A Drought That Did Not Kill

There is a bit of a drought going on in my corner of the world, both in my thoughts and in my garden.

A familiar quote that kept  coming up this week is…

I will never look into the eyes of a person God does not love.[1]

…I like that. Sometimes I recommend this quote to others, those caught in a cycle of self deprecation, to keep it in mind when they look in the mirror.

As for the garden…even in a drought, it blooms:

Lantana camara ‘Anne Marie’

Platycodon grandiflorus ‘Astra Blue’

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Annabelle’

Anethum graveolens, Dill!

Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’ (I think…)

Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’

And this guy

Let us pray for rain to refresh our wearied soil.

[1] Don’t know the origin of this quote, but it sounds like a paraphrase of any number of the Church doctors.

Images Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB, all rights reserved.

Mother has the Patience of a Saint

Soloman's seal and cross

Solomon’s seal and cross

Silently she stands, peering at me from around a tree as I slog my way through the project. She’s been waiting for me to complete her rose garden.

I started it the beginning of May, the month dedicated to our Holy Mother. The idea for a Marian rose garden didn’t originate with me, it was by request. The thought of attempting to garden again was a challenge to how I’ve come to see myself with physical limitations. It felt like a dare, and I usually don’t respond to those. Taking on this project would mean learning about patience and moderation so there would be minimal aches from my Mary behind treearthritic spine.

Moving forward a lot of prayers were offered as I struggled to let go of expectations. Tasks I had done in less than thirty minutes now took the better part of a day, and a day in between to recover. Prayer also supplied endurance to persevere—and needed materials.

One expectation that had to be let go was that the garden would be completed by Mother’s Day. I now hope for the end of the month, on The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, May 31.

The next phase was to deal with the sod, and then plant the roses. I fussed for a few days on the placement of the bushes, finally deciding the order of the roses should be white/Joyful Mysteries, red/Sorrowful Mysteries, yellow/Glorious Mysteries, and last purple for the recently added Luminous Mysterious—the sorrowful being embraced on each side with joy and glory.

There is still more to do.

Next was trenching out the sod for the edging of bricks—those lovely, now clean treasures! The bricks will provide an edge for the lawn mower wheel to ride over, eliminating the need to trim the grass. edger flippedHaving learned earlier the benefit and ease of using an electric edger, I repeated the process, cutting two lines around the bed in the width of the bricks. I found the cultivating hoe was perfect for rolling up strips of sod. Over the course of a couple of days I was ready for ground cloth and mulch.

cutting edging brickscutting edging pulling strip







To lay the ground cloth, secure the material with U-shaped landscaping pins at the farthest edge and unroll to the other end, leaving about two inches extra at each end. The material will usually blow around, so I used a brick to hold a portion in place while I worked my way across the bed. Slide the cloth up onto the sod/soil and cut a line partially across the material so it will go around a bush. When you figure the cloth is far enough up, cut an X and fold the flaps under so the cloth encircles the bush. Pin the split in place and move on to the next plant. Repeat the process for the next course of ground cloth, allowing a three inch overlap on top of the previous row. Pin in place. It took three courses of material to cover my garden area.

Trim back the extra cloth allowing an extra two inches or more to lie under a flat edging; in my case, the bricks. If you are using a vertical edging you’ll leave only one inch and slide the ground cloth between the edging and the soil on the garden side.

Next week, the finishing touches.

I made poetry stones, too!

(All images by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl OSB. All rights reserved.)

I Get My Kicks Finding Bricks

crabapple-2 Apple BlossomsI needed bricks for the Marian rose garden, and for a bird bath feature. I didn’t need a skid and to buy them each, new, well that seemed a bit expensive and silly. What with all the buildings being torn down in town I thought I could find some used, but no such luck there either. A friend’s sister owns a brick business, but she too wanted a buck-a-brick, or there about.

After nearly a month I gave up the hunt, decided instead to buy a couple bags of cement and, having colorant and steppingstone kits in the basement, would make my own. The bricks wouldn’t look as rustic and artsy, though the cost would be pennies a piece. The project would take until mid-summer to complete. I had hoped to finish the Marian garden by Mother’s Day.

Mornings are reserved for scripture, the Divine Office, and intercessory prayers and rosary. I’d finished my two cups of coffee with Christ and as I blew out the candle, looked to the Divine Mercy image and half-heartedly asked “Can you send me some bricks please? They’re for your mom.”

And I heard (well not physically heard, but you know…knew) the words, “Go dig.”

“What? Dig what? Where?” I waited. No response….

I made my breakfast and headed to the back porch. It was mid morning and the birds were singing a congregational worship in the old apple tree. A lot of birds. Twenty some years ago, when I first moved into this house, I removed a stationary glider from under its limbs because of them.

While eating breakfast I looked to the back of the yard. The two-tier wall of bricks behind the shed supported the Annabel hydrangeas. I thought of pulling down one tier for the new garden, and knew that that really wasn’t an option.

I took my dishes to the kitchen. From behind the door picked up the shed key and headed outside to do a bit more work in the future garden. Putting the gloves, basket, and spade into the wagon I planned to plant a rose bush or two.

“Go dig.”

There, again those words. I answered back, “I AM going to dig!”

I took a deep breath and stared at the stand of fiddle head ferns breaking ground under the apple tree. The birds were still boisterously rejoicing in the morning light.

Seriously…buried just below the surface, this is what I found:

bricks 1

Bricks 2








The soil was soft from the rains and the ferns had grown under and between the bricks so they were easily plucked like potatoes. I haven’t counted yet but I think there will be enough.


(Apple blossom image by pippalou, morguefile.com. All other images by Margaret Rose Realy, OBL. OSB. All rights reserved.)


Do I Dare Speak of Fall Mums in Spring? Practical Gardening

Shutterstock mums resizedWriting about hardy mums in the spring may seem like an oxymoron. Let me explain.

For years I’d listened to homeowners say what bad luck they had growing perennial chrysanthemums. They’d plant the big showy mums every fall and rarely found that they survived the winter and grew the following year. Tired of failing, they’d stopped planting them or only bought a couple of plants to toss into containers for fall interest.

The issue of not being hardy has to do with timing and the roots.

When you buy a fully developed mum in the fall, it has grown in its pot in a greenhouse for most of the summer. When removing the plant from the pot you can see the massive tangles of roots that developed. Attempting to tease them apart before planting, in this case, does little to establish the plant. Your big cushion mum takes up water to make it through the fall but lacks the time necessary to set new roots deep enough to survive our Zone 5 winters. The chances of these mums returning the following spring is less than 30%.

Yes, I know some of you have had luck over-wintering these potted mums; you are the 30%. The other 70% of us are left with a stalk attached to a nicely compacted and thoroughly dead root mass.

The point here is when to plant mums. The hardy mums you see sold in the spring are the same cultivars you will buy, fully grown in the autumn. They are the plugs used to pot-up for the big containers of cushion mums in September.

Hardy mum cultivars for Zone 5 are root pernicious through our winters, unlike florist mums that are a perennial only in the southern regions of the country.

To grow hardy mums that return every year, pick an appropriate well-drained and sunny site and plant them now. Many hardy cultivars are available at local greenhouses, and a few mass merchandisers may carry them as well. By planting hardy mums in May the root system will have sufficient time to become established before winter.

Just before you plant your mum, remove the top one-third of the central stem and pinch-off tips to remove all buds and flowers. Mums are terminal bloomers, which mean they bloom on the tips of new growth. By pinching the tips the plant sends out side branches, leading to more tips for flowers in the autumn.

A rule of thumb for when to pinch back established mums is based on our holidays: pinch them back by half on Memorial Day, and again on the 4th of July. After the second pinching let the mums develop their buds.

Bud development is based on photoperiodism, meaning the length of the period of light and night. Mums growing in the garden flower as the days become shorter. This is why we see them in late summer and autumn.

As the years go by and your mums return each spring and spread, remember to keep them pinched back. With larger masses of mums I often use hand held hedge clippers to quickly cut them in half.

By following these simple rules in spring, you’ll have a beautiful colorful display of cushion mums as summer comes to a close.

And so now I think I’ve redeemed myself from having spoken of autumn when spring has only begun.

For more by Margaret, visit catholicmom.com.

(Image by kiya-nochka, shutterstock.com.)

A Spring Resurrection, Flowers Rising

Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis

Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis

Here they come, the woodland plants. Its the one garden that remains in my yard–Mary’s Garden.

Because of arthritis, the rest of the flower beds were torn down since I couldn’t keep up with the maintenance.

I loved the exaggeration of spring, the sultry textures of late summer, the riotous autumn. But now…well its the time for a smaller, more mindful garden. spring 4

Lungwort, Pulmonaria

Lungwort, Pulmonaria









Do you have a lot of flowers? How about I come and visit your gardens?

Lenten Rose, Helleborus Red Racer

Lenten Rose, Helleborus ‘Red Racer’

spring 2

Well, okay, so maybe the rhubarb isn’t a woodlands plant…