December 31, 2019

Twelve of My Favorite Things (2019)

It's the end of one year, and the beginning of another; time to remember and time to hope.

For several years now on this blog, I've created end-of-year lists of my favorite garden and nature "things." They help me appreciate each moment and each season in its time.

This time, the remembering and the hoping are overlapping more than usual; I'm not sure why, but I'm finding this phenomenon interesting. Also, while looking back over the memories, I realized that with the exception of a couple of the months, these were experiences that were new to me. And of course, I hope to experience them again.

In any case, here are 12 moments from the past year that give me hope for the year ahead.


I cheated with this January memory; it actually happened in February...but it was awesome. I was heading down to the lake for a hike and noticed the sky. The photo doesn't really do it justice, but the light and the clouds and the bare tree was all so dramatic. I look forward to more dramatic sky moments in the winter weeks ahead.


We had a mild February in 2019--most of the ice on the nearby lake melted at one point, and the waterfowl congregated in large numbers. While this is not really normal, it's always exciting to see the lakes melt because it means spring can't be far away.


After the mild February, we had a bit of a relapse in mid-March with some heavy snow. The robins were already back, and they had to find little patches of open ground to dig for worms. I hope this particular memory doesn't repeat itself in 2020.


I'll never forget the masses of butterflies that covered the Pachysandra in April. While there are always many migrant American ladies, painted ladies, and red admirals in the garden each spring, I've never seen so many at once in my garden--everywhere I looked. Yes, please: I hope this will happen again this spring.


Trilliums have always been plentiful in the backyard woodland since we moved here 20 years ago--mainly T. grandiflorum and T. erectum. Last spring, for the first time, I discovered a new volunteer. At first I thought it was T. sessile, but on closer examination of the sepal positions (downward rather than upward around the flower), I believe it's a Prairie Trillium (T. recurvatum). I will be hunting for this one again in May.


While I've seen many Penstemon plants over the years, this one blew me away: Rocky Mountain Penstemon (P. strictus). For some reason, I don't remember noticing it during previous visits to Colorado; maybe the timing wasn't quite right. While attending the Denver Garden Bloggers Fling in June, I was mesmerized by this beauty in several gardens. (In 2020, the Fling will be in Madison, which will offer more new discoveries!)


My favorite thing for July was not new, but it was as special as ever: more butterflies in the garden. In midsummer, the monarchs were plentiful here. Apparently, they had a great summer, overall, and people reported huge waves and roosts during the autumn migration south. Dr. Chip Taylor at Monarch Watch, however, predicts lower overwintering numbers this year. I do hope there will be many visitors to my garden next summer--laying eggs on the milkweed plants and nectaring on the garden flowers.


In August, I discovered a new hiking spot. I can't believe I'd never checked it out before, because it's only a few minutes from my home. One of the delightful things about this property is that it's filled with native wildflowers. It also combines waves of various ecosystems--woodlands, prairies, wetlands, rocky spots, and the edges of all of these. The biodiversity is incredible. Yes, I will be hiking here again in 2020!


Do you ever feel lucky to be in the right place at the right time? That was the case in September when I happened upon some blooming Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans). It wasn't necessarily a new experience, but viewing it and photographing it at close range at the peak of bloom gave me a new appreciation for its beauty that I will carry into the future.


It's always nifty to have garden visitors, but they're especially fun to see well into October. I simply enjoyed this little buddy hanging out on the Marigolds. Insects are fascinating, and I hope many more will visit the garden in 2020.


Snapdragons in the snow! That's a new one for me. I think they even would have bloomed again if I'd brought them inside to overwinter. You have to appreciate tough plants like that, and I'll plant more Antirrhinum majus in the new year.


Finally, in December I checked out a hiking spot I hadn't been to for a while, and I introduced it to the dog. He liked it! It's always a bonus to find a great place to hike that also allows dogs. Win-win! I'm sure we'll trek here repeatedly in 2020!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

These simple pleasures, and many more, promise that the year ahead will be bright. Each month offers its own unique, simple blessings.

My hope is that you, too, will find many "favorite things" and gifts that will bring you much joy in the year ahead.

Happy New Year!

November 20, 2019

Wordless Hints of Things to Come

Aquilegia canadensis
Aquilegia canadensis

Hydrangea macrophylla
Hydrangea macrophylla

Sedum kamtschaticum
Sedum kamtschaticum

Iris germanica
Iris germanica

Helleborus x hybridus 'Sandy Shores'
Helleborus x hybridus 'Sandy Shores'

Syringa meyeri
Syringa meyeri

October 15, 2019

Still Blooming in October

Tithonia rotundifolia 'Goldfinger'

I was near certain most of the blooms in this post would be curled up and gone after our forecast of a hard frost or freeze a few nights ago. But Mother Frost decided to spare us for a few days. I felt compelled to participate in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, because this likely will be the last one of the season for me, in my USDA hardiness zone 5a garden.

Sometimes when the surrounding area is hit with frost, we are spared because of the woods, our position on a hill, and the warmth of a nearby lake.

We did have some wicked winds with nasty windchills, though, but the only plants that were affected were most of the Coleus varieties in pots, and the Tithonias. The latter are still alive, though, and are blooming again.

Canna indica 'South Pacific Orange'

I admit I covered the potted All-America Selections (AAS) winner, Canna 'South Pacific Orange.' It hadn't bloomed all summer (because of my shady garden), and since it was just about to bloom, I wanted to spare it. I won't protect it again, but with mild weather this week maybe it will put on a brilliant show on its way out.

ng impatiens
Impatiens hawkeri 'Sonic Light Pink'

I also covered the potted New Guinea Impatiens because...well, I just wanted to. Turns out, maybe I wouldn't have had to, but who knew?

pots n pumpkins
Fuchsia 'Dollar Princess' with friends

None of the Fuchsias were covered, but they're just fine, including 'Dollar Princess,' in two pots by the door with various Impatiens, gnarly Coleus, and Thuja occidentalis, which will serve as year-round centerpieces. For the holidays, I'll surround them with pine cones and other decorations.

fuchsia 1
Fuchsia 'Marinka'

'Marinka' just keeps blooming and budding. I'll probably bring a couple of these indoors to overwinter, because I love them so much.

Fuchsia triphylla 'Gartenmeister Bonstedt'

Standing Fuchsia 'Gartenmeister Bonstedt' is new for me. It has budded and bloomed continuously since early May when I bought it.

zinnia stems
Mixed Zinnia elegans

I cut a bunch of Zinnias because I thought they were my last; they're still waiting to go in a vase--I need to get my act together.

zinnia bud
Z. elegans

Turns out, more Zinnias will bloom this week.

Calamintha nepeta

The tiny blooms of Calamintha nepeta are so precious and fragrant.

calamintha with bee
C. nepeta

The bees love them, too.

Tagetes erecta 'Big Duck Gold'

This AAS winner, Marigold 'Big Duck Gold' keeps going strong, and has plenty of visitors.

tagetes with butterfly
T. erecta 'Big Duck Gold'

If you look closely, you'll see that the grasshoppper in the previous photo was joined by a painted lady butterfly; the blooms are so big they can share a perch.

Conoclinium coelestinum

Some of the Blue Mistflowers have gone to seed, but some are still blooming.

Sedum 'Autumn Joy' with C. coelestinum

In the side sunny garden, the Mistflower is trying to take over, and is crowding the Sedum a bit. I do like the color combination, though.

Lantana camara 'Bandana Rose'

The Lantanas were crowded out a bit, too, this year, but they're still blooming.

Cuphea 'FloriGlory Diana'

Another AAS winner, Mexican Heather 'FloriGlory Diana,' is still blooming and setting buds. Although I have it in partial sun, it faces south and gets enough light to flower.

Coreopsis tripteris

Tall Tickseed is new for me this year...well, I should say it's new in its current spot. I found a volunteer in the sunny garden last season and moved it. I've been warned that it can be aggressive, so I put it in a confined area. I really like this bright, native plant, but I'll try to keep it from spreading too far.

Cosmos bipinnatus 'Sensation Mix'

Finally, the elegant Cosmos flowers keep sharing their airy beauty. Wouldn't it be nice to live in a place where Cosmos always blooms?

How about you? What's blooming in your garden? I'm linking in with "Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day" over at May Dreams Gardens. Check it out!


UPDATE on the monarchs from a previous post:
  • Jeffrey was indeed a male (there was discussion of renaming him Jennifer Lopez if a female, but no need). RELEASED
  • Gus was a female, so her full name is Augustina. RELEASED
  • Spike was a female and was set free in front of all the 4th and 5th graders at the school. RELEASED
  • The late bloomer, named "Youngblood" by the students, formed its chrysalis on Monday, 9/23. Female. RELEASED, 10/7--before the cold weather set in.

September 25, 2019

A Green Wideshot Wednesday

Is Wideshot Wednesday a meme? I don't know who hosts it, but I have an entry. I've been noticing how green everything is around here, so I snapped a few wide shots of the back garden. They show the mess and the fallen leaves and the lack of blooming plants, yes, but also how little fall color is in the woodland.

over pond


The ferns are senescing and some of the Oak leaves are falling, but most of the foliage on the trees and the plants is still very green. We've had a wet, warm September, which is unusual here. It's quite comfortable and lush, but strange.

Cooler weather in the next few weeks likely will bring on much more autumn color. Are you seeing fall color in your garden?


If you saw my last post, the monarchs in the classroom are making progress. Check it out. :)