Tuesday, April 26, 2022

A Philosophical Moment

During the first spring of the pandemic, I found a sprouted peach pit in the compost.  I planted it in a pot and it grew!!  It survived the first winter of the pandemic and in the second spring, I moved it into a bigger pot  and set it into a sunny spot.  It grew to about 3 feet tall.  This year, as the winter began to shift into spring, I fussed about whether the sapling had survived -- the leaf buds looked so tight and brown.
Happily, the leaf buds began to open about a week ago and then yesterday to my great surprise and delight, a single sweet pink blossom opened.
This morning as I thought about that single little flower which seems a bit premature for the age of the tree, I was struck by an inspiration -- the peach tree, young as it is, is doing what it was destined to do.  
It's blooming!

It reminded me to start the day with what inspires me and off to the studio I went for a pleasant morning of catch-up piecing on my version of Katja Marek's Homage to Grandmothers Flower Garden.   I am working on "week 17" which is about a third of the way along. A couple weeks ago, I finally "organized" the background hexagons in a small tray to eliminate the messy pile I've been pulling from since the beginning.  It's made it easier to keep the randomness going as I piece and knowing when to cut more of a certain fabric.
I'm using 3/4" hexagons and estimate it will be about a 60" square piece in the end so it could be a wallhanging or laprobe when finished.  I'm enjoying the process very much!
It's sharing the design wall with a little upgrade of an old teaching sample.  The four "nosegay" blocks were made using Marti Michell's Stripper Set with her Kite Ruler tool -- it was one of my favorite workshops to teach and I have nosegay blocks in a variety of sizes.  Since it's only 30" square, I am adding the little flower blocks across the top and bottom to make it rectangular.  The next step will be to add sashing between the little blocks and around the entire piece.  There will need to be another border or two -- I'm thinking some arrangement of diamonds to repeat that shape.
Stay tuned!
I've conceded the month of April won't having any projects finished since George is sharing his table with the tuberous begonias who will soon move out onto the porches but I did eliminate a project from the piles by cancelling it so I'm down one more project -- maybe I'll eliminate another to make up for the lack of finishes this month???
Many of you garden and experience the spring/summer slow down with stitching especially in temperate areas with big seasonal weather swings.  I struggle with trying to do too many things at the same time so embracing the garden feels like neglecting the stitching.
But each of these activities nourishes and sustains one, so I need to remember that . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . growing plants and practicing my piecing skills are signs of hope for me.  I plant a seed hoping for yummy tomatoes and fresh beans and bouquets of zinnias.  I plant little tree and shrub seedlings hoping for shade and fragrance and fruit to attract nature to my garden.  I practice my piecing and quilting skills hoping to continue making lovely quilts.

The peach blossom reminds me!


Monday, April 18, 2022

Wild Flowers -- A Better Garden

 Today's post is not about my current quilting activity (although I've been piecing every day), it's about native spring wild flowers here in Ohio.  The spring before Covid, I visited the southwest corner of Ohio to participate in a Wild Flower Pilgrimage and have wanted to return each spring since.  Finally this spring, in the company of a friend, I was able to do that. 

I think that first trip was a turning point for me and my home garden because now I just want to fill it with native wild flowers.  Their beauty has won me over and the more I learn about their importance to building a healthy natural habitat that attracts insects and birds, the more fascinated I have become.  I've spent many pleasant hours during Covid viewing webinars about the importance of native habitats and am convinced this is the right direction to go with my home garden.  

So let me show you some of the beauty I enjoyed over the past few days!  It's hard for me to resist a path that begins like this -- greeted by wild blue phlox and lured ahead by Virginia bluebells . . . . 

 . . . . . . . into a landscape created by time and natural events to see breathtaking sights -- some are grand and spectacular while others are subtle and quiet.
This is at Ohio River Bluffs Preserve managed by the Arc of Appalachia, a growing "land trust" in southwestern Ohio that is working to preserve and restore precious remnants of natural habitats.  The preserve is located west of the small town of Manchester, Ohio and overlooks the Ohio River.  It is a remnant of what is believed to have been a twenty-four mile stretch of spectacular spring wildflowers on the steep hillsides and bluffs along the north side of the river.

This is currently the star of the show -- dwarf larkspur!
At the midpoint of the trail we were walking, these striking flowers dominated the hillside as far as we could see in any direction.  This picture looks "lame" but it's the best I can do to convey this marvelous sight.
We even spotted a few light morphs of the species.
It was an new species of wildflower for me and another new one was Blue-eyed Mary (named after me?).  Apparently, this little charmer is an annual and prolific in some places but I've never seen it.
One of the aspects of the areas we visited was how the plants "create" charming little landscapes with no help from a human like this little "white garden".  I know gardeners who work so hard to accomplish this and here is a square foot of diverse plants all "coordinated" in white and green.
We also visited Miller State Nature Preserve about an hour north of the river near the small town of Bainbridge, Ohio in Ross County.  It was a different palette of flowers partly because spring moves north and so some flowers that were finished along the river were at their peak in this river gorge but the soil also influences the plants that thrive there.  Every cranny of the rock face was filled with moss,  tiny ferns, white trillium, Dutchman's breeches, and miterwort -- I defy any landscape architect to create such a dynamic scene.
We found these bellwort almost in full bloom -- the flowers always droop from the end of the stalk and I seldom see them in my area.  I hope I can find a local-to-me native plant grower with them in stock!
In the northeast corner of the state, we rarely see this "toad-shade" trillium.  Those dark red petals never spread wide open and would offer a nice contrast to the large flowered white trilliums that already grow in my garden if my soil conditions permit.
We were also delighted with the cheery blooms on the wood poppies scattered amidst the many shades of  lavender and purple flowers.  I have a small clump in my garden already but now I want more!  And Whipple State Nature Preserve east of Manchester, Ohio is awash in them right now.
One of the plants I added to my garden last year was wild blue phlox -- it was blooming down south but it will be another 10 to 14 days before mine open -- I hope they look this sweet!
Here in Ohio, the state Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife has a series of sixteen nature guides available and one of them is Spring Wildflowers of Ohio.  You can download it as a PDF online HERE, but my local park system has the print versions of them available and I picked one up recently.  Out of the 65 species included in the booklet, we saw 27 in bloom and another dozen or so not yet blooming.  
Happily, I was able to manage my back issues better than I imagined and enjoy myself -- I wasn't sure I could accomplish that.  I came home determined to "wild" up my home landscape some more because it's more beautiful and vibrant than anything I can "create" with carefully tended non-native perennials.  I also believe it will require less maintenance on my part.  The fall leaves can stay, the native shrubs and wildflowers can mingle together, the insects can pollinate the plants, and the birds can harvest the seeds.  The whole effect will be inspiring and calming for me. 

If you aren't in the habit of searching out your local spring wildflowers, I encourage you to give it a try.  You can start with your local park system to see if they have guides or better yet, guided hikes and begin to learn what would work in your garden/yard.  "Google" for wildflower guides for your state.
See if there is a regional native wildflower society -- we have one in Northeast Ohio which conducts a series of six spring wildflower walks beginning this week.  

Wild Ones is a national organization  with local groups that is very active in educating and promoting wilder landscapes and a source of lots of information.  You may have a local "watershed" group or "soil and water" office that can point you to educational opportunities like invasive species removal projects.  I've become a chronic garlic mustard puller over the past few years and come out of every park all spring with as much of it as I can carry as a result of getting educated about the damage it does in native habitats.  I can't get it all but I can make a dent!!

Here is a YouTube link to my local Western Reserve Land Conservancy's videos and there is a series of five titled "Inviting Biodiversity Into Our Gardens" that explains this movement to "wildness at home".  It has been an inspiration this winter along with the series from the Ohio State University Bee Lab programming -- you can find that series and lots of links to useful information HERE.  I was so delighted to see dozens of queen bumble bees foraging this past week looking for nesting sites to start this year's colonies.  I haven't seen any up "north" yet, but am hoping to enjoy that sight in my own garden very soon.

The more I engage with the wild spaces around me, the more I appreciate their beauty and the importance of reestablishing a landscape dominated by native species.  Inspiring my neighbors will likely be the biggest challenge but it's worth spreading the word where ever possible.

I hope you will join me this spring and enjoy the awakening of your local wild spaces and be inspired to invite it into your own home space.