades skyward; and a huge clump of sedum I wish I had divided long ago.

Beauty yet to come…

But there, in the far corner of this plot of earth was the plant I treasure very much. A few gentle pulls of the rake uncovered the red tips of one of my dad’s peonies inching their way out of the warming earth. A twinge of pain reminded me to take a little break, so I pulled my garden stool into the corner next to dad’s peony and surveyed the work I had accomplished thus far. It was looking good.

A brisk breeze tossed my hair in my eyes. Closing my eyes for a moment, I just listened to the nearby windchime’s frenzied melody and the sweet call of the cardinal in a neighboring magnolia tree. Opening my eyes again, I focused on carefully weeding around dad’s peony. As I pinched and pried, I thought about my dad and how much he nurtured and enjoyed his peonies. Few things brought him greater joy than snipping a few for the passersby who stopped to admire their beauty. That memory of him made me smile.

My parents: Charlotte and Jerry Boyles

The wind was growing colder and a niggling of pain suggested it was time to gather my tools and call it a day. It’s hard to give thanks for the painful things in life, but I found myself offering a prayer of thanks to God for slowing me down enough so that I could savor the quietude of memories and the simple beauty of an emerging garden.


One word. Five minutes to write about it. This is the idea behind the Five Minute Friday community. Today’s free-writing word prompt: SAVOR

When ‘Great Expectations’ Happen

If my great expectations of gardening goals were met at all this week, it was through no effort of my own, but by the loving efforts of my dear husband. I had two projects in mind and he took care of one of them for me. It had been my desire to rake the flowerbed on the east side of our home and clean up a winter’s worth of birdseed hulls from underneath my bird-feeding station. The later was quite handily accomplished by my husband, who also took the time to relocate that feeding station to a spot a little further away from the fountain.

Continue reading “When ‘Great Expectations’ Happen”

Garden ‘Great Expectations’

I have been re-reading Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations this week. I remember reading it many moons ago when I was in junior high school. As a teen, I struggled with getting into the story. Truth be told, I didn’t put much effort into reading for comprehension and enjoyment. Well, I’m thoroughly into it this time through. Though it has absolutely nothing to do with gardening, I just love the title of the book and have found myself viewing my garden through the lens of great expectations.

Nothing show-stopping happening in my garden this week, but the snow has melted and there are definitely some great expectations and emerging signs of beauty to come…and a whole lot of grunt work needed to tidy up the flowerbeds.

Continue reading “Garden ‘Great Expectations’”

Promising Signs of Spring

I love to see the tips of my spring-blooming flowers poking their weary of winter heads above the earth. First to emerge and then open in my garden is the lovely crocus. At the very first sight of the flower buds forming I begin listening for robins. Just about the time the earliest crocus flowers open, the robins return from their winter migration and begin announcing spring’s arrival with their song.

Crocus – my garden’s herald of spring

Another sure sign that spring has sprung is when I begin seeing a lot more activity in and around the various birdhouses and nestboxes in our yard. The one pictured below was painted by my grandson Charlie. I cleaned this nestbox out a few weeks ago so the new tenants would have a fresh start. As you can see in the photo collage below, the side of the box hinges open, revealing the fact that new tenants are making good use of our neighbor’s pine needles in their cozy abode.

The old-fashioned bleeding heart is another harbinger of spring’s arrival in my garden. As Dicentra Spectabilis’ leaves push their way out of the earth to begin their yearly show, their fuschia colored leaves remind me of old-fashioned feather dusters and are always a welcome sight. They’re one of those plants which you plant one year and then they take up residence wherever they want in your garden.

Tulips like the sun, so I’m always surprised (and extra thankful) to see the tips of tulips pushing their way up into sight on the shady north side of my house. Here are a few which have emerged right next to my only remaining swath of snow.

I inspected my yellow peony for buds and was overjoyed to see lots of signs of spring growth (see the photo on the left below). If the blog space I’ve used to write about any given flower in my garden is any indicator, it’s definitely a favorite in my garden, I wrote about this charming peony here, here, and here, and am very much looking forward to seeing its enthralling beauty again (see the photo on the right below).

Paeonia Itoh ‘Bartzella’ – What is now and the promise of what is to come

I look forward to having you join me in the weeks to come for more little walks through the little plot I tend in my little corner of God’s beautiful earth.


The Propagator provides a virtual garden plot each Saturday where gardeners and all those who like to write about playing in the dirt can gather and plant their respective garden-related missives. Known as “Six on Saturday,” it’s a virtual show n’ tell where each tiller of the earth shows off six photos of that week’s garden happenings (or anything garden-related). You’re invited to click on The Propagator link and begin your own personal tour of gardens around the world. Such fun!

The Crocus: spring’s herald of beautiful possibilities

I have about a foot of snow left in my Wisconsin garden. Not a foot deep, mind you, but a little swath of white stuff on the north side of the house that’s about a foot wide and an inch or two deep. Another warm spring day and all the snow will be gone–and I am glad of it.

Continue reading “The Crocus: spring’s herald of beautiful possibilities”

Six on Saturday: Awaiting Spring

I’m joining The Propagator and his entourage of Six On Saturday gardeners for a little six-photo tour of what’s going on in the garden. It’s a fun little adventure. So put on your boots, come along with me, and let’s take a peek at what’s going on in my garden!

Continue reading “Six on Saturday: Awaiting Spring”

For the Love of Green

One word. Five minutes to write about it. This is the idea behind the Five Minute Friday community. Today’s free-writing word prompt: GREEN


What’s your favorite color?

As a gardener, I find that question hard to answer. There are so many pretty colors in my world of flowers. It’s hard to pick just one, but there is one captivating color which God tends to use liberally in His world of botanical beauty. It’s a color I find both restful and invigorating.

Green.

In all its magnificent shades, green complements all of the other colors in God’s creation, allowing each floral masterpiece to point to its Creator looking its exquisite best.

The Winter Wait

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape – the loneliness of it – the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it – the whole story doesn’t show.”

Andrew Wyeth

It’s cold here in frozen Wisconsin — not sub-zero yet, but cold. I much prefer the warmer seasons in my beautiful state, but there’s something about the snow-covered ground that I like. Maybe it’s the reprieve of winter’s long nap–a quiet rest which requires little work from the gardener. Maybe it’s the thought about what lies beneath that crisp blanket of sparkly snow. As I view our gardens from the vantage of my second story windows, the snow looks like a pristine white quilt with meandering quilting stitches in the shape of the tiny paw prints of critters. I love to imagine the floral joy that will awaken from winter’s slumber when that blanket melts away and the ground warms to the longer hours of sunshine in a few short months.

First will come the demure crocuses with their grass-like leaves and dainty flowers of purple and white.

Before we know it, the daffodils and tulips will begin their colorful show. Snow will likely throw a light blanket over it all a few times, but the flowers will survive and stand resilient over the brief and momentary trial of life.

For now, I’ll take a little walk through the new fallen snow, breathe in some fresh air, and pop a letter into our mailbox in hopes of bringing a warm greeting on a chilly winter’s day to someone I love.


So that’s my Six on Saturday for this week (well, I did get a little carried away in my tulip and daff slideshow). If you’re experiencing the chill of winter like me, you can tour the gardens of others in warmer parts of the earth from the comfort of your favorite comfy chair by visiting the host of Six on Saturday, The Propagator, where you’ll find 6-photo garden tours, planting tips, and inspiration from gardeners worldwide.