Saturday, August 2, 2014

The world of plants is not just about greenery.  The garden is also habitat for all sorts of creatures. And we were privileged to witness one of the most spectacular displays of this interconnectedness at the raptor show at the Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson last spring.

My friend (a volunteer at the garden) and we were just trying to process the fascinating shapes of the cactii and other low-water plants when we spotted a magnificent Saguaro that looked all the world like a thorny gent standing there. So did a hawk who used another nearby Saguaro for a launching pad for his hunt. Sometimes these amazing sentinels of the desert, the Saguaros, are actually known as “Cactus Hotels” because of all the critters who burrow holes and homes in them. And then there was the owl who looked solemnly out at us from a dead branch.

Whenever we are tempted to use pesticides to control rampaging insects in the garden, it is wise to stop and reconsider. As a child growing up in Wisconsin, I remember the fogging trucks plying the streets in my hometown dispensing DDT in great acrid clouds.  I also remember all too well the conspicuous absence of song birds for many years thereafter.  It seemed to take decades for them to return in any numbers.

Bottom line, whether we are gardening in the rain-drenched upper Midwest or in the drought-plagued Southwest, the decisions we make as gardeners cannot be taken in isolation.  Our plants are not alone out there!

Artichoke Cactus

Saguaro out for a stroll

King of the Mountain

Dead tree...who-o-o me?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

For a die-hard gardener, travel can bring with it unexpected adventures into the world of all things ‘plant’.  On our way East to Michigan this summer, we wandered through a flannel-thick fog in Wyoming into a magic kingdom of wildflowers in extravagant bloom. The landscape itself was desolate under that gray shroud. Not a car, farm or ranch house was in sight anywhere, mile after mile. And then suddenly the roadsides became first sprinkled, then blanketed with blossoms I had never seen before, anywhere.

Thank goodness for WiFi. It was spotty, but just enough to turn my smart-phone into a makeshift wildflower guide. Thank goodness also that online sites permit searching by color. The names, in some cases, seemed as exotic as the flowers themselves.  I cannot even imagine what the early pioneers in their covered wagons felt as they made their way over these delicate carpets of blue and yellow and white.  Droplets glistened on the petals like precious gem stones scattered by some unseen hand across the landscape.

If proof ever was needed that beauty is where we find it, our backroads trek through Wyoming gave it to us in abundance. Unforgettable.

Blue Prairie Flax

Evening Primrose
Wild Jungle Dragon Iris

Narrowleaf Stoneseed
Sego Lily

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I'm b-a-a-a-ck. After a two-year hiatus in which my husband and I joint-authored "Bay View: Images of America" for Arcadia Publishers and I slogged away toward completion of my third in the Life in the Garden series of novels, "From the Tender Stem", I am feeling the bizarre urge to blog again.

Life in the interim acquired the urgency of a gardener transplanting astilbe. We sold our home of 20 years in NY and moved to Tempe, AZ. We put our Bay View cottage on the market and moved to a restored house overlooking the Bear River nature preserve in downtown Petoskey. We helped a daughter move and then my 97-year-old mother.  Dig in and cut back the distractions. Water and fertilize. Then wait for life to stabilize again.

The plus in all that was finishing the Images of America book on time.  "From the Tender Stem" should be available by year-end.  Less dramatic but very exciting, our new Petoskey location actually has enough sun to perennial garden again.  New beginnings are never easy. While waiting for approval on the landscape design, I have begun wildly digging-in donated plants from any and all sources.  An unusually cold summer has left plant sellers clearing out stock at bargain basement prices and dumping "distressed plants" left and right. 

All that means another "move" next summer, this time for the new plant companions biding their time in the flower bed next to the house.  And on we grow.