No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.
There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me.
~ Thomas Jefferson ~
Two weeks ago there was a Purple Parade of Spring flowers. This week, pink, magenta, fuschia, white, and lots of yellow tree pollen have joined in the celebration.
Weaving in and out, and fluttering all about are the pollinators – always a pure joy to see. The first hummingbird was sighted a few days ago – visiting the nectar feeder, the pansies, and the azalea. He or she drank deeply at the feeder, perhaps tired and thirsty from the long migration journey. Bumble, Carpenter, Solitary, and Honey bees have been busily working alongside me in the garden – I am thankful for the early flowering plants and trees that tide them over until the massive April flowering happens. A few early Swallowtail butterflies are about as well.
Interestingly, the tiny lavender flowers of the Ground Ivy (Creeping Charlie) seem to be everyone’s favorite. The Ground Ivy has been flowering for about 30 days now, and as one of the earliest nectar sources, it is popular because there are few other native flowering plants in abundance in mid to late March. But, even now, with an abundance of trees and plants in blossom, the humming and buzzing of the bees is most audible at the Ground Ivy. How can I call it a weed when it feeds so many crucial contributors to an abundant environment? After pulling up armloads of it from under and around our raised garden troughs, and being aware that I was a bit unpopular for doing so (🐝🐝🐝), we’ll wait until the flowers have faded before mowing the Creeping Charlie carpet along the ditchline, the woodsy edges, and around the Muscadine arbor. “Anything I can do to help” – my personal Mantra – my promise to Mother Earth.
Spicebush Swallowtail (I think) feeding on nectar of lavender Ground Ivy flowers. My camera was having a hard time finding focus, most likely because the butterfly was fluttering his wings constantly. But I love the colors in the photo, and it almost seems to have a dream-like quality to it.
First grape leaves unfurling.
Montmorency cherry blossom – I would love to have enough cherries to make a cobbler this year!
Azalea blossoms and new lime green leaves.
~ Helen Steiner Rice, Sunshine of Joy, from my grandmother’s bookshelf
I’ve been away from my blog for a while.
Beautiful Spring weather and a very long list of yard and garden “must-dos” & “desperately want-to-dos” have turned my thoughts elsewhere. Toiling away in the fresh air and sunshine, with birdsong as my cadence – oh, such heavenly work it is! – makes for sweet deep sleep at day’s end. (In other words, I’ve been too tuckered to type by nightfall!)
Last week, while conducting Spring plant and pollinator “reconnaissance”, it occurred to me that purple seemed to be the color of the week. And some purples appeared to be popular with the pollinators (say that 3 times fast!).
Look at the beautiful translucent wings on this honey bee gathering nectar from the tiny lavender flowers of Ground Ivy, known to many as “Creeping Charlie”.
Wild Violets. Perfection – with their delicate flowers and heart shaped leaves!
More Wild Violets, Ground Ivy, and Moss cascading down the stream bank.
Honesty Plant, I like the latin name better – Lunaria annua, self seeds in the leaf litter under the Cedar, Oak, and Tulip trees.
Creeping Phlox – a blanket of lavender over a thick cushion of evergreen foliage.
Pansies – blooming since late November in my window box. What a wonderful way to greet the morning during the winter months!
Late Winter. One of my favorite times of the year in North Carolina!
Most of the russet Oak leaves have succumbed to wind, snow, and rain – only a very few remain in the tree tops – dancing and twirling as if invisible puppeteers dangle them from strings. The coppery Beech leaves have faded to translucent, the color of pale rose gold.
Daffodils, Pansies, and Camellias are in bloom, each lending color and beauty to the landscape. Flowering Pear and flowering Cherry – always first, and usually too early – are covered in clouds of delicate white and palest pink blossom. Saucer Magnolias – one of my favorites – reduce my vocabulary to single syllable exclamations of “ohhhhh”, “ahhhhh”, and “mmmmm”. Drifts of tiny blue Wild Flowers open to warmth on sunny slopes. Yes, Spring is almost here!
But it is the Winter Green that catches my eye today! Grey brooding Sky, cold Mist, damp chill to the Air, the smell of woodsmoke – Winter is not finished yet. There are treasures to behold, for it is now that the tiny ones, the unassuming ones, draw me in to the Woods. It is their turn to shine. Perfectly complimented by the silver-grey of late winter Tree trunk, Tree limb, and damp carpets of Leaves, they go quietly about their work – returning Matter back to Mother Earth and protecting Her, holding Her, with a beautiful blanket of green.
It twas a wee bit frosty here this morning – alright, downright cold – but the clear blue sky and the golden light beckoned to me and encouraged me to bring my camera!
I continue to be amazed by the abundant seasonal beauty that reveals itself on this little patch of ground. It was the chickens and the dogs who drew me in to it initially. And I thank them for it.
As a child, I was an avid observer of nature – the environment surrounding a space, the sounds, the smells, the light. I would spend hours wandering about my grandparent’s farm, observing the sheep from a perch on the pasture gate, exploring the barn, the edges of field, the garden…..swinging endlessly on the old wooden swing beneath the branches of a stout maple tree….dozing on the porch swing, enveloped in the crisp clean scent of the bridal wreath blossoms, listening to the bees busily collecting pollen and nectar.
Early and mid adulthood took me in other directions, and while I still always enjoyed my time outdoors in nature – in my yard, on walks, during vacation trips – I became more of a traveler through it, most of the time with a destination in mind or a task to be completed.
And then, at about age 50, the chickens and the dogs brought me back to nature; encouraged me to linger there – to just be.
Look up, look down, look closely.
Be aware of the sounds, the songs, and the warning calls of the wild birds.
Feel the curve of the dogwood tree that perfectly cradles my back when I lean against it.
Notice the abundance all around.
I began to take note of how the tension in my neck and shoulders eased upon arrival. How it was easier to straighten my spine, pull my shoulders back, and take a deep breath. How the sounds of the hens cooing and clucking, scratching and pecking, soothed my frayed edges. How observing the dogs using all of their senses – to communicate with one another and to detect the environmental details of their surroundings – reminds me that there is wisdom far greater than ours all around us, each day, each minute, each second.
This morning I spent some time resting back against the dogwood tree.
Listening to the wild birds and the squirrels going about their business.
Drinking in the golden light.
Remembering the hens and the pups who gently pulled me back to linger awhile with Mother Nature.
And I thanked them for it.
On this last day of October, the sun is warm, the sky is clear blue, and the crickets are singing in the shady spots. Almost overnight, warm tones of burgundy, burnt orange, and gold have begun to show in the tree tops. But many of the beauties of summer remain steadfast – Colors of Persistence.
Lantana and Blue Chip Buddleia – blooming profusely since May. A popular source of nectar for pollinators – butterflies, moths, bees, and hummingbirds – always a busy place in summer! Shade and cover for the little Blue Tailed Skinks and Toads.
Mint, contained in a pot for sanity’s sake, & still flavoring my water, along with a little fresh lemon juice.
The 3 photos along the bottom are part of my “embracing native plants” scheme. I stopped using any kind of herbicide or pesticide in 2001. Considered to be weeds by many, I find them to be beautiful. I’ve no idea what the tiny purple flowered plant is, but it seems to be co-existing nicely with the Clover – maybe they’re working together to put nitrogen back in to the soil? Daisy Fleabane, center photo, pops up along the fringes of mown lawn, along the creek buffer, amongst the gone-to-seed asparagus, at the base of the grapevines. The tiny daisy-like flowers persist from June until the first hard freeze. Cradling the Cedar logs – Creeping Charlie (Ground Ivy), spreading profusely in the shady spots, where nothing else wants to grow and hold the soil. Ok, I admit, this one is out of control as soon as you blink your eyes! But it persists here in the Southeast for much of the winter, holding the soil in place during winter rains, lending a bit of green to the winter landscape, and bursting in to a carpet of lavender flowers in Spring. I’ve found that it even appears to choke out Poison Ivy. And, since its tendrils remain on the ground, it doesn’t become a nuisance by climbing up into the shrubs and trees. I spent many hours, dollars, and more energy than I care to admit waging battle on Ground Ivy in the past – pulling, raking, tilling, boraxing – you name it, I tried it. I’m much happier now that I choose to see its positive attributes, instead of just the negative ones. Perhaps there is a lesson in that for all of us, in other areas of life?
And, here, much loved Impatiens and Licorice are still bursting out of the flower box at the kitchen window! Greeting me in the morning while the coffee brews, brightening my thoughts while I slog through the pile of dirty dishes, providing an anchor point for the Brown Box Spider’s delicate web, and attracting insects for the Blue Tailed Skinks to hunt from the window sill.
Sycamore, Oak, and Pecan leaves. Tiny acorns from the Willow Oak.
Humongous Fungus! Chicken of the Woods, Laetiporus sulphureus.
Eastern Box Turtle. Second one spotted on the property this year! So happy you’re here, my friend!
Berries on Holly tree – just beginning to change color. Only last week they were still shiny green. Purple Fountain Grass.
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