Thursday, May 4, 2023

Spring is Here!


Greetings after a long winter! Somehow it's already May, and it seems like most of Spring has snuck by me.

There were some nice days in April, but also some stretches of cold, wet, windy days, so I've done very little in my gardens until recently.

But it certainly seems like I've been busy all winter -- a quick update on what I've been up to: 

  • My retail store was destroyed in early October, and finding and remodeling a new space, re-ordering all the inventory and furnishings, and getting going again was incredibly time-consuming through February (I'm still dealing with the insurance).
  • Then I got terribly sick with influenza in mid-December, which took over a month to recover from; followed by two colds, one three weeks ago from which I'm only now feeling strong enough to work outside after. 
  • My husband had hip replacement surgery several weeks ago and he's needed my help
  • and I published my latest garden history book last week:

My book is about a Japanese garden builder who lived in Chicago during the early 20th century. In my earlier book, Iowa Gardens of the Past (2020), I included a short section about a c.1930 Japanese-style garden in Muscatine, Iowa, now part of the Muscatine Art Museum grounds. The museum director asked me to look into the history of their garden, and I discovered that it was likely built by that Chicago garden builder. But almost nothing was known about him, so I wrote a book about his life and work (he built numerous rock gardens and Japanese-style gardens throughout the Midwest). This was really quite fascinating -- I learned about Japanese samurai (his father was one), the Japanese-style gardens built at World's Fairs, classical Japanese garden manuals, Chicago history, and many other topics -- as well as the stories of the wealthy clients who hired him to build gardens for them. Perhaps obscure, but tremendously interesting work.

But spring marches on, no matter how many other things we're doing. Here are a few pictures of some spring scenes around my gardens from the last month:

This "patio" dwarf ornamental peach tree has never bloomed more a few flowers in the decade I have had it, so I was astounded by the copious flowering this spring! I guess the weather was just right this year, plus, I did cut back some of the limbs last fall -- perhaps that further stimulated it. Whatever the cause, it's been beautiful.

This Magnolia 'White Rose' in my North Island flowered well this year too.

The North Border is looking pretty good this spring. My teenage son put two loads of wood chip mulch on last fall as a birthday present for me, and it's much less weedy than usual -- I'll have to stay on top of the weeds this year...

This Korean Spice Viburnum makes the whole yard smell wonderful.

Not so many tulips this year -- I planted a bunch of them two autumns ago and they made quite a show last spring, but only a few are left among the self-seeded bachelor buttons coming up.

This tiny fern-leaf peony is doing well in my Paradise Garden right next to my front porch, where I can see it up close and personal.

And this is the newest addition to our household: meet Henry (1/2 Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, 1/2 rat terrier). He has a rather bad dog mischievous look on his little face, don't you think? He does still need to be trained to not chase our two cats, and I'm discovering that he likes to "help" me in the garden rather too much. But he'll soon pull more than his own weight in the garden, by keeping away deer, rabbits--and the coyotes that we see encroaching in the corn fields around us (I feel uneasy letting our cats out at night, where they really want to be on warm nights, since our last dog, Puppy, died last autumn at age 14).  

We have finally been enjoying a few days of nice weather this week, and it's been good to be able to get outside and start clearing out the beds I haven't been able to get to yet. And I have been working on a new garden project, which I'll show in my next post. 

Until then, I hope you are enjoying some beautiful warm late spring days in your own gardens. Thanks for stopping by! -Beth 


  1. It's great to see a post from you again! I always enjoy seeing what is going on in your garden. Congratulations on your new book! Beth from Des Moines

    1. I'm so glad you've stopped by, Beth -- I hope you're enjoying our finally warm spring days in your beautiful gardens! Thanks! -Beth

  2. Congratulations on the publication of your book, Beth! Sounds like an interesting biography! Your yard and gardens look great--what a fantastic gift from your son! I'll have to drop some hints in earshot of mine!

    1. Hi Kimberley, Thanks for reading, and yes, a teenage son is very useful in the garden. Hints are good! Hope you are enjoying the springtime! -Beth :-)