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Summer Gardens

the color: summer gardens

“Flowers… are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s funny sometimes to think amidst the busyness of work, family, appointments, kids’ practices and games, about slowing down. Most of the year, out of necessity, I’m moving too fast. Busyness becomes a routine, and it almost becomes comfortable to be always in motion. But summer brings with it another pace, and this year I’m welcoming slowing down wholeheartedly.

My July 2016 slice of summer

Summer Gardens

When I can spend a few moments outside, it changes my perspective. This summer, my flower gardens have been bursting with blooms.

a new pale lavendar echinacea

The color of a group of daylilies and the profusion of tall garden phlox, a serendipity I love.

the color

And of course, the butterflies (here, a Great Spangled Fritillary) upon the echinacea…

Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly

And the hummingbirds.

a male juvenile ruby throated hummingbird
a male juvenile ruby-throated hummingbird

Dale Carnegie was right when he said:

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon — instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our windows today.”

Roses, of course
Roses, of course

Hoping you have the chance to slow down and soak up summer and its beauty this week.

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Poppies and Peonies

Oriental poppies in my garden

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. – Audrey Hepburn

Every spring, the warming weather hooks me with its promises of color after the long Ohio winter. Every spring, I can’t help myself and plant a few more flowers. Last year, I planted poppies. A few years ago, I planted peonies. And just as the best time to plant a tree is last year, the plants hardly flower on the year I plant them. But this spring is completely different.

Just outside the back door, below the kitchen window, hundreds of peony blossoms are readying to open. And just beyond the peonies, the oriental poppies are bursting with papery blooms, brilliant crimson and vanilla white. It makes me endlessly happy.

Poppies and Peonies: Stars of the Spring Garden

Oriental poppies in my garden
Oriental poppies in my garden

“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.” – Luther Burbank

Clematis
Clematis

The clematis climbs the sides of the deck, and this year had twice the number of blooms as last. It’s hard not to love.

“Flowers are happy things.” – P. G. Wodehouse

Peonies, about to open
Peonies, about to open

I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.” – Emma Goldman

Bearded Iris: the color
Bearded Iris: the color

The artist is the confidant of nature, flowers carry on dialogues with him through the graceful bending of their stems and the harmoniously tinted nuances of their blossoms. Every flower has a cordial word which nature directs towards him.” – Auguste Rodin

 

An opening Anenome Peony
An opening Anemone Peony

 

“Flowers… are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is no greater promise of life than flowers about to bloom. I hope you’re enjoying this spring and planting some new beautiful colors. Share some favorites here with us, too. Happy spring!

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A Gardener’s Color Guide: 20 Favorite Garden Flowers

my former USA backyard gardens, colorful bliss

“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece” – Claude Monet

I love flowers. I always have, and probably always will. This year, I’m more excited than usual to get planting — I have a garden to plant, a blank slate. Before my family and I moved to Prague, my gardens at our former house overflowed with flowers. Now that we are back in the US and have a yard to plant again, I’m ready to work on it and turn it into a place like the photograph below.

June gardens at the peak of bloom
June gardens at the peak of bloom

Gardens, flowers, and nature have long been inspiration for poets, writers, and painters. None is more famous than Monet’s Water Lilies or Van Gogh’s Irises, great paintings of flowers and gardens as Muse. For me, a beautiful backyard garden is one of the gifts that never stops giving. With an investment of some work, time, and money, a backyard can become an accessible daily retreat.

June Gardens, seats for two
June Gardens, seats for two

I always forget how much I miss the colorful world of spring and summer until winter begins to fade and the world wakes up again. Ten days ago, it snowed 2″ at my house. This past weekend, the weather was gorgeous — sunny, 75*F. It beckoned. I bought a few annuals and planted my front step planters (dahlias for the first time), and replaced a few plants which faded over the winter (I did move a LOT of dirt to fix the flooded basement. It’s a wonder my whole flower garden didn’t die.). The color, the potential–all of it outside brings a certain kind of happiness.

Amsterdam Flower Markets Painting
Amsterdam Flower Markets Painting

Spring is my favorite time of year for its feast of color. Friends often ask what they should plant — following is my list of favorites, for their ability to come back year after year, and for the length of blooms during the season.

20 Favorite Garden Flowers

Will Goodwin Clematis
Will Goodwin Clematis
Purple Bearded Iris
Purple Bearded Iris
Penstemon, a hummingbird favorite
Penstemon, a hummingbird favorite
Echinacea
Echinacea
Gemini hybrid tea rose
Gemini hybrid tea rose
Peter Mayle rose
Peter Mayle rose
Inspector L Peony
Inspector L Peony
Peony
Peony
spider daylily
Daylily
Poet's Daffodil
Poet’s Daffodil
Becky Daisy
Becky Daisy
About Face Rose
About Face Rose
July gardens, with Pandora's Box daylily, Litrum, Becky daisy, and Russian Sage
My favorite combination: Pandora’s Box daylily, Lithrum, Becky daisy, and Russian Sage
A swath of daisies
Happy daisies
Endless Summer Hydrangea
Endless Summer Hydrangea
Hibiscus
Hibiscus
Jeanne La Joie climbing rose
Jeanne La Joie climbing rose
True Blue Delphinium
True Blue Delphinium
Nepeta (Catmint) and May Night Salvia, with a Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Nepeta (Catmint) and May Night Salvia, with a Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Can you think of any flowers I’ve missed? What are your favorite flowers to plant in your gardens? I’d love to hear what your favorites are … Happy planting for a beautiful spring and summer!

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Gardens and a Beautiful Life: a Photojournal

Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly

“A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in–what more could he ask? A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

 

During the month of May and the first half of June, the weather blew into Ohio in hot gusts, dry enough to wither the normally green summer grass to a crispy brown. In evenings for weeks at a time, the sound outside on my street was not lawn mowers, but the puffs of rotary sprinklers. We had no rain for weeks. However, that all changed about two weeks ago, when the heavenly faucet turned back on.

In a week’s time, the grass is green, and the flowers bloom in profusion. Two years ago, I dug out and planted flowers along the deck in the back of our house — an improvement over the non-landscaped sparse grass (link back to how it looked before — wow, it’s changed!). And now, this third summer, the garden is filling in, lush and vibrant. Paradise, for me.

The past couple of days, in splashes of sunshine, I’ve taken my camera out with me into the yard to capture what I see…

My backyard gardens
The backyard gardens

“Well, I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly
Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly

“In all things in nature, there is something of the marvelous.” — Aristotle

Ruffled daisies in the garden, unfurling
Ruffled daisies in the garden, unfurling

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” — John Keats

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird at the feeder tonight
Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird at the feeder tonight

“I like light, color, luminosity. I like things full of color and vibrant.” — Oscar de la Renta

Tall Garden Phlox (the color and fragrance!)
Tall Garden Phlox (the color and fragrance!)

“A garden must combine the poetic and the mysterious with a feeling of serenity and joy.” — Luis Barragan

The Gardens
The Gardens

One of my favorite quotes from Still Alice by Lisa Genova: “She liked being reminded of butterflies. She remembered being six or seven and crying over the fates of the butterflies in her yard after learning that they lived for only a few days. Her mother had comforted her and told her not to be sad for the butterflies, that just because their lives were short didn’t mean they were tragic. Watching them flying in the warm sun among the daisies in their garden, her mother had said to her, see, they have a beautiful life. Alice liked remembering that.”
― Lisa Genova, Still Alice

Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly on echinacea
Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly on echinacea
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Peonies and Beauty

A peony blossom

Whenever you are creating beauty around you, you are restoring your own soul. – Alice Walker

 

I have always loved flowers. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the fields of red poppies or vibrant yellow rapeseed across Europe, the Redbud and Dogwood trees here in Ohio this spring, from the small garden in my backyard, or the grocery store checkout, I simply love flowers.

To me, there is something about a flower’s quiet beauty that turns me inside out and makes my heart happy. Flowers don’t demand attention. But if we take time to notice, they give us something intangible — something which to me feels like peace.

I love what Alice Walker said, when we create beauty, we’re restoring our own souls. I believe it to be true.

Two years ago, I put a flower garden in outside my kitchen window, and later wrote about it here. I started with a shovel, landscape fabric, mulch, and an assortment of plants. My top two priorities were to plant peonies and roses.

Roses go unsaid; I adore them, and have written about and shared photographs of them many times here. But peonies are one plant which bloom and once they do, they take over the garden with their beauty. This past week, I’ve been captivated.

Peonies from the Garden

Peonies

It’s a very short trip. While alive, live. – Malcolm Forbes

 

Peony

 

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

An unfurling peony
An unfurling peony

 

The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone. – Johann von Goethe

 

Peonies

 

I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all. – Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

Peony

When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other. – Chinese Proverb

 

Peonies

In every man’s heart there is a secret nerve that answers to the vibrations of beauty. – Christopher Morley

 

Peony

Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. You’re only here for a short visit. So be sure to stop and smell the flowers. – Walter Hagen

 

Peony

By plucking her petals, you do not gather the beauty of the flower. – Rabindranath Tagore

 

Peonies

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike. This natural beauty-hunger is made manifest in the little window-sill gardens of the poor, though perhaps only a geranium slip in a broken cup, as well as in the carefully tended rose and lily gardens of the rich, the thousands of spacious city parks and botanical gardens, and in our magnificent National parks — the Yellowstone, Yosemite, Sequoia, etc. — Nature’s sublime wonderlands, the admiration and joy of the world. – John Muir

 

Do you have a favorite peony or flower? Share your photos (you should be able to attach or link) here with us!

 

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To Blossom

A peony blossom

 

And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
it took
to Blossom.

Anaïs Nin

a peony's unfurling
a peony’s unfurling

It’s that time of year when the Pear trees are in full bloom, and the street on which I live, lined with dozens of Pear tress, looks like a parade of white blossoms. The weeping cherry tree across the street from my house looked like a cotton candy pink umbrella until today, in the wind, the petals have been fluttering down, swirling onto the greening grass.

I love the flowers which bloom first, the ones which remind us that spring really is coming. They are the delicate grace notes which bounce on the chilly breeze, the kind which bring the first scents after a long and trying winter.

I haven’t planted daffodils yet or tulips, or any bulbs really, since my family and I moved into this house after our move back from Prague two years ago, but it is one of my goals for this fall. I love the the old varieties of daffodils which have more fragrance and unruly ruffles than the ordinary yellow ones. They’re enchanting.

It’s true; I love spring.

A peony blossom
A peony blossom

 

To Blossom

Anais Nin’s poem “Risk”, above, is one which has endless meaning to me.

It’s true. A bud must risk opening in order to bloom.

The same goes for us as humans.

It is easier to stay closed tight, not risking, not sharing, keeping ourselves tucked neatly inside, safe.

A flower must bloom.

A butterfly must fly.

A human being must take risks to live.

She must spread her wings and venture past her nest. She must unfurl her colors petal by petal. Because who knows how high and far and long she can fly until she tries. And who knows how beautiful a flower might be until it blooms.

And blooming, and making the world a more beautiful place is a flower’s purpose.

Living fully with our colors and wings unfurled is our purpose.

As Anais Nin said, we were made to blossom.

 

Tulips
Tulips

 

This morning, another tree has burst into bloom, and the perennials and roses planted in my backyard garden are filling out with leaves. It’s beginning to look like a world which is alive. Thank goodness, after this winter. I look forward to rediscovering the flowers as they begin to bloom, one by one.

What flowers have you planted this year? Which blooms are you most looking forward to?

 

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A Lasting Spring, in photos

Poet's Daffodil

“Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses…” – Sir Alan Herbert

This past weekend, I took advantage of the warm hours of sunshine, slipped on my gardening gloves, and headed out into the gardens with the pruners. The remnant of last fall’s foliage, weathered and grayed and lifeless, lay strewn in mounds. After a few hours of whacking and pulling, I could see the new green leaves working themselves up from the thawing ground.

Though it’s a lot of work, there is nothing to me like getting down on the ground, working in the dirt. The smell of earth and soil is sharp, with the hint of something alive and growing. After many months of snow and freezing temperatures, I appreciate the hope of spring.

Something new is coming. For some reason, I feel like this spring will last.

Crocus: Delight
Crocus: Delight

Song: “Orpheus with his lute made trees” By William Shakespeare

(from Henry VIII)

Orpheus with his lute made trees,
And the mountain tops that freeze,
Bow themselves when he did sing:
To his music plants and flowers
Ever sprung; as sun and showers
There had made a lasting spring.
Every thing that heard him play,
Even the billows of the sea,
Hung their heads, and then lay by.
In sweet music is such art,
Killing care and grief of heart
Fall asleep, or hearing, die.

Vivid Tulip bouquet
Vivid Tulip bouquet

 

Tulips
Tulips

 

Poet's Daffodil
Poet’s Daffodil

 

Sunny Daffodils for Bleak Winter Days
Sunny Daffodils

Have a wonderful week, and join me in watching this spring come (post last week) with #100DaysofSpring!

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The Essence of Beauty

Daffodils, Hyacinths, and Tulips

The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude. – Friedrich Nietzsche

 

 

Some days it is the sunrise, color so rich it can’t possibly be real.

Other times it is the power of words which bring meaning to a moment,

Or it is a clash of color so pure I cannot look away,

But always, the deepest beauty strikes me when I least expect it.

That is when I stop and hold my breath,

And if I have my camera, the images come quickly.

This is what happens in the snow-saturated long months of winter.

This beauty is what makes my soul sing.

 

A Spring Bouquet
A Spring Bouquet for the winter

 

It makes sense to me: the essence of beauty is gratitude. By recognizing something beautiful, we are saying thank you.

 

The artist is the confidant of nature, flowers carry on dialogues with him through the graceful bending of their stems and the harmoniously tinted nuances of their blossoms. Every flower has a cordial word which nature directs towards him.  – Auguste Rodin

 

Color, Light, and Form
Color, Light, and Form

 

Let us decide on the route that we wish to take to pass our life, and attempt to sow that route with flowers. – Madame Émilie du Châtelet

 

the silhouette of nature's elegance
the silhouette of nature’s elegance

 

The earth laughs in flowers. ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Daffodils, Hyacinths, and Tulips
Daffodils, Hyacinths, and Tulips

 

I must have flowers, always, and always. ― Claude Monet

 

What brings you deep joy?

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Daffodils

Daffodils

After a long and arduous winter filled with snow and subzero temps, the prospect of spring coming soon seems impossible. It feels as if no green will ever grow through the heavy snow, no new life will ever thrive in this frozen tundra again … and yet it will, I have to remind myself. We know Spring will come. It always does. And in my mind, Spring never looks more glorious than after a long, hard winter.

One of the reasons I began taking photographs fifteen years ago, with a film-fed, Target-bought SLR camera, was so that I could have photographs from the garden during the long winter. I love flowers — the brighter and more vibrant, the better.

This year, as we await Spring’s arrival, we have daffodils here in photographs and William Wordsworth’s poetry — the best way I know to add color to an otherwise white landscape. Because Spring is, if we squint hard enough, just around the corner.

Daffodils

 

Daffodils
Daffodils

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”

― William Wordsworth, I Wander’d Lonely as a Cloud, Public domain

 

Daffodils
Daffodils

 

Daffodils

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On Light, Darkness, and Garden Beauty

Vivid Color: Garden Peony

People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

 

I haven’t always loved flowers, or maybe I have … but I remember vividly the day I fell in love with having a garden.

Flowers and Gardens

When my husband and I were first married, we moved from the Midwest to New Orleans. I also worked, not in a giant corporation like in the job I’d left in the Midwest, but for a small pipeline consulting firm. I was hired to engineer diameters and configurations of pipelines the firm would lay from offshore oil platforms to bring the oil on land to refineries. I didn’t love it, but I did it so that we could buy a house, some place to make our own.

When we found one we could almost afford– 5 feet below sea level (in that area, it’s common), 900 square feet, which had been neglected for more than our lifetimes, I continued engineering pipelines long enough to buy the house. It required a whole house gutting before we could move in, but my favorite part was the back yard. It had two gigantic pine trees, a beautiful Magnolia, and one thorny rose bush. I read a book to learn how to prune the rose, which was old judging by its thick canes, but one piece I lobbed off of the bush looked green, alive. I shoved that piece into the ground. About a month later, that shoot grew leaves, and a few months after that, it bloomed.

The single bloom was a coral-orange-fuchsia pink and so intoxicatingly fragrant it was impossible to walk away from.

That was the day I fell in love with gardens, with roses, with pushing random canes and plants into the soil and seeing what happens as a result.

On Light, Darkness, and Garden Beauty

Now, about eighteen years later, I still love gardens–roses, peonies, hummingbirds, color, and the feeling of growing something beautiful from the earth. And this last time I laid out my garden, I planted only my favorite garden flowers.

The one thing I have learned above all is that garden beauty appears at its most beautiful when caught in the contrast between light and darkness.

Here are a few of my recent favorite flowers … peonies and roses:

Pink Peony
Pink Peony

 

Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content. – Helen Keller

 

a peony's unfurling
a peony’s unfurling

 

Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself. – Desiderius Erasmus

Pope John Paul hybrid tea rose
Pope John Paul hybrid tea rose

 

Darkness comes. In the middle of it, the future looks blank. The temptation to quit is huge. Don’t. You are in good company… You will argue with yourself that there is no way forward. But with God, nothing is impossible. He has more ropes and ladders and tunnels out of pits than you can conceive. Wait. Pray without ceasing. Hope. – John Piper

 

the male Cardinal
the male Cardinal

 

In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present. – Francis Bacon

 

Vase of Garden Peonies
Vase of Garden Peonies

 

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. ― Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Vivid Color: Garden Peony
Vivid Color: Garden Peony

 

Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark … Make some light. ― Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux

 

Light, Dark, and Beauty: a Ruffled Peony
Light, Dark, and Beauty: a Ruffled Peony

 

But friendship is the breathing rose, with sweets in every fold. — Oliver Wendell Holmes

A Bouquet sent from a friend
A Bouquet sent from a dear friend

 

But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine. — Thomas Jefferson

Do you have a favorite garden flower you’re enjoying this summer?