April has zoomed by! The days have slipped through my fingers like sand.
It's early yet, but we are really enjoying our garden.
Due to our home's damage wrought by harsh weather in 2021, we did not host our family’s Easter celebration last year. This year we were back and we wanted everything to be ready.
The biggest improvement to our back garden was the rebuilding and enlarging of our raised beds. Joseph worked nights and weekends to finish them in time. And then we had seven yards of excellent soil delivered.
When we lived on acreage, we had a trailer and could haul soil wherever we wanted. Here, on our tiny dot of property, even a wheelbarrow can be too big. I have a sturdy gardening wagon and my clever husband fashioned a cart that could hold several plastic containers. We considered hiring help to transport the soil from driveway to back garden, but one fine weekend – the weather was gloriously cool and sunny – we opted to do it ourselves.
I have to say, it felt great.
Comically, I decided sort of last minute -- way too late to be ready for Easter -- to try growing vegetables and some flowers by seed. I don’t even know how much I’ve spent on annuals through the years, but it’s certainly in the thousands. I've always felt a bit silly and guilty about it. This year, to increase my angst, I could not find the bedding plants I was looking for in time for the holiday. It was slim pickings indeed. Something in me snapped.
“You’re a gardener! Grow your own plants!”
Obviously, sections of colorful annuals don't grow from seed overnight or even in a couple of weeks. But I was determined to not buy flats of flowerless plants. We would just have to get by.
That’s not to say that I didn’t go to nurseries near and far. I did, and insofar as trees and shrubs go, I did just fine. We now have two elderberry bushes/trees. I’m so excited! We’re going to have to keep them as shrub-like as possible. I'm really hoping that's possible. They are looking quite exuberant! We also have a new grapevine, one persimmon, one pomegranate, and a baby jujube.
Flowers, in the meantime, are enjoying the relatively mild weather as much as we are. Some of them will be "giant plants" by late July while the roses will be in survival mode. But for now, everything looks happy and fresh.
I will try to update soon! I have so much to tell you about my vegetable experiments!
I needed a quiet, restful day. Last week, my father-in-law, the only father I’ve had for forty years, passed away. May his sweet, gardener’s soul rest in peace. My husband and his siblings left for his funeral in Lebanon, a sad, rushed, necessary trip. The rest of us stayed home.
The weather was glorious, the sort of winter day that harkens of early spring. Encouraged, I perused a seed catalog with my morning coffee, considered our plan to enlarge the raised beds, already underway, and ordered a few packets. Of course. My favorite source: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
I went for a bike ride under a bright, blue sky. When I returned home, I changed into my overalls and got ready to work in the garden. Mich, my sister-in-heart, stopped by for a while. We chatted, and she made me very happy by accepting some homegrown beets. I planted a few varieties this year and they all came up – Candy Cane, Golden, and Detroit Dark.
I then set to work/play. I cleared some perimeter weeds, worked in the welcoming garden, and found a home for some summer snowflakes we had to move when we extended the raised beds along the fence. I think I’ve decided that I really don’t want the lawn guys to come anymore. They’ve been careless lately -- things have been broken -- and they haven’t been keeping up with the few tasks they have in winter. We don’t have much lawn to mow, and they tend to neglect both the shrubs and the edging.
Anyway, I watered a few things and filled the bird bath. At first, I simply enjoyed the sounds of the outdoors. I can't say I hear only nature at that time of day. I heard children playing outside and golfers talking and laughing as well as birds twittering in the trees and shrubs. But after a little while, I began listening to podcasts. A favorite when gardening or, really, at any time, is The Daily Gardener with Jennifer Ebeling. Another is Margaret Roach’s A Way to Garden. I had plenty of time to enjoy both.
I think my favorite part of this afternoon was transplanting the summer snowflakes, Leucojum Aestevum, "Gravetye Giant". It felt like a small victory. They are among my favorite flowers and were almost lost, crushed under the new beds because I almost forgot to move them. I retrieved them in the eleventh hour.
By the time I’d cleaned up my scattered messes and put my garden tools away, I felt restored.
Be it large or small or smaller still, may your garden be a sanctuary for you.
I'm so pleased! This past weekend, we were finally able to work in our garden. The old, worn out beds are gone and Joseph's sturdily built, lined beds have replaced them. We added a couple of new ones, too, and now have approximately 90 square feet of new and renewed space. More than half of this area is shady, especially in winter, but I still hope to fill the boxes mostly with herbs.
We would like to rebuild and enlarge another raised bed before we have the soil delivered.
There will be a lot of hopeful planning and fantasizing over seed catalogs this month and probably a few trips to some area nurseries.
I think it's quite appropriate, especially for me, that during this month of candy hearts and roses, I might be spending a lot of time in my garden. We love what we love!
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think of these things. -- Philippians 4:8
I cherish these words of Saint Paul. For me, they are words to live by. But somehow, I never expected to apply them to my garden.
Frankly, I have rarely seen our garden look worse! A few nights ago, we had a light freeze that did more damage than we would have ever imagined. The tips of almost everything are burned. We’ve decided to leave them for now, painful as it is, to protect the healthy growth beneath. So there’s that…
Aside from the freeze, the vegetable garden is a mixed bag this year. Some seeds sprouted right away. Some are slowly getting there. Some never sprouted at all. Where are my carrots? Leeks? Parsley and cilantro? I sowed arugula seeds in raised beds several times to no avail. I decided to sow again in two pots, side by side. Only one pot has seedlings, but I’ll take it! Hopefully, the arugula, eruca sativa, will behave more like its usual self and proliferate. It’s my daughter-in-heart’s favorite.
A lot of plants, lulled by moderate weather, were blooming away until the little freeze. Our weather has been crazy, the temps dropping or rising 40 degrees in a day. Also, this gardener left town, then returned to a holiday rush. I’m ashamed to admit that due to a bit of neglect, our camellias and azaleas look somewhat anemic. They’re trying to bloom, anyway. It's not even time for the azaleas! I finally got around to feeding all of them yesterday. Even if I’ve compromised the blooms this year, at least they should start looking happier, poor things.
We have beds to build/replace. I have a short list of fruit trees to plant. One of my resolutions is to spend at least five minutes a day gardening. I’m grinning as I write this. That is certainly nowhere near enough for any gardener, arguably least of all me! I’m not saying I won’t have days or half days out there every week. But there have been plenty of days that I did not spend a moment in our garden, more's the pity. Every little bit helps both garden and gardener.
We have lettuces, though, and most of our greens survived the freeze. The holly is beautiful, as is the juniper.
I am thankful for what we have and for the hope of tomorrow, garden and otherwise.
...whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious...if there is anything worthy of praise, think of these things.
Wishing you fun, lovely gardens in 2022!
Agave amica, formerly know as Polianthes tuberosa, commonly known as tuberose, is a spectacularly fragrant flower. No one knows its true origins. It doesn’t grow anywhere in the wild. But it was cultivated by the ancient Aztecs in Mexico, where the Spanish conquistadors eventually noticed it and carried it back with them to Europe. The rest is perfume-making history!
I love fragrance in the garden. For me, it’s at least as important as appearance. But I have a bad habit of popping bulbs into the ground without marking the spot or noting the location in my garden journal. One day in early spring of this year, I realized I was moving a concrete block on top of an emerging tuberose. I didn’t know where to transplant it, but I wanted to save it. I stowed it in an empty pot with a few other bulbs for a while and finally stuck it in a flower bed at the front of the house. Then I forgot about it…until several weeks ago. Full disclosure: when I noticed the emerging green, I still didn’t recall what sort of bulb it was.
Now, I’m so proud of it. Tuberoses usually bloom in summer, but I moved it at the beginning of its growing season. Not only did it survive the setback, it didn’t even wait until the next growing season to show itself. And not only is it showing itself – and I have to say, that one, long stem looks startlingly out of place – it’s blooming! The plant rallied, stubbornly pushing on to grow and bloom in late fall rather than wait till next summer.
It gives reason to pause. Personally, I’m in the fall of my life, so that speaks to me directly. I like to think that I still have some bloom left in me. But what about circumstances beyond our control, sudden changes, unexpected hardships and struggles?
The tuberose did not give up. It overcame obstacles, fulfilled its purpose. It’s blooming triumphantly, and it gives joy.
So can we.
I just love this rose. Where we live, it blooms pretty much year round and has large, lovely rose hips if we give it a chance. It's an antique, a semi-double hybrid of R. chinensis. It's been parent to many others. It's one of the few roses I've ever grown that has thorns. It's simply worth the prick or torn sleeve every now and again. I don't often see insects light upon roses, but they do upon this one.
The first week of Fall
And it’s cool outside.
Not a foregone conclusion,
But a happy coincidence.
Does that sound dramatic?
For those who work and play outdoors,
Weather matters. For those who rely
On the land and sea for their living,
It matters even more.
I am somewhere in between.
For me, gardening is both work and play,
It's like writing -- 0ptional and not optional at all.
I can’t escape it.
That’s who I am.
When I look at our
Small dot of land,
I’m reminded that
I am a gardener.
And so yes, I rejoice.
I can garden all day
Without stress or duress,
Exulting in the gift God has given me.
That little bench, built by my husband as a gift to me, is possibly the most fragrant seat in the garden. I'm not sure which smells better -- the juniper or basil. But I don't have to choose.
And this gardener needed to sit down every now and again this past weekend. We've been busy, as usual, and then a tropical storm blew through. Southwest Houston wasn't hit hard, but our garden took a pounding. Between the storm, benign neglect, and the fact that it's an excellent time to sow the cool season garden, I just had to spend some time out there. The problem was that it's not quite cool yet. This weekend was very hot, especially in the afternoons.
By mid-afternoon Saturday, I gave up. What was funny was as I dragged myself through the back door, Joseph, who was busy with carpentry, came in through the garage. The weather was sweltering. I don't think he felt as bad as I did; he's more practical than me. I, on the other hand, felt defeated.
Sunday, I knew that if I was to accomplish anything much, I'd better do so in the morning. The temps jumped from the low 70s at 7 a.m. to almost 90˚ by 1 p.m. -- and the "feels like" would be around 99.
I had already decided on what chores to attack. As I began working, aware that I was at home and not church, I recalled a conversation I'd had with a woman at the garden center a few weeks ago. The actual temp that day was 98˚, never mind the heat index. She was, I believe, quite elderly. There were countless crinkles in her dark skin, her hair was pure white, and she walked bent with a cane. She also had the most beautiful, welcoming smile. We chatted over some plants, agreeing that gardeners are crazy, the two of us included. As we parted, she said, "I always dedicate my garden to Jesus. You should do the same. It will thrive."
I always strive to make my days worthy. I don't always succeed. But as I hurried around my garden, I prayed. I weeded and deadheaded, staked some plants flattened to the ground by the storm, cleared the vegetable beds, spread organic fertilizer, raked, and hauled bags of debris to the curb. We're still trying to figure out where we might squeeze in a small composter, but that's a discussion for another day. Anyway, it took hours. By noon, I was hot and hungry. Then the sun disappeared. I looked up to see dark clouds.
Rain wasn't in the forecast, was it? I checked on my phone. Nope, no rain. But it was time to go in. I just wanted to sow some seeds -- one bed, at least. I chose lettuce and radishes and got to work. I'd still had to water everything.
A drop, then another, then a few, so light and fresh... I began hurrying. I didn't want my seed packets to get wet, but I was determined to sow that one bed. By the time I finished, it was truly raining. I got soaked, but I was happy.
Once I had showered and dressed, the sun was shining again. The afternoon would be steamy. But the garden looked better, and everything was watered. I felt a sense of accomplishment and, more, a sense of peace.
It was a beautiful, restorative Sunday.
For years, my husband and I worked at creating a series of gardens on our four-acre lot in a rural, Texas subdivision west of Houston. I have to say, it was a fantastic experience. Now, I have a pocket garden on a golf course.
From me to you with a smile.
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