Garden with Grace

"I hope that while so many people are out smelling the flowers, someone is taking the time to plant some." ~H.Rappaport


1 Comment

Spring Awakening

It snowed again in southern New Hampshire over the weekend – about five inches of slushy, heavy snow. The wintry early April day brought a flock of seven Cedar Waxwings to the garden. When they weren’t stripping the few remaining red berries from the holly shrubs, they were huddled in the Weeping Cherry tree.

DSC_0757

Today, it’s sunny and 60 degrees (F) at 4pm. The longer days of sunshine are quickly melting the latest – and hopefully last – blanket of snow.

DSC_0777.JPG

While most of the paths in the garden are still white and slippery,  a swath of purple blooms caught my eye when I stepped onto my my front porch to get the mail.

Spring has arrived! The crocus are blooming — just as expected in early April.

DSC_0776 (2)

I grabbed my camera and walked through the areas of the garden where sun melted the snow from the stone paths.  (The ground in these few areas is very soft, almost muddy, so I didn’t venture far.)

It’s always a thrill to find the crocus in bloom. While expected, it always feels like the first flowers are a miracle.

The garden still has a brown dormant winter appearance – from the decaying leaves, pine needles, and sticks that will eventually be picked up either by the birds building their spring nests or during the initial hours of our annual spring cleanup gardening day.

No matter how sleepy the garden appears under the latest blanket of snow, Mother Nature does a spectacular job of waking the flowers that typically appear in late March thru early April.  This includes the crocus and scilla.  As soon as the purple crocus start to wind down, the bright scilla open to full bloom to bring new life and spectacular streaks of blue to line the garden paths. I don’t even need a calendar to know when Easter is just two weeks away.  Seeing these two spring flowers in bloom is always the first indication that the Easter Bunny is expected very soon. (And that it’s time to pick up the ingredients to make the traditional Pickled Beet Eggs for the pending holiday.)

While walking through the garden this afternoon, my soul filled with gratitude. Not just the sights of pops of bright color hear and there, but with the sounds of the songbirds who are out, searching for their spring mates.

I felt caught between two seasons – winter because of the snow cover. And, spring with with the early blooming bulbs.  I’d once read a quote about crocus that included the word Grace. That seems like the perfect way to end today’s story.

DSC_0775 (2)

“A single crocus blossom ought to be enough to convince our heart that springtime, no matter how predictable, is somehow a gift, gratuitous, gratis, a grace.”

-David Steindl-Rast


1 Comment

Gardening Epiphany

The post-gardening months of November and December were remarkable as 2015 came to a close.  It was unusally warm as autumn transitioned into winter.  And, for the first time that I can remember, the outdoor water spigots were still open on December 31st. (I just shut them off this week vs. the standard ritual of this happening by Thanksgiving weekend.)

Either Mother Nature was offering penance for last winter’s historic snowfall in New Hampshire, or she was just resting up for the coming New Year.

Most notable as the year ended, an amazing sight appeared on Christmas Day. Mother Nature offered the gift of a single viola (Johnny Jump Up) blossom in an area of the garden that is literally ‘between a rock and a hard place’. The honeysuckle on the back trellis pushed out a few orange-pink blooms, as well. It was a sunny, warm day on December 25th (the First Day of Christmas!) So warm in fact, the furnace was off for the day and the windows and doors had to be opened…..oh, and yes,  the flowers were blooming!

ChristmasPansy-2015

It was so different from Christmas Days past when it was almost impossible to go outside with temperatures in the single digits. But as always in New England, you just need to wait for a moment (or two) and everything changes.  Snow and ice finally arrived four days later and the garden is now under a soft white blanket to sleep for the next few weeks.

WinterBlanket

Don’t let a sleeping garden fool you.  Now is the most exciting time of the year for this garden blogger.  January is the month when I find that gardening activities are the most focused and important.

I browse the hundreds of photos that I’ve taken over the past season and make notes of what needs to be moved and removed. And this year, I’m adding the best photos from the season to my new Garden with Grace on Instagram page to complement this blog.

I flip through catalogues that still arrive by mail in January and February to see what is marked “NEW!” for 2016.

I read old gardening books and journals that are stored in my potting shed.  And this year, I’m reading a new book (a thoughtful Christmas gift from my friend Liz) that is a fascinating guide, called Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities

I confer with my mother (my gardening mentor and co-gardener!) about plans for the coming spring. Our discussions over the past few years always involve the same three basic questions:

  1. Should we start some things from seed? (No. Not after that time in 2009 when we ended up with nearly 200 red solo cups of seedlings in our sun/garden room.)
  2. Will we order any special or “NEW!” plants to add to the landscape? (No. Let’s mark what we want from the catalogues and patronize local nurseries in the spring, instead.)
  3. What are we going to do with the two areas of grass that died again? (Don’t know yet. But the grass from my Sad Sod Situation story, just over a year ago needs attention again!)

These questions will no doubt be brought up in the coming weeks (usually during an evening ritual that my grandfather called ‘Coffee Break’. Others call it Cocktail Hour!) No matter the season or time of year, gardening is a 365 day obsession in my home.

So here it is, my 2016 Gardening Epiphany that arrived on January 6, the 12th Day of Christmas: You can take the Gardener of out of the Garden, but you can never take the Garden out of the Gardener.

 

 

 


5 Comments

What Lies Beneath

Two words come to mind when I’m asked to sum up this year’s winter in NH: Historical & Hysterical.

We’ve had record-breaking snowfall and frigid temperatures in January and February. The depth of the snow has reached nearly 80 inches in some areas around my yard — several back-to-back storms with blizzard conditions created drifts, like never seen before. A typical conversation over the past month includes words and phrases like: Roofrakes: Soldout, Snowblowers, Snowplowing, Ice Dam, Damn Ice, Retire to Florida, Too Cold,  Frigid, etc.

As I looked out of the window this am, I was greeted by two more inches of snow that fell overnight – definitely no big deal at this point (and, secretly, not necessarily unwanted, as the fresh snow covers the filthy black piles that have been building up all winter!)

Then my thoughts started to spring forward, just as our clocks will spring forward for the start of Daylight Savings Time this weekend.

I imagined the garden underneath all of this snow.

I imagined the garden sleeping under a thick white blanket, being protected from the Polar Vortex winds that have not allowed the temperatures to rise above 20 degrees (until today, March 4th.)

I imagined that the plants, especially the early ones, like the crocus and lilacs are as anxious to see and feel the warmth of the sunshine (just as I am!)

Thankfully, a file filled with garden photos, from over the years, allows me to see some of what I imagined, creating the inspiration to share some views of “What Lies Beneath.”

For me, these photos provide hope for the arrival of spring, as well as context to always remember this historical (and hysterical!) winter, that will soon be only a memory.

IMG_5465

View of the back garden on March 4, 2015. Two weeks ago, the snow completely covered the sun and bird garden ornaments.

001

Nearly same garden view during late June 2014.

Coneflower Row

Looking down the purple coneflower path. March 3, 2014

IMG_4535

Similar view of the purple coneflower path in late July 2014.

IMG_5429

View of the back patio – there’s a table and chair set as well as a grill under all of that white! (You can see the remnants of last years pink mandevilla on the far right!)

IMG_4112

This is the back patio in mid June 2014. It looks more livable when not buried in snow! Thankfully, spring is just around the corner!


2 Comments

Gardening at the Gardner Museum

Living in southern New Hampshire, I have the luxury of access to some of the most wonderful art museums in the world, all within an hour or so (depending on the traffic!) drive from my home.

My favorite (with no offense to any of the others, since I love visiting them all!) is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.  I feel a sense of peace as soon as I walk into the grand old building that features a spectacular courtyard. You’ll have to view the photos of the courtyard on their website since photography is not allowed during visits.

There’s a connection (that I just can’t explain), that I feel whenever I walk though the entrance to this museum. Many of my friends know my secret as to why I became a member of the Gardner a few years ago. I always thought it would be a great place to attend a party.  Well, my membership has not let me down!  I’ve attended some exhibit openings filled with great fanfare.  But, one of my favorite parties at the Gardner takes place on the Third Thursday of each month.

This winter, I made it down for the Midwinter Tropics event on the Third Thursday in January. My good friend, Liz, joined me for this little mid-week field trip into Boston.  Once we survived the nearly 2 hour drive (to go only 45 miles), we had a wonderful time.

It was a trip that ended up filling this gardener’s desire to get her hands dirty!  In addition to the networking and bars throughout the museum, there was a little workshop area filled with hundreds of sedum plants, buckets and piles of peat moss, and dozens of tiny wood boxes.  The fragrance of the peat moss was a great reminder of spring while we were still in the middle of a cold January when the days were still short and the nights were so long.

An opportunity to Garden at the Gardner to create our own mini works of art was such a treat on that Third Thursday night of January. It also made this winter just a little more bearable!

GardeningAtGardnerMuseum (731x800)

My friend, Liz (L) and me Gardening at the Gardner!

“All gardening is landscape painting.”  –  Alexander Pope  


Leave a comment

Inspiration!

Maintaining a garden blog has been a challenge during  a long, harsh winter in New Hampshire.

While my head has been filled with motivation to keep a blog interesting during the midst of a winter filled words like “polar vortex” and “arctic blast”, actual inspiration to get the thoughts out of my head and out to the digital world has been lacking.

Until today…

Maybe the idea of an extra hour of daylight this evening and the pending arrival of spring, along with a great find that was tucked away in a binder of gardening materials, was all that I needed!

Here’s the great find. It’s a poem that a former neighbor named Kate,  wrote for my mom, Kathy, about the garden. It was written over a decade ago. Before the dog named Grace came along to inspire this garden blog.

scan0002 (1198x860)

I love how words, put onto paper to create such a lovely poem, so many years ago, can have such a more impactful meaning many years later.  Which brings to mind this quote about inspiration that I think relates perfectly to gardening.

“Every moment and every event of every (wo)man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.” -Thomas Merton