“The garden is a love song, a duet between a human being and Mother Nature.”
As I was looking at pictures for this post, I realized that as I document, I need to take photos from a similar spot and zoom out to take larger scope pictures. (see below. oops!)
Seems like a metaphor for my life. Sometimes I focus so much on the smallest details (often negative!), that I lose sight of the big picture and all the other (often positive!) transformations that are happening in the corners. I get so caught up in doing that I don’t step back to see all the improvements that have been made.
With the rain we’ve received the past few days, I have been able to go out for a morning walk and look at the garden as a whole and then focus and marvel at the blooms, the wildlife, and the transformations happening right before our eyes.
Our garden has gone through some drastic changes since the beginning. I didn’t notice this until I started looking back at where we had begun. The pictures in this post are from Fall 2019 and Spring 2021. It is amazing how the small projects we have done over the seasons has accumulated to become what the garden is now.
The garden entrance was just a bleak set of granite pillars welcoming guests into a garden of dirt mounds. Then we added flowers throughout the blank slate. Mon Cœur and I transplanted some mint to surround to pillars. It has multiplied significantly in less than one year, and I want to transplant more because it spreads almost as quickly as a weed, only it is more fragrant and has blooms that will attract pollinators!
Chou Chou added a Japanese Maple to the left of the entrance, which as it grows over the years, he will train to arch over the entrance.
This morning, Millie’s anniversary, there was one butterfly to greet me as I started the coffee. Another had emerged right before our walk.
In Millie’s garden, we’ve spied three monarch butterfly caterpillars in the past week.
It is always amazing to watch how a caterpillar egg becomes a caterpillar and grows, changes into a chrysalis and finally hatches into butterfly. I love to listen to Mon Cœur explain the process with all of the excitement that bubbles out through her smile and gestures as she talks. “And then the caterpillar becomes a chrysalis and then it becomes a butterfly!,” MC exclaims.
It’s nice to have something to look for as we water the garden in the morning.
Everything is cyclical, and recently I’ve been in a lull online, and I’ve been focusing on family. Being intentional. Quiet opportunities to reflect. Millie’s garden. A daily routine to bring purpose and peace.
None of these areas of focus included blogging or Instagram or documenting our day. Although it felt weird at first, it has been especially therapeutic to put the phone down, and do things, instead of doing and documenting and then finding words to share.
We’ve watered, weeded, walked, and soaked in the sun, dug our toes in the sandbox, and swung in the swing. It’s amazing what unplugging and acting like a kid again can do for the soul.
I’m finding a time and place to fit the blog and IG back in now, and it’s feeling more natural.
Today is Millie’s anniversary- I may have already shared that. This past week has been incredibly hard to navigate. Last year wasn’t this difficult. It is difficult for so many different reasons… some seasons are easier than others. This time now is hard.
MC is old enough to start communicating her feelings and grief to me. Oh, this is how my mom must feel for me. My heart aches for Millie and then my heart aches double for the sadness I see in MC’s eyes and what she conveys to me as her grief.
“I miss Millie and Poopa.”
“I miss them too,” I said. “We will see them again one day.”
“We need to make a cake for Millie. And then eat it for her.”
“What kind of cake?” I asked.
Originally she had said strawberry, and then changed her mind to blueberry.
Last night we made a blueberry pound cake – by we, I mean I measured the ingredients and told MC what order to add ingredients. She did everything but pour the batter in the pans and put it in the oven. She’s pretty amazing. We had it with breakfast this morning and I keep going back to it throughout the day.
It was unbearably difficult to hold it together as we approached the date. A sort of anxiety seemed to cloud my mind. I thought about what Millie would be doing now if she were here with us – she’d be walking, talking, running around with MC.
Then I woke up and I felt peaceful. We’ve spent the whole day as a family. Today I have been comforted by friends and family sharing their love, by seeing Millie in the butterflies that hatched earlier than expected, and by the walk through nature where we encountered many signs of her presence despite the fact that she is physically missing in our lives.
And I remind myself that even though I miss Millie with a deep sadness that can never be fully healed…we have been blessed by Mon Amour. If Millie we’re here today, MA wouldn’t be. We are so grateful for him.
Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) are the required host plants for caterpillars of the monarch butterfly and thus play a critical role in the monarch’s life cycle. The loss of milkweed plants in the monarch’s spring and summer breeding areas across the United States is believed to be a significant factor contributing to the reduced number of monarchs recorded in overwintering sites in California and Mexico. Agricultural intensification, development of rural lands, and the use of mowing and herbicides to control roadside vegetation have all reduced the abundance of milkweeds in the landscape.
Xerces Society, xerces.org
As we were choosing plants to add to Millie’s butterfly garden last year, we wanted to add milkweed, since it is essential to monarchs and also attracts other pollinators. We tried two different ways to add milkweed to our garden. We were given seeds of Asclepius tuberosa, which never took root, and we also transplanted milkweed roots, which were more successful.
The milkweed that we transplanted last year has multiplied in some places, and originally I had thought it grew and spread through its root system. However, we transplanted in two different areas. The area where there are more milkweed plants this year is the area where we had our one milkweed flower of the year. It seems that Mother Nature, again, has proven the best gardener, and that these new plants are from the seeds from last year’s milkweed pod. Once established milkweed will come back again, and it is mentioned online that Common Milkweed spreads easily and takes over garden spaces. I am not sure which milkweed we have – time and patience will tell.
We first noticed milkweed emerging about a month ago, and now every day we are out, looking in the garden to see if we have any new sprouts. We’ve recently even seen buds forming, and are hoping for more flowers this year.
We’ve transplanted a few more plants this season, and ever since watching the video below, we’ve been looking for monarch eggs. If you have seven minutes, this is such an amazing video clip to watch and helped us learn more about Monarchs and their life cycle.
We think we’ve seen a couple, and we also found milkweed beetle eggs (red). Mon Cœur (MC) enjoys looking for eggs, and splaying “I Spy” in the milkweed.
As we have been working with milkweed, I have found the websites below to provide great insight about the plant and its importance within the monarch butterflies’ lifecycle.
A couple of weeks ago, I purchased the chick feed for our flock, to save Chouchou a trip to our local Southern States. Before I went to buy the feed, though, we had to go in and look at the plant selection – I was looking specifically for phlox. I explained to Mon Cœur (MC), “We’re going to buy some food for the chicks. First I want to see if they have any phlox.”
So we went over to the flowers and started looking around. MC was very much on board with looking for phlox. While I wandered around looking for the specific flower, MC would bring me various pots of various flowering specimens. And these weren’t tiny little pots, they were the six inch wide, half gallon (ish) pots. The pride on her face in her smile as she brought each one to me and said, “Mommy, this is phlox!” made me melt.
Once she brought me a boxwood, and I had to tell her there were no flowers on that one. She promptly took it back to where she found it. The others, though, were pretty, perennial, and deer-proof, which are the top three criteria when we are making a purchase. We want to add beauty (yes, that’s obvious, I know), we want to invest in flowers that will return the following year, and we need flowers that are not attractive to deer. After I grabbed a nearby wagon (um, it was to put Mon Amour, the baby, in – he was getting heavy), MC started filling it up with her choice flowers.
Again…the pride in her face. Her great big beaming smile. The, “Mommy, these are beautiful!” as she placed each flower pot in the wagon. I could not say no. I justified the purchase based on the criteria – pretty, perennial, and deer proof. We were also buying local, and I do appreciate the nursery sales woman there.
We purchased four deer-proof, beautiful perennials: pulmonary, dianthus, columbine and yarrow, and were able to fill in a few more spots in Millie’s garden.
Pulmonaria – “Shrimp on the barbie”
These flowers prefer partial to full shade, and can be used as a cover if planted close together. Since we are filling in the garden slow and steady, we grabbed three and mirrored them with the azaleas in the central flower bed. These beauties can grow up to 24 inches wide and 10 inches tall!
gardenia.net offers information about the “Shrimp on the Barbie” – mature size, how to propagate, and to remove stems immediately after bloom. The sales associate also informed me about removing the flowers post-bloom, and there is a notable difference in the leaf size for the plants she had cared while at the store.
I am looking forward to watching this plant flower and spread. According to atozflowers.com, pulmonary says, “You are my life,” and represents devotion.
Dianthus – “Romance”
Since we’ve planted this dianthus, it has bloomed non-stop. They are beautiful for cut flowers, and Mon Cœur even chose a few blooms to cut and prepare a bouquet for Mother’s Day!
The flowers reminded me of a carnation. No surprise as to why – they are carnations! Oh, the gardening education I am receiving throughout this journey. I love the color of this particular carnation – it’s a salmon-pink.
I hope that this plant continues to bloom and that as we cut the flowers back, that will continue to encourage more blooms. Pink carnations symbolize gratitude according to ftd.com.
Columbine – “Winky Double Red/White”
I had never heard of this flower before, although I was instantly drawn to it’s clover-like petals and I liked the picture of the flowers that should appear starting late spring. As I researched this flower, I discovered at thespruce.com that the plant is toxic to humans, although the flowers will attract hummingbirds.
This flower reseeds very easily, I’ve heard from friends as well as read online. It will be interesting to see how it establishes its own little area in the garden. I hope that it will spread fairly easily and establish itself in that section of the garden.
According to florgeous.com, Columbine has always been a symbol of love.
Yarrow – Milly Rock™ Rose
Do you ever buy something based on its name? Me, too. I first saw this flower and thought, “Pretty!’ Then I saw the name, and that it
ThePractialHerbalist declares yarrow a symbol of everlasting love. As I continued to read on thepracticalherbalist.com, I read:
Intentional restraint, one of yarrow’s lessons and skills, is about recognizing that wounds, especially deep ones, benefit from slow and carefully protected healing. Yarrow reminds us to give energy to our healing process but not to allow the energy to overwhelm us. Likewise, yarrow reminds us to protect ourselves and our vulnerable places so they can heal.
The Practical Herbalist
And while some of the information may be a little hippy-dippy or a little too magical…The part above spoke to my heart so deeply. We poured a lot of energy into the garden last year, and then even more so keeping the new flowers watered in the summer heat. We are pouring a lot of energy in this year too, although in a different way. We are adding features, mulching and choosing a few flowers to add here and there to bring in more cohesiveness, and really make it look like a butterfly and flower garden.
Liatris and Canna
Last year, we planted canna lilies and liatris, although they never did break ground. I was impressed by Netherland Bulb’s customer service – they had replacements sent out mid-April. They are already planted and breaking ground, and I can’t wait to see the liatris in bloom, since they are supposed to attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
Just an ending thought…I really enjoy learning about the symbolism of flowers, and I believe floral bouquets could communicate their own message between sender and recipient based on the flowers chosen. Perhaps more so a long time ago. As I continue to research the various meanings behind the petals, I wonder…is it like a horoscope – generic enough to fit anyone and make them feel like it was meant for them?
Do you believe the symbolism behind the flower?
For previous garden updates, check out the links below:
You can read about our butterfly bush propagation experiment here;
Almost two months ago, we trimmed up our butterfly bush as part of our spring prep routine. We were advised to cut it to about knee height at the beginning of spring, so Chouchou and Mon Cœur did that as Mon Amour and I supervised.
I saved a few of the cuttings – we would like more butterfly bushes for the butterflies, and I didn’t see any sense in buying a new one if we could propagate more for free.
Chouchou and I have been conducting an experiment to see: (one) if we can propagate butterfly bush, and (two) to see whose method is most efficient. I was pretty confident that these would propagate easily, as the words “invasive species” were popular words across many websites describing butterfly bush.
We discovered (one) yes, we have been bale to propagate butterfly bush, and (two) they both work, however, Chouchou’s seem to have quicker growing, healthy new growth.
The two methods: simple versus not so simple:
I was also super confident in my simple, no hassle method of dipping a (large, 8-10 inch) cutting in some rootstock, then sticking it into a pot of soil. Chouchou went to the trouble of trimming the cutting to only 2-3 inches high, dipping the ends in rootstock and then starting them in rock wool.
I left mine outside, except when the temps dipped below freezing, when I would bring them inside. Chouchou kept his babies inside under a grow light on a tray, sitting on a heating mat, and briefly under a cover. After a few days, we noticed the cover was not helping to grow the cuttings, and it was creating an environment for mold, so he took it off.
There is no denying the superior roots that were achieved through the whole approach Chouchou used. Although tedious, the results were magnificent. We were all amazed at the roots that grew through the bottom of the rock wool. It was also the first time we had used it.
We potted his propagated trimmings about a month ago, and just yesterday I noticed how much they have grown. Notably, the height of his trimmings seemed to jump from 3 inches to 8 inches overnight. The new leaf growth is long and healthy.
If I would change one thing for next time:
I would try smaller clippings for me, instead of the larger ones. Chouchou’s clippings were much smaller than mine originally when we began the experiment. However, looking at them side by side, now, there isn’t much difference in height between the two methods.
We still wonder:
Chouchou and I still wonder how long it will take until they are ready. We will probably wait at least until fall so that they have a chance to establish roots within the pots, then we will gift them or plant them.
For previous garden updates, check out the links below:
You can read about our maintenance projects in the garden here;
Three early spring addition to Millie’s garden here;