Thrive Where You’re Planted!

The glories of summer are leaving us. The autumn equinox has issued its official word – “It’s over, folks!” The Midwest will soon be ablaze with reds, golds, and tawny browns that blend with summer’s remaining greens and make us gasp in awe as we round a curve or crest a hill and find ourselves face-to-face with a freshly-painted landscape.

I can’t think of a single person who has said to me, “I hate fall.” However, as much as I bask in the cooler days and the beautiful scenery, I’m always a little saddened by it. It brings that little ripple of chilly air around my collar that whispers, “Winter’s on the way!” Not that I have anything against books, fuzzy blankets and hot chocolate – I simply recoil at the thought of frigid days when those things are not available. I don’t do cold – and that’s an understatement.

I hope that if your year has been as busy as mine, you took time out for a little “thriving time” in your own little corner of the world. I promised myself early in the year that this year I would document the beauty around me. Other than events with other writers within the state, Smuffy and I didn’t get far from home. This year, home has held us fast with major projects and at times it’s been a challenge to enjoy down-time, mainly because it came along in such itty-bitty, tiny chunks! I did keep my promise to myself, however, so let’s take a tour of the “estate”, as we like to call it.

In the Spring, a splash of color is downright titillating after months of brown. Green is the new thing and other happy colors join in to brighten up the landscape. The first thing (besides a colorful weed or two) to pop up in my yard are the old-fashioned hyacinths beside my driveway.

Old Fashioned Hyacinths www.midweststoryteller.com

I chose this spot for them on purpose. They bloom when it’s still too cold for me to be outside much, so they’re right beside me on my way to and from the car. I always keep some in a vase. The smell rivals that of lilacs and gives me hope for warmer days ahead.

At the same time, or soon thereafter, these beauties seem to decorate every yard in town, waving a cheery hello to spring. I adore daffodils, but they, like the hyacinths, leave me all too soon.  These are a double-ruffle variety.

Daffodils www.midweststoryteller.com

As I write this, I realize that no tour of the estate is complete without photos of the things that every yard in this part of the Midwest seems to have at least one of – a lilac bush, a peony bush and a patch of colorful iris. They fill April and May with color and fragrance. It seems, however, that I was so busy sniffing that I didn’t take photos of those.

Moving on to May…

Don Juan Roses www.midweststoryteller.com

It’s always special when your sweetie sends you roses, and these are the best flowers Smuffy ever sent me! These climbing Don Juan roses are gorgeous. Most climbing roses have very short stems and, therefore, aren’t something you can put in a vase, but not the Don Juans. The foliage grows to about twelve feet in height and the stems are nice and long. I included a photo of a bunch in a vase so you can see how tall they are. (This is not a small vase.) The blooms are a deep, romantic red and as they open…and open…and open, it seems the petals are never-ending. I’d recommend these stunners for anyone’s flower garden. I love you, Smuffy!

For color in the front yard, my go-to plants are Tidal Wave Petunias. There are all sorts of Wave varieties now, but once I tried the Tidal Wave, I knew I’d found something I could depend on. Each plant spreads it’s top growth out over a huge area, blooms and blooms and blooms and, best of all, never needs dead-heading!

Tidal Wave Petunias www.midweststoryteller.com

In this photo (in which you are instructed to ignore the fact that Smuffy isn’t finished painting the trim on the house), you’ll notice that the entire area to the right of the door is taken up by only four plants! That’s bang for your buck and they’ll bloom from April until frost, which is usually expected here in mid-October.  The Tidal Waves in the photo are in a cherry pink and a color they call Silver, which has a purple throat.  Each year, I head to the greenhouse in anticipation that the Wave company may have come out with more colors!  Attention Wave People:  More Colors in Tidal Wave, please!

Back to the topic of roses – Some varieties keep on going. Here we are now at the beginning of autumn and we’re still enjoying the dependability of the Knock-out roses in this bright red and these Joseph’s Coat roses. They’ve bloomed all summer.

Knock-out and Joseph's Coat Roses www.midweststoryteller.com

The Joseph’s Coat rose is aptly named for its many colors. It opens as you see here in the photo, with golden hues. Once open, it’s a fiery orange before maturing into a deep pink. At various times, passersby, whether on foot or driving past, have stopped to ask me what they’re called. They probably receive more comments than anything else in my yard.  I don’t remember where I got mine, but they are available from Walmart and their site has a great photo of what they look like when the bush is in full bloom.

Years ago, Smuffy got the bright idea of digging a fish pond.  Somehow –  I suppose, with those puppy-dog brown eyes of his – he got me on board with the project.  He became the hole-digging and water-works man and I became the rock placement artiste.  As bad as I wanted out of toting all those rocks, I knew I had to do it because if Smuffy were left to arrange them, the pond would be square.  All but three or four of the real “whoppers” were arranged by me prior to an extensive rest period.  Now, we enjoy getting to sit and enjoy the sound of running water and the beauty of it all.

Pond Sittin' www.midweststoryteller.com

Along the stone walls at the back of our property, these sedum have been spending the summer in their own quiet, pale-green way as they waited for their turn to show off. Now a pale blush, they’ll soon turn bright pink before darkening to a deep burgundy and then brown. They work well when dried and used in fall arrangements. Near them, I’ve planted one of my new favorites – this delicate tall salvia in a pinkish red.

Sedum and Salvia www.midweststoryteller.com

Once again, I must remind you, I can’t watch Smuffy every minute. Examples of his need for it can be found here.  Being in love with all things green, he sometimes plants things without asking me or bothering to save the tags. I don’t know what these two bushes are called, but they wait by my back fence every year to unleash their beauty in the fall. Now they are blooming just in time to give us the fall colors we love. It strikes me as odd, somehow, that we can be such fans of neat and tidy displays and then when autumn arrives, we all fall in love with the messy look. Suddenly, it’s as though nothing in the world is more beautiful than dead sticks, shaggy bundles of weeds and unkempt, tangled bushes like these.

Orange Berry Bushes www.midweststoryteller.com

Now it is time for true confessions. Have you ever gone completely overboard with something? Years ago, I fell in love with Sweet Annie! Don’t get the wrong idea. I don’t remember where I was when I became smitten. All I remember is being in a store and asking, “What is that glorious smell? It smells like fall in here!” My nose led me to a bundle of fluff and someone told me that this fragrant herb was called Sweet Annie. “Easy to grow,” they said. “You can make wreaths,” they said. “Add it to arrangements,” they said. I had to have it. I got my hands on some seeds and planted them in a sunny spot. I’d been promised that I’d have plenty of smelly-good wreath-making cuttings from a single plant. Oh, my!

That episode has probably been twenty years ago and I am still harvesting Sweet Annie every year! It re-seeds itself and that is stating it mildly. Each plant grows to about eight feet in height and the branches off the main stem can be cut to use in arrangements or wound together to make swags or wreaths. You’ll develop a love-hate relationship with Sweet Annie. I’ll probably never know the number of people I’ve blessed or alienated by giving them a gift of a wreath or swag. Every nose is different and while I love the stuff, Smuffy can detect the slightest bit with his super-sniffer and is quick to deposit it out onto the porch. So, I decorate the porch with it.  It overwhelms his senses indoors.  Other people fill their house with bundles and wreaths and think it’s the greatest thing on earth.  I say all this so that in case you decide to sow those seeds – you have been informed!

I cut it each September and hang it under my porch on coat-hangers to dry. This year, I had a bumper crop!

Sweet Annie www.midweststoryteller.com

Soon, I’ll show you what I do with this fragrant herb, so be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out.

I enjoy my yard, but should I leave it, I don’t have to go far to enjoy the beauty of my locale. Perhaps it’s just me, but it seems this has been an awesome year for beautiful clouds in our part of the Midwest.

Clouds of Fire www.midweststoryteller.com

I only have to go a few blocks away to find myself on the banks of the Missouri River. It can become something you take for granted when life gets busy. Sometimes, however, it refuses to be ignored!

Missouri River Sunset www.midweststoryteller.com

Being outdoors helps you thrive! It’s relaxing and therapeutic to be out pulling weeds or barbecuing with family and friends. I believe it’s important, however, to make time to just stroll or sit and stare – to soak it all in.

If you live in the Midwest, you might want to get as many of those moments in as you can, because it’s coming, folks! Here’s a photo taken in my backyard. Before we know it –

World of White www.midweststoryteller.com

— winter will be upon us and our fascination with it’s early beauty can give way to a drab existence as we find ourselves waiting, curled up with the seed catalog, for those hyacinths to peek through the soil and refresh our spirits again.

My inspiration for this post came from a recent post over at jilliandanielle.com where we are treated to a tour of her summer garden. It’s amazing what a few simple steps can do to make your own corner of the world into a place of rest and peace.

Even though my own corner has been neglected lately as I’ve spent most of my summer finishing up a novel series, I still thrive on the moments I’ve taken to get out and enjoy the place we call home. When we surround ourselves with beauty and then take time to be thankful for it, we can thrive without ever leaving home. 

Questions? Comments? Just scroll back up to the beginning of this post and click on “Leave a comment”. I’d love to know what you’ve enjoyed most in your yard this year!  Maybe you can help me identify the “mystery bush”!

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