Tag Archives: dill

To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves. ~Mahatma Gandhi


May is the wackiest, loveliest month, swinging from soaring heat to frigid cold. Now that the month is almost over, seasonable temps have arrived, and we’ve gotten some nice rain. Despite this roller coaster weather, most of the plants survived.

We grow hardy perennials, reseeding heirlooms, wildflowers (some might be called weeds), herbs…greens, especially Swiss chard, and a forest of dill. It’s possible I accidentally planted two seed packets. We’re reluctant to thin the excess as swallowtail butterfly caterpillars feed on the ferny foliage. Much of the dill is left to bury whatever else we had in that vicinity. Carrots, maybe…beets…  Some of the adult butterflies are soaring about the garden(s).

(Image of Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar and ladybug below taken today)

(Black Swallowtail on Bee Balm from a past summer)

Our garden is not carefully planned, and exists as much for the bees, butterflies, and beneficial insects as for us. We have a lot of ladybugs, lacewings, baby praying mantis, hover flies that resemble honey bees but are beneficials…and I’m not sure what, but a lot of good bugs to battle the bad. The plants often determine what grows. Those that do well tend to be takeover varieties, requiring some management.  By August it’s a jungle. Every single year. But this spring we’ve  mulched with a lot of hay, made valiant attempts at order. We even mulched many of the flower beds with bark like other people do, leaving spots for the reseeding flowers to do their thing, and make frequent rounds to pull out weeds, thistles, etc. But the ‘etc.’ has a way of overcoming all. Perhaps it’s best to do what we can and glory in the untamed beauty. We rarely achieve tamed.

(Swiss Chard with Peas behind below)

Weather means more when you have a garden. There’s nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans. ~Marcelene Cox

My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view. ~H. Fred Dale (Thanks, Anne)

Gardening requires lots of water — most of it in the form of perspiration. ~Lou Erickson

God made rainy days so gardeners could get the housework done. ~Author Unknown
I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from and Old Manse

Gardens are a form of autobiography. ~Sydney Eddison, Horticulture magazine, August/September 1993

Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity. ~Lindley Karstens, noproblemgarden.com


You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt. ~Author Unknown

How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence. ~Benjamin Disraeli

The garden is the poor man’s apothecary. ~German Proverb

(Heirloom peony)

Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination. ~Mrs. C.W. Earle, Pot-Pourri from a Surrey Garden, 1897 (Thanks, Jessica)

No two gardens are the same. No two days are the same in one garden. ~Hugh Johnson

(Happy Coreopsis)

Wham! It’s Spring!


shirley poppies, larkspur, coreopsis tinctoria

(Larkspur, Shirley poppies, Coreopsis tinctoria, in bed along road by Elise)

We flashed from cold nights with the threat of frost and chill winds blowing when we worked in the garden, to full-blown, everything needs to be done NOW–spring. The valley is like that. Whimsical, enchanting, maddening May. I’m torn between admiration for the wondrous beauty bursting out all over, to how the heck are we gonna get everything weeded, planted, mulched, etc. The annual gardening challenge. Even with vital help from daughter, Elise, keeping up with our many gardens is getting beyond us. She has art projects and a job. I’m supposed to be writing stories, and then there’s all the things to do to keep a household afloat and maintain contact with friends and family. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, ball games, recitals…all that stuff called life.

dill and poppies

The fact that certain body parts are complaining about the sudden rush, also has to be taken into account. Mine, not Elise’s. She’s young and in better shape. That’s why we go with the carefree wildflower meadow look as much as we do, and just beat back the worst of the weeds; those declared pretty stay.

Our flower beds are a mix of reseeding heirloom annuals, wildflowers, and perennials that come back from the root, bulbs, some rose, and of course, a lot of herbs. We love herbs, and always want more.

The vegetable garden is a beast in itself to keep up and requires much diligence. although, it doesn’t always get it. We still seem to harvest an abundance of edibles, though. And yes, it’s all organic. We use composted manure, hay, and whatever else we can get our hands on that’s lying about the farm breaking down and no longer of use for feeding cows. The beds that reseed heavily get no mulch, just tending to keep plants in some kind of bounds. I spray an occasional herbal brew on them to feed and fight fungus and some bugs, but only with stuff that doesn’t hurt the bees and butterflies.. If anyone is interested in the particulars, I’m glad to share.

(Dill and heirloom poppies above by Elise)

fuzzy sage with blue larkspur

(Sage and larkspur by Elise)

Sometimes I also receive assistance from the ten and under crowed, but there’s a limit to how much you can count on from a four and six-year-old, or even those who’ve achieved the great age of seven. By the time the grandbabies are of old enough to really enter in, will they still be interested in gardening? That remains to be seen.

The cats are not much help in the garden, but the outside ones look on while I labor. My dogs want to be with me every second, which isn’t possible for tiny Sadie Sue when it gets too hot or cold or much of anything. She peters out pretty fast, so she sits by the kitchen door or looks out the windows and protests loudly. Jilly also wants to be by my side, but will head for the hills, I fear, if not on her lead. Good old Luca can come along. And that’s the gang. I need gardening elves.

wildflowers and reseeding annuals

***Larkspur and coreopsis tinctoria by Elise

I’ve written a book about herbs, Plants For A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles. available in print and kindle at Amazon. Many of these herbs are also used today. It’s also in print at Barnes & Noble.

‘An illustrated collection of plants that could have been grown in a Medieval Herb or Physic Garden in the British Isles. The major focus of this work is England and Scotland, but also touches on Ireland and Wales. Information is given as to the historic medicinal uses of these plants and the rich lore surrounding them. Journey back to the days when herbs figured into every facet of life, offering relief from the ills of this realm and protection from evil in all its guises.’

(Images are from late last May and soon to be repeating here, more or less,)

In My Garden~


Evening primrose (4)In my garden(s), a sea of herbs and flowers continually change with the season.  Some perennials are lost each winter and new ones are planted by my daughter Elise and me, others by the birds. I’ve a wild aster covered with small white flowers that blooms from late spring into summer, very pretty re­ally. I like white flowers glowing at dusk while all else fades.

Several plants reign supreme because of Elise. ‘Magic flowers,’ yellow evening primrose, occupy a corner at the edge of the vegetable garden. She rushes me out at twilight to view the wonder as they pop open, charged with fragrance. Hummingbird moths swoop in like little fairies to feed on the blossoms.

iStock_000001550421XSmallElise doesn’t like the bats that also come. I love the nighthawks that swoop and call in the soft summer evening. Dill is another favorite because black swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on its leaves and hatch into little caterpillars which Elise watches closely, puts some into jars and feeds until they make a chrysalis, then one day they emerge with wet crumpled wings and she releases them to the sky. I feel a bit like those uncertain butterflies, taking those first tentative flights.

This is an excerpt from my non-fiction collection about country life entitled Shenandoah Watercolors.