Florida…a Love/Hate thing!

I may have grown up on the east coast but I’ve lived in Wisconsin for most of my life and I totally consider myself a Midwest girl. My German immigrant parents landed in NJ in 1956 but when my dad retired, they were Florida bound without any hesitation. So I now get to spend several weeks a year in the Sunshine State. While most people would be thrilled about this, I am just not a fan. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things about Florida that I love…the sun, the beach, the botanical gardens. The heat and humidity? Well, that I just loathe! A hot, sticky day manages to put a damper on everything. Give me a cool Midwest breeze any day!

Thankfully, it’s been unseasonably cool this visit. As I write this morning it’s 45* heading for a high of 70. That’s just about perfect for me. The weather has also agreed with the Azaleas which are spectacular this year. I suppose Irma and a wet Fall may have had something to do with it as well. Just take a look at these blooms from the Bok Tower Gardens.

Because my parents moved to the Orlando area, I now spend much of my time there visiting my mom at Lutheran Haven, an amazing retirement community in Oviedo where there is never a lack of flora.

I’ve had great fun learning about Florida’s plants and flowers. My mom has always been an amazing gardener and at 87, still maintains a small garden. Yesterday we visited Lukas Nursery which is right across the street and where I always manage to find a little something to bring home. This time a pink Bouganvilla and Rosemary caught my eye.

I’m still here for a few more days so I’ll surely find some more treasures to share!


Ground Hogs, Candlemas, Galanthus nivalis and 6 more weeks of Winter!

groundhogIn the US we have this crazy thing called Ground Hog Day.  You know, the day when the furry little rodent pops out of his cozy Winter hideaway to have a look see.  If he sees his shadow on the morning of February 2nd he heads right back down and hits the snooze for another 6 weeks.  And that’s exactly what happened this morning!  6 more weeks of Winter!  I had high hopes this year because I haven’t seen the sun in several weeks…but wouldn’t you know it, the day the ground hog is supposed to pop out, here comes the sun!

It was interesting to discover that the origin of Ground Hog Day is surrounded by a long history of traditions, folklore and legends, having been originally celebrated in Europe.  The German tradition called for a hedgehog (some sources I found said badger) to look for his shadow on February 2nd, a day referred to as Candlemas Day.   In other cultures it was simply  believed that the remainder of the winter would be exactly the opposite of whatever it was like on Candlemas Day.  How the ground hog got mixed up in all this, I’m not exactly sure.

“If Candlemas Day be fair and bright, winter will have another flight. But if it be dark with clouds and rain, winter is gone and will not come again.”  English Rhyme

“A shepherd would rather see a wolf enter his stable on Candlemas Day than see the sun shine.” German Saying

Candlemas is a Christian celebration of commemorating the purification of Mary.  Under Jewish law, the purification was to occur 40 days following the birth of a child.  In addition it also commemorates the presentation of the infant Christ to be consecrated to God in the temple.  At that time, Simeon spoke these words, proclaiming that Jesus is the light of the world. This prayer is now known as the Nunc Dimittis.

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”

Luke 2:29-32

The name, Candlemas, comes from the Christian ritual of bringing candles to church to be blessed and reminding them that Jesus is the light in the darkness.

There is some thought that Candlemas has roots in pagan traditions.  Others believe that it is simply coincidental that it falls at the same time as the pagan feast  known as Imbolc which falls halfway between the winter solstice and vernal equinox. Imbolc, also a festival of lights, symbolizes hope and celebrates lighter and warmer days ahead.

Other folklore tells that Christmas decorations must be removed by Candlemas Day or bad luck (death) would befall the household. Rest assured, my Christmas decorations have long since been packed away!

Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve
Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe ;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress’d the Christmas Hall :
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind :
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected, there (maids, trust to me)
So many goblins you shall see.

English Poet, Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

A Polish tradition has it that on this day, called Matki Boskiej Gromnicznej,  translated as Mother of God of the Thunder Candle, candles are brought to the church to be blessed.  The candles are called thunder candles because they are kept in the home to be used to protect the home from lightning during thunderstorms.  The blessed candles are also lit at the bedside of the dying to protect the individual from Satan, and to light the way to heaven.

There are many paintings that depict Mary walking through the snow with wolves at her feet and carrying a large candle. The Polish believed that she was protecting homes and farm animals from packs of hungry wolves (evil).


A symbol of Candlemas is the snowdrop.  It represents hope, endurance and the light of things to come.  Snowdrops are known by many names such as Candlemas Bells, Christ’s Flower, Death’s Flower, Dew-drops, Dingle-Dangle, Mary’s Taper, Naked Maiden, Purification Flower, Snow-piercer and more!


Typically the snowdrop blooms prior to February 2 however, yet another folklore warns of picking and bringing the flowers into the house prior to Candlemas.  You wouldn’t want bad luck to befall you but if you waited until Candlemas, the snowdrops would bring hope, light, purification and ward off bad spirits.

An English legend entitled “How the Snowdrop Became,” tells how the snowdrop became a symbol of hope and endurance. The story describes how an angel turned falling snowflakes into snowdrops to give Adam and Eve as a sign of hope before evicting them from the Garden of Eden.

How the Snowdrop Became

“It was the eve of Brighid’s Day when he at last agreed to go down to the earth once again. As he plummeted towards the garden – the promised place – he felt ice crystals in the air, saw the stars far above glitter with frozen light.

Landing lightly on the grass, fragile with frost, he could see them. They stood close together, shivering despite the coverings contrived from feathers and weeds which hung from waists and shoulders, arms raised to protect frightened eyes from his light.

He spread his monumental wings, stepping towards them –
“The Creator says you must leave this place, it is no longer yours as a privilege.”
Giving them no time to wonder or delay, the sheer magical strength of him compelled them to move – descending the unfamiliar path towards all that was unknown, nameless, outside.

Watching the two, hand in hand, heads bowed with tears, he noticed the first snow drifting like thistledown through the silence of the night. Deep sorrow he felt for them and stretched out a hand. Snowflakes gathered in his palm, hexagonal wonders, showing no sign of thawing there. Bringing them closer to his mouth, he breathed a sigh over their perfection. As the crystals were touched with the breath, each turned to a three petalled flower white as the snowflake that had birthed it. Each drooped its head, hiding the touch of fresh, soft green at its heart.

“Take a sign of hope,” he called, “a sign for your kind and for the earth outside.”
As they moved towards the gap in the stone wall, he threw the snowdrops in a halo shower around their heads. They walked on unawares, taking the little blessing with them.”

The English poet, George Wilson, wrote “Origin of the Snowdrop” describing the same tale.

Origin of the snowdrop
No fading flowers in Eden grew,
Nor Autumn’s withering spread
Among the trees a browner hue,
To show the leaves were dead;
But through the groves and shady dells,
Waving their bright immortal bells,
Were amaranths and asphodels,
Undying in a place that knew
A golden age the whole year through.

But when the angel’s fiery brands,

Guarding the eastern gate,
Told of a broken law’s commands,

And agonies that came too late;
With longing, lingering wish to stay,
And many a fond but vain delay
That could not wile her grief away,
Eve wandered aimless o’er a world
On which the wrath of God was hurled.

Then came the Spring’s capricious smile,
And Summer sunlight warmed the air,
And Autumn’s riches served a while

To hide the curse that lingered there;
Till o’er the once untroubled sky
Quick driven clouds began to fly,
And moaning zephyrs ceased to sigh,
When Winter’s storms in fury burst
Upon a world indeed accurst,

And when at last the driving snow,
A strange, ill-omened sight,

Came whitening all the plains below,
To trembling Eve it seemed affright

With shivering cold and terror bowed

As if each fleecy vapour cloud
Were falling as a snowy shroud,
To form a close enwrapping pall
For Earth’s untimeous funeral.

Then all her faith and gladness fled,
And, nothing left but black despair.
Eve madly wished she had been dead,

Or never born a pilgrim there.
But, as she wept, an angel bent
His way adown the firmament,
And, on a task of mercy sent,
He raised her up, and bade her cheer
Her drooping heart, and banish fear;

And catching, as he gently spake,

A flake of falling snow,
He breathed on it, and bade it take

A form and bud and blow;
And ere the flake had reached the earth,
Eve smiled upon the beauteous birth,
That seemed, amid the general dearth
Of living things, a greater prize
Than all her flowers in Paradise.

“This is an earnest, Eve, to thee,”
The glorious angel said,
“That sun and Summer soon shall be;

And though the leaves seem dead,
Yet once again the smiling Spring,
With wooing winds, shall swiftly bring
New life to every sleeping thing;
Until they wake, and make the scene
Look fresh again, and gaily green.”

The angel’s mission being ended,

Up to Heaven he flew;
But where he first descended,

And where he bade the earth adieu,
A ring of snowdrops formed a posy
Of pallid flowers, whose leaves, unrosy,
Waved like a winged argosy,
Whose climbing masts above the sea,
Spread fluttering sail and streamer free.

And thus the snowdrop, like the bow
That spans the cloudy sky.
Becomes a symbol whence we know

That brighter days are nigh;
That circling seasons, in a race
That knows no lagging, lingering pace,
Shall each the other nimbly chase,
Till Time’s departing final day
Sweep snowdrops and the world away.
George Wilson (1818–59).

In 1753, Carl Linnaeus scientifically classified the snowdrop as Galanthus nivalis. Galanthus is from the Greek words gala, meaning “milk,” and anthos, meaning “flower.”  Nivalis means “of the snow”.  This small bulb plant, green and white, symbolizes Spring’s arrival, new hope, and lasting endurance.

Snowdrops prefer cold climates, growing best in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-8.  They enjoy full sun to partial shade blooming between late winter and early spring. They will flourish while there is still snow on the ground and a dusting of snow will not bother them at all.  It’s fun to think of the German folklore that explains why this is so. The legend claims that when God created everything on earth,  he asked all the flowers to share some of their color to the snow. One by one the flowers said no. The snow then asked a snowdrop to give her some of its color and it accepted. The snow then rewarded the snowdrop by letting it bloom first.

Snowdrops like a neutral to slightly alkaline soil pH and rich but well drained soil. Plant bulbs three to five inches apart and two about inches deep.  They are at their best planted in large groupings or rock gardens. Eventually, established clumps may be divided.  So plant some snowdrops and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful blooms in February!

For more information on Snowdrops, click here University of Wisconsin Master Gardeners-Snowdrops

Last but not least, it’s important to wear gloves when handling the bulbs as it’s possible to  get a skin irritation from contact with the bulbs. All parts of the snowdrop are toxic if ingested.

“Alluding to the colour of the flowers.
The snow-drop, Winter’s timid child,
Awakes to life bedew’d with tears;
And flings around its fragrance mild,
And where no rival flowrets bloom,
Amidst the bare and chilling gloom,
A beauteous gem appears!”


So there you have it, a long tale of ground hogs, religious celebrations, pagan feasts and winter flowers. Thankfully the days are getting longer, the temperature warmer and I have hope that I’ll soon be back in the garden.  And even if I have six more weeks of winter to deal with, I know that, thanks to the snowdrops and the ground hog, Spring is definitely on it’s way!

Happy Candlemas!



Sources and more information:





Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

Today is National Poinsettia day!  How appropriate it is that it falls on Garden Bloggers Bloom day.  Even better, I’m here in Florida visiting my mom so I get to see Poinsettias everywhere…outside!  This afternoon my mom and I visited Lukas Nursery in Oviedo and saw an amazing selection!  If I lived in Florida I would have these beautiful and interesting plants everywhere!

Click here for lots of pointsettia info from John Porter, WV Garden Guru…https://wvgardenguru.com/2014/12/12/happy-national-poinsettia-day-theres-more-than-meets-the-eye-in-your-christmas-poinsettia/

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

Here we go!  The Great Fall Cleanup is about to commence.  Mid September is when I start to think about getting the garden ready for Winter.  Although things like this certainly don’t help…


Stoney Creek is my go-to garden center here in the north.  I’m there about once a week if not more! Here’s some of what I came home with last week. You’ll have to stop by again to see what I end up doing with all those pots.


I’m trying my best to resist buying new plants at this time of year.  Mostly because I have better luck planting and transplanting in the Spring.  Undoubtedly I will fail and buy some anyway!

The garden is winding down so not much is blooming anymore.  There were still a few things I was able to find and share for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day like these Hydrangeas that are getting prettier by the day.


I love this view of the garden with the pine trees just beyond the meadow below.  Every day, the pink of the hydrangeas gets more intense.  Gorgeous!  Last week I took some engagement photos of my niece and her fiance in this spot.  Aren’t they adorable?


I couldn’t resist including this shot. The Great Blue Lobelia really performed well this year. Without a doubt, one of my late summer favorites!


This poor Turtlehead is very sad looking.  It’s what’s left after the deer came through a few times this summer.  Seems they always go for this plant first…must be pretty tasty! I do need to do a better job protecting it next year.


And then there’s the sedum.  Autumn Joy is just getting going.  In a couple of weeks she will be in full Autumn glory.


This is an unnamed Sedum. I brought it with me from my Wauwatosa house many years ago.  It’s settling in nicely here at the lake; almost to the point where I can divide it up.  The bees love it.


This adorable little Aster has never bloomed before because the deer have always gotten to it first.  I was so surprised to see this today.  Made my morning, for sure!006

Ahhh…another view of the Hydrangeas!007

One last surprise!  I spotted a few more roses in bloom.  I will definitely be remembering this one in December!

“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.”
J.M. Barrie


So I guess I better get back to thinking about that garden cleanup.  I really don’t think of it as work.  Just one last opportunity to get my hands dirty and enjoy the garden before the snow flies!


Sometimes I Hook and Sometimes I Hoe!

hoe and hook

First and foremost, I am a gardener!  Honestly, it’s what I love to do most.  When I started this blog I really  just intended for it to be a way  to keep personal notes, photos and other fun garden stuff in one spot.  Today’s post, however, has absolutely nothing to do with gardening.

Because I live in Wisconsin (USA), my gardening time is limited to  April through October. During the rest of the year I need to keep myself occupied with indoor stuff!  Fortunately, I do not suffer from a lack of things to do.  My  winter activities include quilting and crocheting…in between planning for the next gardening season, of course!

About a year ago I met a woman from Illinois named Laurene.  We met on a Facebook group, CAL – Crochet A Long.  I had joined several crochet groups because I resumed crocheting after I retired and the inspiration there was nothing short of amazing.  The CAL group quickly became my favorite. Laurene was the administrator for the group and it wasn’t long before she asked me to join the admin team.  I was happy to join a wonderful group of women from around the globe who shared my interest in crocheting.  And although we have never met in person, Laurene has become a dear friend not to mention an incredible enabler!!! 😉

Fast forward one year…it’s been an amazing whirlwind with new CALs, new friends, pattern testing, a CAL blog, world wide pattern translators, and a skyrocketing membership that’s nearing 30,000! Not to mention our anniversary CAL, “Friends Around the World”.   I’m so proud of what this group has accomplished!

So, in recognition of our achievements, we decided to ask some of the top crochet bloggers and designers in the world to design a square for an anniversary CAL.  You can find out more about the CAL here.  I, too, decided to create a square although I am by no means a designer!  I’m honored to be a part of this CAL and excited (and a little nervous!) to share my square, Twist and Shout.

Twist and ShoutYou’ll find the pattern and a video tutorial below as well as links to translations in several languages, thanks to our incredible translation team.  I hope you enjoy making it as much as I did creating it!

Thanks for stopping by!


Video Tutorial for the special Chain Twist stitch:

Chain Twist Video Tutorial


Twist and Shout (English/US)









twist 2

Here’s the whole square (turned on it’s side).  You can see that it has a C2C look to it, but it is actually created by stitching side to side rows with a unique Chain Twist stitch.


twist 3

Here is a close up of the Chain Twist.  Check out the video tutorial for instructions on how to make it!

Last but certainly not least (this is a gardening blog after all), here are a couple of shots of the garden as it starts to fade into Fall…

Hydrangeas getting their pink on!

Purple rain! This is one of my favorite late summer bloomers, Great Blue Lobelia, a Wisconsin native.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – The African Violet


It’s the middle of February and there is nothing in my garden that is even thinking about blooming so I looked around indoors to see what I could find for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.  Well, whaddayaknow???!!!  One of my African Violets is sporting some lovely white blossoms!


I’ll be honest, as much as I love gardening and am willing to experiment with pretty much anything in the garden, African Violets intimidated me.  Growing up, my mom had several, always with spectacular, usually purple, blooms.  I remember how she would propagate them simply by sticking a leaf into some soil.  It seemed so simple.  

Wrong!  I tried several times over the years, never managing to get it quite right, so I gave up.

Fast forward to 2015…I inherited two African Violets from my mother-in-law.  The pressure was on to keep these alive.  With Google at my finger tips I was able to find a slew of information on African Violets.  Although not especially difficult, these plants are picky about how they like to be treated.  Game on!

I followed some basic rules for African Violet care…well drained soil, bright but indirect light, temps that are not too cold and not too hot,  a little humidity,  a little bit of fertilizer and the right pot.  Told you it was simple.

I received the plants in plastic pots and while they are doing fine, it looks like they will soon outgrow their space, so I’ve decided to purchase a couple of specially designed ceramic African Violet pots.  Basically, these pots within a pot promote proper drainage.  I found lots of them available on line.

African Violet Pot

There’s tons of information out there on growing African Violets but here is something I found on the African Violet Society of America website.  It’s written for beginners…simple, straight forward and thorough and it seems to  be working for me so far!


Not your typical Wisconsin garden…


In February, in Wisconsin, there just isn’t a whole heck of a lot of gardening to be done, well except for in my dreams.  So I was quite excited to get away from the cold and snow for a few days and head off to Phoenix.  I spent a good portion of each day hiking in the mountains and was thrilled when a friend suggested we visit the Desert Botanical Gardens…she knows me well!  What a treat to see all the amazing desert plants…agaves, saguaros, chollas, prickly pears…these just touch the surface of what’s available for gardeners.  I’m fascinated by the artistry of the landscape designs which mimic the beauty of nature.  Those who warned that Arizona is nothing but sand and brown, are sorely mistaken.  I found vibrant southwestern color everywhere I looked.  The mountains came alive the closer you got.  The Saguaros were majestic and green; the landscape was rich with red, orange AND brown.  And blue!  The sky was the most vibrant shade of blue I have ever seen.  Even the rocks had amazing color.

The weather was spectacular, breaking seasonal records by climbing into the mid 80s every day!  Glorious!  It’s no wonder people seemed so happy and friendly…not a cloud to be found!  I was also happy to note that there were no snakes to be found either as they are all fast asleep in hibernation.  Although I did hear a few folks say that it wouldn’t be unheard of to have them wake up prematurely due to the unseasonably warm temps…yikes!

Gardening in Arizona sure would be interesting. Once you got past the fear of a rattler rearing it’s nasty head at you, there would be all sorts of other pinchy dangers to worry about.  And of course there is the heat to contend with.  The friends I visited are/were avid Wisconsin gardeners yet they all employed landscapers to assist in dealing with their prickly plants.  I suppose if you were to attempt to plant and garden yourself, you would need to be prepared with some heavy duty gardening gear. On the bright side, there are no bugs like mosquitoes to annoy you while gardening.  And although deer didn’t seem to be an issue, apparently the havalinas (wild pigs) seem to love succulent plants!

Just for fun, I visited a garden center.  I sure was tempted to come home with something but determined that a cactus didn’t exactly make the best traveling companion.


It’s unlikely that I’ll ever have the opportunity to do this type of gardening but I certainly had a wonderful time and can’t wait to return!



Time to Scatter the Milkweed!


Milkweed pods in my area are ripening. These pods were collected by my friend T in northern Wisconsin.  She is busy preparing the mature seeds to scatter in her meadow.   If you’re interested in helping to scatter the seeds, here is some great information from the Friends of the Monarch Trail in Milwaukee:

Harvesting of Milkweed Seeds

The timing of the collection of milkweed pods or seeds is critical. Mature pods are those that are within a day of two of opening. If you squeeze the pods and they don’t open easily, they usually do not contain mature brown seeds. Seeds that are into the process of browning and hardening will germinate when planted next season.

When collecting pods please be careful not to get the latex “milky” substance near your eyes. Also please make sure that there are no bugs in your collection of pods.

A plastic bag may be a convenient collection bag but it is not a good storage bag because when the pods/seeds are left in the plastic bag they have a tendency to get moldy. For more information about the nation wide endeavor to save the monarchs, please check out the website http://www.monarchwatch.com/milkweed/prop.htm” which has this to say about the subject:

Pale or white seeds should be not collected. Freshly collected pods dry should be dried in an open area with good air circulation. Once the pods are thoroughly dry, the seeds can be separated from the coma, or silk-like ballooning material, by hand. Separation of seeds can also be accomplished by stripping the seeds and coma from the pods into a paper bag. Shake the contents of the bag vigorously to separate the seeds from the coma and then cut a small hole in a corner of the bottom of the bag and shake out the seeds. Store dried seeds in a cool, dry place protected from mice and insects – a plastic bag (reclosable) or other container in the refrigerator works well.

Seeds of most temperate plants need to be vernalized, which is a fancy way of saying that they need cold treatment. The best way to give the required vernalization is through stratification. To stratify seeds place them in cold, moist potting soil (sterilized soil is best but is not required) in a dark place for several weeks or months. Since most people prefer not to place potting soil in their refrigerators, an alternative is to place the seeds between moist paper towels in a plastic bag. This procedure works well, in part because there are fewer fungi and bacteria available to attack the seeds. After a vernalization period of 3-6 weeks, the seeds can be planted in warm (70˚F), moist soil. Without vernalization / stratification, the percentage of seeds that germinate is usually low. Seeds from the tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica (and other tropical milkweed species) do not require this treatment. “Shocking” seeds that have been refrigerated by soaking them in warm water for 24 hours also seems to improve germination rates.

Even after vernalization / stratification, seeds of many plant species will not germinate. In these cases, the seed coats appear to require action by physical or chemical agents to break down or abrade the seed coat. “Scarification” with some type of physical abrasion that breaks the seed coat usually works and can be accomplished by placing the seeds in a container with coarse sand and shaking the container for a 30 seconds or so. Scarification may be required for some milkweeds (e.g., A. viridiflora and A. latifolia) and might improve the germination rates of other species.


I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.

I thought about taking the Master Gardener program for years.  I would go back and forth between not having enough time and not being convinced that I would learn anything new.  After all, I had been gardening for decades and I learned a lot from the master green thumb…my mom!  But then as I started to think about retiring from my long time job at the YMCA, I knew that I would have a little extra time on my hands and the volunteer component of the Master Gardener  would open doors for me to work in some wonderful gardens.  So I thought I’d give it a go.

Oh yeah, and what was that I said about not learning anything new?  HAH!!!   Mostly I learned that I really knew very little about gardening after all.  The late Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.”  This pretty much sums up my experience in the Master Gardening course.  Thankfully, what I didn’t expect was that once the class was over there was now the added bonus of having an unbelievable amount of ongoing learning opportunities available.  I’ve attended lectures by garden authors, a rain garden workshop and on line training classes.  It’s endless and it’s fabulous!

Yesterday I joined a group of MGs on a field trip to the garden of Jerry Nelson, horticulturist and owner of Classic Gardens.  Jerry creates flower beds and containers for clients including most of the golf courses in the greater Milwaukee area.  No small feat, I might add!

Always a treat to go on a garden tour, this was no exception.  Jerry had tons of interesting plants including a small vineyard and apple orchard.  Following the tour he demonstrated how he goes about creating his spectacular planters, sharing his secrets for giving them that extra flower power he is famous for!

As always, I took more than a few photos.  Here’s a little slide show of our day with Jerry Nelson…

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