Seed Season

My mailbox is full of gardening catalogs and the excitement of spring and summer is almost here.  So many new ideas every year are contained in these great publications.  Yes, there is something to actually having a printed catalog in hand, when searching for my lettuce seeds for my summer kitchen garden. Most often, I am reading and learning from the various companies as they showcase their products.

I love to shop these catalogs and complete a bit of research on the types of seeds that might work best in my short season Michigan garden.  I know that my yard does not have the greatest and longest sunny exposure, so I am always careful to choose seeds that will grow to maturity within the summer months.

This year, I will grow a variety of mesculun salad leaves and other lettuce mixes. In years past, I have had great success with lettuce in my garden. And fresh garden lettuce is so spectacular, that it is hard to compare to anything found in a market.  For this reason, I think everyone should have a small kitchen garden. So satisfying!

Summer garden flowers

So as the Summer is ending, my garden is winding down as well.  Many of my favorite flowers are faded or have ceased blooming.  I still enjoy photos of them and just had to post some of my new favorites for this season. Every year is a different experience and a chance to try a new variety or two.  My herb garden with a few vegetables continues into the Fall and will supply enough herbs for my cooking until Thanksgiving again this year.

I planted my garden in 2008 and have added new shrubs and plantings every year since that year.  It is ever evolving.

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drying summer flowers

Not only do I enjoy my summer garden while it is in bloom, but I usually try to save some of the flowers of the season.  I simply use my garage greenhouse and old sheet pans.  I put out flowers from summer floral arrangements and also from my garden throughout the season. I allow them to dry on their own without using any products.

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I seem to have better success with certain types of flowers, but even those that don’t seem to look as good as the others, still have significance to me.  I use them in my fall arrangements on wreaths or outdoors in baskets on my porch or deck. Every year I have a new supply and don’t worry about keeping them longer than that.  Such fun for me to have flowers of the summer throughout the Fall and sometimes for Spring arrangements too.

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Flowers in Chicago

So during my Chicago visit, I could not help but to really take notice and appreciate the lovely street flowers along the Magnificent Mile. The floral and landscape designs were well planned and diverse along the road. They were not only planted nicely, but very well maintained which impressed me for a big city.  Chicago is doing something right.

The designed beds incorporated art, color, texture, and imagination. The flowers were healthy and for well-traveled streets with lots of traffic and pedestrian movement, the beds were nearly perfect.  Here are some of my favorite beds along the way.

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Rhododendron

One of my all time favorite shrubs is the rhododendron.  Sometimes I have heard gardeners call them “rhodies”, which may refer to a variety of many different types of shrubs in the species.  There are also various sizes of these plants, but my memory takes me back to some of the most beautiful rhododendron that I saw while living in West Virginia.  The rhododendron is the state flower of West Virginia, and there is no doubt why.  Looking back on our years living there, I think about how beautiful they grew on the hillsides and along riverbanks and throughout yards and gardens in our neighborhood.  I planted several at both homes we owned in Charleston.

 

Here in Michigan, I love my shrub which is nestled in my front yard at a focal corner of my home.  The blooms have become more spectacular in the almost nine years we have lived here.  I have been feeding and caring for this rhododendron, to cultivate the memory of those we had in past years living in the South.

Our shrub is in dappled shade and has probably the best protection at the base of the plant.  We are not in the area cultivating, but leaving its’ roots well mulched. The space is brightened every late spring when it comes into bloom.

I never prune this shrub, but allow it to show and display the beautiful structured leaves throughout the year.  And when winter arrives, I watch the leaves as they react to the cold and tell me that the season is changing.

I love my rhododendron and everything that it means to me.

 

Summer garden update

Our Michigan chilly Spring temperatures moved slowly into pleasant Summer weather and suddenly, I looked up, and my perennial garden was back in bloom.  Anyone who gardens with perennial flowers and herbs knows the feeling when the garden looks flat just after the Winter season breaks. I look outside and think, will my garden come back this year?

And, in a matter of weeks, the garden springs forth without much more effort than clearing some leaves or clipping and pulling dead growth. I remain fascinated by the wonder of gardening. Each year, I choose a few annual herbs and vegetables to add into my kitchen garden, and then relax and enjoy what has been planted in years past.

I usually lose one or two plants every year, but seem to move past the sorrow quickly when other flowers seems to have tripled in size and beauty.  Some of my perennials seem to multiply around my garden and either by birds, squirrels or the breezes find another comforting spot to grow and become comfortable.

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My garden is very personal.  I share it with you only because I truly enjoy being within the fenced walls to think about each plant, and reflect on how it finds nourishment from my Michigan sandy soil.  Others gardeners may strive for perfection, look for praise, or hope for awards–but I know the true reward from my garden, it is the satisfaction from making a space in my yard tranquil and inviting. My husband and I turned a family playground space into a place where we could experiment with plants and learn from nature.

Enjoy the photos and think about how you might create a quiet space for reflection within your own yard. Or, maybe you also know that satisfaction?

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A new botanical garden

This past week we visited a new and developing botanical garden located in Traverse City Michigan.  On the grounds of the old Traverse City State Hospital farmland, the garden areas are coming together after century old buildings are being re-purposed and refurbished. On the site are plans for a variety of healing gardens, educational gardens, historical gardens, and space for a summer picnic after strolling the wooden paths.

Sustainability is used as a framework for the renovations for the property.  Our guide shared with us how recycled materials from the barn are being used as outdoor lighting. Even rainwater is being captured for gardening irrigation. The visitor center exterior has been designed to accommodate bees and butterflies.IMG_6822

I especially loved the renovations for the large barn which is used for events, as well as the walled garden in progress.  This garden is being built from the foundation of an old horse barn, and has the look and feel of an old English formal garden.

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The Traverse City community garden is also located at the Historic Barnes Park, and has grown to capacity this year with every garden plot taken by community residents. Members of the non-profit organization come together to garden and share knowledge and skill for growing produce, some of which is donated to the local food banks.

An interest in community gardening has grown in past years, as individuals have embraced the idea of increased fresh local vegetable consumption combined with the desire to increase exercise.  Gardening a plot of land to grow delicious food for a family certainly contributes to a healthy lifestyle.  And, sharing a common area in a community builds a bond with others which could last a lifetime.IMG_6817

If taking a trip to Traverse City this summer, be sure to include a visit to the Historic Barnes Park to see how this community is building and growing their resources to make something very special for all to enjoy.

For more information, please follow these links:    http://thebotanicgarden.org/

http://www.tccommunitygardens.org/