Playing in the Dirt Again

It feels good to be outdoors playing in the dirt again. In a day when COVID-19 has us squirreled away indefinitely in the relative safety of our own homes, spending time in my garden this week has been a welcome repose and heartsome encouragement.

Crocus are already showing off their comely petals in shades of purple, and a few white ones too. Blue muscari brings teeny-tiny punches of the deepest, bluest blue in patches scattered here and there. Brilliant, sunshine yellow clusters of daffodils dot my Schumann Drive landscape, with tulips promising to take their turn in the next few weeks.

As I pull back the winter blanket of leaves and mulch in one bed, then another, I’m seeing hints of more beauty yet to come. Peonies have poked their little red tips about an inch above the ground and I’m already dreaming of their beautiful petals in reds, pinks, white and a very special yellow one too. The foliage of my beautiful daylilies is already several inches high and seem to whisper their promise, “Summer is coming.”

Some flowers are spilling out of the bounds I had imposed on them, so I begin digging up a few of the plants nearest the garden’s edge. Some go in my compost bin, a few are transplanted elsewhere, but most are placed in a big plastic tub marked ‘Free Perennials’ and placed at the curb end of my driveway where they are offered to those passing by in the neighborhood. Each offering of future beauty is placed in its own plastic or paper bag, with any information I can offer about the plant scribbled on the bag. The bin is usually emptied in a day or two. I find it a lovely thought knowing that little bits of my garden’s loveliness will soon be springing up in other neighborhood gardens.

Today, as I plunged my garden trowel into the spring-softened dirt to scoop up one of the plants for my driveway offerings, I was delighted to find a sleepy toad still nestled in the dirt on my trowel. I breathed a sigh of relief that I didn’t injure him; it’s an honor to find toads, as I know they will do me countless favors in the months to come as they feast on slugs and snails and other garden pests. I pried my little plant offering from the dirt, then tucked the toad back in under a blanket of dirt where he could continue his slumber before awakening as my garden helper.

Today’s discoveries included unearthing a bunny nest and getting to see the cute little bunny butts within (I know I will regret thinking they are cute when I start seeing tops of my plants nibbled off as bunny fodder). Unlike toads, bunnies are not known for their propensity for helping in the garden.

While I will not refuse offers of human help in my garden, I rather like the solitude it offers. It’s a time to pray and to reflect on life’s blessings. Any frustrations I might be feeling seem to disappear into the soft earth as I work it. This solitary time in the garden is also a great time to sing (or hum) in praise to God. With the discovery of my little garden friends, it seemed fitting that my mind went to a song I learned when I was 11 or 12 years old, very early in my Christian walk. We don’t sing this hymn much anymore, but I recall learning the song in a club for kids called Awana. Not very long ago, I taught the song to the kids in our Sunday School so they would have it in their hearts too. It would be my pleasure to share the lyrics in the hopes that you would be blessed by them, and that your soul would find rest in the thought of all the wonders He has wrought.

This Is My Father’s World | Maltbie D. Babcock

This is my Father’s world,
And to my list’ning ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world:
Oh, let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world,
The battle is not done:
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.

Little Bouquets of Floral Joy

Join me today as I link up with our host The Propagator  and a plethora of other gardeners around the world who each post pictures of six things going on in their respective world of gardening. Six things, in the garden, on a Saturday. This week, I decided to show you how I share the beauty of the garden God has blessed with floral abundance.

For as long as I’ve been gardening, Momma always enjoyed it when I shared a little sampler of what was going on in my garden. Last Spring I began bringing her a little bouquet whenever I visit her at BeeHive, her assisted living home. I always put her flowers in her little blue vase she had hanging for years over her kitchen window…you can see the little holes where a rope once looped through to make it a hanging vase. I’ve long since removed the rope, but love this sweet little thing – something I would like to keep as a treasure to remind me of my mom.

Sadly, Alzheimer’s has a way of sucking the joy right out of the things that used to bring Mom pleasure and delight. Mom didn’t seem to enjoy my floral bouquets anymore. One day I decided I’d put her little bouquet on the table where she and 3 or 4 other residents enjoyed their meal. The sheer delight of her friends splashed joy all over me.

It dawned on me that there were two more tables with residents who would love a jar filled with a little floral joy at their table too. The next day, and nearly every day since, I picked a few more flowers and a few little “filler” bits from my garden — three stems of each type of flower or filler. When I arrived at BeeHive to visit Mom, I arranged three nearly identical little bouquets — one for each table.

Oh, what joy the simple bouquets bring!

Flowers leave some of their fragrance in the hand that bestows them. ~ Chinese proverb

Six on Saturday: Daylilies Still Reign

Every now and again I take time for a ‘Six on Saturday’ post – a fun gathering of gardeners around the globe hosted by The Propagator – who link up and post pictures of six things going on in their respective world of gardening. Six things, in the garden, on a Saturday. Could be anything – a flower, a favorite tool, a gardening book, a pest, a beautiful (or less than stellar) harvest, anything at all. Here are my six:

It’s the last week of July and daylilies are still reigning supreme in my garden. These queens of the garden seem to rather enjoy the recent rains followed by toasty hot weather. (The mosquitoes and Japanese beetles are enjoying it too…but we’ll not talk about them.)

Hemerocallis ‘Mighty Chestnut’ is magnificent. Flowers stay open longer than most daylily blossoms. It boasts a stunning deep burgundy eye and gold throat atop strong, heavily budded scapes. I plan to divide this one this year and move a piece or two to other flowerbeds.

Hemerocallis ‘Earlybird Cardinal’ is a striking flash of rich red along the front edge of my furthest flowerbed. I can see this beauty whenever I’m in my kitchen. I plan to take a division and move some closer to the house. This photo doesn’t do justice to the intensity and vibrancy of its red color.

The garden chair is definitely my most popular pic on social media this year. The phlox grows lovelier each week. I have another roadside treasure seatless chair to paint to use similarly as a flower ring…just need to get the urge to paint!

‘Annabelle’ hydrangea has pretty much taken over one corner of a front flowerbed. It’s kinda floppy at times, but quietly regal, making a lovely foil for surrounding hosta. [Photo credit: Mia Winquist]

This lovely daylily has been a reliable bloomer in my garden for many years, sending up more scapes than one would think a plant could possibly hold. I had lost the tag, so dubbed it ‘Beth’s Favorite’ because it was always my daughter’s favorite. I’m remembering now that it was probably called ‘Blueberry Cream’…but will stick with ‘Beth’s Favorite’ because it makes me think of her.

Ending my Six on Saturday garden tour on a very fragrant note… ‘Stargazer Lily,’ a lovely Oriental lily, has burst forth in glorious bloom this week. What an amazing, exotic perfume!

Six on Saturday: Summer Days are Here (finally!)

We can’t seem to catch a break from rain around these parts in Wisconsin, but I’m up for a little walk through the garden. If you come along with me on tonight’s barefoot garden tour, it’ll be a bit sloshy underfoot. If you want to stay dry and not have to swat at mosquitoes, you can visit other gardens all around the world with just a click. Just pop on over to our Six on Saturday meme host’s site at https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/

On our little tour you’ll see that my daylilies and Asiatic lilies are beginning to bloom, with lots of promising blossoms yet to open on their scapes and peduncles (pictures to come, I’m sure). Clematis has been detained by our wonky wet weather, but the blossoms on all my plants are going strong now. I’m not sure what’s eating them, but bugs are threatening to munch their lovely floweriferousness…but I’m determined to keep after the pesky bugs! Oh, and you’re going to love my Japanese iris…simply gorgeous!

Knowing I wanted to paint some old chairs to serve as garden art, my daughter picked up two chairs discarded by the side of the road and brought them to me. My granddaughters Mia and Noelle, and honorary grandgirl, Natalie, stayed with me a few days last summer, so put them to work painting one of them. I think they did a fantastic job. I placed it in the garden where it can serve as a support for a little bit of my garden phlox.

The artsy chair Mia, Noey and Natalie painted for me last summer
Clematis ‘Sunset’ is a little late in blooming, but it’s well worth the wait.
Japanese Iris ensata ‘Oriental Eyes’ is the most beautiful flower I have in my garden right now.
This new little splash of color growing by my front door is a short Asiatic lily called ‘Matrix Red’. I almost forgot I planted it!
Clematis ‘Prince Charles’ is loaded with buds this year.
Is there any color more serene than green…love the sun’s setting rays illuminating this foliage!

Cottonwood Music

Listening to the gentle rustle of leaves as summery breezes
play in the branches of a neighboring cottonwood tree –
wondering why would a tree with lovely wind-stirred song
leave such a terrible fluffy mess lying on the ground?

A squall of snowy tufts swirl by, tickling my nose,
blanketing the lawn in maddening cottonwood snow.
With hair covered in velvety fluff, I sigh as it drifts along garden edges,
then sticks like socklets to my feet wet and bare.

For a few weeks each summer I fuss, whine and complain –
“the tree’s such a mess” and inwardly wish it weren’t there.
Well, the ‘snow storm’ quelled on this summer’s eve, and I thought I did hear
the cottonwood’s beautiful wind-whispered music beg my forgiveness.

Cottonwood Mess – photo credit treeandneighborlawblog.com

Linking up today with Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday community for five minutes of free write on a weekly word prompt.  This week’s word is question. Hello, to my neighbor and friend Marianne, in whose yard this tree resides. I hope she enjoys my question to the stately cottonwood tree and my unexpected revelation that the beautiful parts of life may very well make up for the messy parts.

Beautiful Garden Partners: Peony and Iris

I’m known as the ‘barefoot lily lady’ in my neighborhood – and for good cause. I do have a habit of gardening in my bare feet and daylilies are right at the top of my long list of favorite flowers. In late June through early August, our gardens put forth a beautiful daylily show. Right now though, its all about peonies and iris strutting their beautiful stuff. Even though the wind and rain are doing their best to beat them down, these lovely garden partners are still exceptionally lovely this year.

My flower gardens have been a bit neglected over the past few years as I have focused on caring for my mom. They’re still beautiful, but weeds and more than my fair share of invasive plants have taken more than just a toe-hold in these years of less attention. I am so thankful to have a little extra time to play in the dirt these days now that Momma is cared for and content in her new abode at BeeHive Homes of Oregon. Gardening is my ‘dirt therapy’!

Two of my dad’s peonies flourish beneath our locust tree’s dappled shade: one hosts magnificent rosy red flowers and the other is a lovely white with a hint of cream and pink at its center. As I dig and carefully coax the weeds and invasives from this bed, my mind’s eye can still see my daddy carrying his big galvanized watering can around to the west side of our Milwaukee home so that his show-stopping peonies would flourish.

Dad’s white peonies are equally beautiful balls of fragrant fluffiness. The closed bud is tinged with pink. As it unfurls its white ruffles the center has a sweet creaminess tinged with pink.

Side note: Today I found this fantastic blog post by Christine Covino which thoroughly discusses everything you could possibly want to know about growing peonies.

I’ve long since forgotten the name of this iris, but call it ‘Beth’s Favorite,’ as it is a favorite of my daughter Beth’s. It garners quite a few ‘oohs and aahs’ as neighbors stroll through the gardens. There is not a more perfect purple and lavender combination in the world.

Let me close with a shout-out to my husband Wayne for taking many of these photos. Hope this little garden visit brought you a bit of joy and wonder at God’s amazing creation.

Bye, for now.

Paeonia ‘Gold Standard’ – a Japanese (Anemone Imperial) form