Living With Limitations: Doing What Gardeners Do
Spirea Double Play Candy Corn. Photo Proven Winners
I still have not managed to be in two places at once, so my blogs will be erratic while I play in my garden every available day.
Weigela Midnight Wine Proven Winners Photo
Over the past winter I placed a wish list/order with Adamson We Grow Nursery & Garden Center and received an email announcing the first of my order was ready for pickup. I gathered my wish list, made a promise to myself to stay within my budget, gave my wallet a pat, then headed out the door beneath sunny blue skies.
The garden center was filled to overflowing with fresh shipments of trees, shrubs and perennials along with promises of more to come. When I arrived and got out of my car, I had to pause, stand and stare to take in all the fresh bright green, the bright colors of annuals and rhododendron blooms. I do believe my heart paused with me as I stood there in a puddle of awe. I broke loose from my daydream, held the lust list in my sweaty hand and went through the entrance leaving my budget promises behind.
This year I carefully measured and assigned spaces to complete a redesign of a narrow space following a path. I chose shrubs that were easy to grow, behaved themselves and only grew to two or three feet in height, and close to that measurement in width. Heavy emphasis was placed on foliage texture and color. Bloom was to be an additional bonus. I also wanted sizes giving me instant gratification; a number three, no less than a number two size.
Hydrangea Tough Stuff Ah-Ha
Proven Winners Photo
Two hydrangea were on my list. I have a Hydrangea serrata “Tiny Tuff Stuff” that has performed well for me and decided I needed two more to complete an arrangement leading the eye along the path. “Tiny” reaches only one and a half to two feet with lace cap style blooms of pink or blue. Hydrangea “Tuff Stuff Ah-Ha” is a two to three foot shrub with dinner plate size double flowers and is a rebloomer in pink or blue. Hydrangea “Tuff Stuff Red” is two to three feet of reblooming double lace cap flowers in red.
I find myself fascinated by Spirea now that I have become more aware of the new-to me sizes and foliage colors. I transplanted two Spirea to my garden late last summer and now find myself adding two more. There is a Double Play Series of this shrub that has captured my eye. And, eye-candy they are. Spirea “Double Play Gold” reaches one and a half to two feet, has bright golden foliage in a perfect mounding habit with blooms of pure pink. Double Play “Candy Corn” is of the same size as its companion. Look this one up at your garden center for leaves of candy apple red shifting to pineapple yellow as it ages; new growth beginning with orangey-red. Top it all off with dark purple blooms.
Weigela Monet Moment Sunset
Proven Winners Photos
Last year I rediscovered Weigela and transplanted “Spilled Wine” with its dark foliage and red trumpet blooms between two Spirea “Ogon” with bright yellow willow-like leaves. This trip to the garden center I came home with Spirea “My Monet Sunset”. Only one to one and a half feet, it begins with leaves of green and as they age colors of gold appear, shifting and fading to sunset colors in fall. This one is a real chameleon of colors in green, reddish gold and yellow. There are more cultivars on order.
Of course I slipped on that slippery slope of temptation and came away with additional plants not on my list. They had most excellent containers of Viburnum “Li’ Ditty” with its puff balls of white blooms and only reaching one to two feet. With the two I transplanted last summer I can now have two on side of the path and locate the third a bit further up on the other side to draw the eye forward. They always seem to have great ferns and this time was no exception. I left with two Dragontail ferns (Asplenium x ebenoides). I will be returning for the remainder of my order.
I sat the shrubs in the planned locations, then dragged into place soil amendment bags, got everything into position including the tools and watering can. I have found that I can dig a hole, amend and transplant one shrub per day. There was a time when I could, and would, transplant all five of the shrubs in one day, but no longer. And, truth be known, the limitation may be a blessing in disguise. Now I take my time, rest often, alternate tasks, and savor what ability I have remaining to be in my garden.
Living With Limitations: Gardeners and Gardens
Water fountain in Conservatory at Longwood Gardens
Right now I am glancing back in the rear view mirror to see where I have been the past couple of weeks. It has been a ride I will not forget either short or long-term. The first week was made up of the stuff dreams are woven from. The second week I could have done without, but here I am to complain, so it was not all bad.
A fellow local gardener whom I have known for quite a few years informed me she was again making a trip to PA to see Longwood Gardens and did I want to come with her and her friend? This was the second or third time she had extended the invitation and this time I was determined to accept her generous offer. With her permission I called my landscape buddy and invited him to travel with us. We were on for the garden trip of a lifetime. Or, so I thought until it got even better.
I mentioned the trip to a fellow garden speaker I had met in Michigan last year and she wanted to be a part of our group. With Karen’s approval she was in and would fly down my Mass. meet us in PA.
The one element that was the “glue” for this trip, the thing that gave the most pleasure, was the gardeners. Had we only met to walk and talk, I would have been happy with only the gardeners. They would have been reward enough for the 12 hours driving. Not only did we share the gardens, we managed to all meet for dinner one evening, lunch on another day, and for breakfast each morning.
Enchanted Garden cottage at Winterthur
We managed to fulfill our schedule of expectations and visited not only Longwood Gardens for a full day, but spent a full day at Chanticleer, then on final day, a half day at Mt. Cuba Center and Winterthur each.
I knew two gardeners who worked at Longwood and let one know I was headed in their direction if he had the time to meet. As it turned out, he had to work, but provided tickets for the 5 of us. Whatever I may have imagined Longwood would be, my imagination was not nearly big enough. Longwood was big. Very big. The conservatory alone was worth a full day under glass. There was something for every gardener, every inch of every acre immaculate and perfectly color coordinated; the Mecca of the gardening world.
Formal Garden feature at Mt. Cuba
The last day of our trip a very large storm with high winds, heavy rain and lightning was in the immediate forecast. As of breakfast the storm had not materialized so off we went to Mr. Cuba. If they do not have the most complete collection of Trillium species and cultivars, I do not know who would. The woodland trails were a treasure to explore. The docents were very helpful and volunteered assistance frequently without our having to ask. Near the end of our wandering sprinkles began and we decided to head for lunch and then on to Winterthur.
Winterthur was an amazing spectacle of collections; landscaping on a massive scale. There was only one way for me to experience this adventure and that was by electric cart with a docent. After the first trip, we returned to the one area I simply had to stop and explore; the Children’s gardens.
There I found myself longing to be eight years old once more. If you are, or have small children, then this garden is an absolute must.
The Ruin at Chanticleer Gardens.
I saved the best for last and that was Chanticleer on our second full day. It may be the smallest in size of the four gardens we visited, but it is without a doubt, the largest in satisfaction. The first seeds sown for this garden had to have been seeds of enjoyment. Every square inch of the property was detailed in imagination, innovation; of dreams and follow through. If I do not quite make it to heaven when I pass away Chanticleer will suit me just fine. Truly a gardener’s dream become reality.
I was also able to see all of my “babies” from my old nursery Chanticleer had ordered over past years.
I have not gone into detail on the four gardens, for there is no way I can do them justice in a short blog. There are literally books on each of the gardens, as well as their websites. But, do make the trip in person for memories to last a life time.
Three days after unpacking my bags I ended up in an EMS vehicle on the way to a local hospital. My Afib returned after an absence of two years. The excitement of all those gardens must have speeded up my heart beat and got it all out of rhythm. I am now back to my garden and my normal heartbeat. Just hope I can keep it all under control when I begin visiting all the garden centers this month.
Living With Limitations: Proverbs
Erythronium dens canis, Mertensia virginia
When I hear the word proverb I get visions of a big black leather-bound book and someone about to give me a pithy quote followed by a lecture. The dictionary says a proverb is “a short saying in general use, stating a general truth or piece of advice”. Not necessarily advice from the Bible. So, since a precept can come from any source, I made up one for myself, and I quote me, “Any man who hath a garden and dark chocolate has contentment.”
Trout-Lily, or Erythronium americana with Jacob’s Ladder
While visiting a gardening buddy he took me on a tour of his home county. We saw historical monuments, cemeteries, homes of historical significance and parks, along with other local sights connected to his childhood. He had many memories to share as he drove us from point to point. The town of Vincinnes, IN loomed large in his tour and we made stops at several places of interest. One stop at a childhood memory of his was Charlie’s Candies. Just driving there, hearing the story of his connection, was enough to invoke visions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movies.
We stopped, entered, and stepped into an aroma of warm chocolate and hints of nuts and fruits, probably as close as one can get to the scent of heaven without passing away. My feet were six inches off the floor, my wallet floated up from my back pocket and nestled into my hand as my nose pressed to the glass cases. I feel sure they cleaned the glass after I left. I went from case to case, pointing and requesting, watching a box fill to overflowing. My expectations and imagination were more than met when I bit into the first chocolate confection.
There was one chocolate that was oversize compared to the rest, not very pretty in appearance that I purchased as a last minute impulse. It was marshmallow center, dark chocolate and nuts outside and no skimping on any of the ingredients. Each piece was the equivalent of three of the others. Tea time will never be the same since that stop at Charlie’s Candies. The chocolate was decadent; so fulfilling both behind my bellybutton and my senses all I could do was sigh in contentment.
Primula vulgaris, Red Form
My garden and I have been companions for well over thirty years now. It is where I taught myself to garden, where we both grew together. Each season, each year, we shared all the anticipation, excitement, disappointments, satisfaction and our quiet times together. While the word happiness gets tossed around quite a bit, I would say there was, indeed, happiness being in my garden, but the best part was all the contentment experienced. The feeling of being content was deeper and lasted much longer.
That word, contentment, keeps popping up in my life of late. Just imagine coming in from a day out in the garden in spring weather with its cool morning, sunny warm day, having completed weeding that pesky area. Getting fresh mulch down and walking the paths enjoying all the renewal coming into being before your very eyes. Makes a gardener almost strut like a mating Prairie Grouse in ritual with his puffed out chest. When all is said and done, I am content with my efforts to create a garden. Is it perfect? No. But it has exceeded my expectations by far; more than I could have imagined. Now when I rest from my work in the garden I can sit down to afternoon tea, pick up a dark chocolate piece of candy and let it melt on my tongue.
Combine the two contentments and what more could a human being ask for? “Any man who hath a garden and dark chocolate has contentment”.
Living With Limitations: Gratitude
Pink form of Trillium grandiflorum will be opening soon.
I was kneeling on my garden pad removing crowding weeds from a stand of Trillium, both admiring and thankful I managed to be successful with this species. Taking a break from weeding, I stood up and began pacing the path for a bit. So many new noses were pushing up through all the leaf mulch, some already in bud or bloom. What a feeling to have, to be among, a part of, all that renewal. We both weathered it through another winter.
Hepatica peeking from under leaf mulch
If another gardener asked me if I were appreciative of my garden, I would have quickly replied, “Well, of course.” Like, well duh, what a foolish question. But it would seem, on occasion, I have to be reminded in order to consciously be appreciative; to find gratitude for my garden. It is not that it is not there, just perhaps I tend to take it for granted. We all know what happens in a relationship when we take someone for granted. Both sides loose value, the relationship itself loses value, and we do not realize just how valuable our gift until it is going away or lost to us.
While strolling the upper paths of my hillside garden, I began to realize, again, just how much I enjoy my garden, and my many years of a satisfying relationship. Those thoughts led to other relationships in my life. My declining health has placed a new pair of glasses on these eyes; a new, perhaps clearer, way to see what is around me, what has been there all along for my benefit. My illness has changed my every relationship.
Phlox divaricata and unfurling fernsferns
Strange how because life has changed; it affects my every relationship. My friends who liked me the way I was, now need to change how they relate to me and our relationship. One small but very important aspect of the changes is my having to give up driving my auto except for very short trips. In steps my gardening buddy who will take charge and get me where I need to be in the gardening world. He is also pretty darn attentive to my health needs. Gardeners come visit me and give me a hand with the physical needs of my garden. I could go on and on about the generosity of my gardening friends.
My wife is my primary caregiver, the one who had to adapt and change the most in my relationships, and it had to be overnight. Not only does she have her own life and all its commitments such as caring for and visiting her mother in a nursing home, she also has a full time job. All the responsibilities of a two person deal suddenly becomes a one person operation; hers. Not only do I have doctors’ appointments, she does as well, for every trip has her accompanying me. The concern for my health, the responsibilities I can actually see on her face.
Speaking of doctors, the medical community, I have a pulmonary specialist, Cardiologist, Family doctor, Dermatologist, Neurologist, Internal specialist, and more, that seemingly changes each month. Then there are all their staffs with assorted specialist for tests. Hospitals, rehab centers, home health care, this entire army of medical assistance keeping this old failing body operational for a while longer. It is as if I were the head of a flow, a small boat on a river of assistance.
Omphalodes verna with Polygonatum tips
Standing there, weeder in hand, I feel a deep, moving, sense of gratitude for all who give so freely. Now that these feelings are up front in my conscious mind, it is time to express my gratitude. To say thank you for all that you do for my wellbeing. That would include you who read this blog, giving me the opportunity to share.
There is always a glass of wine or hot cup of tea waiting to be shared when you come visit.
Living With Limitations:
Virginia Bluebells, a favorite early blooming native perennial
Native Dicentra cucullaria, Dutchman’s Breeches
My parents were born at the beginning of 1900’s, so they were big believers in spring tonics. There was the old standby my father preached, a mix of molasses and sulfa, along with his personal patent medicine in a brown bottle (mostly alcohol). We also gathered newly emerging greens such as dandelion and early polk sprouts. Then, there was the dreaded cod liver oil, the mere thought of which, still brings shudders of revulsion decades later. Just the thought brings back the lingering odor in my nostrils. Thankfully those are now bygone days.
Speaking of bygone days; did you know that Napoleon Bonaparte needed a safe method to feed his troops when on the move and offered a reward for someone to come up with an answer? About 1800, canning of heated food in sealed glass jars was invented, and that method some of us still use today when canning jelly. Shortly after, an Englishman invented sealing heated foods in non-breakable tin cans. Thanks to those two gentlemen we no longer need spring tonics for we get our vitamins from glass and tin canned goods, along with frozen produce, during the winter now. If you don’t eat your veggies, there is always a bottle of multivitamins available.
I suppose it is my age; lots of “not-so good old days” tend to creep into conversations. “Remember whens” are very much a part of paragraphs leading up to today’s topic. Those were the spring tonics of my childhood, of which I am most thankful, to see remain in the distant past. Being a gardener I have my own spring tonic that puts a spring in my step. My gardening is again awakening and there has been just enough weather suitable for humans occurring on my side of the Hoosier hills allowing me to be in my garden.
If I could use only one word to describe how I feel after pulling weeds, clearing out some winter debris, it would have to be invigorated. I remember only yesterday it was a sunny day, temps in the low 60’s and no wind. I was on my kneeling pad trimming dead stems and foliage from my Epimediums before they bloom, the sun on my back. I felt like a turtle on a sunny log, baking wellness into my being. I could actually smell the heat on my jacket; the scent and warmth of clothing just as it comes from the dryer. My body craved activity, needed activity, after the long weary months of winter. As I got down and up from the kneeling pad, moving from one drift of Epimedium to the next, my whole body felt, well, invigorated.
Would I have aches and pains this evening? Sure, but that is another time, a willing payment for my transaction with my garden.
As my body responded so did my mind. I could sense the gloom of winter slipping away into the soil. There would be no feeling down today, no concerns with my health. Today, it was only my garden and I; pausing while kneeling, using pursed lip breathing, concentrating on the in and out of breath as warmth caressed the back of my neck, my mind and body opening the gate to another world. A world of tranquility.
You know the old saying about how the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. Nothing new under the sun there, for Aristotle the philosopher gave us that nugget of knowledge. With a body content within itself, a mind wrapped in tranquility, almost mindful meditative breathing, there was a transcending into a sense of peace, a melding if you will, of my soul and the garden. For that moment, however long it lasted, I was more than myself, I was a part of; we were a flow of wellbeing.
If there was some way I could can that transcendence I would gladly pay the postage to share a bottle with you. But, if you have a garden, you already have all the spring tonic you need.
I hope to have the garden ready for visitors this year. Come visit me.
Living With Limitations: Fatherly Advice
Trout Lily in bud
A Father’s Words
In my father’s younger years he was a hunter of small game. As he aged fishing became his passion. He loved to spend his days on local creek banks, local river and, on occasion, trips to large lakes with companions. He had a ritual when heading out for a day of fishing; two rods were carried, a tackle box filled mostly with canned sausages, mustard, crackers and warm beer. However, he only left the house on days of good weather. I will quote the logic of his words to me; “If you have to be miserable to have fun, I ain’t goin’.”
His words of wisdom have stuck with me over the years. The last couple of weeks have had days of clear skies with sunshine and reasonable temperatures of mid-40’s to mid-50’s. Sounded good until I stepped out the door and was met by a wind that cut like a cold knife. As much as I love being in my garden working, it simply was not going to happen on those days. After all, “If you have to be miserable to have fun, I ain’t goin”. So, No crawling around weeding for me today. I could, however go for a walk with a heaver coat and hat.
First Day of Spring
With this week being bringing the first day of spring, there is no way I can not be in my garden at least long enough to see its new beginnings. If there are new plants poking their noses up the least I can do is be there to welcome them into a new spring. In observing past springs I know that weather uncomfortable to me is just fine with them.
Mostly it is ephemerals pushing up through the leaf mulch. When I see Dwarf Larkspur (Delphinium tricorne) foliage opening I know there will be blooms of lavender-blue, an occasional white-blooming, above cut leaves reaching a bit over a foot in height. For now they are mostly just promise, but I am a believer. Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) with rounded leaves of purple-green-blue are in a race and will be showing sprays of blue trumpets along with the dwarf larkspur. Trout-Lilies (Erythronium) are up and I see an occasional bud forming. Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica) now have full size arching blades of beet-bronze reaching all of two inches. Dwarf Snow Trillium (Trillium nivale) is up and in full bloom with its pristine three-petal flowers over blue-green leaves. Other trilliums are beginning to emerge, with Trillium lancifolium up above the groundcover of Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens). Trillium decumbens sits on the mulch with a bud resting at the center of the three leaves.
Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium reptans, and not an ephemeral) is, indeed, a ladder to heavenly blue blooms very shortly now. A Hepatica with white blooms has regained is position in the hollow long where Walking Ferns thrive. And, saving best to last, Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) opens it first bloom on the first day of spring.
On the side of the garden getting the most light European Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa) is popping up in drifts. Soon there will be carpets of color holding the space until later perennials emerge. Lung Wort (Pulmonaria) now has a few bright blue mini-trumpets heralding the arrival of spring. Two species of Primula have bright new foliage crowned by a multitude of plump buds. Several species of Corydalis have foliage with buds up and ready to open. In addition to the ‘normal’ Peonies, Japanese woodland peony (Paeonia obvata) is unfurling its beautiful foliage of green, bronze, almost-red and beet.
The calendar says spring has arrived this week and my garden has confirmed the event. Perhaps the way spring begins around here, performing like a roller coaster running in and out of tunnels, may not be such a bad thing. Makes me put down the weeder and the rake, spade and notebook of projects and just walk the garden, taking time to welcome the arrival of each plant that faithfully returned to entertain and keep me company.
Dear Old Dad
It would seem Dear Old Dad was wise on more than one level. Having a sense of optimal timing for the most pleasure; for right moment, right activity, lets me enjoy my garden in spite of, perhaps because of, that chilly spring weather.
My Upcoming Book now has first edit completed. Selecting photos now.