Oh what a difference a year can make. Last year was a year full of planting, planting, and more planting. Which meant watering, watering, and more watering.
This year, we have resolved to make a couple of strategic plantings and invest our time in maintaining and observing the garden before making any additions. We want to be intentional in what we add. We want to pay attention to the details in order to help us inform future plantings.
It has been so wonderful to watch the spring bulbs emerge and bloom, and to watch in anticipation to see other plants reemerge after a winter’s hibernation. On our daily walks, there’s always something new to find and discover. Some new things haven’t sprouted, but have been surprise maintenance projects that Chou Chou has done while we’ve been out. It started with a planting of about 20 hydrangea bulbs and “cookies” around the beds.
For at least the first ten times Chou Chou or Mon Cœur mentioned cookies, I headed for the kitchen. I thought, “Great idea! I would love a glass of milk and cookies!” only to remember that they were referring to wooden discs.
For the next few days, Chou Chou would cut the cookies and we would all arrange them around the raised beds. We moved on to the other beds of the garden and are still working on surrounding each rose, tree, or plant that is in the garden.
I love the definition it gives to the beds and that it marks other flowers throughout the garden so that they do not get mowed over by any well meaning helpers.
After the cookies were in, Chou Chou got a truck load of mulch. Between weather and work schedules, MC and I were the first to get to the mulch and begin spreading. I have never been so excited to spread mulch.
I really didn’t want to spend the money on mulch, but it was so cheap, and…did you see the before and after?… This was definitely a worthwhile investment. One could argue it does or doesn’t look professional, but I think we can all agree that with mulch looks so much better than without!
A work in progress
Above are some other photos from the garden – tulips, bugle carpet, and narcissus in bloom right now.
Sometimes I look at the images I take in the garden and wonder, “Should I post these? Do I need to retake this? Maybe I just shouldn’t share? Look at all those rocks and dirt…”
I’m no professional photographer or stylist. This isn’t a professional blog. This is me and my family, living our lives. And these are raw pictures depicting the same. They show the progress and growth of a garden which symbolizes both our daughter/sister that we won’t meet until God knows when and the abundance of love we have for her.
I’ll leave you with this image that Chou Chou shared with me a couple of days ago – a moment he captured while working out in the garden…Millie, enjoying the phlox. We have seen many of these Tiger swallowtail butterflies, as well as smaller butterflies, and we have greeted each with the same greeting, “Hello, Millie!” In fact, as I was preparing this post, MC said, “Mommy may I see Millie again?” She was talking about this picture…
What butterflies have you spotted this spring?
For previous garden updates, check out the links below:
You can read about three early spring addition to Millie’s garden here;
Oh, last week was a glorious, gorgeous hint at spring…Will she arrive early, or was this just a tease? Every year Chouchou and I start feeling the gardening itch as soon as the first beautiful days arrive. This year was no exception.
Originally, we had wanted to wait to add anything until we’ve seen what flowers came back, what bloomed and where we need to fill in. The other day was a wonderfully mild, sunny day, and I just couldn’t help it. We headed to our favorite local nursery, The Gardener Nursery, and I found a couple of early spring flowering camellias I wanted to bring home. We also gave a change of scenery to a few other plants. Read on to see what we moved around and the camellias we added.
Mom had told me about a rosebush that she had in her garden that was starting to feel cramped. She had mentioned digging it up one phone call. The next time we talked, she mentioned it again and said she was going to dig it up and she wanted to give it to us for Millie’s garden. Then when I was visiting her a couple of weeks ago, she had already dug it up, and she had it ready to send home with us.
I am glad we have a rosebush for the garden, although I admit I have absolutely no experience in this arena. As with pretty much everything in Millie’s garden, this is an opportunity to learn. The only other rosebush that I’ve ever had is the one that came with our house, and although we’ve not pruned on schedule or like we should, it seems happy. It blooms for us throughout the year, so I hope this new one will be as low maintenance, too.
We planted it near one of our granite rock features, giving it a little “company” as it grows. I am excited to see that there is already new growth on this rosebush and hope to see some blooms this spring or summer.
I always love to research the symbolism behind each plant or flower that we choose and plant in the garden. For pink roses, Bloom&Wild says they symbolize grace, joy, and gratitude, and they are perfect for those you “appreciate most, like your friends, siblings or teachers.”
We have been in our house for eight years now, which is crazy to imagine, because I feel like we just moved here. When we first moved in, Chouchou purchased three rudbeckia for the side entrance of our house. They are beautiful, fall blooming flowers, and as the years passed they became bushier, more cumbersome. We only have a few mums in the garden, and I wanted to add more fall blooming flowers, so we dug up, split and moved these – our three plants split into six, and we were able to add them in pairs around the edges of the garden.
They have beautiful white blooms with a yellow center, and although I thought that these are rudbeckia, as I search for symbolism, the pictures for rudbeckia (black eyed Susan) I do not see any images that match ours!
They look a little rough, cut back the way they are, however they are settling in to their new dirt and the new growth has stayed strong. I anticipate lots of beautiful blooms this fall now that they have been split and there’s more growing room for each plant. Hopefully, I’ll also be able to accurately identify the plant as well, so that I can share with you the symbolism of the flower.
Spring Blooming Camellias
Chouchou and I have a distinct memory of a large, twenty foot camellia in the backyard where we rented in Richmond. We were leaving the apartment in the middle of winter, after an ice storm, and there were flowers in full bloom encased in ice. It was such a beautiful sight and a symbol of beauty and strength despite the adverse weather conditions.
We want to add different features to the garden that will make the garden a lovely respite throughout every season. As we were planning we discussed the camellia, and planted two last winter. They were beautiful to watch bloom this fall into winter. Then, as we visited our nursery last week, I learned there are Spring blooming camellias as well.
Who knew? I am learning that as is true with most of the flower families, camellia varieties could be fall blooming, spring blooming, or even long blooming.
According to FTD.com, “With camellias, the calyx and petals fall away together, which is why the camellia also represents eternal love or long-lasting devotion.” How fitting, as we will always hold Millie dear in our hearts and this garden is a reflection of our long term devotion to her memory.
Early spring comebacks
Daffodils, Narcissus, and Tulips
Last year we planted a ton of daffodils and tulips, after they had already flowered for the season. We weren’t sure if they would come back, and we had forgotten where we had planted some of them! I am so glad that we made a garden key, that helped us as we walked around last week. To our surprise, the daffodils and tulips have already started breaking ground and some of the daffodils have even started flowering!
In addition, we had planted peonies last spring. Every time we get a new plant, I research it, and I realized after the fact, it is suggested to plant them in the fall. I watered these little rootstocks all summer long. Some grew, others never broke ground, and we never did see a flower. I wasn’t sure what to expect this season. However, on a recent walk through the garden, MC pointed out where some peonies are coming back, and I am thrilled! We planted nine in all, and there are three so far that we’ve seen emerge. I feel like each day we find a new something that’s woken up and begun to show itself.
Lastly, we trimmed up our butterfly bush. We were advised to cut it to about knee height at the beginning of spring, so Chouchou and MC did that as MA and I supervised. I saved a few of the cuttings – we would like more butterfly bushes for the butterflies, but I didn’t see any sense in buying a new one if we could propagate more for free. So, Chouchou and I are conducting an experiment to see: (one) if we can propagate butterfly bush, and (two) to see whose method is most efficient. I’ll keep you posted with updates in a few weeks! I am pretty confident that these will propagate easily, as the words “invasive species” were popular words across many websites describing butterfly bush.
Has the recent warm weather inspired you to garden?
For previous garden updates, check out the links below:
A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.
Growing up, I was always told by my mother, “Good things come to those who wait,” or “Patience is a virtue.” As a teenager, all I heard was, “Blah, blah, blah.” I was impatient for so much. It was difficult to see past my immediate wants to see what I really needed and what was sustainable.
As an adult and mother, now I [try to] practice patience much more freely and with a deeper understanding of what it means to be patient. I try not to immediately respond to a comment perceived as hurtful, and I try not to reprimand Mon Cœur (MC) without giving myself wait time. Just a moment to reflect before saying something that may be thought in haste, or while feeling less than patient.
I realize that immediate gratification is just that – immediate. It fades away in the time that passes and does not endure. However, words said in the moment linger far longer in people’s memories than we like to admit.
Millie’s garden has stretched our patience muscles, as we have planted seeds, bare roots, bulbs, and other plants, and had to wait for them to break through the ground, grow, bud, and flower.
Sometimes we’ve been pleasantly surprised by a quickly sprouting seed, other times we wait for so long, and either are disappointed in the end, or are amazed as we watch a plant make its appearance.
We have filled in so much of the garden since we’ve begun almost a year ago, and yet we have so much more to do. It has been difficult not to go out and buy flowers for every inch of the garden, and yet with the daily watering, I am reminded why we are going to fill it in slowly.
We have fought our want for immediate gratification for a garden full of blooms, instead opting to grow it over time. It has made every day a new adventure, looking for summer bulbs to break through the ground, watching for buds, smelling the flowers in bloom, and enjoying each small display of progress within the garden. It has given us something to look forward to, to hope for, and to invest in each day.
Despite wanting to not fill the garden in completely this year, we have had many additions since our last garden update, and I have needed to redo our garden map, as the original was getting quite cramped and hard to decipher.
As I thought about how best to draw the map this time, I decided that I would color code plants by their flowering season.
We are striving to fill flower beds with flowers and plants for each season so there’s always a feature to marvel at. This has been more difficult than I had originally thought, since we are filling in as we go, and didn’t plan before planting. We are making it work, and have seen where we can fill in the gaps- the color coding is definitely helping with deciding locations for future plants.
We have transplanted bee balm and milk weed; Chouchou gave me some bare root peonies, Asian lilies, and phlox for Mother’s Day; he’s also added some sedum and succulents; we received a petite butterfly bush from friends for Millie’s birthday; a neighbor gave us a few hostas and some lambs ear which have helped fill in under our cedar trees; and Sissy sent us some mixed peonies for Millie’s birthday. I also planted a few dogwood saplings and a Washington Hawthorne sapling.
Cultivating the soul
The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.
It has become routine to go out to the garden early, before the Virginia heat and humidity set in, to water and observe each plant.
Every day, when we go out, we are surrounded by the plants, bees, birds, and butterflies. Most of all, though, I feel the love of friends and family as we make our way around the garden.
Seeds, plants, or manual labor offered by friends and family make us think of them as we visit each plant. Every time I see a butterfly, I think of Millie, and with each plant I water, I think of the friend that offered it, showing their love for her and for us.
Or, I may pass a hill or section of the garden, where family grabbed a shovel to dig holes for plants. I can’t wait to see all the spring bulbs next spring, and I will think fondly of my moms who helped to plant them.
When I sit at the bench drinking morning coffee or I watch MC playing at her tea party table, I think of Chouchou and our cousin who helped set the stones for these features.
I enjoy going out in the morning dew of the day to look at the growing garden with MC. She is a willing helper, and has learned essentially all of the flower names. This has made her an excellent tour guide to those who come to see the garden.
She also loves to give her opinion on the flowers – the gardenias smell like chocolate; the butterfly bush is gorgeous; her daffodils are sleeping. She keeps a look out for the hummingbirds, checking our homemade feeders every morning to make sure they are full. Seeing the garden through her eyes, and hearing her talk about it brings me such delight.
Beyond patience – learning opportunities
I have also been patient and perhaps too nurturing with some of the bare roots that were given to us – our phlox and peonies are struggling and the liatris mix have remained hidden from view for over two months. Each day for the past month, I have been hopeful to see them emerge from the earth and begin to grow in our view.
After giving them ample time to break through and begin growing, I began researching online and reaching out to the companies that sold the plants and bulbs.
I had a really promising experience speaking with the Netherland Bulb Company, who guarantee all of their bulbs. She said give it a few more weeks, it may take some time for the liatris to break ground, but it grows very quickly once it does. If we don’t have any luck, they will send us replacements next spring.
The other company that sold the peonies and phlox were only reachable by email, and are sending replacement plants next spring.
I have learned recently though, through internet research that peonies [bare roots] should be planted in the fall, and phlox bare root planting is more complicated than the overly simple directions that were displayed on the box.
I consider myself an accidental gardener, and we are learning about flower care and symbolism as we nurture the plants within Millie’s garden.
Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.
The garden has become such a respite from the stresses of the world, all the while cultivating a calm, a patience, and a hope within us for all that is to bloom. Additionally, it teaches us to accept with grace the ebb and flow of life, watching with anticipation for buds to bloom, and understanding that when a flower has wilted and dropped, that another will appear soon, and at the end of the bloom season that next year, that we will be blessed with more beauty from the same plant.
Millie’s garden has allowed us to slow down, enjoy the little successes, learn from our mistakes, and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us.
For previous garden updates, check out the links below:
You can read about our Spring and summer additions here;
I left our last garden update with the picture above. In the meantime, Chouchou brought home one more bag of bulbs – purple tulips and calla lilies, and I purchased a few summer bulbs/ tubers/corms to try – canna lily, dahlias, gladiolus, and liatris. I still had the begonias to plant, too, from our nursery haul. Oh well, we got caught up in the excitement of beautiful weather and looking for projects to do at home.
Since planting the azaleas, butterfly bushes, and phlox, we have found a home for about thirty daffodils, twenty-ish tulips, three hyacinths, four hydrangeas, three lilies, three calla lilies, and then the summer blooming bulb/tuber/corms which I bought on a whim.
Everything seems happy in the garden with the exception of the hydrangeas, which I am still struggling to find an answer why the top half of the flowers lost their coloring, and the leaves turned brown around the edges… We planted the hydrangeas behind the boulders below, with the gardenia, and planted three begonias in front of the boulders.
For the most part, we used the begonias in the beds, as spots of summer coloring. They were also useful as “markers” where we had planted river lilies and they have yet to sprout. I think those seeds may take longer to germinate (if they do at all – we’ve had them so long!), so having the begonias between them helps remind me where we planted them. They have formed rings around our corkscrew willows, and also provided highlights of summer color on mounds that otherwise don’t have summer color.
Begonias hold a special place in my heart, they are my favorite annual. I love the reds especially, and used them as “roses” when I was student teaching and we were reading Le Petit Prince. I briefly mentioned this “lesson” from the book in a book review of Little Prince board books.
I purchased a flat of begonias for my lesson, and before we read the chapter where the Prince discovers a garden of roses, and that his rose is not the only rose, I briefly acted out a preview. I had one begonia at the front of the room, on a barstool. The rest of the begonia flat was at the back of the room. I fawned over the one on the barstool, about how unique and beautiful and special it was. Then I walked to the back to begin the lesson and had a breakdown discovering that my “rose” was not so unique or special. The students enjoyed my quirky approach, and at the end of the lesson, I gave each of them a begonia to take home and plant.
Summer bulbs – gladiolus, liastra, and canna lilies
As we have been filling in the garden, we have some fall bloomers, spring bloomers, and some summer bloomers, but not many. I’ve expressed my enthusiasm for bulbs before, so when I learned there were summer blooming bulbs you can plant in spring and they will bloom the same year, I had to buy.
What I did not know at the time is that summer bulbs are not winter hardy like the spring bulbs (daffodils and tulips) we have. The only exception to this is the liastra we purchased – it is hardy in zones 2-9 – what a champ! So after each killing frost, for all of the other flowers, we will need to go out and dig up the bulbs to overwinter and replant them the following spring unless we want to make a new purchase of bulbs. Since bags range from five dollars to seven dollars and can include as many as 10 or as little as two bulbs, I think it’s worth the extra labor to save them. Plus, if they multiply like other bulbs tend to do, it will be worth it to dig them up, split them, and replant.
Gladioli are beautiful, long stemmed, and full of flowers. We decided to pair our gladioli in clusters of five in front of the milkweed and one of our daffodil patches. MC helped plant these and remarked that the bulbs resemble pumpkins. Ever observant, she is!
These flowers prefer full sun, are deer resistant, and bee friendly. Our variety will reach a height of 58-60 inches, which I learned is the reason why we had to plant these bulbs so deep in the ground- eight inches! According to Gardening Know How, it seems that we may be able to heavily mulch these bulbs for winter and they will do fine in our 6.5 USDA hardiness zone.
They suggest to sequence plant these, every two weeks, to have continuous blooms, but we didn’t buy enough this year. I am hoping that the bulbs will multiply, and next year we can do one sequential planting. Over time we should be able to build this up.
In researching the symbolism, I was surprised to see this is my birth month flower, August. It symbolizes strength, integrity…and infatuation and remembrance according to FTD.com.
I am super excited about the liatris mixture I purchased – it was one of the less expensive bags, had twelve corms, and is winter hardy. It’s deer resistant, attracts butterflies and is a tall flowerer, reaching heights up to three feet! Our mix includes white, creamy pink, and opal purple flowers and will bloom mid to late summer. I decided to pair a row of liatris and a row of purple tulips at our entrance to the garden to give some color there throughout spring and summer.
According to A to Z flowers, liatris symbolizes happiness, and joy – feelings that this butterfly garden gives us as we honor Millie’s memory. It can also represent a desire to try again – which is a profound feeling in our hearts right now, too.
I had never heard of Cannas – they are not actually lilies, just like Callas aren’t really lilies. The one bag that was left had two rhizomes of “Happy Emily.”
This name reminds me of our doctor, who is always bubbly and positive for us and has been with us through each of our pregnancies. We simply adore her, and so I thought it only fitting to add some flowers that would honor her.
These beauties flower late spring into fall and are deer resistant, bee friendly, and attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
They are not winter hardy in our zone, so I will dig them up this year and hopefully they will have multiplied. Since there were only two rhizomes, I’d like to split them if possible for replanting next year. I planted these cannas in a bed filled with tête à tête daffodils (the daffodils with the dainty, petite yellow blooms). These should pair nicely, as the daffodil will flower early spring and canna should follow shortly behind with their flowers.
Over the years as the rhizomes are split, I hope to fill in the whole middle section of the flower bed and create an impressive show of summer cannas. According to The Spruce, cannas are an impressive and showy flower – even watching the leaves sprout and unfurl is a sight to see.
Calla lilies are associated with the Greek goddess, Hera, and I appreciated HGTV.com’s post as the most comprehensive explanation of the history and symbolism of this flower. They mention broken calla lilies as an image on tombstones symbolizing someone who died before their time. These flowers are a choice for Easter to symbolize rebirth, and also can express sympathy when in funeral arrangements.
The calla lily is not winter hardy, so we will need to dig up the rhizome in fall. However the beautiful flowers will last months, so we will be able to enjoy the blooms almost all summer long.
I decided to place the three callas opposite of the the azaleas, as I read they prefer partial shade in warmer climates. They seem to be very happy here and have perked up since being planted.
Chouchou brought home enough orange tulips to be split into twenty or so plantings, and enough purple tulips to be split into twelve plantings.
We’ve paired the purple with the liatris at the garden entrance and the oranges with the asclepias (butterfly weed) on one mound and with daffodils on another mound.
Although they are done flowering for the season, I imagine a colorful display for next spring.
FTD.com offers interesting stories and histories about the tulip as well as symbolism of the flower – deep or perfect love, especially for red tulips. I prefer BloomNation’s interpretation for the colors purple (rebirth, as well as nobility/royalty, which don’t really apply to us!), and orange (happiness, energy, enthusiasm, mutual connection).
We haven’t planted the dahlias yet, since I read it’s not recommended to plant right before rainstorms, and we’ve had some heavy rains this past week.
After the dahlias, we may purchase one plant for Millie’s birthday this year, but we are done adding for the summer. We want to enjoy (and learn to care for!) the plants and bulbs we’ve purchased, so future updates should include lots of blooms and lessons learned!
I also need to give my body a rest, as I can tell by my sore muscle and pinched neck that I probably pushed myself a little harder than I needed to. It’s a labor of love and I put my all into it, but I am welcoming the break to observe new blooms and developments in the garden. Stay tuned!
For previous garden updates, check out the links below:
Have you ever felt like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew? We often feel this in the springtime, as we begin our garden. We go overboard, romanticizing images of a full, flourishing garden.
With the spring weather, we have been looking forward to adding some flowers to our butterfly garden. But this time we are looking at it as a journey, a process, something that we don’t want to rush to fill.
It’s been a little less than a year, but having this garden has helped me to grieve, and I don’t see the sense in filling it all in at once, because grief is a process. Each shovel full of dirt moved has helped me feel a little stronger, each hole dug has given me a little bit of solace, each seed sown has provided a promise of beauty to come.
I won’t be done grieving just because the garden is filled. I want spaces to come out to each birthday and plant a new flower for Millie.
Finding Plants for the Butterfly Garden
Recently we took a family trip to an outdoor nursery to pick a few flowers for Millie’s garden. I love our local nursery – The Gardener Nursery. The owners are knowledgeable and friendly and they always have a great selection of flowers, plants, and shrubs. They even had some annuals so we were able to buy a few tomato plants.
Mon Cœur (MC) just enjoyed the car ride. She was so quiet I thought she had fallen asleep a few times. It’s these little things we forget we miss in the midst of self isolating during a pandemic. When we got to the nursery it was a nice cool morning and very few customers, so we were able to roam around freely, looking at the inventory and figuring out what we wanted for our garden.
MC decided she would be in charge of carrying the garden map and the pencil, and when I wasn’t looking, I caught her inspecting the flowers around her:
I almost melted, watching her smell each different flower. We picked out just a few new flower specimens to add to our garden. We were looking for specific areas of the garden to fill as well as specific plants to buy. In particular, we wanted to fill a shady spot and find deer-resistant plants, as we just recently noticed some nibbles taken from the camellias and gardenia.
I was especially interested in finding plants that were shade loving for a hill we have in the garden. We found three azaleas: George Tabor, a beautiful light pink; Formosa, a bright pink; and Girards Pleasant White.
Azaleas aren’t specifically mentioned as butterfly attractors, however, they are beautiful, flower prolifically, and do well in the shade. We decided to go with one-gallon pots of azaleas and spaced them about 5 feet apart.
Depending on the culture, azaleas portray different meanings. According to flowermeanings.org, in Japan and China, the flower symbolizes home or homesickness. In Victorian times, it was a sign of temperance. It has many other meanings, among them: taking care of oneself and others, and caring deeply for someone.
Azaleas are NOT deer resistant, and as such, we are keeping them in cages until we can figure out if deer are going to be a true threat to our garden and until the azaleas are better established. As MC and I ventured out the following morning to plant the azaleas, we noticed a bright green hummingbird perched on the wire of the cage. What an amazing way to start our morning garden adventures!
Chouchou really wanted to get some phlox for ground cover, to help keep weeds down on the hills. One feature of the garden is some mounds of dirt we placed throughout the garden to serve as a canvas for flowers.
He wanted the path to be meandering and for the mounds and flowers to help surround us with wildlife. For those walking along the path to be in the moment, and not just looking ahead to where they go next. Until we are able to fill all the hills, phlox is a great way to take up space, since they are supposed to spread 18″.
They also have beautiful little blue and pink flowers. According to perennial-gardens.com, phlox symbolizes harmony. We would have purchased more, but the price for a gallon plant was a little expensive, so we will buy seeds next year and plant them throughout the garden.
We both wanted to add a couple of butterfly bushes. We decided to go with full size plants, as they can reach heights of six to eight feet, and will provide plenty of shade and food for butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
We found one that will produce pink blooms, Pink Delight, and another that will produce dark purple blooms, Black Knight. They are only about two feet tall right now, but in our experience, they grow quickly. The nursery advised us to cut back the butterfly bushes to about 2 feet in late winter/early spring, which will help the butterfly bush continue to grow prolifically.
According to Theresa Dietz’ book, The Complete Language of Flowers: A Definitive and Illustrated History, Buddleja is a symbol for tenacity. Fitting, since as I was researching this there are many articles that say how invasive this plant is. Additionally, I remember when Chouchou cut down a butterfly bush that had grown taller than the house and really taken over the front of our house. It came back with a vengeance the next season.
Other sites have cited rebirth, new beginnings, and peace after struggle as symbols for the butterfly bush.
Shortly after we planted our nursery haul, Chouchou came home with some amazing buys on daffodil and tulip bulbs as well as a few hydrangeas. When we find homes for all these beauties, we’ll post another update!