Winter’s Continuing Lullaby

A month ago I shared a post about waking the garden up. On that day, after a cold and dreary February, it was promising to see signs of life stirring in that barren space as I prepared the garden for spring. However, standing in the garden today, I could see very little change from 30 days ago. In spite of the supposed arrival of spring, winter continues to pop by, crooning lullabies to my garden so that it slumbers still.

With temperatures that have periodically dropped into the low twenties, and bouts of ice, sleet and snow, not only has the garden barely stirred, I’ve lost plants. All the flowers I tucked into pots three weeks ago fell casualty to icy conditions and sub freezing temps on Easter Sunday, even though they were on a covered porch. With below freezing nights in the forecast for this weekend, I dare not plant anything. Winter, it seems, is reluctant to move on.

Winter’s Continuing Lullaby

The warmer temperatures this afternoon had me in the garden. But other than more tidying up and a bit of weeding there was not much that I could do, with the threat of freezing temps ahead. Walking around, inspecting the garden, I couldn’t help but note the lack of growth. I thought last year spring was slow to escape winter’s grip. This year, spring seems locked still in a tight cold embrace.

I thought the garden looked forlorn. Then I realized perhaps it was me feeling forlorn because of the condition of my backyard paradise. And that wouldn’t do. Gardening is about trust and faith. I needed to do the tasks I could and allow the garden to be exactly as it, trusting the cold spells will come to an end exactly when they are supposed to. As a result of this mental shift, I began to find gifts from the garden, little reminders that all is as it should be.

Winter’s Continuing Lullaby

Creeping phlox and creeping jenny greeted me near the garden gate, the first plants to show signs of being fully awake. These phlox plants were transplants from Leta Moore’s garden. Although she has been gone for 19 years, these hardy plants continued to thrive in her front yard garden with little care. I am grateful for their perseverance.

Winter’s Continuing Lullaby

As I turned soil in the raised vegetable garden bed, I discovered kale growing! How amazing, as I scattered these seeds early last summer. Not only was this little plant incredibly encouraging, it reminded me that there are vegetables that do very well in cooler temperatures. I may not be able to do all the planting that I am longing to do, but I can start lettuce, beets, cilantro and onions for an early harvest. That will satisfy the desire I have to get plants into the ground.

Winter’s Continuing Lullaby

Winter’s Continuing Lullaby

In the herb garden, the thyme, which stays green all winter, was flourishing. Tender shoots of lemon balm, while way behind their normal spring growth, were putting on more leaves. I took these hopeful signs as an invitation to create fresh thyme/lemon balm tea. I’ve used dried herbs during the winter, so what a treat to steep freshly picked leaves. I carried a bowl of fruit and avocado slices into the garden, along with my steaming cup, creating a spur of the moment afternoon tea.

Winter’s Continuing Lullaby

Winter’s Continuing Lullaby

Sitting there, sipping tea, I felt peace. The impatience I felt earlier to get going in the garden was replaced with acceptance of what was. To argue against reality creates stress. I did not create this garden to cause stress. This is my gym and my meditation center, where I ground myself and free my spirit. It’s where I can lose myself and find myself at the same time. My garden is my sanctuary.

The most precious gift that I found this afternoon, beyond peace and acceptance, caught my eye as I pulled weeds. A solitary grey feather lay upright in the grass nearby, as if growing from the earth. The feather quill is my symbol for 2018. Finding a feather carries great significance for me. I picked it up with care, marveling at its beauty. It felt like a sacred moment.

Feathers are a sign from spirit. And the color of the feather brings with it a message. When a grey feather is found, it signifies peace and faith, and promises that all is well. I took a deep, cleansing breath and smiled as I surveyed my sleepy garden. Indeed. All is well.

Winter’s Continuing Lullaby

Series Review: Big Dreams, Small Spaces

My mom suggested this wonderful series to me, that she discovered recently on Netflix. We ran an errand together this morning, and knowing my love of gardening, she shared about this British show in which horticulturalist Monty Don helps people with small gardens realize their big dreams for the spaces.

I was so intrigued that when we returned to her house, we watched an episode together. I loved it! During tea time this afternoon, I started at the beginning of Big Dreams, Small Spaces and watched the first two episodes.

Big Dreams Small Spaces

Big Dreams, Small spaces features Monty Don, a well know British writer, tv personality and gardener. He meets with two gardeners per episode, offering his wisdom and expertise as he helps them plan out the garden of their dreams, and then bring into reality. There are six episodes in this series, each with a run time of 59 minutes. In the US, this series is available on Netflix.

Not being familiar with him, I had to look Monty Don up. I am impressed. The 62 year old horticulturalist has a long history of gardening, writing and hosting shows on BBC about a variety of gardening topics.

I very much enjoyed his easy going charm as he visited amateur gardeners across England, helping people who faced challenges in bringing their small plots of ground to life.

In the first episode Monty helped a couple transform a steeply sloped back garden into a terraced paradise, just in time for their upcoming wedding. They were able to use freshly cut flowers from their own garden in the bride’s bouquet.

He also assisted a woman who was attempting to create a sanctuary for her bee hives, on an allotment plot that had been abandoned for years. The small piece of land was sadly neglected, overgrown and full of trash.

Big Dreams Small Spaces

In the second episode, Monty divided his time between a woman creating a community garden in her front yard, providing free vegetables for her neighbors, and a young couple who desired to fashion a sensory garden for their young son, who was born with Down’s Syndrome. Like some of the other Dreamers, the space that they had to work with was in horrific condition.

What I love about this feel-good series is how Monty meets each prospective gardener precisely where they are…in the dreaming phase of their projects. He’s thoughtful as he listens to their ideas, hopes and dreams, and then views the selected space. He is encouraging as he looks at their plans, if they have one sketched out. Most did. And he is realistic in setting expectations, offering suggestions and advice that comes from years of gardening.

And then Monty leaves them to begin their projects, checking in with them once a month or so, over the summer season. He occasionally shrugs off his jacket, rolls up his sleeves and handles a shovel or prunes back a tree. However his primary role is to encourage, instruct and to keep the gardeners moving forward.

Big Dreams Small Spaces

I was amazed by the hard work and determination of the gardeners. They knew Monty would be back by, and they wanted him to be pleased with their progress. He always was. And I was amazed by the transformations as overgrown, junk filled, or drab spaces became gorgeous gardens with water features, masses of flowers and interesting focal points.

I picked up some great tips for my own garden, such as using cardboard beneath a raised bed, to block weeds, and how to create better drainage for herbs. This is a show that I will watch with a notebook nearby so I can take notes.

And, I adore listening to Monty and the others chat in their British accents. I smiled over the differences in pronunciation, and learned new things such as entirely different words for the same flower or vegetable. The vegetable that we call a zucchini is called a courgette in England.

Big Dreams Small Spaces

I am inspired by Big Dreams, Small Spaces. Watching gardeners bring their dreams into reality makes me want to get out into my garden and take it to the next level. And I appreciate Monty’s observations and advice. He never took a dream away from a hopeful gardener, no matter how implausible those big ideas were. Instead, he guided them through the entire process, from adapting plans to selecting plants to tucking them into the ground in the right places. Watching those gardens become manifest allows me to dream big as well, and know that with hard work, anything is possible.

Big Dreams, Small Spaces is ideal for gardeners, creative souls, and anyone who enjoys different cultures. It’s perfect as well for those who want to feel good at the end of a program.

Monty Don is a true British treasure and I will be searching Netflix and YouTube, to see what else he offers via television, how-to videos and books. I saw a pic that has me hopeful!

Wakey, Wakey

I awoke this morning, with this children’s nursery rhyme in my head…Wakey, wakey rise and shine. You’ve had your sleep and I’ve had mine. I smiled, remembering the sing-sing chant. And glancing at the sunlight streaming in through the window, it was fitting. This was Wake the Garden Day, a celebratory holiday of my own making. It falls on different dates each year, depending on the weather and the severity of the winter. After a cold February with more than usual rain, snow and ice, Wake the Garden Day landed in March…on March 9, apparently!

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

I love this day for several reasons:

Although spring isn’t here yet officially, it’s rapidly approaching. This day of prepping the garden for the return of grasses, flowers and herbs signals that we’ve made it through another winter. The cold temps will soon be behind me and warmer, longer days are approaching. In fact, we switch to daylight savings time this weekend.

It’s great to spend the day in the garden. I leave up dry ornamental grasses and dead flower stalks, to create interest in my backyard paradise. The garden in winter has its own beauty. The brown, gray and tan remnants of last year’s season contrast with the snow or glisten with ice. That means as spring nears, there are many tasks to carry out: cutting back grasses, clearing away dead stalks, dividing plants that have grown too big and general clean up. It’s messy, hard work…and it is so rewarding!

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

As we worked, I was grateful for bright sunshine, sturdy work gloves, the right tools for the different jobs, and Greg’s assistance. The ornamental grasses were trimmed back and the bigger ones, divided. I left volunteer grasses growing in the garden from last fall. Those were all dug up today and bagged. I have 20 or more plants to give away.

Wakey Wakey A Gardening StoryOrnamental grasses nursery!

Wakey Wakey A Gardening StoryAnd a huge pile of trimmings to burn, on a less windy day.

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

I love this day because the results from our work are so immediate. It feels wonderful to clean up the beds and inspect for new growth. And it was evident. As we trimmed and cut away and raked, bright green shoots were uncovered. Tiny leaves are appearing on Russian sage plants and lemon balm and bee balm are pushing through the mulch in little clusters. The garden is stirring and that makes my heart sing.

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

As I observed the bare ground and tidied beds, after hours of work, I realized what I love most about singing wakey wakey to the garden. It teaches trust and deepens my faith. The straggling, messy remains from last summer are gone. The garden appears to be very empty. But I know, tucked beneath the earth’s surface, the roots of plants are awakening, gathering nutrients and strength, preparing to grow.

Every spring, I witness the miraculous…the return of life, of beauty. No matter how long the winter seems to last, it gives way, with grace, to spring, to rebirth. And where there appears to be nothing…in a couple of months there will be lush growth and riotous color. It’s never the exact same garden, as it shifts year to year, and yet it is always gorgeous.

Wakey Wakey A Gardening StoryLast year’s garden.

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

I am moved every year by the transformation.

I have a few more tasks to complete tomorrow…a lilac bush to trim back and the raised vegetable garden bed to prep. And then I wait and I watch. I’ll walk through the garden daily, softly singing wakey, wakey…and greet each plant, each flower that awakens into life with a joyful smile. Welcome back, my garden.

“Gardening is an active participation in the deepest mysteries of the universe.”

Thomas Berry

Wakey Wakey A Gardening Story

Creating a Fairy Garden

I am grateful to have drawn this Inspiration Starter out of the jar, for several reasons: I needed an easy task today, and the Divine said Here you go. I have wanted to create a fairy garden for years and have not done so yet. And the simple act of drawing out this slip of paper inspired ideas that took off in a creative direction that I am excited about.

Admittedly, this is not the right time of year to create a fairy garden, also called a miniature garden, outdoors. Tiny living plants are used, along with small structures and cute accessories. I wrote out these Inspiration Starters in July, and today, my garden is sleeping. However, not to be deterred, I found this chilly blustery day perfect for planning out a fairy garden and browsing through pages of ideas.

One of the reasons I have not included a miniature garden yet in my backyard paradise is because I didn’t have a designated space for one. My garden is well established, which means the flowers and grasses and herbs are approaching or at their full size. A tiny garden would be lost among the mature plants. However, as I considered a fairy garden this afternoon, my rusty wheelbarrow came to mind.

This old barrow has housed colorful annuals each summer, but it will make the perfect container for a fairy garden. And it has the added benefit of being movable, so I can wheel it into or out of the sun, depending on what miniature plants I select.

Once I visualized a fairy garden in the rusty old wheelbarrow, the rest came together immediately. I have a huge appreciation and fondness for the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit stories. The Hobbits are a peaceful, earthy people, who love gardening, good food and tea time. I had found my inspiration for my garden.

I wondered if there were Hobbit Fairy Garden kits or tiny houses at least. There are! I had such fun looking at miniature Hobbit houses and studying fairy gardens in general, to see what kinds of plants are used.

How adorable is this Hobbit Miniature Garden? Can you imagine one set up in a vintage wheelbarrow? I can! Several stores in the Joplin area carry fairy garden supplies. And I found a Hobbit House available through Amazon. They also have just a Hobbit door that could be added to a tiny mound of grass covered dirt.

In addition, I found a huge assortment of accessories. My garden can have tiny light posts, fake veggies, gardening tools, flowerpots, stone walk ways, a pond, a field rock bridge and even a tea set!

I am excited about the plans for a Hobbit Fairy Garden. My playful nature will enjoy combining gardening with this form of creativity. After the first of the year I will begin assembling the components for the garden and dream away until spring arrives. I will look forward to creating a Hobbit Fairy Garden DIY post at that time.

What at first appeared to be an impossible task today quickly transitioned into a fun time of playing and planning and churning out ideas.

I call that a very good day.

Pop’s Watermelon Comes to Fruition

Sometimes…perhaps most of the time…it is the simple things in life that bring the most joy, the most pleasure. Earlier this year, in July, I realized I had a volunteer plant growing near my back porch. I identified it as a watermelon vine. Apparently, sitting on the back steps last summer, eating slices of the juicy melon and spitting the seeds into the yard, resulted in a healthy plant.

Seeing the plant evoked precious memories of my grandfather, whom the family called Pop. Pop was a gardener whose green thumb nurtured plants and vegetables into bountiful beauties. And Pop had a wry sense of humor. He teased his grandkids, telling us not to eat the seeds when we sat outside on warm summer evenings, feasting on watermelon. If we did, he warned, with a smile on his face, watermelons would grow in our bellies. Not wanting that to happen, we spit the seeds onto the ground near the front porch. Every summer, volunteer watermelon plants showed up in those flower beds, and Pop allowed them to grow.

Those childhood memories made me smile, as I weeded around my own volunteer plant. In honor of my grandpa, I made a little stick trellis and decorated a piece of concrete, using Pop’s quote about spitting out the seeds.

I cared for that plant all summer, watering it often, watching with interest as the vines grew and snaked across the yard. The vines in Pop’s flower beds rarely produced fruit. I didn’t care if my plant did or didn’t. Just having the plant brought back warm memories of gardening with Pop.

To my surprise, and delight, two watermelons appeared on the vines and continued to grow. I’ve been watching the fruits carefully. When the stems turn brown, the melons are ready to pick.

This morning, the sign for harvesting was present for one of the watermelons. The second melon isn’t ready to pick yet. It is still growing beneath my rusty wheelbarrow. But watermelon number one was plucked and carried into the house.

The fruit was small, and beautiful, and appeared perfect in every way. I confess I was a bit nervous about cutting into it, even though I love dining on watermelon. It was a good sign that the melon cracked, with a pop, when the knife bit into it. With a sense of relief I noted the bright red flesh inside and inhaled the fruity aroma. It was ripe!

The melon was juicy and sweet. I chopped up half of the watermelon and added a couple of slices of cantaloupe, grown in my raised bed garden. I sensed my grandfather’s joy and heard his whispered words, Look at that watermelon. You did it.

I also recalled his teasing admonition, Don’t eat the seeds. I know now that the seeds are safe to eat and even have some health benefits. But I grinned, and stepping out onto the back steps, I deliberately spit seeds onto the ground.

For you, Pop, more watermelon seeds to sink into the soil. May they take root and surprise me next summer with healthy plants that bear fruit.

It was the best watermelon I have ever eaten.

Getting the Weeds Out

Weeding is an essential gardening chore. When I water in the evenings, I pull a few, in an attempt to keep up with the abundance of over growth. Weeds thrive in the garden as well as the flowers and herbs do.

This time of year is tricky. The hot muggy days make it challenging to spend the time outside that is necessary to keep up with the weeds. And those errant grasses and scrubby plants love the higher temps and humidity. I usually fall behind. This year, the section that got away from me, again, was the entrance into the backyard, just beyond the peace gate. The arrival of a few cooler days spurred me to don my gardening clothes and tackle the overdue task.

As I surveyed the weedy mess, I deliberately pushed away the idea of learning anything as I worked. Couldn't I just zone out? When I encounter resistance, it is my signal that I am leaving the flow. Apparently when I entered the garden, I entered the classroom as well. What was here for me today?

Below are my thoughts, in italics, my lessons as I cleared this area of weeds, accompanied by pics.

A really healthy crop of weeds makes it difficult to see the ground cover and paving stones in this section. I feel a pang of guilt and shame. I should have kept up with this better. Energetically, this area feels choked and cluttered, not the welcoming feeling I desire as people enter the garden.

The first step in removing unwanted "weeds" from my life, is recognizing that they are there. And I must understand that they are what they are. I don't need to berate myself. Instead, I can focus on what I am feeling energetically about these things that have cropped up in my life. Choked? Crowded? Overwhelmed?

Some of the weeds have a beauty of their own, like this wildflower. However, this plant is competing for sunlight, space and nutrients with the creeping jenny plants sharing the same area. I choose to eliminate the wildflowers, so that the ground cover succeeds in flourishing and covering this section.

Not every weed in my life is bad. It is a matter of choice. I can eliminate things that are good, in and of themselves, but that are competing for my time, space and energy with things that serve me better.

If I only focus on the weeds, I miss what lies beneath them. This is why it is essential to carefully remove the grasses that crowd and conceal, so that the plants can reveal their beauty.

I don't want to focus overly much on the weeds in my life. I want to look beyond them to the beauty that is there. I can focus on the weed of impatience, for example, and justify it as a sign that I value my time. But looking beneath, I can discover the beauty of allowing…allowing things to unfold as they will…allowing people to be who they are and trusting that all is well.

Most of the weeds are easily pulled from the ground, as their roots are shallow. These plants truly are interlopers that spring up quickly. When I encountered a tuft of grass that clung more tenaciously to the earth, using a hand trowel helped to loosen its grip.

The interlopers in my life have shallow roots as well, if I become aware of them quickly and remove them. When a stubborn habit or time waster or fear inducing thought wants to cling to my space, or my heart, I have tools that help with removal: chatting with a trusted friend, prayer, meditation, self care, choosing for my highest good, consistency, journaling, walking in nature.

Look at the differencein this area, after methodically removing every weed, clover and clump of grass. The energy feels completely different, and I wasn't the only one who noticed. Butterflies began flitting about and there were none here before I began weeding. And not one, but two dragonflies appeared to check my work out. The space, free from clutter, felt inviting. I returned to it over and over, just to enjoy the beauty of it. I felt a great sense of accomplishment.

I can feel that same energy, that sense of my life opening up, and becoming more inviting and welcoming, when I am diligent about keeping my heart and soul clear. When I am methodical about removing unwanted habits or thoughts that clutter my personal space, that sense of accomplishment feels amazing. More good things are attracted into my life.

This was the most beautiful result from weeding the entrance to the garden. As I tugged the last clump of crabgrass from the ground, I inhaled the earthy scent of sage. Suddenly I realized I was lightly grasping the Russian sage plant to my left. It was as if we were holding hands. I felt a wave of gratitude wash over me and tears filled my eyes. Was the gratitude coming from the sage plant? Did it feel the change in energy that clearing the space brought? It was an interesting idea, since burning dried sage is a way of clearing a room of negative energy. I tenderly held the sage, feeling great joy, and then I kissed it and released the plant. Were the neighbors watching? I didn't care!

Gratitude is such a vital part of my journey. When weeds pop up in my space and my life, they bring opportunities for lessons, and growth. I hope that the gratitude I express as I live in clarity and beauty releases an unmistakable aroma of joy, peace and love.

The garden looks great this evening. I feel delight, and satisfaction and yes, gratitude. How grateful I am that I allowed the garden to instruct me today. What powerful lessons I learned as I pulled weeds and basked in the sun and received love from a sage plant. Every time I walked by that Russian sage plant, after we held hands, its long fragrant stems wrapped around my legs or tangled with my feet. That has not happened before. It was like a child, eagerly expressing love by wrapping her arms around my legs. I love you too, Sage, I whispered.

I'm headed out now to give Sage a goodnight hug.

Calling All Dragonflies

I love how today's inspiration unfolded. The cooler weather encouraged me to do two things: go for a walk this morning, and spend time in the garden late this afternoon. Greg accompanied me on a walk at Mercy Park. We found painted rocks, that we hid again. And we were buzzed by an unexpected visitor.

The Missouri Conservation Department just posted an article about this being a banner year for dragonflies. The right combination of water temperature and availability of food has occurred, providing the ideal environment for dragonflies to transform from their water nymph stage to flying dragonflies. Greg and I were discussing that article as we walked around the park, when we spotted the first dragonfly…a black one.

I see all kinds of dragonflies in this area, with blue and green being the most common colors. Black isn't as common but I see them occasionally. They are strikingly beautiful. This one flitted by and was gone. As we rounded a curve on the walking path another dragonfly appeared, hovering before us at eye level. To my amazement, this delicate creature was bright red. I have never seen a red dragonfly before. It flew along in front of us and then darted off. Incredibly, a short time later, my car was buzzed by a yellow dragonfly. It kept pace with the car for a few moments, flying directly over the windshield, before lifting up and away. I have never seen a yellow dragonfly either, before today.

Three unusual dragonflies, in a short time span, seemed significant to me. In fact, I kept thinking about those gorgeous insects and their unique coloring. Late this afternoon, as I prepared to work in the backyard garden, I wondered how I could encourage dragonflies to visit my little paradise. Inspiration appeared, to guide me.

I have had several items stored in my utility room for more than a year, while I figured out what to do with them. The tile covered discs came from Greg's parents' house. Apparently it was a "thing" in the 60s, to cover metal disc harrowing blades with decorative tile. My mom used to have one of these discs. Leta Moore had three of them. As I thought about the dragonflies, the idea came to use the discs in the garden, tucking them into various spots and then filling the shallow containers wth water.

The back of one disc, and the decorative tops of two others.

My intention is to draw dragonflies to the garden by providing the water-filled discs. I have spotted dragonflies hovering near cups of tea on the brickio. I don't have a birdbath, because…well, cats…so I am hoping the dragonflies will be drawn to these little pools of still water. I'll fill the discs each evening when I water flowers in containers.

I placed two of the discs on the ground in the garden. One will receive direct sunlight. The other is tucked into a more shady area. The third disc I placed on the brickio, near lemon balm. I'll see which of the locations the dragonflies prefer.

Because I fully expect dragonflies to appear. As I pulled weeds and watered plants in their assortment of containers, the words from the movie, Field of Dreams, scrolled through my brain. If you build it, they will come. His dream was a baseball diamond. Today, my dream is a dragonfly habitat. Belief is the common thread between the two.

I believe. In 2012, Believe was my word for the year. The dragonfly was my symbol. I learned a great deal that year about belief and intuition and journeying with faith. I also learned that the dragonfly symbolizes walking in two worlds, physical reality and the spirit realm. What a perfect symbol for me. I have walked in both worlds since my childhood.

The appearance of dragonflies, red ones in particular I discovered today, are also symbolic of the presence of a departed loved one, especially around the anniversary of their passing. Tomorrow is the two year anniversary of the death of my father-in-law, Bob. I like to believe that all these events from today are connected together. And Bob was saying hello…and, oh by the way, use the discs in the garden.

I sat in the garden as the sun set, my cat Shy Boy curled on my lap. The beauty of that peaceful space is such a balm to my heart and soul. I inhaled the scents of lemon balm, lavender, basil, mint and thyme, carried to me by a cooling breeze. We watched butterflies and grasshoppers and spiders and crickets in the garden. Shy turned to watch me as I softly called out to the dragonflies, inviting them to come, welcoming them to the garden.

I'll carry my morning juice and smoothie out to the garden tomorrow to check the water in the discs and watch for visitors. The dragonflies will come. I believe.

Notice the Flowers

Although it is midway through my garden’s growing season, there was one container I had not yet planted in. The black metal cauldron, that once belonged to Greg’s grandmother and came to me from his dad, was growing a healthy crop of weeds and an assortment of volunteer plants. I took time today to clear the cauldron and transfer in firework flowers that are popping up all over the garden. 

What started as a simple gardening task quickly transitioned into one of my ongoing conversations with the Divine. I love these spontaneous “chats”…and the rich lessons from the garden that teach me important truths about life. 

Notice the Flowers
I settled into a chair near the cauldron, enjoying the warm summer day as I pulled weeds and tidied up the container. In the past, I’ve grown yellow calendula in the big pot. This year those herbal flowers are thriving in a tall metal bucket. The neglected cauldron contained a tangle of weeds and grasses, and self starting basil and lemon balm plants. 

The weeds went into a plastic bucket and I transplanted the herbs, tucking them into the ground. I was ready to dig up volunteer firework flowers that self start from the seeds they drop in the fall. 

Notice the Flowers
Those prolific plants are appearing throughout the garden, in metal containers, flower beds, and even between bricks on the brickio. From my space of joy and openness, a conversation with the Divine began. Everyday is an ongoing conversation with the Divine. I receive love messages and lessons through signs and wonders, synchronicities and the unfolding of the journey. Sometimes, though, like today, I “hear” the words mixed in with my thoughts. 

Notice the flowers… was the thought that suddenly arose. Notice them. As I carefully dug up the wayward plants, I realized that most of them, although surviving where they were, lacked the space to do well. They were crowded and cramped, in less than ideal conditions. Their ability to grow fully and bloom was compromised. 

Ah. I saw the connection between the flowers struggling to grow and human life. Sometimes, although we are surviving, we aren’t fully being who we are meant to be. Our lives are hemmed in, crowded by things or people, cramped by limitations that may be a result of the environment we have chosen to plant ourselves in. 

Notice the Flowers
The plants reacted as I uprooted them from their current location and transplanted them into the cauldron. I understood. In life, upheaval is a form of uprooting. Losing someone or something important, changing jobs, ending a relationship, getting a scary diagnosis, all create the feeling of life falling apart. We tend to view these experiences as negative. 

However, from my role as the Gardener today, I saw a different perspective, a bigger picture. I didn’t intend harm for my plants. Quite the opposite. I was disrupting them so that they could grow and thrive. The plants drooped. They hung their blooms, even after I lovingly placed them into new spaces that allowed room to expand. They were totally unaware that I was there with them, tenderly caring for them and whispering encouragement to them. 

Notice the Flowers
Don’t we do the same, when life appears challenging? We can feel downcast, in spirit and countenance. The comfort of what we knew, of what we were used to, seems preferable to this new, expansive unfamiliar place we find ourselves in. 

And this is the thing. The flowers look a bit sad at the moment. They will likely lose their blooms. They may rest for a few days, conserving energy. But then, new growth will begin as I lavish extra care on them, watering them often and keeping weeds away that might choke them. They don’t know it right now, but they are about to expand and they will bloom again, and thrive, stronger and more resilient. 

I sat quietly, noticing the flowers and letting the thoughts rise from my heart. I recognized the truths I was receiving. The greatest growth in my life has occurred around times of upheaval, challenges and change. Those seasons were not pleasant…however, they were necessary for my growth. I was cared for as well, even if I wasn’t always aware of the Gardener in my life. All that I needed, to not only survive but to thrive and bloom, was provided with great tenderness and love. 

Notice the Flowers
Notice the FlowersGoogle image

Such profound lessons from the garden, life lessons. I felt deep gratitude and peace, sitting there in the garden with my thoughts. The Divine conversation was at an end. Or was it? 

At that moment, a large blue and black swallowtail butterfly flitted around the cauldron, its wings iridescent in the sunlight. It didn’t pause in its flight, but hovered near me for several seconds before lifting gracefully into the air and disappearing over the fence. 

Butterflies are significant to me, symbolizing belief, growth and transformation. I looked up characteristics specific to the swallowtail. They represent intuition, inspiration, higher consciousness, powerful beauty, strength and flashes of insight. 

The arrival of the swallowtail at that moment was certainly not a coincidence. With a flourish, and extravagant beauty, it signified the end of the conversation, one full of inspiration and flashes of insight, that began with an invitation.

Notice the flowers. I am glad I was listening. 

Notice the Flowers

Pop’s Watermelon 

It is amazing how an ordinary object can unlock memories and strengthen connection with a loved one. Weed-eating in the backyard a couple of days ago, Greg asked me about a plant that was growing near the back steps. He didn’t think it looked like a weed. I glanced at it and agreed it looked more like a flower, or a vining plant, at least. 

He left that small area alone and moved on. This morning I wondered about the mystery plant and went outside to examine it more closely. It had grown in the last two days and I recognized it immediately. It is a watermelon plant! 

Pop's Watermelon
I love watermelon. I have several plants growing in my raised bed garden. This little vine, however, is a volunteer plant, meaning I didn’t plant it…not intentionally anyway. 

I was instantly transported back to my childhood. One of my great joys when we visited my grandparents, during the hot summer months, was eating cold, juicy watermelon slices. My grandfather, whom we all called Pop, was such a tease. “Don’t eat the seeds!” he would call out as my sisters, cousins and I carried our treats outside to the front porch. “If you do, a watermelon will grow in your belly.” 

Pop's WatermelonPop holding my grandson, Dayan. 

As a wee girl, I believed Pop. I was afraid to swallow those pesky little black and white seeds, carefully picking them out of my melon. If a seed accidentally got in my mouth, I spit it into Pop’s flower bed. Every summer, volunteer watermelon plants would appear among the flowers. Pop didn’t mind. He loved growing things. The watermelon plants were allowed to remain. 

Although I no longer believe that a watermelon will grow in my belly if I swallow a seed, I still tend to spit them out. Which, I am sure, is how that little volunteer plant appeared next to the steps. Last summer I sat on my back stoop many times, enjoying a slice of watermelon and the garden views. A seed that I spat out last summer sprouted. 

Pop's Watermelon
Pop's Watermelon

I cleared away the grasses growing around the plant, lessening the competition for nutrients and water. And then I mulched heavily around the base of the vine. Studying my new plant, I felt very tender toward it. Memories of Pop rose, of those balmy summer evenings eating watermelon on the front porch, and also of my grandfather’s love of gardening. 

Pop always had a huge vegetable garden behind his house and beds of perennials in the front and side yards. He used to let me help him weed and plant and harvest, and I am sure that my own love of gardening was born as a result. Coming into the house one day, sweaty and tired after working in the garden, Pop exclaimed that he needed more help with the weeding. “You need a couple of hoers,” my mom suggested helpfully. (Say that sentence out loud and you’ll understand why everyone laughed.) Pop was quick to answer, “I don’t think so!” 

Pop's Watermelon

Pop's Watermelon

Inspiration arrived, joining the feelings of tenderness and nostalgia. This little vine is special to me. I decided to treat it with great care. Using garden twine, and twigs left over from Maple Tree, whose gifts continue to be so useful, I created a little trellis for the plant. The twig trellis is decorative really, yet I had so much fun crafting it, and the young plant looks adorable twined around it. 

When I cleared away the grass crowding the vine, I uncovered a small triangular slab of concrete resting against the steps. I had another creative idea. 

Pop's Watermelon  

Using colorful art markers, I created a memorial for Pop by including his humorous words. The garden plaque reminds me of my grandfather, and those magical summer days of my childhood. It also reminds me that there is still magic to be found in my life, if I just stay open and know where to look. 

I don’t know if this little watermelon vine will produce fruit. I remember that only one small watermelon ever appeared from the many volunteer plants that grew in the flower bed. That’s okay. Pop allowed the vines to thrive and I will do the same, regardless of the outcome. 

I am grateful for my grandfather, and for the plant that stirred such memories today. Pop would be pleased that I still spit out watermelon seeds, and that I love gardening as much as he did. This plant is for him. It’s Pop’s watermelon. 

Pop's Watermelon

Mr Toad’s House

This afternoon I seized an opportunity to get outside and into the garden. Thunderstorms last night meant mild temps today and a ground that was easily worked after a good soaking. I had weeding to do and a few plants to tuck into containers. And, I had a fun project I wanted to do while I was playing in the garden. 

Mr Toads House

Even though pulling weeds is more work than play, I enjoyed cleaning up the borders and containers. Vigilance is necessary to stay ahead of weeds that pop up everywhere. These pesky plants are thriving as well, with the abundant rain that we’ve had followed by days of sunshine. There is satisfaction gained, at least, by completing that chore. 

More fun is planting flowers. I’ve had a remnant of plants, left over after planting containers. My goal this afternoon was to get them all into pots or into the ground. I moved several stumps, left over from the downed maple tree, into the front yard, placing them near the swing. I have deep appreciation for the garden gifts this old tree provided. Flowers were slipped into the hollowed out sections, after I filled those spaces with potting soil. 

Mr Toads House
Mr Toads House   Rilynn is sure this new arrangement is for her. 

Finally, it was playtime in the garden! I have an assortment of insects and small critters that make my garden their home. Not all of them are desirable. Japanese Beetles are a problem right now. However, I encourage bees, ladybugs, praying mantises and spiders to share my backyard paradise. They help to keep the “bad” bugs under control. 

Another helper that is welcome in my garden is the toad. I’ve seen several the last few seasons. I want to encourage them to linger. My grandsons, Joey and Oliver, are expert toad house builders. They build the houses and the toads find them. My creative play today was to create a couple of toad houses in my backyard garden. 

Mr Toads House
Mr Toads House
Remembering what my grandsons taught me about building a toad house, I dug out a shallow hole, and scattered a bit of mulch in the bottom. I have plenty of bricks and thin slabs of concrete that I can use. These materials were repurposed into the walls and roofs of two toad houses. 

As I was cleaning up after an afternoon of working in the garden, I noticed a bin of small river rocks. I felt inspiration’s tap. I had an idea and those rocks were perfect. 

Mr Toads House
Mr Toads House
Using colored markers, I created “vacancy” signs for my little toad houses. My realtor side was amused by those mini advertisements! And since I am confident toads will find the houses, I drew a frog and a toad on the other sides of the rocks, for when the houses are no longer vacant. 

I think my grandsons will be pleased with my toad houses! I had fun playing, and creating, and the project will encourage more visitors to come to the garden. I am looking foward to meeting my new little neighbors. 

Mr Toads House