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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Soft Rains and Healthy Brains

While enjoying the sound of a soft rain outside my window, I looked for articles that explain my sense of euphoria with each passing storm.

hummingbird-in-the-rain

Anna’s Hummingbird having a drink at one of the feeders

Apparently I’m a pluviophile!

According to an article in LifeHack

People who love rain bask in their experiences. They can describe the rain in vivid detail, from the mesmerizing pitter-patter sound, to the hypnotic way each drop magnifies and changes the scenery on the other side of the window pane. Pluviophiles appreciate the scent of a fresh storm and the delicious feel of water dripping down their skin. They even know the taste of fresh drops as they look upwards with arms outstretched and welcome a cool drink from the clouds.

It’s nice to be understood. There are dozens of articles on the mood-altering effects of rain, most of them describing how people feel sad or out of sorts when it rains.

curb-garden-variegated-plant-in-rainIt took some digging to find an article supporting my rain-loving ways. I quickly forwarded a copy to my older son. He’s home from college for the Thanksgiving break, and heads out the door every time it rains. He loves it as much as I do.

My garden certainly appreciates the rain. The plants stand a little taller, grateful for the cleansing rinse. Leaves brighten to a shiny green as the plant’s roots welcome the long, steady drink.

sweet-peas-after-a-rain

Sweet Peas, blooming for the second time this year

This Anna’s hummingbird took a shower from the branches of the Chinese Pistache. Apparently he’s a pluviophile too.

Anna's hummigbird in the rain

Male Anna’s Hummingbird enjoying the rain

Post-Election Processing

I read a blog post this weekend that resonated with me, so I’m sharing it here. Martha Brettschneider writes of the benefits of mindfulness to help us process and move forward in a positive way.

She described the election outcome as triggering a sense of “social mistrust.”

Psychologist Kelly McGonigal explains that social mistrust is a stress response to not feeling safe, respected, or valued in our community. It’s a deeper, more toxic level of stress than your normal everyday stress, with even stronger physiological impacts on our health and well-being.

You can read the full article here.

Martha discusses ways to transform your stress from “paralyzing to empowering.” If you’ve been struggling with this as I have, than this article is for you..

I’ve done a number of things in the past ten days along these lines. I’ll share more in a future post.

Who’s That Pollinator: Wasp or Bee?

flower garden poppies love in a mist sweet peas

An Amazing Spring: Everything you see here self-seeded thanks to gentle, frequent rain. The Love in a Mist are now blooming, along with California poppies and sweet peas which appear to have swallowed the trellis

Late afternoon is a happy time in the garden. With spring in full bloom, bees and possibly wasps are doing what they do best: pollinating.

One of the many joys of blogging is learning new things. Though humbling, it’s also interesting when a long-held belief is knocked off its center.

For starters, take a look at this all-black bee.

Xylocopa tabaniformis

Xylocopa tabaniformis visiting the sweet peas

Someone told me years ago that these were carpenter bees. I took that at face value, having no reason to contradict it. They love traveling between my pumpkins and sunflowers. They’re frequent and welcome visitors in my garden, moving quickly from bloom to bloom. I’m always enamored with the yellow coating after they’ve dipped into the center of a flower. They’re docile as well, a nice quality when you’re up close taking pictures.

I was also told they would eat wood, including your house and that they were “bad” bees. I’ve since read that some carpenter bees are more problematic than others, but that overall they should not be viewed as pests but as beneficial pollinators. Are you as confused as I am?

Xylocopa varipuncta

Xylocopa varipuncta gathering pollen on a love in a mist

I spotted this beauty today touching down on the love in a mist. Research tells me it’s also a carpenter bee, though the golden color is quite distinct from its shiny black cousin. Varipuncta looks like it’s wearing a golden fur coat, making it hard to distinguish between the bee and the pollen it gathers.

Xylocopa varipuncta

Xylocopa varipuncta alternate view

Rounding out the collection is a pollinator formerly known by yours truly as “A bee”, a nondescript, generic term I use for any sort of flying, pollinating “bee” in my garden. Now I’ve been forced to reconsider this description as well, allowing for the possibility that this is a wasp or a hover-fly. Any guesses?

bee or waspEvery year I find a paper wasp’s nest under the eaves, but they’ve never been aggressive. Today I read that yellow jackets and hornets are aggressive, but like most bees, paper wasps are gentle.

Why We Need Bees:

If you’re as fascinated as I am, here are a few links:

It’s The Little Things

In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed. Khalil Gibran

I’ve always loved this quote. It’s beautiful, lyrical and true.

This little nest landed in the garden under the Chinese pistache tree. I spotted it in the tree late last year after the leaves dropped for the winter. Before I could take a picture, it came down in the wind. It is actually illegal to remove a bird’s nest, but once it’s on the ground…and empty, you can pick it up and admire mama bird’s nesting skills. I kept the little nest indoors through the wet months, then returned it to the garden for bird recycling.

Bird's Nest

Bird’s Nest

My friend Marcia and her lovely daughters dropped of this sweet little heart on Valentine’s Day. It’s a birdseed cake, shaped into a heart and ready for hanging in the garden. I love this little heart, and the big hearts that placed it on our doorstep.

birdseed heart

Heart Shaped Birdseed Cake

And on the subject of big hearts and little things, my friend Kelly, sent me a few packets of sweet pea seeds for our summer garden. She thoughtfully included purples, so that when my purple-loving sister stopped by, she could enjoy them too.

sweet pea seeds and gift bag

Sweet pea seeds from Kelly

Those tiny seeds didn’t amount to much in the first year, leaving me wondering what I did wrong. I take it personally when I can’t get something to grow.

Last year, they came up on their own, filling a corner nicely till the first heat wave laid them low. Like me, they wilt in the heat. They were stunning while in bloom though, and those little seeds taught me a thing or too along the way.

sweet peas

Sweet Peas, 2015

This year something big happened. It rained. Then it rained some more. I noticed seedlings spreading all over the front garden, right next to the newly planted California natives. Those little seedlings shot up and out and eventually filled out an entire corner of the front garden.

sweet pea collage Nov to April

Self Sown Garden

The garden is flourishing with an all-volunteer mixture of sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus), love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) and bachelor buttons also known as cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus).

Now that I have several blooms, I’m going to start cutting indoor bouquets. The scent is out of this world.

sweet pea blooms april 2016

Bachelor’s buttons, pink and blue, Love-in-a-mist in the background, lavender and fuchsia sweet peas

“…for in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”

What is your favorite little thing?

Sweet Peas: Art, Friendship and Second Chances

When my boys were young, Sweet Pea was a favorite term of endearment. They’re teenagers now, so pet names are the kiss of death. I still think it in my head though, especially this time of year.

Sweet Friends

sweet pea seeds and gift bag

Sweet Pea seeds and the beautiful gift bag

Last year my kindred spirit sent me several packets of sweet pea seeds from up north. I planted them in a few places, to see what worked best. A few came up in the pots out back, but they died back quickly, challenging my garden mojo, They’re supposed to grow like wild flowers. We mused that perhaps they weren’t properly adapted for our hotter climate and chalked it up to experience.

Guess what? They’re back. They’re also bigger and brighter and happily growing in the garden. Don’t you love second chances?

sweet pea buds

These soft yellow buds opened to lavender flowers

sweet pea tendrils

Delicate but strong

sweet peas with dew drops

Flowers refreshed

This isn’t the first time I’ve planted seeds, that do so-so in the first year, then come on strong a year later. Look at them grow!

Artful Friends

Artist Nicole Meredith created The Flower Map as a way of fundraising for her own healing treatments. I met Nicole through a mutual friend and have followed her journey for several years. As her health improved, she launched The Flower Map. I purchased a handful of cards from her Etsy shop, to send and to give as gifts.

To my delight, Nicole sent me one of her original water colors as a gift. My cup overflows! I framed the sweet pea watercolor, both for its beauty and for the reminder that Nicole, too, is improving and getting her second chance at a healthy life. Her Etsy shop is currently ‘taking a break.’ Nicole, sending healing thoughts your way and thank you once again for this lovely gift.

nicole meredith the art map sweet peas

I’m not the only one who’s in love with sweet peas. Show some blogging love and have a look:

  • Silk and Threades writes beautifully about her own experiences. Check out The Tendrils of the Sweet Pea.
  • Take a look at Cathy’s beautiful vase and field of wild sweet peas (be still my heart) at Words and Herbs.
  • Bloom or Bust has a great idea for trailing sweet peas. She also used them in her wedding, which I think is the sweetest of all.

If you’re viewing this in ‘real time’, have a look at my Descending on D.C. widget to the right. Can you believe it? It’s counting down the hours, not days. I’m so excited.

Vernal Equinox, Always on Time

Variety adds spice, predictability keeps us grounded.

I enjoy the novelty of each season, and their predictable arrival.  Though it feels like winter passed us by, the planet continues to rotate. Once a year I celebrate the Vernal Equinox, aka the first day of spring.

I found a super-cool site called Time and Date that spells out the specifics if you’re curious.  I was.  I love learning new things. As gardeners in the Northern Hemisphere welcome spring, green thumbs in the Southern Hemisphere are seeing in the first day of fall.

My celebration is simple: I plant.  Nothing says spring like tucking seeds under the soil with optimism in your heart.

I also pulled weeds, topped of the planter boxes with rich soil, checked on the mini-greenhouse *and* remembered to do a good job with my sunscreen.  Lindy kept me company, happy to be outdoors on this glorious day.

lindy-lu

Lindy-lu

Planter boxes, rotating composter, mini-greenhouse and worm bin

Planter boxes, rotating composter, mini-greenhouse and worm bin

The hummingbirds circled the feeder, jockeying for territory.

hummingbird at feeder

Swooping in for some nectar

They’re also drinking from the Abutilon lining the fence.

Abutilon lines the fence

Abutilon lines the fence near the patio

I heard a squirrel overhead, and noticed activity in the little mason bee nesting house.  What a day!

Mason Bee Habitat

Mason Bee Habitat

How is this for serendipity: the lovely Boomdee sent me several packets of sweat peas, and they arrived yesterday!  Perfect timing.  She sent a purple variety as well so that my sister, Sharon can enjoy them when she’s here.

goodies from Boomdee

Goodies from Boomdee

To round out the day, I popped in to SummerWinds Nursery and picked up an EarthBox™ and some potting mix.  I’m planting assorted lettuces in the front of the box, with the sweet peas in the back.  The trellis from the now-deceased Hardenbergia is the perfect size.  I’ve placed it at the edge of the lawn near the patio for easy viewing.  I can’t wait to watch them grow.

There is much more to do, as their always is this time of year, but I enjoy it all.  Wishing you the best of the new season, be it spring or fall.

Garden Peas Last Stand

It’s time.

I waited to see if the garden peas would return after five punishing days of frost last November. Luscious green pods covered the plant for a time, with a promise of many more. When the frost hit (early and rare for us) I wasn’t prepared. By the end of that week it was too late.  The remaining peas froze on the vine, eventually shriveling to a dusty brown.

Always an optimist, I left the plant in place hoping it might recover. It did! In the last few weeks, the plant sent out a second round of flowers and legumes, plump and sweet.

After this last push, the plant looks spent.  Soon I’ll be planting Sweet Peas in the same place.  Keeping it all in the family.

I will definitely grow this winter crop again next year, but I’ll be better prepared.

Meanwhile, if you have a favorite recipe for pea soup, please share in the comments below.

garden peas

Garden peas

garden peas

I love the pretty white flowers

garden peas

Last hurrah