Refuge in the Little Moments

Sigh. I made the mistake of looking at the news. Although it is beautiful sunshine outside, it is also COLD – in the 30sF. Too cold. My to-do list is uninspiring. At moments like these it’s good to turn to the little things in life that can take me away from this moment and into a moment that makes me smile.

White Cat. Sigh. She’s not often a moment that makes me smile, I must confess. She’s over 19.5 years old. Arthritic. Ill. Unclean. Dying of starvation (literally) – we need to feed her every hour. She’s noisy – very meowy because it hurts to move (arthritis), it hurts to defecate, it hurts to be hungry, it is annoying when HER person (my husband) is NOT on the couch where he belongs so she can snuggle. Meow meow meow. I’m probably not supposed to admit or say this, but it will be a huge relief in my life when she finally decides she’s ready to quit hers. And then I catch sight of her all curled up and sweet and innocent on the couch in the sun. All I can do is melt and smile and enjoy her little pink nose and her little pink paw pads and her little pink ears.

Spring flowers always lighten my mood and gladden my heart. These pictures are from one of my afternoon walks. I’m not sure what that purple ground cover is – the flowers look like azaleas but it’s WAY too early for azaleas. I think. The magnolia tree takes me back to my childhood. We had the good fortune to live on a street that had an island running down the middle. Down the middle of the island were magnolia trees, one after the other. They were glorious for about one week, before the petals began turning brown and dropping. My sister’s birthday is a week AFTER that peak magnolia time. My grandmother, who LOVED flowers and gardening, would always come out for my sister’s birthday, and always bemoaned the fact that she was too late for the magnolias. Tradition! That is a cherished loving memory of us all happy together, even if my grandmother missed the magnolias.

Of course it’s wonderful to see my OWN garden starting to wake up as well. I think that this year instead of tying back the forsythia, I’m going to cut it way back. We are having construction done (again) on the house, beginning in May. Yes – I will indeed be documenting it and inflicting the photos and my complaints on you. For some reason I am incapable of remembering what they call the a/c unit we are having installed upstairs (split? slim?). It will have some unit that sits outside the way central air units sit outside, but we will have vents in each of the rooms upstairs. The outside unit is going to be sitting in either the forsythia or the rhododendron, although I suppose maybe we could tuck it back on the far side of the rhododendron and lose the azalea and the andromeda bush back there. In any case, the forsythia needs some heavy pruning. It’s way too straggly. And it’s fun for me to think about gardening. 🙂

There is an old sexist saying: The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. In our family we laughed at that saying because both my sister and I married men who are great cooks. We always joked that the way to OUR hearts was through our stomachs. 🙂 While my husband is indeed an excellent cook, there are a few meals that are “mine” to make, mostly in the comfort food category. I make the holiday briskets, the tuna casseroles, the ground beef casseroles and the corned beef & cabbage dinners. My husband so enjoyed his corned beef & cabbage dinner this past March 17, he insisted that I take a picture of it. 🙂 I agree – it was delicious. And now I’m hungry.

My cookbook insists on calling this “Boiled New England Dinner”

Major Cleanup on the Side Garden

Lilies and gaillardia
Lilies and gaillardia

I’m very proud of myself. I finally tamed (mostly) the side garden. I had to hunt for a photo to show how bad it was because I have very carefully NOT been taking pictures of that disaster. 🙂 All I have is a cropped piece of a photo from April. Trust me – it was a lot worse by the time June came around. About a week ago I couldn’t stand the sight of it anymore and began tying back the forsythia and yanking weeds. There were flowers in there once, I know. The problem is that the weeds look exactly like the flowers I plant. I never know if what I’m looking at is weed or flower. And of course there was the incident of the weed that was pretending to be rhubarb.

overgrown side yard
Before (April) – Peonies just beginning, forsythia just ending, lots of dead brush

I took a few hours one morning and began the cleanup, so I could transfer some flowers to the side (mostly peppermint and my borage). That involved cutting back a good part of the rhododendron, and hacking out some very deep-seated weeds. The white azaleas need to be hacked back as well, but I couldn’t do it all in one day. Once the azaleas are cut back we might be able to see the hydrangea that is there. I need to find either a good ladder or a brave soul so the top of the rhododendron can be cut back. I don’t really need it reaching the roof, and that’s where it seems to be heading.

pruned side garden
After (June) – Borage transplanted nicely – will have blue flowers, you can see the ferns and the variegated whatever.

There are some plants that are well behaved and still contained, playing nicely with each other. The lilies look great next to the gaillardia. I’m hoping the mandevilla that is just sneaking in at the side of the gaillardia (you can see 2 partial leaves) will make it this year. Either I bought an unhealthy plant or I’ve been over-watering it (my guess) or it got sick, but its leaves keep turning yellow. 😦 There are flowers and new shoots on it, so I’ve decided to leave it alone for a bit and see how it does. Benign negligence. Those 2 are in the front garden. The shot below is part of the bed between the street and the sidewalk. It’s almost rudbeckia time!! I finally looked up the yellow flowered brown leaved perennial: lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’. What the description doesn’t say is that it is nearly indestructible!

lysimachia ciliata 'Firecracker'
Yellow flowered lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’, mandevilla’s white flowers, variegated grass, rudbeckia laciniata hortensia (not yet blooming)

The best part of the side garden is that one of my canna lilies from last summer wintered over, and is coming up! This is incredibly exciting for 2 reasons. First, just the fact that something that wonderful wintered over thrills me. 🙂 Second, they cost SO MUCH per plant. This one is saving me at least $25. 🙂 That is ALWAYS appreciated.

canna lily wintered over
Grow, canna lily, Grow!!!

5 Hours

IMG_1639 (1)
After the Pruning

This weekend the weather was GLORIOUS! No humidity, low 80s, sunshine – just perfect weather. Beginning on Friday afternoon I began psyching myself for waking early on Saturday to go out and tackle the evergreens in front of the house, which were in desperate need of pruning. I got up a little before 7:30 am, fed the cats, cleaned their litter boxes, and headed out to tackle the pruning. My husband left, came back, left again, came back. When I finally finished all I’d hoped to do, and bagged the evidence, I’d been out there for 5 hours, utilizing 2 different step ladders. Even as I type now, I feel the strain in my muscles. Ouch.

before
Before the pruning

On the other hand, although my body feels battered and bruised, the hedge and garden are looking extremely fine, in my opinion (does anyone else’s opinion matter for this???). I even tackled the willow bush along the driveway so that I can pull my car further up without fearing for the paint job. No pictures of that so you’ll have to take my word for it. Would I lie to you, honey? Now would I say something that wasn’t true? *grin*

I spent several hours on the hedge alone – getting the front, top, back and sides. I usually try to do this in the spring, before the flowers are growing, so that it’s easier to clean up the cuttings. I had to keep moving the large step ladder around the dahlias, trying not to damage them. I did at one point lose my balance anyway (on the ground, NOT on the ladder, go figure) and ended up falling on one of the dahlias. 😦 Thankfully I only damaged a piece of it, not the whole plant. There will still be flowers. I don’t use an electric hedge clipper. I use manual loppers and take my time to step back a distance and see what I’ve been doing. My goal is to take the top down sufficiently far to allow air and light to come into the front sun room under the awning, without losing the privacy we get from the hedge. I’d estimate I took off at least 8 inches from the top. I also pruned the little golden arborvitae a bit – took a bit off the top and the side by the golden rod.

after
After – look there is yard art!

I also trim the front and sides to give room to the other bushes and flowers there. The one side was reaching out to the andromeda bush and the other side was into the potted plants along the front walk. Perhaps the ‘ickiest’ part of the pruning is the back – clearing a path between the hedge and the house. That’s where the spiders hang out. Ick. Yes, yes, I KNOW they eat bugs. But I don’t like them or their webs touching me. *shudder* I go through first with a broom to clear anything like that before I start cutting. I had a lot of encouragement from the butterflies. Both the black swallowtail and the monarch butterflies were flitting about.

bush before
Before – hedge over the bottom of the awning.

Once I finally got the hedge under control, and took a few cuts at the forsythia on the corner of the sun room, I worked on the willow bush along the driveway. I’d hacked it back in the winter when we were due for a huge wet snowfall. I learned in the past that huge, wet snowfalls cause the willow to bend all the way into the driveway and until we clear that bush, we can’t move the cars. It’s been a wet spring and the willow has flourished. I also trimmed up the pots along the front walk, and weeded them, and removed the ones that were done for the year. I was doing my best “energizer bunny” imitation. 🙂 I am delighted that FINALLY the canna lilies in the front pots are blooming. Sure took them long enough. I still see very little evidence that the ones in the other pot will flower. 😦

behind the hedge
Behind the hedge and weeded container pots

After all of the pruning is done, then comes cleanup. Had I seen any evidence of the teenage boy who supposedly lives next door, I’d have tried to hire him to do get the debris into the big brown lawn bags. But as is usual this summer, there was no sign of life there, so I bagged 4 brown bags full of debris. Ouch. Anyway, I think it’s looking fine now, and there is air and light in the sun room. You can see the metal heron between the bushes. Even the metal & rocks art sculpture can be seen. Pruning the rhododendron and tying up the forsythia will have to wait til fall. I’m not sure my muscles will recover before then. 🙂
canna lilies