Sunday, June 21, 2015

Change Is Inevitable: Lessons From the Garden

Change is a part of life; we all know that. But while some changes are good, some are not so pleasant.  I like a change of scenery, a new hairdo, a new paint color on the walls,  But there are other situations where I'm perfectly content with the way things are, and when things begin to go in another direction, I become unsettled or stressed out.

My favorite flowering crabapple in full bloom in early May.

There are so many lessons learned from the garden, and the inevitability of change is one of the major ones.  Every spring I am a little sad to see the early blooms I enjoy so much fade away, and yet I know their end signals the beginning of something new as summer blooms slowly begin to take their place.  I am also consoled by the knowledge that they will return again next spring and delight me once again.

Every year, too, the gardener is faced the realization that she has lost some plants, whether to disease, pests, or the harshness of winter.  I lost several plants due to heaving, I think, because we had so little snow until late in the winter to protect them from the thawing/freezing cycle.  My Knockout roses, which I planted before I called myself a "gardener" and brought with me to this house eleven years ago, look half-dead this year.  Why?  I have no idea--I mean, how can you kill a Knockout rose??

'Brindisi' lily in previous years

The first Asiatic lily I planted, which had grown so huge in recent years and was definitely my favorite, is also a no-show this year.  I found it uprooted in the soil when I was cleaning up the garden back in early April.  I suspect it may have been a victim of a vole, since Sophie caught one nearby (after digging up a huge hole to find it).  I planted the pieces of bulb I could find, and I think a few little shoots are growing again.  But it will be a long time before this plant will grow to be the prolific bloomer it once was, if it ever will.

Not every change in the garden is a negative one, of course.  Plants grow, sometimes surpassing one's expectations.  Hostas in my shade garden have continued to grow by leaps and bounds.  Even after moving some to another area, the main shade garden is a jungle of green once again, to the point of taking over some of my favorite heucheras.  The same is true in the lily bed, where there suddenly is room for little else.

'Empress Wu' blooming for the first time.

The biggest change this spring for me, however, has not been in the garden, but with my mother. During the past year, we noticed she was having trouble with balance, and we were happy when she finally relented and began using a cane.  Other changes were more subtle, and it wasn't until she nearly collapsed one day and had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance, that we realized just how much her health had deteriorated.

Hollyhocks in the "wrong place," but I won't cut them down--they're a fond memory of my childhood, and the original plants came from my parents' home.

I know that many of you have experienced the same issues with aging parents, and I am thankful that my mother has recovered enough to return home.  But still it's difficult to see someone once so vibrant and always busy, whether quilting or putting up produce from her garden for the freezer, unable to do so many of the things she once enjoyed.  It's hard, too, to see my father suddenly becoming the caregiver, trying to mask his worry with a brave face for my mother.  At the same time, the love he has for my mother and the bond that these two have shared for nearly sixty-seven years is a true inspiration for all of us.

I try to ignore the weeds and the plants that badly need dividing or moving here and focus on the bright red poppies.

And so I am adjusting, too.  The garden, which once was my main obsession during the spring and summer, has been relegated to a lower priority.  I am letting go of the need for perfection--not that my garden was ever, ever anywhere near perfection!  The weeds are growing and growing, especially with all the rain, and I try to look past them to focus on the pretty blooms instead.  A few big projects I had planned for this year will just have to wait--after all, there will be another gardening season.

A coleus, a begonia, and a few leftover Profusion daisies thrown together in a pot.

I used to spend a lot of time planning the combinations of plants I wanted to plant in my containers. But when I found myself driving to visit my mother in the morning instead of leisurely mulling over all the plants I had purchased, I started just throwing things together in pots whether they color-coordinated or not.  And you know what--I like some of these just as much as those I planned!

The miniature Japanese garden still needs the dry garden completed and a little more tweaking, but I'll get to that one of these days.

I have always done every chore in the garden myself, except for the occasional help from the grandchildren.  But this year, I'm accepting more help.  Best friend Beckie came one morning to finish planting all the containers.  My granddaughter has been so busy this spring with various activities, but she came over one evening to help get the mini-Japanese garden in order once again.

She also created this simple little fairy garden in another area where nothing would grow in the rocky soil but sedums.  And whenever the rain finally stops, I'm hiring my friend's two granddaughters to help me weed and mulch the garden.

Do fairies like dogs?  I don't know, but I couldn't resist this addition to the fairy garden.  It's Sophie-approved and makes me smile every time I look at it.

As I am slowly learning to accept the changes over which I have no control, I have a new-found appreciation for the constants in my life and those small moments that can bring joy.

A little Zen time in the garden does wonders for the soul.

 Spending some time in the garden, for example, is one of the best therapies there is.  After a particularly stressful few days, I took a morning to work in the shade garden.  Nothing major, just a little weeding and planting.  But those few hours spent digging in the dirt on a beautiful day, listening to the birdsong with my faithful canine companions supervising at my side, did wonders for my spirits.

Ever so tiny, there's the beginning of a bloom here.

The garden reminds me,too, that there is always hope.  The Indian Pinks that I was so excited to find last year were a no-show this year, and I had resigned myself to accepting that they didn't like it here.  But just this past week, I noticed these--yes, they are tiny, but they are back and they will bloom!

And when it comes to constants, there is no plant that is as reliable as my beloved coneflowers.  Every year they return in greater numbers,  to the point that I have begun thinning them out a little.  But I can't bear to pull too many, because they are so faithful, a reminder that while the world around me may change, some things will always remain the same.  To me they represent the roots I have in this prairie soil, the land that my ancestors first tilled over 150 years ago.  They remind me that we are caretakers of this land for our short time here, but the land will be here for future generations. Change is inevitable, but life does go on.

I'm linking this post to Beth at Plant Postings' quarterly review of Lessons Learned in the Garden.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

June GBBD: And the Garden Goes On...

It's not often that I go a whole month without posting, especially in spring when the garden is bursting into life.  But shortly after the last Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, my mother was hospitalized and then sent to rehab for a couple of weeks, so life has been pretty hectic around here.  Gardening has gotten short shrift, needless to say, with only the most important chores getting done--like finally planting all the new annuals and perennials I had purchased in the previous weeks. I also managed to do some weeding in the vegetable garden so that I could find the newly emerging green beans among the pesky grass popping up everywhere.  But other weeding?  Let's just say there won't be any long shots of my garden in this post.

Bloom Day is all about what is blooming in your garden today, but I hope you'll indulge me in a few scenes from previous weeks, since I didn't get a chance to post them earlier.  The peonies are gone now, but were gorgeous this year; my mother appreciated the bouquet of pink peonies I gathered from my garden as much as any florist's bouquet.

There were enough blooms this year to bring some inside for myself, too.

The Amsonia is no longer blooming either, but made a nice backdrop for the peonies.  Amsonia Hubrichtii here and its counterpart Amsonia tabernaemontana had much bluer blooms than this photo shows.

'May Night' Salvia is still blooming, however, and will continue to bloom throughout the summer--if I ever get around to deadheading it, that is.

Other blooms that have since faded include the Viburnum 'Cardinal Candy.'  This plant has been slow to establish here, or maybe I'm just impatient, but it's finally taking off and reaching some height.  In fact, I can see it needs some pruning--one more job to add to the growing to-do list.

The alliums haven't been purple for a couple of weeks, but I still like the accent these tall plants make even as they're fading.  And yes, that is more Salvia--it apparently likes my arbor bed and has re-seeded all over.

And now for what is actually blooming today--Nigella hidden away in the back corners of the Arbor Bed.  These re-seed themselves each year, and when the seedlings first emerge I'm never quite sure whether they're cosmos, larkspur, or nigella.  The mystery is solved.

Spirea 'Neon Flash' is covered in blooms.  These two shrubs have grown so full the past few years, they're due for a serious pruning before they overtake other nearby shrubs.

The Knockout roses are not doing well this year, but 'Radsunny' has some blooms.

I am envious of Southern gardeners whose 'Black and Blue' salvia come back every year.  In my zone 5b garden, it's definitely an annual, but worth purchasing every year.

Not only do I love the electric blue blooms, but they are hummingbird magnets and look good in a pot as well as in the ground.

Lamium adds some petite purple blooms to the various shades of green in the shade garden.

It's almost lily season now, and the first to bloom are always the ever-reliable 'Stella D'Oros.'  They definitely need dividing again--didn't I say that last year?  And the year before?  'Walker's Low' Nepeta to the left has been blooming for some time.

There will be a plethora of red poppies again this year, but I'm most excited about this dark burgundy called 'Laura's Dark Grape.'  I purchased this seed, but I will have to remember to save these seeds and separate them from the reds later in the season to have more of these next year.  The hoverflies love them, too.

I'm also excited to see my first ever 'Annabelle' blooms.  I planted a couple scrawny, half-dead starts last year when we divided an overgrown plant at the nursing home where I volunteer.  They must be pretty tough hydrangeas.

The past couple of weeks have been a time of transition, with spring flowers gone and summer flowers not quite ready to bloom.  But very soon there will be an explosion of color as lily buds begin to open.  The first Asiatic lily to bloom (above) is one I don't remember buying or planting, but I certainly can't ignore these bold orangey-red blooms.

And what would summer be without my favorite, purple coneflowers?  A few early blooms have appeared in the past week, but soon I will have a plethora of coneflowers everywhere.  I can't wait!

What is blooming in your garden today?  Check out Carol at May Dreams Gardens who hosts this monthly get-together--join in and see what's blooming all over the world!