Putting the garden to bed

When winter’s chill at last draws near,

I put away summer that is so dear,

snipping dead plants over there and here,

putting the garden to bed.

A gnarled old maple drops a  leaf,

spent Day Lilies wither in a sheaf,

hostas hide yellowed leaves underneath,

putting the garden to bed.

Bright mums and sedum get a reprieve,

while dimmed summer daisies must take their leave,

and dead grass into the bin I heave,

putting the garden to bed.

As you can see, I love summer. Summer is the time when I can let  inside work slide. Piano practice music gathers dust on the rack.  Shirts awaiting the iron form first a pile, then a bunker. Junk mail piles up. Knitting sits idle. But summer novels get read and reread on warm sunny beaches and long airplane rides. I walk miles on the beach, feeling clean white Michigan sand beneath my toes.  But perhaps my favorite day-to-day part of summer is the garden. From pulling away wet dead leaves in the spring to reveal brave shoots peaking up from the cold ground, to deadheading purple petunias and red geraniums, to watching iridescent hummingbirds sip from purple fuchsia, I enjoy it all. My gardening time is about new life, growth, death, and rebirth. Each year the cycle begins anew, fresh and full of promise. And as autumn slips in, it is also about putting it all to bed, with the promise of spring to bring it all back to me again.

© Huffygirl 2016

Photos and original poem by Huffygirl ©2016.



Jiminy Cricket!

Jiminy Grasshopper, actually. I found this little guy enjoying a cool rest among my flowers last week while we were having an oppressive heat wave. I’m still not sure if he was there to eat my plants or just enjoy the cool moisture of this flower pot. Either way, as he obliging posed for me, I let him be.

After a few shots, Jiminy tired of being my subject, and began to retreat.

I got the message and left him alone. At least until I see him again some day.

(Hey Jiminy Grasshopper, I CAN still see you!)

© Huffygirl 2012

Tending: A daughter’s tale

I plunge my trowel into the moist soil and wrangle out a clump of pansies. These happy yellow-faced flowers are starting to look a little long in the tooth, but still have some life left in them. I can’t bear to throw them out, so they’ll be  getting new life in a pot with other misfit transplants that will be perfect on the shaded patio in back. This is the happiest time of my day – tending the garden. I would gladly neglect inside chores, work, and even writing to spend the rest of my summer, and perhaps the rest of my days, tending flowers. I ponder why this is so, but deep down I already know the answer.

From the time I was old enough to walk I spent my early days following Daddy around the yard. Each summer evening after supper, he’d leave the inside work behind and tend the flowers and garden. Never mind that he’d just spent all day working in someone else’s greenhouse – this was the work he loved. We’d putter in the yard together. I’d follow along while he carried buckets of water, sifted composted soil and scattered pink fertilizer around the stems of young tomato plants. I learned the names of every kind of petunia, marigold and  tomato. Big Boy, Early Girl, beefsteak, and cherry tomatoes, which sadly tasted nothing like cherries, all went into the garden  behind our greenhouse. Tiny tomato sprigs that Daddy had painstakingly started in our cellar from seeds back in March, were now brave little plants that grew into bushes under our care. At the end of our gardening, there would always be time for a wheelbarrow ride, then sitting in Daddy’s lap in the cool darkness of the porch until bedtime.

Today, I no longer grow tomatoes, but I have flowers. Perennial gardens of Black-Eyed Susan, Sedum and Euonymus  edge the house and yard, and pots and boxes of colorful annuals brighten the porch and patio. I have never mastered the art of growing geraniums the way Daddy did, but I’ve learned the art of growing my new favorites.  Bright orange Gerber daisies shade deep blue petunias, and blue lobelia rings delicate Maiden Hair ferns. Yellow tuberous begonias kiss red verbena in a giant coffee cup, while pairs of Purple Fountain Grass reach for the sky in matching pots. My gardens are more varied than Daddy’s were, but just as loved.

Every time I sprinkle handfuls of fertilizer around my plants, and dig into the dark moist soil with my favorite trowel, I remember those days we spent together. Every time I enter a greenhouse and smell the deep sweet smell of moist earth, I feel the hard packed dirt of our greenhouse floor beneath my feet, and once again see the rows of tiny seedlings awaiting our care.

Thanks Daddy, for teaching me to tend.

Daddy and his daughters in our greenhouse. That’s me in the middle.

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© Huffygirl 2012

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Decoration Day

The stone-carved names read like my grade school roll call: Kapusta, Brusch, Karpiak, Chybik, Wydick. The Polish and Slavic names I heard every day, that I knew how to pronounce without thinking about them, were the grandmas, grandpas, aunts and uncles of my school mates. My sister and I played among these stones, while Daddy knelt at the one that bore his name. He’d tenderly till the soil around the stone, then gently pat begonias, geraniums and marigolds into the ground. Then he’d place the large flower urn that he had carefully planted in our greenhouse back home, under the name of his father, next to the flag. Then, job well done, he’s stand, call us to silent prayer, then depart. This was our annual Decoration Day ritual, the day to honor the fallen.

Now this task is mine. My parent’s grave has two stone vases, into which I’ve placed artificial flowers. There’s forsythia for the spring, mums or poinsettias for the winter. With these flowers in place year-long, I don’t have to come for Decoration Day any more to plant flowers, but I do. I almost didn’t do it this year: with my family’s home sold, I seldom get to this place almost an hour’s drive away. Even when I did come often, the potted annuals would always fare poorly throughout the summer, with only sporadic watering and deadheading. In recent years I had turned to planting the hardiest and most drought-resistant annuals I could find, instead of my parent’s favorites, but still they’d be small and dry, barely alive, each time I visited.

But planting flowers for Decoration Day is a tradition ingrained in me as a child. It just didn’t seem right to let it go, not yet anyway. So my husband and I dutifully brought a pot of flowers to this place of stones. Yellow zinnias for Mom, red snapdragons for Dad. He would have preferred geraniums, but they would never survive in this untended spot. We place the flower pot, tidy the grave, straighten the flag and say our silent prayers. Just as I did as a child.

© Huffygirl 2012

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Two Subjects

This week’s photo opportunity challenged us to produce a photo with two subjects. This happens to photographers a lot: you take a photo of someone or something, but something interesting shows up in the background. Typically the foreground subject is in focus, and the background subject is fuzzy. Today I attempted to take such a photo with a beautiful pair of white Dicentra I had just bought at the greenhouse. But the plants weren’t cooperating. I tried putting the shorter plant in front of the taller one, then focused on the shorter, so the taller plant would be out of focus in the background. But it just wasn’t working. The two plants just looked like one big plant, and I kept ending up with the side of the house or the barbecue grill as the background  subject. Finally, I came up with this shot, a reverse of what I had originally intended. The flowering branch of the Dicentra in the foreground is out of focus, the new shoots of Panicum virgatum (red switch grass) in the background are in focus.

This is another photo with two subjects that I took a while ago, that I’ve been using lately as the spring header photo for Huffygirl’s Blog. Because they’re so close together, both subjects, the zinnia and the butterfly, are in focus. I’ve tried to capture photos of butterflies since, but have never managed to get a decent shot with the butterfly with wings open, and the flower both in focus.

© Huffygirl 2012

A quick primer on floppy tulip syndrome just in time for Valentine’s Day

Don’t want your tulips flopping over in the vase? Here’s the quick skinny on what to do.

Buy good quality tulips – buds tightly closed, brightly colored, without any fraying on the edges.  Protect them from extreme cold or heat on the trip home. Don’t leave them sitting in the car while you’re running errands.

Add glass floral marbles and a couple of old copper pennies (prior to 1982) to the bottom of the vase. The marbles support the stems; the copper from the pennies, at least in theory, supports stem strength.

Arrange the tulips one by one, gently placing each stem within the support marbles.Cut at least 1-3 inches off the stems depending on the height of your vase. A short vase and tall tulips will guarantee flopping.

The tulips may look a little floppy at first, but should straighten up after a little time in the water.


Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Huffygirl: How to cure floppy tulip syndrome

© Huffygirl 2012