Living With Limitations: Third and Final (?) Redesign

Living With Limitations: Third and Final (?) Redesign

 

Final?

Being a gardener I am aware there is no such thing as final in garden. Plants are always in the process of change; one dies, another takes over and smothers its neighbors, the design turns out to be nothing like photos you saw in a catalog. Then there is the gardener who always has his or her mind on that next perennial or shrub, perhaps a can’t-resist bulb order. Both gardens and their gardeners being alive are dynamic, and that means continual change.

 

The second section in my redesign of a southerly section of my garden took a turn (literally) toward the western edge; connecting, then running uphill. Envision a large irregular “L” shape. The western edge of my garden was mostly completed last fall so all that remained was finding a way to connect the two sections making it appear all one flowing design.

 

Last fall transplants

Close to midway along the western edge of my garden I transplanted one Spilled Wine Weigela, then on each side of it installed a Thread Leaf Spirea. All three shrubs settled in nicely and are looking quite nice this year. When I completed the other leg of the “L” with a Calycanthus Burgundy Spice, all came together with last fall’s yellow and dark purple foliage. The Calycanthus is taller than all the other shrubs used creating a nice pivot point where the two beds join and the path takes a left bend.

 

‘Completing’ the Redesign

Variegated Dwarf Weigela, Weigela florida `Variegata Nana’, flowering branches, at Visalia Monrovia Nursery

At the other end of the three shrubs installed last year I transplanted Diervilla Firefly Nightglow with its dramatic dark reddish purple foliage that shifts to red in the fall. In June and July there will be sulfur-yellow trumpet shaped blooms contrasting with the dark leaves. Dropping down in front of the Diervilla is a variegated Weigela covered in yellow and green leaves, again picking up the yellow, green, dark foliage theme.

While at a local garden center I saw Hibiscus Midnight Marvel I had been coveting on and off for a couple of years. This time I gave in to that Siren Song and the shrub came home with me. Rose Mallow Midnight Marvel has dark, purple-black-green large leaves with startling-red blossoms reaching up to nine inches across. In the past I was not sure I wanted a plant this dramatic (some may say garish), but it must be my age and failing eyesight, for this year it looked perfect for partnering with the drama of the Diervilla and Weigela combination.

I removed a perennial that had been less than stellar in its

Dwarf Nandina
Monrovia photo

performance for some years and now had a remaining space at the base of a mature wild black cherry. The space was limited, in an awkward location next to a bend in the path, and whatever ended up there needed to tie in with the drama of those last three shrubs. I put my spade down and headed for my favorite local garden center, and then on to a second garden center, all with no answer to my dilemma. Turns out the answer was in my own back yard.

Our sewer line had to be dug up and replaced requiring landscaping to be moved. In the plants moved was a dwarf Nandina which was quickly moved to my garden. It will have new foliage of red/brown, colorful fall foliage and berries of scarlet; all of which fit right in with the colors of its companions.

I then transplanted two clumps of the same daylily I used at the beginning of the bed, this time stepping down the Rose Mallow, so each end of the “L” would have the same texture and color coordination.

 

Mulching

As I cleaned up the bed getting ready for the shrubs to be transplanted my first step was to dig all weeds by the roots. Then each hole dug was enriched with compost and after the shrub was watered in, a mulch was spread. I used old newspapers covered by pine bark mulch which is my favorite method to deal with pesky weeds.

See you in Indianapolis September 12th for Presentation: Colorful Combinations for Shade Gardens

Living With Limitations: Everything OK?

Living With Limitations: Everything OK?

Canada Lily (Lilium canadense)

Perhaps you have heard the story of the child who would not/could not speak. From the day after he was born making his first cry coming into this world until he was eight years of age he uttered not a sound. To say the least, his parents were naturally quite concerned and took the boy to every specialist and pediatrician, had every recommended test run. Finally, the parents were informed nothing physical could be found explaining the child’s lack of speech. So they went to child therapists and psychologists, all to no avail. On the morning of the boy’s eighth birthday he spoke. “Mother!” He explained. “You burned the toast. I can’t eat this.”

After all the jubilation over his first words, the parents asked him why he had never spoken a word to them. “Well,” he explained to them, “Up until now everything has been just fine.” Perhaps I too, have a tendency to speak up more when things are not going right than when it is all going well for me.

As I have done in the past, I recently placed an order with Amazon.com for a bottle of ready to use Liquid Fence to deter marauding deer (also known as locust on hooves) from dining in my garden. Being an Amazon Prime member my order was on my doorstep, as promised, 2 days later. I opened the order and found the bottle was placed with 2 other items which, thankfully were sealed. A plastic bag had been placed over the bottle but not sealed and when the bottle bounced around in the box it sprayed the inside of the bag which leaked and soaked the box.

Locust on Hooves

Before I could contact Amazon, the seller E-Shoppe sent me an email asking if my order was satisfactory and to contact them if it was not. I described my problem to them by reply email and received a reply the same day. They refunded the full amount of my bottle of Liquid Fence so I could purchase another bottle. Amazon credited my shopping card the next day. I felt it was actually an Amazon problem since they packed the order, but E-Shoppe stepped in and went beyond soothing a disgruntled shopper. They could have said contact Amazon.

Delphinium exaltatum, Tall Larkspur

 

While I may not always answer those “how did I do” emails after a purchase, this one certainly deserves an answer. You did great, E-Shoppe, and I am very pleased both with the product and with your beyond the norm response. Certainly restores my faith when finding real human beings who care about their customers. Thank you, Rachel.

 

 

Just feeling good over a customer experience. No connection to Liquid Fence other than I use it in my garden

Living With Limitations: Redesign Part 2

Living With Limitations: Redesign Part 2

Lilium henryi with Delphinium exaltatum

Dead Witch-Hazel

The more I pause in front of the now deceased witch-hazel serving as midway marker for the long narrow bed, the more ways I come up with to enhance its decaying days. I previously set a clay container at its base with a species clematis to scramble up the leafless limbs. The clematis has small urn-shaped flowers of satin purple-blue-violet, but is not all that showy. However, I do enjoy its quiet presence and vigor, so it gets to remain until the tree makes a final exit.

I do not want to duplicate the first half of the bed, but will extend my theme, continuing the second half of my new design. Next to the witch-hazel I have transplanted a half dozen Lilium henryi bulbs.  The Turk’s cap style reflexed orange petals peppered with brown freckles has dark orange pollen extending well past the petals on arching filaments. In the next year or two the lilies will reach four feet or more having flowers among the lower branches of the witch-hazel in late July and early August.

Standing in front of the what-was-once Lilium henryi I see where mom deer fed her two Disneyesque spotted young last evening or early this morning. The lilies certainly will not be reaching past four six inches this year, much less four feet. After I finished mumbling under my breath, I remembered a couple of small birdhouses; one a wren house and one a hummingbird home. I hung those in the branches and then thought of some color I could use complementing the birdhouses. I had two gifts of glass; one a sheet of various shades of green resembling a small stained glass window, the other a globe in blue and green to twist and turn casting rays of color. Next up is to watch yard sales for more and larger birdhouses.

 

Weigela Midnight Wine was transplanted next to the Lilium. I am now considering purchasing one, perhaps two more, to form a ground cover of dark burgundy-purple foliage providing contrast to the orange lilies. This small shrub only reaches ten to twelve inches in height and one and half to two feet in spread. Midnight Wine does bloom in spring, but if and when it does they are sporadic and few, which is ok with me for I am interested in the colorful leaves.

 

Barberry Sunjoy Gold Pillar brings the color bright gold to contrast with the burgundy of the Weigela. It is transplanted four feet from the Weigela, bringing contrast in height and form. Weigela is a small mound, while Gold Pillar is upright reaching a height of four feet. New grow begins orange-red and matures into vivid gold. Come autumn foliage shifts to orange-red. This is another shrub mother deer will not be bringing her does to dine upon.

 

Hydrangea Tough Stuff Ah-Ha
Proven Winners Photo

Hydrangea Tuff Stuff Ah Ha is a lacecap style blooming shrub reblooming all summer in blue or pink double florets. Not only does it rebloom, but those blooms are numerous and large as saucers at the end of each stout stem. I also happen to like the deep green, substantial leaves with their quilted appearance, prominent veins and jagged edges. Height is about three feet and spread is about the same for a very neat, compact, appearance. I am noticing a shift from blue to pink blooms as the season progresses telling me to use and acidic fertilizer next spring if I want to see blue blooms.

 

Plectranthus effusus var. longitubus (Isodon effusus) is a mouthful and the name has been changed three times since I first became aware of this woody perennial. When first transplanted it was the Tubesock plant, and remains that way in my mind. The plant gets its name from the flowers which are long and tube-like in shape but small and dainty: multiple little icy blue tubesocks on wiry stems reaching an airy three feet. I think they look better when cut back in July for forming a thicker, shorter plant. Anyway, sure forms a definite contrast to its neighbor the hydrangea. Blooms are in late summer.

 

Viburnum Lil Ditty from Proven Winners

Viburnum Little Ditty reaches only one to two feet in height with the same spread making for one of the most versatile viburnums on the market. It is just about maintenance free for it grows into a mound, needing no trimming, nipping or deadheading. The glossy green leaves are topped by creamy white little clouds resting just above the foliage and there are an abundance of those little clouds that also happen to be fragrant. A step down from the height of the Tubesock, a contrast of stout against airy and early blooms as opposed to late.

 

Calycanthus Burgundy Spice sits directly behind the Little Ditty so the white of the blooms and waxed green of the viburnum can help bring out the burgundy of the foliage of the Burgundy Spice (not that it needs help). Here is a shrub to die for; deep burgundy crinkled foliage that emerges burgundy, stays that color until dropping in the fall. Blooms are abundant and also in burgundy. The spicy fragrant flowers are an excuse to take a glass of wine into the garden on afternoons when the aroma is best. Height about eight feet and width six feet.

 

Next up: Section three.

 

Living With Limitations: New Garden Design

Living With Limitations: New Garden Design

Redesign

There is an old saying that goes something like this; “He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a teacher”. Over 30 years later that is proving itself to be close to gospel. When I began gardening I knew next to nothing about plants or design. I did know the photos of gardens and plants that I liked and I did my best to emulate those glossy magazine pages. Results of my design and transplanting back then has, like its gardener, matured and growing old over the years. Or, at least those surviving my ‘care”.

The lower edge of my hillside garden has an arching outline. Following along that outside edge is a path circling the outside of the garden. Unfortunately I left too narrow a bed between that outside edge and the path, not realizing it until I began trying to fill the space with perennials while keeping some sense of design. Over the years, design after design did not satisfy me once matured and perennials were continually changed. I probably killed enough plants to begin a good sized garden center.

The long, narrow, arching bed of approximately fifty feet in length has a “bulb” shape of eight feet depth at each end; the center of the bed tapers down to a bit less than three feet wide.  This blog covers half that length.

Time, experience, listening to other gardeners, age and infirmary, have ganged up on me creating a new design for the area. The area is more sun than shade so that is an added challenge to his old shade gardener. Age and my disabilities have added concern about maintaining my new design, so I began with hardscaping, then selected dwarf shrubs with lots of colorful foliage, deer resistance, and very low maintenance. Finally, I went back and selected a few perennials of little interest to the locust on hooves and are tight “clumpers”, pretty much taking care of themselves.

Spirea Double Play Candy Corn. Photo Proven Winners

Procrastinating is not always a bad thing. I had a bird apartment on a pole from a yard sale that I was always going to paint. Then I intended to paint only the roofs of the three apartments. Later I set it aside in the garage. Turns out it worked better wearing only age. I got my posthole digger out and created a secure site for the bird house, nestling it to the rear of the bed and between two branches of a Seven Son tree. In front of the post I transplanted a Diervilla Kodiak Orange shrub with shiny green leaves highlighted in orange-tan that turn to glowing orange in fall with yellow honeysuckle blooms in late spring.

While at a local garden center I spotted a bird bath (puddle on a stick) in colors of cream, tan, and brown with no distinct pattern. It found a home about four feet over from the bird house and shrub closer the front of the bed and to the path. Next I located Spirea Double Play Candy Corn with new foliage emerging orangey-red and aging to pineapple yellow and completing the show in candy apple red. Height is only two feet or so. This shrub was transplanted closer to the front of the bed so the shrubs zig-zag along the length of the bed.

Accompanying the Diervilla and Spirea, Weigela My Monet Sunset carries the color theme in foliage of gold variegation over green and brilliant orange-russet fall colors. The shrub only reaches one and a half feet.

Weigela Monet Moment Sunset
Proven Winners Photos

I had a daylily that over time had become crowded and received far too little light, growing lots of foliage, but producing little bloom. I divided it into three nice clumps and placed those long, arching, blades of deep green between the clumps of shrubs. The daylily was an old hybrid from the 1960’s, Indian Love Call, with dark rustic-red petals having a yellow center.

Picking up from the red and yellow of the daylily, the next low growing mound was Spirea Double Play Gold aptly named for its golden leaves. Only reaches two feet and it must be too low for the deer to dine upon for it goes untouched.

The shrubs have been placed four feet apart and now reach the center length of the bed where a dead tree stands. Originally a Witch-Hazel it finally got tired of me digging in its root system and gave up the ghost. Now I have moved a container with a clematis at its base and let it begin to scramble up those dead limbs. To eventually take the place of the dead tree I transplanted a Calycanthus Solar Flare with its Magnolia-like blooms of rich maroon-red with a bright yellow center. Should reach about nine feet and have yellow fall color. (Calycanthus are my favorite shrubs).

Midway and to the rear of the bed I used a clump of tall Monkshood that will bloom in fall. For late summer I have transplanted two clumps of Great Blue Lobelia. I could not resist bringing some blue into all those yellow, red, orange and brown colors.

I may be slower than a sleepy sloth, but I am gettin’ er done.

Living With Limitations: On a Mission

Living With Limitations: On a Mission

On a Mission

 

I have always had an affinity for the smaller private gardens; those gardens created by passionate gardeners who cannot help but be collectors. On rare occasions one of these gems will be saved by foresight and sufficient funds to continue into the future. Even more infrequent is to see the garden continue to grow in size and collections eventually becoming available for public view. I have a very short list of gardens I enjoy visiting and revisiting over the years.

 

Revisiting Memories

My gardening friend Karen and I decided upon another road trip to see gardens and garden centers, this trip in Zanesville, Ohio. Only a minimal five hour drive each way, with another forty five minutes added to her driving to pick me up. For me, this trip was a revisiting of good gardening memories; for Karen, new adventures.

 

Scene from Mission Oaks Gardens web site

The Garden

Mission Oaks Gardens has long held a special place in my memories of “small” gardens dreamed into existence by “exceptionally large” gardeners.  Mission Oaks was the work of Bert and Susan Hendley, their dreams now in the care of Muskingum Valley Park District. Over the years I have visited Mission Oaks several times while giving talks at Bert’s request. Each visit was an opportunity to see the garden grow while guided by Bert introducing me to new plants and sharing visions of the garden’s future.  Bert was a generous host who shared not only time, but usually plants for my own garden. I have several “memory plants” in my garden with Bert’s name on them.

 

This Trip

Bert was not available to meet us this trip to his garden, but being the always gracious host, we were greeted upon arrival, then given a full tour, by Russell Edgington, Executive Director. Rather than attempt to detail what we saw, I would highly recommend a visit to Mission Oaks website, which does much better at presenting the garden than I could. Then plan a trip to see the garden for yourselves. The gardens and the hospitality truly does speak for itself.

 

Scene from Mission Oaks Gardens web site

Garden Centers

What is a garden adventure without a garden center to visit? When visiting a few years back Bert recommended Timber Run Gardens and after a visit it remained in my mind. Karen and I made a return trip where Karen found her weeping purple beech along with several other plants. I was on a mission to locate Rex Begonia for my wife and located two. While at Mission Oaks Russell shoveled a load of temptation into the van by telling us of Wilson’s Garden Center. After all, “it was only a short trip from Timber Run”. Wilson’s was the largest garden center I have ever seen, and yes, I did succumb to temptation by purchasing a shrub I was not aware existed, but knew exactly where it would reside in my garden. I also saw another four Rex Begonia to complete my mission. Karen did her best to support the local economy and keep a young lady on the cash register employed.

By the time we checked out of Wilson’s it was time to head home after a stop for an early dinner. We arrived home about 8:30 PM with a very tired and content gardener. While transplanting my new shrub into the garden, I reminisced about our trip and found myself thinking “you know, I have not visited Fernwood Gardens in Michigan in some years.”

Are you listening, Karen?

Living With Limitations: Doing What Gardeners Do

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

Garden Center

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.

 

Shrubs

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

Hydrangea

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.

 

Spirea

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

Weigela

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.

 

Temptation

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.

 

Transplanting

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

Living With Limitations: Gardeners and Gardens

Water fountain in Conservatory at Longwood Gardens

 

Rear View

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.

 

Gardeners

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

Gardens

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

Living With Limitations: Proverbs

Erythronium dens canis, Mertensia virginia

 

Proverb

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

Chocolate

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

Garden

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.

 

Dicentra eximia

 

Content

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

Living With Limitations: Gratitude

Pink form of Trillium grandiflorum will be opening soon.

Gratitude

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

Thanks

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.

 

Strolling

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

Support

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

Gratitude

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: Spring Tonic

Living With Limitations:

Virginia Bluebells, a favorite early blooming native perennial

Spring Tonic

 

Nostalgia

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.

 

Can It

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.

 

Age

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.

 

One Word

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.

 

Breathing

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.

 

Transcending

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.

Caning

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.