Sweet Sixteen 2018

With perpetual spring on the mind, garden season 2018 ushered in a mild, wet February which gave chase to severe flooding in urban and rural areas alike after a massive snowfall followed by a quick melt off with torrents of rain.  The levels of water higher than the likes of this area had ever seen before.  Wishful thinking had me pondering the plans for renovating  the side courtyard here at home, a project long overdue.  A fine muck of soil, that thankfully drained away from the house foundation, kept a constant trail of muddy paw and shoe prints across the kitchen floor.  Restoration was in order here too.  In place of poured concrete stairs, perfectly hewn rock faced limestone treads were installed and embellished with warm rustic Chilton ledgestones.  The seemingly sweet little indulgence was a much needed necessity  for ease and safety of foot traffic flow.  Impeccably laid stairs are a beautiful sight to behold; an art form from ages of old, a guild of it’s own.
Some may say I have put the cart before the horse in planting up our new courtyard garden.  Not here though.  The stairs were in, mortar was dry, paths marked, gravel tamped and weather ideal. All that is missing is the flagstone walkway and patio.  I couldn’t pass up a good greenhouse  sale though.  It’s like a fabric store to the quilter, a quarry to the stonemason, or the infinite possible forms a piece of rock is to the sculptor.  The plants went in and rest of work to be finished next year.  All good things come to those who wait I suppose.  I am more than thankful for this years good work given to me, the friends that help along the way and look forward to where the path may lead in the year to come.
Some say there are many forms of love, and at October’s end, I loved gazing upon the late blooming mirage of perennials; blurring the lines of perspective where the soul is at peace and all comes to a point on a path that is yet to be laid.  I can see it now, a thousand years of evolution in rose hued sandstone.  It is the ideal compliment to Echinacea Rainbow Marcella, burgundy tones of Sedum Telephiun and the coral bells of Penstemon.  Add a splash of blue Salvia Officinalis and all is well.

Rays of Hope 2017

In a frenzy of design and installation, 27 trees, 179 shrubs, 467 perennials, 700 annuals and 980 bulbs were planted for a total of 2,353 specimens this year.  Normally not one to boast but that’s a whole lot of digging. Entering the 16th year of this profession proved a bit challenging with my resume’ reading as blisters sculpted in sinewy palms. For the love of the art, I wouldn’t have it any other way! A mild spring  made opening season a pleasure with light weeding, mulching and installing bulbs for potted displays. At home, cherries were prolific at the end of June with a bumper crop to harvest and hours of patient pit removing that ensued. The pie was worth the wait.

Another generation of dragonfly re-visited sculpture made for a garden I tended at the same time and date as previous year. There is inexplicable magic in it’s timing on 7/11 at 1:11 pm; as if it’s unspoken presence represented an ancient ‘Anum Cara’ as the Irish say. Later this season, there was an ever present calling from a great horned owl’s hoot. It foreshadowed the changes to come in the weather. Usually sitting high and dry by mid-July, it was quite the opposite with above average levels of rain and over-saturated soil.  All that was planted earlier was not done in vain; most of the trees installed took root and flourished, withstood the following two-month drought and a few waned before their time.

So the good bones of garden design stand the test of time clad in carefully placed rock, forgiving and unhewn by human hand. Their soul essence alive with time immortal; stoic and steadfast as as an old friend, treelike in their entrenched presence. Another year awaits ahead of tree planting and garden tending.  Elder trees in their holy splendor speaking: it’s winter here, rest, renew and time to sharpen the shovel. There is much to look forward to in 2018.

Potential. Winter 2016

Garden season 2016 was an ascendancy of landscape projects completed and some still in the works for 2017.  Successful and fulfilling none the less.  In all, it’s befitting to quote the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition, To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded.”  Many garden patches made and renovations underway, we were blessed with another extended Michigan growing season.

Entering into the longest night of winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, those narcissus bulbs planted at the last of November will be a welcome sight come spring.  The first snowfall of the year arrived the day after on December 1st, enveloping the land in a gentle sleep of alabaster white.  It marks another season of change and transformation as symbolically seen in the image of a dragonfly perched atop a sculpture made for a garden I tend.  There it sat for hours, allured by the metallic sheen of refined elements and sunshine, warming it’s iridescent wings as it rested along its brief journey.  It gives a beacon hope that although the human journey may not always be easy, the road winding and shrouded in uncertainty at times,  the labored sorrows of stone will pave the way for new growth; there is always expectant optimism for next years success.  Spring 2017 will begin with the installation of a butterfly/pollinator way station, laden with asclepias ‘tuberosa’ and ‘ syriaca’, echinacea ‘purpea’, aster ‘purple dome’,  buddleia, and halos of solidago.  Anticipating the warmth of spring while being cradled in the dormant hope of winter.   I’m quite sure those daffodils will have had sufficient time to root.



Winter 2015

As the proverbial adage says:  “A gardeners work is never done.”   There is truth to this as it extends to all facets of life beyond the garden.  With a list the size of St. Nick’s that seems to keep growing, the mild fall and start of winter provided a much needed opportunity to winterize gardens and thin out overgrown stands of native plants that encroach upon some of smaller and rare species.  It also kept my creative gears turning with new possibilities for 2016; attempting to heed some sage advice from the ancient Greek gardens of Delphi and the Acropolis which are in all biased opinion, some of the most perfect and natural in scale.  Succeeding gardens of the western world are a bit disenchanting and quite contrived. What a world it would be if we could all take note and tread more lightly upon the earth and leave the land a little less altered for future generations.

Record high temperatures in mid December had many worrying about fruit cultures that could begin to bloom again before the first hard frost.  The farmer blood in me says not to fret until February and March.  Still, numerous perennials were and are late in reaching dormancy this year, so I let them be and gave into nature to care for them and provide the sustenance they need for next seasons growth. The extended warm spell however, left ample time for additional  landscaping and installing a few last minute native wildflower patches; a gift to the beneficial bees and butterflies.  There were many more native bumble bees this year in the gardens I cared for which is a good thing since they tend to pick up twice as much pollen on their hairs than the non-native honey bee.  The late blooming asters fed them well into fall, one of the most optimal times to plant hardy perennials, shrubs and trees.  A time when said:  the roots grow deep and strong, conserving precious energy for the spring.  So it is as the work of the gardener is never done, and  such is the parents job with a child as we strive to give them both roots  and wings at the same time.  I embrace the quiet of winter more now than ever.

Happy Winter… SageGreen


Spring 2015 is emerging with the hope and renewal of a season more mild than last year. Nature teaches us that patience is more that a virtue, but a deep sense of belief that life willcontinue on. In Michigan, the quiet of winter brings forth time to reflect, take inventory and plan the landscapes for the upcoming season. There was less desiccation and die back on broadleaf evergreens, deciduous shrubs and ornamental trees than 2014; the harshest winter in nearly a century. They were however, fodder for the deer in woodland and prairie locations if left unprotected.

Crocus, Galanthus ‘Snow Drops’ and Winter Aconite are in full bloom soon to be followed by daffodils and tulips; all of which can weather the extreme fluctuations in springtime temperatures. From the large to even the tiniest, threatened and quite rare Snow Trillium ‘Trillium Nivale’ currently in bloom in the wild, (check out Sageimages.com, a close family members collection of nature photography) they serve as a reminder that creation is a self-sustaining ecological system where death provides the means for new life. Summer 2014 ended with destructive storms in August and ended with a double rainbow. Spring 2015 opened with gentle rains on April 10th and those observant enough to see, a full arch rainbow in it’s midst.

Happy Spring!