After the Rains


The magnolia at night.

Grand Rapids experienced record flooding this spring.   Two weeks of driving rain filled the rivers and streams to over-flowing and prevented me for getting into the garden.  I was never in danger of flooding.  Or, perhaps it is more accurate to say that if the flood waters got to me, the world would be ending.  I’m at the top of a hill, what was once the bank of a stream, though, I supposed 10,000 years ago it was a raging river full of glacial ice melt.  Today it is about a quarter to a half mile away.


The old magnolia in the light of day.

But it’s May and everything is greening up, coming up, opening up.  The old magnolia burst into bloom yesterday and I couldn’t resist taking pictures of the flowers against the yellow light of the street lamp.  In the daylight, of course, the flowers look like delicate porcelain cups.

The PJM rhododendrons are blooming, too.  Too bad they don’t last very long.  The panas are looking tired and stressed and this year may be their last.  Sometimes you just have to admit something isn’t working and rethink.

Now that my semester and the rain have ended I can focus on garden tasks.  I got the fountain up and running yesterday.  And I bought marigolds to plant in front of the emerald boxwoods.


Male rose breasted grosbeak in the old rose of sharon.

Spring migrating birds have been visiting the feeders.  This male Rose Breasted Grosbeak stopped by this week.  The white crowned sparrows also came through, as did a wood thrush.  I know various warblers are coming through, but my eye just isn’t discerning enough to identify them.  The grey catbirds are back, as are the brown headed cowbirds.

Last, I’ve added a Secret Garden photo.  This is what the entrance looks like today.  I wonder what it will look like next week…

The entrance to the Secret Garden today.  There's not much happening yet, but good things come to those who...

The entrance to the Secret Garden today. There’s not much happening yet, but good things come to those who…


The fountain is up and running.

Ahead of the Frost

They say it will frost tonight.  So, I decided to catch the magnolia and cherry blossoms before they frizzled from the cold.   These will suffer the most from the frost, I fear.  It was in the high 60’s today, which is actually cooler than it was earlier this week.  I left for a conference in St. Louis early Tuesday morning.  The magnolia was just starting to show a little color.  But when I returned on Friday, it was in full bloom.  In fact, the ground below the tree was covered in petals that had already fallen.  The cherry tree is now in full bloom, too.

Cherry blossoms ahead of the frost that will likely snuff them out and dampen the cherry harvest this summer.

But I confess, rather than spend a lot of time in the garden today, I rode my TerraTrike 15 miles on the White Pine Trail.  I’ve put more than 60 miles on the trike this spring.  There were a lot of people out walking and biking, too many, actually.  It was sometimes difficult to pass people who were taking up too much space.  And one kid veered and almost hit me.

Truthfully, though, I was mostly practicing garden procrastination.  I have to replace the arches that form the entrance to the Secret Garden.  The recycled aluminum arches I found in the back yard when I bought the house were collapsing under the weight of the clematis.  I knew it would take some muscle to tear everything down.  And persistence.  I started cutting the vines away a few days ago.  After my trike ride guilt sent me out to tackle removal of the arches.  And, as it turned out, everything came down a lot easier than I anticipated.  But the new arbor needs a coat of protective paint before it goes up. And that may have to wait for the next round of warm days.

Magnolia blossom

And, because I got the arches and vines torn down, I could take advantage of the early evening’s low light.  It was a pleasure.  The magnolia is so fragrant.  The rhododendron is in full bloom and I had hoped to catch a big old bumblebee hovering near a bloom, but I’m an impatient photographer.

Entrance to the Secret Garden sans arches.

White Dafs


The magnolia letting her petals fall

The cherry tree

The Old Magnolia

Though it still is not very warm, the longer hours of sunlight and the above freezing temps have coaxed the magnolia into bloom.  We called these Tulip Trees when I was a kid.  In fact, my mother used to make that scoffing sound that she excelled at when someone called trees like this magnolia.  “You can grow magnolia this far north. Those are tulip trees.” Turns out tulip trees are magnolias.  This tree was probably planted when the house was built in 1926.  It is stately and beautifully shaped.  When I first bought this house, there was an enormous spruce that dwarfed not only the house, but this lovely flowering tree.  I had it removed and the magnolia has been thanking me each spring with her beautiful scented blossoms.  I’ve noticed that often when people drive down the street they slow down and look at the magnolia in bloom.

The cat discovered Nepeta subsessilis Cool Cat – Catmint today.  This cousin to catnip has never really attracted her before.

Perhaps the new leaves are more appealing.

I’ve enjoyed the migrating birds that are passing through the garden this spring.  A brown Thrasher has been hanging around, scratching at bugs on the ground in the rose medallion.  My neighbor has seen several rose breasted grosbeaks.  And this afternoon I’m pretty sure I saw a hermit thrush.  It, too, has been pecking at the ground in the rose medallion. There’s a coopers hawk that makes the rounds and two redtailed hawks have made a nest a few doors down at he top of a pine tree.  My neighbor has also seen warblers.  She’s a wild life biologist, so I believe every word she tells me.  🙂

An Early Spring

An Early Magnolia Bloom

My glorious magnolia is in full bloom, two weeks ahead of schedule.  I’ve been worried that it would get nipped by frosty nights, but so far, it has stayed clothed in fragrant pink blossoms.  The old girl can still put on a show.

And so can the old cherry tree in the backyard.  In fact, a number of things are blooming, including the bleeding heart.

All winter I dreamed about the garden.  I settled in at my little desk in the kitchen and watched the snow drift past the fountain.  I dutifully spread cracked corn for the birds and rabbits.  And took stale bread out for the squirrels.  But two weeks ago, I became a gardener again.  I dug up three caryopteris bushes and moved them farther back.  I cleared away the dead peony foliage and placed the wire cages over the the red/green spears of new growth.

And over the weekend I started gathering up the rocks that I had placed like necklaces in the secret garden.  I wanted to get them out of the way so that this year’s layer of shredded bark could go down.  I started placing them along the brick edges of the crushed limestone paths, and realized that I liked the look.  So, I placed them all there.  I think I like this look a lot, and now I can go on rock quests.  I’ve become the neighborhood rock pilferer.   I discovered a bunch of them almost hidden by brush at a school a few blocks away.  Surely no one will notice if I rescue them from obscurity.  But I will need more than the dozen I get there.

The quest begins.

I like this look!

The cherry's abloom in the northland...

The bleeding heart in the little sheltered corner is in full bloom.