Springtime Fresh…Oh, it’s bursting all over…

Life in one tiny seed…by magic it turns into a set of stems and leaves, and becomes a plant! Soon the main performance will begin in the garden. Soil is now, or should be, warm enough for planting everything! In just the last two weeks…”June is busting out all over…” in mid-May!

Spinach and lettuce grown from seed are ready for picking…carrots need another month and plenty of rain. Potatoes are set to bloom and will harvest them soon…Every new season of change brings  excitement as leaves and buds burst open. The hydrangeas are no longer just sticks but full of green foliage and tiny bracts impatient to open and the hairy knuckles of Royal and Lady-in-Red ferns are flexing and unfurling their delicate fronds…filling in the space by the front porch.

Attachment-1The Mock Orange bushPhiladelphus virginalis… that I struggled for hours to dig up and transplant last fall is covered in blooms… This is really an outstanding deciduous shrub showing double white flowers that have a rich, sweet, almost “citrusy” perfume that lingers in the garden and in fresh bouquets for my home. The flowers only last for a few weeks but I love this shrub for its graceful shape and structure that adds a nice spring surprise in the border. It can be used in groups or just as a specimen plant…Mock Orange is hardy in zones 4-8 and enjoys sun to part shade and moist, well-drained soil. I always spread compost around the base of this shrub as well as my Lilacs AFTER they finish blooming. Keep the soil mulched around the shrub and any pruning should be done soon after the blooming period. Simply prune off the growth just above the outer-facing buds on stems that have finished flowering.

photo 1(5) Hummingbirds adore this blooming vine…Pink Honeysuckle. It scrambles along the fence by the chicken house tempting the tiny birds to enjoy the nectar and to heck with the sugar feeders!! Well, not really…they do both!

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Foxgloves are ideal early bloomers enticing the tiny hummers with their unusual bloom stalks! I planted these 5-6 years ago…only 3 small pots…and they have reseeded nicely throughout the partially shady area.

 

SWIFTS belong to the same ancient family as hummingbirds. As dusk settles in, they swoop around eating 1000’s of insects…especially mosquitoes…and soon go torpid at dark to save energy…like the hummers do! At near dusk, while Holly and I are walking, the swifts swoop and zoom all along the road like little GPS symbols…


 

photo 4(5)      What’s coming into season…? Strawberries, inextricably linked with the arrival of early summer…ripe scarlet strawberries, intensely fragrant, juicy and sublimely ever so sweet.  My favorite variety is the little Alpine berry that typically grows in the mountain meadows of France. I started six years ago with just a few 4″ plants and now have a 8×6 plot of strawberries that produce enough to enjoy fresh each morning and to also make a few jars of preserves. I’ve given several plant starts away and had the plot invaded by phlox so I’ve had to clean out and start again!  photo(21)

For a simple berry dessert...one of my absolute, all-time favorites is Strawberries Romanoff...I first enjoyed this treat at la Madeline in Fort Worth, Texas. Simple to make:Mix in a bowl: 1/2 cup sour cream, 3 Tblsp. brown sugar and 1 Tblsp. of good Brandy

Whip 1/2 cup heavy cream in another bowl until starting to get thick, add 3Tblsp. of sugar slowly and continue to beat until cream is thick.

Fold the whipped cream into the sour cream mixture and serve over strawberries…YOU WILL BE HOOKED ON THIS!!

photo 3(4)This photo shows the gorgeous little foliage and tiny blooms and berries in my strawberry plot. To prepare a good berry spot, the soil should be well-drained and loamy…mix in compost and rotted chicken manure into each hole as you plant little starts…plant using liquid seaweed as a root stimulator and mulch with pine straw if you can get it, if not, straw works, too. Cover any bare soil with more compost and then mulch. Keep the plants watered well until their little roots establish into the soil.

 

The Pleasures of the Porch…a delightfully cozy spot on a spring morning for coffee and later…well, actually all during the day…a perfect place for watching the garden full of winged wonders…butterflies, birds and hummers.  Furnishing the screened porch is simple…                                                                                          photo 2(3)

A pitcher of fresh picked flowers on an old metal or wood table, an array of mismatched vintage garden chairs made comfy with plump cushions in faded florals…Antique quilts for the back of a porch swing…Enjoy a glass of wine and later an alfresco supper with the fragrance of lavender and roses drifting in from the garden…For lighting as the sun fades, antique oil lamps gathered on the tables.

 

photo(15)Sunny morning, blue skies, no humidity…perfect drying weather. Washing done, it’s on to hang out my clothes on the line to dry…Later, while gathering, I bury my nose in the sheets and towels…loving that sunny, fresh smell like no other…not even a silly dryer sheet can compete!

 

Stopping for a while to just wander down to the creek...I am so pleased to find a flotilla of Canada geese with their little goslings lined in a row behind one parent while the other parent protects the flank…paddling along the creek bank. Parents showing their young what to eat and how to watch out for dangers…The loyalty of geese families is unusually strong. No other bird in the same degree possess their characteristics of strength, wariness and fidelity…in many respects they serve as a model for man. Holly and I sat quietly and watched while the geese explored…and wondered about the beauty and majesty of Mother Nature’s creatures.IMG_1260

 

 

 

 

 

In Good Health Tip: Drinking water is very good for you as you know…so if you are running around all day, or working outside and forget to take time for water…some lack of concentration may ensue. …mild dehydration can alter your ability to think clearly. AND, if you feel fatigued, find it hard to concentrate and feel the beginning of a headache coming on…have a glass of water with a little fresh lemon, wait a bit to see if the water helps before taking painkillers! It often does… I really enjoy cold mineral water all summer and usually keep enough in the fridge to drink a full bottle every evening, especially after working outside all day…

Make plans now for Memorial Day celebration…

Love and hugs and woowoo from Holly…f666888a-b6e6-498a-99d3-c211ac78e860

Lilacs & Roses, Wine, Friends…and Myrtle Murder!

table laid for tea with flowers arrangement and pile of plates

Saw this on a favorite blog…My French Country Home…SO, I just had to share…my lilacs, too,  are in full and oh, so fragrant bloom. Just walking in the garden anywhere near the huge bush, the scent invites me to come closer…and I do! Already I’ve cut more than a dozen little bouquets for the bedroom and living room…I’m sad to say the last few blossoms are beginning to fade…However, last year I found a new lilac variety that “promises to re-bloom” and planted her near the dry creek bed…maybe this season I will find out how true the claim might be.

Roses…last time I wrote about my Autumn Damask rose already in bloom. So many buds opened with the warm, sunny weather that I decided to collect petals…IMG_1251here she is in glorious bloom!

IMG_1253Here are the petals as I spread them on a dishtowel in my old collecting basket.

Once the petals have thoroughly dried, it is then time to store them in a nice little glass jar. Opening the lid to use the petals for baking…oh, sublime…the fragrance is like sniffing a fresh rose!

A few other early blooming roses are shown here…the deep pink is the gently climbing and nearly thornless, Zephirine Drouhin, a lovely Bourbon rose that has a spectacular showing in spring followed by some blooms throughout the season and a final closing performance in fall. The softer pink/peach bloom is Cornelia, a Hybrid Musk rose, that has a large shrubby, sprawling growth habit. Once again, her fragrance is divine…especially as it crawls along the fence by the chicken house!

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Bring the fresh, springtime feel to your garden…plant more roses, herbs and perennials…

My package from the Antique Rose Emporium arrived two weeks ago with two more roses for my garden…I’m preparing spots now for Madame Alfred Carriere and a selection from Mike Shoup’s Pioneer Collection, Landmark Rose, that I wanted to experiment with…will let you know how it grows and blooms!

As for herbs, I’ve added more  basils near the tomatoes and by the roses, more chives…photo(18)and lemon thyme between the path stones to give off a nice fragrance!

French thyme and onion chives as a border by the new rose, and seven new Provence lavender plants on the slope, near the dry creek bed, in poor soil and lots of sun in the afternoon!

photo 4(2)This is a new perennial verbena that I found at Wilton Cottage…it has a very different shade of lavender/lilac bloom than the older deep purple variety I’ve used in gardens for years. This is one of my standard perennials for landscape design…it grows and blooms all summer long, does great in full sun, and it has a nice crawling habit that makes it perfect for trailing over stone walls or even as a groundcover.

This poor lavender iris is drooping in the rain storm today…I wanted to get the bloom before they finally gave up…oh, and the fragrance is like softly sweet grape soda, sorta! The yellow and pink iris is one of a very old variety that I dug up at an old house being torn down years ago! Soft fragrance of a dusting powder!

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photo 3This beauty is the first bloom on a Tree Peony I planted over 6 years ago and it is finally flourishing by sprouting over 15 flowers! I must admit it has been slow to mature…likely because it gets only 2-3 hours of morning sun!

photo 4(1)This pink dianthus I planted over 8 years ago, as a cheap $1.99 potted annual, refuses to quit…it blooms from spring to fall and has worked its way into a happy existence with some alpine strawberries and tiny elfin thyme groundcover…

photo(19)This lovely container sits by my RED French doors leading into the house…every spring I plant it with geraniums and sweet alyssum!

photo(20)As you can see…the lemon trees are filled with blooms and tiny lemons beginning to form from the old blossoms. It is very important that the trees get consistent moisture while fruiting as well as a regular feeding of fish and seaweed liquid…

NOW, as to poor MYRTLE!!!

This is an example of how you should NEVER, EVER trim or prune a crepe myrtle. This poor work is what a garden or yard person might do as a result of seeing some trees hacked like this on old commercial properties. This severe type of pruning is NOT the way to handle these graceful trees. Lopping off branches leaves unsightly knots or knuckles, weak branches and new growth that is more susceptible to powdery mildew, sooty mold and insect problems. Crepe myrtles in no way benefit from this practice!

So my advice…get a nice big glass of Wine and sit by the pool, patio or deck and just enjoy the garden…STOP finding more to do than necessary…However, do ask me if you have problems and I’ll reply with directions/suggestions.

 Image result for crape myrtles pruningThis is what a Crepe Myrtle should look like!!Crepe

Okay, so now it’s late and I need to take Holly for a walk in the drizzle and then come back for my glass of wine…a toast to all my friends!

Oh, so welcome, SPRING!

lilyvalley    May 1st celebrated in many ways around the world...I remember May 1st as May Day…a day to dance around the Maypole, celebrating spring and…having cake!! Usually a beautiful rich yellow cake slathered in fluffy white frosting covered with freshly grated coconut.

In France, May 1st is celebrated with the custom of giving little bouquets of Muguet or Lily of the Valley to friends and loved ones…and always a little sprig for yourself!  On every street corner throughout France, vendors can be found selling these delightful little bouquets.

The flowers are sweetly scented tiny bell-shaped beauties that grow best in shady, moist conditions…I remember them covering the ground just under my Grandmother’s huge front porch and their fragrance lingering in the air for days. I planted a few “pips” in my garden several years ago and they now cover the entire spot every early spring. There are finally enough to pick a few sprigs for the tiny vase next to my bed…’till I’m ready to share!

                                        Frenchouse                     There is something, to me, about all things French that make them stylish and ROMANTIC! I remember a May afternoon spent walking through a market in the south of France…a large woven basket, I still use for shopping,  filled with some goat cheese wrapped in green fig leaves, a fresh still-warm baguette, a bottle of local Rose’, a few bars of handmade lavender soap and a new pair of red espadrilles and of course, a lovely bouquet of Muguet. Later, nearing dusk, we ambled down the lane towards a small stone house with lacy curtains fluttering in the breeze…our little cottage for the night!  Roses clambered up the wall and eventually onto the roof…lavender just starting to bud…such wonderful fragrance added to a night sleeping with windows open to the night air.

ROMANCE…L’Amour, ah sigh…loves labors are never lost as one generation after another tend the same gardens, the same roses that climb ancient stone walls, the same fruit trees, the same vineyards and the same perfume makers in Grasse distill hand-picked summer blossoms…every spring and summer in Provence, the air is filled with the scent of flowers that inspire the romance of perfumes…such perfumes are one of France’s great gifts to the world!

rose vase

Early blooming roses capture the beauty of spring, their delicate petals and fragrance always a delightful WELCOME to the season. “Autumn Damask”, a favorite antique or old European rose, has a strong fragrance used in making some of the finest perfume in the world…she blooms profusely in spring, followed by scattered blossoms through summer into fall. Every day during the first burst of blooms, I collect a few to use for drying…simply pull the petals away from the center stamen and spread them on a linen dish cloth, cover with another cloth and let them dry for several days. When completely dry, store in glass jars. I use them to make Rose Petal Scones for special friends and rose water for soaking hands and feet. Of course, you would only use the rose petals for cooking if grown organically.

herb box  Magic of May, a sweet idea…old wooden boxes can be used for growing annual herbs like sweet and cinnamon basil, cilantro, and parsley while perennial herbs such as sage, onion chives and thyme also work well in containers…the wooden boxes simply add a bit of nostalgia and vintage charm to your garden.

The right plants for your garden…many gardeners often choose plants based on what they want rather than actual growing condition…such are the quirks of human nature. I stress the need to learn to love the plants that do well where you live…ADAPT! That’s why I often use and suggest using containers to grow plants that prefer a different or less acidic soil than what I have…and I can move them around as needed.

Vines are a good accent plant to showoff against a wall,                vine

especially clematis! In this photo, a fragrant pink clematis climbs
up the wall clinging to a trellis by the open window…ferns at the base simply add the lovely green ruffle to cover the vine legs.  Clematis vines can be fragile and initially need to be guided onto a trellis. Each season I do trim them back by about 1/3, depending on bloom time and variety. a clematis adds much needed bloom, scent and upward direction. Choose several to use around the garden but don’t forget one of the best…Sweet Autumn Clematis…a late summer into fall, very fragrant white blooming paniculata !

March was lions, lambs and hares…April showers and cool temperatures…May will bring magic and springtime and blooms…

“Every flower is a soul blossoming in Nature…”     Ge’rard De Nerval