Blue Jays and Spring Flowers After the Rain

Cleveland’s latest rain prompted the last reluctant flowers into bloom, opening their blossoms to the drink up the spring showers. The dew-kissed petals beckoned for a photo shoot afterward, so I headed outside with my Canon Rebel T3i when the skies cleared, and shot some pictures of the purple vinca minor periwinkle flowers and pink tulips in the back yard.

raindrops on a pink and white tulip flower in springVinca Minor Periwinkle Purple Flowered Ground Cover after a Spring Rain













Now that the weather is warmer, I’ve been noticing two regal blue jays hanging out in the yard nearly every day, and I managed to snap a few shots from my office window like a creepy bird stalker.

Blue Jay bird watching

These visual spring inspirations call for some words of reflection, and this excerpt from William Wordsworth’s “Lines Written in Early Spring” happens to be a perfect match.

vinca minor periwinkle purple flowers after the rain


“Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.
raindrops on pink and white tulip spring flower
“The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

Blue Jays playing in the grass birds

“The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.”
pink tree blossoms on blue sky spring bloom


Winter Wonderland

On my way out the door for breakfast — okay, a late breakfast at noon, what most people refer to as lunch — it was just starting to snow. I snapped this picture of the one lone rose left on the bush outside my backdoor:

As we sat inside The Shore Restaurant, chatting with Tina about how she planted walnut trees in Greece and harvested the nuts for Greek baklava with homemade phyllo, we watched the outside turn white. People walked in shaking flakes from their hair. Traffic slowed. My car disappeared under a blanket of snow.

After a slow, sloshy drive home, this is how the lone rose was holding up, less than an hour after we left it earlier:

Es ist ein Ros entsprungen,                          Lo, how a rose e’er blooming,
aus einer Wurzel zart,                                   From tender stem hath sprung.
wie uns die Alten sungen,                             Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
von Jesse war die Art                                   As men of old have sung;
Und hat ein Blümlein bracht                           It came, a flow’ret bright,
mitten im kalten Winter,                                Amid the cold of winter,
wohl zu der halben Nacht.                            
When half spent was the night.
Das Blümelein, so kleine,                             O Flower, whose fragrance tender
das duftet uns so süß,                                 With sweetness fills the air,
mit seinem hellen Scheine                            Dispel with glorious splendor
vertreibt’s die Finsternis.                              The darkness everywhere;
Wahr Mensch und wahrer Gott,                     True man, yet very God,
hilft uns aus allem Leide,                              From Sin and death now save us,
rettet von Sünd und Tod.                              
And share our every load.
(16th Century German hymn with Theodore Baker’s 1894 English translation)

Flower Garden

 No words to blog today, just pictures of vividly bright flowers from my garden that say it better in color than I can in sentences:

Million Bells
Wave Petunias
Phlox, I think?
Mouse Ear Coreopsis

3 Flowerbeds + 10 Dirty Fingernails Later…

Today launched our post-Memorial summer hours at work, when we’re released at 3:30. And I made the most of my extra hours. First, at a Rocky River garage sale, I found an armload of name-brand clothes for a dollar each and then something I haven’t purchased for at least 15 years: A family of Breyer model horses like the ones I used to collect when I still thought I’d grow up to be a cowgirl. I bought them, ostensibly, because I know old Breyer horses are valuable (these turned out to be almost as old as me, created in 1986) – but if there wasn’t nostalgia behind these plastic figures that consumed my childhood imagination, I wouldn’t have made the special trip to the ATM.

Then, back home with the new clothes in the laundry, I headed back out to the still-70-degree sunshine to get the rest of the flowers I ordered in the ground before they fried. A few flowerbeds and 10 dirty fingernails later, the remainder of my impatiens, dusty millers and salvia are safely in the ground, ready to be watered with tomorrow’s storm.

petunias pink flower garden fresh domestic

Aside from the squash, zucchini and pumpkins – who already have their homes by the patio – I still have to plant what I started from seed, as well as the vegetables and herbs I hope to get from Emerson Farm in Goshen, Ind. But my plans for these seedlings are quickly fading because when I mailed my rent this week, I included a note telling my landlord I’ll be out when my lease is up later this summer. I won’t be around to reap what I’ve sowed (this said to clear my name of blame when vegetables show up missing later, ahem.) I won’t be around next summer to see how much more space the pesky lemon balm commandeers, or how much fuller the chamomile flowers come back. This saddens me briefly, but such is the transient life of a renter.

Now, it’s time to watch my man Daymond on Shark Tank. The highly-polished fashion mogul told me himself that dirty fingernails reveal something about your personal brand. I guess I’ve branded myself a gardener.

Plant Progress: Day 5

The company flowers and African Daisies keep coming up. Joining the green ranks today: Some Simpson’s Curled Lettuce. They don’t look anything like lettuces. I guess it’s logical that it would look like any other sprout – the same thin stalk with a few leaves as a hat – but it just seems like mini heads of lettuce should pop out of the ground.
In other news, on this Friday the 13th, I managed to lock my keys inside my car and receive a parking ticket. Then, for good measure, ended the night with a migraine headache. TGIF, indeed…but I really can’t wait for Saturday the 14th.

Plant Progress: Day 4

Science tells me there’s been a lot going on underground for the past few days, but today, Day Four, was the first unveiling to the naked eye. The first seed to rise to the challenge: the assorted flowers from my company and an African daisy or two. They’ve sprung little bright green leaves above the ground.
seedling plant garden
Meanwhile, most of the outside is a similar neon shade. The Cleveland trees are finally more leafed than not, and a month of solid rain has cast everything in a clean hue.
Trying to recall Science Fair projects about plants. I did one where I watered plants with different beverages. I can never remember which liquid, between Coke and coffee, killed the plant and which fertilized it as well as Miracle-Gro. Another common one was playing music for plants. I wonder how that turned out.
“Spring has sprung
The grass has ris’
I wonder where the flowers is?”

Mother’s Day for Mother Earth

I think my mom would be proud of how I spent Mother’s Day: celebrating with Mother Earth by baring my green thumbs and getting my hands dirty with the planting process.
Maybe it’s late to be starting seeds inside, but I’ve never really been one to follow the books, especially when it comes to something as organic as the earth. I learned my lesson last year when a cold front pushed the range of prime planting days further and further into the spring, and a certain flat of dianthus didn’t quite make it through the last Cleveland frost. Lesson learned: Plant when the sun shines and my schedule allows, and we’ll see what happens. It’s always a risk when you’re up against Mother Nature, whether you take the Farmer’s Almanac at its word or invent your own.

So, whether I’m right or wrong, I’m planting. In addition to the flowers I ordered and the herbs and vegetable starts I hope to get from my brother-in-law’s farm later, I can claim full garden ownership over these:

  • The Seeds of Innovation (a clever marketing scheme to accompany my company’s Innovation in Business event last year – a seed packet containing: zinnia, larkspur, forget-me-not, sulphur cosmos, sweet sultans, calendula, feathered celosia, baby’s breath, Indian blanket, tricolor daisy and others)
  • Marigolds
  • Snapdragons
  • Bachelor Buttons
  • African Daisies
  • Bell Peppers
  • Lavender
  • Zucchini
  • Lettuce: Buttercrunch and Simpson’s Curled
  • Rutabaga
  • Winter Squash
  • Pumpkins
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Basil
So maybe I forgo the gloves and spade on purpose, and maybe I take a little longer than necessary to plunge my bare hands into the soil and watch it fall between my fingers. Maybe I love the excuse to keep playing in the dirt, twentysomething years after it’s considered an age-appropriate playtime, because getting dirty is more of an escape when you’re paid to be clean and proper all day.
The gratification of a green thumb is in the daily nurturing – knowing these seeds depend on me for water, sun, and Emoto positivity – more than it is in the final harvest of blooms and fruit. So maybe it is appropriate to be planting on Mother’s Day.

First Day of Spring (A Month Late)

A sunny day seems even sweeter when it comes during a week plagued with rain in the daily forecast. That was today, and even though spring is late-coming to Cleveland this year, this day could have fooled me.

 It was a day for yard work indeed – but early enough in the season that those two words don’t sound like a second job; instead, a chance to enjoy the long-lost sun. And, believe me, in Cleveland, the sun is a stranger, so I make the most of these days when they come.
For the third year in a row, I practiced my strategy of waiting till spring to rake the leaves. Isn’t that just procrastination, you ask? No, it’s a strategy. Of waiting. And hoping some leaves might disintegrate under the snow or something and, by chance, fertilize something else, making my excuse for procrastinating sound really impressive. Whatever the motives, today was the first day I raked leaves to ready my flowerbeds for spring.
The rake awakened plenty of plump earthworms from their leafy layers of slumber, and drove the creepy-crawlies toward the warm comfort of, probably, the inside of my house. Once the dirt was revealed underneath, I discovered my first flowerbed inhabitants of the year: several clusters of lemon balm left over from the invasion that overtook other greenery last year…and I still don’t know what to use it for.
I already placed my order for the flats of flowers that will soon join the lemon balm – there’s impatiens, of course, and wave petunias. Dusty Miller and salvia are familiar flora from my childhood, but firsts for my adult life. And, with Million Bells thrown in, I’m looking at 100 flowers – 100 holes to dig – and about $60 invested in Mother Earth.
Spring, we’re ready for you.

Flowers A-Bloom

Although I haven’t been sufficiently documenting it with my camera or my words, my flowers are doing just fine. For the most part. I lost my entire crop of zinnias — which are said to be one of the sturdiest, stablest flowers you can grow without a green thumb. Apparently not if you don’t water them though.

However, I did manage to keep these others from biting it. Actually, I had nothing to do with the black-eyed Susans, on top, because they popped up volunteer. I did plant the impatiens, second. Some of them (like the one pictured) are doing great and really filled out. And others — I think because of soil issues more than anything — are not. I probably could be watering them more…

The last picture is of one I’m proud of, even though the petals aren’t as full as I’d like, because I totally revived it. I got this echinacea flower off of FreeCycle and when I first replanted it, it withered almost to death, as did everything else I got in the batch. Some others were not so lucky, but this one made it.

Planting Flowers

Spring! Finally, an excuse to be outside and play in the dirt: time to plant flowers. This has always been my favorite time of year, when it’s finally warm enough to run around barefoot and bask in the sun and admire everything in bloom.

Yesterday I picked up the flowers I ordered from a coworker. She leads the youth group at her church and they were selling them as a fundraiser. I got two flats of impatiens, two wave petunias and a couple herbs. So today it was warm enough – mid-60s, at least until the wind picked up and it dropped like 5 degrees – so I planted half of them.

It’s a start. I know they’ll fill in a lot, and I still have a lot more plants coming that need to be planted.

Such as:
the other flat of impatiens
tomato plant from Jason
3 cherry tomato plants from Jess (as you can see, I killed a couple the weekend I went to Cincinnati)
the zinnias I planted inside on Thursday (they popped up today)
geraniums from mom’s 4-H Club
maybe peppers, basil and herbs from Jason
various & sundry other bargains I find throughout the season