Surprises in the garden

“I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow.” – David Hobson


I was at the hardware store this past weekend and overheard two men talking. One had come across a snake in his garden and was buying something (poison? trap? I didn’t look at what he was holding) to get rid of the snake. The other told him if it was a black snake, then he should leave it alone. He went on to say,”If you ever see a black snake out along the roadside, put him in the car and take him home with you.” Ugh.

I know he speaks some truth. Black snakes are supposedly your best friend when it comes to keeping poisonous snakes away from your yard. I just … well … I just don’t like snakes at all. I know they exist, but I prefer never to see them in my garden or along my running path or even behind glass in a cage at the nature museum.

My husband and I commented again about the two men’s conversation when we saw a large black snake on the other side of the road as we were out driving a few days later. Our dog was in the back of the car, and we envisioned the total chaos that would have ensued had we stopped and tossed the snake in with the dog to take home. I’m not sure who would have fared worse: the snake, our dog, the car or us. Again, ugh.

So I’m glad that I’ve only had pleasant surprises in my garden this past week, and I wanted to share some of them with you. I promise: there are no scary critters involved.

First was a calla lily in bloom. A dear friend of mine carried a bouquet of orange calla lilies at her wedding, and ever since, I associate these flowers with her. As I was planning out a new backyard garden spot a few years ago, I knew I wanted to put in some calla lilies. I have been disappointed each year as the huge, green leaves came up but never any blooms. And then this, as we officially entered summer:


I noticed a spot of yellow from my kitchen window and went running outside to see if my eyes were playing tricks on me.

I guess it’s simple things like this that delight my soul. The bloom has lasted for days now, and others have joined it to add beauty to my orange and yellow garden patch.


A calla lily bloom heralds the start of summer

The second surprise showed up in my front yard at about the same time. A Lady Baltimore hibiscus (one my longtime readers may remember from a post two summers ago) came up this summer as a double stalk instead of just the single one that has been coming up for several years now.  Continue reading

The birds of the air

My husband and I spent a few precious days at our home away from home in the mountains this past weekend. Life grows stiller there for us, and we come back home rejuvenated for the tasks that lie ahead.

During this past trip, I called my mom, and she asked in a quiet, hopeful voice, “Have you seen any hummingbirds yet?”

A few weeks back, one hummingbird buzzed by the house, hoping for the feeder of sugar water because the cold, wet spring had made the flowers shy to bloom. It had been a miserably wet weekend, and though I hadn’t yet put out the hummingbird feeder, thinking it too early for them to have come back for the season, we had put seed out for other birds. And they came in droves to show off their finery and eat their fill.


A male rose-breasted grosbeak enjoys a meal in the pouring rain.


Posing for the camera?

Continue reading

Joy in the delayed spring garden

For years I admired these odd but cheerful-looking flowers in other people’s gardens. Out on my run, I’d think, “I wonder what kind of plant that is? I’d love to have one in my garden.” They were sometimes the only blooming plant in winter gardens, and they burst forth with greater vigor in early spring.

Last year, a friend posted on Facebook a picture of some of them blooming in her garden, calling them by name. Thanks to her, I finally knew what to look for at my local nursery: Lenten Roses.


One of my first Lenten Roses (Hellebore). Its profusion of blooms makes me happy.

I bought two last spring to plant in a new garden bed my husband was building around our lacebark elm tree. And I bought four more this fall. They’re all growing, and that brings me great joy. I’m already planning where I’ll add more, but I just missed a sale at my favorite nursery, and they’re not the cheapest plants to buy. Plus, it has been too darn cold to spend a lot of time outside digging in the dirt just yet.

A message on one of the plants from the fall has really stuck with me: Will self-sow where happy. Isn’t that true of us humans, too? Don’t we sow more seeds of happiness where we are happiest? We like to stick around in those places of happiness and visit them again in our memories. Continue reading

On cutting down trees, again

Back in January, I wrote a post about some tree cutting that happened nearby to put up a needless sidewalk. Then, a few weekends ago, the tree men came to my own neighborhood to cut down one of the grand old oaks that has graced us for many decades.

It’s not the only tree to die because of the construction craze in the neighborhood (the neighborhood is experiencing a “tear-down” renaissance where new, large homes replace older, smaller ones), but it was a beautiful tree that I hoped might just survive its mistreatment.

The tree had declined after stresses piled on to it one after another: back-to-back summers of heat and drought coupled with a construction crew that didn’t understand – or didn’t care – what day after day of painting materials washed out at the base of the tree would do to it. Of course, the new owners had no idea about the paint, and they consulted tree experts to try to save the tree. But after holding off for a couple of years to try to help the tree survive, they decided it was time to take it down.

So a few Saturdays ago, with snow falling (a rarity around here), I was getting my house ready to entertain guests later that evening. I realized I was hearing the steady drone of a chainsaw and looked out to see across the roof of the house behind ours, a man up in the tree:


When I saw what was happening, I stopped cleaning to grab my camera, and over the next few hours (with some dusting and laundry and food prep in between), documented as the tree came down, limb by limb.

I’m scared of heights, and though I love trees, I don’t enjoy climbing them at all. So this sight awed me, this man connected to the tree by ropes and also connected to his chainsaw by a rope that swung at his side.  TreeCutting2013_3 Continue reading

Love of place (and a Lenten challenge)

Before I launch into today’s post, I want to thank those of you who responded to last week’s post, The obsession with our scales. I enjoyed the range of comments you emailed and wanted to encourage you to take the season of Lent (which starts today) to consider whether you need to shift the way you think about food and weight. Lent offers a time to repent of sins in preparation for Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, and it’s a season that Christians traditionally give something up as a way of focusing more on Christ.

Maybe it’s your scale (and the anxieties that accompany stepping on it) that you need to give up to God this Lent. Could you put it away in a closet and not look at it again until after Easter and spend the time you would normally stand pondering the number on the scale instead reading a Bible verse or saying a quick prayer? Or maybe you need to change some eating habits (too much sugar/alcohol/caffeine, not enough vegetables/fruit/water) so you’ll have the energy you need to get up five minutes early every morning to spend time with God. I’d love to know if you’re giving something up or adding something in this season of Lent, and if it’s extra challenging, I’d be honored to pray for your success in this area. Just let me know by emailing me or commenting below! And now for today’s post …


Love of place
I spent this past weekend in the mountains, a place that is home away from home for my husband and me, a place that sometimes feels most like “home,” though we don’t live there permanently, a place so wrapped in natural beauty that I feel closer to God when I’m there.

We had been away for too long, and I was giddy at returning, proving that the adage “Distance makes the heart grow fonder” doesn’t apply only to people. This place has wound its way into my heart.

I took some time simply reacquainting myself with this place, walking its trails, skirting its places still icy with winter, sitting in a favorite restaurant filled with laughter and the unforgettable smell of a wood-fired oven, driving to catch the best moments of setting sun.

So on this eve of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to honor this place I love so dearly by sharing some photos of it with you.


Ducks and ripples in a part of the lake without ice

I discovered a few fallen friends along the trails I walked, victims of wind and winter.

I discovered a few fallen friends along the trails I walked, victims of wind and winter.


I saw these ice crystals and wondered if earlier versions had inspired the first chandelier makers.


More chandelier inspiration; I love how many colors show up in this photograph, proving that winter isn’t all gray and brown


Time for reflection — both mine and nature’s


A broad horizon at sunset


Layers of blue ridgelines as the sun sets

Perhaps you understand? Maybe you, too, have a deep and abiding love of place? What place grips your heart this way? What about it feels like “home” to you? Why not send it a little Valentine in the comments below?