Tag Archives: June

Results May Take Years


Trowel.

Trowel ready for digging. Used it a lot this spring.

The planting in my gardens this spring has been like most springs—a bit spontaneous, not well planned. When I see a plant I like, I tend to buy it and bury it and hope for the best, which I’m sure is not the most effective gardening strategy.

Sometimes, although I try to pay attention to each plant’s needs, results are poor. The year before last I planted some new peonies—I like the peonies that I have, but they’re all pink and I want some variety. The plants came up last spring, but did not bloom—and I figured, oh well, next year. This spring? Oh well, they’re back, they’re bare and I can only hope for some peony variety in 2021.

Don’t get me started on the dreaded iris. I’ve interred many an iris bulb in what must be the ancient iris burial grounds of my gardens. The iris bulbs decompose and become fertilizer for sterile peonies, I suppose. I had a small cluster of Siberian irises that I liked and hoped would spread. They were pretty, but instead of growing and spreading, they acted like any passing fad or craze. They were hot one year, faded the next, and now, AWOL. The only irises I have are ones shared by my sister—Cate, what is your iris secret? What hex did you put upon these plants that makes that one cluster of them grow vigorously? Can you exorcise the iris demons from my gardens?

I also have many “flowering” trees that never flower. I had a dogwood tree down by the fence that grew weakly for year and after year for more than a decade, barely holding on, but not dying. One year a few years ago, it bloomed and I thought “good.” But last year the tree was mostly dead and bare of flowers. It was totally dead this year. Now it’s just a stump. I still have a dogwood tree because I planted another—but the new tree is young and has not bloomed.

I have two catalpa trees, which have showy, white June flowers—in the rest of the universe. Mine seem fine, but must be monk trees who take their vow of celibacy seriously.

My apple trees, unlike crab apples, which bloom profusely, remain stubbornly shy.

And then there is the tulip tree. It is approaching it’s second decade of life and is huge. It’s not the largest tree in the backyard yet, but is shooting up and is among the tallest. This spring was the first in which it actually had any flowers.

Tulip tree flower.

Flower high up in tulip tree. It blooms!

Two, to be exact. Well, that’s two more than none. Knock on wood, may the curse of the dogwood not be upon you. Don’t fade and die from the energy expenditure of producing a few flowers.

The linden tree by the sandbox is getting big. It’s a pleasant shade tree, that one of these years should have sweet smelling spring flowers. But not yet.

Still, I carry on. Sometimes gardening just teaches patience. Peonies will bloom in their own time. I’m grateful for even two tulip tree flowers, and the trees will try to reproduce when they are ready, not when I’m ready.

And last week I found a four-leaf clover in my yard. It’s been the theme of this summer—me finding those. I’ve also found several at parks. Maybe I’m looking down too much.

Four-leaf clover.

What I saw in the yard last week. I must have overlooked it before.

I have some annual vines showing—moon flowers and morning glories. I’ve long tried planting these, with little results. But I found a four-leaf clover, if it brings luck maybe 2020 will bring some of those blooms.

And milkweed is spreading and growing vigorously.

A swallowtail butterfly likes the new rhododendron we planted this year. Three hollyhock plants are looking healthy in front—I had hollyhocks in the past, but in recent years they had become members of the iris club and boycotted my gardens.

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In life in general, this is a very yard year. We thought the pandemic was bad enough, but our politics and government are so broken that all kinds of other issues are piling on. Still, the plants in the gardens carry on, living life at their own pace, deciding for themselves when to bloom. The spontaneous gardener looks on and gets some pleasure out of the results.

In the birch tree in front, young robins demand to be fed. An angry cardinal squawks at me from near its “secret” nest deep in the trumpet vine, and tries to lead me away.

I comply, and follow. May your nest in that blooming vine yield a good hatching. It’s too well hidden for me to see if you’re raising young there, but maybe that’s a good sign.

Gardening teaches patience and appreciation for what I have, which I would rather emphasize than regrets for plans or plants that don’t bear fruit.

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June Needs Slowing Down—I’m Having Too Much Fun


Two English granddaughters in the pool today.

Two English granddaughters in the pool today.

June is flying by way too quickly, which means I must be having a good time.

What has been occupying my time? All sorts of things:

  • Making plans for the World War I series at Mount Mercy. Scheduling is a real pain.
  • Taking piano lessons and practicing the piano. Honestly, at least a little.
  • Laying plans for next school year.
  • Hosting visitors from across the pond.

That final point is the reason I most wish I could slow June down. My daughter, son-in-law and their two daughters are visiting us right now. They live in Norwich, England, where he is a plant scientist and she is an artist and the collaborator on the “Princess Ninja” stories.

And, of course, they have two little ninja princesses of their own.

They are both charming little girls, and both are firecrackers wrapped in dynamite. They are in young childhood, a time of life full of energy and big mood swings. Mostly, they’ve been happy, and I’m very happy they’ve been around.

Miss Lizzie eats a cupcake during an unbirthday party with her sister and cousins.

Miss Lizzie eats a cupcake during an unbirthday party with her sister and cousins.

Miss Lizzie greets me almost every morning with a hug. She speaks in a polite, soft English-American accent that sounds very refined. She wears an almost perpetual grin, but also has a wild light in her eyes that you do have to watch out for.

Lizzie is going to turn 5 this fall.

Juliet, the junior partner, is a bit more reserved than her sister. But for her age, she is also bigger and louder. Lizzie has been in the British school system, and sounds almost refined. Juliet still lives mostly at home, and her accent is broader and slightly more Americanized.

If the two were cast in a Hollywood movie, Elizabeth would be the princess and Juliet would be her amusing, wisecracking, cockney-accented sidekick.

Juliet is a star, darling.

Juliet is a star, darling.

Juliet will be 3 this fall.

They leave tomorrow. Luckily, this time they won’t go far—only to Ames and they are coming back. But, too soon, they will fly back to England.

I’ll be sad to see them go. The house will be quite a bit quieter; our weekly output of garbage and recycling will be lower. I may be able to do more bicycle riding to train for RAGBRAI and more prep work for school next year.

But I’m sure I will miss June. I’ll miss the pool play, the un-birthday party, the extra use of the sandbox and swing set in our backyard, the short lives of the feeder fish, the reading, the horse rides, even the hunts for the elusive sweeties. Mostly, I will miss Juliet and Lizzie and Amanda and Matt.

And, by the way, Amanda, I’m one up in the awesome trip blogging contest!

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A Bird Mystery in my Yard is Solved


Cardinal babies

When I first saw this bird a few days ago, it looked half or less this size and very nondescript, like a ugly little vulture. Look at it now. Still a baby, but big and definitely a cardinal.

For weeks, the cardinals have been unhappy with me and my grandchildren, hectoring us from the oak trees whenever we go out there into the back yard.

Cardinals can get a bit aggressive, but luckily have not gone so far as to dive at any of us. I figured they had a nest somewhere back there, but we have a lot of bushy cover, so there are lots of places they could be.

Earlier this week, when I finally saw the cardinal’s nest, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. The birds were tiny and could be anything—most baby birds don’t look cute to humans, they look like scrawny little vultures. When I spied the nest, the parents were not around, but a small brown bird has a habit of yelling at me from the fence, so I assume it was his home.

Then, as I was leaving, I spied papa cardinal. He landed in the arbor and then hopped to the nest. I was worried that he was there to attack or even eat the brown bird’s babies—but no. He left and came back again. He was feeding the little vultures.

So today, I photographed and made a little YouTube video of the babies in back. I hope you enjoy. June is starting lush and green after some much needed rain, and it’s a nice garden month. Here are some June 1 flowers images on a Facebook gallery.

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