Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lady Slipper

What a nice surprise greeted me in the woods last week! The elusive ladyslipper made an appearance after a few years absence. It tucked itself away across the yard from where it last made an appearance. I'm so happy to see it again in my woods! I'm so glad it found a home here again despite the contruction of a nearby play area that upset it last time. I hope my maturing garden will offer it the peace it needs to decide to stay around this time.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Symbols of Friendship

Two years ago, my friend Sara bought me tulip bulbs for my birthday. As we sat sipping mojitos, she turned to the page in the catalog with the deep purple, fringed beauties that she thought would look lovely in my garden.

The next spring, I waited expectantly for my tulips to poke their heads out of the ground. They never did. The year following, I again waited hopefully to no avail. I was convinced that the chipmunks had gotten to my birthday present.

Sara moved across the country to California last autumn. She was the doctor who diagnosed my celiac, helped me through infertility, and delivered my daughter. Through a difficult time in my life, she became one of my closest friends. We shared a gardening passion, and had similar interests about environmental consciousness and healthy living. We also shared what was in our hearts. Sara was there for me to cry on, lean on and laugh with for the last 7 years. A piece of my heart will always be with her.

Last week, a lone purple, fringed tulip came up in my front garden. I know now that Sara will always be with me too, no matter how geographically far apart we are.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Waves of Color

This is the first year that my gardens really look like GARDENS and not just plants stuck here and there randomly. After five years of working the soil on this property, plants are starting to fill their spaces. The Japanese Maple is becoming a real tree and not just a stick in the ground with a few red leaves. The strawberry patch has filled out and is laden with white flowers. My 15 rose bushes have established themselves, revealing healthy green stems and shiny leaves that should burst with color in a few weeks.

I am most excited that I am getting waves of color. Proper planning, so far, has ensured that something is blooming in my garden at all times. We started the spring with pastel crocus and anemone. Rather than a small bag of bulbs, we planted dozens of early spring flowers last autumn. Crocus popped up in my three main gardens. I'll be sure to plant them in more spaces this autumn because the wow effect was amazing.

After the early spring flowers came the yellow daffodils and forsythia followed by a splash of multicolor tulips with dots of forget-me-nots and lamium. A lone purple tulip that was given to me as a friend showed its head this year and ushered in the purple azaleas. They soon splashed as background colors to my specimen plants. I have spent a few years moving around the azaleas I first found on this property to place them as backdrops for dramatic effects. Ground cover phlox also serves as a background in my main garden and the purples are dominating at the moment with lilacs ushering in the start of prime flowering season.

And now come the Iris. I have moved them over the years to take up a healthy section of my tiered beds. They are spreading and make a dramatic focus. Watching their progress, I realize that nothing will replace them in that spot when their blooms are spent.

After ten years of gardening on my own, I think I have learned the genius of perennial gardening. Waves of color, planning to include plants that bloom at variant times, spreading and moving plants to create the greatest impact, learning plant habits in blooming times and desirable conditions...that is the joy of gardening. I can almost feel what a plant needs by watching it as it brings its show to my yard and caring for it until it can return with its color the following year.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Signs of Spring

Up come the flowers, out comes the camera. Welcome crocus. I'm just warming up.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring Squall and Rushing Away Unfavorable Weather

We headed into the garden for some spring cleanup and very early planting this past weekend. I haven't hauled out the good camera yet...but here are some snapshots of events.

We cleaned up the twigs and branches from the ice storm back in the early winter. Some of the larger branches remain under the snow. We began clearing straw from the gardens. In the first picture you can see the tender bulbs poking through. Some of the bulbs were coming up white, choked from sunlight and chlorophyll production by the ground covering. Chomping at the bit in the 50 degree weather, I ran to the local garden center and purchased some very early to plant seeds. the packages say they can be put in as soon as the ground could be worked. Swiss chard, forget-me-nots, Bachelor Buttons, and sweet pea went into the ground as the weather turned. Wind howled and an unexpected snow squall scared us back into the house. Oh well, I know spring weather is really just around the corner now.

My seeds from Territorial came in the mail today. It's still another couple of months before I can get those in the ground, but I'm prepared.

I'm also eager to write about gardening again. This summer, I will be teaching a class on photographing and writing about nature at the Peabody Mill Environmental Center in Amherst, NH.

Today I'm back indoors with temps hovering around 30 degrees fahrenheit. This is a good day for prepping photos to hang at Uncanoonuc Mt. Perennials. Every year I am lucky enough to get space in the garden centers cabin to hang my work. I'm raring to get into their display gardens again for more camera work.

Every year around this time, my daughter and I chant "Melt Snow Melt!" Won't you please join us? It is very cathartic.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I hit the garden today...just a little spring cleanup. The snow has melted from the majority of my beds. I don't think I've ever been out this early in the season before. But I've got big plans this year. My decade of gardening, interviews with fellow gardeners and last fall's publication of my book have inspired me. I feel like I have hit a pinnacle as a gardener. I'm ready to really trust my instincts and to run with my ideas.

I've got two pathways that need a lot of work and this is where I'll start. I've mustered the courage to try the mint in these areas, despite their invasive tendencies. I want pathways that my daughter will smell when she walks on them. I want the scents to trigger her memory all her life. Whenever she smells mint, she will think of gardening with mom.

We returned the fairy objects to the fairy garden today. My daughter has big plans for this garden. Mainly, she plans for the fairies to return. Last year they brought her a shiny pink marble that resembles a star sapphire. They also brought a necklace of tiny sea green glass. She wants the fairies to come back early this year. She worked hard for two hours laying out marble pathways to the two fairy houses that remained standing despite the ravages of winter snows and wind. I'm sure those fairies will return.

And this year, last year's vegetable garden will become a pumpkin patch. This is my third year vegetable gardening. The vegetables will return to the bed they originally occupied two years ago and will also be spread among perennial plantings. A gardener friend of mine lets her vegetables run wild -- tomatoes especially spread to unlikely wildflower beds and beyond. I like the idea of walking among the flowers and finding a surprise edible along the way. We'll see how well planning out "random" vegetable plantings goes.

Growing season spreads before me with grand opportunities. I hope that the snow melts faster!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Displaced Creativity

Groundhog's Day makes me feel like spring is around the corner - even when the groundhog sees his shadow (as he did this year).. and even when it's really not just around the corner (I do live in NH after all and we don't see spring until summertime...)

I didn't get the greenhouse I desired this winter, but I have kept myself busy. I am a home decorator at heart. I try to bring my garden indoors in my design. I hang my garden images, but I also try to use nature inspired color and themes. This winter, I have been redoing my stairwell. Unfortunately, I didn't think to get a "before" image, but here is the after...I hope that it stirs your creativity.

Don't despair those in the northern hemisphere! We'll be in the garden soon!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Flowers and Tradition

I have written in the past about flowers and tradition. It amazes me how interwoven flowers are with many of our celebrations. Yet, I think that most of us do not give much thought to this. With Valentine's Day approaching, I think it is appropriate to explore this phenomenon in more depth and in upcoming weeks, I hope to come back to it a few times. But today...I am going to focus on how special flowers can make an occasion for a child.

This past weekend, my five-year-old daughter performed in her first play. "Don't forget to get her flowers," another stage-mom reminded me. "The kids love flowers. They get very excited." And it's true. Don't we all love to get flowers? But why does this little tradition excite even a five-year-old? Wouldn't just taking her out for an ice cream (as my parents did) or hot chocolate (as we do here in New England because it is so darn cold right now) be enough?

Here are my thoughts... #1 getting flowers seems so very grownup. #2 the bright colored flowers are special in themselves and remind the little ones of the "specialness" of an occasion. #3 having something tangible to remind us of a special occasion for a few weeks keeps the excitement going just a bit longer.

I wonder, are flowers just appropriate to give to a little girl - especially a little princess-type girl who has just performed in Cinderella? Would a little boy like to get flowers too? (I'll leave this to mothers of boys to answer for me.)

In the past, I have given my daughter flowers for Easter, for trips to the Farmer's Market as "just because" the flowers were fresh and beautiful gifts, and for ballet recitals. Flowers are interwoven into our lives mainly because of my deep love for gardening. My little one understands that it is important to hold nature in high regard and to cherish the bright living jewels it gives us in the form of flowers. But I think this appreciation has also come outside the garden -- from the traditions we are slowly establishing that weave plants into her life. I hope that she will always see a bouquet of flowers as something special, to include in special occasions, to show pride and love.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My Bit of Winter Sunshine

I am one of those people affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder. When winter comes to New England, I just want to sleep through the season. I drag myself out of bed and follow some steps to shake off the winter blues. In addition to regular exercise (I find yoga most helpful,) I take vitamin D supplements and use a sunlamp.

My sunlamp is one of my most prized possessions. It is about ten years old now. It's a large box, about the size of a small suitcase. When I turn it on, the room takes on a surreal glow that is a bit eerie. I sit about 3 yards from the lamp while I do my computer work and slowly feel myself begin to perk. It's not exactly like gardening in the sunshine, but it is a close enough facsimile of sunshine that I can close my eyes and pretend I'm really at the beach if I want. Behind my eyelids I see that telltale glow that one gets when sunbathing.

During warmer months, I sit out in a sunroom that look out at my gardens. This time of year, I move to an interior room where I won't see the snow. The room is painted a warm sunshine yellow and my sunlamp warms the color further. The color reminds me of sunflowers.

My sunlamp is also useful for still life picture taking and unusual portrait taking. It rakes subjects with a warm light and help create unique shadows.

I hope that I"ll never have to go back to my life without my little box. This morning, as ice once again pelts my house, I sit here with a cup of coffee, listening to my five-year-old giggling as she plays a computer game. I let the sunshine absorb me and transport me to my garden sunshine happy place.