This past winter was difficult for me. The cold seeped deeper this year. Or perhaps it just seemed that way because I had to go out into it more often. I adopted a second Standard Poodle that I wasn’t prepared for. She needed a place to live and I needed to give that to her. But, my yard wasn’t fenced in so I couldn’t just send the dogs out the door and stay in my warm house. I had to go out into the cold, too. The fence still isn’t finished because not enough materials were ordered. I’m dealing with some stylish panels of decorative aluminum fencing and less stylish propped-up chain link. At least the dogs can run through the garden and not the neighborhood.
People often refer to them as Lenten Roses and it’s easy to see why. They tend to bloom during Lent, and their flowers look a lot like and old fashioned rose with a single layer of petals. They are also call “hellebores” and belong to a family of evergreen plants, many of which are poisonous. In fact, the name “hellebore” comes from the ancient Greek. “Helle-” which means “to injure” and “-bore” which means “food”. Their seemingly fragile flowers tempt us into thinking Michigan’s fickle springs will break these lovely plants, but even four inches of snow that bends the hellebores to the ground can’t defeat them.
At last! I can walk out my back door without having to bundle up in my red walking sleeping bag of a coat, a heavy scarf, and a warm hat. I can walk a dog (I now have two) without fear of tripping on dangerous little hillocks of melted then refrozen unshoveled sidewalks. And, best of all, I can work in the garden.
But yesterday I walked down the street with a camera. And no dog. The sunshine continues to welcome all kinds of early flowers and awakens foliage.
My walk took me to the woods at the end of my street. It’s weird, really, to have that stand of trees in the middle of an urban area, but it’s part of a municipal park behind my house. It’s called a nature center, but it’s really just a pleasant wooded area with a trail that circles around. In early summer the catalpa trees bloom and give off the most wonderful fragrance. Some don’t like catalpas because they are “messy”, but anything that smells that sweet and produces such lovely flowers has permission to be messy. The leaves, too, are interesting because they are so large. Lots of people walk their dogs in the woods, as do I and I’ve gotten to know so many people and dogs.
The scilla are thriving in yards all throughout the neighborhood. It’s hard to get that true blue in a garden. Or, at least it is hard for me. My soil is is alkaline and acid loving hydrangeas can hardly muster enough gumption to give me a light purple. So, I will appreciate the invasive scilla when it visits.
There are all sorts of daffodils blooming in the neighborhood. Every spring I tell myself that I will plant oodles of daffs in the fall and then I get overwhelmed by the chill and don’t plant anything but my posterior in a warm chair. I did plant the white one below, several years ago, and in multiples, but this is the only one that has bloomed so far. I wonder if I will get around to planting more in the fall.
While I enjoy seeing forsythia in bloom, I’ve never had the urge to plant it in my gardens. I can enjoy it as I walk and then not worry about keeping it tamed or hiding its nondescript presence . I’d rather use the space for perennials or shrubs with more interesting foliage.
Four years ago I hung a bee abode in my old cherry tree hoping to attract native solitary bees, especially mason bees. And they have found it their home. Or, more accurately, the females have found it for their maternity ward. Dozens of them have been buzzing in and out of the cylindrical chambers laying one egg and then sealing it up so they can lay another in the next chamber in line. Later in the summer a young mason bee will emerge from the first chamber followed by its siblings behind it. I think the white dribbles are bits of “cement” that the bees use to seal the chambers. It’s why they are called mason bees. You can thank mason bees when you pop a sweet blueberry in your mouth, or bite into an apple. Honey bees, which are not native to North America, aren’t awake yet, and, they have never been the best pollinators. Solitary bees are far better, though, they do not make honey.
As always, a thank you to May Dreams Gardens for celebrating a monthly accounting of what is blooming in gardens all over the world.
It’s April 15 and Michigan played a trick on us. The skies are oxygen blue and cloudless, but the garden is covered in four to six inches of heavy wet snow. It’s ok. Really. There isn’t much blooming yet, a few daffodils and a cute little weed that became my first garden activity of the year. That is, I started pulling it up.
The hellebores are eager to open. And they are welcome to do so any time they want. Often called Lenten Roses, this year my hellebores will be blooming during this last week of Lent. What I like about them, aside from their lovely flowers and evergreen foliage is that the flowers hang around for a long time. Their color fades over the season into something that looks a bit like a sculptor wrought them from thin sheets of balsa wood. Perhaps I’ll try drying them in the pages of a book. I gathered oodles of leaves last fall and planted them between the pages of favorite books. I don’t know what I’m going to do with them, but it was comforting over the winter to look at the dried leaves whose colors had deepened and remember that sister leaves would shake free from our bitterly cold winter and start their warming dance again.
In January I adopted another standard poodle, Lucy. I hadn’t intended to double my allotment of poodles, but Lucy needed rescuing. I am sitting in my favorite chair as I write this and on the floor around me I see a teddy bear that has lost his eyes, a chew toy that has pockets for peanut butter and biscuits, a beef bone, a kong that just an hour ago was stuffed with kibble and peanut butter, a winter glove, and a paper towel tube. Bridget doesn’t really require toys. She has a favorite bear and a stuffed hedge hog, but she doesn’t chew them.
Lucy likes to chew. And chew. I’ve lost two Mac power cords, a whole bunch of pencils and pens, and the buttons off a favorite pair of leather gloves. Bridget is a mellow old girl. Lucy? Not so mellow. She loves to run and jump and because I don’t have a fenced in yard, she runs a jumps through the neighborhood. That will change, I hope, this week when a decorative aluminum fence will go in. But the real issue won’t be one of containment. It will be one of waste disposal. How will the promise of dog feces affect my gardens? I don’t know, but I will find out this week, I hope. And, I will be very glad when Lucy is safely behind a fence and away from the neighbors and a busy street.
In the meantime, the garden naps under a coverlet of rapidly melting snow. Soon it will wake up, stretch, and touch warmer days.
This view of the zinnias draws me in. I love all the color and the defiance of our ever lowering temperatures.
The mums were such a good idea! They add pops of color in an ever chilling and browning garden. But perhaps my favorite color belongs to the Limelight and Tardiva hydrangeas. Timing is critical here, but for several weeks, I get to pick as many “heads” of blooms as I can. Those blooms have started turning lovely shades of pink, and the color stays forever if you cut and bring them indoors. I’m running out of vases because I now have time to pick. And pick. And pick. It’s one of the perks of retirement.
But, the mums and the zinnias deserve attention, too, though they will not last much longer. I hate cold weather. The older I get, the more I hate it. Today our high was 47 degrees and the wind cut through my sweater and light jacket. I donned my bright red winter jacket to walk the dog.
Usually my head is consumed by class preparations that include reading and responding to students’ conversations about their readings, and planning, planning, planning. September has always been about teaching and barely about gardening. But, I’m retired. And, I’ve decided that I need to see more things blooming in September. So, I went out and bought a bunch of hardy mums and a few asters. Take that, September.
Bridget and I needed a photo for our West Michigan Therapy Dog name badge, and since we were sitting in the entrance garden, I thought I’d include us in the “what’s bloomin'” post.
Thank you, May Dreams Garden, for hosting Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. It’s nice to feel welcomed back into my own gardens. And it’s nice to hop on over to the GBBD website to get inspired. There are gorgeous gardens to wander through at the click of a mouse.