bibliophile, gardening

Bulbs: Buy now. Plant later.

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.
bulbbulb
If you find yourself wandering around the nursery and see – A host of golden daffodils! All bagged and begging to be bought! And visions of daffodils, beside the lake, beneath the trees, dance in your head…

Yes! Do buy them!

Just, please. Do wait to plant them!
Spring blooming bulbs are now in garden centers, but our soils are still too warm. The correct time to plant daffodils, tulips and such in zone 8a/North Texas is between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when our days are reliably cooler. For best selection, though, buy now. Just store them in a cool place for another six to eight weeks.
bulbdaffodil
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.
daf
Daffodils are easy to plant. Dig a hole two to three times the height of the bulb and place the bulb pointy-side up. Cover with soil. Repeat. And then you, too, will have a crowd, a host of golden daffodils.
Or snow white daffodils.
daffodils 3
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.
~ William Wordsworth
bulbtulip
Tulips are also easily planted. They have a definite “right side up” and “wrong side down.” But they do need to be chilled before planting in North Texas. (For as much as we like to complain about the weather, it doesn’t get cold enough to give tulips the right amount of chill hours…) Buy your tulips now, but store them in the veggie section of your refrigerator until closer to year’s end. (You can also mail order pre-chilled tulip bulbs. A few select garden centers, such as North Haven Gardens in Dallas, offer to store and chill your bulbs for you. You buy now. They store until ideal planting time. Then you have room for veggies in your fridge. Because you know you were worried about where to store your broccoli.)
Tulips are an annual in North Texas and are prone to wind damage, though they are beautiful in the garden. If garden space is a premium or money is a consideration, plant reliable bulbs, such as daffodils, and just plan to buy tulips from the florist. (See photo below.) (I do occasionally succumb to tulip-mania and plant tulips… Like this year.)
red tulips3
Anemones are another beautiful spring blooming flower that is planted in the fall. It is is a bit trickier to plant. Which way is up? Which way is down? Is this really a bulb or is it a dried mushroom?
bulbanemone
If you look closely at the bulb, you will see that one side has a circle with what looks like the source of now chopped off roots. That is down. Anemones are not reliably perennial in this area, but offer a bold splash of color come spring.
anemone
Plan now for your spring garden. Spring blooming bulbs are so rewarding!
bibliophile, gardening

Scattering abroad

Fall may still be a week away, but the many seeds about my garden have me thinking of autumn, harvest and the promises held within each seed.

“For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together. For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad.” ~ Edwin Way Teale

red yucca seed pod

Red yucca (shown above as a dried seed pod and below as a green seed pod) has put on quite the show this year and, as always, was a hummingbird magnet.

red yucca seed pod2

“The milkweed pods are breaking, and the bits of silken down float off upon the autumn breeze across the meadows of brown.” ~ Cecil Cavedish, The Milkweed

 butterfly weed

Milkweed, shown above and below, is still flowering and just now starting to set seed. It will be another month or so before we see the mature pods split open and the silky down float upon the autumn breeze.

milkweed

“Flowers and fruit are only the beginning. In a seed lies the life and the future.” ~ Marion Zimmer Bradley

pom in fall

Pomegranate (above) has quickly become one of my favorite shrubs. In flower and in fruit at once, it offers many colors and shapes at one time!

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don’t have much to say about Emerson’s quote… Please excuse me while I grumble under my breath about picking up buckets and buckets of acorns to stop those thousand forests from sprouting within my garden. (I do love my oak trees. I just don’t love the potential forests contained within each acorn the squirrels bury and leave behind for me to deal with.)

acorns

“This very act of planting a seed in the earth has in it to me something beautiful. I always do it with a joy that is largely mixed with awe.” ~ Celia Thaxter

coneflower seed1

Looking at the seed heads of the native coneflower, one is able to see where its common name originates.

coneflower seed2

“If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might not the heart of man become in its long journey toward the stars?” ~ G.K. Chesterton

rose hip1.png

“Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.” ~ Jim Bishop

Golden rose hips (above and below) from Thomas Affleck contain the rose’s many seeds.

rose hip2

“The seed cannot sprout upwards without simultaneously sending roots into the ground.” ~ Ancient Egyptian Proverb

(Bee balm seed head below)

bee balm seed

 

bibliophile

Yearning to breath free

colorado

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
state fair
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch,
zion
whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles.
butterfly
From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome;
colorado3
her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
niagra falls
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips.
colorado2
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
grand canyon
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
~ Emma Lazarus

rwb1

Happy 4th of July from the melodious garden.

(Photos: Colorado, Zion National Park, Niagara Falls and The Grand Canyon)

 

bibliophile, gardening

the summer moon begins to dawn

Spring in North Texas went out with a bang. Correctly, it went out with a rumble of thunder, a flash of lightening and 60 mile per hour winds. And, as a dear gardening friend said, “a legit downpour.” The rain was a much welcome sight. The wind, not so much. And with that —- spring is over and we welcome in the first day of summer.

summer daylily 5

Daylilies have been blooming for over a month now, yet I still walk the garden each morning, eager to see which ones are blooming that day. My garden is in transition – leaving behind the pink flowers and rose-filled cottage garden to a tapestry of bold colors and even bolder blooms, sans the roses. (Rose Rosette is still running rampant in North Texas…)

summer 3 daylily

“Clapping my hands
with the echoes the summer moon
begins to dawn.”
~ Basho

A new daylily for my garden, still in its nursery pot on my driveway. The blossoms are larger than my hands.

summer 2 daylily

“To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie  –
True Poems flee”
~ Emily Dickinson

Tropical plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) perfectly echos the color of the summer sky. Though not winter hardy in my zone 8a garden, it has overwintered in a container in my garage for many years now.  It has a sprawling habit, so is great to grow in a container or spilling over a retaining wall.

summer plumbago

“The hum of bees is the voice of the garden.” ~ Elizabeth Lawrence

The coneflowers were abuzz with bees this morning, a good reminder this week – National Pollinator Week – of the importance of planting flowers that attract and nourish our pollinators.

summer coneflower with bee

(I am not sure why bees always pose for photographs on the rattiest flowers available.)

summer coneflower

I cut back the coneflowers once they have bloomed in early summer, allowing for a second or third wave of blooms in the late summer and fall. Below, a gray hairstreak braved the bees to partake of the coneflower’s nectar.

summer sulfer on coneflower

(See above about bees posing on the rattiest flower. This hairstreak sure picked a messed up flower!)

Two of my favorite flowers for pollinators are red yucca and Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus drummondii). Red yucca is extremely drought tolerant, once established, and makes a nice “evergreen” in the winter garden.

summer yucca

Turk’s cap has proven to be extremely adaptable in my Denton County garden. Originally planted in partial shade in an area that stays relatively moist due to our neighbor’s overwatering tendencies, it has spread into heavier shade and out into full sun and very dry patches. It grows just as well in all areas of my garden, though the leaves are smaller on the plants in full sun. Turk’s cap blooms from May until first freeze. It dies to the ground in the winter. I generally wait to cut it back until new growth is appearing in the spring. Below, Turk’s cap has spread along our driveway. Some of the plants are under the shade of a bur oak tree, while others are out in full sun.

summer turks cap 1

Below, Turk’s cap has seeded out into full sun.

summer turks cap3

“There ought to be gardens for all months in the year, in which, severally, things of beauty may be then in season.” ~ Sir Francis Bacon

Summer is the perfect time to gain an appreciation for foliage, reminding ourselves that beauty does not only come from flowers. Below, an ornamental banana, which overwinters in my garage.

summer banana

Coneflowers have popped up next to a variegated canna.

summer canna

Caladiums, to me, have always been a foliage filler in a summer container arrangement… And then along came… Frog in a Blender, pictured below. I was wandering around Marshall Grain early this spring, when I spotted the bulbs, in a box labeled… Frog in a Blender. Always game for something unusual, I grabbed a few bulbs. And… I may now be addicted. To Frog in a Blender.

frog in a blender

“Gardening imparts an organic perspective on the passage of time.”
~ William Cowper

We are always reminded to stop and smell the flowers, but we should also be reminded to stop and look up, for you never know where you might find a cicada molt.

 summer cicada molt

The pink rainlilies have been especially beautiful this season. I wait until the seedpod has dried and cracked open to take the fresh seeds and scatter them throughout the garden.

 summer rainlily

Below, the seedpod to the far right is still drying… I will wait until the seedpod has split open, like the one in the middle of the photo. One can pop off the seedpod and rub the papery seeds to the wind, allowing rainlilies to pop up wherever they may.

summer seed pod

“When on a summer’s morn I wake,
And open my two eyes,
Out to the clear, born-singing rills
My bird-like spirit flies.

To hear the Blackbird, Cuckoo, Thrush,
Or any bird in song;
And common leaves that hum all day
Without a throat or tongue.

And when Time strikes the hour for sleep,
Back in my room alone,
My heart has many a sweet bird’s song —
And one that’s all my own.”
~ William Henry Davies, When on a Summer’s Morn

summer crinum

Whichever way you look at the blossoms, the crinum lily (above and below) are a true Southern garden staple. Steve Bender writes that the crinum lily “has a bulldog constitution.” Yes, they are that tough. And yet – so beautiful!

summer crinum 2

“Now summer is in flower and natures hum
Is never silent round her sultry bloom
Insects as small as dust are never done
Wi’ glittering dance and reeling in the sun
And green wood fly and blossom haunting bee
Are never weary of their melody
Round field hedge now flowers in full glory twine
Large bindweed bells wild hop and streakd woodbine
That lift athirst their slender throated flowers
Agape for dew falls and for honey showers
These round each bush in sweet disorder run
And spread their wild hues to the sultry sun.”
~ John Clare, June

Below, Leia, now nine months old, looking adorable and innocent in the garden. (She had just eaten my brand new prescription bifocal glasses an hour before…)

summer leia

bibliophile, gardening

When June comes dancing…

“When June comes dancing o’er the death of May,
With scarlet roses tinting her green breast,
And mating thrushes ushering in her day,
And Earth on tiptoe for her golden guest.”
~ A Memory of June, by Claude Mckay

daylily june 1 7

The first of June in North Texas, where a forecast “cold front” promising highs “only” in the mid-90s is music to the ears. We are coming off one of our warmest and driest springs, with summer heat setting in early. But the garden still shines bright.

The coneflowers are coming on strong. I love the varying shades of pink as the blooms slowly open to reveal the center cone, the source of its name. Coneflowers will bloom from now until the approaching winter. I deadhead coneflowers through the summer, then stop deadheading them in early fall so that the cones can remain upright through the winter, a source of food for songbirds. Come spring, I will remove the remaining stalks standing in the garden and scatter the seeds wherever I want coneflowers to grow.

coneflower june 1 2

“What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.” ~ On Gardening, by Gertrude Jekyll

The colors in the early June garden still radiate, no sun bleached petals yet. The daylilies are having their time in the spotlight.

daylily june 1 5

daylily june 1 6

“It is the month of June,
The month of leaves and roses,
When pleasant sights salute the eyes
And pleasant scents the noses.”
~ The Month of June, by Nathaniel Parker Willis

daylily june 1 1

daylily june 1 2

“And since all this loveliness can not be Heaven, I know in my heart it is June.” ~ Abba Woolson

daylily june 1 4

“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

I love growing sedums in clay pots inside ornate metal hanging baskets. They bring another layer to the garden, where the sun, peeking through the tree leaves, highlights sedum and metal alike.

sedum

No bees this morning, but the bee balm is blooming beautifully.

bee balm 1

Vitex, sometimes call the Texas Lilac, is blooming and buzzing with life this June morning. (Perhaps it has lured the bees away from the bee balm?) Alas, the vitex smells nothing like the real lilac! (I find it malodorous…) Vitex has been noted as a Texas Superstar plant, as it is very well adapted to grow and thrive throughout the state, even in hot and dry locations. The spiky lavender blooms attract both bees and butterflies in abundance.

vitex

“Summer is coming!” the soft breezes whisper;
“Summer is coming!” the glad birdies sing.
Summer is coming – I hear her quick footsteps;
Take your last look at the beautiful Spring.
~ Summer is Coming, by Dora Goodale

Passion fruit vine is showing off its exotic blossoms. It scrambles here and there throughout my garden, not being the best behaved of plants. Passion fruit vine is often grown in butterfly gardens, as the gulf fritillary butterfly uses this as a host plant.

passion vine

I love to grow fennel both for its ferny foliage and for the black swallowtail butterflies. This caterpillar has been munching and growing for the past week or so.

caterpiller june 1

“I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.” ~ L.M. Montgomery (Montgomery is the author of The Anne of Green Gables series, a great book to read-aloud! Boys and girls alike can identify with the lovable Anne.)

Though I don’t have much shade, I love to tuck in hosta plants wherever I can. While grown for their foliage, hosta have beautiful and delicate blooms in early summer.

hosta in container

Hosta leaves and blooms are both edible. I have not yet tried them myself, but these blossoms would be a colorful addition to any salad. (As would daylily blooms, which are also edible.)

hosta june 1

I love how dainty hosta blooms are! This one is no larger than a nickle.

hosta june 1 2

Hellebores, which began blooming in mid-winter, are still going strong.

hellebore june 1

I love using metal tubs and buckets and such as planters. This old tub is planted with coleus, rue, silver thyme and begonia. Rue is a host plant to both the black swallowtail and the giant swallowtail butterflies.

metal bucket

An orange scented geranium and an old ceiling tile add a mix of texture to my potted garden by the front door.

scented geranium

Ah… The fig tree. Beautiful leaves. Wondrous shade. Edible figs! Though they are little now, they hold the promise of an abundant harvest.

fig tree

Once upon a time, when I grew antique roses by the dozens, I planted garlic around the garden, as it is reported to ward off insects. While it didn’t save my garden from being ravished by rose rosette, I still have garlic blooming here and there. I love their large flower heads.

garlic scape

I will leave you with one more bloom – a mutant coneflower. And one last poetic look at June.

coneflower june 1 4

“With flower petals soft unfurled
And vines around the trellis curled.
The grass is sweet and richly green
With shining luminescent sheen –
Your face, my June, a beauteous scene.”
~ My Lovely June, by Valerie Dohren

bibliophile, gardening, vintage

Sweet April Showers…

“Sweet April showers do spring May flowers,” wrote Thomas Tusser in 1557.

“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,” penned Lucy Larcom.

If the earth does indeed laugh in flowers, as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, it surely must be May that binds poetry and botany forever together.

“May and June. Soft syllables, gentle names for the two best months in the garden year…”~ Peter Loewer

stock in pottery

“The May-pole is up, now give me the cup; I’ll drink to the garlands around it; But first unto those whose hands did compose the glory of flowers that crown’d it.” ~ Robert Herrick, The Maypole

tea may with book

Come take a tour of the melodious garden, located in zone 8a, southern Denton County, Texas, and see what is blooming this first day of May, 2018.

“Horticulturally, the month of May is opening night, homecoming and graduation day all rolled into one.” ~ Tam Mossman

clematis

This deep purple clematis is always a show-stopper. And a reminder that I simply must plant more! While many vines are aggressive overachievers (I am talking to you, trumpet vine!), most varieties of clematis are well-behaved and grow lightly over rose branches or trellis.

“Now every field is clothed with grass, and every tree with leaves; now the woods put forth their blossoms, and the year assumes its gay attire.” ~ Virgil

winecup1

Wine Cups (Callirhoe involucrata) are a native wildflower that rivals the best patch of bluebonnets, in my honest opinion. It grows from a rhizome, with foliage branching out along the ground. The hot magenta flowers (shaped like… wine cups!) attract bees and butterflies. It is extremely drought tolerant and slowly reseeds in the garden. I thin out the older rhizomes when the Wine Cups have finished blooming, then I thin out a few more so I can share this beautiful flower with fellow gardeners.

“Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses…” George Herbert

green ice rose

Green Ice, a unique miniature rose, is one of the few roses in my garden that survived the plague that is Rose Rosette Virus. I am not sure why or how not one, but two! Green Ice roses survived when the other roses in the area were infected. Miniature roses are not known to be exceptionally hardy, after all. But here they are. Beautiful. The white blooms will take on a greenish cast over the next few weeks, hence its name. Green. Ice.

“The world’s favorite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May.” Edwin Way Teale

winecup and green icie

The photo above shows the mini rose Green Ice with Wine Cups scrambling through its branches. Wine Cups do not smother out other plants, in my experience.

“Never yet was a springtime, when the buds forgot to bloom.” ~ Margaret Elizabeth Sangster

poppy

Ah. One lone poppy. I have no idea why, but after years of not growing in my garden, I had one lone poppy pop up this year. It is a stunner, isn’t it?

“A little madness in the spring is wholesome even for the king.” ~ Emily Dickinson

penstemon

I love plants that reseed here and there. Above is Penstemon tenuis, the perfect reseeding perennial. Tough as nails, not aggressive, lovely shade of lavender. What more could one ask for? Well, it also makes a great cut flower. I do not dead-head this plant when it is done flowering. Rather, I let the seed pods dry completely on the plant, then I cut them way back and cast the seed heads here and there, wherever I would like to see it spread. On-site composting and super easy seed sowing all in one.

“O the month of May, the merry month of May, so frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green!” ~ Thomas Dekker

hosta

I love the greenness that hostas add to the garden. While flowers are lovely, sometimes green – different shades of green, different textures of green – are a welcome relief to the riot of color that is spring. The above hosta, Curly Fries, has been a great container plant in my garden, nestled back into my one shady spot.

“I think that no matter how old or infirm I may become, I will always plant a large garden in the spring. Who can resist the feelings of hope and joy that one gets from participating in nature’s rebirth?” ~ Edward Giobbi

amarylis

And who can resist a shot of bright red on the first day of May? Hippeastrum (amaryllis) is a great addition to any southern garden. It is often dug up, divided and passed along to others after it is done blooming.

“Sweet May hath come to love us, flowers, trees, their blossoms don’ and through the blue heavens above us the very clouds move on.” ~ Heinrich Heine, Book of Songs

veilchenblau

While there is no such thing as a blue rose, Veilchenblau may come closest of all. This is another RRV survivor in my garden. A rambling old rose, its blooms start out crimson colored, then fade out to the above colored grayish mauve. While it only blooms in the spring, it is worth the garden space!

“Among the changing months, May stands confest the sweetest, and in fairest colors dressed.” ~ James Thomson, On May

winecup and mallow

As I was contemplating my RRV devastated garden a few years back and wondering how I would ever be able to garden again, something hit me. Orange. Bright orange! Gone are the soft pinks of my dear antique roses. I am now playing more with colors and adding in splashes of oranges, yellows and reds. Above, Munro’s Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea munroana) blooms happily alongside Wine Cups.

“Be like a flower and turn your face to the sun.” Kahlil Gibran

dandelion

I couldn’t resist. She was blooming in my garden today and I just could not overlook her. The dandelion. The lowly dandelion. Why it has that reputation, I do not know. Please, please leave dandelions in your garden. They are an important source of nectar for honeybees!

bibliophile, gardening, nature

The Praying Mantis

In the insect world, there are good bugs and there are bad bugs. And then there is the praying mantis. The indiscriminate hunter. The dinosaur of the insect world. The hunter and the hunted. Both intriguing and deadly.

Watching a praying mantis stalk its prey feels a bit like Jurassic Park. They will sit still, waiting the perfect moment to ambush the unexpecting. Insect. Lizard. Small bird. They don’t care. They will take down a nasty grasshopper just as easily as a beautiful butterfly or a beneficial honeybee. They are carnivores, eating meat instead of vegetation like many garden insects. The mantis: both good bug and bad bug. All in one fascinating package.

Mary Ann, a child’s picture book by Betsy James, was a favorite at our home when my son was young.

elf on mantis 2

Amy, sad that her best friend Mary Ann moved away, told her daddy that she wished there were hundreds and hundreds of Mary Anns. “Then if one ever moves away, it wouldn’t matter,” she says. When Amy finds a praying mantis in her clubhouse, she names the mantis Mary Ann and puts the mantis in a terrarium inside their home. Every day the mantis gets larger and larger, until one day, “when summer was over, she pushed a ball of foam out of her tail, onto a fern stem.” This foam hardens, thus protecting the eggs inside. Mary Ann, the mantis, passes away after laying her eggs, as often happens in the insect world. Time passes, and the lid falls off the terrarium. Then.. one day… the family returns home to find…the egg has hatched!

“Look at all the Mary Anns!”

Hundreds and hundreds of Mary Anns.

mantis2

Mary Anns in the teacups. Mary Anns on the toaster and the telephone, under the soap, behind the vegetables! Mary Anns all over the house! “I had hundreds and hundreds of Mary Anns,” the excited girl in the story exclaims!

And such it is when a praying mantis egg hatches. A small hard foamy egg about the diameter of a quarter, home to hundreds of babies!

mantis5

The babies, about the size of half a grain of rice, emerge in bunches, by the hundreds.

mantis1

It is an amazing sight to behold.

The female mantis lays one egg case in the fall – a foamy capsule, generally attached to a small stem or branch. She then dies. Come spring, the egg case hatches.

Praying mantis egg cases may be purchased from science supply companies, online garden sources or at some local nurseries. Place the egg case in a (well!) covered terrarium (so you don’t have Mary Anns in your teacups!)  Make sure the terrarium is out of direct sunlight! And then…wait patiently…ever so patiently…until one day you will notice – movement! The egg case is…covered…with itty bitty baby praying mantis.

There are around 2,000 species of mantis around the world. Depending on the species, one praying mantis may lay up to 400 eggs.

mantis4

The praying mantis has an incomplete metamorphosis, meaning that the nymph (young insect) that emerges looks like a mini replica of the adult praying mantis. Triangular head. Bulging compound eyes. Elongated body. Large forelegs, perfectly adapted for catching prey.

elf on mantis 3

Fierce hunter, right from the beginning. Once hatched, the terrarium lid needs to be removed so the mantis can scatter. They are hungry and ready to eat immediately and, if not able to find other food, they will turn cannibal.

praying mantis

Insects that go through incomplete metamorphosis have three stages of life – egg, nymph and adult. They will shed their hard exoskeleton as they grow, molting, discarding one exoskeleton for another, several times throughout their short lives. Most of the praying mantis species in our country grow to about three inches in length.

Never pick up a praying mantis, as they are easily injured. However, you can place your hand near them and they will walk onto you. No need to worry about being bit.

Whether they are beneficial to an organic garden or not is debatable, but hatching a mantis egg is a fun spring-time science experiment for children – of all ages!

elf on praying mantis

bibliophile, nature

Mr. Crinkleroot

I would like to introduce another long-time friend of mine.

Mr. Crinkleroot.

I could tell you all about him, but I think I will let him speak for himself. “Crinkleroot was born in a tree and raised by bees.” How cool is that? “He can whistle in a hundred languages and speak caterpillar, salamander, and turtle, too.” I want that Super Power! But most importantly, “he knows all about wild animals, even the ones that live around your house.”

Mr. Crinkleroot, you see, is a rugged naturalist, a creation of Jim Arnosky, self taught writer, artist and natural scientist.

arnosky books1

My son and I first met Mr. Crinkleroot when my son was just a wee thing, maybe preschool or kindergarten age. We had read this wonderful book called Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and my son wanted to learn more about owls. A library catalog search led us to All About Owls by Jim Arnosky, which led us to dissecting our first of many owl pellets and thus began a long relationship with Mr. Arnosky and Mr. Crinkleroot.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire,” wrote William Butler Yeats. Lighting that fire, raising the curiosity, that is what Mr. Crinkleroot did in our household and what he has done for a great many other children.

Our family has kept a nature collection for many years. Throughout this post, there will be photographs of Mr. Arnosky’s books, along with items from our nature collection. For us, the two went hand in hand. The more we read about and studied nature, the more we discovered, even when we weren’t looking for it. Suddenly that dead moth on our driveway wasn’t just a dead moth on our driveway. It was something to observe, something to admire, something to collect. No animals or insects were harmed in the making of our nature collection. (The tree was harmed, but it needed to go and a dozen better adapted trees were planted in its place. The turtle shell was found on our property as is. I fear it was our neighbor’s turtle that escaped their yard several years before I found its remains.) Please be sure to look at Mr. Arnosky’s art work in the photographs. The attention to detail is what drew us into his work.

nature collection

We now own more than a dozen of Mr. Arnosky’s books. Don’t be impressed by our collection. He has written and published more than 130-some books! I obviously have more book collecting to do before I even make a dent in his publications.

Besides Mr. Arnosky’s amazingly detailed illustrations, the drawings are often life size.  Thunder Birds, in particular, has fold out pages that show the real size of a pelican’s beak and an osprey’s wing span. Did I mention he is a self-taught artist?! That fact is even more impressive when you see his illustrations on that larger scale.

arnosky book turtle

Big Jim and The White-Legged Moose, thankfully, is not drawn life size. The tall-tale was inspired by Mr. Arnosky’s real life encounter with a bull moose in the fall of 1987.  “Big Jim dropped his art supplies and climbed a nearby birch. With the bull below, Jim prayed, as if he were in church.” I won’t give away the ending, but it is a fun book worth seeking out.

arnosky snake

Crinkleroot’s guide books inspired a great many nature hunts and explorations of us. Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing…  The Trees… Butterflies and Moths… Walking in Wild Places… Animal Habitats… These books are very informative, with practical information like how to identify poison ivy and poison sumac. Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing Animal Habitats details the three most common types of wetlands – marsh, bog and swamp – along with drawings of what animals might be found in each place. As with many of his drawings, every butterfly and moth featured in Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing Butterflies and Moths is shown real size. His information – as detailed as it is – is always presented in such a way that even the youngest child can appreciate.

arnosky tree ring

Mr. Arnosky’s books reflect his admiration of other naturalists before him, such as John Muir and John Burroughs. Field Trips, a book that continues to inspire me to grab my binoculars and field guides and head out on a hike, was dedicated to the great ornithologist, Roger Tory Peterson. Field Trips, like all of his books, is a treasure trove of his art work – more than 300 drawings and 175 identification silhouettes.

arnosky shells

If you are looking for a book for an older child, or even for yourself, Nearer Nature is Mr. Arnosky’s reflections and observations of life on his Vermont farm. Secrets of a Wildlife Watcher is another great book for older readers, as it explains how to find and observe wild animals in their various habitats.

arnosky books dragonfly

“When you witness an intimate tidbit of a wild animal’s private life, glean all you can from the experience. Pay attention to the details, and wonder about what you see… Don’t just look. Observe…You can always be sharpening your powers of observation.” (page 44 of Secrets of a Wildlife Watcher) Whenever I read that quote, I am reminded that some medical schools today require their students to study art, as that power of observation, being able to look and find the smallest detail, is fading away, yet it is an important skill to have and to hone.

I would like to end this post with a direct quote, as I couldn’t say it better myself. “(Crinkleroot) can find puzzles hidden among the leaves and stories written in the snow. There’s nothing he’d like better than to share them with you.” ~ Jim Arnosky

bibliophile, herbal fare

Cranberry Easter

I introduced you to our dear friend, Mr. Whiskers, back at Thanksgiving. A lovable fellow, though Grandma says he has too many whiskers and not enough soap.

Cranberry Easter, part of Wende and Harry Devlin’s holiday-themed Cranberry series, features Mr. Whiskers, Maggie and Maggie’s grandma. Mr. Whiskers’ friend Seth, lonely after the death of his wife, wants to sell Cranberryport’s general store and move away. “Suffering codfish,” exclaims Mr. Whiskers, as he tries to come up with a plan to keep Seth in town.

cranberry easter 1

The importance of friendship is at the heart of the Cranberry books. Mr. Whiskers knows “friends always take care of one another. That’s the way it is in Cranberryport – on holidays and the whole year round.” There would always be a place for him at Grandmother’s table. And for Easter, there would be cranberry cobbler for dessert.

The Devlin’s always set the season where you can almost feel like you are in Cranberryport… “The trees began to bud and soon there was a magical green mist all over the land.” What a lovely description of spring! …a magical green mist all over the land…

If you have young children, be sure to check out Wende and Harry Devlin’s Cranberry books. Getting children attached to a series at a young age is a great way to foster a love of reading, as there is security in familiar characters and children will come to look at the characters as friends. What is better to a child than looking forward to Mr. Whiskers making a return visit every Easter or Thanksgiving? Inside family jokes, such as the loveable Mr. Whiskers having too many whiskers and not enough soap, only reinforce the characters and build upon the book and the pleasant memories associated with it. More importantly, getting children active in a book gives them another outlet to experience the book. As much as children love to be read to, they also love to pull up a chair or stepstool and cook with a loved one.  (Other books in the Cranberry series include: Christmas, Birthday and Valentine.)

The recipe at the end of Cranberry Easter is for cranberry cobbler. I have yet to make it, but I did want to share my favorite cranberry dessert recipe – cranberry apple crisp. Thanks to the Devlin’s, I have come to think of cranberries as a year-round ingredient, instead of just a seasonal treat.

cranberry easter 2

Cranberry-Apple Crisp

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

3 medium apples – peeled, cored and sliced

1 16-ounce can whole cranberry sauce

For the topping, in a medium mixing bowl, stir together the rolled oats, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the walnuts. Set aside.

For filling, in a large mixing bowl, stir together the apples and the cranberry sauce. Transfer the filling to an ungreased 8×8 baking pan.

Sprinkle the topping on the filling. Bake at 375 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until the apples are tender and the topping is golden brown. Serve warm.

If desired, top with whipped cream or ice cream. Makes 6 servings.

*** This recipe can easily be made gluten-free.

pink flowers

bibliophile, gardening

If ever there was a spring day so perfect…

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

… … … part of Billy Collins’ poem Today

 

First day of spring blooms, North Texas, zone 8a

Dutch iris, below

dutch iris

I feel a bit like Bubba in Forrest Gump… You got your bearded iris, your reticulata iris, Dutch iris, Louisiana iris, Japanese iris, Siberian iris… some are bulbous irises, some are rhizome irises… some are bearded, some are beardless… Someday I will blog about the different irises that grow well in this area.
For now: Dutch irises are perennial, grown from a bulb planted in the fall.

And now… daffodils, the harbinger of spring…
I love the shadow cast by these daffodils, below.

daffodils 2

“When the winds of March are wakening the crocuses and crickets,
Did you ever find a fairy near some budding little thickets,…
And when she sees you creeping up to get a closer peek
She tumbles through the daffodils, a playing hide and seek.”
~Marjorie Barrows

A happy little clump of daffodils, below.

daffodils 1

Leucojum, pictured below. If you ever need proof that fairies dance in the garden, this is it. Just look at that little green dot, along the scalloped blossom.

“And as the seasons come and go, here’s something you might like to know. There are fairies everywhere: under bushes, in the air, playing games just like you play, singing through their busy day. So listen, touch, and look around — in the air and on the ground. And if you watch all nature’s things, you might just see a fairy’s wing.” ~Author Unknown

lecojium

I know. We aren’t suppose to believe in fairies past a certain age…

“Every time a child says, ‘I don’t believe in fairies,’ there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead.” ~James Matthew Barrie, Peter Pan

Hyacinth, below.

hyacinth

The above bulbs are all planted in the fall for spring blooms. Make a note now of any bulbs you see and like. Mail order catalogs will start taking orders in late summer for fall shipment. Garden centers will receive bulbs in early fall, but hold off on planting until Thanksgiving.

Now, for some spring blooming shrubs…

Shrubs can be planted year-round in North Texas, just know that all new plantings (even many Texas natives) require frequent watering until they get established. Garden centers generally have their best selection of shrubs in the spring, though some also receive fall shipments.

Bridal wreath spirea, below.

bridal wreath spirea

And loropetalum, aka fringe flower. Please, please don’t prune these into round balls or square cubes. They look best when allowed to grow naturally. Loropetalum are evergreen.

fringe flower

Cherry laurel. While I didn’t capture any honeybees in this photo, the shrub was buzzing with life. It is also evergreen.

cherry laurel

Sigh… My bright orange tulips are done blooming, but I had to include a photo anyway. Because. Pollen! Just look at all that pollen!

tulip
“If we opened our minds to enjoyment, we might find tranquil pleasures spread about us on every side. We might live with the angels that visit us on every sunbeam, and sit with the fairies who wait on every flower.” ~Samuel Smiles