Just Another Adventure: Gratidude; Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Just Another Adventure: Gratitude;

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Trillium simile with Creeping Woodland Phlox



Seeing it Happen

One day you step into a cow pile, the next a patch of wildflowers. I actually found two days in my life when all flowed together. I felt so buoyant it was as though I was in a slow moving stream with a life preserver, just bobbing along. There was some good news concerning my health. Two back-to-back days of perfect weather and no errands to run, no doctor’s appointment, no distractions. What more could be asked for? I felt like I should thank the powers that arranged my opportunities to feel gratitude. Perhaps I should get the cover off the grill and offer up a burnt sacrifice.


New Eyes

Cinnamon Fern, Osmunda cinnamom

I have been trying to see my garden through different eyes this spring. I walk the usual directions on the paths, then turn around and walk the same path in the opposite direction. A beginning of breaking a habit, of seeing my garden from a different perspective. It is still too early to see all the perennials emerge and fill out, but that may not be a bad thing. This way I can focus on the backbones of each section of the garden. After spending some time and thinking, feeling, my focus shifted to how and where to put the new thoughts into action.


Seeing too Much

At first I overwhelmed myself with all that I saw needing attention. After all, there was over three years of neglect to overcome. Then I remembered how to approach an insurmountable problem; one small section at a time. I walked the garden one more time and chose where I would begin. It was a well-defined area in the garden and of reasonable size. My guesstimation was about 4 to 5 days of focus in this one area. First the weeding, then rethinking the design, filling open spots and bringing in plants from other places in the garden, while removing a deceased Japanese maple.



A Japanese maple did not make it after five years from transplant and was preceded by another Japanese maple, then before that a native tree. All were in amended soil in a raised bed with a wet weather spring running beside the area. Perennials are doing fine in the area, but the trees have not and I do not have a clue. So, shifting gears I think I will choose one of those indestructible native trees. I am leaning toward a weeping cultivar of our native redbud (Cercis), Ruby Falls. That should kick in some drama.

I moved a clump of lilies to the base of the existing Japanese maple on the opposite end of the bed. The maple there has foliage that begins golden yellow and moves the yellow color into veins within brown-red leaves. The transplanted lily clump, that I have forgotten the name of, has strap-like undulating leaves and the flowers are Halloween-orange in color. Be interesting to see how the orange blooms pair up with the bright red-brown foliage of the maple.

I finally moved four clumps of Snowdrops (Galanthus, transplanting them near the three clumps of Adonis. I have be threatening to make that move for some years now. They are so perfectly matched in foliage and bloom I still wonder why I did not make the move long ago. Adonis has feathery bright green foliage and waxy bright yellow blooms. Snowdrops have strap-live foliage and white hanging bells for bloom. Both will quickly disappear after bloom and seed set, so I need to pair them up with something to take over the stage when they depart the current act.

Three existing ferns form the background to one section of the bed and I am considering one or three new ferns that have color besides green. Perhaps an autumn fern with its golden copper color.

There still some remaining species lilies clumps that are getting overgrown in their current location. Thinking Martagons with deep purple-black blooms to pick up the color of the new redbud tree foliage.



Transplanted carpet moss growing on aging log dug into garden soil

I am aware that science says there are friendly microbes, bacteria, assorted not-visibles in the soil that makes us feel good when we come into skin to soil contact. I am a true believer in that one. But when I get into my garden in perfect weather with lots of plans buzzing around in my head, what more could one ask of the day?

I sure am grateful my soul and I have one more day, today, to be as close to heaven one can be without becoming compost.

Time to book Gene for your next garden event is growing short.

Email now to arrange your preferred date


Just Another Adventure: Absolved of my Resolve; Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Event

Just Another Adventure: Absolved of my Resolve;

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Even

Blue Heron watching the water for lunch.

Absolved of my Resolve



Oh No!

I cannot (but actually I can) believe my behavior this morning. After a long period of the illusion of control I succumbed to temptation. I had hoped, I had almost believed in my resolve not to purchase any more plants until my health questions were settled. I needed to know more of my possibilities for future gardening before planning more activities. All the most noble of intentions, a sense of resolution truly profound. Now I probably need a twelve step meeting after placing a plant order this morning, for my resolve dissolved.


Reasons (Excuses)

Mertensia virginica, or Virginia Bluebells

I do have explanations for the way I acted. There is a reason I did what I did. It is spring and hormones have been released in my system that compel me to order plants for my garden. I was pushed beyond my human limitations. I feel sure I will find empathy, sympathy, and understanding from fellow gardeners, along with forgiveness for my failure.

Surely there is not a gardener among you who would not absolve me from my resolve.


The Past

For a minimum of fifteen years I have had intentions of building a bog garden. I have read articles and website pages, attended symposiums and kept a file. At one point I did attempt a small bog garden with a child’s wading pool but it was not all that successful. The bog remains, but the original plants passed away due to mishandling and misunderstanding. Ever since I have made notes on small bog plants, where to construct the next one along with what size works best, construction materials, etc. There are so many native and non-native bog plants the possibilities are almost endless. An exciting gardening adventure beckoning, another project, another goal, another fascination (addiction?) You can see how I came to lose control when I saw photos of some new hybrid Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia).

I will have to find some way to regain a modicum of control for my lust list of bog plants is long. It also stands to reason that if one orders pitcher plants then they must have companions such as bog orchids and relatives.



Each evening I like to take time to see what my family and friends have to say on Facebook. Last evening I saw where my friend Brian Williams of Brian’s Botanicals had constructed a bog for his new line of picture plants. I am sure other species will be added to those I first saw, so it is a web page to watch carefully for future tips from an expert in his field. While viewing Brian’s new bog in Facebook photos , temptation sneaked up on me and pushed me to go to his website “just to see what else is new this spring” That can be interrupted as “lets go find some plants to order”. Well, Satan stood behind me and used his fork pushing me to begin clicking. Before you can say “road to hell is paved with good intentions” there I was selecting plants for a shopping cart.



The fascinating, the intriguing, the refuge from Little Shop of Horrors. The plant that eats bugs. So much breeding has happened over the past few years, that foliage and “pitchers” are as colorful as any well-drained perennial bloom. Our natives are again escaping the wild and coming to our gardens in new forms.

The prices were so reasonable I was tempted to order one of each, but managed to hold myself to the three I liked best.

Sarracenia ‘Scarlett Belle’ “a beautiful hardy pitcher plant with very unusual leaves. Each leaf is shaped like a tube with odd hooded top. These leaves act as traps for eating insects. The leaves green at the base with red hoods and white spotting and held in a rosette shape.”

Sarracenia purpurea Venosa’ is one of the hardiest and tough varieties of pitcher plant to grow. This form called Venosa is a solid red type. In full sun the foliage will turn bright red. Growing large pitchers up to over 1 foot tall with some odd markings.

Sarracenia ‘Yellow Jacket’ “is a northern pitcher plant that was selected for its yellow to chartreuse coloring. An easy and fun pitcher plant.  Mature plants reach around 1 foot tall traps and 2 foot tall red flowers.”


What I Do Know

Container with Japanese Maple, Meadow Rue (Thalictrum), Heuchera, at foot of water feature.

I am aware that as things presently stand there is no way I can construct a bog garden in my garden. The project would require digging, framing, carrying stone, mixing and filling with a special mix of peat and sand. If that one happens it will have to be hired out. I attempting to skirt around that obstacle by inserting a container into the bottom falls of my water feature. The new plants will be small and it will take some time before they mature and outgrow the container. Perhaps by that time I will be in better health and/or find someone to hire. Meanwhile, I get my bog along with new plants and plans for a future in gardening.

Time to book Gene for your next garden event is growing short. Email now to arrange your preferred date


Just Another Adventure: Fantasies; Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Event

Just Another Adventure: Fantasies;

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Event




Looking out my office window I see eight deer wandering from the woods on to our side lawn. As the deer meander they pause to stop and nibble, taking taste tests as they travel. Such an idyllic, picturesque, scene right here on my very own lawn.  Holding still as not to startle, I imagine in my mind’s eye a choreograph of a gentle furred family gracefully pausing, bowing their heads then moving on to repeat their movements. As they pause spaces between the deer are filled by a ballet company of performers weaving and flowing, mimicking the behavior of the deer while Bambi’s tail flickers to the beat of nature and music from a Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky ballet.

How lucky can anyone appreciate of nature be when looking upon a scene such as this in his or her yard. (Have you picked up on the sarcasm as yet?)

Over the past two weeks my mail has been delivered by Noah’s Ark. If there was a time when it was not raining in a twenty-four hour period I must have slept through it. My Trillium were emerging, my lilies were up about three to four inches, Disporum and Polygonatum sticking their noses up to test the air. Dicentra and European anemone were in drifts of abundance. A wonderfully awakening late winter and early spring garden to walk and rejoice.

Never Before

And my garden and I were soon joined by the family of deer. In all my years of gardening I saw sights never seen before. The deer were browsing Dicentra cucullaria. They have never eaten Dicentra before. Anemone nemorosa are being grazed just before blooming and drifts have stems with no foliage in random patches. I know from past experience that Trillium will not stand a chance for I already see where deer have taken the tops from trillium lancifolium… along with potential blooms and future seeds, not to mention my sense of satisfaction in achieving a drift after fifteen years of care. Trillium stamineum now stands two inches in height and leafless. My martagon lilies have been bitten back to an inch or two of the leaf litter. Not just any of my martagons, but the best three cultivars. There are other examples of never before touched plants, but this should tell my tale of frustration.

I Knew That

So, if I knew deer would be in my garden as usual, and see their increasing numbers in my yard, why in heaven’s name did I not spray? That is where frustration waltzes into the idyllic scene. The weather would not dry out for a time sufficient to spray and have it dry on the foliage to be effective. Each dreary day I watched for sun and some drying so I could spray the susceptible plants. While I was performing my rituals to bring about sunshine, the deer were browsing through my garden each night as though they read a menu to Gene’s Diner before arriving. Not spraying gave me the opportunity to see each day bring about another prized plant browsed to the ground.

Not Just Me

Dicentra eximia, Wild bleeding HeatNot to be left out, my wife takes an active role in gardening and the plight of browsing deer. Her raised beds of annuals, perennials, herbs and vegetables have become feeding troughs so deer do not have to lower their mouths as far. In early morning and late afternoon I watch her run out the door clapping her hands, shouting and performing all kinds of dances to frighten the deer away. Like small children they know just how serious she is or is not, what the repercussions could be.  So, they raise their heads, gaze upon the funny moving and noisy person, and go back to eating their dinner. She has almost given up on growing anything in her raised beds, having moved her vegetables and herbs to a greenhouse where she constructed some raised beds. Perhaps this year we will again have tomatoes and cucumbers, cole crops, peas and strawberries.

One lesson learned thus far is to close the greenhouse doors at night for the deer will wander inside and get confused attempting to exit. Then what they do not eat they step upon.


I enjoy a good Disney animation as much as any other, still getting overly emotional over Bambi and Thumper. I can imagine fantasies where deer prance and wander about in unison in an overall flowing grace. Sticking with the Disney theme I can stay with ballet performers repeating the rhythm and motion of the deer. All of which is to take place in my side yard next to the woods.


Just not in my garden! Please.



Just Another Adventure: Lets Talk Gardening; Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Event

Just Another Adventure: Lets Talk Gardening;

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Event

Hepatica nobilis Blue Blooms

Let’s Talk Gardening


It happens every spring.

It happens to me every spring. I sometimes think I live within a ritual. Every late winter and early spring I begin to pace the garden and look for the first signs of my garden awakening. It is as if my pacing will somehow hurry the awakening along. Or, perhaps it is my own awakening, my removing a sense of semi-hibernation. Whatever the name, I would not feel normal if I did not find myself out there walking the hillside.


Have a Seat

Occasionally there is a day, or simply an afternoon, warm enough to allow me to sit on the big stone in the center of my garden. That stone is large enough to be an anchor. I can sit upon it and feel the dreary and drab drain downward in a subtle flow. I find myself felling as though I am connected to my garden and to the earth. The noise in my head gets turned down and I can hear nature around me. There is a quiet that surrounds so I can hear birds in the tree above me, squirrels scampering from limb to limb, the beat of my heart in my ears. No matter how gray the sky, I can feel a light, a warmth, within.



After over thirty years of gardening on the same hillside I like to think I have it all down to memory when that first green nose will appear, the first bloom and what plant it will be. However, each year, while there is variation, I do know where and when to begin looking. Perhaps I will be a few days early, but I still get my walk, show or no show.



Erythronium americana and Mertensia virginica meet in the garden

I find myself being surprised and pleased when my treasure hunt for green turns rewarding. One would think how can I be surprised when I know where and what to expect, but like Pavlov’s puppy dog, I react to the stimulus. How can no one not be pleased, happy, surprised, when moving the brown and black of last year’s leaves and seeing bright green promises of

what is to come. It is like receiving an invitation to a garden party.

I know where every clump of Snowdrops resides. I can count upon moving a few leaves and finding multiple noses of green. Soon, no matter the weather, they push the mulch aside beginning to keep their promise. Galanthus are always the first to deliver open blooms in my garden. Bright green blades with nodding drops of milk white, green tipped, move with the still cold winter wind. Surely their movement is the baton of a symphony director beginning a newly written piece for this coming spring.


Naming Names

False Rue Anemone

With the opening of first Galanthus there is a single Hellebore that is always the first to open, displaying a clean yellow, a caution light for the remainder of the hellebore drifts throughout the garden. Not to be outdone Adonis amurensis pushes up feather-like foliage with blooms of waxy-yellow giving a hint as to where last year’s sunshine was stored. From then on it is a rush to begin the new year in my garden.

Trillium nivale, the Dwarf Snow Trillium, opens its three white petals over blue-green leaves, none of which is taller than four inches. The trillium is a signal for other native plants to begin. Bloodroot pushes up a curled felt-green heavily veined leaf, bloom stem within the cocoon. As the leaf unfurls it releases the bloom to open into a dish of pure white petals with a yellow center. Ants have carried seed around over the years and now there are drifts of this native all through the garden. If bloodroot is open then it is time for Spring Beauties to open for they have been waiting in the wings, tiny bronze blades above the leaf litter. The very small blooms are usually a shiny pale pink with much darker veins, but I am lucky enough to have some blooming in yellow with pink markings. They are not only in many locations in the garden, they have taken a liking to the hillside paths.


Some years ago there was and American Hepatica Society and I was fortunate enough to belong while it was in existence. One of the benefits was a seed exchange and I received quite a few, some of which I was successful in growing to maturity. After all these years they still bring me pleasure by sending their seed about in the garden. The tiny Japanese species reach about three inches in height, carrying a multitude of small white blooms. Some of the seedlings from open crosses are in more open positions and have awakened in shades of lavender and white. The native species have yet to show their colors.


Walking in the opposite direction to exit the garden I see I missed as drift of False Rue Anemone (Isopyrum biternatum) in snow white with glistening drops of rain on the petals. Toothwort (Dentaria lanciniata) was somehow overlooked as I walked by.


It seems every time I walk the paths in the garden I see a new garden. There were Iris reticulata joined by early Daffodils. Anemone x Pallida in clear lemon yellow is the first of the European anemones to bloom. Both species and cultivars of Corydalis have begun opening. I am sure if I took another walk there would be another new garden.

What brings the garden walk to completion is the opportunity to share it with you.

Time to book Gene for your next garden event is growing short. Email now to arrange your preferred date

Just Another Adventure: Seasons and Cycles; Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Event

Just Another Adventure: Seasons and Cycles;

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Event

Trout-Lily, or Erythronium americana withJacob’s Ladder

Seasons and Cycles




One day I am walking my garden in a long sleeved shirt on a sunny winter day, and while the next day is officially spring on the calendar, reality is overcast with rain and wet snow. I certainly will not be hanging out in my garden on the first day of this spring. It would seem that while there are beginnings and endings, seasons and cycles in your lives, we have expectations that may, or may not, be met where and when we want or need. I was expecting another spring day, but was winter delivered.


Past Lives

A bit over twenty-five years ago I experienced some serious live-altering events that changed my life. All of my expectations for the future dissolved overnight. I lost my job of over twenty-plus years and lost my retirement with only three years to go, with a medical condition that would not allow me to find employment and begin anew. At first I was an angry individual, but found I could not stay angry or feel sorry for myself for any length of time.

It did not take long to realize that I had been presented with a gift that few men my age receive. I was given the opportunity to step out of the demands of others and begin a new life for myself. I mediated, then made plans for the new me.  These last twenty-five years of my life have been far more than I could have imagined at the beginning of that new journey.


What Was Old

What was once old is now new once more, or to put it another way, here I go again. I am now about two to three years into another life-altering event with my health. All that once made up my life is either changing, or has changed, with major sections disappearing. But, I now have previous experience I can use in this event. I have reinvented myself in the past and I have the tools, the experience, to do it again. Could be I will enjoy the new me even more than the old one.


A New Cycle

Just as the first official day of spring has surprised me and I have had to change my expectations, I find my relationship with my garden both changing and remaining the same. The seasons are there and eventually we will settle into spring and then summer. I am in another cycle in my life looking forward to new beginning, another spring in my life.



Helleborus X Garden Hybrid, Slate Bloom

At this junction I am using pieces of the past as building blocks for today and tomorrow. If one piece does not fit then I can pull it out and do a replacement. My talks are many things to me. They are an opportunity to share what I have learned with other gardeners. That drive to share remains within me. The talks are an opportunity to socialize and meet new people. An opportunity to travel, to earn some funds for the next plant purchases. This past weekend was a great example of fulfillment for me.

I was invited to Taylor, MI and for a Growing Great Gardens symposium. I had a friend drive me there and back since I still cannot drive any distance. That was about twelve hours of conversations while we traveled. My presentation was one of the best I have given, feeding my contentment quotient. I met the other speakers who I was aware of only by reputation.  I was amazed by both with their stage presence and depth of knowledge. It was a privilege to meet them however briefly. Lastly there was all the gardeners who put this symposium together. They were truly individuals I enjoyed meeting.

Whatever I do or don’t do in my future I feel that my presentations, my sharing, will be a part.



My garden is what feeds the presentations. It provides experiences to share, an opportunity to take plant portraits along with their companions.

The day after returning from Michigan, I found myself renewed and in my garden with the camera and notebook. Since I am losing one half of my garden, I have a goal of taking a portrait of every blooming plant before it finds a new home.

In one hour I found thirteen portraits presenting themselves. Mature clumps of Dwarf Snow Trillium (T. nivale) offered several opportunities. Several of my Hepatica are now open and I want to capture what makes each one live up to its name. Jeffersonia dubia, or Japanese Twin-Wings is all beet-red copper and blue. I found my tiny Spring Beauty that blooms in yellow instead of white or pink. Bloodroot was lined up three abreast, perhaps line dancing to the tune of spring. With Hellebores in bloom all through the garden I had to stop and again take the portrait of my darkest slate with yellow stamens. A new-to-the-garden double yellow has sun behind the blooms, so that portrait was a must. Bluebells remained tight with their ball of blue down in the black and green foliage. More Snowdrops were opening and nodding to me.

The garden, the presentations, are a cycle feeding each other, and myself, as the seasons progress.

Time to book Gene for your next garden event is growing short. Email now to arrange your preferred date


Just One More Adventure: Real Magic 4 Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Just One More Adventure: Real Magic 4

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Trout-Lily, or Erythronium americana with Jacob’s Ladder


Grounded in the Garden


For some years now I have been vaguely aware of “Earthing” or “Grounding” from fellow gardeners. After another conversation in which the subject of “Grounding” came up I did a search and found a book to read. I keep telling myself how much sense this one makes and so easy to do. So why not do it? (You are aware of the words procrastination and gardener having a definite correlation?)

Our brains, our cells and our bodies run on electrical energy. At its most basic, our bodies were made from the earth and need to be in contact with the earth to function properly. Earth is a grounding or negative force. We build up positive forces that create free radicals needing to be discharged before they can do damage such as inflammation. Simple bare body to soil creates a flow of positive to negative creating a neutral state. For a more detailed and complete, perhaps more clear, explaination you may want to read “Earthing The most important health discovery ever” by Clinton Ober.

Simply sitting still on your favorite bench in the garden with bare feet in the soil can reduce inflammation, chronic pain, while increasing energy levels and lowering stress. Improved blood pressure is also a benefit of the process.




Hepatica nobilis blue bloom

The last couple of decades there has been quite a bit of research into soil microbes and human health. Some of what has been established is a link between the bacterium mycobacterium vaccae and stimulation of serotonin production. Serotonin is the natural chemical that produces the feelings of relaxation and happiness. You can think of soil bacterium as a natural form of Prozac (without the side effects). A lack of serotonin has been linked to anxiety, depression, bipolar and obsessive compulsion disorders. The bacterium does not seem to have any side effects to a gardeners’ health, but rather stimulates the production of cytokine which, in turn, increases levels of serotonin. All a gardener needs is time to play in the garden; to actually come into direct contact with soil, to inhale or have contact with an open wound.

I personally found all this to be a major help both physically and mentally as I progressed through two cancers and five years of treatment and recovery with radiation and chemo.


Insulation from Reality


Native Bloodroot

The ending of WW2 brought with it the beginning of answers written in chemicals. The buzz word became plastics, and I grew up with one new miracle after another most of my life. Everything from chemical sprays and fertilizers for my garden, to synthetic blends of cloth in my shirts and trousers (remember the leisure suit of the 70’s? Certainly nothing real about that one.), to the chair I sit on at breakfast. Almost every nook and cranny of our lives now have synthetic answers. And, therein lies a problem.


Talk About Out of Touch


Growing up my shirt and jeans would have been made of cotton. Now when I head up the hillside into the garden my shirt is SPF 50, long sleeved, quick drying and completely manmade. My hat has the same SPF and never saw anything resembling natural fibers. Cargo pants are summer weight and also synthetic. Gloves I use are nitrile coated with never a crumble of soil beneath my fingernails. Work boots are leather uppers, but the insoles are molded unpronounceables, while the soles are poured into a form to be attached in one piece. None of which is a sin, simply all act as insulators and keep us from contact with our garden soil and its benefits.


And, that’s A Good Thing


My oncologist would be very proud of me, seeing me dressed as she would have directed to protect myself from possible further cancer. My dermatologist would put away her can of frozen nitrogen in celebration. My family doctor would want another quick scan. Thing is, I am doing as instructed by the medical community who is looking out for my wellbeing. Perhaps withdrawing, insulating myself from, the real world that I live and garden in is not the complete answer.




I have the good intentions of the medical community wishing me well through one avenue, while my soul and my roots want to travel the back roads to the same destination. It would seem that relationships exist upon a building block of compromise, so somewhere in all these relationships is a healthier me while I garden. I understand there is a “new” field of medicine now building in momentum. Integrative medicine.