Let The Blooms Begin

Grape hyacinth in coffee cupFebruary 22nd and we have our first bloom! A high temperature today of 20 and pa-lenty of leftover snow gracing our Chicagoland garden were no deterrents to this determined grape hyacinth.

Nestled in the comfort of our kitchen, recently moved from the garage in its cute little cup, it took about a week for the emerging sprouts to send out the first flower. How does it do that? I don't really want to know - the question is rhetorical. But it still surprises me when a bulb blooms. I know that is what bulbs are supposed to do, and of course, I plant them with that expectation. Yet when it actually happens, I am so impressed.

I planted hyacinth bulbs in plain old water for Christmas gifts, and they are blooming too. Pictured here three weeks after I planted and left them in my garage, the root structure was strong. We kept the water slightly short of the bulb itself and the roots were smart enough to find it. I babysat them till Super Bowl Sunday, and Kathy tells me hers are blooming. Again, I know that is what bulbs are supposed to do, yet again surprised.

Peggy and Kathy's bulbs three weeks after planting, kept in garage (640x360)

Jackies daffodilsIt keeps on happening. I planted Jackie's daffodils on Christmas morning. She kept them in a cool place till about 3 weeks ago and yes, she has blooms.

Gardening skills or not, we are enjoying our flowers. We may be surprised, but God isn't. What a reassuring gift on a cold winter morning of who is in charge.

Was Michelangelo Really Any More Creative Than You Are?

You’ve seen this mosaic at the top of my blog. It’s my trademark, my brand, and yes, my kitchen wall. It was also a 3 year project, often ignored for quite a while until inspiration struck.

Mosaic on wall

Sometimes it wasn’t inspiration as much as persistence. Michelangelo, the artist who painted the Sistine Chapel, is quoted as saying “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” I don’t know that anything could make me fully agree with that statement, but I get it, especially after I look back at the time consuming creative process for my mosaic.

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali

It all started out being Lynn’s fault. She wanted ‘us’ to take a mosaic class. The ‘us’ turned out to be ‘me’. I already knew how to break plates, and Mike sure knew how to grout. Once I got to class, I was so not interested in making a trivet, and the idea of a mural was birthed. Fortunately, I never even considered that I could fail. It was kind of like Elle Woods in the 2001 comedy, Legally Blonde, waking up one day and deciding she would be a lawyer.

In that first mosaic class, I looked forward to having some guidance in the design. But wait – the design part was up to me. Oh no! Quoting again, Salvador Dali this time, “Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.” Even without those words to guide me, I knew I had research to do, so research I did.

Yep, Salvador thinks the key ring holder (below left) looks familiar. How true! It’s from Polymer Clay Mosaics by Krista Wells. Our kitty, Whiskers (below right), was a pattern from The Mosaic Idea Book by Rosalind Wates.

Key holder and Whiskers (640x365)

Mike and I made the tiles for the border, with inspiration from Plaster Mosaics by Kristen Peck.


Perhaps I was more like Pablo Picasso who wrote “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

The more I thought about it, the guiltier I felt. Could I take credit at all? Mark Twain says I can. Actually, he said Hellen Keller could take credit for her work when she was sued for plagiarism. I think he meant these words for me too: “When a great orator makes a great speech you are listening to ten centuries and ten thousand men — but we call it his speech and really some exceedingly small portion of it is his.”

So feel free to create using other people’s ideas, molding them into that which is uniquely yours. Trust in yourself, because Michelangelo is right when he says “Faith in oneself is the best and safest course.”

Back to our original question: Was Michelangelo really any more creative than you are? May you spend your whole life answering that question. And on your last days, may your be blessed to say, as he did, “Many believe – and I believe – that I have been designated for this work by God. In spite of my old age, I do not want to give it up; I work out of love for God and I put all my hope in Him.”

Is December Too Late To Plant Bulbs?

Carol plants bulbs on Dec 27 web 300 IMG_6028Could you – should you – would you – plant bulbs in December? After all, zone 5 tends to be a bit less than balmy in winter. The answer is a resounding YES, if Mother Nature agrees. This year, that meant that Mike and I were out planting tulips Saturday, December 27th. It was 45 degrees and has been above freezing regularly, so the ground isn’t frozen. Bulbs do require time in the cold, and these will have the required 8 – 12 weeks, even with the late planting date. We planted them pointed side up, in case you were wondering. Last year, with frigid temps, this late December planting would have been impossible.

Our garden center, Berthold’s, still had bulbs for sale, at reduced prices. This I appreciated. They were solid healthy bulbs that I was happy to get my hands on. Others in the store who were looking at the after Christmas sales might have thought I’d lost my good senses. I’ll remember those folks as I enjoy my blooms this spring.

Bulbs purchased Dec 27 2014

I also planted inside, in containers large and small. Isn’t the teapot below adorable? The bulbs were placed in potting soil so they were almost touching. Then I covered them with about an inch more of the potting soil. They will be mostly ignored in the garage for the minimum 8 weeks of cold that hyacinths require and the 12 weeks daffodils require. After that, they will go in a window or outside. We’ve done that before with great success, and minimal care, as you can see at Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – Buckets Of Bulbs Planted In December Are Blooming. Mike watered them just a little once or twice that winter, but to be honest, we pretty much forgot about them till we noticed sprouts in March. That’s the kind of dedicated winter gardener I am.

Potted bulbs in garage

I planted the previous weekend as well, including the hyacinths below that are also in the garage. They are in glass containers, with glass gems at the bottom and just enough water for the roots to grow into. The bulbs themselves are NOT in the water. I was excited to see they are already rooting! If it gets too close to freezing out there, Mike will bring them into a cool spot in the house for a while. He will also add water as needed to keep the roots in the water and the bulbs out of the water. A turkey baster will be his tool of choice for that task. After 8 weeks, we will bring them inside by a bright window. I’m really interested in how well this experiment succeeds, as the idea of the stems being supported by the container intrigues me.

Bulbs in glass containers

Are you intrigued too? Call your garden center. Maybe they still have bulbs.

Morton Arboretum Illuminations – So Much More Than You Would Expect

Morton Arboretum’s Illuminations isn’t your typical Christmas light show. No ho ho ho Santa. No Candy Cane Lane. No lighted dancing elves, plastic snowmen, Snoopy decked out for the holiday, or toy soldiers.

No reason to go then? Not so! Illuminations is a sensory treat you don’t want to miss.
Visitor Center and Lake

It’s this…Blue and purple lights

And this…Green and purple lights

And this…Magenta

Illuminations is filled with magical moments for all of your senses.

Regine hugs a treeHug a tree and the light color changes, with green nicely demonstrated in this picture with my friend Regine.

Sing to a tree, and it provides a light show.

Savor the chili at the Ginkgo Restaurant. Maybe even catch live entertainment inside or out.

There are also musical memories to be enjoyed outside at Symphony Woods, as the tree lights dance to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.



Illuminations is a joy for young and old. Mike and Regine consented to go because it was official “Be Nice to Carol Day”, so I got to pick. I ordered our $12.00 tickets on-line. It was a fun hour and a half. Even ‘Mikey’ liked it, as you can see from this picture in the gift shop. OK, so you can’t tell that from the picture. You’ll have to trust me.

What you can tell from the pictures is that Illuminations is amazing.

Morton provides options to keep you warm during the mile long walk along the lake. They have fires, heaters, tents, even s’mores and hot chocolate with Peppermint Schnapps.

Don’t let the cold stop you. The experience will warm your heart.

A Christmas tree tip from Mike: It’s always hard to tell if the tree needs water or not. You have to get up close and personal to the tree stand to see the water level. Mike put a few pieces of easy to see Styrofoam in the stand. If they float high, the level is good. If they aren’t floating at all, run, don’t walk, for the watering can.

The Dahlia Family Garden Party

Invite by GlueMeetsPaper on Pinterest

Invite by GlueMeetsPaper on Pinterest

We had quite the garden party this year, with over a hundred notable guests. They were all from the same family, one with quite a bit of inbreeding I must admit. Did I mention they were all dahlias? 76 varieties were invited, with 113 plants in attendance.

It helped that the weather was so accommodating this summer. Our guests stayed long and looked mahvelous, dahling, mahvelous.


Our guest list included Ben, Emory Paul, and Dan.

Ben Huston

Ben Huston

Emory Paul

Emory Paul

Trooper Dan

Trooper Dan








We had a Harvey, a Harry, and a Helen.

Harvey Koop

Harvey Koop

Harry Meggos

Harry Meggos

Helen Richmond

Helen Richmond








They hailed from across the globe, with appearances by Normandy Sweet Lucy, Colorado Classic, and Spartacus.

Normandy Sweet Lucy

Normandy Sweet Lucy

Colorado Classic

Colorado Classic










There was a Drummer Boy for entertainment, and a Duet. It was quite a Fiesta.

Drummer Boy

Drummer Boy



Carmen Fiesta

Carmen Fiesta







We feasted on Salmon with Ketchup and Mustard, enjoying Honey Dew for dessert.

Wynns King Salmon

Wynns King Salmon

Ketchup and Mustard

Ketchup and Mustard

Honey Dew

Honey Dew








Our party started in August. The guests stayed long enough to see a Tahiti Sunrise, Bill’s Sunset and Wanda’s Moonlight.

Tahiti sunrise

Tahiti sunrise

Bills Sunset

Bills Sunset

Wandas Moonlight

Wandas Moonlight








One group was rather caddy, choosing to move on to a party at Willow Creek Church. We took 32 vases to church that day. Here’s a group picture. A very close family. Many others choose to stay behind and I have to admit there were so many guests left that our defectors weren’t missed.

Basket of Dahlias

Basket of Dahlias


It’s really a rather exclusive guest list, fine-tuned over a 10 year period. Mike still finds new varieties that he wants to grow, and he has to say goodbye to old friends to make way for his new acquaintance, new acquaintances who have to prove themselves to be invited back next year. A dahlia, for example, that has a beautiful bloom, but produces few of them, won’t find an invite in the mail from Mike next year.

Wanda’s Aurora will be on our guest list. She’s beautiful, and quite the repeat bloomer.

Wandas Aurora

Wandas Aurora

To everyone’s chagrin, the good time had to end. Our guests called it quits when there was a hard frost. It was time to bring them in to rest a bit over the winter, then we will start planning next year’s party.

Pioneer Day Scarecrow Factory – OhWhata Photo Op, Part 4

Why a part 4? What was so special about this year’s Scarecrow Factory that these last 2 pictures deserve a blog of their own? Why, its the new opportunity for getting your haircut while you are at our annual event. In this shot, Joan was considering a change.

Joan IMG_4281

Ann took out her trusty hair cutting scissors and Joan got a new hair-do!
Joan gets a hair cut from Ann  IMG_4357

So if you were thinking of stopping by this year, but didn’t quite make it, you now have a new incentive to visit next year.

If you are wondering what other pictures were posted from this event, check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and My Favorite Scarecrow Of The Day Is…

Pioneer Day Scarecrow Factory – OhWhata Photo Op, Part 3

This is it! Almost the last batch of smilers from the Elk Grove Garden Club’s Scarecrow Factory! There will be one more posting just so you can see the something new that we added to this year’s event.









Don IMG_4322

Carol and Ann IMG_4288

Bob, Joann, Carol IMG_4298

If you are wondering what other pictures were posted from this event, check out Part 1, Part 2, and My Favorite Scarecrow Of The Day Is…

Pioneer Day Scarecrow Factory – OhWhata Photo Op, Part 2

I’ve got more pictures of smiles to show you. Like the pictures I posted yesterday, these are from the Scarecrow Factory at Elk Grove Village’s Pioneer Days. Smiles brought to you compliments of the Elk Grove Garden Club.

One more set of pictures to follow later this week.


Mike and Sally and grandkids IMG_4366



Mike glues a head IMG_4321IMG_4393





















Pioneer Day Scarecrow Factory – OhWhata Photo Op, Part 1

Make a scarecrow sign IMG_4301

There were a lot of smiles at the Elk Grove Garden Club’s Scarecrow Factory last weekend. That’s because our scarecrows came with smiles, lots of smiles. Start counting with one smile per scarecrow, which makes our initial smile count 95. Add 1 smile per Garden Club member who helped that day and you’ve got another 20 smiles. It was infectious – all of the families making scarecrows had smiles, as did everyone passing by as they visited other Pioneer Day events. That’s a lot of smiles.

Smiles are what I like best about our annual Scarecrow Factory. Sure, the scarecrows are incredibly cute. But they pale in comparison to the smiles. Here are some of the pictures to prove it.

If you are wondering what other pictures were posted from this event, check out Part 2, and My Favorite Scarecrow Of The Day Is…




Heather, Zooey, and a little girl IMG_4394

Kevin, with Zooey in a hat IMG_4397









Michelle decorates a hat IMG_4361


If you are wondering what other pictures were posted from this event, check out Part 1, and Part 2, and My Favorite Scarecrow Of The Day Is…

And My Favorite Scarecrow Of The Day Is…

The Scarecrow Factory at Pioneer Days has become quite a tradition in Elk Grove Village. This family event is held every September. The Garden Club has sooooo much fun watching and helping everyone with their scarecrows. Creativity abounds! Here I present to you my absolute favorite scarecrow of the day.

My Favorite scarecrow of the day

If you are wondering what other pictures were posted from this event, check out Part 1, and Part 2. More to come soon.