Observing the Unexpected: Lessons Learned on a Garden Tour

 I'm a planner and an organizer. I can do all the planning and organizing possible in the process of gardening, but unexpected things just happen in the course of the growing season. Weather changes, soil, birds, pets, and Mother Nature, and our human hands have changed the landscape of our garden plots. While doing my daily photo walk yesterday I was struck by the unexpected changes. In the photo above I discovered it was okay to let the bishop's weed take over and fill the front bed. The variegated color provides interest and fills in empty places. 
Hops have been a surprise success as a vine planted to add color and cover an unsightly pole.
 I learned our trees could provide shade much sooner than planned. I now embrace the coolness in the early evening on the porch.
We can even grow fuchsias now in one of the shadier areas.
The guest cabin looks like it has always been there thanks to the Virginia Creeper, a warrior vine that twines the door, creating a natural roof to welcome our guests.
Leaving the wildflowers alone from the driveway to the road was a lesson I learned. It has allowed the wild lupines and yarrow to spread naturally. The combination of colors in the evening sun are lovely.
It I stop my lists, put away the blueprints and close my gardening books I learn lessons from our gardens. I need to pause, listen, observe, and be present. I have a feeling there is more of nature's wisdom in unexpected places.

Ten Reasons Why I Love Heyburn State Park

I am not one of these jump in the car and hope to find a campsite miles and miles away kind of person. I am a researcher and planner when it comes to camping. I am a big fan of online campground reservation sites.  We just returned from Heyburn State Park, my favorite campground in Idaho. As I sat and enjoyed the peaceful setting I reflected one again on why I loved it so much, other than the fact that I can reserve the site and see a photo of it online before I even get there. Here are some of my reasons:

1. The sites are roomy and you have some privacy. I never feel like I am side by side with the campers next to me.
 2. The trails around the lake and the marsh are easy to manage and full of photo opportunities.
 3. There are enough squirrels to satisfy Annie's obsession.
4. It is safe, clean, and well maintained.
5. If you have to get a few comforts of home.... lattes, Zips, ice, and an ATM are ten minutes away.
 6. At this end of Coeur d'Alene Lake (known as Chacolet) it is quiet and scenic.
 7. You can see the sun rise and the sun set from most locations in the park. This was perfect since we visited on the Summer Soltice.
 8. There are lots of wildflowers.
 9. You can enjoy some of the oldest Ponderosa Pines around the Inland Empire.
10.When you gather around the table while camping food just tastes better, beverages from the cooler are more refreshing, and coffee and tea just hit the spot on a crisp morning. I think that is true of any campground!

Iris: Your World For a Moment

 “When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, 

it's your world for the moment."

- Georgia O'Keeffe

Today I held irises in my hands and captured them through the lens of my camera. That certainly was my world for more than a moment. The weather seems just right for these beautiful flags this year. JEJ divided some so we are now seeing unique ones bloom that had been dormant for awhile. We also splurged and bought a few new ones. This collection has been taken over the last few weeks. Enjoy.

Weed Barrier Up! Before and After the Project

Last week I did a post about our best solution for weed behind our deck. You can find it here.Today the new weed barrier is done thanks to the hard work by JEJ. Our solution was to  move  the fence forward so the weeds were out of sight out of mind. I don't have to look at this anymore:
The section of the yard looked like this earlier in the week:
Now it looks like this:
 We resued the same pickets that were used when we found them. JEJ added some beautiful blue paint so it was an inexpensive project, but I can't put a dollar sign on JEJ's labor. He is priceless.

Starting the Day With Rhubarb Coffee Cake and A Keeper from the Recipe Box

 I wish I remember where I got this recipe. I think someone had made it at church and they shared the recipe with me because I loved it so much. Anyway... I hadn't ever made it myself so when the garden is exploding with rhubarb, the best thing to do is bake this delicious coffee cake.

Rhubarb Coffee Cake
 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter, softened
1 ½   cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
4 cups  rhubarb, cut in ½ inch pieces
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10” bundt pan.  In a medium bowl, comine pecans, brown sugar, and cinnamon until well missed. In a large bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With electric mixer on medium speed, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture until smooth. Fold in rhubarb and sour cream.
Sprinkle one third of the nut mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Spread half the batter over the nut mixture. Sprinkle with remaining nut mixture then spread with remaining batter.
Bake 50-55 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Then invert the cake onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Rainbows Over Lake Roosevelt

 "I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant
between me and the earth."- Genises 9:13
We did behold not one, but two rainbows over Lake Roosevelt this evening. As we appreciated the beauty we wanted to capture it on film. I didn't have a wide enough lens and I was way too far way. I moved around to catch them from different angles. JEJ did what he could with his camera also.

The Best Solution for Weeds

 There is a section of ground behind our deck that has been a thorn in my side since I moved in the house. For about fourteen years I have struggled with what to do with it. I am blessed with a lovely view, a hedge of gorgeous roses, the vines above, but then behind it all is the dreadful weed bed.
  When I lived in the house alone my brother RP pulled all the weeds once and I tried broadcasting wildflowers. Not even California poppies would grow on this strip of land. After JEJ and I were married we tried weed barrier, bark, and planting ground covers like sedum that wouldn't require much water and would spread and look lovely. The barrier wasn't a barrier, the bark slid down the hill, and half the sedum  died. How do you kill sedum?
The weedeater was a temporary fix! After all the rain this spring I couldn't even see the bark that was left on the growing weed bed.
 The bed right above the very large weed patch was planted by the first owners and it is lovely and the weeds are completely in control.
FInally JEJ figured out the solution. He is moving the fence forward, painting the pickets a lovely color of blue, and hiding that whole weed patch so we never have to see it again. It can blend it with the "natural" hillside that will be out of sight out of mind! He can't get that fence up soon enough!
I didn't even have to use chemicals!

Vegetable Garden Beauty

 My green thumb came only as a result
of the mistakes I made while learning
to see things from the plant's point of view. 

  H. Fred Ale

All mistakes in our vegetable garden seem to work themselves out. JEJ creates beauty when he plants the gardens at our place. This time of year as things begin to emerge from the earth, there is nothing but loveliness. There is beauty
the chives,
the strawberries,

the grapes,
and the greens.

Lessons from the Garden: My Top Ten Perennial Flowers

 Other gardeners often ask me which perennial  flowers are my favorites in the garden. That is tough. It sometimes depends on the season and location of the plant. If you are just starting to garden, the perennial plants are the bones of your garden. They remain year after year and give structure to the garden. Often you have to move them or divide them, but they certainly are the bones.  Here are my top ten  perennials in no particular order:
1) Lilies: Lilies are a bulb and expensive perhaps at first, but they provide staggered color spots all through the summer. Some of them also smell very good!
 2) Roses: Now that I have found hardy roses that grow well in my climate and are easy to maintain . My favorite hardy roses are "Nearly Wild", " William Baffin" ( above in bloom right now), " Honey Perfume", any climbing " Iceberg", "Betty Prior" and "John Cabot."
3) Sedum: Whether "Autumn Joy" or any of the other varieties, they are simple to grow, can be excellent ground covers , and require little water.
4) Lavender: Again... great for bones in the garden, hardy, lovely fragrant flowers, and take less water.
 5)All spring bulbs: Whether you enjoy daffodils, crocus, tulips, iris or hyacinths they are worth having in the garden in the spring.
6) Chrysanthemums: They are the plant that reminds you fall is coming. The grow larger, bloom a long time, and add color after some other flowers begin fading.
 7)Columbine: I started with a few and now I have more than fifty. They spread easily, bloom in lovely colors, and remind you summer is right around the corner.
 8) Cranesbill: This is the perennial geranium that spreads and blooms in places that need texture and color. Some are also very fragrant.
 9) Dame's Rocket: I started some from seed years ago and they are everywhere in the spring with a lovely pinkish lavender bloom...hardy and great in cut bouquets.
10) Peony: Now that mine are finally getting with it, there is nothing more lovely than the rich pink and deep red of peonies.
In the weeks ahead I will also list my favorite blooming shrubs and vines.