Category Archives: Uncategorized

Harvest Time

It has taken forever, but I finally got to pick dinner!

Veggie Lover

I had actually just bought a zucchini for a summer squash pasta, and it blew my mind to see how my squash dwarfed the store-bought variety. I love that I’m finally seeing a payback for all my hard work — and the whole family is getting excited for it!

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Spring Maintenance

The weather wasn’t quite as nice today as Wednesday, but having been bitten by spring fever, I wasn’t quite ready to play inside. In addition to my fish, spring’s approach is being sung by those wonderful early bloomers, crocus.

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With five or six yellow blooms bobbing along in my garden, I finally had a good outline for laying down the stepping stones I got for Christmas. My pathway has finally wound itself to the other side of the garden – which has simply served to remind me it’s time to add more monkey grass!

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Since the sun was still warm, I began incurring back the old to make room for already-growing new. Yesterday I cut back the vines of honeysuckle that cover the southern fence: two hours worth of hacking with dull shears at the accumulated dead vines to free up space for eagerly clambering arrivals. Today I took the already budding roses down to a level that seemed too short last winter (hopefully not causing permanent damage). Finally I cut the candy tufts back by a good half foot to get them out of the front walk; blooms are just starting there and should be a showy mass in just a few short weeks.

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The best surprise of all came when I took my armloads of compost out to the woods: a happy volunteer lighting up the woodland path.

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I love spring surprises!

Happy Independence Day!

I can’t really say I planned this as an Independence Day post, but I recently  toured a home (and this time remembered to take pictures) that gave me quite a bit of garden inspiration that seems fitting to mention today. George Washington’s birthplace in Westmoreland County, Va., is beautifully maintained by the National Park Service. Chris and I took a picnic lunch there and ate alongside Pope’s Creek, a tributary of the Potomac. After lunch, we wandered over the path that meanders along the river, admiring George’s view. My favorite spot was overlooking the creek where the land forms a little peninsula, although I was looking as much at the adorable wooden bench that I couldn’t help but picture in my own wooded backyard.

Who knew Mary Washington and I had similar taste? I jest of course, but love the rustic look of this riverside perch.

From the river we went over to the house and past several of the outbuildings. Just as my mom recalled from visits from my childhood, the park still maintains a beautiful hedge alongside the brick walkways – a hedge of fig trees. (Now, I’ve managed to kill two poor fig trees when I let them winter in pots  on my back porch. I still haven’t figured the perfect spot for this absolutely necessary, incredibly delicious, oh-so-beautiful fruit tree, and would welcome any suggestions.)

Next, we stopped at the herb garden, abloom and tall and filled with scents. Talk about inspiration. I could have stared at the perfect, round, gigantic cabbage all day, which perhaps says more about my mental state than I should reveal, but, man were they gorgeous. The lavender was an overrun bundle of intoxicating scent, just wonderful. Each plant was carefully marked with its name to guide visitors who may have been taking notes.

Deep in thought, I’m planning on how to replicate GW’s neat boxwood border in my future veggie garden.

I like the creative borders used in this colonial-themed garden. I believe vegetable gardens should be just as beautiful as they are functional, and this one, with its neat rows and lovely boxwood border, certainly pulls it off.

However, my favorite little takeaway came as we peered into some of the little outbuildings surrounding the main house. In what we surmised to be the cook’s house, I noticed a hook holding a bundle of dried herbs. I’ve always  envied the look of dried herbs hanging from a kitchen’s massive mantel or exposed beams, it never occurred to me a simple hook could be painted to blend in with the ceiling and easily do the trick. I’m wondering now how these herbs might hold up on my screened porch.

This bundle of herbs adds charm and lovely fragrance to the tiny colonial kitchen.

I hope your next vacation escape provides you with gardening inspiration! In the meantime, happy Fourth of July!

Thanks Mom

I wanted to take a second on Mother’s Day to thank my mom for nurturing my love of gardening.

Last weekend I went to visit my mom for her birthday. As a gift, my sister, brother and I spent some time helping in her garden. I pruned the tops of azaleas taller than I and helped to widen the winding paths carved through these blooming shrubs. Next I followed my mom about and, when she pointed, I brought out the shovel and dug up the offending oak tree or Russian olive or prickered vine and tossed it in a pile for clean-up (usually after waving it around and cheering, a warning to other oak trees considering taking root in my mother’s garden that had Mom rolling her eyes and grinning). As the sun grew hotter overhead, we sat in the shade and I helped plant daisies around one of dozens of birdbaths waiting to serve the feathered community that flocks to this oasis.

As we walked through the garden and weeded, we of course talked, alternately planning the future course of the garden or our own futures. Much as pulling that first weed causes one’s fingers to meander, there’s hardly anything more relaxing than wandering along a garden path and letting your thoughts follow what they will.

A path is a wonderful addition to any garden. Not only does it help “grow” the sense of size, but it adds a bit of mystery as to what may lay along the corner.

Last weekend, our thoughts often turned to my grandmother, who recently passed away, but who we agreed was cheering us on as I tugged up offending weeds. My mom grew up in the house where she now lives again, and she notes that if a tree falls here or a plant dies there, well, it’s all changed so much over the years that it’s clear in another year or ten it will be a totally different garden than the one we surveyed that day. It’s a good reminder: change is constant in gardening and in life. Both require frequent maintenance, solid looks to ensure you’re on the right path. For me, it is a necessary reminder. I grow nostalgic wandering through the garden where I spent so many summers of my childhood playing, and it’s hard sometimes to accept the drastic changes. And in my own garden I feel sometimes so bent on matching the land to the image in my head of what it should be, that I need I that reminder that the garden follows it’s own path and sometimes I need to step back and accept what it wants rather than what I think is best.

Obviously gardening is a part of my mom’s legacy to me, as it was from her mom to her, and my great-grandmother’s legacy to my grandmother. A garden seems a wonderful thing to leave behind. And my, how the roots have spread. Last summer I planted spider lilies my aunt gave me from my great-grandmother’s garden. The healthiest azaleas in my yard are the ones I dug up from my mother’s house, and she still keeps pushing more nandinas and Indian hawthorns my way. I love watching the progress of these plants, thinking how these stalks grew under my mother’s or grandmother’s care. And now it’s my turn to care for these plants, to ensure my garden has a shady place to sit and a meandering path for the tiny feet of future wandering gardeners.

I love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!

Gardens change constantly, bringing fresh challenges and new perspectives that keep their tenders forever young.

All-Natural Exercise

A couple of years ago I signed up for a gym membership at Gold’s Gym and, as part of their new member program, I got two free visits with a personal trainer. The young lady sat me down and went through a list of questions to see what I could handle, I suppose. Near the top of the list she asked, “What type of exercise do you do currently?”

“Oh, well,” I said, casting my eyes about in hope the answer might be written somewhere on the wall. “I hike. I walk a lot. And I garden.”

She grinned and then couldn’t hold back a laugh. “Now that is an answer I haven’t heard before,” she chuckled. “Gardening? I’ll put you down for ‘minimal exercise.'”

Every now and again I think back on that question and that poor clueless girl. I eventually quit the gym for the reason most people do; it bored me, so when I missed a day due to my erratic travel schedule, one day suddenly became a week, until somehow months had passed between treadmill attempts. Shortly after quitting the gym, I lost about 20 pounds. We had just moved into the new house and I found myself outside digging near daily during the summer. In the fall I had my firefighter-spouse teach me the appropriate stance for chopping wood without losing a limb, and the axe became my go-to tricep-building tool. The great pond experiment started shortly thereafter, and I spent an entire winter wheelbarrowing loads of dirt from the driveway  across the yard to dump into our giant hole.

This morning, the aching in my leg from stomping on the spade was at least offset by the difficulty I had in gripping my coffee cup thanks to the axe. Akira, my canine garden helper, helped me walk it off.

“Minimal exercise.” Girl, until you’ve really gardened, you don’t know what you’re missing!