Word Garden

I love a lot of words.  Wheelbarrows and corn cribs spill out words I know.  I love words.  I used to pull out words to craft poems frequently.  It’s not like checking a book out of the public library and having to return it.   They’re mine, but they’re everyone’s words.  They float about our heads and ankles, running into us, pardoning themselves, and then heading out.  Sometimes they get in.  I have some favorite words—dollop, Mississippi (who doesn’t remember learning to spell it into a rhymed recital when we were young.)  Two words, that’s it? you say.   Nope.  I have hundreds, thousands more.  Let that be a mystery for you to contemplate.

I love to say words incorrectly, just for fun.  While I was in the classroom, teaching wordsmithing and gorgeous literature that others had written for us, I’d often congratulate a student’s correct answer with “Grape juice” instead of “Great job.” It was a quirk they sort of got used to.  Hysterical instead of historical.  Smidgen.  Sometimes they just fall out of my head and onto paper or out of my mouth.  Why not try to use all the words we’ve collected over the years?

Now and again, when I feel British, I’ll think “splendid” instead of “great.”  When we were touring Ireland a few years ago, our Irish bus driver would point at something and say, “just there” instead of the American “over there.”  I like that. I brought it back with me as a souvenir.  I fancy myself a Southern Belle in a former life.  Often, while teaching, I’d speak with a southern accent during an entire period.  It drove some students to distraction, mystified some, irritated others, and absorbed and entertained still others.  I didn’t really do it for them.  I love a southern accent.  My favorite heroine is Scarlett O’Hara.  Fiddledeedee, why not speak with southern flair?

I haven’t written poetry for some time, but I must.  I love writing poetry.  It requires more accuracy in word choice, a sparseness, a clarity, that other kinds of writing don’t demand and speaking certainly doesn’t entertain.

Writing poetry is rather like growing a garden.  It’s never quite finished.  I pick the extra words out, like weeds sprouting up.  I water them so they’ll grow, laboring over the one or two words that just don’t fit where I’ve planted them.  I find, late June or early July, bare spots after everything has matured.  I must plant more, dig for more words to plant in my poem. Ah, but then, the bouquet, the aroma, the beauty of color arrives.  I put a title on my poem, smooth down the last stragglers and present it to a crisp white page. I love a well-crafted garden, but I also love the ones that are more fun, less groomed.  I like wild gardens, wind-fall gardens. Words that are wind-falls are fun, too. Either way, I cherish all kinds of gardens, whether of flowers or words.

Words keep me company.  They travel with me.  They educate me.  I have jars and jars, journals and journals, lists and lists of words.  One can never have too many, you know.

Update On My Garden

Life in the garden is moving along nicely.  The front yard is pretty much ready for the summer except for a couple bags of mulch yet to be spread.  I’ve done some planting…all perennials except for the basket flowers.  This one is a coneflower “Confection Southern Belle.”

A new perennial

A new perennial

Remember the hydrangea that I wasn’t sure had survived winter?  Here it is early Spring and now.  It has finally decided to join the rest of the garden.  It even has blossoms coming, which is a change from last year, when it produced no flowers at all.  This is all good.  It’s time to pour some pickle juice around the base!

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We also cleaned up the weeds in the backyard from our patio in front of the shed, which needs to be painted, but that’s another blog entry.  It looks great without weeds growing through every crevice.    Now we  have to clean up and  plant the backyard.  We’ve been spraying with the homemade killer–gallon of vinegar, 1/4 cup original Dawn dish soap and 2 cups Epsom salts.  It works.


I’ll show you some more pictures as we progress!


Ballykissangel is a BBC television show, set in Ireland, and produced from 1995 to 2000. Our friend Sandy recommended it to us. We’ve actually been to Avoka, Ireland, where it was filmed. So, we checked out the first DVD from our local public library and sat down to watch. Immediately we were enamored with the quirky, casual village-like setting. Each character has his or her own foibles and charms. The activity centers around the local pub—Fitzgerald’s. We quickly felt that it was reminiscent of a favorite show of ours from the early 90s—Northern Exposure. Everyone in the town knows the flaws of every other person, but each accepts everyone. A new priest arrives in town, beginning the ensemble eclectic show’s adventures. He’s odd-man-out having been shipped in from a parish in England. You can imagine the story lines as he meets the beautiful, hard-headed, anti-church barkeep. She gives him a run for his money!

Ballykiss  You may recognize a young Colin Ferrel!

Let’s just say, it is a slice-of-life celebration, replete with the sneaky businessman, the newly married couple, the older priest who is critical of everyone, the 40-ish woman veterinarian and her male friend, the soft-hearted school teacher. Two quirky and clumsy pals with more life experience than formal education are the physical laborers in town. Don’t be mistaken, though. This is not a comedy. It is not a drama. It’s life. Characters fall in love, experience challenges and frustrations, laugh and play jokes on each other…and some die. The first death shocked us. It was like losing a personal friend.

Now we have the last DVD to watch—the fifth and final season. I do not want it to be over. I do not want to leave Ballykissangel, Ireland. I will miss my friends. I recommend it to anyone who likes to curl up on the sofa with a bowl of popcorn to watch a collection of people traveling through life together, arguing, supporting and loving each other.

Shiloh, Bingo, Henry

Shiloh. Bingo. Henry. Those are the three names our dog Henry has had in his lifetime.

My husband was walking him today when a man and his daughter called to him that Henry had been the woman’s daughter’s dog. His name was Shiloh. Tom, a bit concerned, replied, “He’s Henry now.” They were thrilled to see him.  Tom told them that the shelter where we found him had named him Bingo.

They talked to Shiloh, who ignored them until they called him Henry. Henry had been a “master of escape” they said. Then, the most surprising information—Henry, who we believed to be three years old, is actually nine! Kind of sad, as we thought we would have many years with him. Our last dog, our beloved Sage, died at 10.

Once he’d been hit by a car. The Vet didn’t think he’d make it through the night but he rallied and went home the next day. We know that he doesn’t like to lift one of his back feet to be wiped off when he comes in with mud on his paws. That explains that.

They told us he’s a Tree Walker Coon Hound. We had pegged him as a Fox Hound. Either way, he hates cats, rabbits and squirrels, which we were clearly aware of. He’s exceptionally smart. When we got him from the shelter, he was house broken, could shake “hands” on command, and knew many words. He knows where the food is kept and stands in front of it when he’s hungry. He knows where his treats live, and he looks at the container, then us, then the container when he’d like one. He’s mild mannered and a loving boy.

His quirkiest habit is he likes to burrow beneath the throw on the sofa. We call it his man cave. He “goes under” when he needs to be alone. Our daughter says that if he could talk, he’d have an English accent.

So, a friend of his previous owners called to tell them that they saw Shiloh at the shelter. They went out to get him, but we had just taken him home. That was two years ago. They were glad to see that he has a loving home and was doing well. Oddly enough, the previous owners live about a block and a half from us. It’s a small world. Their loss was our great luck.

We love our Henry Bingo Shiloh.

Henry and his little sister Winnie

  Henry and his little sister Winnie

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Texas Bluebonnets

We recently drove to Houston, Texas, to visit my brother and his family. It’s about a 1000 mile trek.   The drive was lovely. The further south we ventured, the more spring had awakened. At each rest stop, the Eastern Redbud trees were blooming, tulips popping, bougainvillea and wisteria drooping in vivid color like water drops ready to fall from the eves. Most exciting, though, were the fields of bluebonnets in Texas.   Rich blue flowers mingled with a handful of yellow and orange flowers. At one place along the highway, probably twenty cars were stopped on the road and fifty or more people were clicking photos of family and friends romping in the blue pools of blossoms. It was as if they had spotted a famous actor or singer and wanted a selfie with the star. The stars were the flowers, Texas’s state flower. It was a wonder to see. Of course, we pulled over and joined the holiday.

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Popping through and waking up!

It’s a beautiful, sunny day. We will hopefully reach the predicted 70 degrees. So, I went out to see if any of those knuckles or bullets had appeared since my last check of the garden. Indeed, they are thrusting through the cool, lumpy dirt.

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These are the peonies I am always so glad to see. They’re the early birds. I have blooms of magenta, pink and white, so they make a lovely bouquet. If you’ve never grown peonies and decide to try, remember that they need the ants for the blooms to open, so don’t kill them or discourage them. I just shake them off at the door when I bring in a bouquet. Often, one lone scout makes it into the kitchen and runs around like a crazy man. No harm. I actually found a website http://www.peonies.org/faq0.html. They corroborated the story I’d always heard about ants and peonies. Although they did say that ants are not crucial to the plant blooming. It’s nice to be told officially that the wives tale I’ve heard for years is true. What surprised and pleased me is that peonies have their own website!


Other plants are beginning to rise from their slumber. It’s too early to take the fallen leaves off them because in Zone 5 we can get frost for another 3-4 weeks. The almanac says April 26. I am sort of a naturalist in that I don’t baby my garden. I do not run out with a bed sheet to cover them up if the temperature drops. Some years they get hit with frost and rally. Sometimes they don’t come back. I am okay either way. If something dies, I will replace it, looking for something hardier.

The hardiest of hardy is the dandelion, which I never kill because they help our friends the bees.  I will cut them out before they take over, but I am okay with them to a point.  I do have many bees–I talk to them.


So, every day I will check to see growth. I can’t stand them up in a door frame and mark their height with a pencil, but I can document the growth with my camera, so check back again.

The early spring garden

So close to gardening weather, with spring’s arrival, that I needed to hike out the front door and find where plants will be born from the black soil soon. It’s all rather ugly right now. The soil is moist and cold. The remaining rags of plants from last season create medallions on the surface.


This was—and will be again—a hosta. It was a large plant last summer and may need to be divided. That’s not terribly difficult. It requires removing the plant from the soil, dividing it with a knife or shovel, and replanting the quartered plant to new locations. I’ve done it before with success. It’s a great way to share plants with friends or family who often admire your garden.


Early spring finds little attention on the peony plant. Except for the few twigs emerging from the soil, you wouldn’t know that a plant is even here! Don’t be fooled. Peony nubs, like little knuckles, will begin to poke through the ground in a close circular pattern. At first, at about an inch above the ground, they are green with a reddish tip, shaped similarly to a bullet or a lipstick tube. It only takes a day or two of sunshine for the nubs to become spindly arms stretching skyward. In an additional week or two, the plants fill out and grow to about 24 inches tall. The blossoms emerge as small Christmas bulb-like shapes, hanging from the new limbs. Then, one morning, boom! The blossoms emerge, large, bright, and heavy. Gorgeous.


I love yard architecture. It adds height and style to plants. Here, my garden selfie, shows me taking a picture of metal props. They hold up tall grasses, not yet green, and add interest to the winter garden. I haven’t set out the trucks or gargoyles or fairies yet. The fun stuff, like the plants, go into hiding for the winter.

This is the one I am worried about—my hydrangea. It is a beautiful, round bush that, last year, didn’t bloom at all because of the ferociously cold winter. This year, I hope it goes back to its prolific self, supplying me with dinner plate blooms. I know that new growth comes on the dead growth, so I


never give it a severe haircut in the fall. Besides, I like the spikes sticking out of the snow. Hopefully, it will reinvent itself this spring, grow robust and bloom like a beauty queen for me. I will water it with dill pickle juice in water this spring to bring out the blues of the blossoms. Blue blossoms crave acidic soil and what better home remedy than pickle juice!

So, that’s where we are, the garden and I. We are waiting, not so patiently, for warmth and sun to coax us out of our winter shelter. Soon.