Garden update – the irises are the main event

Sweet woodruff and lilies of the valley

Although Mark and I have been devoting nearly all of our gardening time to digging up the Chameleon Ivy, I spent a few hours the other day in the St. Francis garden. We had some monster weeds growing there and leaves to remove from the fall. In the very far shady corner of the bottom level of this garden we planted sweet woodruff and lilies of the valley last year. They seem to like their new location. Especially the sweet woodruff.

Lilies of the valley

I would like to thank the original owners of this property for the stone work they put in and around the gardens. I love the juxtaposition of stone with flowers.

Lilies of the valley

I have so many favorite flowers, but the lilies of the valley take a special place in my heart. They are so quietly unassuming, yet they carry a beautifully sweet fragrance. I think I may bring a couple of sprigs in for my desk.

Creeping phox

I couldn’t resist buying a couple of perennials for the gardens. I bought these two phox to replace some that we planted last year in the angel garden. I’m afraid those might have gone the way of the Chameleon Ivy.

Pincushion flowers

I also picked up three pincushion flowers. I hope they will attract butterflies. I enjoyed these at our last house. They require a bit of dead-heading, but that’s garden work I enjoy.

Garden ornaments

My little Vanna White shows off the new plantings.

Knockout roses

The knockout roses have just started with an early bloom or two. Although they are supposed to be completely care free, I don’t find that to be true. At our last house I had a few roses that I tried to spray, but I don’t care for that so much. I will probably just allow these to do what they have to do.

St. Francis garden

I’d also like to thank the original owners for having the foresight to create this garden space in view of the kitchen seating area. It’s nice to look out upon as we eat alone or share our meals.

St. Francis

When my son and daughter-in-law gave us this statue of St. Francis as a house-warming gift, I got the idea to name the gardens. St. Francis was known for his love of nature, and the birds and little animals that frequent our garden.

Iris in St. Francis garden

Of course, the irises are the main show in the gardens right now. And truthfully, are the main show period. These gardens are full of irises. They’ve just started to bloom, so we have a few weeks to enjoy their show.


I love this variety. I probably should look it up so I know its name. From a distance, they look pink.

Iris in woodland garden

These irises are planted at the top edge of the angel garden alongside the woodland garden.


Besides their beautiful flowers, I love the way the light plays along the stiff upright leaves of the iris plants.


I usually don’t cut the irises to bring them inside. They don’t last long and I prefer to enjoy them where they’re planted.

Dark purple iris

This is another nice variety of iris, for which I don’t know the name. We used to have a lot of the light lavender ones at our old houses, but irises come in all kinds of beautiful varieties. These dark purple ones make a particularly stunning show when they are all in bloom.


We have bunches of irises throughout the gardens. And although you can’t see them here, in the top wooded area, I planted some that I had divided last year. Some of them are blooming among the wildflowers this year. More on the wildflowers later.

Purple iris

When I have some free time, I’m going to look up the name of this variety.

Blooming creeping phlox

I can see this blooming creeping phlox from the window of the study where I sit and work on my computer. That garden ornament looks familiar. . .I’m beginning to wonder if he doesn’t thrive on being the center of attention.

Next up: the wildflowers, followed shortly after by the progress Mark and I have made on the chameleon ivy.

The first iris

Yesterday the first iris bloomed. It was the variegated red variety that we only have a few of. Later I noticed that one of the purple irises had also bloomed on the edge of the woodland garden.

I was happy to see that the irises I transplanted in the wooded area at the top of the garden are going to bloom this year. I worried because I had moved them, and because I wasn’t certain about the light exposure. Although the woodland garden is not progressing as I’d like it to, (primarily because we spend every gardening moment, hour, and day exterminating and eradicating the Chameleon ivy) I’m excited to see the irises bloom there.

This time last year I wasn’t even waiting for the irises to bloom. That didn’t happen until May 9th. The irises were in full bloom by May 14.  I don’t think the swelling buds this years will make it to May.

Garden journal, March 29 — Spring bursts forth

Spring sneaks in slowly when the pointed tips of daffodils break the soil and breath in the air, soaking up the sun rays. Spring sneaks in when small buds on trees and bushes begin to swell.

But once spring sneaks it, it breaks forth with an amazing energy as leaves unfurl overnight, and flowers burst open in bloom, filling the air with fragrance.

We returned home Monday night from a weekend away to find not only the fallen redbud tree, but many other things that had happened while we were gone.

Hyacinths - planted March 2012

The hyacinths we planted a week or two ago are now in full bloom and fragrant.

Bleeding hearts - Planted summer 2010

One of my favorites, the bleeding hearts that we planted our first summer here in 2010 are cascading between the boulders in the lower section of the St. Francis Garden.

Daffodils, here when we arrived

The daffodils that were planted by previous owners are blooming in the Angel Garden.


Another spring favorite of mine, the viburnum, with their wonderful, sweet fragrance are in full bloom along the far top edge of the Angel Garden.

Viburnum blossom

I will have to bring a few blossoms inside.

Tulip tree

The tulip tree is still blooming, but is starting to fade. I wasn’t able to capture a photo I was satisfied with.

Just a few short weeks ago the Japanese Maple looked barren and bereft.

Japanese Maple

This is what we found when we arrived home.

These large hostas were just small little probes above the soil, an inch or two in length, last week before we left on Friday. This is how they look now.

Creeping phlox

And the creeping phlox is putting on its showy carpet along our front walk.

When spring bursts forth it is truly a wonder to behold.

Have a great weekend.

Early spring gardening

These are the best of days.

From the back deck of our house on top of the hill, I can see the woods are beginning to fill with an elusive green mist where fairies play.

Our duck couple has returned again. I saw the mother with babies trailing in a neighbor’s yard our first spring here, before I knew this fine pair liked to nest near the creek that flows behind our house.

Closer to the house, I can see the green mist is actually a delicate veil of early leaves on honeysuckle bushes that have infiltrated our woods.

This tree near my St. Francis garden outside my kitchen windows sports a single blossom, an early harbringer of spring too impatient to wait.

The early spring woods provides a beautiful backdrop from the emerging iris in my St. Francis garden.

The daffodils have opened to greet the day. Mark moves the black pole that supports the bird feeders and cleans up the remnants of the birds’ winter feast. We leave a feeder on the front port and back deck. I’m going to miss watching the birds from my kitchen table.

In the spot to the left of the daffodils and owl, I plant three hyacinths, not pictured here. They aren’t fully developed or in bloom yet.

Impatient for flowers, I plant this columbine in the lowest level of the St. Francis garden that receives nearly full shade.

It is the level below the rocks on the right. You can just barely see the little red flowers at the bottom edge of the photo. I’m going to have to talk to the photographer about this. First the hyacinths, now the columbine. . .

I fill our six deck flower boxes with pansies and make a fine mess doing it.  They’re a nice flower to have around in early spring and hopefully will survive any foul weather Mother Nature throws our way through March and April.

Out front this little tree blooms white. I see it from the desk where I work in my study. I think it is a Bradford pear. I don’t know if the previous owners planted it or it came out of the woods on its own. Mark and I have talked about planting other flowering trees in the strip of land we own across the private drive.

What do you think? Bradford pear? Truthfully, I don’t care much for the fragrance.

These hyacinths border one of our landscaped areas in our front yard. Most of the plants were here when we arrived a little over two years ago, as were these.

The tulip tree at the corner of our house sports many blossoms on its top limbs.

Most are not quite ready to open.

The little purple flowers on what I believe to be Vinca Minor or Creeping Myrtle create a magical look to the edge of woods across the drive.

And to the woodland garden. I’m waiting for something magical to happen here,

with gnomes, and fairies, and a walking path with bench.

We need more magic.

These barely budding oak leaf hydrangeas separate what I consider the woodland garden from the angel garden.

I call the hillside garden the angel garden because I put angel statues in it, one of which has taken a tumble and lies on its side in the yard.

The flat land at the top I call the woodland garden. When we first moved in, it was a dense tangle of overgrown gnarly honeysuckle, hawthorn trees, sticky bushes (probably wild roses), and poison ivy. We cleared most of that out, leaving as many trees as we could. I hope to create a nice little space to walk and/or sit up there someday. But we have more pressing matters for now, like the ivy.

Tell me it ain’t so. . .Chameleon ivy.

I had to dig out some of the ivy with its runners just to plant two daffodils. This flattering photo was taken by my daughter. Although it looks like my head is in the refuse container, it’s not. Even so, you can still see what hard work it is to extract the invasive ivy from the garden.

Arthur feels the same way.

But the work is worth it, when I see my garden blooming ivy-free. Although I’m not sure exactly how long it will take us to make the garden completely ivy-free, perhaps forever. The runners are under these beautiful and incredibly heavy landscaping boulders. I feel towards the ivy runners like Wile E Coyote felt towards the Roadrunner. And you know how far that always got him.

The birds always love it when I garden.

See more posts about gardening in my series.

Welcome back garden

Welcome back garden.

It’s time to go brown sedum, faithful garden keeper through winter’s cold.

Welcome back gazing globe, shiny bubble that glows with sunlight.

Hello sweet woodruff,

my bleeding hearts,

and shy columbine.

Clear away your dry skirts, daylilies.

Climb to the sky, Jacob’s ladder.

And bloom again pure daisies, simple flower of my heart.

Sweep away the leaves, angel who guards our path, and surround yourself with green.

Rise up small owl, fallen to rest, and stake your claim.

Stand up and face the sun, little light that shines in night.

Bloom bright daffodils, bloom.

Welcome back garden. We’ve been waiting for you.


See more posts about gardening in my series.

My Garden

Mark continues to improve after his bi-lateral knee surgery. I stayed with him at the hospital last night and until late this morning when I left to run errands and make sure things are set up at the house for him. When I left the grocery store today, I couldn’t remember exactly where I parked, but I had an idea. I knew I was close to a cart corral. So I started walking. When I couldn’t see my car after a few minutes I resorted to using the lock button on my key to try to hear where it was. And I was successful. I could hear it, and I knew it was close, but I still couldn’t see it. After pushing the button and listening three or four times, I found my car. I was standing right in front of it, which made me shake my head and laugh. I am more tired than I realize. Hopefully I will sleep well at home tonight before our big day tomorrow when Mark is scheduled to come home. Thanks for your continued support, thoughts and good wishes.

The following is from the archives. I wrote this in early February of 2001 for a class I was taking at the College of Mount St. Joseph called Exploring the Sacred. It is about flowers, and gardening, hope, and faith. It actually feels like spring here today, but I don’t believe it will last. We’ll see tomorrow. . .

My Garden

I stand in the cold silence, my warm breath visible as frost in the air, and look at my garden in winter.   It is a wasteland of death and destruction, a battlefield abandoned and forgotten.  The ground is a mottled painting of black moist soil covered by patches of curled leaves in hues of brown and circles of persistent stale snow.  The thorny spikes of rose bushes stand bare and formidable.  Dry, brittle stems, washed of color fall helter-skelter in disarray.  The once supple green foliage is now a faded brown as it stands leans or falls, bent and broken.  The tall garden phlox rise like spears, still bundled from the summer’s staking.  A sedum plant, only a few months ago so densely green with a blaze of scarlet, is now a dull maroon on naked stems.  The lush and brilliant has become the dull and barren.  Clusters of mums with brown dried flowers that raised their autumn golden heads now bow in shame or sorrow.  The summer urn lies toppled on its side spilling out its contents of soil and decay. One faithful stone angel stands guard over the pebble path that meanders through the wreckage.  Another angel lies flat on its back staring at the winter sky, a casualty of cold blasts of ice and snow.  As I gaze over the worn white picket fence at my garden I mourn the reminder of what once was and I think ahead to the spring.

When spring heralds itself with a blue sky and warm fresh scented air, I’ll go out to my garden again and assess the winter’s damage.  With a childlike awe and surprise, I will find the first little green sprigs poking their heads out of the black soil announcing their presence.  I’ll see life swelling in the buds on the roses’ thorny stems.  On my knees I’ll wipe away the wounds of winter as I rake and remove piles of broken twigs and dead foliage with my bare hands.  Autumn’s odors of decay in the leaves will be replaced by the fresh scent of new growth and the aroma of black rich soil warmed by the first rays of spring.  I’ll feel the warmth of the sun on my bent back as I work.  The birds will share my excitement as they keep me good company with their curiosity and songs of joy.  When I am finished the garden will be transformed into a bed of black, dotted with spots of bright green, and perhaps splashed with the color of an early bloom or two from a yellow crocus or grape hyacinth.

I’ll work on my knees with my hands in the soil, transplanting plants that have outgrown their space.  The fresh fragrance, the warmth of the sun and the songs of the birds will permeate my being.  I will be one with the earth in the early spring of my garden.

I’ll wait for the spring blues of the tiny forget-me-nots and for the delicate columbine with bowed head that hides it’s humble beauty.  I’ll wait for the stunning sweet fragrance of the hyacinth and the bright yellow of the bold daffodils.  I know that the constant plants will emerge independently in a carefully orchestrated concert one more time.  Each new bloom will be a welcomed back friend.

As the sun burns brighter and the days grow longer, delicate spring will give way to the brilliant, wild and reckless abandon of summer’s full bloom.  I will work in the early hours of the day when the birds are singing their morning songs and the cool of the night air still lingers.  I’ll slip on my red rubber clogs, gather my hand trowel and rake, and step into the morning calm and solitude.  With a stick and a bit of twine I’ll give support to the over-enthusiastic bloomers that stumble and sprawl. Staking, weeding, pruning, and watering are the tasks of summer.  As the day warms, the bumblebees will join me in their soft coats of yellow and black, buzzing about me in a drunken stupor as they saturate themselves in the bountiful pollen.  The bees will cause me no alarm as we engage in a dance of give and take, working side by side.

In the summer I will be held in awe by great miracles and mysteries.    I’ll sow again the tiny seeds of the cosmos or the zinnia. With only the help from the earth, rain, and sun, they’ll transform into full, towering plants laden with bright colors in shades of lavender, pink and red.  I will contemplate the strength of the fragile beauty of the blossoms that survive pelting rains and violent winds of summer’s storms.  The Abraham Darby will bloom again and I will drink in once more the sweet spiced fragrance of its old-fashioned rose blossom with petals of pink edged in yellow. I will watch the birds celebrate in my garden paradise while my heart dances with the waltzing butterflies.  When the cool air and calm return at the end of the day, I’ll wander along the pebble path and bend to touch a satin petal, examine the crystal bead of water cupped by the Lady’s Mantle, or breathe in the sweet fragrance of summer roses.

Summer will give me a harvest of joy and hope.  I will gather stems of color in my arms as summer’s full bloom and mix of fragrance provide me once more a gift to a dying friend of a bouquet from the earth.  It will be all I have to offer.  It will be a reminder of beauty, and that God is good—that God is.

Over the years I have pulled out weeds of anger and discontent in my garden.  I have watered my plants with tears of frustration or sorrow.  And I have rejoiced in the splendor of God’s creation.

After the last of the roses fade and fall, I know that autumn will come with its final blast of golden and scarlet color. I see very clearly that I am only an instrument to defend and protect with my weeding and staking and watering.  I know that with or without me the plants will grow, bloom, fade and die.  But I will be here for now to see, touch and smell them.  I will be here for now to revel with the birds and the bees and the butterflies.  I will be here to mourn the passing.

As I stand with frozen breath gazing over the white, worn picket fence I am startled now by remnants of green peeking through the spots of white snow and brown leaves.  I notice the soft, pale green of the lamb’s ear feathered with white.  An edge of tiny leaves of the snow-in-summer cascade over a rock in shades of pale blue-green.  The plush, dense mat of the cottage pinks with their blue tinted needle leaves struggle with the fallen leaves of the oak to cover the feet of the naked rose.  As I look more closely I see that throughout the garden islands of green foliage are refusing to succumb to winter’s call.  I am reassured once again that beneath the leaves and snow and death, the roots of life are sleeping, gaining strength for the show that lies ahead.   And as I stand here in the cold silence I know my garden lives.

Garden at our old house - 2009


See more posts about gardening in my series.

The ones that get away

I woke up three times in the night trying to solidify a blog post idea for today that was flitting around my mind. But like the beautiful,  colorful, yet elusive butterflies that grace my gardens from the spring to the fall, the idea flitted away. I woke with nothing.

I have been carrying a small notebook in my purse for a while now to catch these elusive ideas, and sometimes I do. I bought a tape-recorder many years ago and kept it in my car for those times when my mind loves to play as I drive along a highway. I rarely used it. Instead, when a wayward, yet interesting thought pops into my head, I try my old memorization technique of repetition until I can get someplace where I can write it down. That usually works during the day. But at night, not so much.

Perhaps another little notebook on my bedside table?

My next task is to get myself organized and collect the snippets I do catch somewhere I can find them again. Maybe next year will be the year.

So here’s to the fascinating post that never made it out of my head and you and I will never read.

Do you ever lose great ideas? What do you do to catch and keep them?

From Butterflies of Brazil —2011 Butterfly Show at the Krohn Conservatory

Tuesday’s two-minute movie – Chameleon Crazy

Well, this was actually going to be “Monday Movie—one day late.” I’m trying to really embrace this blogging culture. “Monday’s Movie,” “Tuesday’s Trauma,” “Wednesday’s. . .” well, I’ll get to Wednesday later. Anyway, I may not need one. I will probably have given up on this idea by then.

Then I remembered how my son informed me that my “Proof Copy” video was too long. So I wonder how long is too long? Is a two-minute movie okay? Aha. It’s Tuesday. I need a two-minute movie. Unfortunately I have a 7 minute and 41 seconds movie. Now is the perfect time to learn to edit my films.

You’ll see the cuts. Be patient with me; I’m still learning.

And the two minutes is more like two minutes and 46 seconds. I’m working on it.

Grote Ink productions not-so-proudly presents, Chameleon Crazy: or the hard way to remove invasive ivy from your garden.

See more posts about gardening in my series.

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig

I like to travel, and as you can tell from previous posts of Italy, Hawaii, Ireland and places in the US, we have done, and continue to do a fair amount of traveling.

But wherever I go, I am always happy to come back home, although sometimes the farewells are bittersweet when we’re returning home from a visit with our out-of-town children.

The other downside is that upon returning home, I notice all the things that need to be done, like trimming the boxwoods in front. It’s been such a hot summer, that I have let many outside chores slide as I refuse to work in the heat of the day.

Although it’s only been a few days, it seems like forever since we passed lazy days under a beach umbrella.

The sedum have come into bloom. Their early flowers are a light and delicate pink. I think they will darken to more of a wine color with time. They are like a soft breath of freshness in my late-summer heat-beaten garden.

This little angel stands guard over my St. Francis garden. Most of my other angels are in the Angel garden where I find I have a lot of work ahead of me this fall, if the temperatures ever cool. (Last week was cool here in the midwest, I understand, but we chose that week to go to South Carolina, so we missed that break from the heat.)

Arrggh. Can you just see all the ivy? Even after all our work. Even after things looked cleared up and we put the shovels away.

It may take me the rest of my life, but I will win the war against this ivy.

Most of these ivy plants can we “weeded” out with a hand fork or tool. It’s important to get to the bottom of the entire root without it breaking. Even the smallest remnant will sprout into a new plant.

It’s discouraging when I look back at the earlier pictures where we had the garden visibly cleared.

But our whole garden would be looking like this right now if we hadn’t done all the work that we did. This is the far end of the garden near the private drive. We haven’t worked here yet. The ivy chokes everything else out.

Working on this ivy makes me think of other people who accomplished great things by a persistent chipping away. Relentlessly. Always hopeful. You just keep going.

Even with all the work that faces me, there’s still no place like home. I know Arthur, who spent last week at Pet City Resort, agrees.


See more posts about gardening in my series.