A Little Bit of This & That on Aging

We visited Mission Point Peninsula going north from Traverse City (the pinky part of the Michigan mitten) a few weeks ago. One of the stops we made was to walk around the lighthouse that used to guide ships to either the east or west forks of Grand Traverse Bay. As we were getting in the car to leave I noticed these sandals that some child took off but didn’t pick up when s/he got in the car. Someone had hung them on the tree sapling, a flag signaling to the parents who may return to the scene of the crime. A silent giggle worked its way up from my tummy and I took a photo. In post processing I decided to use an aged photo color filter that had a warm tone, reflecting the warm feeling this scene elicited of memories past. No wonder I sometimes have a hard time remembering a word I need to express myself, my brain is filled to overflowing with the memories that are woven together to make my life story.

We cleaned the deck today, scrubbing off an accumulation of dirt and green stuff growing where the sun doesn’t reach, rinsing away dropped bird seed and bird droppings. At first we scrubbed side by side, feeling clumsy and awkward as we almost seemed to be working against each other, no pattern or plan. About the time that I felt tired and thought I would have probably stopped if Jim wasn’t working with me, we seemed to settle into assigned tasks without saying a word. He continued on the rails as I scrubbed the floor. We worked, usually in silence, until it was almost completed – when we could look around and tell each other how good it looked. Our aging bodies had grown tired, pain building in my hips and back, and one of us said s/he was going in to rest for a while and the other followed. I am thankful that fifty-some years of marriage has resulted in a dance that allows us to glide through our life tasks with a functional grace.

I feel late summer in the air, and this week we have a delightful break from what could be the dog-days-heat of late summer. The daytime highs have been in the low seventies with a cool northern breeze and nights in the 50’s. Some of the annuals in the pots on the back deck are getting leggy or died from either too much rain or too much heat. Many of the perennials in the front garden are finishing up their blooming so I need to spend some time each day deadheading to keep things looking tidy so the fall blooming plants can strut their stuff to full effect. The front beds are pretty big and I’ve been wondering how much longer I will be able to tend to them. The beds are now planted mainly with perennials with a few bushes and shrubs for winter interest. I think I may start gradually changing the balance so there are more evergreens and flowering shrubs, with perennials as accents. But not this year because I added several new perennials and have some mail-ordered iris coming sometime this month. My aging strategy tends to be a combination of staying engaged to the extent my body will allow while planning for how I can make life simpler for when I have to give some things up.

One of my new coneflowers. What a delicious color.

May Garden Activity

It was unseasonably cold during the last few nights of May here in southern Michigan, just a few degrees above freezing. Absolutely perfect for sitting on my purple porch swing in the not-so-early morning (eight-ish) with a cup of hot coffee. Yes it is a bit nippy but my porch faces east so I am bathed in the warmth of the morning sun. And above is what I see as I look through the railing to my garden.

And I smile and sigh. I love the combination of the chocolate and apricot irises in front of the red barberry bush. But my garden is somewhat out of order this year due to the out-of-order spring weather. Usually the apricot iris doen’t bloom until the chocolate are almost finished. This year the apricot was out about a week before the first chocolate unfurled a couple of days ago.

My daughter gave me a couple of tubers of the chocolate iris that a neighbor gave her as a good-bye gift when my daughter left Little Rock, Arkansas. It seems so exotic, so special. The buds are so very dark and the newly unfurled blossom is a lush silky golden brown, growing lighter and more golden in the two or three days before it withers away. In certain lights there are purple under currents to the petals.

My peony is also blooming on the lower terrace. I wish I had more flowers that bloomed during late spring. Maybe I will look for some yellow irises to plant next to this peony. Any other suggestions? I like the idea of yellow because it would be a nice complimentary color to the deep pink peony and would be positioned just below the apricot and chocolate that grow on the upper terrace.

The Evening Primrose is spreading aggressively at the end of the upper bed and this worries me a bit but it is so beautiful that I don’t think I’ll attack it aggressively – at least not yet. Maybe I’ll be sorry. I love how it poked its way up in the catmint, totally uninvited but welcomed.

See why I think I’ll wait another year before I decide to take action. Has anyone had a problem with this primrose weakening or taking over other plants? How can anything so delicate looking be so strong willed and naughty?

When we moved in over 10 years ago I planted what I hoped would be a tall (but not too tall) and slender (not too big around for a small space) evergreen in the corner, where the porch juts out a couple of feet, on the terrace that is 4 feet below. Beside it I planted a President clematis, given to me by a friend, and trained it up the section of fencing I placed there. You know what happened, right? The tree is much bigger around that I envisioned and the clematis ended up behind the tree, with roots fighting for moisture and nutrients. This year I transplanted it away from the shrub and did lots of amending of the heavy clay with peat, manure and nutrients to help with root regrowth. I have read that clematis don’t like to be moved so I’m hoping it will hang in there with a little pampering. It is blooming so that’s a good sign, I think. Or maybe a last frantic effort to reseed itself before it dies. Ugh.

This spring I was super diligent with weeding – starting earlier and with more energy than normal. It really worked as I’m almost weed free except for some grass in the middle of plants that I can’t get out until it rains again and of course those small pesky weed roots that break off and are left to torment me at a later time.

I have been thinking a lot about adding plants to my garden as I am gently swinging and looking out over the sea of fresh green spring growth. I printed photographs of my garden taken at different times of the growing season of previous years. I studied them and thought and studied them some more and then made a trip to the garden center. Then I would think some more and finally plant my new purchases where I think they need to be. Repeat. Plant. Repeat. Plant. I think I am at the point where I need to find out how the new plants are going to get along in their new homes and with their neighbors before I buy any more. Except…

Except my love of sedums has reignited and I still have some bare spots in my dry, difficult places – plus I found a new garden website that only sells online, has a wonderful selection, ships plants in pots, are reasonably priced, and are located two hours down the Interstate in Grand Haven, on the shore of Lake Michigan. They have a wonderful selection of sedums so I ordered some new hens & chicks to add to the ones that are established…

And ones I bought earlier this year.

The new ones are named “Cosmic Candy”. Now doesn’t that excite your cosmic energy, but you, too, will have to wait to see them until they arrive and are planted. I also ordered a couple of the larger stonecrop sedums to give some late summer color and fill in with low maintenance plants with beautiful texture and color all through the growing season.

And in the fall I’ll be relocating a hen & chicks to Florida. One that I bought this year is only hardy in zone 11 (not even close to zone 5). In the meantime I’m enjoying it every morning and evening as I sit on my porch swing and think about my garden.

Life in Purple

I’m full of pent-up energy – so eager to do everything that I’m having a hard time focusing on getting anything done. I just had a month full of health care appointments (with each test/imaging leading to another possible problem resulting in multiplying appointments) and cold, mostly-cloudy weather. Weather forecasters are saying that tonight will be the last night with temperatures around freezing. Father Frost doesn’t seem to know that the last date for frost in my neighborhood is the end of April – he has visited nightly for close to a week.

As I sit in my purple reading room at 8:00 am, having just returned from a lung scan, I sit and enjoy the sun coming through the blinds and the framed spray of purple flowers made by twilling paper, by artists in Viet Nam. This was last year’s Mother’s Day card from my son and I have enjoyed it so much during the past year that I decided to get it framed to hang in this perfect spot for viewing.

As I sit in my warm room I keep glancing to my left, looking out two big windows onto the porch with my purple porch swing. Outdoors is calling me even though it is barely 40 degrees F. so I grab my second cup of coffee and…

I haven’t spent much time on my purple porch swing this spring because of the clouds covering the sun on most recent mornings – the sun that warms me when the air temperature is just above freezing. This morning is beautiful with a very warm sun and I spend time studying my garden down below the porch, thinking about where to put newly purchased perennials and reading the seed package of Zinnias yet again, for information it doesn’t provide – like is it warm enough to sow the seeds now.

I also look at the old and faded quilt I made when I started quilting again after finishing university and had more time. It is hanging over the back of the swing to dry from melted frost collected as it covered a new shrub clematis I planted too early. Jim normally uses it as a cover to protect the front fender as he leans over to fiddle with the engine. He mentioned that it is a beautiful quilt and I had to agree. I have always loved this quilt because the pattern has the same movement as the “storm at sea” pattern. I’ve been studying the contrasts of light and medium dark pieces that make straight lines look curved. This is going to be my next project after I finish two or three other projects I have in process. I will probably start picking fabrics for it and will want to find some purples to match the swing. I find it interesting that I have never purchased many purples so I think a trip to a quilting store will be a part of my future (says my private fortune telling cookie).

I am enjoying my purple pansies that I planted about a week ago. They do best in cooler weather and I usually buy them too late, just before hot weather hits so they don’t last long. This year when the pansies decide they have had enough heat of early summer, I think I will replace them with some of the beautiful new petunias. I planned on planting annuals in pots on the back deck on Wednesday, then Thursday, and then Friday, as the weather forecaster kept adding one more night of cold in the 30’s. I got impatient with this long cold snap in May and planted them yesterday – hoping that pulling them up close to the house at night would protect them from damage. This morning there was frost on the neighbor’s roof but my plants seem to be okay.

I bought three “heavenly blue” morning glory plants last week knowing full well that they should be planted at the end of May. I am enjoying watching them grow as they sit in the sun on my sewing table and just may plant them next week when the temps are suppose to get into the 70’s. Last year was a dismal failure without a single bloom but I read that morning glories do best in poor soil with minimal watering. So this year they are on their own. I also planted some marigolds in little pots but they haven’t sprouted. They are seeds I collected from last year’s plants and I have plenty to sow outside when I plant the zinnia seeds. All of this is to say that I am really into the working with the flowers in my flower garden this year after focusing on eradicating weeds last year. This spring I am still fighting weeds and rapid spreading perennials but last year’s work made a big difference in what I have to deal with this year.

I also also focused my writing of this post on Jude’s Life in Colour: Purple for the month of May. If your life doesn’t have enough purple in it, maybe you need to visit me and enter through my purple door – or, if more convenient check out other photographer’s samples of purple by visiting Jude. Tell her I said hi.

Living in the Age of Covid-19: Control

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View from my sewing corner.

My social calendar is blank, although we have found some low-risk ways of occasionally being with one or two other people. The surest way that I have found to be with people at a distance is to work in my front flower garden. A good number of people walk in our neighborhood and most people say hi and the people we know best stop to chat – but they don’t get too close because they really don’t want to work with me. Even when I tell them there are enough weeds for everyone.

My garden seems really happy right now, probably because I have showered it with attention this year. Because of stay-at-home and social distancing I can’t be somewhere else or can’t have friends over for cards or dinner. As with every spring, the first order of business in my garden was going after the weeds, thinking it would also count as exercise because I can’t go to the gym. As I weeded I remembered that some daylilies needed dividing because they haven’t bloomed much in the past couple of years. Then I realized that the veronica should be moved because the dwarf lilac is starting to encroach on it. And the 12-year-old gold falsecypress was getting too big for the garden even though I did some major pruning in the past two years. Jim took that out along with the flowering almond that no longer had many redeeming qualities, and two ground cover evergreens that were looking their age. That last sentence fragment doesn’t sound very gracious – given that I am also looking my age. Out back by the poppies, Jim took out a beautiful “Limelight” hydrangea that I planted in the wrong place but too long ago to make it possible to transplant it – at least without a backhoe. This year we are really enjoying the poppies and new bird bath that aren’t hidden by the hydrangea.

These are the physical things we have been doing in the garden, along with planting some new perennials. Twelve years ago I started with a blank slate, planting some evergreens and small flowering shrubs to give some structure (the ones we are now removing). Then I started filling in with some perennials from the house we left and from several trips to the garden center. My goal was to get some things growing and fill in the distance between with mulch. It was a long, slow process and I don’t do well with waiting a year or five to see results.

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A new canvas – April 2008

 

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My 2018 garden in early July

But my garden did grow and mature. It survived a few years without much care as I struggled to get control of fibromyalgia that overtook my life. Jim kept the weeds under control, mostly, and one year for Mother’s Day my daughter and three granddaughters came to weed because neither Jim nor I had enough energy to tend to it. In the last few years I have been fighting some very invasive weeds, mostly doing garden crisis control, although I visited some garden centers and would pick up a plant or two of interest to put someplace that was a little bare. Ya, I liked the buying more than the planting and tending.

This year has been different. I actually have enjoyed the process of gardening as much as the excitement of waiting to see how it will look. I bought and planted several new perennials where I think they will accent existing plants. I am contemplating how to best fill in the spots where shrubs were removed and how new planting will improve the overall structure. The fun part is that I feel my 12-year-old garden moving into a new phase in its lifecycle and maybe this change is reflecting a new change in me. Maybe.

I have been quilting and gardening in an attempt to exert some control, to make things work, to create beauty in a world that feels dangerous and on the edge of being out of control. I have been getting pleasure from fixing the plantings in my garden and putting small pieces of fabric together so they make something better than each individual plant/fabric piece, so they work together better.

What I really want is to have an impact on our social problems. What I really want is to be able to control the spread of misinformation, of lies, of wrong-headed beliefs. I want to control what other people are doing (or not doing) that is increasing the deadly spread of the virus that our national leader is denying. I want to get inside the brains of racists and white supremacists and wipe out all the garbage they have in there – and re-order the firing of neurons so they don’t create and spew out hate and injustice.

And on my darkest days I stoop to thinking of really evil things to do to people who refuse to listen and learn from science, who won’t read widely and critically so they can make informed decisions instead of acting on blind instinct. I want bad things to happen to people who put their self-interests ahead of the common good of society. Dear God, am I asking too much of humanity?

This week I am in a dark mood; I feel depressed and have to force myself to do things that normally give me pleasure. It has taken me so long to finish this post that the poppies are in their last day of blooming. Last week I felt that life was about as wonderful as it could get. My world (my bubble inside an insane world) was full of beauty and kindness and graciousness. I have been experiencing these mood swings for some time now and suspect there is a correlation with the amount of political news I listen to or what crisis is being reported. Given that I feel a responsibility to knowing what is happening in the US and around the world, this will be the price I have to pay.

But I have been feeling a difference in how I garden and quilt and maybe even how I respond to the news I listen to and the people I interact with. I am observing a slight shift in how I do my work of living in an imperfect world. In my garden I am feeling more tolerant of the time it takes for plants to mature and taking more interest in creating happy combinations of flowers and foliage. My flowers may be allowed to grow as their DNA instructs them to grow without having to bend to my rules and control (no worry about my giving up complete control, though).

Maybe I’m giving up my wrong-headed belief that I have a responsibility to make the world right. Maybe I’ll try doing what I can to improve our society, but when I can’t do anything I will focus on making beauty in my little corner of the world.

My Florida Orchids

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It is that time of year when we pack up the back of our car with all those things we think we will need between now and April and head for southern Florida. Things like shoes we didn’t leave there, some clothes I enjoy wearing, fabric for two quilting projects that I have started (no I haven’t found a good fabric store where we reside for the winter), a box of yarn to make hats to bring back in November to donate to the homeless shelter (and another plastic box with all my knitting needles, etc), camera gear, and some boxes that JB has packed up. And of course all our electronics and their respective charging cords.

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Our southern winter life and our northern summer life are so different that there isn’t much in either place to trigger memories of what life is like in the other. When I am in one place I seldom think of the other, so I experienced a delightful surprise when I opened this file of photos of the orchids I have attached to the trees around our condo. If I remember right I have eight or ten, some blooming in fall and some in spring. This orchid is a winter/spring bloomer so I’m now excited to see the fall bloomers that will be waiting for me.

Thanks, Cee, for inspiring me to post these posies and do a little writing. I’ve been experiencing a blogging block lately.