Thursday, January 2, 2014

Garden Lessons Learned in 2013

Happy New Year, everyone!  I hope that you enjoyed the holidays and were able to spend time with friends and family.  I noticed a considerable drop in blogging the past month, myself included.  Besides the usual rush of Christmas activities, I was hit with a respiratory virus right before Christmas that kept me down for more than a week.  Thanks to some antibiotics, I'm finally on the mend. Now that I've finally got a little more energy and with the holiday rush over, I plan to catch up on reading blogs as well as posting a little more often.

I had planned to join Plant Postings' seasonal meme on lessons learned in the garden this past autumn.  Since I didn't make the December 20 deadline, I'm going to look back at the year overall and focus on one special aspect of the garden that has become more and more appealing to me.

I've learned that a garden isn't just for me--it supports a host of wildlife who enjoy it--and need it--just as much as I do. The creatures who inhabit or visit the garden have taught me as many valuable lessons as planting and weeding have.

 Lesson #1:  Even the seemingly ordinary can contain small miracles.  I was pruning the Knockout roses this spring when I noticed this strange growth on one of the branches.  A quick photo was taken and compared to internet images; sure enough, this is a mantis egg case, the first I'd ever seen.  Unfortunately, I didn't notice an abundance of praying mantises this year, compared to past years, but I'm sure they were around, had I continued to pay more careful attention.

Another small miracle that I did pay more careful attention to was this dove nesting in the old lilac. My husband first noticed her while mowing, and pointed out her nest to me as well as to the grandkids when they visited. 

She seemed unperturbed by our attention, and since her nest was just a foot above eye level,  it was easy to see. We watched the amazing miracle over the next few weeks as she cared for the babies who emerged until they became fledglings who eventually left the nest.

Lesson #2: Sometimes we're too busy focusing on the task at hand to notice what is right in front of our faces.  I know I'm not the only one who has photographed a flower only to discover when I downloaded my pictures a little winged creature I hadn't even noticed at the time. 

I enjoy watching the bees busily flying about in my garden, but they're not the easiest creatures to photograph, especially honeybees and the smaller bees. I always think it's serendipity when one pauses at just the right second as the camera shutter clicks.

Lesson #3: Just as with the garden, there is always something new to be learned when it comes to wildlife.  While I know we have had foxes around our farm before, this summer was the first time one ventured close enough for me to see it on a regular basis.  For a month or two, she/he (and oftentimes with its mate) would stroll across the front yard every evening before disappearing into the cornfield.

Despite the fox's often unsavory reputation in fables and fairy tales, I think they're beautiful creatures.  I spent many a summer evening watching her as she watched me, each keeping our distance.

Lesson #4: Even the smallest of creatures often knows more about Nature than I do.  The woolly worm is a weather prognosticator for many of us.  When I saw several of these this fall, I decided I'd better be prepared for a bad winter--the black head and tail, according to folklore, means a cold beginning and end to winter with a lot of snow in between.  So far, his forecast has been accurate.

Lesson #5: There is a reason I leave most of the garden standing over the winter instead of cutting back everything in the fall. 

Fall is always such a busy time that I never complete all my projects anyway, but I often consider doing some cutting back just to make things look a little tidier through the cold months.  The goldfinches, however, confirmed my decision--dried seedheads have their own usefulness and beauty.

Lesson #6: Patience.  Although this lesson is taught over and over again in the garden, there is nothing quite like trying to photograph a hummingbird to teach you patience.  I've tried for years to get a decent photo of a hummingbird in flight and finally managed to get a couple this year. The pictures weren't that great, but I was happy.

These little birds just fascinate me.  It was a great year for hummingbirds, and I spent many hours watching them dance in the air and holding one-sided conversations with them.  We had a warm fall, and they stayed longer than usual--into late September.  I hope they arrived safely at their winter homes, and I hope they remembered the chatty lady on the porch who will have the feeders ready for them again this summer.

Lesson #7: Optimism While it was a great year for hummingbirds, it wasn't such a great year for butterflies.

So few appeared this summer that I was beginning to worry what had happened to them all.  Finally, as summer turned into fall, Painted Ladies, Red Admirals, and Buckeyes came to visit the garden, reminding me to never give up hope.

Fall also brought visits from my favorite butterfly and my favorite photo from 2013.  What is it about the majestic Monarch that fascinates us so?  The scientific research about its life cycle and yearly migration is certainly interesting, but even without that, I am in awe of its beauty.  Nothing makes me stop to really live in the moment as does the appearance of a Monarch.

The wildlife that visited my garden this past season taught me many lessons, but most of all they taught me to appreciate all the little miracles of Nature and to really live in the moment.  I look forward to their return this spring, but in the meantime there are the winter birds to watch . . .

. . . and, of course, the "wildlife" that live here year-round.  

Wishing you all a year filled with new experiences in your garden and the joy and peace that Nature can bring.


  1. Your lessons remind us all to be mindful and aware in the garden, and we will see so much. Beautiful!

  2. Very practical lessons and full respect for nature.
    Beautiful photos, Greetings

  3. Very practical lessons and full respect for nature.
    Beautiful photos, Greetings

  4. I wish you all the best in New Year !

  5. Just what I was looking for...a post about gardening. It took me back to warm weather on this very cold January day. Looking out the window at the white world outside...I can sit back and enjoy your beautiful photos.
    Happy New year,

  6. Happy New Year to you Rose.
    Loved visiting your garden and all the lessons you've (and now we've) learned.

    So nice to see that quick brown fox (ok red fox). I've never been able to capture one. Either I don't have my camera, or they just run away.

    Same with hummers. Never get a good pic.
    All the best in 2014.

  7. Rose, I loved this post! After watching the evening news and its warnings of snow and bad weather, it was a pleasure to see your striking photos of plants and wildlife in more temperate months. I share your appreciation of the many good things in your garden (and mine). All the best to you and your family in 2014.

  8. Fine lessons from the garden. Some we all need to remember. I bet all the dogs go crazy when the foxes are around. The last picture is the most beautiful.

  9. Those are great photos of the hummingbirds...and everything else! I love the photo of the monarch! I'm glad you're feeling better, Rose. Thanks for sharing your excellent lessons and participating in the meme!

  10. Dear Rose,

    Your wonderful post lifted the spirits of this wildlife gardener. What a joy to see all the beautiful creatures that share your plot.
    I love foxes, always have. I supposes the fact that they are dog like plays an important part for me. We have a young male in the garden during the night. I have heard him calling many times for a mate.

    Sophie is such a darling.......pats from across the pond.

    I have always loved watching you grow with your garden Rose. May 2014 be a healthy and happy year for you and yours.

  11. Laurrie, Too often I am so focused on what needs to be done. My goal this year is to just stop and enjoy more often.

    Ela, Thank you, and a Happy New Year to you, too!

    Balisha, It's all white here, too; looking back at photos from the past gardening season is a great antidote for the winter blahs, I've found. Hoping you had a wonderful holiday season!

    Wendy, So good to hear from you! Hope all is going well with you and wishing you a great 2014!

    DJ, Thank you, and a Happy New Year to you, too! We're covered with snow here, though it's not too bad. But bitterly cold temps are on their way. I'm hoping my new azaleas make it through this winter!

  12. Lisa, The dogs did indeed go crazy when they saw the foxes in the yard; I was very careful not to let them out unleashed at certain times of the day. I'm not sure what Sophie would have done if she'd gotten close to one, but I think they're faster than she is. I'm partial to that last photo, too:)

    Beth, Sorry I didn't get this posted sooner. I think I spent as much time this fall watching wildlife as I did looking at the garden. Thanks for hosting this again!

    Cheryl, Thanks for visiting--twice in the past month a new post from you has shown up on my sidebar, but when I click on it, I can't see the new post. I wonder what is going on? I hope you see this comment so you know I'm not ignoring you. Thanks for the kind comments--yes, I have learned so much about gardening and nature in the past few years; it's been a wonderful journey. Hope your holidays were filled with happiness, and wishing you all the best in the coming New Year!

  13. Beautiful post Rose. I think learning to appreciate the wildlife is a lesson I'm learning as well. So true about finding bugs in your flower photographs, never fails to amaze me what was there right in front of my eyes!

  14. I always enjoy your garden lessons posts. I think that fox is so cool and I would welcome one around my place. They might help take care of all the peter cottontails and other rodents. They are so cute. Happy New Year to you! Hope the winter abates a bit for you tho it is not expected to for a while. We are feeling it too.

  15. Love the pictures of the dove on the nest! I'm always amazed at the nests I find in winter, that I walked right past in summer. I leave the garden up in winter too. The birds love the food and the cover.

  16. Rose, i think I can learn something for myself from your lessons! Thank you so much for sharing. I also enjoyed your pictures! The fox, the dog, the birds - all those are great shots!
    Happy New Year!

  17. Lots of useful lessons there Rose, I can surely agree with the sheer enjoyment when a bee or a butterfly stops for long enough so I can take a picture – they are not easy to capture. How lovely to have a dove as close to you, I have had nesting wood pigeons on my roof for the last 12 years, but they are too far up to take any decent photos. I love to watch them though when they teach the babies to fly between my roof and the tall conifer in my garden. I hope 2014 will be just as a rewarding gardening year for you, all the best and Happy New Year!

  18. I find I'm more interested in the creatures that visit the garden than in my garden itself. I've realized how important it is to care for them and that I don't need perfection.~~Dee

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  21. You really got a wide variety of garden visitors. Beautiful captures too. I just love that fox. Your dove is adorable in the crotch of the tree.

  22. That was a wonderful walk through your garden. I always appreciate your photos, but today with our plummeting temperatures I find them particularly enjoyable!

  23. Rose,
    I love that expression on your fox and your dove! I get so excited when I have a new bird, I can hardly stand it! Living in farm country, wide open spaces are not song birds' friends!
    Loved finding summer pics here, on a day like today, friend!

  24. Happy New year to you, Rose! Like you and others I've been absent from the blogging scene for a while but hope to catch up and get back into it very soon.

    Lovely photos. I always get excited when a fox wanders through the garden. We don't have such exotic birds as you do so it's lovely to see your photos.

  25. Marguerite, I don't know how many times I've downloaded a photo only to discover a little creature. If I had purposely tried to take a photo of it, it would have been blurry:)

    Tina, I didn't notice many rabbits around when the foxes were here:) It's been a crazy cold weekend, but it looks like everyone is enduring some kind of cold, too.

    Sweetbay, I'm always amazed, too, at all the nests when the leaves fall. I rarely get to see any of them up close during the spring and summer.

    Tatyana, Thank you; I realized this year how much seeing wildlife has become a part of my enjoyment of gardening.

    Helene, I rarely get to see the baby birds or the fledglings unless they fall out of the nest, which isn't usually a happy situation. So it was a treat to watch the dove and her babies.

    Dee, Such wise words--yes, wildlife doesn't care much whether a garden is neat and weed-free. In fact, sometimes they prefer my weeds!

  26. Donna, My photography doesn't compare to yours, but I'm always happy when a photo turns out better than I expected. I couldn't get any closer to the fox, so I was happy that he chose to stay still and watch me cautiously one evening.

    Cassi, I'm enjoying looking at others' flowers from the past season right now, too. We are waist-deep in snow!

    Sissy, It's hard to photograph many birds during the summer time. Lots of hawks here, too, so the smaller birds don't stay in one place for long.

    Liz, This was the first time we had a fox visit regularly and so close to the house. Since I don't have chickens, I don't mind!

  27. I love this post, Rose! I have come to enjoy the butterflies, bees, and such as much as any other aspect of gardening. How cool that you have foxes around!

  28. Happy New Year! I enjoyed your post Rose. The garden is certainly a great teacher. What a treat it must have been to watch the nesting birds and the pair of foxes. There are times when I wish our yard wasn't fenced. The butterflies are just beautiful!
    I was in the library the other day and came across an audio recording of Flight Behaviour. I remembered your review and decided to check it out. The recording was done by the author and is just terrific. Thanks so much for the recommendation. I find myself listening to chapters a couple of times just to better appreciate the fine writing.

  29. Sue, I'm sure you must have lots of bees and other creatures with all the native plants you have. The foxes were a delight to watch.

    Jennifer, So glad you are enjoying "Flight Behavior"! I don't usually listen to audio books, but I'd love to hear Kingsolver read this one.

  30. Happy New Year! I always enjoy your new year posts and your reflections on a year of gardening and the critters wild and not so wild (Hi, Sophie!) I love foxes too. You should read The Snow Child; there's a wonderful storybook fox who befriends a girl and isn't evil.

  31. A wonderful post and lots for me to think about. Your pictures of all of the creatures were a delight ; the finches on the seedheads is my fave. We've seen a fox now and then in our urban yard.

  32. What a lovely post Rose. Wildlife is so important in the garden that's why I never spray my garden.
    I hope you have better weather at the moment. Overhere no winter to see, but a lot of storms and dark grey days. I am longing for springtime.
    Have a wonderful sunday Rose.


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