December 31, 2017

Twelve of My Favorite Things (2017)

This year flew by so fast! It was challenging for all of us but, as always, there were so many things to be thankful for, and so many things to happily anticipate in the year ahead.

For the past several years, I've created lists of my favorite garden and nature "things" to celebrate as one year passes to the next. They help me appreciate each moment and each season in its time.

Thomas More wisely said, "The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden. If you don't want paradise, you are not human; and if you are not human, you don't have a soul." I certainly find an indication of paradise in the garden and in nature. In that spirit, I contemplated simple gardening and nature joys of this year that I look forward to in the months ahead.

1 January

In January, while much of the landscape will be dormant and covered with snow, the mosses will continue to fascinate--especially the ones that grow on the sides of the rock wall.

2 February

The days lengthen in February, and if I'm lucky I'll catch a few stunning sunsets down by the lake and elsewhere.

3 March

The first sturdy spring-flowering bulbs will poke through the leaf mulch sometime in March.

4 April

In April, the crabapple blossoms will explode with heavenly scents and delightful beauty.

5 May

May is the month of the woodland ephemerals, including the tiny pink-pollened Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica).

6 June

Early in June, I'm likely to see the first Monarch butterflies of the season!

7 July

What could be sweeter than a July day filled with Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) and bumblebees?

8 August

Sometime in August, the Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) plants will reach their peak bloom--filling the air with the scent of vanilla and attracting more bees and butterflies.

9 September

In September, the side garden will burst with late-summer blooms.

10 October

October will be bright with blooms and fiery foliage.

11 November

In November, my garden will move indoors, but the little joys will continue as long as there are plants to tend.

12 December

As December ends the year, tiny buds of promise on Clematis 'Nelly Moser' will offer hope for the next season.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

When I think of these simple pleasures, and many more, the year ahead looks brighter. Each month carries its own unique, simple blessings.

My wish for you in the year ahead is that you'll find many "favorite things" and gifts that will bring you much joy.

Happy New Year!

December 22, 2017

Christmas Under Glass at The Domes

Display dome

Recently, I drove over to Milwaukee's Mitchell Park Conservatory, also referred to as "The Domes." I hadn't been there in many years, so I'm glad I devoted an afternoon to exploring the three glass-encased gardens. The Floral Show Dome was all decked out in holiday cheer, with the theme, "Naughty or Nice."

Whimsical scenes of Santa with his elves working hard to prepare toys, check the lists, and plan for travel around the world, were interspersed with lush groupings of Poinsettias, Amaryllises, Mums, and other traditional holiday plants and decorations. The giant Christmas tree near Santa's chair was impressively decorated with snowflakes, ornaments, and the list of good children.

Here are a few highlights, in no particular order. You can click on the photos to enlarge them and see more detail.

Santa stops here

Stacked poinsettias

Christmas tree


Santa's list

Poinsettias and amaryllises

Christmas display

Santa's travels

Bench borders

Letters to Santa

Trailing planters

Fountains and pond

It was a bright day, so the sun and the blue sky surrounding the scenes added to the warmth of the displays.

The "Naughty or Nice" display will continue through Sunday, Jan. 7. The conservatory is open weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It's a great destination if you live nearby or you're traveling in the area, and it's a pleasant setting for a family outing and a warm, lush escape from the winter winds outside. I plan to share highlights from the other two domes in the months ahead.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

December 20, 2017

Vignettes at the Solstice

nature's collage

I forced myself to get outside yesterday and take a short hike at a local park. I'm so glad I overcame inertia, laziness, and endless excuses, because it really was quite a beautiful day: 45F (7C), sunny skies, and no wind. Those days are numbered until next spring! No snow here yet, so the colors of the landscape are nuanced and mostly shades of gray and brown.

But there are always plenty of opportunities to notice nature's vignettes. Thanks to Anna at Flutter & Hum for hosting Wednesday Vignettes!

mossy log

Where there's moss there are tiny forests of lush green growth.

before rabbits


Before and after buds ... evidence of rabbits?

red blue brown

With a largely brown and gray landscape, bright colors pop, like the Redosier Dogwood (Cornus sericea) and the blue sky.

branches and sky

Oh yes, the blue sky!


The nearly thawed pond soon will be frozen solid and covered with snow. Yesterday, however, it seemed like early spring, and the angled sun captured trees, dried stems, and grasses in magical ways.

After a little exercise on such a comfortable day, I felt energized and grateful to be alive. Not really ready for winter, but aware of and thankful for all the little blessings of each day.

Happy solstice!