Let your photo(s) tell your story.
Let your photo(s) tell your story.
Let your photo(s) tell your story.
Let your photo(s) tell a story. A timely reminder to think spring.
I don’t know what possessed me to buy 80 bulbs, but after the winter of our discontent, I think we’re going to need a big dose of beauty and color.
Let your photo(s) tell a story.
March has always been a crazy month – volatile, unpredictable, kind of like the stock market at the moment. You can expect snow, sleet, rain, howling winds, warm breezes, sunny days, gray skies or all of the above. Despite the Rodent and Company’s optimistic predictions for an early spring we have not had very many warm days and the few we did have were overcast. In fact March came in like a lion with a big snowstorm, so hopefully it will go out like a lamb. (It did not….3 C – 37 F today).
Thankfully, the snow melted quickly, like the wicked witch of the west – revealing snow drops a few days later.
I have a lovely view from my kitchen window as my neighbor has about ten clumps of them scattered around the base of an old tree, like a little fairy woodland.
The daffodil shoots were up the first week, growing by leaps and bounds.
Our imaginations can leap forward to this vista of sunny yellow.
On St. Patrick’s Day we had grocery shelves reminiscent of the great Potato Famine,
but a spring rain changed the grass to Shamrock green overnight,
which was then covered up by more snow on March 23….ugh….
The library might be closed due to COVID-19,
but the crocuses in front of it were open for business.
The robins were back,
and the tundra swans crossed the border early because our Prime Minister had ordered all international travelers home!
They winter in Chesapeake Bay and rest at the Thedford Bog, an Ontario marshland, before flying on to their breeding grounds in the Arctic.
The March winds were brisk and perfect for kite flying. There were rare sightings of children in the park trying this ancient activity, well their dad was trying. They looked too young and seemed more interested in examining the ground as toddlers like to do, while the dad was busy untangling the string. (No picture as he couldn’t get it airborne).
I’ve never seen so many people out walking before, entire families have taken up the joy of exercise and their dogs are happy too. I met Millie a Golden Retriever puppy who was ecstatic at being in The Great Outdoors, but at 12 weeks soon tired of walking and had to be carried home.
We might be out of bread and soup,
but they will return, just like these old faithful perennials.
On March 25, there was finally a day warm enough to sit on the front porch, sheltered from the wind, with a magazine and a mug of tea. It’s so nice to feel the sun on your face after a long cold lonely winter (the Beatles).
While the stores and restaurants may be closed and the grocery shelves empty, we can replenish our souls with nature and rejoice! May the Gods of Spring place a pox on COVID-19!
PS. As other people have observed, this crisis may be the Earth’s way of healing from all the climate change, by calling a time out – a message from Mother Nature.
Although the white garden at Britain’s Sissinghurst Castle may be famous, I have always wanted a blue garden. Although there is a certain romantic appeal to a vista of pale white flowers glowing in the moonlight, white simply does not make a statement to me. I need color in my garden – pinks and purples and blues, perhaps a dash of yellow or red. White is an accent color, seen only in a few daisies which came up from last years toss of a wildflower mix into a back corner. My grandmother had a white snowball bush, and my mother had white spirea bushes along the front of the house – I cared for neither. I did like the white apple blossoms on the crab-apple trees in our old orchard, tinged with a blush of pink and heady with fragrance, but their show was brief, one glorious week in spring. No, it is color I crave and blue is my favorite color. Although my garden is predominantly pink and purple (see last years The Color Purple and the upcoming Rose Cottage), my attempts at introducing blue into my garden have not been very successful. Blue flowers may be a rarity in nature for a reason.
These are delphiniums from a Nova Scotia vacation so long ago that I’ve forgotten the name of the small sleepy town where we stayed, other than there was nothing to do after supper so we toured the local botanical garden. Certainly I was not into gardening back then, but the image of delphiniums against a picket fence was striking enough to warrant a picture, although my memory of the rest of the place is vague – I think there were roses past their prime?
And this is my one solitary blue delphinium, which bloomed one year and was never seen again, nor were it’s pink and purple cousins. The same thing happened with the lupines.
A neighbor of my mother’s had a beautiful display of delphiniums a few years ago, five feet tall and waving look-at-me, but he is a wonderful gardener. I suppose I can’t expect a scene out of Downton Abbey, if I don’t put much effort into it.
Then there was the blue rose, which came up a pale lavender/lilac at best. What a marketing scheme that nursery tag was, a scrawny thing, it bloomed for a few seasons, producing exactly one rose every year. I was so annoyed with it, that this year I tore it out when I was removing the dead Rose of Sharon beside it which hadn’t survived the winter.
Those pretty blue lobelia flowers in garden baskets look nice for a month or two at most, but do not survive the heat and neglect of July/August. I’ve given up on them too.
I love the first sign of Siberian Squill in early spring, especially vibrant with the contrasting yellow of daffodils.
There is a large swath of them growing wild along the river road and another neighbor has a lovely patch in her backyard, but I have never been able to find them in a nursery. Maybe next year I will remember to ask if I can dig some up. It’s another invasive species I wish would invade my back yard.
Blue Hydrangeas are always lovely, but how many bags of aluminum sulfate have I bought trying to get them to go true blue. I’ve had some some success with this bush near the side arbor, but only because the neighbor’s overhanging cedars make the ground naturally acidic. Last year it was covered with blooms, this year there isn’t a single one and yet all the other bushes have plenty. How do they decide which one is going to take a vacation?
Last week I dumped some more AlSo4 on the rest, hoping all the forecast rain would wash it magically into the soil, and had some success. At least they weren’t all lilac.
I had some luck with forget-me-nots this year, which a fellow gardener shared, somehow it hurts less when things don’t survive if they are free. Of the donated bunches I planted last spring, one came up at the front of the house, and two small patches on the side bed. This year I transplanted some more, hoping they will become invasive. They reseed themselves once past blooming.
My Heavenly Blue morning glories are the good old dependables, except one year when they didn’t come up at all. They are hardy souls and thrive on neglect once they get started, growing a foot a day in late summer. I blogged about them here – link – A Glorious September Morning.
This year I planted them in front of two recycled trellises, hoping they will be more contained so I don’t have to spend three hours tearing them off the neighbor’s fences in the fall.
I’m planning on checking out a blue clematis the next time I visit a nursery, but it must be blooming, so there are no surprises like the one I planted last fall which turned out a dark purple not the vibrant Jackmani I was expecting. All future flowers must show their true colors before they are purchased!
A few years ago a local garden tour brochure described one of the entries as the Blue Garden. I was so excited to see it – and so disappointed to find there were no blue flowers at all, except blue planters, painted rocks and bits of blue ceramic garden kitsch. I have a limited tolerance for most garden kitsch, no cutesy signs, rusty iron figures or painted trolls are allowed on my castle grounds. However I would like a cobalt blue garden cat to preside over my garden like Linda discovered at Walking Writing Wit and Whimsy. It would provide the blue color I desire, a dose of whimsy and it wouldn’t need watering. Forget the blue flowers, better to get a cat!
Have I missed any blue flowers? What is your favorite blue flower?
The only positive thing about this cool rainy spring is that I haven’t had to water anything…not even once. Mother Nature has done it for me. In fact it’s rained so much this past month that most of the farmers haven’t even been able to get their crops planted, the latest season ever as many recall. It’s sad to drive through the countryside and see all those bare soggy fields. The crop insurance has been extended a few days, but things are looking desperate, and the forecast is more of the same. Let’s send out a few prayers for our farmers – because if they don’t plant, we don’t eat.
I’ve been preoccupied with the kitchen reno, but here’s a recap of the best of the spring flowers, even if I’ve been too busy and it’s been too rainy to enjoy them.
The hyacinths at the corner always make going to the mailbox a treat.
These little purple violets scattered in the grass are always so pretty, especially if you ignore the weeds!
The nicest thing about this picture, also taken near the mailbox, is the shade, which means the trees are finally leafing out. I love the play of the shadows on the lawn.
The squirrels dug up most of my tulips,
so I really appreciate it when someone else makes an effort. It’s always a treat to drive down this street and see this yard, and this one.
Last year I transplanted a few blue forget-me-nots from my neighbour – they were so pretty I hope they are invasive.
My only purchase earlier in the spring was a pink and yellow dahlia and a couple of bright pink begonias, my first for both types of plants. I didn’t know what to do with them, and read that the dahlia had to be dug up in the fall so I just stuck them in bigger pots. The dahlia has flourished, with many buds again, but the begonias got too water-logged.
The lilacs finally bloomed, mine pale and anemic, so I enjoyed the neighbors dark purple ones which hang over my fence. The bloom-again lilac was a few weeks later, but I was disappointed in it’s smell. We’ll see if it lives up to it’s name.
The lily of the valley was plentiful too, another invasive gift from a fellow gardener.
My 50 cent bargain iris from last years horticultural sale bloomed for the first time, all of them coming up purple, except for one ugly burgundy one I gave away as it didn’t fit the color scheme. The second year for this fuchsia clematis. My new one, planted last fall, is not out yet but as it is a Jackmanii, it may be later.
Sometimes I’m not sure if things will bloom the first year, but the half-price peonies planted last fall burst forth a pretty pink.
When I finally got to the nursery again, these were my selections. I’ve never had a dipladenia plant before (smaller than a Mandevilla), but it looks very tropical. And one can never have enough lavender.
I may pick up some half-price geranium pots if I can find any, but even the nursery plants are struggling this year. Many look so pathetic no one would want to take them home, which is just as well, as man does not live by flowers alone. I planted lettuce in early May and all the rain has made me the Lettuce Queen of the neighborhood. Let us be grateful for homegrown salads!
“Mission Control to Earthlings: Volunteers needed to test Lunar Cake recipe. Only rhubarb lovers need apply.”
Rhubarb is one of those foods you either love or hate. I never liked rhubarb until a few years ago, but then my entire culinary experience consisted of a very tart rhubarb pie my mother would make for my dad once a year. We had a big rhubarb patch on the farm, and no matter how much sugar she used in the pie, it was so sour no one else would eat it. The rhubarb patch was rectangular in size and was beside a row of red currant bushes, with one black currant and one gooseberry bush at each end. Behind it, the odd spike of asparagus would appear in the early spring, these all being old-fashioned farm staples from a century ago. Today they would be considered heirloom varieties. Once established, those old rhubarb patches would live forever. I would sometimes volunteer to pick the red currants, as my dad would get his very own red current pie too. In retrospect those pies must have been something his mother had made, nostalgic reminders of childhood. We just thought they were sour.
Because the patch was so large and prolific and had been there for many years, people from town would stop by and ask if they could buy some. If you are a rhubarb-lover you always know where a good patch is. We would see the same people year after year, so one day we kids had the ingenious idea that we would have a roadside stand and sell bundles of rhubarb for 25 cents – a country version of a lemonade stand.
The rhubarb stand lasted all of one Sunday afternoon. There was little traffic on our dusty country road and we soon grew bored laying on a blanket under the big tree out front. On the rare occasion someone did stop, we would run to the house to get our parents, because we had been drilled in school not to talk to strangers, even those innocent souls out for a Sunday drive. (Makes sense right, well in the mind of a child). I think we grossed 75 cents.
Now as an adult, count me in as a rhubarb fan too. I especially love strawberry-rhubarb jam, rhubarb scones, and most recently a rhubarb coffee cake, which I’ve made the past few years from a recipe a dietitian friend gave me. This Canadian recipe is called Lunar Rhubarb Cake and was developed by an editor of Canadian Living magazine back in the 1980’s. It was so good, it went viral before viral even existed, with everyone saying they got it from their mother, aunt, neighbor. (A recipe which promotes sharing like that, is one small step for food-kindness). According to the food column in the Ottawa Citizen, the name lunar comes from the appearance of the top of the cake, similar to the crater-like surface of the moon.
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 Tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream (you can use 2% if you wish)
2 cups chopped rhubarb (you can increase by 1/2 cup more if you wish)
1 tbsp. floor
1/4 cup butter (melted)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon (I omitted this, as in my opinion cinnamon goes with apple pie, not rhubarb)
Chop the rhubarb and toss with 1 tbsp flour. Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Mix 2 cups flour, soda and salt together. (I buy the premixed flour with the baking soda and salt already in it which is more expensive but saves measuring). Alternatively add the flour mixture and sour cream to the creamed mixture. Add the rhubarb to the batter. Pour into a buttered 9 X 13 inch cake pan. Mix the topping ingredients and spread evenly over the top of the cake. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, until the top is pitted and crusty and a skewer comes out clean. (It was 15 minutes longer for me, as my oven always cooks slow). Recipe serves twelve hungry astronauts.
Some versions of this recipe call for buttermilk or sour milk instead of sour cream. The batter will be quite thick with the sour cream.
The cake keeps well in the fridge and was incredibly moist even after a week. It transports well too, should you wish to take it to a party in another galaxy. I think it would work well with blueberries when the season arrives, because as we all know rhubarb season is way too short!
Maybe if my mother’s old-fashioned rhubarb pie had a crumble topping we might have eaten it too, as the sweetness balances out the tartness of the rhubarb, similar to the popular combination of strawberries and rhubarb. Although I’m not a huge fan of strawberry-rhubarb pie, mostly because of the pastry, I have made a compote by stewing equal parts of rhubarb and strawberries on the stove and adding sugar to taste. It’s nice mixed with vanilla yogurt or ice cream or just eaten plain.
I’ve been envisioning my own rhubarb patch in the backyard, so I bought home this last week, although it’s been too cold to plant it.
Although eaten as a fruit, rhubarb is actually a vegetable. While the stalks may be edible, the leaves are toxic to humans and animals due to a high concentration of the poison, oxalic acid. It is a perennial which likes cooler climates. Plant in full sun, spacing 3 or 4 feet apart in a row. Patience is required as you can’t harvest the first few years until established. Newer varieties last about 15 years. You can also divide existing rhubarb plants (root balls) in early spring, so I might be on the hunt for an old patch down a country lane….
Flash forward to 2025 – mission accomplished….hopefully?
Our old white farmhouse was surrounded by lilac bushes, which were often out in time for Mother’s Day, an occasion we always celebrated on the farm with a big family meal which my mother prepared. Looking back, it seems strange we made her cook on Mother’s Day, but then my grandmother always came over, so she probably considered it her daughterly duty, and was happy having all her kids home, even if it did mean we ended up doing two hours of dishes by hand in the days before the dishwasher. Out would come the lace tablecloth and the good china, and the long farm table, dating from 1870, would be extended to its maximum length, with later another set up in the kitchen for the ever-growing collection of grandchildren. Of course, this was in the days before going out for brunch became popular, which we tried occasionally but which was often a disappointment, restaurants always being so busy that day, and the kids not being able to play outside, where the lawn and orchard would be sunny with dandelions.
Those old farm lilacs were common in the countryside, with almost every farmhouse (which back then only came in two types, white clapboard or yellow brick), sporting a bush or two. But ours were special, as they surrounded the house on three sides. If it was a nice day with a south breeze and the windows open, the smell was heavenly. The fragrance would waft in through the kitchen and living room windows, and also the upstairs bedrooms, as the bushes were quite tall.
We also picked some to bring inside and put in vases, something I still do to this day. Even when I was older, I would always take a bouquet or two home, wrapped up in tinfoil, to put on the kitchen counter.
After my father passed away and my mother moved into town, my sister brought her two lilac bushes as a house warming present. They lasted about fifteen years and then had to be cut down. I planted two lilac bushes in the corner of my yard ten years ago, and they are now starting to look spindly. One bush smells like what I remember, the other does not. Of course, they are late this year, like everything else, so these are pictures from last year.
There are over 2000 varieties of lilacs, according to the International Lilac Society, in a wide range of colors, sizes and blooms. Common lilacs generally prefer cold winters, well drained soil and full sun. They are low maintenance and require little watering, once established – my kind of plant!
My neighbor has the darker purple kind, which does not smell nearly as nice, but then maybe I’m just being nostalgic.
All lilacs are lovely, (except those four foot Korean Dwarfs, my Miss Kim never bloomed once), but it is the old-fashioned kind I love the most. While the nursery sold me the variety known as “common lilac” they certainly don’t seem as hardy as those old farm lilacs, which must have been heirloom stock, as they were still going strong at eighty years plus. (Some varieties only last 10 to 15 years.) The “common lilac” has the largest and longest blooms and the most fragrant flowers and can grow up to twenty feet. Ours would be pruned back once in awhile when they got too tall, (only prune immediately after the spring bloom), but they were always leafy and full, and the branches made excellent spears for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over a backyard bonfire.
I was told my grandmother planted them sometime in the 1920’s when she was newly married, after the house was raised, a basement put under it and a veranda added. She also planted a row of white spirea bushes beside them, so it formed a little alcove. I would sometimes take a book or magazine there and sit and read, sheltered from the wind, stopping once in awhile just to breathe in the scent. Here’s the view, looking out.
After my mother moved, the house and the lilacs were bulldozed down to make room for more acreage – a sad fate after so many years of providing beauty. I wish I had thought to take a cutting or two, but I was busy with life and not much interested in gardening then.
Last fall, I bought two Bloomerang Lilacs on sale, a variety new to me, but then I’m always behind on the latest gardening trends. (Here’s a link to more info.) They are similar to the popular Bloom Again Hydrangeas, and will rebloom in the summer and fall after a short rest. They will only grow to 5 feet, making them more like a shrub than a tree. Mine seem to have survived the winter nicely and even have buds on them. I like the idea of having lilacs for three seasons, as a week or two in May seems much too short.
If you’re ever in northern Michigan in early June, check out the famous Mackinac Island Lilac Festival (link – added to bucket list). No cars are allowed on the island, but you can cross on the ferry and stay at the Grand Hotel (where Somewhere in Time was filmed) and tour via bike or horse drawn carriage – now that really is going back in time. Visiting this lilac paradise is a nice way to welcome summer after a cold and snowy winter. Here are a few pictures from Victoria Magazine, May 2000 issue.
Happy Mother’s Day!