Wednesday, April 9, 2014

An Old Friend Returns...

Here in the north, we all wondered if our old friend spring would ever come back. Winter this year was brutal and tenacious. But finally, finally, spring is here. It's not quite as flashy yet as spring can sometimes be, but it's here nonetheless. Somehow, I'm think the flashy part is still to come.
Spring sometimes come with a big fanfare, but not this time. The days are gently warming instead. I've heard that the slow warm up is actually better. The slow arrival means less severe weather, and it also means less chance that the trees will bloom too early and get damaged by frost.
So I'm just going to accept my old friend as is. I'm glad he's back, and I accept his reticence.
There's another good part about this cool spring. It actually gives me time to catch up all those garden chores that tend to pile up over the winter. I finally got all the  winter cleanup done, and then planted pansies in the window boxes.

I still need to plant the spring veggies, but that will happen this week. And the roses still need to be pruned, but they are really slow to get growing so I'll just let them rest for awhile longer. Hubby will mow the lawn for the first time this weekend. Then we'll truly know that spring is back.
Sometimes it can be a challenge to get through winter without being discouraged. It seemed like it would never be warm again, like I'd never see natural green again. And it certainly felt like the flowers would never bloom again. But you know what? I'm not sure I'd appreciate spring so much if I didn't have to fight so hard to see it.


Besides, if I lived in a warmer climate, I wouldn't get to enjoy all these beautiful spring bulb flowers except as a grocery store bouquet. There's just something about seeing these little bright color spots when all the rest of the world is still a little gray. It makes me appreciate them even more.

So welcome back old friend. I missed you. Come, stay awhile. And don't stay gone so long next time.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

And so it begins...

Today is the first day of spring. Is there any sweeter sound? Spring is always welcome, but this year, even more so. Everyone is so happy to know that the official spring is here, but I'm trying not to get my hopes up. You see, next week we might get a little snow! Still, the trend is warmer. I can make it now. Especially now that the spring flower parade has arrived. Just in time for the first day of spring is the arrival of iris reticulata. Isn't that a sight for winter weary eyes?
Those dainty little iris are always the first guest to my garden. But the next arrival is always a race between the crocus and hellebores. I'm never sure which will bloom next. These hellebore buds may say that the they will come next, but they are notoriously slow to show up. The crocus may still beat them to the race.
I depend a lot on my sedum Angelina for garden color this time of year. The cold makes the foliage turn all shades of lovely, making it my favorite winter interest piece. And I use it with abandon. When summer comes, it will revert to it's bright green color, and that's okay too.
Early spring means it's time to buy pansies. My neighbors, who aren't gardeners, often seem so puzzled to see blooming flowers in pots all around my house. They just don't know the beauty of the pansy. Pansies like it chilly!
When the heat arrives, pansies will fade away, and I'll swap them out for something summery. But that's a good two months away, and I need color NOW. So pansies it is, in the hanging basket by the front door, in a pot on the back step, in the container on the front porch, and in the window boxes under the dining room windows.
Now I love pansies, but soon, there will be even more to see. I can hardly wait!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Beach Dreams

It's been a long winter, blah, blah, blah. You've heard it all before, right? Well, it's hard to keep up a garden blog during the winter anyway, let alone a winter like this one. Instead of focusing on snowflakes, or the dried brown twigs remaining from last year's garden, I decided to mostly just ride it out till the garden really does return. But now and then, I get the urge to dig back through my photos to remember warmer days. Today, I wanted to revisit all my favorite beaches, starting in my hometown.

 I grew up in a small town on the shores of Lake Michigan, called St. Joseph. Most locals simply call it. St. Joe. It's a charming little tourist beach town, attracting people from all over, but mostly in summer. I'm pretty sure they roll up the sidewalks in winter, even though there are things to enjoy in every season. I have to admit that I haven't been back to see it in winter for many, many years. But they recently installed a webcam that points right at the lighthouse, and through that, I have once again been able to see the raw beauty of the beach in winter. However, I'd much to prefer to visit in summer, like this.
Every year, I take at least one trip up there. These days, I'm a tourist there like any other. I do have some friends and family still in the area, but mostly I go there just to see the sights. Most importantly, I go for the beach. I'm not a big sun bather, I just like to be at the beach. I want to hear the waves roll in and feel the sand under my feet. It soothes me.
 Still, I can enjoy other beaches too. St. Joe is on the west coast of Michigan, but there are many other lovely beach towns along those same shores, including South Haven,
Manistee,
 Holland,
 Muskegon,
Ludington,
Whitehall,
 Sleeping Bear Dunes, and many others. Did you figure out by now that I have a particular fondness for lighthouses?
While Michigan beaches may be my favorites, we do sometimes visit more tropical beaches. I do love those too, just in a different way. One of our favorite spots is Marco Island, off the SW coast of Florida.

We also love Siesta Key,
and Sanibel Island.

So even though these beaches seem so very far away right now, it soothes me to look back at them while winter still lingers. Someday soon I hope my beach dreams will turn to reality.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

How a Gardener Survives Winter

It's been a tough winter throughout much of the country. We've had record cold, and record snowfalls. It's enough to make a gardener crazy! I find winters difficult to tolerate anyway, but the extra, extra cold temperatures have made it all the worse.
Normally I can tolerate winter with some coping techniques I've perfected. First, I find that I do better if I go right out into the snowy weather and take pictures. Not this year, the arctic cold keeps me inside.
 I also make sure to visit Franklin Park Conservatory to see the greenery. Haven't done that yet, still too frigid and the roads are too icy. Sigh...
Another thing to make winter more tolerable is to visit the floral departments at big box stores. They have blooming plants of all kind, and bringing one home is a sure fire spirit lifter. I did purchase one tiny grocery store primrose plant, but I need more to overcome this spell of bad weather.
One of my favorite sanity savers is to go through the seed catalogs that bombard our mailboxes this time of year. This is my chance to plan my garden for the year. Not sure why I haven't started this project yet. Maybe I need to have complete cabin fever before I do.

But my favorite way to make the winter go by more quickly is to simply go through my picture files from last summer.
Just by looking at them, I know that winter will eventually end. It will be warm again, someday.
I find myself smiling the whole time I'm looking at them.
Now I know that summer comes every year. Winter always ends, followed by spring, then summer. This we all know is true. It's just a little hard to believe with a winter like this.

Looks like I'd better use all my best tricks to survive this kind of winter with my sanity intact. Guess it's time to get out those seed catalogs and start planning!