Tag Archives: Cottage garden flowers

Climbing Out of the Rabbit Hole


A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King…
~Emily Dickinson

If anyone wondered at my long blog absence and reappearance, I had a flare up of my weird form of chronic leukemia (T-cell LGL) this past year, resulting in many and persistent infections. After months on antibiotics, my oncologist started me on oral chemo. Heavy fatigue accompanied the med, but she tweaked my dose, the infections are better under control, and I’m feeling more myself. Not only that, but spring, the great motivator, launched me into action. Spring fever has me sowing dozens of flowers, sweet peppers, basil, tomato seeds, potting up dahlias (to give them a head start), digging holes for roses and scouring the garden for spots to plant the many new ones I ordered.

(Native Virginia phlox and coral bells)

‘The sun has come out… and the air is vivid with spring light.’ ~Byron Caldwell Smith (1849–1877), letter to Kate Stephens (1853–1938)

I’m adding two varieties of dwarf delphiniums, and salvia, violas, peach colored hollyhocks…I started from seed. More catmint (nepeta), hardy geraniums, Oriental lilies, clematis, and lavender have gone into the Memorial Garden, or soon will. And the list goes on of roses, bulbs, and plants I’ve specially ordered or started from seed. I’m also putting in a salad/vegetable garden. It’s downsized from before but will still produce plenty of greens and veges. Mixing flowers with vegetables and herbs is a favorite of mine and is good for attracting beneficials to the garden. I’m sprinkling seed around like a flower fairy. 

Yes, I get quite tired, but after a good rest I return to the garden, digging, planting, dividing clumps of asters and phlox and, and. It’s truly a magical place, apart from our crazy spring weather that seems bent on wreaking havoc. After several days of ridiculously warm days, we’re windswept with a cold bluster and threated with frost. This is a recurring garden challenge in the Shenandoah Valley in spring. Another bullet is headed our way tonight. Fingers crossed we dodge it.

I’ve gardened forever, but my endeavors really took off when I decided to create the Memorial Garden after my dad and younger brother, Chad, died. This living memorial is also for my mother-in-law whose garden this was before me and who passed soon after my father. I got really serious about taking care of my plants and went stark rose mad. Once you catch rose madness, there’s no return, so take care. I’m now committed to caring for dozens of roses with more on the way. Can you have too many bulbs or roses? Nae. I’m also taken with Oriental lilies…

Stay tuned.

Now that I’ve recovered some energy, I might even work on my long-neglected time travel. Here’s hoping.

Consider the Lilies


(Star Gazer Oriental Lily)

Liles reign in July. Their stately spires and glorious blooms take centerstage when the Japanese beetles are at their worse and my poor roses are frazzled and frayed. Two years ago, without realizing how big they’d get, I planted bulbs of a large white lily. The image accompanying the advertisement pictured the stalks towering over a small child, so I figured maybe waist/chest height for me. I had not yet heard of tree lilies and missed the image of these flowers rising above a women. The first season they were big but not like this second year. They’re taller than me. Lilies rise from the Memorial Garden like Jack’s beanstalk, with an incredibly sweet fragrance. Their pure white flowers scent the air, especially in the evening, but it’s always heavenly near them.

One of our Old Order Mennonite neighbors called me about these giants. She frequently passes our farm in her horse and buggy and has ample opportunity to admire the flowers. These lilies are like nothing she’s ever seen. If I get around to it this fall, I’ll divide this clump and give her several bulbs. I also grow the Star Gazer Oriental lilies and a variety of others. Lilies are magical additions to the garden. Last fall I fell all over Breck’s lily grab bag sale and wound up with quite a few new varieties. Exciting! But I was busy getting these bulbs in until Christmas. Fortunately, the ground wasn’t frozen hard. Last winter was mild. Who knows about 2021-2022?

My main challenge with lilies isn’t winter but spring. I mulch the bulbs well to discourage early growth. Even so, they are almost always lured out by an unseasonable warm spell in April and then zapped by frost. Every spring I’m out covering clumps of lilies to try and protect the sensitive stalks from the icy blast. If a stalk is hit, it’s gone. Tiger lilies are more resistant to the cold. I also grow daylilies and they can handle lower temps than the Oriental and Asiatic varieties. These beauties are worth the battle, I remind myself on those chilly spring evenings. They are royalty.

(Gorgeous white tree lilies)

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin; yet I say unto you, Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” ~Matthew 6: 28.

Lilies and I have a long history. I memorized this verse (part of a longer passage) as a child and proudly recited it for the entire school. Those were different days. It was a public school in Bristol, Tennessee. I’ve always liked this passage as it assures us of God’s care, but also because of the lilies. I loved flowers even then. I checked to see what variety of lily is referred to in this verse and it seems they are a native red anemone. Very pretty, but not what I’d envisioned. I guess something got lost in translation. Just as well, the word anemone would have gone over my head as a child.

(Above: Red carpet of flowers in Shokeda Forest, Israel. Image by Zachi Evenor.)

If you haven’t ever planted lilies, give them a go. Watch for sales. I have several dozen bulbs to get in the ground from a summer sale. I plant them in among the roses and other flowers. A perfect cottage garden plant, the look I aim for.

(Tiger lilies above)

(The big white lily again)