Even though I've only known you for a few weeks,  I am enamored with your soft, longer days and with your gentile persona.  I love how your morning sun shines on my face and the warmth I feel in my heart when I see the gifts you bring. Your gentle days send me straight to garden estacy. I don't mind telling you that winter was hard this year. I felt the yuckies grab hold and just keep digging deeper and deeper. At times I felt it was mocking me, waning my resilience like a bitter chill. Sometimes I fought back, hard. Other times I just sat quietly. waiting. On the days I woke to freezing rain or sleet, I found my moods reflected in the muck being trudged through my house.

There are always issues to deal with. Tragedies across the globe. Nothing at all. Yet I would feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. Many times I wanted to wave my white flag and surrender. Then you came into my life. Days were sprinkled with sunshine. Puddles emerged from under the ice. Robins appeared. A vase of tulips sits on my kitchen counter. the puppies bask in the sun rays streaking through the kitchen window. All at once I realized the ice was not the only thing thawing. I flipped the calendar page, glad to say goodbye to March...April always used to feel full of hope and promise to me. Tomorrow I may get knocked down by winter again,  but somehow by turning the calendar page it all feels doable now. I feel a shift. Hello April, please be kind this year. maybe, you can make some magic happen. you owe me.

The weathermen are threatening more cold weather, but I'm going to my happy place and will believe these 70 degree days aren't going to budge. All the local garden stores have started putting out their hardy annuals, varieties of bagged mulch and soil amendments and I have to admit I'm like an addict when it comes to that first sniff of rich, dark dirt. I want to grab my trowel and start digging! I knew I was in trouble when I caught myself with my nose pressed up against the glass of the local garden center wondering if I could possibly keep another hydrangea bush alive in my deer infested yard.

If my plan succeeds, I should be rolling in various varieties of roses, peonies, Astilbe, and phlox not to mention Siberian Iris, Brunnera, carnations, candytuft and sweet peas. Oh, and did I mention the herbs? Yea, sweet basil, dill, and oregano and I'm bound and determined to find organic peppermint so I can brew my very own peppermint tea. Now, I know parents are not supposed to have favorites but I will admit that peonies absolutely drop me to my knees. When  in full-bloom, they are heartbreakingly beautiful and come in so many luscious colors and scents it's like trying to pick a ball-gown and a favorite perfume when I'm contemplating my next purchase. Ok, yes, they are a bit high maintenance what with always needing constant support,  but my peonies at the end of the season remind me of a queen who has fallen on hard times. Her dress might be a bit tattered and torn, but she valiantly fights off marauding deer and sends up blooms so gorgeous that there is no question who rules this garden. And as any good serf will, though it's time-consuming, back-breaking work, I gladly kneel at her feet.

Ah, how I miss my garden right now! I'm certainly having a great time planning it but there are pieces of my heart left behind in that dirt from past years. I wonder if my Lady's Mantle will come up or if my Bleeding Hearts will make an appearance, and if my little dogwood made it through this tough winter. Have I mentioned that I love gardens? One of the challenges of living in the midwest is dealing with long winters and a short growing season, especially since an English garden is my idea of heaven! Just imagine the surprised looks I get when I wander into my local nursery and asked if they have English boxwoods, Sweet Williams or perhaps some David Austin roses? When I first came back to town, the guys would just shake their heads and offer me Russian Sage, Butterfly Weed, Goldenrod, or Allium. "Those boxwoods will never make it through the winter!", they'd said. Ah, but make it they did and so did the wisteria, the Hidcote lavender, the pinks and the cranesbill and the David Austin roses. I've even managed to keep a magnolia alive and had gorgeous pink blossoms the following spring! Yes, I mulch like a fiend, yes, I've lost too many tree-roses to count, but for all of my hard work and all of the losses, the reward of seeing that first rosebud open, seeing the explosion of colors as my sleepy garden pops back to life and smelling the glorious scents that waft through my windows makes it all worthwhile...and then some. Flowers are my Jimmy Choos.

So, while old man winter is still stomping through my garden, I'll take my garden moments "sugar-coated" and wait for my hardy, little plants to wake up and put on a show. There are hostas still in their corsets, and pre-peonies popping up everywhere. So, I was wandering through my still-sleeping garden today to see how everyone was doing and, as I was trimming my espalier, a fleck of green caught my eye. I crept a little closer and what did I discover? Beautiful, tiny green buds on my white lilacs! And as we are getting ready to embark upon another gardening season, I realize I let some of my flowery children stay up way past their bed time. they finally put themselves to bed, and like giggly girls at a slumber party, have not received all the sleep they need. I fear they willl be cranky come end of April. some of the more responsible ones have been snoozing a bit longer having tucked themselves in early. Melodrama aside, I'm loving Ohio's Midwesternly ways, consider it to be one of her finest fringe benefits.The place is a hidden gem in the truest sense of the word.

Ohio? First reaction?  Second?  Third?
Right.  Thought so.  It's not San Francisco.  Bear with me. 
I still may not have forgiven Ohio for not having an Ocean, but she can saturate a landscape like nobody's business. Here, spring startles.  Muted need not apply.  After months of monochrome, the simple fact of color is a little astonishing.  sort of Wizard of Oz.  One day, there you are all down with the grayscale, then out of nowhere, BOOM! queue the technicolor. For all that, there's a gracefulness to it. an orderly re-entry. easy on the eyes.  It begins slowly, the odd tree buds, the early daffodils, the occasional rewind. Pacing, you know.  But by middle of April, spring outgrows its awkward-gawky stage, and hits this rather elegant stride.

Everywhere, sleeping trees are awakening, right on schedule. The plump bump in the evening is morning's leaflet, as tender and wrinkled as a newborn. Branches hang a bit lower each day, with the weight of thousands of tiny buds. It may be the juxtaposition that gets me, this coming and going. It's the rubbing up against of what's coming and what was.  The shock of chartreuse against dull. Spring is nothing if not symbolic, and oh so poignant.  Very changing-of-the-guards.  Very cycle-of-life. Metaphysics always improve my mood when I'm still cleaning up after last year's messes. And all of it, seemingly lit from within.  And that rain! Dude! it seriously pumps up the shimmer.  And those new shoots always glow a little.  I would, too, under the circumstances.  Still, I think there's a peculiar magic to this fleeting cast of illuminated high spring hues. But look quick.  It won't last.  Summer comes on fast.

By June, all this vivid will be ho-hum, color the norm, contrast a memory.  But right now, there's this moment, a.k.a. April, when the landscape is handsomely tailored, distinct. Stones are punctuation marks still, not hidden hazards, all overgrown.  There are seam allowances yet between this plant and that.  There's brown ground to be seen, old growth, crisp remains, patches of dirt that make everything pop.  Spring is a spare, clean organized statement to summer's lush, flooded run-on baroque.  I have never been spare, or clean, or organized.  But I have always admired this about spring.

It's breathtaking.


I'm not even playing.


cream puff cake
(go here for recipe)


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