It’s Official

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It’s official – I came across the first goldenrod bloom of the year in my spearmint bed on Saturday. In the past, this flower used to fill me with dismay because it signaled the change from waxing to waning summer, on the slippery slope to fall and winter. Granted, this was my perception, backed up by fruit forming and seeds setting. But it was simply an idea. There really is no line, no before or after. Life is a continuum of one day melting into the next in a carousel of seasons, all connected in a long spiral along the ladder of time.

IMG_0582So what changed for me? Looking at the bigger picture helped, but it was reading about the plight of bees and how goldenrod is a superfood that comes toward the end of summer. Just in time to give them a big boost to store enough sustenance to get them through the winter. Now I love goldenrod! A whole slew of pollinators from beetles to bees use this plant. I think how wonderful the perfection of nature is, that insects and plants have evolved together symbiotically. There is even a well-camouflaged, yellow crab spider that preys upon goldenrod visitors.

Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia) - Wikipedia photo

Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia) with prey – Wikipedia photo

Everything works as it should in nature and learning to trust that balance will be achieved, provided we don’t mess with it too much, is an understanding that I hope the majority of humans will learn very soon before it is too late. Nature has great resilience, but I feel a tipping point is upon us. There is no duality, it is not man vs. nature, we are a part of nature, and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we as a species will start to take care of this planet that is our home.

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A Global Meditation for Peace

Sundrops (Oenothera tetragona)

Sundrops (Oenothera tetragona)

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. We need not wait to see what others do.”   ~ Ghandi

For those who may be so inclined, at Noon (your local time) Friday, August 8, 2014 there will be a world-wide meditation for peace. Deepak Chopra, Gabrielle Bernstein, India Arie and many others are heading up what they hope will be the largest group meditation on record (to be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records). For more information click the link here. Register, mark your calendar and be part of the peace you wish to see in the world.

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Tightrope Walker

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On a perfect summer morning this little guy, walking along a grass stalk laden with seed, caught my eye. The light and background colors were pretty much perfect. I imagine him walking along and humming a little tune!

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Mother Nature Owns Your Garden

Song Sparrow sings from "his" Alberta spruce

Song Sparrow sings from “his” Alberta spruce

A few years ago while reading a garden anthology that featured several authors, one article by Gene Logsdon, aka The Contrary Farmer, gave me a new perspective on gardening. Up until that point, I had always viewed my yard and garden as my space, under my control, apart from Nature. He wrote that while most humans share this point of view, Mother Nature sees no delineation; all is her domain. When I realized how right he was, I had to laugh at myself for such pompous, egotistical thinking for all those years.

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Robber fly (?) with moth on mown lawn

Nowadays, I don’t try as hard to control my garden space, as to work with Nature to create my visions.  Many of my beds I’ve let “return” to Nature (again, as if they were once apart!) and it is interesting to see what perishes and what survives. Not surprisingly, the balance favors mostly natives, however, I can see how invasive species from other lands can march through and quickly take over. Things that look so pretty and innocently little in a nursery can become nightmares. Knotweed, bittersweet, goutweed, loosestrife and most of the mint family come to mind. I think nursery owners should be required by law to state a plant’s true aggressive nature!

Garden, wild field and woods - all the same!

Garden, wild field and woods – all the same!

When my garden work overwhelms me, I try to remember that I am not trying to reach a goal, but I am involved in a process that never ends and thankfully so. It is that very constancy, the ever-present creative force that we depend on. What would we do if it stopped? Yes, the weeds, slugs and aphids would be gone, but as well so would the beautiful flowers, good food and beneficial insects. What we really want is balance and the peace that comes with it.

Wildflowers replaced former lawn

Wildflowers replaced former lawn

Many times I think Ma Nature is a better garden designer than I am. Often while walking in the woods or fields, I’ll stop to note beautiful combinations of wild plants that seem artfully arranged and think how I could use the design. (Nothing new here, humans have been imitating Nature since pre-historic times.) When self-sowing plants grow in my gardens I’ll let a few stay when they complement and improve the design I laid out. I am simply a director in her domain. I know nothing is ever static in a garden – it’s always changing and evolving. The gardening process is the point and I can rest easy with that.

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A Single Grateful Thought

IMG_0247“A single grateful thought toward heaven is the most complete prayer.”

–Gotthold Lessing

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Poppies

IMG_0454Lettuce Leaf Poppy (Papaver somniferum)

Also known as Breadseed Poppy, this is one of my favorite self-sowing annuals that puts on quite a show in early summer. Only lasting a day, the delicate blossoms of papery petals are a lovely mauve color atop gray-green, sharply serrated foliage. This type of poppy comes in white, pink, red and purple colors, as well as fringed and double varieties.

Beloved by bees for their abundant pollen, I often get cross-pollinated seedlings with a red variety I grow in another bed, which can result in a lovely raspberry color. I try to keep the separate beds true to color, as I once almost lost the mauve in a sea of red, so if a red pops up in the mauve bed, I do not let it to go to seed.

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Happy bee in red/mauve cross.

Each seed pod contains dozens of tiny seeds that can be used for baking and cooking Eastern European and Indian dishes. I love lemon poppyseed muffins and fat bagels sprinkled liberally with poppy seeds. This is also the poppy from which opium is made, but one would need acres of poppies to collect enough sap to make trouble here!

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After blooming, I generally allow only a few of the best plants go to seed and yank the rest, as they soon become unsightly, decimated by slugs and sooty mold. The pods can be used in dried arrangements after the seeds have been sprinkled around the garden for next year’s bloom. They reproduce prolifically and for best bloom, I thin the seedlings in spring to about a foot apart. It is quite amazing that they grow in two short months from a tiny seed the size of a comma to this lush, 24″ bloomer! Mother Nature is full of wonders, isn’t she?

July-Aug07 (8)Can you see the bee?

 

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Turk’s Cap Lilies

IMG_0363Turk’s Cap Lilies (Lilium canadense) are now at peak bloom in our woodland. Easily distinguished by their vibrant orange, recurved petals that earn them their name, their annual bloom is an eagerly awaited event for us.

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Native to eastern U.S., this graceful wildflower thrives in moist, well-drained meadows and woody thickets, flowering best in full sun with up to twenty blooms per plant. Our heaviest bud count this year is thirteen.

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Like many other cherished perennials, they bloom only for a short time in early summer. If they are not munched by deer, which find them a delicacy, or devoured by the noxious European red lily beetle (which is seriously decimating all our true lilies), they go on to form seed pods that resemble green hot-air balloons.

Scarlet lily beetle (Wikipedia photo)

Scarlet lily beetle (Wikipedia photo)

In the fall, these pods turn brown and crack open to reveal stacks of winged seeds that are dispersed by the wind. Often, we will grab a handful to sow on our walks to help increase their number.

Native plant nurseries offer bulbs for sale, but be warned, rodents love to eat them so to protect your investment, take precautions to discourage them from nibbling. Wire mesh baskets seem to be the easiest, longest lasting and least toxic method.

Siting is very important – they cannot tolerate dry soil, preferring evenly moist, well-drained, neutral pH soil enriched with compost. As I mentioned before, full sun is best, although part sun is tolerable. Mulch well and underplant with ostrich ferns, which shade the bulb roots and complement this lily’s unique beauty.

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