Wednesday, February 24, 2010

1st Anniversary Post-How Sweet It Is...

a worker bee gives me a look...
scraping the comb for a taste!
the interior of the strong hive
healthy worker Bees on a frame of golden honey
the top of the hive box in the Sunshine
A year ago, I was searching the Internet for specific information on rare Convallarias (lily of the Valley) When I stumbled on an amazing garden /design/horticultural blog called "Growing with Plants". I knew what blogs were, but had given them very little attention, let alone time. I assumed that blogs were full of inane personal detritus that would be of little interest to me. What I had found was a beautifully focused journal on rare plants and cool greenhouse gardening, along with the strong, justified personality of the creator, Matt Mattus. I read the blog I had accidentally found, then cruised through the broad spectrum of his other blog posts. My heart was like opening my first book as a child, or a marvelous birthday gift I didn't know I needed. I searched other garden blog links, and realized that I too could document my gardening life and share it with others who share my love and passion for the natural world and great garden design. That first day, I read many,many garden blogs, primarily on Blotanical "where garden blogs bloom" a wonderful garden blog clearing house...(thanks Stuart!) At the end of that day, a year ago, I created Green Mansions Compost, and published my first post. Through the vehicle of the garden blog, I have met many, many interesting,creative and dedicated gardeners. They have shared a part of their lives that we would never get to see, let alone comment and get feed back from. I would like to thank all of you who share your gardening/design world with all of us, it has been a pleasure to share this with you. I was voted most popular Kansas garden blog this past year, 2009-to my total surprise! and I hope I've inspired some other people as I've been by the many gardeners I now would consider my friends, my fellow garden bloggers...thank you!

A few weeks ago, I took my Bee hives apart, reversed them, so their food was closer to the wintering cluster of Bees. It was freezing- 17 degrees in the Sunshine, but too cold to pull out the honey frames and take a critical look at the bees and hive. The other day, the temperature went up enough were I felt it was safe to smoke the hives, and take a good look-see. The weaker of the two hives was low on honey stores, and I made some sugar syrup to feed the bees with a tray feeder. The stronger of the two hives was bustling with activity, and when I pulled out the first frame, it gleamed with golden honey. Now, last fall, I knew I had a surplus of about fifty pounds of pure honey, but I felt like I should leave this on the hive to get my hive through the cold upcoming Winter. There should have been enough in the lower frames for the Bees to live off of, but I didn't want to be greedy! When I found out that the Bees had not really eaten this surplus honey, I ran back to the house to collect enough of my golden booty to sample and eat on toast. The Bees were generous with me, and paid me little attention as I scraped a cup or so into a jadite dish, wax and all. The wax is so fresh and pure, it melts in your mouth, or on a hot piece of toast! All I can say is the taste is fantastic, slightly citrus in it's finish, and I don't think I'll ever taste honey that good again! Most likely my honey is white clover and wildflower. Every season, the honey will reflect the specific nectar that is available to the Bees. I'm starting many Alclepias speciosa seedlings, (fragrant Milkweed) the special honey is highly sought after and sweet smelling...I can't wait!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Season of Love...

The Sun Shines! it's a Miracle!
curved Giant Beds outlined in the snow...
the long view to the shore...
Asclepias physocarpa from Africa-"Popes Balls" good Valentine's day texture...;)
My favorite design for a favorite client...
Asclepias close-up, NZ grown.."Queen Beatrix"
the vegetable garden and Hiddenfield Greenhouse in the background, shrouded in snow
my beautiful Burr Oak,dressed for the season
A cake fit for two wonderful friends...Adria and Maryanna
I don't mean to sound like a broken record (a pre- millennial sound disc that your grand parents had when they were kids...;), but it snowed again, and as I wrote last time, this storm was unique in its evolution and outcome. warm moisture slipped into an icy coating, covered in grainy snow, and then the temperature has stayed cold-so no melting on surfaces, just crusty ice...hmm. I' trying to enjoy it for it's singular beauty, but that's getting old. I am thrilled for our water table-no complaints there!

At work we had two birthdays...the lovely and talented Adria and the equally talented and lovely Maryanna. Not on the same day,but we celebrated them together. I love to bake cakes for my co-worker's birthdays...whatever kind is there favorite! The only kind I don't like is strawberry cake -I will never make that vile mess again! A double chocolate cake was the choice, so I used the fool proof Hershy's coco cake recipe with the boiling water, sooo good, and I added more chocolate chips to the batter for another layer of flavor. If I kept that at home, I would be huge, eating massive pieces at midnight with cold milk-ooo that sounds good??!

The Valentine's Day holiday was drawn out with the holiday occurring on a Sunday and with President's day on Monday. We had a full week, and we also were open on Sunday for our customers. My favorite arrangement was for my dear friend Kristy. I used all the best flowers I had ordered from around the world, literally. Milkweeds from N.Z. and other Asclepias from Africa. Australian Acacia diffusing it's ethereal scent into the air. Peach St. Johns wort spreading the peachy glow. The Asclepias physocarpa "Popes Balls"added fantastic texture and form...those pods just split and gave me a bounty of seed for my Giant Garden-they can grow to seven feet...AND our native Monarch butterfly can eat it as a host plant as well!

Speaking of Giant Gardens...I've been planning a dramatic garden feature for this year. I have a sloping lawn that leads down to the shore, a small beach area to launch the boat. I've already started the design by planting a grass circle that acts as an entrance to the shore. This new Giant Garden winds seventy five feet to the circle. It's made up of six individual beds, bisected in two areas for lawn access. I already purchased six Pink Diamond Hydrangeas to add structure to the new beds. Tall burgundy Castor beans, tall love -lies- bleeding, sunflowers, milkweeds, grasses, cotton plants, Brugmansias,Dahlias, ornamental striped get the idea. I want to feel dwarfed and Lilliputian by the forms, otherworldly.The four magic words are...compost. manure. water.mulch.You can't go wrong!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


the vegetable garden and chicken coop....the ladies will be inside today!
like a gingerbread house covered in royal icing
so, so peaceful and quiet
the courtyard gate
the woods virtually flocked in eider down snow
like a Disney landscape of meringue....

I know we're all tired of the amazing overdose of snow the country has had this year, but last week, prior to Valentine's day, we had the fluffiest, most gossamer down absolutely covering all the garden in fantasy...I had to go to work, but these are a few shots that give you a sense of wonder I had before leaving!

I'm ready for spring, but I'm grateful for the snow cover we have had, insulating everything when we got below zero....again

so even though we have all had way too much of it, I've never seen it look so amazing and different every storm! I might have to put a couple more pics on the next post to share with you, I could have stared in awe all day long...but it was a very busy week with the holiday coming up.