An Unexpected Treasure at the Nursery

On a recent visit to SummerWinds Nursery, I rounded the corner to find this:

potted ficus with do not move tage

Potted Ficus carefully tied to a cart

They’ve pushed a shopping cart against a sheltered exterior wall. Resting on top is a potted Ficus, attached to the cart with twine. The warning is clear: Do not move!

So what is all the fuss about?

Potted ficus

Potted Ficus

Come have a closer look.

nesting Anna's hummingbird

Nesting Anna’s hummingbird

It’s a nesting Anna’s hummingbird, native to this part of California. She must be resting on eggs, generally two. The eggs incubate for about two weeks, then the young spend another three weeks in the nest.

There is something about a mama bird in her nest that makes my heart sing. I wanted to linger, but her comfort outstripped my desire to pull up a chair and just sit there all afternoon. I took a non-flash snapshot with my phone from a distance, then zoomed in when I got home.

On the subject of nests and homes, my older son is home from college for spring break. I’m looking forward to the weekend ahead with all three of my “men” in the house.

Ah, spring. Thank you for all these gifts.

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Vernal Equinox: The Garden Always Knows

I refer to my calendar each year to confirm the first day of spring. My garden needs no such reminder. While I’m busy planning in my head or on paper, my garden knows it’s time to spring forth. Every year it takes my breath away. I’m more steward, than gardener most days. I keep the weeds at bay, train the vines away from the sidewalk and trim away spent flowers or browning leaves.

In truth, none of these things are necessary. I like a tidy garden, so grooming the plants brings me pleasure. It’s also an opportunity to kneel on the earth, a way to feel connected to something magnificent. Mother Earth never ceases to amaze me.

According to The Farmer’s Almanac:

“On the equinox, Earth’s two hemispheres are receiving the Sun’s rays about equally because the tilt of the Earth is zero relative to the Sun, which means that Earth’s axis neither points toward nor away from the Sun.”

Meteorologically speaking, March 1st is the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Astronomically, the equinox is generally considered the start of spring. Today is the day that both hemispheres have exactly the same amount of daylight. That in itself is something fun to celebrate.

Come have a look at my garden on this cool, overcast, early spring day.

California poppy

California poppy, waiting to open. It’s our state flower

Cornflower bud

The first of the cornflower buds

Nigella bud

Nigella ready to bud. The bees love them.

Fuchsia freesia

Fuchsia freesia (say that three times)

curb garden spring

The narcissus stems make great supports for the budding sweet peas in the curb garden

three flowers in the curb garden

The beauty of threes

assorted freesia

Assorted freesia

mystery flower red

I planted this in a pot last summer and I forget what it is

yellow freesia and violets

Yellow freesia with violets at their feet

I have a bounce in my step and a racing heart. Spring, glorious spring. You never let me down. Are you ready for the changing season? Are you entering Spring or Autumn?

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The Travelling Sketchbook Comes to France

Have you been following the travels of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Sketchbook? Lynn, who blogs at Tialys, has just published her gorgeous entry. She beautifully captures the essence of all of us in her piece as the sisters hold hands around the world, uniquely individual in hairstyle and dress (and yes hats) yet united by a love of art, craft and sisterhood. She also recaps the entries as the book continues around the globe.

Tialys

from The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook 

Last year I mentioned that Anne Lawson, a talented botanical artist, instigated a sketchbook which would start with her in Australia and make its way around the World to interested parties who signed up for the project and, at each stage of the journey, a new entry would be made.  As everybody who signed up for it is a woman, it became known as ‘The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook’.  I believe there have been others but this one – our one – began life in the Spring of 2016.

I cannot draw or paint to save my life,  nor have I ever attempted to write poetry,  but I knew that other media was acceptable so thought I’d join in for fun. Then I started dreading its arrival when I saw the standard of entries as they were added to the book then…

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WordPress Needs a Scratch-and-Sniff Feature

Spring: when the birds sing, the flowers bloom and the intoxicating scent of the garden can bring you to your knees. I snapped photos today, with Mouse the Cat at my heals. We’ve been inhaling the tantalizing scent of freesias scattered throughout the garden.

mouse with flowers at his feet

Mouse tries out a new pair of shoe buckles

Freesia are native to Africa, named after a German botanist and now growing in San Jose. They get around.

yellow freesia

Yellow freesia

I bought a bag of assorted colors several years ago, and they’ve come back bigger and better every year. So far I’ve seen yellow, red and white (my favorite) but I think a few purple ones will be up soon. I took a handful to a friend today with a few sprigs of asparagus fern. The wonderful scent lingered in my car even after they were gone.

red freesia

Red freesia

white freesia

White freesia near the walkway

Freesias, sweet peas and daffodils

white freesia

Freesia toppling over the walkway

white freesia curb garden

Freesia in the curb garden

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could press your nose to your screen and drink in that scent? Perhaps one of those twenty-something technical geniuses will develop a scratch-and-sniff like feature.

The hyacinths are also up dusting corners of the garden with their potent scent.

purple hyacinth

Purple Hyacinth (William of ‘William and Kate’)

hyacinth

Pink Hyacinth (Kate of ‘William and Kate’)

It’s no surprise that even manufactured scents try to borrow from nature: rose-scented perfume, lemon-scented dish detergent and lavender-infused essential oils. Nothing tops nature.

Along the fence, our jasmine vine is in full bloom, inviting me to linger under its shade. I hope it survives the abuse it will get when work boots hit the ground. It’s time to replace the fence.

Star Jasmine

Star Jasmine vine

curb garden

Curb garden with daffodil and freesia

daffodils in the curb garden

Narcissus: 1) Daffodils; 2) Mouse the Cat

The flower is the poetry of reproduction. It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life. Jean Giraudoux

So what do you think? Could “scratch and sniff” be the wave of the future? Mmmmmmm

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Loving Cats, Real and Imagined

I’ve always loved cats. I like their grace and intelligence, their independence and there warm and affectionate ways. I love all animals, but I grew up with cats and they’ve remained a constant in my life. When you have a soft, mushy heart, one cat often turns into two…or three or a number you’re embarrassed to say out loud. No one wants to be labeled the “crazy cat lady.”

So perhaps it’s not a surprise that this beautiful bit of green moss growing in the garden looks just like a cat.

rock-wall-with-moss

Look closely at the garden wall

moss-like-cat

Mossy cat bending over for a drink

I adore the bright green spongy texture of moss. It reminds me of romantic period movies, pixies and garden fairies. I’ve never seen a mossy cat though, so I’m feeling quite special. The green goddess of gardens has graced my garden wall.

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Wordy Wednesday?

word-cloud-wordy-wednesdayAre you familiar with #Wordless Wednesday?

Bloggers, Twitter users and Instagram aficionados publish a single, captioned photo mid-week. Wordless…as in no words. Hmm.

Either I lack the confidence to post a photo that I think should stand alone, or I simply have too much to say.  I would like to propose a new hashtag called #Wordy-Wednesday.  Of course “wordy” sounds like something my 7th grade English teacher might abhor.

“The rain, in Spain, stays mainly in the plane” would never fly when

“It’s raining in the Spanish planes” is more concise. (Apologies to My Fair Lady)

It could be #Words-Wednesday but that would probably just get shortened to #words. I wonder how many hits the hashtag #words might get in a day?

Okay, I’m back. According to Google, about 2,120,000,000 results (0.90 seconds)

With that, I think I’ve come full circle. If you’ve read this far, you’ll know that I’m just over the 150 word count, and you’re probably thinking “Alys…get to the point!”

The point is, I like to write, and I like to read what you write and I like to read the comments that you write when I write. Here is my #Wordy-Wednesday.

The atmospheric river is back, delivering more heavy rain in back-to-back storms. I headed over the hill (for the appointment I cancelled last month due to the storms) only to be thwarted yet again. The rain cleared for a few hours mid-day and traffic reports said I could get there in about an hour. Crews were clearing a mudslide, with one open lane. Then as I approached the area of the highway without any easy exits, traffic slowed to a crawl and then stopped.

highway-17-mudlside

Stopped in traffic on Highway 17

A second major mudslide lay ahead and there was nowhere to go. Close to an hour later, crews created a turnaround and both lanes of traffic slowly made u-turns going back in the direction we came. Nearly two and a half hours later I found myself back home thinking that perhaps I’ll cancel all of my over the hill appointments until late March. What a slog.

The amazing news is that no one got hurt. The massive slide dumped mud, rocks and trees along two lanes of the highway, lifting a man in his truck up and then over the side rails, dropping the truck upside down. The man walked away from the accident unharmed!

Dozens of people worked over night to try to clear and shore up the area. They expect more slides today. Here is some amazing footage of a mudslide in action, taken from the dashboard camera of a police cruiser.

https://www.facebook.com/CHP-Santa-Cruz-940796342622481/

If you click on the Facebook link, then scroll down to February 7th, you can see the video.

Again, no injuries.

Throughout the Bay Area, massive trees are down, homes flooded and at least one home split in two and slid part way down the hill. I’m grateful for the people who keep showing up for work with chainsaws, heavy equipment, and a can-do attitude.

When it rains, it pours. #Word

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Results May Vary

pair-of-snails

A pair of voracious snails

The expression “results may vary” always make me laugh. Since the early days of advertising, we’ve been sold a bill of goods.

  • One size fits all (ahem)
  • Guaranteed results (or your money back)
  • New and improved

and so on.

Do you ever find yourself applying these terms to everyday life?

Mine would go something like this: I’m going to head out into the world today, knowing full well that results may vary. I’m going to shrug into my one size fits all sweater, which is actually a size large…just in case. Life does not come with guarantees, but if it did, I might be able to get compensation for that big bruise on my shin.  (My life’s mantra: slow down, Alys, slow down!) And finally, far from being new and improved I would like to offer up a more accurate slogan: Old and improving.  I like the idea of being a better person with the rise of each day, but there is nothing new about the four step maneuver it takes to get out of bed.

These same advertising slogans have been rattling around in my head when I’m in the garden. One example:  I planted an old packet of broccoli seeds figuring nothing ventured, nothing gained. A small cluster of seedlings sprouted giving me hope. I thinned them to a respectable number and waited for the plants to take off. They’re not dead, but they’re not growing either. The seedlings remain in a suspended animation weeks after planting. Results may vary.

broccoli-seedlings

Broccoli Seedlings: Grow baby, grow!

Last summer I planted our fountain with succulents. It’s a long story for another day, but suffice it to say that is one expensive planter. I’m not well versed on the variety of succulents available, and the nurseries provide scant clues. The pot might say “two-inch succulent” or “four-inch succulent” which tells me nothing about growth habits.  As you can see from the photo below, it’s not a one size fits all proposition. The plan was to have the center plant gradually grow up, while its companions to the left and right gracefully trailed over the edges.

copper-planter-with-succulents-september-2016

Copper planter with succulents, September, 2016

copper-fountain-planted-with-succulents-nov-23-2016-10-13-am

Copper fountain planted with succulents, November, 2016

Nature is as nature does.

As for “guaranteed results or your money back”, I’m pretty sure there is a disclaimer for acts of god or nature. There are no guarantees when it comes to gardening. You can plant a seed, water it, and hope that it grows. Have you seen those seed packets? Those plants are amazing! I’ll buy a hundred, and grow produce for the entire neighborhood. I’ll have vases of gorgeous, fresh flowers scattered throughout the house. It’s guaranteed!

tulip-bulbs-in-packets

Tulip Bulbs: So much promise, so little return

Darwin knew what he was talking about. It’s all about survival of the fittest. I plant seeds, and they refuse to grow. I plant bulbs, and the squirrels dig them up and either eat them or toss them on the deck. Seedlings pop through the soil but then snails eat them in the dead of night. Plants that overcome these obstacles, must contend with birds, squirrels, rats, drought, stink bugs, fungus, scale and sometimes this careless gardener who forgets to water a dried out pot. Guaranteed!

Finally, new and improved might mean pesticide-laden seeds. I like to garden old school: heirloom plants and seeds in a pesticide-free garden. As I mentioned earlier, old and improving.

seed-packets

Beautiful Illustrations of hope and promise…guaranteed!

And that, my friends, brings me back full circle. Results may vary. Sometimes that’s a wonderful thing. My entire front garden self-seeded once again, with Nigella, California Poppies, Cornflowers and Sweet Peas. They seem impervious to the recent frost. They’re lush and green, planted by nature, watered by recent storms and back by popular demand. Now that’s a slogan to celebrate.

Advertising: the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it. Stephen Leacock

If you were running an ad campaign for your daily life, what would you say?

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