Dreamers of Dreams

March is flying by like the wind that's been blowing out of the north lately, hard and fast. Today spring's here and welcome she is.

I'm not one for too many garden ornaments but Rufus, sitting here next to the budded Rhododendron 'Ken Janeck', is a welcome sign of great days ahead in the garden. Rufus is a "gift" from my three best friends who can't pass up an opportunity to play a garden prank on me when I least expect it. He spends the winter protected up next to the house on a shelf underneath the upstairs porch. So to see his beaming countenance back in the yard again is as welcome as spring.

Last weekend I made a quick trip up to see family in Maine. Cheese and pasta making, chicken fun ("More raisins, please!") and of course......

a trip to Johnny's! The place was packed wall to wall with winter weary gardeners mulling over seed selections in catalogs and on racks.
There was an army of great staff on hand available for consulting as well as offering their assistance with decision making. I thought I was all set for seeds this year but couldn't resist a couple varieties of calendula, an ornamental grass and a highly recommended broccoli raab. Lots of fun.

I realized on my drive up and back along Route 95 that over the next four weeks I'll have traveled through thirteen of the fourteen states (all but Rhode Island) that line the eastern seaboard. In April it's another road trip to camp in that Florida subtropical forest, this time with my husband.

On the first day of the year I didn't fully appreciate the degree to which I'd be living O'Shaughnessy's 'Ode'. And I'm loving every minute of it!

We are the music-makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams, wandering by lone sea-breakers, and sitting by desolate streams...


Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - March 2009

Blooms in the entryway - Oxalis triangularis.

At the kitchen sink - Cyclamen.

In the family room - variegated leaf salmon geranium.

Outside in the coldframe - Variegated Vinca.

And in the yard - Snowdrops to remind me it's still March.

For other celebrations of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, visit our host Carol at May Dreams Gardens whose central Indiana gardens are sprouting and blooming to greet the day.


Signs of Spring

What a difference a week makes. Eight days ago I posted about looking for spring. After this weekend of milder temperatures in the low to mid 50s (not taking into account that stubborn March wind), the signs are there.

Standing out in color from everything else in the yard, the tough, spring-flowering Kerria japonica is greening up on the back hillside garden. Its strong southerly exposure brings it along nicely this time of year when the leaves are still off neighboring trees. I can already see its pop of orange double-flowered pom pom blossoms gracing arching stems in a couple months.

One of my earliest favorites, though, is the glossy, heart-shaped evergreen leaves of the European ginger. As soon as the snow melts, its lush leathery leaves greet you seemingly unaffected by the harsh winter weather.

And the old-fashioned primrose is sending up shoots of chartreuse, scalloped leaves. Its mahogany-red flowers with gold centers lend rich tones to the side yard shade bed in May.

This diminutive Heuchera 'Santa Rosa' is a new addition as of last fall. What a surprise to see it greeting spring so early. I'm pleased it made it through in such fine shape. Its pink blossoms will be a treat this summer.
Old standby perennial favorites in my garden, though, are the Lamb's Ears, Hens and Chicks and sedums. I've had these for more years than I can remember. Favorites too of my girls when they were young in the garden (Mr. Rabbit in the Lamb's Ears above is a remnant from that time). A long, long time they've graced the yard. And with their faithful hardiness they'll be early spring regulars for many more years I'm sure.


Calendula Morning

Greeting me from the cold frame this morning with the sun and temperatures headed for the mid 50s today. Pure golden sunshine.


Winter Staples

Appreciated as much as my favorite meals this season - beef pot pie with puff pastry tops in individual ramikins, Coq au Vin, ham and lentil soup made with a ham stock base, chicken noodle soup made with a little cream and parmesan, winter minestrone with pearl barley and cannellini beans - these reliable old plant friends continue to come through for me during the coldest time of year. At minus four degrees this morning, the bulbs, begonias, and coleus warm the heart.

Budded blue and white Grape Hyacinths and blue Anemones grace the coffee table in the family room. The Anemones' fern-like foliage unfold to greet the warmth like tiny arms stretching out to catch the rays of the sun.

Whether king of the begonia world Beefsteak or the compact, bushy wax begonia, both are winners for the indoor winter gardener. My Beefsteak has been in our family for years, originally started as a cutting off my brother's plant well over ten years ago.

With rich red-brown leaves plumped by summer rains,
Three divisions wrestled from the beefsteak begonia
Make a new start.
All for the coral blossom
Suspended on slender stem in February.

This low-maintenance wax begonia ('Cocktail Gin') with bronze foliage and rose pink blossoms is a constant bloomer. Sprigs hang in a vase at the kitchen sink, their bright blooms always welcome and the quickly rooted cuttings potted up for shade beds in spring.

Coleus are mainstays, their foliage pleasing to the eye all winter long.

They root alongside the wax begonias at the kitchen sink making new container plants for around the yard.

These mix well with each other. I also like them in containers with a low-growing annual grass like Carex 'Toffee Twist'.

And last of the staples here are the seedlings. The Echinacea 'Pink Parasol' is six days old now with a high germination rate.

Indispensable as beef pot pie and Coq au Vin. Essential as winter minestrone and chicken noodle soup. Bulbs, begonias, coleus and seedlings. They're how I get through 'til spring.


Garden Bloggers' Muse Day March 1, 2009

Annual Miracle
by Edward J. Fitzgerald

This is the brittle season. Darkly
The dry leaves lift their barren
branches high
And scratch against a gray and

leaden sky.
The world lies stiff and frozen. Chill
winds blow
From every hilltop, and the eye can
No sign in shrub or grass or leafless
Of slow revolving seasons or of
Stirring beneath the brittle shell of
Nor is there hope of change till
The green heart of the world starts
The distant baying of the hounds of

I found this piece by Edward Fitzgerald, a Victorian writer from Suffolk, England, in the March 1939 issue of Ladies' Home Journal. Although not known for writing "nature" poetry, evidence of it existed in his letters to friends:

"I get radishes to eat for breakfast of a morning: with them comes a savour of earth that brings all the delicious gardens of the world back into one's soul, and almost draws tears from my eyes."

"The trees murmur a continuous soft chorus to the solo which my soul discourses in."

Visit Carolyn who hosts Garden Bloggers' Muse Day on the first day of the month: http://sweethomeandgardenchicago.blogspot.com/

* * * * *
I bought a set of Ladies' Home Journal issues from the 1930s and '40s for my mother last year. In these issues one of my mother's favorite Connecticut writers Gladys Taber has her column "Diary of Domesticity", an informal account of country living, pets, family, gardening, and cooking. She wrote of the changing New England seasons and the sophisticated beauty of New York City. Lemonade punch with thin orange slices and Virginia style fried chicken. The vulnerability of love and the intangibility of the pursuit of happiness.

Taber's column in the March 1939 issue includes her musings over the fields around her home. She writes,

I walked over the fields last Sunday, where all the hollows are dark with water and the winter grasses hide the green growing shoots. Green is laid over the hills like a low wave; the swamp has a new color, red and yellow budding bushes. There is a kind of delicate mist along the trees, and the old gray rocks in the pasture are wet as seals.

Farther north than Taber's Stillmeadow farm, we've yet to see the green laid over the hills and the yellow budding bushes. But the pussy willow I went outside to photograph this morning has swelling buds despite another nor'easter pummeling up the east coast setting sights for a direct hit over New England by tomorrow morning.

I did buy these magazines for my mother. But they've since come back to sit here in my study, instead of on the shelves in her home, where I find myself consulting them for one reason or another. I also have one of her Gladys Taber cookbooks with our favorite "Company Chicken" and "Old-Fashioned Applesauce Bars" recipes. This cookbook is full of good reading as well as good recipes.

Polly and Hugh Johnson have a house in Wellfleet, overlooking the magical expanse of the salt marsh, laced with silver streams. One could sit all day and watch the mystery of the marsh, but Polly finds everyone who comes in is always hungry and she likes to have freshly baked bread on hand!

Old-Fashioned Applesauce Bars (My Own Cook Book From Stillmeadow and Cape Cod, Gladys Taber)
½ c butter
¾ c sugar
1 egg
½ c thick applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
1 ¼ c unsifted flour
½ tsp soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
½ c chopped walnuts
½ c golden raisins
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and beat well. Add applesauce and vanilla, and blend. Sift four, soda, salt, and spices. Add to creamed mixture and blend well. Stir in nuts and raisins. Spread in a greased and flowered pan 13”x9”x2”. The batter will be stiff. Bake in a 350 degree oven about 25 minutes. Cool slightly. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.
MAKES 30 bars 3”x1”.
These are from Mabel’s kitchen. She says she sometimes uses light brown sugar, omits the cloves and adds 1 teaspoon of instant coffee. The cookie bars stay fresh in a tight container and also pack well.