These Early Summer Days

The last few mornings have been picture perfect. Calm and bright at sunrise, with birds and squirrels and one little bunny spotted in the dewy yard.

Beams of pure sunlight break and scatter when they hit the trees, whose leaves are fully green and fully extended now.

The sky that begins as a thin blue canopy deepens to full summer. Clean, puffy white clouds skid across the blue in the quickening breeze.

The trees rustle as morning gives way to day. And we busy ourselves with the last week of school, loads and loads of laundry, and watering the garden transplants.

Summer is coming, faster than we imagined it would back in March. It’s still light at 9 PM, and morning follows fast on evening’s heels. I turn the calendar page and marvel.

Gussying Up the Garden

I’ve spent most of this holiday weekend outside — weeding, transplanting, and mulching until the front yard looked pretty spiffy and the backyard was a step closer to where I want it to be and the strip of skin between where my shirt ends and my pants begin is getting a respectable, though awkward tan.

Some plants aren’t all that bothered when you move them.

Some are. Deeply.

They need extra water and extra love for awhile.

So that’s what I’ll be giving them.

Not everything got schlepped around the yard. The peonies on the southwest corner of the house are at their height.

The clematis niobe are looking rather lovely, though their bluishy-purple jackmanii cousins have not started blooming yet.

The various roses look like they’re getting ready for their entrance into the grand garden drama, as does the lavender. The mint patch is robust. The shade gardens are thriving.

The only place that looks sad and forsaken is the south side of the house.

I’ve been pilfering good plants from this bed to move to the back and spraying or digging up weeds that remain. This hot, dry spot will be undergoing a revitalization this year, but for now it looks pretty pathetic. I’m thinking of trying some Russian sage, landscape fabric to combat the weeds, and lots of mulch. But it may have to wait until fall. Hot summer weather is finally upon us, which is not exactly ideal for establishing new beds.

Plus we’ve got lots of summer plans coming up — international travel for my husband, a road trip for my son and I, camp, friends coming to stay overnight. Before we know it, the summer will be over, the weather will cool, and the transplanting will resume. Until then, we’ve got laundry to do, suitcases to pack, routes to plan, and hopefully lots of relaxing to do as well.

 

My World Blooms

It’s been marvelously, beautifully, gloriously spring around these parts.

Everything’s pushing up and out, drinking in the sun and rain.

It’s wave after wave of flowers.

Each week something else takes center stage.

Every leaf is fresh and new.

Every bud a gift that opens on its own.

April is the poem the earth writes in flowers.

Coming Back to the Light

What a week. Enough flu for everyone.

Thankfully there have been flowers as well, both inside…

…and out.

The earliest blooms are out in the back yard gardens. The Lenten Rose (hellebores)…

…and the Siberian Squill (scilla)…

…and these tiny little guys, who have made themselves quite at home in one of my beds…

They’re a weed called Veronica Speedwell I’ve decided to let stay because I need groundcover in that spot anyway and have had limited success with the plants I actually planted in this very sunny, dry area. We’ll see what they do the rest of the year. If they behave nicely, I may keep them. They can be invasive, though, so I may regret it later.

At any rate, I’m still in no shape to deal with getting the garden cleaned up for spring. It’s on its own for a few more days at least as I recover fully from the flu. It’s a shame to have wasted some perfect gardening days sitting in a stupor inside, but there it is. Nothing can be done about it.

While recovering, I was lucid enough to enjoy two literary moments of significance. First, I got my latest manuscript back from the German translator who was helping me translate certain lines of dialogue into correct German, and also helping me with the elements of the plot which touch on translation issues between English and German. She had some very nice things to say about the manuscript and encouraged me to let her know when it found a publisher so she could tell her editors to be on the lookout for the translation rights. It was a wonderful boost of confidence for me as she is the first person who has actually read it in full.

The second moment came the next day, Sunday, when I received an email from one of the editors of The Lyric poetry magazine accepting one of my poems for a future issue. I don’t have any details yet, but I’ll be sure to share more when I know more.

And then Sunday night I felt normal enough to paint.

I based this painting on a photo I took years ago over a field in the Grand Ledge area before sunrise back when I was occasionally picking up a friend early in the morning to carpool to Grand Rapids. There was that glow in the sky that just precedes the sun, and a fine mist among the distant trees. One of those moments that is so fleeting and that you rarely get to experience when your house is smack dab in the city like ours.

So, I’m basically feeling normal now. I’m back to work (at home, as always) and though it is the beginning of Spring Break, the house is finally empty after our week of sickness. My husband has taken our son and the neighbor boy off on an adventure and my only companion is my canary, Alistair. I have a full inbox to deal with and some laundry that needs a kickstart. Time to brew a cup of coffee and see if I really am indeed back to normal — the worst part of the flu has been that my taste buds (we actually call them taste bites in this family) seem to be confused and coffee is the most dire casualty. Good, dark roast coffee has tasted like diner coffee with almost-turned cream. I’m hoping today might be the day everything gets back to normal…

Fall Flair in the Garden

Late October is still a great time for the garden when you have these beauties in your beds.

Beautyberry Bush
Beautyberry Bush
Autumn Joy Sedum
Autumn Joy Sedum
Endless Summer Hydrangea
Endless Summer Hydrangea
Red Carpet Rose
Red Carpet Rose
Rosa Bonica hips
Rosa Bonica hips
Annual Geraniums
Annual Geraniums
Oakleaf Hydrangea
Oakleaf Hydrangea
Japanese Anemone
Japanese Anemone

A Garden on the Move

We’ve been experiencing some very autumny weather the past couple days in mid-Michigan, which makes it the perfect time to start ripping out spent vegetable plants and replacing them with some perennial transplants. Since we plan to put the house on the market in the spring, there’s no reason to plant a labor-intensive vegetable garden next year, so I’m going to be filling those empty spaces with some perennials from the front yard that are crowding each other out and need some more breathing room.

The first immigrants to the back yard are four squat little hostas with chartreuse leaves that were in too sunny a spot in the front yard since the ice storm took the crabapple tree a couple years ago; a couple lady’s mantle that were crowding an evergreen shrub (and, as it turns out, hiding the cell phone my husband lost a month ago); and three lavender plants that had been subsumed by overzealous golden marguerites this summer. I also took two more lady’s mantle and put them in my front door urns to replace the annuals that burnt when we were away at camp. Once the tomato plants are done in a month or so I will fill up those spaces with other varieties of hosta and perhaps some cornflowers or black-eyed susans.

Strangely, I’m not that upset about not having a vegetable garden next year, despite the fun the boy and I have while planting it. This is largely because I must harvest my tomatoes before they are ripe in order to keep any of them from the ravenous red squirrels, who will take a few bites out of them once they start getting red and then leave them to rot on the ground or on fence posts. If I’m picking them before they are ripe, I may as well get them unripe at the store! So next year we will depend exclusively on the farmers market for our produce and make the backyard into an even more beautiful retreat to entice buyers.

Welcome, August…Wait. It’s August? Are you frickin’ kidding me???

woolly thyme
Between last night and today, I’ve spent seven hours of intensive labor weeding, trimming, deadheading, and tidying up in the yard in the August heat. Good gracious. I had to take a nap this evening just to function enough to write this piddly little post. But when July is lost to swarms of mosquitoes and a week out of town, there sure is a lot to do when you finally get out there.

monarda
thimbleweed & monarda
tomato
roma tomato

anise hyssop
sage

morning glory

kale

liv tyler rose

spiderweb
black-eyed susans
white swan coneflower