Friends, I’ve been away for several months, unable to really concentrate and write very much, maybe just thinking a bit, reading, planning and dreaming. Well, we all need some of that time but mine was more related to a continuing need to deal with vertigo that hit me last summer after two bad falls and…okay, hitting my head on the concrete floor in the garage! At my age you’d think I’d be able to walk and climb steps! So anyway, I’m trying to get back in gear, put all in perspective and just move ahead sharing my words and thoughts with you!
Cottage in the woods charm…or, the little house with a big heart! At first sight, the tiny white clapboard house and surrounding garden seems quite unremarkable tucked away beneath a shady canopy of huge oak, poplar and pine trees. The secluded home and gardens are rarely discovered except by family and friends. It’s casual and warm, friendly and cozy with vintage finds here and there…
After several weeks of clouds and occasional showers, suddenly my garden has burst into growth and greenery and finally the hummingbirds are showing up…it’s May, a very busy time in the garden…a time to get ready for summer.
Romancing the rose…scrambling up and over the fencing around the chicken pen is “Felicia” a hybrid musk old garden rose…entwined with purple Clematis jackmanii. She is a charming little rose full of character, masses of early blooms, and a delightfully sweet fragrance I enjoy every time I get near! Beautiful “Felicia” is such an easy rose to grow, she only gets a few hours of direct sunlight but still produces clusters of blooms from early spring to mid-summer and then another huge burst of bloom with cool fall weather. Lots of sweetly fragrant pink phlox planted along the base of the pen also provides fragrance all summer into autumn. Note the blue umbrella!
Mixing foliage and flowers and textures is one of the secrets of good garden design…shown above is a favorite butterfly herb, bronze fennel, mixed with blooming purple salvia and soon to be blooming, pink phlox and rudbeckia…somewhere in the mix is “Iceberg”, a white very fragrant rose.
Plant a potager and reap the rewards for your kitchen…here, shown in late April, is my informal potager and herb garden I planted in mid-March. This year I had to put simple fencing around the 25’x25′ space to keep the chickens from attacking my crop of salad greens, Swiss chard, tomatoes, parsley, snow peas, beans, cucumbers, French melons [seeds from Jeanine], peppers, potatoes, garlic, sage, lemon thyme, oregano, and much more…The teepee in center allows yellow pear heirloom tomatoes to grow vertically, taking up much less space. I start my vegetables with organic seeds and use mostly heirloom varieties. A compost pile in the left corner provides needed nutrients along with compost tea with every rain shower. Blueberry bushes and lilacs protect the back of the garden and act as a wind break outside the fence. Sunflowers will offer trellising for pole beans. A border of lavender and onion chives planted around the front of the fence attracts beneficials early in the growing season. Blackberries on growing wires stand just outside the potager. This densely planted area is always buzzing with bees, butterflies, Ladybugs and hummers all summer. OH, and always a beautiful rose in bloom in the corner of the potager. It may not be pretty but this tiny space…in just the right spot…always provides a great deal of vegetables and fruits for my kitchen!
Rose honey will sweeten up your life! NOTE: I use ONLY deeply fragrant rose petals from my organically grown rose bushes. Shown here are just picked petals from an old Damask rose bloom sitting on tissue while drying…the tiny dried rose buds came from Jeanine’s rose bush in Texas. I use 3-4 complete rose blooms to 2 cups of organic honey. Pour a small amount of honey into a sterilized jar, then add rose petals…pour more honey into the jar and gently stir the petals and honey together so that petals are equally distributed throughout the honey. Make sure the rose petals are covered completely in honey. Remove any air bubbles by tapping the jar on the table. Screw on cap tightly and store in a dark place for 2 weeks, shaking the jar occasionally. After 2 weeks, or so, strain the honey to remove the petals and pour into a clean jar. Perfect in hot tea, lovely on toast, drizzled on vanilla ice cream or whatever you wish!!
Watching my chickens roam about the back yard and garden is pure pleasure…oh sure, they do scratch and eat insects and throughly make a mess but I just rake the paths and beds every day, if I can, and take on an attitude that perfection is not a part of my garden! They are such a hoot running behind me as I walk around the yard just waiting for me to toss them a treat. With the increased daylight, more chores are getting done and the “girls” have more time to roam! As the days grow warmer I make sure to provide plenty of fresh water bowls around the yard as well as spray water in the dimples of the wine bottles lining the paths. Chickens can become dehydrated rather quickly in the heat and can possibly die. I always make sure to provide extra shade and food cover with a few small beach umbrellas standing in the larger pen area. They do tend to eat less in hot weather but become excited about the fresh kale, chard and greens I share with them in the afternoon…these terrific greens give added nutrients to their diet along with needed moisture. I also add a teaspoon of baking soda to their water supply to aid in absorption of calcium…thus helping maintain strong egg shells.
Now, as the setting sun casts a warm light on the garden…I see masses of dark clouds gathering far beyond the woods…rain and thunder storms will soon arrive from the southwest to pelt the area with rain, wind and lightening. Time to quickly pick some herbs, maybe a few flowers, and head inside after I call in the chicks to their pen. Wine time and dinner! [Photo taken at Jeanine’s]
I’d like to share a special moment spent in my French sister’s garden a few weeks ago in TEXAS…we had prepared several special dishes for lunch with friends and just being there in her fabulous garden was like being in Provence with all the blooms and fragrance and whimsical details. Thank you, dear sister for a delightful visit!
Love from Holly and me…jusqu’ a la procaine fois…