Spring Garden Favorites

 I hope the following photos lift your spirits and add joy to your day.

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Virginia Bluebell is a North Carolina native plant. Pink buds open to dangling blue bells.

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‘Gold Heart’ Old-Fashioned Bleeding Heart has yellow foliage with arching heart-shaped flowers.

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The white petals of the Lenten Rose are dusted with pink.

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Delicate blossoms of the weeping cherry tree.

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Stay safe. Be well.

xoxo

Dedicated to my brother Kevin and my niece Erika, who are nurses.

Brian Doyle was born in New York and attended the University of Notre Dame. He lived in Oregon and was editor of Portland magazine.

A Song for Nurses

Written by Brian Doyle

     I have seen nurses praying by my tiny son’s bed before and after his heart was edited so that he could live to be a lanky and testy teenager today. I have seen nurses grappling cheerfully with the wires and coils and tubes and buttons and toggles and keyboards of vast machinery beyond my ken. I have seen nurses with blood on their blouses in the nether reaches of the night in emergency rooms. I have seen nurses hold my children’s heads as my children were sick upon their shoes, and never a snarl did I hear from those nurses, but only a soothing sound deep in their throats, a sound far more ancient than any civilization. I have heard friends of mine who are nurses speak eloquently and articulately about their work as witness, as story-saving, as patience and endurance, as being those souls who stand by the door between life and death and usher other people through it in both directions. I have quietly gaped in awe at the sinewy courage and flinty strength and oceanic grace of nurses, and many times considered what our hospitals and hospices and clinics and schools and lives wold be without them; which is to say starker and colder and more brittle and fearful. We would be even more alone and scared than we are now when faced with pain and confusion.

We take them for granted, yes we do. We think of them with reverence and gratitude only when we see them briskly and gently at work, leaning over us and those we love, being both tart and sweet at once; but here, this morning, let us pause a moment and pray for them in the holy cave of our mouths, and thank the mercy for these most able and skillful agents of His dream for us. And let us pray not only for the extraordinary smiling armies of nurses among us; let us pray to be like them, sinewy and tender, gracious and honest, avatars of love.

~ Brian Doyle 

From his book: One Long River of Song 

 

 

Help for Parents

Am I doing enough?

Watching the news, learning about people reaching out to help others made me realize I too can help.

To all the parents and caregivers teaching kids at home. The following is a lesson you can do with your child to improve their skills.

Children learn needed skills from writing and reading. Many schools teach these skills through writing and reading workshops. Gone are the days of 3 reading groups with students reading from the same reader followed by copying sentences from the board.

Today I will focus on writing with your child. In writing workshop each child works at their own level.

For Kindergarten and First Grade Parents:

All you need is paper, pencils, and crayons/markers. Begin by telling your child they will be keeping a daily journal. For younger kids, model what you would write. First verbalize what you want to say. Keep your sentences short. Say whatever comes to mind. For instance: “Today I will wash clothes.” You can increase the length of the sentence depending on the age of your child. After you say your sentence, write each word while your child watches. Say one word and then sound out the letters as you write the word. Begin with a capital letter and end with a period. Then read the whole sentence out loud pointing underneath each word. Make sure your child looks at the words while you are reading. (Pointing to words is a beginning reading skill that focuses your child’s eyes on each word. If they can track words already, you don’t have to include it in the lesson.)

Then ask your child to verbalize what they want to say. Remember to let them say whatever they want. Maybe they will say: “Today, I will play.” Your child should say the first word and write it, sounding out each letter. They might need help with some sounds: double vowel words, digraphs, and blends are difficult.

Then have your child read the sentence out loud pointing underneath each word. For younger children it might be necessary for you to hold their finger pointing to each word.

Tell your child to draw a picture about what the sentence says. The sentence: “Today I will play.” should include themselves with their toys. Then they can color the picture if they want to. Your child’s drawing is important as it tells you if they understand the meaning of the words in their sentence.

If your child is writing one sentence quickly with little effort, increase the number of sentences required. Some kids might be ready to write on one topic chosen by them. All of their sentences should center on their topic. First, let your child brainstorm ideas  verbally with you. Will they write about their favorite animal, ice-cream, friend, or sport?  Have them tell you what ideas they will include in their story.

Save all of the papers with your child’s writing. It’s important that your child writes and reads their writing every day! Before you begin, your child should reread all their past written work. 

Children learn many skills from writing. Writing and rereading sentences increases sight word mastery, spelling, comprehension and fluency of reading.

I taught elementary school for 30 years.

Stay tuned! Tomorrow I will focus on reading.

If you have questions or if there’s  something more you want to know about writing, please reach out to me.

xoxo

 

 

 

Stillness

“Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…Watch now how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.” ~ Mary Oliver

My Cottage Garden

Longer shadows, and the continuous hum of cicadas bring back bittersweet memories of back to school and getting my classroom ready for another year. Excited to be starting a new school year, but sad knowing fall would soon be upon us bringing the end of the gardening season. 

Photography enables me to keep the memories of my garden close. In the classroom I learned from my students which influenced my teaching. Now I learn from my photographs which influence design and purpose. In each photo I see the plant’s color, shape, and form. Through my photography I see which plants work well together, what I need to move, and what I need to add.

My cottage garden is a garden for the pollinators. 

Photographs that capture a moment of wonder in my cottage garden: 

Verbena bonariensis ‘Lollipop’
A short form of the tall verbena, it has strong stems holding clusters of lavender flowers summer through fall.

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An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly takes delight in drinking nectar from verbena bonariensis ‘Lollipop’. This is a female, notice the blue along her back hind wing.

My photograph revealed a hole in her back wing. Determined (as all females are) she flitted from flower to flower.

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Another pollinator attracted to the verbena, the Common Buckeye butterfly, uses bold multicolored eyespots to frighten predatory birds.

 

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The sweet nectar of verbena ‘Lollipop’ lures a White-Spot Skipper to join the Common Buckeye.

‘Lollipop’ verbena has lavender flowers atop slender see-through stems that sway in the summer breeze.

Can you see the peach roses through the stems of the verbena?

One of my favorite annuals with pale yellow-green flowers is Flowering tobacco. The botanical name is Nicotiana alata. One of the benefits of this annual: It reseeds itself adding more flowers to the garden.

Bee balm also known as Monarda attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

I planted Nicotiana next to the Bee balm and like the softness of the yellow-green flowers with the bold red spikes.

Lavender-blue flowers of Nepeta ‘Walker’s low’ catmint add softness to the orange flowers of Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly weed). The structure of the sword-shaped leaves of Blackberry Lily compliments the grouping.

Purple spiked flowers of Agastache ‘Blue fortune’ (hummingbird mint) and the yellow flowers of Black-eyed Susans pair well together. Yellow and purple are complimentary colors on the color wheel.

Dragonflies are lovely to look at and beneficial in the garden because they consume pesky insects like mosquitoes.

 

A birdbath, Black-eyed Susans and lime green coneflowers: all part of my cottage garden.

xoxo

 

 

 

 

Moments of Wonder

fullsizeoutput_250a.jpegHeaven is my garden. It is the only place I can be in the moment without effort. My mind is still. I blot out noise of the world and hear birdsong. I block out worries of the day and find peace.

fullsizeoutput_2a56.jpegI slow down and take time to see the beauty surrounding me. My camera captures moments I want to remember.

IMG_7597.JPGI garden from the heart. The rhythm of garden chores comforts me, the repetition of planting, weeding, watering and pruning. I know what to do and how to do it. I ease into the work. Down on my knees, hands immersed in the earth, I stop to reflect, never taking the garden for granted. I am grateful.

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Embracing the quiet calm, I close my eyes and inhale the sweet scent of viburnum and roses.

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My gardening life follows the flow of the seasons. Spring ignites motivation. Green emerging plants are a welcoming sight. I rake up leaves, cut out dead wood and prune back branches. I mix compost with organic fertilizer and feed the plants.

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Summer stimulates fulfillment. The garden blooms; flowers weave into others. The plants I nurtured in spring, nurture me.

Fall encourages contemplation. The fall garden in all her brilliance holds nature in her hands.

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Winter inspires reflection.

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My garden is a tapestry of colors, textures, and fragrance that wraps itself around my heart.

Rain

Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.

~ Langston Hughes ~

January tumbled into February and brought nighttime thundershowers, and daytime downpours of rain. The ground is saturated, and the forecast holds more days of rain. 

But I don’t mind. I like rainy days. Rainy days inspire me to read and write. Nothing is better than writing while listening to the quiet sound of a gentle rain. 

I even love thunderstorms especially late at night when I’m in bed. I feel safe under cozy blankets listening to the comforting sound of falling rain. 

 I enjoy the stillness and tranquility of the garden after a night of rain. The air is crisp and fresh; the turquoise blue sky holds a brilliant sun in her hands and the green plants are brighter and full of life. 

After the Rain photos

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Looking forward to:

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             ~ Pink Cherry blossoms ~

 

 

 

 

It was Love at First Sight!

Was I ready? Did I want to devote time to raising a puppy? Would I have enough energy to be chasing him around, visiting pet stores, and teaching him how to play fetch the ball?

Meet Finley! He became part of our family on August 10th.

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Finley was 2 months old when we adopted him making our home his forever home. He was shy, loved to cuddle with his stuffed toys and with people.

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The only harness that would fit him was really for a kitten. The first day I put him in it and took him outside, he stepped out of it, one leg and then the other; leaving me holding the leash.

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Finley’s first snow day was in early December. He loved exploring  the porch and wearing his new green Winter parka.

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Finley loves to chew!

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Training takes a long time, and Finley’s motivation to learn comes from a lot of treats. He likes rewards for all his hard work. He loves playing fetch the ball, but sometimes when he gets the ball and holds it in his mouth, he won’t give it back to me, which always makes me laugh. On rainy days we play fetch the ball inside. I toss the ball down the hallway and Finley runs after it. Finley is very smart; once he hid in the bedroom. When I found him he was sitting on a chair in the corner of the room waiting for me, with the ball in his mouth. My husband is a golfer, as you can see Finley likes golf too.

Now you know why I’ve been silent these past six months. I’ve been busy!

Yes, it’s been a lot of work. But, it has been fun! Every day Finley does something to make me laugh. He barks at animals on the television. He loves stealing shoes and socks. And he makes sure I get my exercise; every day we go for walks around the neighborhood. Finley is not aggressive. He is gentle and loves children, adults and other dogs. He is the perfect pet!

 

 

A Hummingbird Magnet

Every fall I order seeds. And every winter when I can’t play in the dirt outside, I play in the dirt inside and sow seeds. I sowed zinnia and cosmos seeds in February.

In early May I filled a large patio pot with soil and transplanted the seedlings into it. I pushed a few more zinnia seeds into the soil for good measure.

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IMG_7842By June 10th the plants were filling the clay pot.

IMG_8091 (1)By the end of June, zinnias and cosmos in vivid shades of mauve, magenta, peach and orange stood tall.

Cut and Come Again zinnias make good cut flowers in a vase; the more you cut, the more blooms you will have. Sea Shells cosmos have textured flowers.

The flowers are so vibrant; they are a hummingbird magnet.

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Click on any photo above to scroll through a slideshow.

Do you have favorite seeds that you sow?

xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Challenges

It hasn’t been easy. But, that’s a good thing. Gardening isn’t supposed to be easy. Challenges, setbacks, not knowing, wondering what went wrong, what I did wrong, searching for answers on the internet, in my garden books.

Looking out windows, hoping for positive changes. Walking through garden beds, kneeling, feeling leaves, willing plants to good health.

I’ve been gardening for years and every day I learn more. The consistent May rains saturated the gardens. Some plants like the constant moisture, others not so much. Yellowing leaves and soggy roots proved too much for some; I cut plants back but lost phlox, Asiatic day lilies, Russian sage and poppies. I dug up Achillea Millefolium, Agastache, roses, and Weigela, removed clay soil replacing it with garden soil and compost. I dug holes and replanted.

Most of my life I gardened in Connecticut, now creating gardens in soil consisting of clay and sand is new to me. And the sun. As the sun changes direction, the light in the garden beds changes which can impact a plant’s growth. The afternoon North Carolina sun is intense. On my garden walks I take mental notes which plants will need to be moved in Fall.

Even though it’s been challenging there is no place I’d rather be than in my gardens. They ask a lot of me but give back so much.

Despite the challenges I’ve been able to take photos that show the beauty of the gardens.

Click on the first photo to scroll through a slideshow.

What are your gardening challenges?

xoxo