Thanksgiving from the Garden

What our garden inhabitants might be saying about us

By Debra Knapke

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and even the backyard critters are weighing in their thanks.

From the birds: We have enjoyed the seed cones and suet you have placed outside. The new spicy seeds and suet are epicurean delights.



From the squirrels: Thank you for all the food you have put out for us. Our problem-solving skills have greatly improved as we have played the games you have so nicely provided for us. Please note: we do not like the spicy seed cones and suet that you have provided this year.

Photo from Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources

Photo from Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources

From the skunks and opossums: Thank you for the kitchen scraps that you kindly left out last year.  We noticed that you are now placing them inside the large fenced-in area. Please consider leaving the scraps in a more accessible location; we deserve a pleasant Thanksgiving, too.

Photo from Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources

From the frogs and toads: We have enjoyed the moist places you have provided for us in your bog and rain lily pots. The area under the fig tree is nice, too.frog in bog crop 08 toad rain lilies crop


From the deer: The hostas were particularly delicious this year. We tried some other plants that were new to us; quite tasty!IMG_2376 crop resize 2

From the assassin bug: The bean trellises attracted quite a few insects for my eating enjoyment. I apologize for startling you as you were picking beans for dinner. I hope you noticed I moved quickly away from your hand.

assassin 3 8-23-07 crop resize 2

I was not carrying my camera while harvesting beans, so here is an assassin bug in my magnolia.


From the bees: Thank you for the myriad of blooms that sustained us through this tough season. The spring was very wet and it was a challenge to gather nectar and pollen in the rain. We made up for it in your summer and fall flowers.63006 013


From the spiders: We appreciate that you did not remove us from your window by your sink and over your front door (sorry about scaring your daughter, but we noticed that your granddaughter thought we were cool). both places were perfect for catching unwary insects.

She was about 1” in diameter when her legs are pulled in close to her body as you see here. Fully extended she was over 1 ½” in diameter. Here she is perched above the door, in the shade, during the day.

She was about 1” in diameter when her legs are pulled in close to her body as you see here. Fully extended she was over 1 ½” in diameter. Here she is perched above the door, in the shade, during the day.

PS: Thank you to all of the species that share “my” garden. I have enjoyed watching you and learning so many lessons.



Growing Gratitude

pink lilyGardeners harvest more than flowers and food

By Michael Leach

Plants star as Thanksgiving Day traditions. From cranberries to pumpkins, flora rivals fauna when it comes to menu musts on festive dinner tables.

Gardeners value flora for more than traditions. Those of us who grow vegetables and fruits savor homegrown flavor unrivaled by competition in stores. Anyone who grows flowers, knows their fragrance and color bring a smile.

Besides the obvious, there are subtle, subliminal harvests that come to mind during this too-short-season of deliberate gratitude.

Be thankful for the family members, friends, neighbors and others who introduced you to gardening and nurtured you along the way. I think of Grandpa Leach and his furrows straight as laser beams. Mom, my mother’s mother, who grew a higgledy-piggledy collection of all sizes and colors of plants in her small backyard. My garden’s appearance meshes the laser sharp and come-what-may of their poles-apart approaches.

-Auntie and Uncle had a mixed vegetable garden. She tended rows of marigolds and fiesta colored zinnias. He carefully cultivated Beefsteak tomatoes.IMG_0214

Perhaps the most important people are my mother and father, who allowed my little sister and I to have our own plot in the large backyard surrounded by flat, farm fields stretching to the ends of the world. Grow what you like we were told. For me, it was some of Auntie’s zinnias and marigolds, plus a couple of small lilac starts.

The latter continue to hang on despite the dense shade of a sycamore tree, once a mere sapling pulled up from a back woods creek in Adams County, Ohio. Little did I realize this souvenir from a marvelous autumn  afternoon hike with a friend would tower so high, so quickly. (Well, it has been almost 40 years since the young sycamore was planted here.)

Numerous gardening friends have shared plants that make amiable companions with family heirlooms.

None of these people share Thanksgiving Day with me anymore, though their memories return when walking through the backyard. They come alive when I see their favorite plants in my garden or those of others. They live again whenever I share how-to moments with those new to gardening, always hoping my enthusiasm is as contagious as theirs was to me.

Narcissu Geranium cropThere are subconscious effects of plants. A “host” of dancing daffodils brought the poet Wordsworth more than visual pleasure on a sun-filled spring day. Wise gardeners know what he meant when he  wrote,

… What wealth to me the show had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie in vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.

Perhaps your dancing partners are violets, roses or lilies. No matter.  Simply gaze at them, inhale their fragrance, let their beauty flow deeply into your heart and mind. Recall the memory as often as you like. Be a part of nature, not a mere photographer or observer, and thank God for a world filled with such treasures.

In a way, I suppose all of our planning and planting is a subconscious (primal?) attempt to reclaim Eden, the place of beginning. Perhaps this is why sitting in a garden, beside a shore, within a forest or along a flowery meadow brings such peace. An ancient need is met, drawing us ever back to nature and its Maker.Rosa Dr Van Fleet crop 6-17-06 Whetstone-Roses




RememberPapaver orientale Prince of Orange resiz

Papaver rhoeas Shirley poppy crop

Garden Creativity: What would Picasso Say?

seated-woman-in-garden-1938Six Timeless Quotes To Inspire Fresh Garden Ideas

By Teresa Woodard

As gardeners reflect on the past season and plan for the next, I thought I’d share these inspiring quotes from painting master Pablo Picasso as they were restated in a recent story in Entrepreneur magazine.

  1. Bad artists copy.  Good artists steal. Just as in the art world, no ideas in the gardening world are new. So, yes, I’ll be stealing lots of ideas —  like elements of this massive border — from this summer’s round of garden tours.IMG_6989
  2. Everything you can imagine is real. A few gardens I saw this year truly stretched my imagination. For example, King Ludwig’s underground garden grotto or the Bellagio Conservatory’s crane topiary may seem a bit surreal, but they do inspire big thinking.
  3. 37301IMG_5480Art is the elimination of the unnecessary. As a garden writer, I tend to collect too many different plants which often creates a cluttered look in my garden. So, a goal for next season is to accumulate more of the most dazzling plants and donate those unnecessary ones to the Master Gardener Volunteers’ spring plant sale. One day, I’m envisioning rivers of plants like these Adrian Bloom designsIMG_9082 IMG_9086 at Chadwick Arboretum.
  4. Action is the foundational key to all success. Can I hear an “Amen”? This truth undoubtedly applies to gardening and anything else in life.  So, check back with me in a year, and see if I took action on the 10 new ideas in my journal to-do list.
  5. journalAll children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. I’m grateful to have teenagers and young neighbors to bring their youthful spirit to the garden. Thanks to them I planted peanuts, apple gourds, ghost peppers and crazy succulents.  Some ghost peppers even ended up in the high school cafeteria and caused several dared friends to lose their lunch as they choked them down whole.
  6. 20151108_140601 I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them. As I hack ideas from great garden designs, I can bend them to my own vision for my space, budget, growing zone and personal style. Here, I’ve planted hundreds — not thousands —  of Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) to achieve my own scaled-back version of this spectacular tulip display.20151024_154441IMG_5641


Check out the After Picasso: 80 Contemporary Artists at the Wexner Center for the Arts, through Dec. 27.sandromiller_irvingpenn


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