gardening, nature

Why was June made?

“Why was June made?—Can you guess?
June was made for happiness!
Even the trees
Know this…

…June was made for happy things,
Boats and flowers, stars and wings,
Not for wind and stress,
June was made for happiness!” Annette Wynne

The native buttonbush (shown in photograph above) has just started to burst into bloom. The pollinators danced above my head as I tried to capture a hint of the morning sun shining down upon my melodious garden.

“On this June day the buds in my garden are almost as enchanting as the open flowers. Things in bud bring, in the heat of a June noontide, the recollection of the loveliest days of the year – those days in May when all is suggested, nothing yet fulfilled.” Francis King

Ratibida pinnata, shown in photographs above and below, was purchased last spring from Almost Eden Plants. “Sleep, creep, leap” is often said about perennials, noting the three stages – or years – that it takes a plant to get settled in to its new home. “Sleep” it did last year. Poor thing. Shipped from Louisiana in a cardboard box, to land in Texas just as Mother Nature cranked up the thermostat. This year? I am not yet sure if it missed the memo and went straight to “Leap” or if I underestimated its ability. If this year is “Creep,” I may regret that I didn’t give it a quarter acre. It is absolutely stunning – and it hasn’t even bloomed yet! Every morning garden stroll takes me immediately to this plant, to see if it has bloomed yet. So far, it is suggested, nothing yet fulfilled. But soon. Patience is a virtue and one this gardener struggles with.

“In June, as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day. No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them.” Aldo Leopold

The zinnia bud (above) is one that simply cannot be ignored, for it is ringed with scallops, its petals held tightly in a circle. A day or so later, Behold, the buds have burst wide open. Such a glorious sight. Zinnia and cosmo seeds were mixed together, along with a bit of earthworm castings, and direct sown in the garden in mid-to-late March.

The pollinators are quite busy this first day of June. Below, a bee lands and collects pollen on a red cosmo, part of the riot of blooms in the photograph above.

Echinacea is commonly known as coneflower, after the high center cone that the flower sports when it is fully open. In full bloom, it is quite popular with the bees and butterflies. (Photograph below.)

This mid-stage, though. Isn’t it amazing? If fairies inhabit the garden, surely this must be their crown. (Photograph below.)

June’s Coming

“…Again from out the garden hives
The exodus of frenzied bees;
The humming cyclone onward drives,
Or finds repose amid the trees…” John Burroughs

Buttonbush can be viewed in its native habitat along the marsh trails at the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge. In the wild, it is rather scrubby looking, not one that many think to plant in their own gardens. Alas. They would then miss the pleasure of standing under these orbs of pollen, watching the pollinators flutter about. Truly, buttonbush is the Dr. Seuss plant of the native genre. (Shown in photographs above and below.) I planted one in a low lying area of my garden about 25 years ago, after development next door created a bit of a swamp during rainy seasons. It does look a bit wild, but I am good with that. I pruned it into a tree shape by removing low growing branches early on and it happily complies.

In June

“A quiet hour beneath the trees;
A little, whispering, lazy breeze;
A perfect sky,
Where, now and then, an idle cloud
Strayed from its mates to wander by…” Matilda Hughes

So much is happening in my melodious garden this June.

Onions, planted in mid-winter, have been pulled to make way for another crop. Someday, hopefully, I will figure out how to grow an amazing crop of onions. I have memories of pulling softball sized onions from my aunt’s garden in Nebraska. Possibly my memory is off, due to my young age then and my older age now. Possibly it was that midwestern soil that earned its reputation as “The Breadbasket” of the nation. Possibly it was their abundant rainfall and our repeated droughts. Possibly I just don’t know yet what it takes to grow really large onions. All the same, they smell wonderful and will be much enjoyed.

The tomatillos have plenty of flowers and plenty of pollinating, so hopefully some homemade salsa verde is on the horizon. (Photograph above.)

One patch of parsley, a biennial herb, is nearing the end of its lifecycle and is setting flower. To have a continuous supply for the kitchen, it is best to plant a bit more parsley every year. It is also advisable to plant extra, in the happy event a swallowtail butterfly chooses to lay her eggs in your garden. This very hungry caterpillar, shown below, was spotted early this morning. As the saying goes – we can complain that rose bushes have thorns or we can rejoice that thorn bushes have roses – such is the way with caterpillars. We can complain that they are munching down on our herbs or we can rejoice that a butterfly fluttered in to our garden and found just the spot to lay her eggs. Fennel, dill and parsley are host plants for the swallowtail butterfly, so it is best to plan ahead and plant a bit extra so there is enough to share.

This has been an especially good year for the daylilies and I am thankful that I discovered the world of large, bold daylilies. Orange you glad, too? (Sorry. Bad pun.) Yes, orange flowers may just be my new favorite.

Happy June, my fellow gardeners.

“I most often find that happiness is just where I planted it.” Unknown

All photographs taken the morning of June 1, 2023, in southern Denton County, Texas. Zone 8a

bibliophile, gardening

Flimmering larkspur blue

Poetry. What would the world be like if we didn’t have poets to bring us words such as “flimmering”?

Flimmering: A flickering glimmer.

Carl Sandburg wrote of the “gold of the southwest moon” and “Canada thistle blue and flimmering larkspur blue.” As I scattered larkspur seeds about my garden months ago – a little here, a little there, quite a few over there – never did I imagine that I would today write about flimmering larkspur blue. Nor did I ever imagine that a garden visitor would paint me – Me! – a picture of my larkspur blue.

In some ways, this story begins a year ago April. Or maybe it began nearly twenty years ago when I first stumbled upon the children’s book Miss Rumphius. Either way, let’s begin in April, 2022.

The garden club I have long been a member of was in need of someone to coordinate tours of the club members’ gardens. “I’ll do it!” I found myself saying, eagerly thinking ahead to the many wonderful garden tours I might arrange. Then summer hit. That would be the summer of 2022. The one that will live on as one of the hottest and driest on record for North Texas. The one that saw temperatures of 108 degrees. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the summer was hot on the heels of Snowmageddon 2021.

Snow. Sleet. Freezing rain. Oh, by the end of it, we all knew the difference between the three forms of wet stuff that fell from the sky. And lingered. Because not only were we covered in a sheet of ice, we had record low temperatures, which meant the frozen stuff stayed around. For days and days on end. Now for the gardener, a deep freeze means potentially losing tender vegetation. And ice – while it can provide a layer of protection against the cold – tends to break tree branches and split shrubs in two and all around wreck havoc on the landscape.

Which brings me back to…. arranging garden tours.

“Ask me again in the spring, when the garden has had a chance to recover,” was the answer I heard time and time again. Fair enough. Summer was brutal. We all needed time to recover.

Then came December. Which opened with a rare winter tornado and closed with yet another – though less icy – deep freeze. Nine degrees, so soon after endless days above 100 degrees, added more losses to the garden tally sheet.

If our gardens looked a bit weary and beaten down, who could blame them? They had been through a literal hell (summer), bookended by the two extreme cold events. The only saving grace – weather such as we have experienced of late creates space for renewal and renovation. And. Buying new plants, amiright?

I decided this was my chance to be brave. To look at the stump of my 25 year old bay laurel tree – once as tall as our roof – and to see the potential in the fresh, tender new growth slowly emerging at the base. We gardeners are an optimistic bunch, aren’t we? We scatter seeds, in hopes that flowers will emerge. We can look at what once was and not be sad that it is now gone, but see the promise that is emerging.

In many ways, that has been my gardening life the past few years. Gone are the roses, destroyed by rose rosette virus. A new garden has grown out of the ashes. Was it ready now for prime time? Could I be brave and open up my garden to the garden club? I don’t garden by the rules so there is always the fear: Could others appreciate what I had created? The last time my garden was on a tour was two decades ago. Yes. 2-0 years ago. It was time – perhaps past time – to allow others to see the new garden.

It was a beautiful day. Just the sort of flimmering larkspur blue day that Sandburg had written about. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever penned a poem about my garden. But I now have something far better than a poem, for one of my garden visitors painted a picture of my garden.

My garden. Painted!

With my flimmering larkspur blue and my southwest moon gold primrose.

Sandburg also wrote about crying over beautiful things, “knowing no beautiful thing lasts.” Beautiful things may not last. The larkspur are now fading away as the temperatures inch upward. The painting, hopefully, will last forever. And – yes – I cried when I opened the envelope that landed in my mailbox a few days after the garden tour. The painting of my garden. Truly, I have never received such a thoughtful and heartwarming gift as that painting.

Larkspur was one of the first annuals I planted when I first broke ground 28 years ago. For years, they returned like clockwork, until the antique roses overfilled the flower beds and squeezed out the larkspur. Miss Rumphius is the fictionalized story of Hilda Hamlin, The Lupine Lady, who sowed lupine seeds along the Maine coast. In Barbara Cooney’s book, Miss Rumphius is told by her grandfather to find a way to make the world a more beautiful place, which she does by scattering lupine seeds. Lupines are not fond of our Texas weather but larkspur is just as beautiful and just as flimmering blue.

The variety I grew this year is Giant Imperial Larkspur. And giant it was, with many reaching five feet tall. I am currently saving seed to sow again next year in my garden and to share with the garden club. And perhaps, like Miss Rumphius, to sow about the town.


The world is full of wonder

We spend a lot of time looking for happiness when the world right around us is full of wonder. To be alive and walk on the earth is a miracle, and yet most of us are running as if there were some better place to be. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Perhaps the best part of gardening is that it forces us to slow down, to stop and smell the roses, to admire the intricate details of a flower, to observe a bee gathering pollen, to watch a butterfly drift and flutter about.

Plains Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria), shown below, has such amazing details. Seeds were purchased from Wildseed Farms and direct sown out in the garden.

Have fun even if it’s not the same kind of fun everyone else is having. ~ C. S. Lewis

My former rose garden was straight out the Steel Magnolias. You know the scene… Where Shelby says her wedding colors are blush and bashful and her mother interjects to say the colors are pink and pink. Yes. My rose garden was pink and pink and the many shades of pink. I knew my garden’s reincarnation would not be. I wanted bold. I wanted big. I wanted bright. I wanted fun. Colorful Fun. I wanted anything but delicate soft pink. Enter: The big and bold daylily.

I’m going to make everything around me beautiful – that will be my life. ~ Elsie de Wolfe

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney was one of our family’s favorite books when our son was just a wee thing. Though he towers over me now, I still pull out the book from time to time and tear up reading its story. Miss Rumphius’ grandfather tells the young child to do something to make the world more beautiful. I think of this story again and again as I wander about my garden. As I sit on my patio and gaze out on the garden while writing this post, I listen to the birds chirping and can say that – in my own humble way – I have done something to make the world more beautiful.

This is my first year growing California poppies (shown below), but hopefully it won’t be my last. They have bloomed steadily for well over a month now, such a cheerful, bright color. Poppy seeds need winter’s cold to break down the hard outer coat, so the seeds were direct sown in the garden in late fall.

meraki (verb) to do something with soul, creativity or love; to leave a piece and essence of yourself in your work.

Gold-wave Coreopsis, shown below, is also from Wildseed Farms. Another winner, one that has won a place in my heart and in my garden.

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy. ~ Rumi

In my garden there is a large place for sentiment. My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers and the dreams are as beautiful. ~ Abram L. Urban

Oh, the thoughts and dreams that go in to the garden, not to mention the sweat and work, always a joy. There are a thousand ways to garden, no one correct right or wrong way. Each gardener charts their own journey, sets out to see their visions come alive. Keep calm, my fellow gardeners, and garden on, growing your thoughts and dreams into botanical poetry.


Thoughts On Gardening & Being Myself

I had the privilege recently of reading a garden review that a retired landscape designer had written about a private garden we had both visited just hours prior. The garden was jaw-dropping amazing, as was the review. Seriously. The review was just as lovely as the garden.

I love horticulture vocabulary. Physical layout. Site analysis. Colorful perennial entrance bed. Now that being said… As much as I can appreciate those features in another gardener’s garden, it just isn’t going to happen in my own. I garden for my personal pleasure, not to please the neighbors or to grace the cover of any formal garden magazine. You know the quote… Be yourself; everyone else is taken. That very much applies to me and my garden. I am myself. Quirks and all. Garden rules and design principles just bring out my inner rebel.

In all art forms, gardening included, there are standard design principles which can either be followed, challenged or completely and unapologetically tossed out the window. Horticulturalist Felder Rushing wrote the book on the latter two types of gardeners. Maverick Gardeners. What a great name for those of us who think – garden – outside the box. (A book review will be forthcoming. Spoiler alert: It’s a great book!) Indeed, one of Mr. Rushing’s radio program listeners came up with an apt name for just us gardeners: Determined Independent Gardeners. Determined and Independent I am. I am myself; everyone else is taken.

The only Unity – one of several horticulture design principles – found in my garden is that anything goes. My garden style could perhaps best be described as a mix of There Appears To Have Been A Struggle and Diary Of A Madman, with a touch of She Wanted It All. And I am good with that. It is me. And my gardens are a reflection of that.

Sequence, Simplicity and Rhythm – more horticulture design principles – may be goals of other gardeners. Drifts of three? I am more a “drift of one” gardener. Now a well-placed solo shrub or a lone large perennial can be considered an accent plant, but in my garden most every plant could then be considered “an accent.” Buying plants as “one of this and one of that” allows for more diversity and experiments, as well as more whimsy. (…I say…trying to justify my plant buying strategy…) I can often be found walking around the garden, plant in one hand, trowel in the other, searching for just a few bare inches of ground to squeeze yet another plant in. Some might say that I garden much the way a child would toss confetti at a birthday party. Reckless abandon. They wouldn’t be too far wrong.

I rarely photograph large areas of my garden, in part because it comes across as “busy,” too much to take in at once. Mine is a strolling garden, one to meander through, pausing to take in the details, reflecting on the story behind a certain plant or garden accruement. I also seem to always have some project going on, a wheelbarrow left out, junk trees popping up somewhere or garden hoses stretched across the property. (We don’t have a sprinkler system, which I am perfectly fine with. But more on that at a later date.) It also feels much too personal to show the garden as a whole, so revealing. It would be akin to me walking down a fashion runway in a bikini. Which isn’t going to happen anytime soon. (You are welcome.) But this year, I am challenging myself to stop and look at the larger picture and embrace it. Garden hoses, drifts of one and all!

The photograph below shows the front flower beds, much as one would see while out for a neighborhood stroll. The winecups (Callirhoe involucrata) and red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflor) are blooming quite nicely this week. But… If you look closely…

… You will see… A junk tree. (Photograph below.) To me, a junk tree is any tree that I did not plant, one that arrived in my garden via bird, squirrel or wind. The one shown below happens to be a pecan tree, compliments of our neighbor’s tree, planted by a squirrel who was sure they would have time to come back and retrieve the stored nut before it decided to set down roots in my garden. In addition to junk pecan trees, I constantly battle junk bur oak trees, planted by squirrels or gravity, and junk elm trees, which arrive via the wind.

Keeping the garden free of weeds is, as every gardener knows, an endless struggle. Keeping the garden free of junk trees is that times ten. I can walk the garden and dig out or cut down every junk tree, then turn around to find one that has grown knee high in the blink of an eye. At some point, all gardeners know this: The garden will never be free of weeds. Nature simply moves faster than any gardener ever could.

“Ignore the weeds,” I always tell garden visitors. “Oh, and ignore that hose.”

The garden hose is often stretched from faucet to whatever area I am working on that day, then most often lapped back around because there is no sense in only tripping over the hose once if you can trip over it two or three times. I am sure there is an app that removes garden hoses from photographs and, if not, there should be. Until then, my choices are to either coil up the garden hose prior to taking photographs, closely cropping photographs to remove any evidence of said garden hose or to make peace with the hose. I generally opt for the close cropping of photographs. Oddly enough, I wouldn’t think twice about a pair of pruners or a pitchfork being in a garden photograph, for all gardeners know and appreciate what a working garden looks like. But a garden hose left out? Not so much.

I am not sure where garden hoses and junk trees fit in horticulture design principles – perhaps Focalization? – but every gardener knows that… to every good garden weeds grow and garden hoses must be dealt with.

Keep Calm and Garden On, Uniquely Yourself.


April steps aside for May

May. Sweet month of May.

Perhaps the most poetic – and floriferous – of months.

(Yarrow, above)

“May! Queen of blossoms and fulfilling flowers,” penned Lord Edward Thurlow. Not to be outdone, Heinrich Heine wrote, “In the marvelous month of May when all the buds were bursting…” Two centuries and an ocean away, my melodious garden basks in the glory of their poetry, with buds bursting open and fulfilling flowers, capturing the early May sunshine.

(Larkspur and evening primrose, above)

Yes, May is here once again. And with it, perhaps, a new chapter of my life. My melodious garden was a vision 28 years ago. A suburban garden overflowing with flowers and alive with wildlife. Life has taken a lot of twists and turns since I first put down roots in this Texas soil. But the garden has been my constant. My ever present companion. My journey. My mission. The garden and the gardener have evolved and changed with the years and with the seasons. But now, for the first time, I think I can possibly say, The garden is perfect. Perhaps not perfect for everyone. Perhaps not perfect as in complete, finished, done, for is there ever such a thing? But for the first time in 28 years, it is perfect in my eyes. My garden is complete. I am fulfilled. Edits and adjustments will continue, for don’t they always? Yes, there are still weeds. Yes, there are still plants that need planted and paths that need swept and trees that need pruned. But. My vision. It is perfect. This morning, the first day of May, I walked about the garden, camera in hand, knowing that it had all come together. Perhaps I have been here before. My memory fails me at times. Perhaps my younger self knew this same sense of accomplishment. The garden has been in a state of upheaval for so long now, as losing 100plus antique roses – some the size of a VW bug – has a way upheaving the garden. And the gardener. The past eight years have been filled with challenges. Removing well established roses, diseased from rose rosette virus. Extreme temperatures – record setting lows and record setting highs – and drought. Neurological issues and chronic health challenges. But here we are! We pulled through, didn’t we? “The only constant in life is change,” Heraclitus said. I am quite sure he had the garden in mind at the time, for gardens – and gardeners – are constantly changing. Gone are my beloved roses. Vibrant, healing foods, medicine for this gardener’s body, have taken their place. Ah. Sweet May. “All things seem possible in May,” said Edwin Way Teale. Even healing. For as I walk barefoot about the garden, I know that this garden gives me life. It gives me purpose. It gives me happiness. It gives me food, literal food for my body and figurative food for my soul. No garden is complete without flowers to attract the pollinating insects needed for good food production. Photographs are just a few of the buds bursting forth today, this first day of May.

(Candytuft, above)

“May and June. Soft syllables, gentle names for the two best months in the garden year: cool, misty mornings gently burned away with a warming spring sun, followed by breezy afternoons and chilly nights.” Peter Loewer

(Hardy amaryllis, above)

(Louisiana iris, above)

(Poppy, above)

“When April steps aside for May, like diamonds all the rain-drops glisten; Fresh violets open every day: To some new bird each hour we listen.” Lucy Larcom

(Chive blossom, above)

(Red yucca, above)

gardening, nature, vintage

Plant profile: Penstemon tenuis

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” Lady Bird Johnson

Texas is well known, and rightly so, for their springtime display of wildflowers. From the highways to the back roads, the state seems to be awash in blue this time of year. But look a bit closer and one is apt to pick out other, lesser known, wildflowers. Pale pink primrose. Bright orange Indian paintbrush. Hot pink winecups. With more than 5,000 different varieties of wildflowers throughout the state, it would be hard for anyone to list their favorites or for any gardener to grow even a fraction of them. Still one wildflower is often overlooked, which is a shame because it certainly deserves a spot in any top ten or top twenty Texas wildflower list.

Penstemon tenuis, shown above, sports dainty lavender blossoms that dance in the spring breeze. It is highly adaptable to the cultivated garden, which is not the case with all wildflowers. It is equally at home in a cottage style garden as it is in a meadow. Isn’t it gorgeous with the apricot colored bearded irises in the background? I would love to take credit for that color combination, but I can’t. You see, after Penstemon tenuis is done blooming, I let the seedheads form and dry, then take the seeds and scatter them about. I never know where they might pop up the following year and I love it that way! (Photograph below: Dried seedheads of Penstemon tenuis in late summer, with garlic chive blossom.)

Yes. Sometimes the flower will sprout up in an odd place, such as directly under my native buttonbush, shown below. Thankfully they are great companions and neither one bothers the other. Penstemon tenuis grows best in partial to full sun, so will bloom and flourish just fine in this area of my melodious garden.

Other times, Penstemon tenuis pops up in just the perfect spot, such as in front of an antique plow, shown below. This gardener loves that whimsical side of Mother Nature.

Penstemon tenuis grows to about 2 1/2 feet tall and is airy enough that it can be grown along pathways or the front of formal garden beds. Typical bloom time is from April to June in North Texas. It is a good nectar source for bees and butterflies. Its native range is the Gulf Coast prairies and marshes from Texas to Mississippi and up to Arkansas. Penstemon tenuis is said to be a great cut flower, though I have not personally use it in arrangements.

While not widely available in the nursery trade, it can be found at garden centers that specialize in native plants and seeds can be acquired from fellow gardeners.


April! April! Is it you?

“April! April! is it you?
See how fair the flowers are springing!
Sun is warm and brooks are clear,
Oh, how glad the birds are singing!
April! April! is it you?” Poem by Dora Read Goodale

“Spring translates earth’s happiness into colorful flowers.” Terri Guillemets

The pale pink roses, shown above, are reminders of my garden past, beautiful blossoms this first day of April. The strawberry, shown below, embodies the hope and possibilities of the season ahead.

“It was such a pleasure to sink one’s hands into the warm earth – to feel at one’s fingertips the possibilities of the new season.” Kate Morton

One question that has been asked dozens of times the past few weeks has been, “Is it safe to plant now?” That translates to: Have we seen our last freeze of the year? Old-timers will tell you that we aren’t out of the woods for a late freeze until Easter. True enough, this gardener remembers an Easter snow many years ago. Mid-March is Dallas-Fort Worth’s average last freeze date. Average meaning: Our last freeze may come in February. Or it may come at Easter. This year the last freeze came early. Or so it appears.

Is it safe to plant now? This gardener will generally answer that question with another question. Is it ever truly safe to plant? One never knows what Mother Nature may throw at us. Late freezes. Hail. Intense heat. Record breaking cold. Prolonged drought. Relentless rain. This week’s weather brought us intense winds, leaving many of the tall bearded irises listing wayward. (Below photograph.) In 28 years of gardening this plot of earth, I have seen the extremes. It is never really safe to plant. To garden is to take chances. One learns quickly to roll with the punches and to always have a backup plan.

This suburban food forest is coming together, nourishing the gardener’s body and soul. To wander about, barefoot, harvesting herbs for a lunchtime salad. The onions and potatoes, planted in January and February, are coming along nicely. Tomatoes and peppers have been planted. Succession plantings of beans has begun. The possibilities truly seem limitless in the springtime garden.

“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” Alfred Austin

Despite the winds, the tall bearded irises, shown below, have been especially delightful this week, nurturing my soul.

“Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.” Luther Burbank

Scented geraniums are best known for their intoxicating scents, though this gardener finds the flowers equally charming. (Shown below.)

Bridal’s wreath spirea, shown below, is aptly named. Ah, spring! See how fair the flowers are springing!


I’d fly around the garden with the butterflies…

“If I could be a fairy now, I’d learn a lot of things, what flowers find to talk about and what the birdie sings. I’d fly around the garden with the butterflies for hours, I’d find out if the honey-bee says “thank you” to the flowers.” Source unknown

“Come fairies, take me out of this dull world. For I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame.” W.B. Yeats in The Land of Heart’s Desire

“She was always doing funny things – for a grown-up. Like running through woodland trails or climbing and jumping out of trees. Perhaps, it was because she had just a drop of fairy in her blood, that kept her wild and free.” Source unknown

“Few humans see fairies or hear their music, but many find fairy rings of dark grass, scattered with toadstools, left by their dancing feet.” Judy Allen, Fantasy Encyclopedia

If one needs proof of fairies dancing about the garden, they only need to kneel down and gaze upon the Leucojum blossoms, for the fairies have left little dots of green on every dainty flower.

Leucojum, like daffodils and tulips, are planted in the fall for spring time blooms. They naturalize quite nicely in zone 8a, North Texas, returning year after year with ease. Botanically speaking, they are in the amaryllis family with just two species, both commonly referred to as “snowflakes.” Leucojum vernum is the spring blooming bulb and the variety I have growing in my melodious garden. These bulbs were initially planted 20-plus years ago and have received no additional care, sans trimming off the leaves after they have dried and dividing and thinning out every few years. As you can see in the photograph below, this patch is due for dividing, which I will do as soon as they are done flowering.

Leucojum add a bit of whimsy and charm to the spring garden, as they are proof that fairies are indeed real and dance about the garden.


And spring arose on the garden

“And spring arose on the garden fair, like the spirit of love felt everywhere; and each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast rose from the dreams of it’s wintery rest.” Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Sensitive Plant

Spring has been popping up for several weeks now in my melodious garden. Daylilies that go dormant in winter have been emerging through the leaves I let blanket the garden. (Shown above.) Spring blooming shrubs are having their moment of glory, as are the bulbs – daffodils and leucojum. (Bridal’s wreath spirea, shown below.)

“She turned to the sunlight and shook her yellow head, and whispered to her neighbor: Winter is dead.” A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young

Winter is dead. Or so we can hope. The Dallas-Fort Worth area saw overnight low temperatures down to freezing over the weekend but the ten day forecast shows that winter weather may be gone now and spring weather here to stay. Happy Vernal Equinox, indeed. The sun is shining bright this morning and the garden and the gardener are basking in its rays. The gardener is, as usual on days like this, full of garden dreams.

The garden last year was plotted and planned out on the pages of an old school notebook. Late in the season, a downloadable, printable garden journal was purchased through Etsy, fully customizable, where I could add or subtract sections as needed. One section that was subtracted – The Garden Budget. Who has time for things like gardening within the constraints of a budget? Alas. Sometimes a garden budget may be necessary as one large purchase that kept getting tossed aside in favor of more plants was the acquisition of a new wheelbarrow.

Having not shopped for a wheelbarrow in 28 years, I was rather shocked that the entry level price for a decent one is around $150, which equals roughly three to four fruit trees or 37.5 four inch herb plants. Give or take a few. This gardener, you see, is always on team More Plants instead of New Wheelbarrow.

A good wheelbarrow is often one of the first major purchases a gardener will make, as it is handy for moving soil, mulch, rocks, plants and dreams. I don’t remember when or where I bought my first wheelbarrow – or how much it cost! – but I know it has been by my side in the garden for 28 years now. It has hauled a great many cubic yards of compost and mulch. It has hauled tons of rocks and bricks. It has hauled countless plants and garden tools and bags of fertilizer. But years of digging in with a shovel to scoop out its load and years of rocks and bricks jostling about have worn away at its metal. A few small holes here and there over the years gradually grew until – by last fall – the bottom was rusted through in large spots and talk of purchasing a new wheelbarrow ensued. (Just one of the large holes in the old wheelbarrow, shown in photograph above.)

“Talk of purchasing a new wheelbarrow…” generally went like this…

The non-gardener: What do you want for our anniversary? The gardener: A new wheelbarrow.

Which was followed a few weeks later by… The non-gardener: What do you want for Christmas? The gardener: A new wheelbarrow.

Which was immediately followed by… The non-gardener: What do you want for your birthday? The gardener: A new wheelbarrow.

Last month, the talks turned serious. Real serious. The gardener, to the non-gardener: Hey, I bought myself a new wheelbarrow today. Well. It is new to me. Technically, it is probably older than I am. But it doesn’t have any holes in it. Oh. And it is teal.

You see, sometimes the older things are the best things. Wheelbarrows being no exception. Especially when they happen to be teal.

“I love the first tingling of spring when sunlight lingers just a little bit longer and you can almost feel the whole world soften as birds chirp nearby, puddles take slowly to the sky and you gently wake up to what’s growing inside.” M.L. Cole

And so it is. The first tingling days of spring, when the sunlight lingers just a little bit longer, that my trusty old wheelbarrow will be carted off to the great wheelbarrow heaven in the sky. It lived a great, though laborious, life here at the melodious garden. I am forever in its gratitude for the burdens it carried to make my garden chores just a little bit lighter.

Oh. And did I mention the new-to-me wheelbarrow is teal?

I may well someday lead up a Gardeners Anonymous group with, “Hi. My name is Suzie Linn and I own a teal wheelbarrow.” Oh. And she only cost me 5.5 four inch herb plants. Give or take a few. Perhaps most importantly, I didn’t have to figure out a budget to buy myself a new wheelbarrow.

“All through the long winter, I dream of my garden. On the first day of spring, I dig my fingers deep into the soft earth. I can feel its energy, and my spirits soar.” Helen Hayes

I am again at a crossroads in my life. I feel the energy of another spring, though don’t yet know which path to take from here. I long to spend my days puttering about my garden, blocking out the news of the world and the demands to make money. I long to dig my fingers deep into the soft earth and know that this is santosha, my contentment, right here in the garden. I am not yet sure where to go from here, but in the meantime I have bulbs to plant and seeds to sow, new garden gloves to wear out and dreams to dream and miles to go before I sleep.


Golden daffodils – dancing in the breeze

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

Poem by William Wordsworth

We are often advised to live in the present moment, which is all well and good, as we only live this moment once and we need to enjoy it for all its worth, but gardeners know we also have to live – and think and plan – a season or two ahead of this moment. That is the way of the garden. Appreciating the beauty of today, but also thinking ahead to our future gardens. Daffodils are the perfect example of this.

The daffodils shown above are blooming in my melodious garden today, a sunny though chilly mid-March day. We hopefully had our last freeze of the season overnight here in zone 8a, North Texas. Now is the time to take stock of our own gardens and jot down notes. If we already have daffodils, which clumps need divided? What areas of the garden would benefit from a cluster of daffodils, fluttering and dancing in the breeze? We can stroll our neighborhoods to see what other gardeners have blooming now. Or visit a botanical garden or arboretum. Always be sure to take photographs of daffodils you like and would love to have in your own garden next year.

There are several different types of daffodils, so it is best to research and see which ones you are drawn to. (This is where visiting a botanical garden pays off! You can see first hand what different varieties look like and how they perform in your area.) Daffodil colors range from white to yellow to some with peach and orange-ish accents. Colors are always a personal preference. As you can probably tell from the photographs from my own garden, I am drawn to the white and yellow varieties.

After the daffodil flowers have faded, the greens will die down, later to be trimmed off and forgotten about through summer and fall. In late summer or early fall, the gardener can pull out their notes and photographs, as that is the time to plan the spring garden and purchase daffodil bulbs for blooms the following year. In this area, spring blooming bulbs, such as daffodils, can be planted between Thanksgiving and the new year. I generally plan to do this chore on a sunny day when the leaves have fallen from the oak trees, when the heat of summer is just a memory, but the cold of winter hasn’t yet touched my soul. Just such days are perfect for digging in some new bulbs and thinking ahead to spring-time blooms.

Daffodils need to be planted in an area that has well draining soil, as the bulbs will rot if planted where water stands during prolonged wet periods. Daffodils are otherwise not fussy about growing conditions or soil pH. It is important to let the foliage die back naturally, as this stores the bulb’s energy for the following year.

Always stop and smell the flowers and enjoy today to its best! But also keep an eye ahead and plan out those gardens of tomorrow. As William Kent said, “Garden as if you will live forever.”