Looking Forward to Spring

Looking Forward to Spring

My heart quickens this time of year. Spring is a treat for the heart and soul and a gift to gardeners the world over.

Lots of color in the curb garden

After a year fraught with unpredictability, I find comfort in the familiar. A trip through the garden teases all the wonderful things to come: buds and bulbs emerge, old-growth gives way to the new, and even the emerging weeds portend more time outdoors.

In the northern hemisphere, the vernal equinox arrives on March 20, 2021. It signals the beginning of spring, though the changes are subtle in California. While much of this country is buried in snow and killer ice, our risk of a hard frost has safely passed.

Self-seeding sweet peas, cornflowers and poppies line the sidewalk. Soon they’ll be in full bloom

There are fewer opportunities to plant these days. Like most gardeners, a brown patch of soil is quickly filled with something new. I’ve reserved my EarthBox® for a tomato crop, but the garden is otherwise fully occupied. That’s not a bad thing, per se, but I do love adding new color here and there.

Front garden facing house. Within a month this will fill in once again.
Garden patch along driveway
Side yard shared with neighbor (lemon tree, dinosaur topiary, and other assorted plants)
Abundant lemons this year (they really are yellow, though they look orange in this photo)

Birdsong and buzzing bees are the soundtracks of the season. The effervescent Ana’s hummingbirds are ever-present, but their numbers grow. I spotted one gathering fluff for her nest last week, wishing for the thousandth time that I had my camera in tow. I let the anemone flowers go to seed in the fall. They open like a kernel of popcorn in late winter, producing small clouds of soft white down. It’s always a treat to see the birds grab a bit of fluff.

Anemone flowers gone to seed in foreground. Volunteer spider plants along the fence line.
This is a blurry photo from a few years ago, but I’m included it as evidence of this charming visitor

Of course, not all “fluff” is intended for nature but tell that to the squirrels. The original cover of our swing is dismantled every year. The California Grey squirrels shred the cover to get to the batting inside. I repaired this corner a few years ago using an old tea towel and polyester batting. Apparently, the squirrels are not that discerning. They’ve torn through the tea towel to get to the synthetic batting inside. How do they know it’s there? Why do they want that scratchy stuff for their nest? Rhetorical questions, I know.

Swing carnage
Swing cover damage

I treated myself to a pair of new gardening tools this weekend: a pair of clippers and a long-handled weeder. I’m counting myself lucky that I made it out of the store without serious injury. The edge of that tool is sharp. I’m ridiculously excited to use it, though, on a patch of unwanted grassy weeds.

Tessa in the garden

Spring is around the corner, and the vaccine rollout is finally underway Things are looking up! I’m ready.

An (Almost Spring) Garden Posy


It’s been raining off and on for several weeks, leaving the air fresh and clear. I managed some garden time between storms, pulling together a spring garden posy. I love this time of year.

Spring bulb posy

Spring posy nestled in the planting bed. The wind kept tipping it over, but I finally got this shot

cat vase with spring bulbs

Hyacinth, Daffodil, Nigella, and Freesia in a tiny vase

It’s cheering seeing bulbs emerge from the dark, wet soil. Most are brightly colored and in some cases scented, too. They’re an intoxicating mix and a harbinger of things to come.

The hyacinth come up first…

Pink striped hyacinth

Pink candy-cane striped hyacinth

pink hyacinth

Fragrant and lovely hyacinth

followed by narcissus (daffodils)…

Daffodil and hyacinth

Garden posy: daffodil, hyacinth and Nigella greens

white freesia

White freesia

and then freesia.

The freesia are the garden darlings these days, growing larger and spreading farther year after year. They pop up in whites, reds, yellows and pinks, and seem to last for weeks.

“Spring drew on…and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that hope traversed them at night and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.”

–Charlotte Brontë

As I said earlier, “Ahhhhh….”

While I Was Away

It was fun returning home from our blogging extravaganza to a garden bursting with new growth.

2015 spring garden collage-001

My blooming garden

After a week on the chillier east coast, I learned a few things. According to my calendar, spring arrived on March 20th, but the east coast remained in a deep chill. Those east-coast daffodils know a thing or two and chose to remain warm and cozy in the ground.

Here in California our daffodils shot up in February along with the hyacinths and other spring bulbs. Their east-coast cousins waited till warmer temperatures prevailed. I got to experience the joy of smiling daffodils twice in the same year.

flowers blooming in Laurie's garden

Spring in Laurie’s garden: Forsythia, Daffodils, Dogwood and Redbud

What could be better than two springs in one year?

Just this: spending time with an extraordinary group of women, talking, laughing and preparing food, seeing the sites and sharing our stories and marveling at our good fortune. I spent over a week nestled in a cocoon of dear friends, all met through blogging. It’s difficult to convey an experience this profound, without succumbing to the treacle of sentimentality.

I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

Georgetown collage

Georgetown: with Laurie, Boomdee, Pauline, (Yours Truly) and Julia. Julia of Defeat Despair graciously hosted us at her home and kept us updated on the status of the cherries coming into bloom

lunch at Clyde's in D.C.

More bloggers = more fun. Lunch at Clyde’s in Georgetown

North Garden

A brief stop in North Garden, Virginia, welcomed with open arms by Shelley who blogs at Peak Perspective.

time in radford

Time in Radford, Virginia hosted by Laurie of Life on the Bike and Other Fab Things

draper mercantile collage.C

An afternoon at Draper Mercantile

Washington DC collage.C

Washington D.C. with Lisa, Pauline and Boomdee

Note: Just for fun, I created a travelogue using the site Traveller’s Point. I included the destinations, who joined us and when, links to their blogs and more. WordPress does not support embedding, but you can view it at this link if interested.

The Traveling Bloggers:


The Contented Crafter

Defeat Despair

Gardening Nirvana

Life on the Bike and Other Fab Things

The Blog Connections:


Displaced Beachbums

Peak Perspective

Visual Venturing

Planting Bulbs: I’ve Learned a Thing or Two

spring bulbs

This Year’s Bulb Lineup

Planting bulbs isn’t complicated. Keeping them under wraps till show-time is a whole different story.

Apparently most bulbs prove irresistible to squirrels. Three seasons later, I’ve learned a thing or two.

In the past, fall catalogs arrived brimming with the most beautiful bulbs imaginable. I let my imagination run amok, mentally placing  an order for 500 flowering bulbs in every shape and color. After tucking them into the earth, effortlessly and without two days of neck pain to follow, I would put my feet up and smile. Rounding out the fantasy, the following spring would arrive with the garden awash in yellow, purple and pink fragrant bulbs.

Ha! I crack myself up.

So, back to reality, I’ve learned to temper my expectations. A little reading on the various bulbs and corms revealed this useful nugget: squirrels do not like the smell or taste of daffodil bulbs. I planted fifty daffodil bulbs last year and they all came up. Further, they kept the curb garden looking bright and cheery in February, often our coldest, grayest month.

daffodils curb garden
Here’s the plan:

I’ll add 30 more daffodils to the curb garden in case a few of the bulbs from last year don’t recover. This year’s variety is ‘Ice Follies‘, a blend of softer yellows. They’ll provide a nice contrast to the bright yellow variety. I’ll also be able to determine what comes up from last season.

The Narcissus ‘Paperwhite Ziva‘ are for indoors. Two summers ago I bought a beautiful glass vase at a craft fair, but find it difficult to use for traditional flower arranging. It’s long and narrow. A friend suggested bulbs. It never occurred to me. The wall in our bedroom is a rich blue, the perfect accent for the bulbs.

Finally, the pink and purple hyacinth, the ‘William and Kate Blend‘ will go in a large planter just outside my back door. I don’t know why they’re named after royalty, but it made me smile.

Once planted, I’ll lay a screen over the pot to prevent digging. I’ll be able to keep my eye on it, so that when the time is right, I can remove the screen and allow them to grow into fragrant goodness. They remind me of my mom.

That’s the plan from here, folks. Fingers crossed, salt tossed over my shoulder, spin around three times in a circle and a graceful bow to our dear Mother Earth ought to do it. You know I’ll keep you posted.

Daffodil Dance

Shortly after planting my daffodil bulbs, I saw signs of digging everywhere. Little pockmarks appeared in the same random pattern as the naturalized bulbs. Foiled again!

I fluffed up the soil and hoped for the best. Surely the anonymous foragers left a few behind.

All that worry was for not. (Which is almost always true, but that is for another day). Apparently daffodils (narcissus) aren’t that tasty. I’ve since learned that it’s one of the few bulbs that even bunnies will leave alone.

All fifty bulbs came up! Ten are in bloom, with several more about to bud. I’m so cheered by these flowers.

It’s easy to see the inspiration for William Wordsworth’s poem Daffodil:

“Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.”

curb garden daffodils

Curb garden daffodils

the long view

The long view

spreading cheer

Spreading cheer

A lovely rendition of William Wordsworth’s Daffodil:

Garden Pop-ups

Sure *I* was late planting this year’s bulbs, but nature is always on time. Bulbs from last season (and the season before!) are popping up all over the garden.

life on deck

Life on deck

Sometimes I’ll forget that a bulb is resting at the bottom of a pot, and I’ll dump the dirt into a planter. This explains the random placement of one of the bulbs I see peeking out from the center of the vegetable beds. I love nature’s optimism.

Mystery bulbs in the Veggie garden

Mystery bulbs in the Veggie garden

There are signs of tulips along the rock wall, but there are also signs of the squirrels eating the greens.  I hope they lose interest soon, or that will be the end of them.


Tulips, ever optimistic

The hyacinths are up and looking pretty. It looks like the onion-scented Allium are coming back from last year, along with (I think) a single freesia.

Emerging hyacinth

Emerging hyacinth

unknown bulb


Emerging hyacinth

Can you smell it?

New Life for your Old Calendar

Several of you commented that you save your wall calendars from year to year. Here are a few more ideas for turning your beautiful calendar pages into something new.  For more info, visit Garden Calendar Lives Another Day.

 repurposed calendar

Re-purposed Calendar: postcard, covered box, gift tags and stickers, envelopes, gift card holder, fairy garden bunting, drawer liner, box dividers, napkin rings

Spring Bulbs: My Flowery Future Awaits

White Flower Farm Tulip

Photo Credit: White Flower Farm

I lovingly perused the Fall Netherlands Bulb Company catalog, then cast it aside. The pages, filled with promise and spring blooms, made my heart ache. Wouldn’t it be glorious having a spring garden filled with exotic blooms?  Nothing shouts spring, like a garden filled with crocus, daffodils and tulips. I wrote about my bulb-planting failures in August: Spring Bulbs: To Plant or not to Plant, and received the following encouragement:

Bob J. wrote:

Bulbs are so forgiving, even upside down you will get SOME to twist around and come up. I don’t even bother to refrigerate, and most of mine come up anyway. Maybe you are planting too deep, but you would have to drop them in a well for all of them to fail. My feeling is that something has dug yours up. Probably you are going to have to protect them from critters. I stick with Costco and Ace hardware cheapies and plant a few new ones each year.

So, I’m giving them a second try.  Following Bob’s advice, I stopped at our local hardware store, and picked up a few bags.  Since early frost is uncommon here, I’m popping the tulip bulbs in the fridge for good measure. Bob’s climate is a bit cooler than ours, and he occasionally sees snow.

tulip bulb assortment

Tulip Bulb Assortment
Van Zyverden

Then Boomdeeada wrote:

I’ve had mixed success with fall bulbs. My favorite was a tulip called Angelique. Shorter, blush pink, frilly. It worked well in my spring garden (Our house was Burgundy in color). I also planted a mass of yellow & pink, late bloomers on the lake front, they’d bloom along with the mauve lilac. But I was always adding more every fall. I don’t know why they fail, but sometimes there wasn’t anything to dig up. Like you, I do love the scent of Hyacinth, but even though you link indicates Zone 2, they never came back the next year. Don’t give up!

So…guess what made it into my cart?  15 Tulip Angélique.  I’m so excited! 

Recommended planting months for our zone are October through December. The tulips have a few weeks to chill before heading outdoors. I also bought Tulip Attila and Tulip Passionale as well as Snowdrop Galanthus nivalis. Next up: where to plant my assorted bulbs and how to keep them under wraps till spring.  Suggestions welcome!


Halloween Countdown

rock paper scissors pumpkin

Rock, paper, scissors Pumpkin

Blooming Thursday: Random Gifts and Neighborhood Rifts

For all the time I spend in the garden, complete surprises are rare.  With my nose down close to the dirt, or my camera directed at flowers and trees, it feels as comfortable and familiar as a good marriage.

That said, my husband still surprises me with flowers “just because” and this week my garden did the same.  After an hour of planting and the requisite cleanup, I turned to go inside and spotted something flowering behind our fruit tree.  I climbed over the rock wall and shrubs, rounded the tree, and there it was!  The flowering bulb has roots under the fence line, so perhaps the bulb divided from the neighbor’s side.

It would be nice to think of the flower as a gift, or more appropriately a peace-offering, for in this community of otherwise incredible neighbors, this unhappy soul stands out.  He once trapped my cat and dropped him off at the Humane Society without a word.  He calls the authorities when someone’s dog barks.  He asked us to lie when our shared fence fell down and had to be replaced. We declined.

Perhaps this random gift is not the flower, but the opportunity to let go of the angst I feel when I pass his house.  All these years later the anger and hurt are gone, but the angst lingers on.

Spring Bulbs

Any guesses on the name of this flowering bulb?