December 31, 2017

Twelve of My Favorite Things (2017)

This year flew by so fast! It was challenging for all of us but, as always, there were so many things to be thankful for, and so many things to happily anticipate in the year ahead.

For the past several years, I've created lists of my favorite garden and nature "things" to celebrate as one year passes to the next. They help me appreciate each moment and each season in its time.

Thomas More wisely said, "The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden. If you don't want paradise, you are not human; and if you are not human, you don't have a soul." I certainly find an indication of paradise in the garden and in nature. In that spirit, I contemplated simple gardening and nature joys of this year that I look forward to in the months ahead.

1 January

In January, while much of the landscape will be dormant and covered with snow, the mosses will continue to fascinate--especially the ones that grow on the sides of the rock wall.

2 February

The days lengthen in February, and if I'm lucky I'll catch a few stunning sunsets down by the lake and elsewhere.

3 March

The first sturdy spring-flowering bulbs will poke through the leaf mulch sometime in March.

4 April

In April, the crabapple blossoms will explode with heavenly scents and delightful beauty.

5 May

May is the month of the woodland ephemerals, including the tiny pink-pollened Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica).

6 June

Early in June, I'm likely to see the first Monarch butterflies of the season!

7 July

What could be sweeter than a July day filled with Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) and bumblebees?

8 August

Sometime in August, the Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) plants will reach their peak bloom--filling the air with the scent of vanilla and attracting more bees and butterflies.

9 September

In September, the side garden will burst with late-summer blooms.

10 October

October will be bright with blooms and fiery foliage.

11 November

In November, my garden will move indoors, but the little joys will continue as long as there are plants to tend.

12 December

As December ends the year, tiny buds of promise on Clematis 'Nelly Moser' will offer hope for the next season.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

When I think of these simple pleasures, and many more, the year ahead looks brighter. Each month carries its own unique, simple blessings.

My wish for you in the year ahead is that you'll find many "favorite things" and gifts that will bring you much joy.

Happy New Year!

December 22, 2017

Christmas Under Glass at The Domes

Display dome

Recently, I drove over to Milwaukee's Mitchell Park Conservatory, also referred to as "The Domes." I hadn't been there in many years, so I'm glad I devoted an afternoon to exploring the three glass-encased gardens. The Floral Show Dome was all decked out in holiday cheer, with the theme, "Naughty or Nice."

Whimsical scenes of Santa with his elves working hard to prepare toys, check the lists, and plan for travel around the world, were interspersed with lush groupings of Poinsettias, Amaryllises, Mums, and other traditional holiday plants and decorations. The giant Christmas tree near Santa's chair was impressively decorated with snowflakes, ornaments, and the list of good children.

Here are a few highlights, in no particular order. You can click on the photos to enlarge them and see more detail.

Santa stops here

Stacked poinsettias

Christmas tree


Santa's list

Poinsettias and amaryllises

Christmas display

Santa's travels

Bench borders

Letters to Santa

Trailing planters

Fountains and pond

It was a bright day, so the sun and the blue sky surrounding the scenes added to the warmth of the displays.

The "Naughty or Nice" display will continue through Sunday, Jan. 7. The conservatory is open weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It's a great destination if you live nearby or you're traveling in the area, and it's a pleasant setting for a family outing and a warm, lush escape from the winter winds outside. I plan to share highlights from the other two domes in the months ahead.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

December 20, 2017

Vignettes at the Solstice

nature's collage

I forced myself to get outside yesterday and take a short hike at a local park. I'm so glad I overcame inertia, laziness, and endless excuses, because it really was quite a beautiful day: 45F (7C), sunny skies, and no wind. Those days are numbered until next spring! No snow here yet, so the colors of the landscape are nuanced and mostly shades of gray and brown.

But there are always plenty of opportunities to notice nature's vignettes. Thanks to Anna at Flutter & Hum for hosting Wednesday Vignettes!

mossy log

Where there's moss there are tiny forests of lush green growth.

before rabbits


Before and after buds ... evidence of rabbits?

red blue brown

With a largely brown and gray landscape, bright colors pop, like the Redosier Dogwood (Cornus sericea) and the blue sky.

branches and sky

Oh yes, the blue sky!


The nearly thawed pond soon will be frozen solid and covered with snow. Yesterday, however, it seemed like early spring, and the angled sun captured trees, dried stems, and grasses in magical ways.

After a little exercise on such a comfortable day, I felt energized and grateful to be alive. Not really ready for winter, but aware of and thankful for all the little blessings of each day.

Happy solstice!

December 15, 2017

A Flower, Future Flowers, and Fun Foliage

cyclamen 5

Don't laugh you guys: I have one flower in my "garden" on this Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. I didn't purposely force any bulbs this holiday season and the outdoor garden is sleeping, but my indoor/outdoor Cyclamen (C. persicum) plant is starting to bloom.

cyclamen 3

Actually, this single, solitary flower has been blooming since early November, in a state of suspended animation in the cool, partially heated sunroom.

cyclamen 2

Because I only have one flower to celebrate, I snapped several photos of it from various angles. LOL.

cyclamen 4

I do enjoy the dance of a pretty Cyclamen bloom.

cyclamen buds

And look! Many buds on this Cyclamen plant bring hope for a floriferous future.

hyacinth bud

Also, under the roots and foliage of a potted English Ivy (Hedera helix) a pink Hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis) is budding, too.

spike tree

Speaking of English Ivy, this happy accident continues to flourish: Several years ago, I planted a small Spike (Dracaena indivisa) in the middle of a pot, surrounded by annuals and ivy. The Hedera and the Dracaena took over, and I now have a potted tree with pretty understory foliage. (I had trouble photographing this big buddy without moving everything around, so I'm sorry for the washout but you get the idea.)

spike and ivy

I need to trim the Draecona, and it scares me to think what the Hedera would do if planted in the soil outside. But I do like this thriving, potted, green, foliage thing that I can roll out in the summer and bring in for the winter. This pot full of life gives me hope.

fun foliage

I also love this foliage combo: Supertunia Vista Bubblegum Petunia with Lemon Coral Sedum. I smile every time I see it. (These plants were gifts from Proven Winners at the Garden Writers Conference this past summer.) I couldn't let the Petunias perish in the cold; they're simply too pretty, and the foliage combination is too cheery. So, if they survive the winter indoors, they'll bloom again next season.

shamrock and ivy

Finally, the Purple Shamrock (Oxalis triangularis)--also surrounded by the never-ending English Ivy--is another great potted foliage plant. I don't see any Oxalis blooms yet, but it won't be long now, as the days grow longer.

cyclamen 1

During these dark days of December, the holiday prep and cheery greetings soothe the soul. One flower, future flowers, and fun foliage also brighten my mood.

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, and Pam at Digging for hosting Foliage Follow-Up!

December 06, 2017

And Now for Some Colorful California Memories

Mixed bed

I won't say I like or want snow, but a few too many days of brown and gray have me longing for color and brightness.

So, let's take a trip to San Diego's Balboa Park, shall we? Back in March 2016, we traveled to San Diego for a family wedding, and I had a little free time to explore. Three other previous posts cover The San Diego Botanic Garden, Balboa Park's Rose Garden, and the Zoro Garden at Balboa Park.

This post covers plants you might see while strolling through Balboa Park's paths and parkways.


For instance, Bird of Paradise plants (Strelitzia reginae) are abundant. This plant reminds me of my dear grandmother, as I'm told it was one of her favorites.


One would expect to find Poppies, and there are many--both native species and others, like this Iceland Poppy (Papaver nudicaule).


Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans), a lovely, dramatic bloomer, is a common plant in the area, too.

Echium bee

Where you see Echium plants, you're likely to see many, busy pollinators.


Tropical Hibiscus flowers (H. rosa-sinensis) greet with volume, intensity, and flair.

Clivia walkway

There's a pathway just beyond the zoo that incorporates bright orange and yellow Clivia plants (C. miniata).

Clivia 1

This is a pleasant sight to see after several months of winter.

Clivia 2

The snails like them, too!

Topiary walkway

The pathways throughout Balboa Park are well-maintained and attractive, and encourage comfortable strolls.


This pathway incorporates elephant topiaries.


A highlight of Balboa Park is its historic botanical building. Unfortunately, it was closed during my visit--another reason to return! The lath structure is surrounded by a reflecting pond and beautiful bedding plants.

Adopt a Plot

The Friends of Balboa Park, encourage their Adopt-a-Plot program.

Exploring Balboa Park after spending the winter in the Midwest is like waking from a long, deep sleep. It's cathartic and euphoric, in the best senses of those words. After only a couple hours in Balboa Park, I felt refreshed and renewed, and I returned with nearly 250 plant photos. Here are just a few more notable beauties:

Bulbine (B. frutescens)

Red Tulips (Tulipa spp.)

Rudbeckia 'Irish Eyes'
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta 'Irish Eyes')

Indian Hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica)

Blue Plumbago (P. auriculata)

Snapdragons (Antirrhinum spp.)

Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens)

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia spp.)

Gaura (G. lindheimeri)

Flannel Bush (Fremontodendron californicum)

Honeywort (Cerinthe major)

Orchid Tree (Bauhinia purpurea)

Dwarf Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis)

Bottlebrush (Callistemon seiberi or C. pallidus)

Part of me wants to fly to San Diego and skip the winter, but that won't happen this year. Plus, a warm vacation means so much more after surviving a cold winter. (At least that's what I keep telling myself.)

* * * * * * * * * * *

[Special note: My thoughts and prayers are with those north of San Diego dealing with wildfires, and for people who will deal with the threat and the recovery in the days ahead.]