The Exquisite Luxury of Bloom Time

Time is the ultimate luxury.

It’s taken me a whole lot of frivolous spending and a deeper appreciation of the short life-span of my favorite flowers to realize it.

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I remember a newspaper column by Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman I read many years ago, when I  was in my early 20s and I thought 30 was old, about how she measured the rest of her life in lilac blooms. Goodman hoped she had at least another twenty lilac blooms to go. I thought this was the strangest thing I’d ever heard.

But now that I’m on the back side of forty, I understand.

As the iris bed I planted last August begins to reap museum-quality beauty each morning, and then fades within a day or two, I understand. Another year. An entire year before I will see them again. Another year older, if I’m so blessed.

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Crocus. Daffodils. Tulips. Flowering crab trees. Lilacs. Poppies. Peonies. Irises. I cherish the succession.

Each of my lovely blooms last just a few exquisite days. I look forward to each of them like a child looks forward to a visit from Santa. I wake up each morning, grab my camera, and run outside to see what is opening, what has blossomed over night, what is peaking and what is fading.

I photograph each beautiful iris bloom in dusky morning light and in full afternoon sun. I marvel at the irises’ frilly apricot standards, the fuzzy lavender and pale yellow caterpillar beards, veins of fuchsia and purple speckled falls.

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This year is especially poignant for me. For the past two months, I have been watching as my mother’s mind slowly slips away, succumbing to the final throes of dementia. She has been staying with me a week now. While she has been frustrated, fearful, angry, sobbing, sometimes all of the above, I have seen her soothed by the familiarity of my garden. She remembers the peonies of her grandmother’s garden. She felt the satisfaction of mimicking me, as I planted container gardens. She recognized the feathery Cosmos seedlings, just three inches high.

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My poppies are thick and lush right now, as they are each Memorial Day weekend. The tight round balls of luscious pink peonies always follow in the first days of June. It’s a succession you can count on like Monday follows Sunday.

These are the luxuries that I cherish.

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Flower blooms are free to everyone. A beautiful peony is no more beautiful to the rich man as it is to the poor. In a world of technology that moves at warp speed and dissolves in the seconds of a Snapchat snap, moments spent observing the smallest details of a flower petal are savored.

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I try not to think of how many more magnificent lilac blooms I will enjoy,  how many opportunities I have to inhale their delicious perfume. As I see my mother follow the same path my grandmother took with Alzheimer’s, I wonder if I, too, will slip away too soon. But then I pull my attention back to this day, this moment. I am grateful to enjoy this bloom. I wake up each morning, a little earlier to see what’s blossomed.

I hope you do, too. Because time is the ultimate luxury.

 

 

Springtime at the Arboretum

I spent the morning surrounded by birdsong at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The chickadee is my spirit animal, or is it spirit bird?

It’s springtime in Minnesota and life is beautiful!

Especially since our very own Minnesota Landscape Arboretum was named The Best Botanical Garden in the country in the 2017 USA Today Reader’s Choice Survey.

Twenty botanical gardens from around the U.S. were nominated by a panel of experts and the Arboretum was voted number one.

I have to admit, I did more than my fair share of lobbying for votes. I’m lucky enough to live about 20 minutes from the Arboretum in Chanhassen, MN, a southwest suburb of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul. It’s located just down the road from Minnesota icon Prince Rogers Nelson’s Paisley Park studio.

In fact, Prince enjoyed spending time there.

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Prince at the MN Landscape Arboretum. Photo Credit: Arboretum website

I have an annual membership, so I can enjoy the arboretum year-round, in my state that celebrates four resplendent seasons, each uniquely gorgeous in its own right. While there’s a three-mile trail that winds its way through the various gardens, an avid gardener or photographer can find small wonders to entertain herself in just one small area on multiple visits.

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The daffodils are coming soon!

So even though most spring bulbs and flowering trees are still weeks away from blooming, I visited the garden this morning to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air that April ushered in. Maple syrup was flowing into buckets hung on the trunks of the giant maples and the smokestacks were billowing out long gray plumes at the Maple Sugar House.

Waves of daffodil and tulip leaves stood at attention on every hill, garden and wooded area. In just a few weeks the entire arboretum will be awash in a sea of color and fragrance.

I had planned to join the mothers pushing strollers, retirees and tourists who enjoy daily walks on the 3-mile trail through the garden today.

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As I was crouching down to peer at the plants, I heard a rustling at my knee. The friendly garter snake. Lots of wildlife at every turn.

Instead I got side-lined in the very first garden I came across. I hadn’t been expecting much color, but as it’s my first season as a member, I thought I’d familiarize myself with the various areas, and the plants they contained. It’s always fun to try to identify the early foliage of the perennials as they first poke through the soil. But I was pleasantly surprised to find many pops of color sprinkled throughout the first garden.

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A cold hardy Dwarf Iris (Frank Elder) 4/23

I planted my first Iris garden last September, with bulbs from the National Iris Society’s sale at the Arboretum in August. So I was delighted to find these little beauties nestled into the rocks.

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Snowdrops. Beautiful blue, too!

Snowdrops are the earliest blooming bulbs to appear on the scene, just as the last snow is melting in March, with the little cups of crocuses following hot on their heels.

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Brilliant purple crocus

Besides hunting for blooms and identifying bird calls, spring is an excellent time to stop and learn something new, that I might normally just breeze by, thinking “oh that’s pretty.” The skeletons of espaliered apple trees stopped me dead in my tracks. The outdoor living garden has a small square paneled on three sides with these ghostly beauties.

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Espaliered Haralson Apple Tree – Introduced in 1922 by the U of M

Then there are the gorgeous structural shrubs that flourish year-round and never fail to wow, such as this beautifully sculpted Korean Boxwood. Love the vibrant foliage. I have two miniature boxwood in my fairy garden at home, so they’re a favorite of mine.

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Finally when you’re not in a big rush, during the lull before the full spring bloom and its resultant crowds, solitary time in the gardens allows for time to stop and appreciate the beautiful sculpture, art installations, benches and other hardscape features that memorialize loved ones inspired by nature. I thought this was especially poignant.

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In addition to the beautiful grounds, the Arboretum features events and workshops year-round. I’m looking forward to Yoga in the Garden, using the On-Leash Trail with 3 energetic terriers, plant sales, and the 20th Annual Bud Break and Daffodil Dash 5K coming up on May 7th.

For more information, visit the Landscape Arboretum website at arboretum.umn.edu.

In whatever part of the world you call home, I hope you take some time this month, to get out and enjoy nature. Your senses, mind, body and spirit will thank you.

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So Much to Love About February

For some reason the WordPress gremlins ate the text of this post. Phooey. Although, I can’t say for sure it wasn’t operator error. In any event, I’ll quickly share some of the highlights, despite the fact that it is now well into March.

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It was a snowless Minnesota in February this year. So I posted a few of my favorite things to do when winter weather doesn’t cooperate with your plans to get outdoors and have some fun in the snow.

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Dig in the Dirt. It’s the perfect time to repot your plants! Maybe you’re like me, and on occasion the poor plants are just stuck in their original container and set inside a pot. No shaming here. But your plant’s roots will be so much happier and healthier when they can stretch out their legs in some fresh, fluffy dirt. It’s a great time to feed your plants, too. With seed starting still a month away for us in the north, here’s a chance to exercise that green thumb.

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Visit a local arboretum or nursery. Even though my hair hates it, I have to admit I adore the thick sultry humidity that envelops me when I walk through the doors of the Fern Room at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in St. Paul. We also are blessed with the wonderful Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, one of the best in the country, right here in our own back yard. There are classes and special events running yearround.

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Minnesota’s own Ames Honey Farm

Enjoy an outdoor summer event, indoors. Indoor farmer’s markets, like Bachman’s Winter Market, shown above, are gaining popularity everywhere. The Landscape Arboretum and local nurseries are also hosting them this winter. What a wonderful opportunity to support local growers, farmers, artisan bakers and brewers. An extra bonus is that everyone is so happy to be at a market in midwinter, your mood is sure to get a boost from all the smiles. *The next Winter Market at Bachman’s will be held March 25th, at their Lyndale store.

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Puzzles are having a moment! I’ve read three separate celebrity interviews in the last couple months referencing the puzzle craze. More socializing and gossip is shared over puzzles at my house than just about anywhere else. If I want to have a good conversation with my husband, I need to do a puzzle with him. Puzzles are so relaxing! And so blessedly technology free. If you’re ever in the mood to really splurge, check out Liberty Puzzles. According to their website, “Liberty Puzzles are a throwback to the golden age of jigsaw puzzles.  Each one contains dozens of hand-drawn “whimsy” pieces intricately cut into the shapes of characters, animals, and geometric designs.  They are works of art within art.  The puzzles are made with 1/4” plywood and use advance print technology for eye-popping color.” These puzzles are absolutely amazing. But pricey. Maybe I’ll ask Santa for a Liberty Puzzle next year.

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Take the 2017 Good Reads Challenge. Do you have a Good Reads account? It really is a must for book lovers. Good Reads creates a virtual book shelf for you, let’s you keep track of the books you want to read, read reviews of books you’re on the fence about and get recommendations from your friends based on their bookshelves. Every year you can challenge yourself and your friends to read more, because reading is simultaneously stimulating and soothing for the mind, body and soul. Over one million Good Readers have pledged to read 73,833,021 books in 2017 to date. I’m already halfway to my goal of 25, so time to adjust that goal.

Well, there you have it – the somewhat amended, “missing” February post. I’ve left off the Valentines, but I can’t resist sharing this photo of Valentine’s for your furry loves, post-Valentine’s Day. Maybe you can start shopping for next year? Here’s one of my favorite photos from the vanished blog post…online shopping for my very spoiled dogs. Enjoy.

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The Chickadee & Me

Welcome to Chickadee. I hope you’ll like it here.

First things first. Why Chickadee? That’s simple. I draw my comfort and inspiration from nature. Chickadees are plentiful here in Minnesota and they flock to the feeders, where you can pick out their distinctive and merry song “chicka-dee-dee-dee” from the cacophony of other bird music.

Secondly, if you’ve ever watched a chickadee for any length of time, you’ll see them flit about the tree branches, alighting briefly at the feeder, then hopping over to a fence post, all the while watching the world around them.

That’s the way my mind works. I am quite literally a bit of a manic person. Peripatetic is a great description of my thoughts and many passions. On any given day, I will usually have several creative projects going. I might be needle-felting cupcakes, rubber-stamping, or making garlands of rainbow colors, washi-taping dayplanner pages, potting plants, planning gardens, playing with miniatures, decorating my home, or taking hundreds of photos of my three terriers for their Instagram page. You can follow them @missmelliebee15.

Expressing myself creatively, digging in the garden, walking in the woods soaking in the calm I feel in nature and a lifelong passion for books are the things that bring me happiness.

Recently one of the commenters on a photo of my dog Bacon, my kindred spirit, a scruffy rescue who loves snow more than life itself, remarked that Bacon was a “global joy-bringer.” I thought that was just about the coolest compliment anyone could ever give. In a perfect world, that’s what everyone would aspire to.

And that’s what I hope Chickadee can do. By sharing the many things that bring me joy, I hope to bring a little bit to you.

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