Growing a cutting garden

Flowers bloom from late April through mid-October at my house on about an 1/8th of a collective area. This sounds teeny, yet, it’s a fun smattering of color in various gardens on my 4.75 acres. The first to flower are the Grape Hyacinths and soon to follow are the Alliums, Bleeding Hearts and Irises – rich, burgundy flowering transplants from my mom. The tulips sometimes make it. The bunnies with the edible win again this spring.

My homegrown flowers make me happy — in the garden, at home in eclectic vases and in recycled jars for friends and family. This joy inspired me to launch Cheerful Nature Bouquets — officially today! — and a new hillside cutting garden is underway.

A soil test has been ordered. A Sunday afternoon trek to a favorite grower, Hilltop Greenhouse and Farms, resulted in a carload of perennials and annuals. Another favorite, Salvia, was picked up and more Starlight Coreopsis and a fun new-to-me flower set has been ordered online. Planning is underway with the aid of a borrowed book from my lovely neighbor, Michele: Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden. (After much note taking, I had to order the book for my own library.)

Cheerful Nature Bouquets is launched!

Layers keep this girl trekking in a cold spring

Just two weekends ago, I was in a blizzard and ice storm, driving south from Charlevoix to Chelsea. While visiting mom, I trekked through lakeshore snow and admired the snow boulders in Lake Michigan. In the North Point Nature Preserve, I mushed through slush and mud and jumped over puddles. Today will reach a high of 70 — whoo-hoo!

When winter lingers, it can be tough to get outdoors. Putting on the layers. Again. And again. And again. I truly believe, though, that if you have the right layers, you can enjoy nature in any weather.

A few key all-season wearables:

  • A light-weight Merino wool buff. This keeps my neck warm in the winter and protects it from pests in the summer. I also use it for an ear warmer sometimes.
  • A wick-away first layer. In the chilliest days of winter, I wear my Merino 250 wool, a mid-weight Smartwool long-sleeve next to my skin. Other times, I’ll wear it as my second layer over another wick-away shirt, which I can remove if I get too warm. Honestly, this is me to a T. I wear these shirts year-round. I also like the light 150 layer, though my favorite is the 250 weight.
  • Wool socks. Keep your feet dry through the seasons. Wet feet and sweaty feet can make for a miserable hike.
  • Waterproof hiking shoes. You never know when you’re going to run into muck in the woods or at parks. My favorites are Oboz and Merrill. Hubby loves his Keens. REI is my resource for boots and socks.
  • Sunglasses. Protect your eyes! Even the haze can affect your eyesight. I now have bigger frames since my eyes are more sensitive. Plus, they really help keep the bugs away as I trek on warmer days. I prefer Smith brand, though I currently have Malibu Jims. Costly, but I need the heavy duty eyewear and protection.

I’ll keep adding to my list of suggested wearables. My goal is to keep my blog posts somewhat brief. 🙂 A comfy body makes for a happy adventurer.

Spring gardening

March 23: first day of garden clean-up (dug up clumps of weeds), followed by garden planning by the warm fire glow. Definitely need more flowers and favorite edibles, and time to repaint the garden fencing. March 24: sown kale, leafy greens (frost tolerant), spinach and sugar snap peas. April 5: spotted garlic peeking that I planted in the fall, as well as early spring risers (irises, tulips, alliums, hyacinths). Started indoor garden with a lot of hope: San Marzano and Chadwick Cherry tomatoes, zucchini, English cucumber, pickling cucumber, rosemary, morning glory, zinnias, cosmos and foxgloves. April 7: sweet pea plantings in 10 spots in my front and back gardens. April 10: researched deer and wind resistant perennials for my new “Lavender Hill.” (Just two lavenders on my hill thus far.) Created a list of flowers to look for at one of my favorite flower hoop houses: Hilltop Greenhouse & Farms of west-side Ann Arbor.

How does your garden grow?

Each year, I find there is always a *star* in my garden. Last year was the year of the poblano pepper. Its bounty continued through late fall. My garden grows thanks to planning — and many whims. Hey, I think I’ll plant corn for popping. Why, yes, let’s grow Cinderella pumpkins and moon flowers. It is always a joy when the whims work and a tad sad when the purposeful sowing results in delicious meals for our ever-present chipmunks.

Truthfully, the critters and I have made peace since the early years when I’d chase bunnies out of my FENCED garden. Now, each spring, I poke around carefully for the anticipated nest of baby bunnies. I do not want to scare the furry babies. I decided to share what I grow and try to outsmart the chipmunks and birds with netting over my in-ground sown seeds.

My best advice? Get a garden journal, do a little planning and make room for impromptu seeds or Farmers Market seedlings. Whatever makes you happy, you should plant. My garden journal features rough sketchings of “planned” plantings and “actual” plantings. I like to reflect on gardening throughout the year and jot down notes about what is going on around the days of sowing and harvests (e.g., heading to Tigers game, trying new tea, just returned from vacation, etc.). Your journal should be a messy, creative outlet and your garden a sanctuary of food, flowers and cheer.

Pretty skunk cabbage

I have developed the habit of hiking along the Lowland trail in Waterloo State Park in early spring. So convenient to my home, the trail always delivers on the first distinct signs of spring with the rising of hardy gold-speckled burgundy claws in the wetlands. Oftentimes, I see this skunk cabbage peaking through early-spring snow. A big thanks to the skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) for the reassurance that spring has truly arrived. Soon, the forest bed will be sprinkled with dainty Trilliums and the outstretched green foliage of the skunk cabbage will be overlooked. Not its smell, though! It is a stinker once its leaves unfurl. Even so, I’m a fan because its a harbinger of spring in the woods and the stinky fragrance attracts certain insect pollinators. Learn more here.

Sayonara!

Yesterday, we said goodbye to our third exchange student. Nana was visiting us from Shimizu, Japan, over our spring break, along with two other students and a chaperone. Her visit was in conjunction with a program in our community called the Chelsea-Shimizu Sister Cities exchange program. Last June, my daughter traveled to Shimizu and visited Hiroshima and Sapporo to experience world history, and Japanese culture and community.



Our week was filled with local adventure, including the tradition of painting our town rock, disc golf at Hudson Mills metro park in Dexter and touring the Big House at the University of Michigan. Hosting an exchange student for a week was easy-breezy and so much fun! We hosted a student from the Netherlands for a full school year and a student from Peru for five months.

What I’ve learned from these cultural connections is how brave the teenagers are to travel to a foreign country and immerse in a culture that is completely unknown to them. Nana was eager to try everything — food and experiences. Though we had very little knowledge of her language and she had only slightly more of our language, we communicated. Google Translate was our friend this week, no doubt. Even so, being open, flexible and, most importantly, joyful during the week sharing experiences resulted in a lifetime connection.

Reflecting on our other experiences, I am grateful our family is still connected to our Dutch “daughter.” We are not connected to our Peruvian student, which I regret. I think of her and hope she is living a full, happy life. Each experience was truly unique. I am grateful to the students for being so brave and giving my family the opportunity to grow and learn from them.