Thursday, April 29, 2010

One Year Anniversary Today!

I took some more great flower photos in the garden yesterday, but I figured that you readers needed a break from constant florals maybe. Besides, it's a momentous occasion: it's the one-year anniversary of the opening of Beaded Jewelry by Susan, my Etsy shop. Yes, it's been a whole year. To celebrate, I listed three new items tonight. First, these charming Red Rose Earrings.

Next, the Blue Dot Lampwork earrings that are so elegant yet playful!

And third, these fairytale swirls: Crystal and White Lampwork earrings.

I've had a great time learning about Etsy, lots of computer stuff, photography (including what not to do;  hopefully, I will learn how to improve), and, last but not least, BLOGGING! Yes, dear readers, if I hadn't opened my Etsy shop a year ago, I probably would never have started Susan's Blog, which has given me such pleasure. I love sharing with you my jewelry making tales, my garden photos, my cat pics, my quick comments on novels I liked, and so on. I have also enjoyed very much writing articles for Handmade Spark.

It's too bad that I've only had 17 sales in a whole year, but I am still hopeful. Help spread the word if you can! I am certainly not ready yet to give up! My earrings sell very well face-to-face at the local shows, so I am sure that if enough folks online can find my shop, they will see what lovely possibilities await them. I have more than 300 items on the site now, but that is only about ONE-FOURTH of my present inventory. And I would love to have a great excuse to make many more pairs of earrings and maybe even some necklaces as well. It's an addiction, of course, but a joyful one that does no one harm :)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Visiting Eleanore's Garden

Last week on a beautiful sunny day, we had an opportunity to visit the fiber studio and flower garden of a special Etsy friend, Eleanore Brown. Eleanore gardens with the help and guidance of her Uncle Dick, a longtime gardener whose father ran a huge nursery in the New York area.
Charming primroses are one of the brightly colored spring flowers in bloom in this garden right now. They are not easy to grow in Illinois, as many gardeners can attest. But there are a number of beautiful plants thriving here.
These little charmers come in a wide range of colors and are often two-tone, with a cheerful contrasting center.
The blue ones are especially intense in color.

Another specialty in Eleanore and Dick's garden right now is the dwarf bearded iris.

The flowers and foliage are very much like those of their taller "cousins," the tall bearded German iris, but the plants are only eight to ten inches tall. The overall effect is more delicate.

The color combinations on these irises are wonderful, including blues, pinks, yellows, and many have flowers with two-color markings.

Years ago, in an earlier garden of my own, I had a long line of tall bearded iris on both sides of the walk. They were quite a sight in late spring! In my present garden, I don't have enough sun space for the big guys, but I do have a few of these dwarf (Iris pumila) sweeties in my raised beds.

It was a pleasure to see so many varieties in such a range of color in Eleanore and Dick's garden.

See the fuzzy part coming out from the center of each flower? That's the "beard."

These plants grown from a rhizome, which is a potato-looking tuberous thing that is not the same as a bulb (for example, a tulip bulb). They are planted fairly shallowly in sun in soil that is rich but drains well.

The garden here at Eleanore's is extensive and there are all kinds of wonderful shrubs and perennials. Dick is growing a lot of annuals from seed every year as well, and they are waiting in their seedling pots for the start of the season.

In addition to the dwarf bearded iris, there are bluebells and bleeding heart in bloom in this garden.

Lots of tulips are in bloom as well.
I especially like these two-tone tulips. What a great color combination!

Here's a lovely yellow allysum.

Speaking of yellow, here's a shrub I recognized right away because I have one in my yard as well -- the double Japanese kerria. Unfortunately, mine isn't blooming so well this year because of too much shade.

I have a number of weigela shrubs as well, pink, pink and white, and red ones. I had never seen a yellow one before, so that was a real treat too!

I wasn't able to photograph everything that was in bloom in this garden, of course, but I couldn't resist these fantastic showstoppers, the LILACS!

The fragrance is wonderful! In addition to this lovely lilac blooming in the portion of the garden in the area at the side and back of the house, the front walk is lined with lilacs just bursting with bloom.

There are several kinds of lilacs along the two sides of the front walk, including the rosy pink Persian lilac, the traditional lilac, and the two-tone sensation lilac.

This has really been a phenomenal spring here in east central Illinois. I think that just about every flowering tree or shrub that I've seen has flowered more heavily than usual. It's quite something to stand close to the lilac blooms and feel enveloped in them.

The lilacs were a great way to start our garden visit and a lovely last look as we were leaving.

Of course, we did visit Eleanore's fascinating craft studio as well on this trip, including the fabulous "great wall of fiber and fabric." You might want to stop by her Etsy shop, Ebrown2503, to see her amazing fiber beads. Check out her new line of card organizers in beautiful prints as well.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Handmade Spark Article

Just published a new article on Handmade Spark all about the craft fair we did this weekend. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lilac Time

It seems that all my blog posts lately are about spring blooms, but I can't help myself ... it's so beautiful outside right now and the spring goes by fast in east central Illinois so we have to enjoy it while we can!
Warm days have finished up the early bulbs and flowering trees and shrubs. Forsythia, star and saucer magnolia, quince, weeping cherry, pear ... are leafing out and their flowers are finished. But the next wave of blooms has begun: crapapple trees in white, pink, and deep rose are in bloom all over town, along with red bud, fragrant viburnum bushes, and ... LILACS!
Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved lilacs of all kinds. The fragrance is wonderful (BTW, I adore French Lilac all-vegan natural fragrance and body butter by Pacifica) and the flowers themselves are so delightful. I love the way the cone-shaped panicles open toward the end, so that the tips have the darker color of the unopened buds.
Lilacs take patience. Unless you get an unusually large plant to start with, you often wait three years for the first blooms. I'm not sure how long ago I planted the shrubs pictured here, on both sides of the two-seater glider in my north yard, but it was at least ten years, I think. This year, they are blooming beautifully.
On the north fence, I have a considerably younger lilac with just a few blooms. But it is fascinating because of the two-tone coloring. This variety is called "Sensation." It is also sweetly fragrant.
In addition to lilacs (Syringa vulgaris), the white crabapple (Malus hybrid) in my yard is blooming nicely this year. When we first moved in, it didn't bloom for several years and we pruned it hard. It must have "scared" it into action because it has bloomed every spring since then!
The apple blossoms have a sweet smell, and, when they finish up it looks like snow on the ground beneath. I never have seem little crabapples on this tree, however, so I assume it's a sterile variety, bred so that all the energy goes into producing flowers.
It doesn't show in this photo, but there are "fragrant rose" daffodils (white with pink trumpets and late-blooming) planted in a circle underneath the crapapple.

I find that the combination of the lilacs and the crabapple is a delight. The crabapple is actually a little behind and between the two lilac bushes.
Another beautiful shrub in bloom in my yard now is the Dwarf Double Almond (Prunus glandulosa). It isn't really scented, but the light pink and the delicate but fully double flowers are a treasure!

I also enjoy viburnums of many varieties. Some have early spring flowers that are very fragrant; others are loved for their bright red or bright blue berries for the birds. Here's Viburnum juddii, an early and sweet-smelling type.
Some shrubs and small trees are beautiful in the spring because of the color and shape of their first leaves rather than flowers per se. This very dissect (delicately cut leaves) Japanese maple is a good example.
The fothergillia (Fothergillia gardenii) isn't very common here, but it is very easy to grow and undemanding. The flowers, which look a bit like little ivory bottle brushes, smell like honey!
Besides the shrubs and trees, perennials and woodland flowers are starting to bloom as well. I love the flowing shape of the bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis).
The woodland delphinium (Delphinium tricorne), also called the dwarf larkspur, is such a wonderful purple color.
In the shade, the modest pulmonaria (Pulmonaria saccharata), also called lungwort, shows off its spotted foliage and small blue and pink flowers.
I know I said that the bulbs were finished, and most of them are, but I found a few later-blooming species tulips here and there in my scree beds.

I hope you liked these flower pics. I do plan to include blog posts about topics other than spring blooms, but bear with me for a while yet. Next post will be about blooms in the garden of my friend Eleanore.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

More Spring Flowers!

I can't get enough of spring flowers! I just love them so much! Here are some photos of flowers in bloom in our yard right now (and a couple of spectacular ones from the garden of Frank Cooper).

Let's start with what I call the "ash bed" -- a group of bulbs and plants encircling the big old ash tree on the west side of our property.

In these photos, you can see white bell-like blooms of the fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris, small yellow anemones (Anemone ranunculoides), and some Darwin tulips.

Here are some of the white fritillaries surrounded by the blue forget-me-not flowers of the big-leaved brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla), an easy and lovely shade plant.

The white fritillaries also come in a charming checkered purple color. The fritillaries are bulbs that are planted in the fall. I've seen pictures of great drifts of the checkered ones in Oxford, England.

The brunnera bloom early, and then the leaves continue to grow bigger and wider during the summer, looking quite a bit like hostas. They seem to be undemanding and spread slowly in moist shade.

At the other end of the ash bed are some more Darwin tulips.
Some of the tulips look very different from the inside and have marvelous markings and contrasting colors.
Taking photos of tulips is addictive. I can't stop!
And they are even more spectacular close up!
These pale yellow ones have a very thin line of red around the edge.
Although they are starting to finish up now, the blue anemones (Anemone blanda) are still showing their charming daisy faces.
There are a few Darwin tulips in places other than the ash bed, such as these along the side of the wired-in run that forms the lower half of the "cat patio."
The short, small species tulips from which all the hybrids were developed are especially charming. Here in a raised bed is a cluster of Tulipa tarda, a "tardy" or late-blooming species tulip.

In the north yard, the snowflakes (Leucojum aestivalis) are blooming in profusion.

The snowflakes look a little bit like the snowdrops, but they are later, quite a bit taller, and have green markings on the edge of each nodding white bells. The bulbs are small and nice when planted in groups.
Our north yard is shady and includes some Chinese dogwoods, large rhodondendrons (in bud now), and a finely cut small Japanese maple that is starting to color up.
On the west side of the north yard is a large old pin oak, and we've planted wildflowers and ferns around the base of the tree. The yellow Celadine wood poppies (Stylophorum diphylum) that are also in our south yard at the base of a large maple are blooming under the pin oak.
 There is also a white bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis 'Alba') there. We have some of the pink bleeding hearts in the south yard as well. They are in the same family of plants as the wild bleeding hearts of the Illinois woods, called "Dutchman's breeches" for their upside-down pantaloon shaped flowers.

Of course, lots of daffodils are still going strong, like these near the west fence gate along the driveway.

One of my favorite white daffodils is the Thalia, a late-blooming narcissus of the "triandis" type. It is delicate, elegant, and fragrant.
Speaking of beautiful white flowers, I was absolutely thrilled to discover that I had evidently planted a double bloodroot in the pin oak bed and that it bloomed for the first time, with two flowers.
But to show you the double bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis 'Multiplex') at its glorious best, you must see the incredible clump from Frank Cooper's garden:
 Frank's pink rhodo (Rhododendron 'Weston's Pink Diamond') is spectacular this year as well.
Each day brings a new plant into bloom in the spring -- that's part of why it's my favorite season, full of excitement, hope, and renewal!