It's close to Garden Bloggers Bloom Day which happens on the 15th of each month, and in which I used to participate religiously but honestly, I am so not a scheduled person. Sure, I like to plan and have a loose set of goals because how else does one get things done? But tell me I have to be somewhere at a certain time and immediately the anxiety level rises. Maybe it's PTSD from working in a cube for so many years? I just don't like to be boxed in. I work along these lines: I need this and this done by this date. Okay! Anyway, I got the urge to capture Spring. There's much happening in the garden in spite of the cold and rain and yes, even snow these past few days. Then I thought, why wait for GBBD? Why not just capture what's blooming in the garden when I feel like it? So, here you have it, what's blooming in the Violet Fern Garden right now.
I have many, many daffodils mostly because nothing eats daffodils. I add some every year and I apologize but I don't keep track of what kind they are, or the names of them, as long as they "naturalize" they are in my shopping cart. I am surprised this year to discover I have some really pretty varieties!
Lungwort or Pulmonaria always pleases. It is one of the first to bloom in Spring and she has been spreading itself around. She's welcome wherever she goes.
Bergenia is blooming! I have been trying her out in different spots because I love this early blooming perennial with its large, lush leaves that also put on a Fall show. She likes this spot if she's blooming for me, yay!
I seem to have lost one of my Hellebores (so now I will need to get another one!), such a shame, but this one is doing well and is still blooming! I finally got around to cutting back her old leaves so now she really is a looker!
The only thing to rival that gorgeous burgundy color on Miss Hellebore would be Miss Pasque Flower. She is moping from all the rain we had but I'm sure she will hold her head up high soon.
Little, polite Lady Jane is also in bloom. One of the few tulip varieties I have that big, fat rabbit doesn't seem to like.
I've been trying to incorporate more native Spring ephemerals into the Violet Fern Garden. Some Dutchman's Breeches from the lake driveway has come back (jump for joy!) but isn't blooming just yet. Shooting star is up but isn't quite blooming yet, either. My mom gave me this beautiful Trillium (along with some Bloodroot which has finished blooming) and it IS blooming! Aren't Mom's awesome? Happy Mother's Day Mom! Can't wait to see you.
There's nothing like blue in the garden to set off those yellow (white, peach, orange) daffodils! And I got it! Brunnera is the bluest of them all. Forget-me-nots are never forgotten and are always enchanting with their tiny, dancing blooms. I love when the bumble bees land on them and sway to the ground.
Virginia Bluebells, a native spring ephemeral, has my heart right now. I planted two plants last year with the hope of having a large drift of them someday and they're both up and looking slightly different from one another. One seems to have lighter green leaves and paler blooms while the other has a little pink in the blooms and deeper green leaves and seems more robust. I have to research and figure that out unless you can provide some insight?
I am reveling in the glory of Spring, grateful to be working in my own garden getting to know her again. The Serviceberry was a show stopper this year but sadly her show does not last very long until the berries. Next, the Dogwoods and Crabapples will be in bloom most likely in time for the Memorial Day Artists' Studio Tour. I hope you'll stop by.
No, I have not disappeared off the face of the earth, although there are some who believe I am from another planet. It's just that we have officially entered "Mayhem." I have actually been in mayhem mode since April, however. It was a mad, mad dash to leave "paradise" literally mopping the floors on our way out the door so that hopefully, vacationing folks, would enter and stay in a clean and comfortable place. It was no small feat to purchase a house and have it turn key ready in three months. Most of the walls were freshly painted, walls came down, bamboo flooring went in, furniture was shuffled out of one place into storage and then finally shuffled into our place. Artwork was sorted, selected, framed, hung. Some landscaping was attempted, irrigation systems installed. I am flattered when I run into someone here up North and they say I look well rested. I have to chuckle.
And so I am home again, sort of. Unpacking, laundering, cleaning, wondering why we haven't finished the billion projects on this house in ten years as the faucet handle falls off into the kitchen sink, again which I fondly remember my husband exclaiming when we moved in that it would be the first thing to go and be replaced. I have to chuckle.
I can also explain. Projects like the lake and the Florida cracker house were opportunistic, so we had to "jump" on them and seize the opportunity. Both opportunities were like jumping aboard a speeding train and pushing our way to the locomotive to finally take control and slow it down.
The kitchen sink, well ... why replace just the faucet? We should get a new sink, too. Why put in a new sink without changing the countertop? Why change the countertop on these cabinets? On and on and so, a simple new faucet might turn into a full blown kitchen remodel which is why it never was replaced.
And so now is the time we finally focus on our "house" and begin finishing all those projects that fell off the train. The Board Room will finally be sided inside and out and floored (since we're such experts now — chuckle some more), the exposed junction boxes will house lighting, the carpet will be ripped out downstairs, the roof will have to be replaced, the garage roof also and resided, and something must happen to the kitchen ... this house is a LOT of projects as most houses are. We, however, have come to realize that two can live comfortably in a tiny, simple space. You might even go so far as to say we are on board the tiny house train. The tracks have shifted yet again. I am all for tiny house, big land!
And land ho, I am back in the garden with mixed emotion and as typical, the weather is being completely uncooperative. This year I finally timed my return just right, the daffodils were up to greet me but I caught the bloodroot, trilliums (blooming now) and Virginia bluebells! The garden needs so much work due to my negligence over the past three years but it is wonderful to be bringing her back into her glory! (In between rains that is.) And wow, all those alliums I forgot I planted last Fall, are up and coming. They're going to be beautiful, I hope. And wow, am I sick of weeding out grass. And wow, how can have so many rudbeckia laciniata plants when I removed a wheel barrow full last fall??? I will say however, that rudbeckia laciniata is on Xerces list of good pollinator plants for our region so I will not have any qualms about selling my extra stock. I am also helping to create a pollinator pathway garden in front of the Cornell extension of Jefferson County with the master gardeners so I have some great plants to donate to that project. So I wait for the latest deluge of rain to stop, and wait, and wait ... this is getting old.
Daffodils in all their glory in the Bird & Butterfly Garden in a rare hour of sunshine.
Bloodroot (finally!) blooming in the Woodland Edge.
In spite of any weather setbacks, I feel a groove dancing to this new venture of mine, art studio and garden. I love the focus. I look forward to getting out of bed, planning my day. The garden is there beckoning me. The studio is there beckoning me. I undertook The 100 Day Project again this year. Last year, 100 Leaves. This year, 100Bs. Surprisingly I am having much fun with the 100Bs. Surprisingly, I look forward to my drawing table and paints and the next "B." I am also looking forward to, and preparing for, the Memorial Day Studio Tour Saturday May 27 and Sunday May 28. Maybe, just maybe, this year I will truly be prepared with all the items on my list checked off.
A sampling of some of the "Bs" from The 100 Day Project now available in the gallery.
Seeds started for the garden and possibly for sale by the Memorial Day Studio Tour.
I also have a new painting in the works for the TI Arts Center "Along the River's Edge" upcoming show — a painting that I am actually excited about, enjoying the process of, and not slapping together at the last minute. I may just keep it secret until the show, that is if it is accepted. This new breath of life allows me to plan ahead, and paint, and garden all in the same day! This is revolutionary for me. I am no longer drawn and quartered. Suddenly, I do not want to see anyone, go anywhere, share any part of myself with anything — I just want to stay in this groove. I want to keep digging, weeding, planting, painting, creating, evolving ... it is wonderful to be focused.
I'm in love with sunshine, bird song, Spring, my husband, my little cabana (Cedar Kottage), paints, shells, sand, soil, plants, flowers, the air, Cedar Key and more ... so much more!
I can't believe it is mid-February already, and remember not so long ago when I felt encapsulated in time in a dark, dusty house (that seems so expansively large to me now), pinging from window to window like some lost particle in space pondering how anything could endure such a dreadful, void season. I never dreamed (or even wanted just a little bit) of a Florida migration. I never dreamed I would love Florida. But who wouldn't love the meaning of the word, "flowery Easter?" Things change.
I am up in the air these days without a compass. My sure footed path of what I want has been overgrown with new ideas and possibilities. I was so sure of my path in life and now, well I'm certain of change. Things change. Sometimes for the better. Usually for the better. Mostly for the better. It will all work/flow out. I sometimes wonder if we don't really have a say in what happens to us as much as we try to plan and set goals. If we do, however, have a say in what doesn't happen to us and that is how we move bumbling forward. We can say no to this, no to that and eventually we reach a resounding yes of this is what I want, that a thousand "nos" eventually puts us on the path we were meant to follow.
Today I mourn the death of the NNY Art Trail. While I believed in this incredible idea that was born and placed before me, this idea of uniting all the artists of North Country on a map and in a shiny, glossy brochure so that the visiting outside world could see a trail of talent splayed across three counties, there comes a time when one's energy is burned more effectively in a different fire or idea. In its first year, my partner tirelessly contacted artists, arts organizations, news organizations and sold to them all the benefits of having such a trail. An enthusiastic 50 artists and an impressive number of sponsors joined the Trail as a result. This year when asked to renew, we received a scant over 20 artists' participation and only a handful of sponsors. Guess that Trail blazed out? Do we really have to spend that kind of initial energy again to keep the fire stoked? Too much. We have collaboratively decided, even without the investment of long term momentum and stick-to-it-ness, to retire the Trail. I am admittedly, relieved in one sense only because pulling together the web site and the graphics for the brochure and map was/is a ton of work! In another sense I would have liked to attempt to morph into something of a different animal that may or may not have worked — perhaps simply an online directory with a minimal membership fee but how does one keep feeding that idea flame, and what about all those computer-avoiding-art patrons out there who wouldn't care or even know how to look it up online and well ... collaboratively deciding are the key words here. The idea was born, it lived but didn't quite thrive in a year's time and now it has burned out because the universe keeps moving forward. It is change, certainly, and is probably good/better in this way. It is now energy I can spend on the Violet Fern Art Studio & Garden for which I can always be grateful to the NNY Art Trail for spurring me into action. The birth of the Trail is what made me step up my game to pursue art full time and create some sort of viewing venue on my property in Clayton however unlucrative that is right now. Funny how all those things, even those that burn bright and expend, lead into something and into now.
In my new state of "airness," I am wondering if, in a strange and unforeseen twist of my life's path, the lake (way up North) will become/is now my time of peace and painting and if the Violet Fern Art Studio & Garden enterprise will be rebuilt — bionic — here in Cedar Key? If the Trail, even in expenditure, has in some way directed me to here? If my venture will gradually, naturally migrate here through a series of "nos" and turns over the next few years?
I love, love, love my garden paradise in Clayton, NY, but can I even begin to convey to you how excited I am to garden in zone 9a??? I mean I just ordered a Brugsmansia to plant in the ground! 'Charles Grimaldi' to be specific. I imagine swinging in my hammock chair (which is the coolest but I've yet to hang), above my coral-painted porch (which I've yet to paint), reading a book (especially about gardening or perhaps even about painting which I find difficult because I just want to stop reading and keep trying), with these amazingly large, drooping, trumpet blooms (mind you, I have yet to even plant Charles), dripping down around me intoxicating me with their fragrance — in spite of all those "yets," I can almost taste it!
Brugmansia 'Charles Grimaldi' Photo credit: Annie's Annuals
Yes, you could grow this beautiful Brugmansia in a large pot in the North and then cut it back (gasp) to cool over the winter in a sheltered area but to me, there is just something magical about growing a plant like this from the ground up!
The porch in its current state: saw station. But I imagine that Brugmansia in that little patch of filtered sun there with big floppy blooms and the hammock chair where the saw table is now and the cement painted coral.
I also have my own little grove of fruit trees! Mucho more love. There are peaches blooming right now! I am on a bit of a learning curve here and just ordered some organic fertilizer for the trees but ideally I should have fertilized before flower and fruit production. From what I've read February is a good time to prune. From what I've discussed with local folk, pruning after fruit harvesting is a good time, too. Fertilizing is a must here due to well, sand. A compost pile, or impending drumlin in my case, is not a good thing here as the entire jungle of plants in the nearby vicinity will root their way over to it. A better way is for me to dig a trench near my peach tree, empty my compost bucket into it, and cover it up/bury it. I worry about digging into roots but well trench composting it is because I have an active imagination of drooling, toothed, carnivorous roots finding their way to my compost pile.
Peach and peach blossom in the "grove"
I hope to make a nice crushed shell path down the center of the grove by lining up bricks and filling in between, ending in a circle punctuated by a large sculptural bird bath. It is just what I "see." I have started the path with some bricks I found buried on the property, the learned cardboard trick to kill the grass, and some rock pebbles I purchased in bags at the little hardware store here (an expensive way to go vs a truckload of crushed shell!).
The start of a path through the "grove." Eventually I hope to mulch beneath all the fruit trees on either side. You know how I feel about lawn. There are peach, plum, apple and even avocado!
But my husband and I are focusing our energies on making Cedar Kottage home (and a suitable rental) for now...
Our cozy, modest Kottage coming together LOVE! We have painted the walls sand with the exception of the wall leading
to the back deck (painted bright sea foam). A glass door to the deck is on order so we can see outside. New bamboo floors.
... can I resist planting a thing or two? No way! I brought with me an ornamental ginger that sunned on my back porch steps in Clayton all summer but never flowered. I just had to plant it because it is hardy in zone 9 and can reach an impressive 8' tall! Her name is 'Elizabeth' and she is a ginger lily, Hedychium coronarium. I pruned her short to bring down in the car with us, a mistake I fear as the stalks I pruned are no longer growing but she has sprouted two new ones. She is now planted in the corner of our back deck steps here at Cedar Kottage and carefully outlined with an old favorite of mine, wine bottles. She reportedly smells like honeysuckle and is very attractive to hummingbirds, oh goody.
'Elizabeth' tucked in next to her is a coleus I rescued from the Park (where I worked) that broke off.
Under the deck a stash of cardboard from moving — cardboard is a gardener's friend here in FL!
On my schedule today is to plant a key lime tree — I just LOVE that I can say that! We were in the tiki bar one evening and got to talking to a man named Wiki who just happened to have a few key lime trees for sale down at Annie's Café where we like to go for breakfast every now and then. He must have enjoyed talking with us because he told us to pick out any tree we wanted as a housewarming gift — what a great guy!
Key Lime Tree most likely Mexican or West Indie Lime. It has thorns and will grow up to 13' tall and wide.
So you can bet I will be taking care of that little tree with all I can muster. It's not much of a garden now but he will go where the cinder block is marking the spot. I am collecting palm tree stumps to line a large future planting bed out back. They are pretty easy to come by if one keeps her eyes open for sidewalk lawn debris pick ups. One is a makeshift bird bath on the fly. To the left, surrounded by rocks, is a little Loquat Tree I grew from seed — though they do not grow true from seed — over the summer in my greenhouse up North. Loquats, or Chinese Plum, are a good ornamental tree, though not native (neither is the key lime). They have large glossy leaves and sweet fruits (hopefully mine will). I see them growing around the neighborhood and their panicles of flowers always seem to be loaded with bees and overwintering Monarchs.
The very crude beginnings of a garden
I have learned from my mistakes in making the Violet Fern Garden up North. We will have a fence lining the back of our property similar to the one of our neighbor's pictured, straight away. I will be leaving a wide path along the sides of the house open for painting, maintenance, and access, and it is already lined with clam shells. Something I truly wish I would have done up North only with pea gravel or pebbles.
By the way, I absolutely don't miss Facebook — certainly a change for the better — and no longer view a world divided. I am so much more happy, obviously, and am now going to go love me some sunshine. I hope there is love surrounding all of you this February of 2017. — LOVE
Author Kathy Sturr
In this blog I may write about the garden, flowers, plants, and the garden ... mostly the garden, but also new art and inspiration.