Urban Garden Denver Blog

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Soul-tending category.

Back Alley Beauty

Does most of your gardening attention go to the front of your home? I like my front walk to be beautiful. Right now I have creeping veronica, candytuft, ice plant and pansies in bloom bordering my front walk. But I go in and out of my home via my back door most of the time, since we park in our driveway off the alley. So I like my alley entrance to be beautiful as well – just for me. Every time I have come in or out of the alley in the past week, I have remarked on the beauty of my iris. Several years ago I thinned out iris that were getting crowded elsewhere in my yard and moved the extras to the alley. They are beautiful with very little care and no supplemental watering. This year the iris in my back alley are blooming better than the ones up front.back alley

I like a beautiful back entrance, because my garden isn’t just for show, for those walking by my house, or visiting through the front door. My garden is an expression of me, and I want that expression to be consistent – that I present myself the same way to everyone – front or back door. I don’t put on a different face for show than for regular life.

So this week, notice what greets you in your garden, on your regular route in and out of your house. And put something in that area that makes you smile. Whether it is a pot of flowers by your back door, a special perennial near a side door, or welcoming flowers at your front door. Beauty can greet you at every turn.

Pansies Under the Snowbank

I know that there are pansies under the snow in my yard. We’ve had a couple of days of melting and now the leaves and buds are visible. I can’t wait to see the pansies and the early bulbs pushing up. They are the promise of spring. Unseen during the snowy spells, but present, living, and ready to push through with happy blooms.pansies under snow

If you have been following my blog for a while, you know that I planted extra pansies last fall, in hopes of many blooms this spring. Unfortunately, half of the pansies got crunched when I had workers at my house for a project in November. They didn’t know that the flower bed next to the sidewalk was full of pansies, and the flowers got trampled. Sigh.

I realize my sadness at losing the pansies was out of proportion to my investment in them. The house project cost thousands of times the cost of a pansy, and I can always plant pansies next year. But once they were crushed, it was too late to plant more pansies. Now I won’t have pansies peeking out from under the snow next to the sidewalk. The damage was done.

Gardening is an interesting mix of present joy and past investment. Seeing the buds pushing through the snow gave me joy today. But that joy came because of my investment of time, energy and a little money last fall, when I planted a flat of pansies. And the investment is not without risk, since plants can succumb to drought, deep freezes, pests, trampling feet or any number of hazards. But as a gardener, I still invest, I still hope, all for the joy of the flower pushing through – reflecting hope.

Saying Goodbye to the Season

I intentionally wandered through the flower gardens in the park near my home this week. Enjoying the colors, light, sun and culmination of the blooms that have been putting on a magnificent show all summer. I called this my “goodbye flowers” walk. While I was strolling through the flowers, I bumped into a friend of mine who was also enjoying the flowers and saying goodbye. Another woman overheard us and pressed us for more information, “Will the blossoms really die so quickly?”  She obviously had not spent many seasons in Colorado. She wanted to stop the clock and deny the change.

Butterfly enjoying the last sips of nectar.

Butterfly enjoying the last sips of nectar.

There are two ways we can live with the seasons and passage of time. Regret is one choice. I can regret the coming of cold weather, regret last night’s 28 degree low temperature, regret the dying off of summer annuals.

Or I can embrace the season. Celebrating the beauty that was, and looking for the wonder in the now – in the rich colors of autumn, in the low angle of the sun that highlights these colors, in the need for a blanket at night and grasping of the hot tea cup in the morning. Knowing that the dying of the summer plants adds nourishment to the soil as it rests in the off-season.fall flowers WP

Scents of the Season

As I walked up the dark steps from the driveway to the patio, I knew that the star-gazer lily had opened even though I couldn’t see it in the dark –  the scent filled the summer evening. Although I had forgotten to leave the back light on, the smell of the lily welcomed me home. I had been watching the four buds for several days, wondering when I would be treated to the exotic smell.

The fragrant lilies come on the heels of my lavender harvest. This year I decided to share the harvest with several preschool and early elementary children on our block. As I saw neighbors out playing, I invited them to come cut some lavender. With sturdy stalks, the flowers are great for the grip of a small hand, since they don’t break easily.  The flower heads can even survive a little squeeze to release their scent.

Lilies in a pot on my back patio. Notice I didn't clean up the picture my moving the dead leaves - this is a real garden.

Lilies in a pot on my back patio. Notice I didn’t clean up the picture by moving the dead leaves – this is a real garden.

The scent of lilies is unique and short-lived, while the lavender has a longer season and also dries well for more enjoyment. I put cut lavender into a dry vase to enjoy for months. I even put a few sprigs into a pair of shoes that needed freshening up.

Of course, roses are another favorite scent – I always bend down to smell a rose when I walk by – but some are definitely more fragrant than others. I only have a few roses blooming now, and the honeysuckle and peonies are but memories in my scent bank. Sweet memories that will come back next year and the next …

The sense of smell is an amazing gift – and one that I enjoy using in my garden – to delight in the wonder of fragrance. I have many flowers in my garden that are not heavily scented, but having a few focal points for my sense of smell is wonderful.

Spring Wins!

Two weeks ago, when it was snowing on May 1st, I drafted a blog post but didn’t publish it because I was just too discouraged. Now, it looks like spring is winning! The moisture of April and early May along with the sunshine of the last week has caused many spring perennials to burst into bloom. Right now I am enjoying blue flax, verbena, candytuft, basket of gold, creeping veronica, mat daisy and more. And I am encouraged that some of the plants exhibiting frost damage might bloom. My iris patch has several buds visible, even though the foliage was severely nipped by the April freezes. And I am holding out hope for my lilacs. This morning I sniffed a neighbor’s lilac which has just started blooming, and my lilacs have buds that look alive.mat daisy and basket gold parking strip

The change of seasons is inevitable. We don’t control the timing, but eventually winter ends. This is great news for my garden, where all the possibilities have been stored up and are now bursting forth. It is also good news for my soul, because even in a winter season, there is an inevitability of spring coming, just not always on our time schedule.

I did a huge amount of garden cleanup last weekend, projects that I would normally space out over several weeks or even a month, but since the weather had always been bad on my days off, and I was away a few Saturdays, there were lots of “must do” chores. But the cleanup was a joy because I could see the buds coming out, under the weeds and dead foliage from last year.

I am looking forward to my little field of poppies blooming in the next few weeks – the buds are heavy with possibility.

Creeping Veronica along sidewalk

Creeping Veronica along sidewalk

Get outside today and enjoy the fact that spring won!

Winter into Spring

It’s been a rough few weeks in the garden, with wild temperature fluctuations, wet heavy snow and bud-nipping cold. And today is warmer (above freezing) and the snow is melting into the greening grass. During weeks like this, sometimes it feels like spring won’t actually follow winter.

That same feeling has been present in my circle of relationships over the last few weeks, as I have shared tears with those struggling with circumstances outside of their control. Will spring actually come?

And the global news has also caused us to question – with mind-boggling events that cause worry and weeping. Will spring actually come?

As I felt the sun warm my skin today on my walk, and saw the buds of daffodils and tulips struggling to stand upright, I knew. Spring will come, it most certainly will. But we can’t control exactly when. Winter into spring. Then spring into summer, and summer into fall. Each follows the other, even if storms seem to interrupt the cycle.

Spring will come. The flowers will turn their faces toward the sun and gain strength from the moist soil, and spring will come.

The Dandelions Survived

I’m not sure which of my flowering shrubs, trees or perennials will bloom this season – since they have all been nipped by our unseasonably cold temperatures. Snow in April is not unusual in Denver, but several nights of low temperatures in the teens the last few weeks are unusual and potentially damaging for spring blooms. But as the snow has melted off my grass, the dandelions have definitely survived the cold. The fate of the rest of my spring blossoms will need to unfold, literally, over the next few weeks. I guess my garden chore today is digging dandelions, since I don’t like to use poison.

Healthy dandelions!

Healthy dandelions!

However, in addition to my dandelions (which I would not have mourned had they died), I was pleasantly surprised to find two creeping veronica plants blooming. I had planted six new plants last summer, but our dry fall and winter took their toll (and I didn’t water enough). I know this isn’t a great success rate, but they are in my parking strip area where plants need to be tough to survive and where I do very little supplemental watering. So finding them alive and blooming this morning was a great encouragement.

The rest of my survey of the garden left me uncertain. There are buds on the lilacs, but I can’t tell if they are frozen or alive. The iris and daylily foliage is showing definite signs of frost damage, but hopefully the blossoms will emerge. The candytuft looks healthy and ready to bloom. And of course, my pansies also survived the snow and are looking perky and moist along my front walkway. And I am hopeful that my tulips which were broken down by the weight of the snow will straighten toward the sun and bloom.

Creeping Veronica

Creeping Veronica

This spring is going to be a mixed bag in the garden, but I am going to celebrate each blossom, knowing how precious it is. And I’m going to try to take the long view and know that there will be future springs as well. I am working on content for a retreat on “seasons of the soul” and I have been exploring the soul dimensions of winter-spring-summer-fall. One of my fundamental assumptions is that we experience all the seasons of the soul, but we can’t control the progression or timing, only our reaction. So I will choose to celebrate each blossom.



The Long View

The forecast of 6-12 inches of snow along with low temperatures of 9 degrees (Fahrenheit!) seem disastrous in the short-term, especially since the warm weather of the last week has encouraged the leafing out of many plants and the blossoming of trees. The likely scenario is that fruit trees will have frozen blossoms (such as no peaches this summer from my tree). In addition, trees, shrubs and perennials will be setback in their spring growth. Nothing much we can do about that scenario.

A friend asked me this weekend if I was going to cover anything in my yard; but I can’t really put a dome over my whole yard, and the harsh wind that is blowing now even before the snow would uncover any attempts I might make at protection. The one protective attempt I might undertake is running a load of laundry tomorrow night when I go to bed. Sounds odd, but my dryer vent is near my peach tree at the side of my home, and perhaps one dryer cycle might save a few blossoms from freezing. I don’t think running the dryer all night is worth the energy consumption, but surely I can find some laundry to make one cycle worthwhile. If it doesn’t work, at least I will have clean towels in the morning.april bouquet

I picked some bouquets yesterday so I could enjoy the now in my garden – sweet-smelling hyacinths are now gracing my dining room table, along with grape hyacinths and daffodils. And I cut a branch of peach blossoms for my kitchen counter. I’m not sure what will happen tomorrow in my garden, but I can enjoy the flowers of today.

Peach Blossoms

Peach Blossoms

In addition, over the long-term, having gardened my little urban plot for more than 15 years, I know that most of my plants will recover from this setback. And I can hope that the snow does fall to insulate plants, and that the cold isn’t quite as cold as the forecast predicts. And I can be thankful that today I have a garden plot, and that tomorrow, whatever the weather, I hope to rise in the morning in my cozy home. There will be more April days to garden, more rain, more snow, more wind, more drought, and more flowers. I’m choosing to focus on the flowers.

Hoping for Spring

It’s March, and soon we will be shifting from thinking about gardening to actually gardening. And my garden blog will go from dormant to more active as well. Definitely a season of hope – and since we had such a great moist snow in Denver last weekend, I am more hopeful for something other than brown this spring. As the snow has slowly melted into the earth, my pansies are looking happy and moist, and I’m sure there are some early bulbs that will start poking out of the ground in the next few days, encouraged by the moisture and the warm sun.

Meanwhile, the bulbs that I forced indoors during the winter are blooming and reminding me that spring is near. forced daffodilsI crowded bulbs into pots in November, watered them and put them in plastic bags in the back of my refrigerator. Over Christmas, I had to move a couple of pots out of the fridge to make room for seasonal food, but I put them in the cold garage. I pulled the bulbs out of the fridge in February and I have been enjoying a succession of blooms for several weeks now.

About the same time I was pulling my bulbs out of the fridge, there were forced bulbs on sale in the grocery store and nurseries. I had to stop and wonder if it was worth the effort of forcing them myself, or if I should just buy the pre-potted blooms when I need a winter pick-me-up? But I have to say, part of being a gardener is finding satisfaction in doing the activity myself, not just outsourcing the work. That’s why I dream, plan, dig, weed, coax and celebrate blooms. Because I was created by a God who is Creator, and in his image, so I love creating as well. Perhaps that is a good thought for spring, that in some small ways, my creative efforts will reflect the beauty of the Creator.

Still Thankful and Brown

I started the month of November on a search for color, to counteract the seasonal brown that overtakes our landscape this season. Now that November is winding down, I’ve decided I am ok with the calm and quiet of muted colors. The colors I noted on my last post – the pansies, Oregon grape berries and hawthorn berries are still evident in my yard, but the brown-ness seems stronger. I even painted our bedroom a color on the brown palette last weekend. The paint store calls it “Yosemite Sand” but it looks like cafe-au-lait to me, a calm, soothing color – light brown.

I have also decided that I’ll keep the fall colors around in my interior decor for another week. While some of my neighbors already have Christmas trees up and wreaths hung, I still have my Thanksgiving arrangement on the side table in the living room. Maybe it’s because I was so slow to put up the decorations, that now they deserve another week of display. But maybe it’s because I want to slow down my pace, to stay in the Thanksgiving part of my soul for another week.

Staying Thankful

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and soon I will have fresh evergreens adorning my mantle and a wreath on the door.  The Christmas cactus that a friend gave me will move into a more prominent display, along with some cyclamen, to replace the Thanksgiving browns.

It may sound corny, but I really do want to continue to cultivate a spirit of Thanksgiving in my soul. I know we all say that, but I want to live that way. In November, and December, and all the way through. In the green months and in the brown months. In the dark days and in the light.

If you stopped by my blog for more practical gardening and less philosophy – then my words to you are plant bulbs and water. Your trees and shrubs will be thankful for water, since we are so lacking in moisture this season. Since the ground is still tillable and warm in Colorado, you can plant bulbs – and you will be thankful for them in the spring. And you can also force bulbs for indoor blooms. I use the back of the refrigerator method — I started several pots 2 weeks ago with bulbs, potting soil, water in a Ziploc bag in the back corner of the fridge. I will pull them out in 12 weeks for spring color.

Crowd bulbs in the pots, straighten to point root end down and cover with potting soil, then moisten.

So be thankful for all the colors in the palette, including brown, and celebrate both November and December.