My father once told me that the intense green we see after a rain is an optical illusion, but I don’t care.  Our two days of cold rain have greened everything up beautifully.  Illusion or not, spring green is upon us.


Sensational is finally producing lots of blooms!

I’m most charmed this spring by the lilacs.  A hard prune last summer finally convinced Sensational to be, well, sensational.  Ever since I planted this bush it has given out only one or two blooms. But this spring, I have lots of nodding panicles of maroon and white blossoms.

Mme. LeMoine and Esther Staley have always done well in the Secret Garden and this year is no exception.

Mme. LeMoine lilac

Mme. LeMoine lilac

Lilacs are not native to North America, but have thrived here since early settlers brought them in the mid 1700’s.  George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both planted lilacs in their gardens.  Common lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) come from the Balkan area. Sensation is considered an outstanding cultivar and I’m so glad I had the presence of mind to plant it and the patience to wait for it to be sensational.

I have a concert tonight and have been baking cookies for the chorus.  Tomorrow is a designated garden day.  I have lots of annuals to plant.

Rose breasted grosbeak sitting in the rose of sharon.

Rose breasted grosbeak sitting in the rose of sharon.

Lots of migrating birds are coming through the gardens.  As I type this, a male rose breasted grosbeak is feasting at the feeder.  My neighbors, who were diligent about feeding the birds, have moved away and I am now seeing more varieties visting my feeders.  For years I struggled to tell the difference between a house finch and a purple finch.  And I think I struggled because purple finches rarely visited.  But all that has changed since my feeders are the only option.  I can’t go by color, I’ve discovered.  But the tail gives them away.  Purple finches have a deeply notched tail.  And as I get more and more familiar with them, I see other differences, too.

Pruple finch at the feeder.

Pruple finch at the feeder.

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.

Birds and Blooms

The old cherry tree is in full bloom, and, as it turns out, is host to a pair of chickadees.  For weeks the two birds diligently drilled out the base of a limb that had been cut several years ago.  I could hear them working away as I passed below the main branch.  Since I hadn’t seen them for at least a week, I thought they had perhaps abandoned that attempt.  I know chickadees tend to do that because they work on multiple nesting sites at a time, opting for the best one in which to lay their eggs.  But it seems the old cherry is their home after all.  I’ve been watching them enter and leave the hole all morning. Alas, I’m not patient enough to camp out under their nest to get a picture.  So, you’ll just have to settle for a picture of the entrance.

Chickadee Nest Entrance

I have set up multiple bird feeders this spring, hoping to attract some of the birds that flock to my neighbor’s feeders.  In the past, I’ve simply spread bird seed out on the ground and would get a nice collection of sparrows, mourning doves, cardinals, and blue jays.  The hanging feeders are now attracting rose breasted grosbeaks.  And, white crowned sparrows, who, in the past, only passed through, have stayed for several weeks.  Perhaps they will be permanent guests.

This morning two male grosbeaks and a female came to the large feeder to feast on the black oil sunflower seeds.  A tufted titmouse seems to like the peanuts that I put out.  Goldfinches, of course, like the thistle and seed blend.

The grosbeaks, though, have been the stars today.  They are related to cardinals and have a large powerful beak that dispatches a sunflower seed very quickly.  Males sport the bright red patch.  Females look more like large sparrows and have no red on them at all.

The old cherry tree is letting its fragrant petals fall in a lovely shower of white.  Perhaps I should sit out there in the moonlight!

Old Cherry Tree

Male Rose Breasted Grosbeak