Spring Garden Prep and Updates

I am long overdue for a garden post update…Over the winter we added a couple of camellias and a dwarf butterfly bush. We meant to add more, and then…well…now is the perfect time for us to be spending time together as a family in the garden, adding plants, trying to get seeds started, and seeing how it is changing with the seasons. Below are just a few updates and changes we’ve observed in the garden.

Grape Hyacinths

Any day that we have good weather, we take a walk as a family along our road. About a month ago, little Blonde Bunyan (mon Cœur, MC) saw a purple flower on the side of the road and went to pick it. She grabbed it by the stem, yanked it, and Chouchou and I were astonished to see a bulb attached to the bottom of the stem. So we took it home and planted it in the butterfly garden.

We had no idea what the flower was; luckily Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens posted a picture of the same flower in their Instagram a day later and identified it.

After seeing how easy peasy bulbs are with our daffodils we planted last fall, we were sold on the idea of filling the garden with more bulb flowers. We’ve been meaning to reallocate these roadside beauties for the past month, since MC procured the first one.

Earlier this week, Chouchou built a little retaining wall around one of the dirt mounds in the garden, and we went for a walk looking for more grape hyacinths to add. We transplanted about 20 of these bulbs in total, and after the rainstorm we received the other night, they were happy campers in their new home.


We purchased three different types of daffodils in the fall, and as an early spring crept in, we were excited to see the early peeking of leaves through the earth. Later we watched anxiously as a bud grew at the top of the stalk and would monitor for buds opening. The three different varieties, Tête à Tête, Stainless, and Pink Paradise, all bloomed at different times which kept our interest in them over the spread of at least a month.

I can’t stop saying how easy it was to plant them and the excitement and anticipation we all felt waiting for them to bloom. Chouchou and I are looking into other bulbs that we can incorporate into the garden and the Dig.Drop.Done Foundation online has excellent resources, planting guides, and calendars to help us do our research into this new type of gardening.

Thai Hibiscus

A dear friend gave us some seeds for this annual beauty. According to Rare Seeds, this hibiscus is, “a super plant for making cranberry-flavored bright red beverages, jelly, pie, and tea.”

All the directions I read said to start seeds early, indoors. Well, it’s been such beautiful weather, that MC and I dug five holes and plopped three seeds in each hole and figured we’d see what happens…Just yesterday as we were taking our daily tour, I noticed the first sprouts emerging!

I was so excited to see this, as these were one of the more recent seeds we’ve planted in the garden, and unfortunately we haven’t seen any success from the seeds we had planted a month earlier: the wildflower mix, lavender, asclepias, and milkweed seeds.

As we continue our daily adventures at home, digging in the garden has definitely been therapeutic and good for our souls. We get our daily dose of vitamin D, some fresh air, and we practice our observation skills. We’ve seen so many butterflies already this season, and hope to continue seeing them as we add flowers and plants this spring and summer.

For past garden updates, check out the links below:

  • You can read about our December additions here;
  • fall additions here;
  • the end of week one progress here;
  • check out the grotto in progress here;
  • read about the chopping of our cherry tree here;
  • and see what we started with in our before pictures here.

Mono No Aware

As I have been sharing out my blog and inviting others in, I am continually learning – about myself, about others, and about different views of life in different cultures. For this I am so grateful.

I have to thank my cousin for his always insightful thoughts as he created a link for me between my bittersweet feelings of seeing a butterfly to the Japanese concept of Mono No Aware. And now, I am passing this concept on to you…

Mono No Aware is closely linked to the cherry blossoms which have a short blooming period annually. Despite knowing that the cherry blossoms will bloom and only last for a very short period of time, the Japanese delight and are joyous in experiencing this beauty.

Image credit: Pixels.com

Mono no aware is one of those phrases which can not simply be translated. It’s essentially a “sensitivity to ephemera” – understanding that what is now will not always be and appreciating the beauty and happiness of the now. I am still working to understand the fullness of this concept, so as I continue this post, I will be sharing quotes from articles I’ve read. Quotes that are most poignant and touching to me.

Mono-no aware: the ephemeral nature of beauty – the quietly elated, bittersweet feeling of having been witness to the dazzling circus of life – knowing that none of it can last.


I find it fitting that I am sharing this thought at the same time that the last leaves are falling, and a new season is soon arriving. I haven’t taken the time to appreciate these fleeting moments since going back to work, but just Monday, I caught a beautiful sunrise, one that lasted only moments before changing again and sweeping us to the start of a new day.

Monday’s sunrise

The crescent moon winked at me in the sky, and there was a lone star shining bright for me. The landscape was black as warm oranges and yellows rose in the horizon, pushing the darkness up and away and opening the curtains to a clear blue sky.

Mon Cœur and I also recently enjoyed an afternoon walk down our road, and as we walked, the wind was tickling the last of the leaves from their summer homes, and they were tumbling and swirling to the ground. We’ve enjoyed the changing colors all throughout fall and these last leaves are giving way for winter’s landscape of bare trees for the next few months.

Sunday’s walk

Unknowingly, I had already bought into the notion of Mono No Aware in a few different ways. For the first year of MC’s life, we took a picture every month to document her growth. I don’t even recognize the newborn and infant that she was…Babies are born to grow and grow, and what was just days or months ago will have changed and become unrecognizable.

Monthly picture taking strategies changed once MC became mobile!

And as we’ve been building the garden and seeing more butterflies than ever, I smile, knowing Millie is with us. It isn’t a happy smile, it is a melancholy smile. Throughout my pregnancy, I enjoyed reading bedtime books to MC, while knowing that Millie was hearing them, too. I delighted in Millie’s movements I felt and shared them with MC and Chouchou. I loved watching my growing belly and hearing her heartbeat at each prenatal appointment. None of these fond memories replace the sadness and emptiness we continue to feel in Millie’s physical absence, although it gives a respite.

this melancholy is suffused with a quiet rejoicing in the fact that we had the chance to witness the beauty of life at all, however fleetingly.


While we will never get to see Millie grow up and change I can still remember with a sad sort of joy the moments I shared with Millie while she was in the womb.

Understanding and accepting that innate uncertainty of life helps us evade the overwhelming feeling of morbidity associated with impermanence, instead highlighting our ability to enjoy life by appreciating its fleeting moments. 

Berkley Center at Georgetown University

As we have been living each day and taking it as it comes, I’ve been trying to remain open and honest with MC. I think that because I have been upfront with her about my feelings, “I’m sad,” or, “I miss Millie,” or, “There’s a butterfly, there’s Millie,” she has also embraced this mindset that is Mono No Aware. We are at peace with what reminds us of Millie, or when we see the new space that we’ve created for her in the house, or when I am looking through photos and come across one of Millie’s, MC simply says, “Millie!”

I am grateful for the small moments that make up each day and despite the fleeting moments, I cherish them for what they are. Wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving, and hoping that you will take a moment to delight in all the small things that bring a smile to your face and warm your heart.

Garden Updates

A while ago, I documented the first big progress in our butterfly garden for Millie: You can read about our fall additions here; the end of week one progress here; check out the grotto in progress here; read about the chopping of our cherry tree here; and see what we started with in our before pictures here.

Brrr. It’s been cold, we’ve had a bit of rain, some hard frosts, and many overcast days. We haven’t made many new changes to the garden, but we have done a few things…

So what’s new this week?

Camellia. Mom, Mon Cœur (MC), and I recently took a trip to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, where I saw their beautiful, tall camellias in full bloom on a cold day. I am absolutely horrible with names of flowers, so it was nice to take a walk through the gardens and note what was blooming now as well as their names.

Being back at work has allowed me to reconnect with old friends and colleagues and I was recently chatting about the garden to a friend. She asked me about camellias, and the next Monday, she had brought a beautiful, pink Winter’s Star camellia to work for me.

Picture credits: FTD.com

Generally, camellia flowers symbolize love, affection, and admiration. Camellia flowers are available in white, pink and red with each color having its own unique symbolism. Pink camellias symbolize a longing for someone and is given to someone who is missed.


Our camellia will have pink flowers and I am not sure if this was intentional or serendipitous – it’s so fitting though.

Taking the camellia to the garden the day we got home with it.

Camellias like early morning sun and afternoon shade, and with the cedar trees in the garden and the overcast days last week, we weren’t able to plant the camellia immediately. Luckily, there was a sunny day yesterday, and I am glad we did not plant it in the original spot we had planned.

In the picture above, you can see MC’s “peekaboo rock” (top, right) – which is where we were originally going to plant it. I think that spot would have been okay, but I think the camellia will be much happier to the left of the pillar (center) above. Throughout the morning and afternoon, MC and I took trips out to the camellia to check and take pictures of the camellia and any shade, and this spot looks much more promising.

Gardenia. MC and Chouchou popped over to Mom’s last week for a surprise visit after story time. I was so glad that Chouchou and MC had some time together. While they were at Mom’s she gave Chouchou a gardenia to plant in the garden. She said this gardenia liked being close to other things, and I already had a hole ready by this family of four boulders, so voilà we plopped it in and gave it a home.

Now back inside, where it’s warm and cozy…We are hosting Thanksgiving this year and I appreciate how hosting a celebration helps to declutter a house…or in some cases, shuffle the clutter (wink, wink). Millie and Dad had been front and center on the secretary in our kitchen, since she came home with us, but I recently decided to move them.

After creating my homage to our loved ones passed for All Saint’s Day, and finding a spot to hang it, I thought it only natural to put their urns with it. I finally unwrapped the plaque we had made for the grotto, and placed it by Millie, along with the LED candle we received at our October support group.

To the left of the urns, I’ve placed all the seeds we’ve collected or been given for the butterfly garden, along with one of the most comprehensive butterfly gardening how-to books I’ve ever seen (although I confess, I haven’t searched far and wide). This was a very thoughtful gift from one of Chouchou’s dear friends and colleagues, and has been a constant companion as we have decided how to design and what to plant in our butterfly garden.

The only thing I wish it had was a picture that accompanied the 50 most popular butterflies. The best thing about this book is the appendix which notes the most common butterflies, and a listing of the necessary plants for the whole life cycle of the insect from where butterfly prefer to lay their eggs, to what the caterpillar eats, and eventually the preferred nectar of the butterfly. While it is essential to think of the whole life of a butterfly and its dietary needs throughout, I confess that had I not read this appendix before planning the garden, it would have been an afterthought.

Garden Update

A while ago, I documented the first big progress in our butterfly garden for Millie: You can read about the end of week one progress here; check out the grotto in progress here; read about the chopping of our cherry tree here; and see what we started with in our before pictures here.

This past week, we have been enjoying the most gorgeous fall weather in Central Virginia – cooler temps means cutting off the AC, opening windows, and spending more time outdoors. This year I am spending a lot more time outdoors in order to prepare the butterfly garden for a beautiful spring ahead. We had a few good days of rain after a dry summer, so I also took the opportunity to dig holes where we will be planting trees.

So what’s new this week?

Mums. We purchased a few beautiful Belgian mums at the store to add some fall color in the garden. According to gardendesign.com,

Chrysanthemums symbolize different things in different countries: life and rebirth in Asia, sympathy in Europe, and respect and honor in America.


I thought all of these reasons were appropriate and fitting to place in Millie’s butterfly garden. The colors Mon Cœur (MC) and I chose mimic the beautiful fall foliage surrounding us now. If at all possible, we want color to be present throughout the garden year round, and mums were an obvious choice.

A collection of Belgian mums: Cento, Staviski Orange, and Antika Bronze.

Daffodils & Narcissus. While we were checking out at the store, I spied bulbs for planting – tulips, daffodils, narcissus. I remembered seeing a spread in BHG last February. The article featured a house with a lawn freckled with daffodils.

Dreamy, right?

I thought it was beautiful and reminded me of the scene from Big Fish, where Edward Bloom proposes to his future wife in a field of daffodils.

So MC and I chose a few to try. I’ve never done bulbs before and thought it would be something new to try, and give us some spring color. Over the years we can do like the BHG spread explained – buy a few new varieties to add, as well as divide the established bulbs. I’m considering it a new adventure and challenge in gardening!

Daffodils and Narcissus Bulbs – from left to right: Pink Paradise, Stainless, and tête à tête.

I loved the planting directions for the bulbs, and it sounds foolproof: “Dig, Drop, Done!

MC by the daffodils she planted in front of her “peek-a-boo” rock. In the left corner, and continuing in a line are four corkscrew willows. Just left of center is a mum planted for some fall coloring.

Corkscrew willows. After planting the mums and daffodils, there were some corkscrew willow trees that had broken out of their pots (literally) and were shooting roots into the ground. They needed a new home, so we made a small row of four trees on the edge of the garden.

MC amuses herself with a tea party and green goldfish.

After MC helped decide where to put the new plants, she planted herself at a huge tabletop of granite, which Chouchou will be making into her tea party spot.

Adding notes of what was planted to our garden sketch.

One thing I’ve learned over the years of gardening is that if I don’t make a note of what I put where, then I will forget. While this makes for happy surprises, it can also make for befuddled head scratching and lots of wondering, so I’m trying to go about this the correct way. I bought the little plastic stakes to mark our daffodils, and made notes of where we planted different flowers and trees. the sketch also doubles as a handy note when we go back to the nursery to get more flowers.

“I take picture you, Mommy.” And so she did, with my Canon Rebel. Pretty impressive for a two year old, no?

End of Week Butterfly Garden Progress

This past week has been busy with lots and lots of house projects started and some finished. At the top of our priority list was getting the hardscaping done for our butterfly garden. When I consulted with our local nursery, he advised that we plant in November or December to allow the plants and trees to rest in their dormant state over winter. It’s a lot easier than trying to start a garden in spring/summer, especially in the heat and with the drought we’ve have this past month. Below is a mini-tour of the granite we added to the garden. We decided to place these along the path to help guide the way (and help us remember how the path goes!) and add interesting features to the flower garden.

There are two entrances to the flower garden off of our driveway – to mark these entrances, we found some sizable pillar-like pieces to place.

Along with the granite, Chou chou dumped some dirt which we will cover in topsoil and then plant flowers into – this will help add some height to spots within the garden.

Above is a picture of Mon Cœur’s tea party table – a piece of granite that Chou chou found and thought would be the perfect size for a table. It will rest on the granite legs pictured to the left.