Dahlias and Then Some

The dahlias at Detroit Abloom and also my house (yippee!) are exploding with blooms.

I was concerned that the one sunny spot in my backyard wasn’t sunny enough for them, but most of the tubers I planted have survived and are going to produce flowers.

Some, however, got nibbled on by bunnies or aren’t getting enough sun and aren’t going to make it. I haven’t cut the plants down on these because you aren’t supposed to take the tubers out of the ground until late fall, early winter, and if I cut the plant down, I won’t know exactly where to dig, even with a marker.

However, this morning I noticed several evil beetles eating the leaves of my precious Cafe au Lait variety and my heart sank. I killed it of course, but I’m sure another one took its place soon afterwards. You can’t tell from the photo, but it’s pretty eaten up. Still so lovely.

I’m obsessed with this variety, because of its pale pink, creamy color. In all their stages, they are stunning. And you never know what you’re going to get color-wise until the bud opens, which is always exciting.

The most perfect Cafe I got was this one (also the close-up first photo). No bugs, beautiful blush color and crazy huge.

Just this week I’ve had five Cafe buds open and I spent a zillion hours photographing them with my new camera. Speaking of new camera, some of these flower photos are slightly out of focus and no, this isn’t on purpose. I’m determined to shoot in manual mode (vs auto), so it’s going to take me a while to figure it all out.

I have at least two purple varieties, one in the front and one in the back. A bunch of the ones I planted were unknowns, as in most cases, when they were digging up tubers at the end of last season, weren’t sure what was what. This year they have a much better labeling system in place, but it IS kind of fun not knowing what you’re going to get.

I can’t remember the variety of the flower in the first photo (Lavender Ruffles?) but the second one is a Vassio Meggos.

I visited Detroit Abloom and the Hoop House (also Detroit Abloom, but a different property) last week with the intention of volunteering, but ended up mostly admiring and taking photos of the flowers.

Their dahlia garden is insane, as you can imagine.

These two are seed dahlias, the bottom photo called Black Beauty.

Aside from the Cafe au Lait, one of my favorites is the cosmos. I love the white ones, and am also a fan of the cupcake cosmos (last photo above).

Other flowers in bloom are Morning Glory,

Japanese anemone,

Zinnias, celosia and a bunch more. There are a few weeks left in our CSA bouquet program. I’m surely going to miss getting mine every week.

The Garden Detroit and Detroit Abloom is having our annual fundraiser next weekend on Sunday, October 1st from 3pm to 7pm, so if you are in the area, please come by! For details Click Here. And if you can’t come, you can still make a donation online.

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The Flowers of Detroit Abloom

If you’re new to the blog, I work with a nonprofit neighborhood revitalization organization called The Garden Detroit. Last year we had a beautiful garden on several vacant lots, and a seasonal CSA vegetable program. This year we have less manpower and our wooden arbor fell during a winter storm, which really set us back in terms of being able to grow vegetables for a bunch of people.

Harvesting Stock

Because our flower farm project, Detroit Abloom gained a lot of popularity in its first year, coupled with the fact that the lots that project is housed in are actually owned by our organization (no fear of the city taking the land away), we decided to concentrate on that project this season.

One of the CSA bouquets.

Detroit Abloom has CSA bouquet shares, special events, farmers markets and also sells their bouquets at The Farmer’s Hand in Corktown. I believe we still have a couple slots left on our second CSA season, so go to www.detroitabloom.com for more information and to sign up if you live in the area!

Julia watering Larkspur and other flowers in the hoop house.

We held a fundraiser last winter and made just enough to install our new hoop house, which the plants are thriving  in.

Cut flowers for CSA bouquets

It’s been amazing to work more with flowers this year. I’m learning so much about cultivation and the different names and features of the flowers from Nancy and Julia, who run the program. It’s difficult to work without stopping to take photos. I have taken hundreds already this season and here are some of my favorites.

Purple stocks – doubles and singles

Doubles, with some singles hiding in back.

Doubles.

Before this year, I didn’t even realize Stock was the name of a flower. If you told me to guess what a Stock flower looked like, I would have zero idea. The gals planted doubles and singles in the same bed (the seeds came all mixed together, if I’m remembering correctly) and it’s interesting to see the differences between the two.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the iris, but our varieties are unusual and stunning. Still not in my top ten, but I have much respect for these elegant flowers.

Sunflowers are just so….sunny and fun and happy.

While sweet peas are wispy and wild and delicate.

Nutmeg the cat roams the hoop house during the day, often taking a rest in the Larkspur.

Chantilly snaps are also lovely, and abundant at our Manistique property.

We’re only a few weeks into our first season and I’ve already seen so much beauty. Can’t wait to see what unfolds over the course of the summer into early fall!

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The May List – 2017

May was a whirlwind.  Here’s the list.

1) We have bees at our Garden / Detroit Abloom lots courtesy of our friend Brian over at Bees in the D, and we are super geeked out about them. I have yet to learn how to care for them, but Brian is planning on hosting a workshop soon.

2) This month at Detroit Abloom, our anemones bloomed. I have soooo many favorite flowers, but they are one of my surprise favorites. Surprise because I usually go for pale colors and fluffy things like peonies. Anemones are mysterious and moody, but also bright and happy, depending on the light.

3) In my own garden, the lilac bloomed and they did not disappoint. I got a little carried away (per usual) with the loppers and trimming of the lilac tree as evidenced by the photo above, but there is still plenty of lilac tree left and it was fun to have some inside, even though they only lasted a few days.

4) I often stop to look over the fence into Shirley’s garden. I remember her taking me on a tour of it, telling me the names of all the different plants and pointing out her favorites. It makes me smile to see that her garden still looks so much nicer than mine, even in her absence. Sign of a great gardener. Her plants feel at home. Her garden helper does still comes over on occasion to fertilize or weed (and throw plants over the fence for me) which is nice to see.

5) Can we talk about potato chips for a second? I seriously am obsessed with them. In fact, right now I’m eating some Kettle brand (my favorite) pepperoncini chips (taste is okay, but I prefer plain. Or cheddar) with my sour cream-based ranch dip and I’m scared to look in the bag to see how much is left (not much). I can’t buy them or I’ll eat them but obviously I did both today. Whenever I go to a party and I spy chips (especially with french onion dip), I pretty much stay within a three feet of them at all times. What’s your party food weakness?

6) My husband and I celebrated our 9th anniversary this month. Our five year old presented me with this sweet card the morning of.

7) To celebrate, we went to dinner at a new restaurant (which there are so many of in Detroit nowadays) downtown called Parc Detroit. I’d been wanting to go for some time. It was lively and somewhat loud, but the service was good. The food wasn’t over-the-top delicious, but it was yummy enough. I got some kind of lobster pasta (if there is pasta on the menu, it’s mine. Always.) tossed in cream sauce, and the portion was large enough to allow me to enjoy some the next day for lunch.

8) The school where I work held its auction this month and whew! Glad it is over, but it was fun working on it and seeing it all come together.

I got to wear the 7.5 carat diamond earrings we were auctioning off in the live portion for a hot second. Photos do not do them justice, but trust me, they were fabulous. I mean, here I am at a reception where I know less than half the people there, listening to someone give a speech, and I am beaming. It has to be the earrings. And maybe the champagne.

9) Speaking of alcohol, my girlfriend brought her ….I don’t even know what to call it, cooler purse?…with her to the auction. Because why not. It was filled with simple syrup and juice and mini cans of Sofia by Coppola champagne and after I tried the house white, I stopped making fun of her and asked her to please make me a cocktail.

10) I read The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware this month. It’s a fun thriller, I suppose you could call it. Fun because it wasn’t gruesome or morbid or too dark and most of it took place on a luxury yacht. Not very literary, so if you’re looking for a GOOD book, this is not it, but it is a page-turner and something to zone out on. Beach read.

This photo was taken one day when my husband saw that I was frazzled with the girls and took them to his mom’s house for a couple hours. I’d been with them all morning and they were so whiny that day and uncooperative and I was so giddy to have some time alone that I made coffee and one of my favorite snacks and sat on the couch with my book.

11)  Speaking of books, after my yoga class one Friday morning (held at a church) I walk by and see that the gym is filled with tables of books. I cannot walk by a book sale without stopping and I ended up staying there for a whole hour (carrying my yoga mat the entire time. why?) and left with a set of children’s encyclopedias from the 80s ($5.00!) and about eight great (I think. I hope) paperbacks, each for a dollar or less.

12) I almost forgot about one of the best things I did this month, which was to teach my daughter’s class a Hawaiian song (Pearly Shells) and hula moves to go along with it. I was so nervous about learning the song on the ukulele and of course singing and teaching it. Which was just silly because the kids were super attentive and funny and so excited to learn something new and I left with my heart feeling so full.

I hope your May was filled with many memorable moments as well. I leave you with this gem from the Public Safety section of our newspaper. Can’t we all just get along?

Also, I went to Florida for the first time, which I will recap that in another post! Happy Happy June, y’all!

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The November List – 2016

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Welp, another month has passed and I never did get to my dahlia post. Perhaps soon. Perhaps never. But now it’s time for the List…

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1) The autumn spectacle of changing leaves continued throughout the entire month of November. Swoon.

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2) The amount of leaves on our lawn was a different kind of spectacle and very daunting. So daunting that I let my husband and kids do most of the clean-up this year.

My excuse (besides too cold and too many leaves) was that I injured my rib cage (or something) from coughing so hard during my most recent cold. And raking made it worse (it did!). And it’s only now starting to feel better after several weeks.

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3)  This is my most used emoji. What does that say about me? Should I be concerned?

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4) I voted! Although, Michigan?!?! I can’t.

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5) Shortly after the election, my sister-in-law told me about a women’s (although I think there was a guy there? whatevs) meeting of the minds at The Red Hook cafe in Detroit’s West Village. Cute place.

And the room was filled with such intelligent and thoughtful women who are trying to change the world for the good of humanity and yes, there is hope. Albeit a small sliver of. See #3.

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6)  Thanksgiving dinner was held at our house this year. My husband’s family (his sister’s family and his mom) joined us for the holiday and luckily for me it was a potluck, so I didn’t have to do much except clean and make mashed potatoes, an apple pie and cranberry sauce.

Aaaaand I bought the turkey from the Yacht Club. I know, so lame, but I was nervous about messing it up. I’ve cooked probably five (?) turkeys in my lifetime and they were all okay, nothing bad happened, but better safe than sorry.

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7) Speaking of pie, it’s officially pie season (although summertime has it’s own pie season I suppose?). So it’s official the second pie season of the year and surprisingly I haven’t had too much of it yet, mainly because it is such a pain to make. Peeling and cutting all those freaking apples! Rolling out the dough that doesn’t want to roll out! But it tastes so good.

I haven’t had sweet potato pie yet – my holiday favorite – but I am planning on making one for next week’s book group. The recipe I use includes bourbon and coconut milk, and is finished with a maple pecan crumble on top. I die.

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8) The day after Thanksgiving, Grosse Pointe puts on a small Santa parade. We walked down to Kercheval and sat on the bleachers placed along the Hill. I loved the marching bands. And the fact that we saw a bunch of people we knew.

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9) Soooo….I started a new part time job (gah!) at one of the schools here. I’ve been so spoiled accustomed to working whenever I want (an hour here an hour there, or late at night when the kids are asleep) that having an actual schedule threw me off my game a little.

I will miss Googling “Victoria Beckham hair” grocery shopping without kids and watching Project Runway having everything in its place (counters and floors clear, laundry done, etc), but I enjoy the job and I’m slowly figuring out some rhythm to my work week. It’s a historical campus – the office is really beautiful AND I have a view of Lake St. Clair. Pretty sweet.

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10) I just this week pulled the last of my kale, one of the first plants I planted in the spring. Certainly was a great year for flowers and vegetables. And I covered my raised bed with straw, because Tom from The Garden told me to. Something to do with keeping the nutrients in the soil or some such.

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11)  Speaking of The Garden, we are full speed ahead with our root cellar construction. Thank you to all who have helped by donating to the cause! A hoop house is going on top, hopefully soon before the nasty weather kicks in.

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12)  The Garden itself is looking rather dormant, but is still beautiful in its own way. A few plants are hung on until just recently – scallions, parsley and kale. There’s still a lot to do in terms of getting all the beds ready for winter. If  you are in the area and want to help, come on down! Bring gloves and a parka. Brrrrr!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around town and in our house, too. We haven’t gotten our tree yet, but we (me and the girls) are super excited to do that in the next couple of days. Wishing everyone a Very Happy Holiday Season!!

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The September List – 2016

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I’ve stopped pretending it’s summer. Yesterday I found my first red leaf nestled on our boxwood and early this morning, our first big rain storm of the season began. I put on a sweater for the first time today since early spring AND there’s a pot roast in the oven. I’m all in. Albeit reluctantly.

Soooo many things to talk about, I’m breaking my  rule of 12, exceeding the list by two.

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1)  My husband and I just got back from a wedding in Lake Tahoe. The girls did yoga on Nevada Beach the Friday before the wedding, and that same day the rehearsal dinner was held on Pope Beach. It’s not that I’d forgotten how beautiful it is up there, but it was nice to be reminded.

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2)  In my haste to get things off my plate, including my last blog post of vacation photos, I forgot some of my favorite ones. Here they are. That’s my cousin holding the corn and the sweet baby girl, also a cousin.

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3)  After being in the Detroit area for two and a half years, I made it to the DAC for the first time. The building is a work of art and the new deck offers sweeping views of the city.

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4)  Our girls (finally!) started school after Labor Day. The oldest has always and will always love school (thank you Jesus), but our kindergartner has threatened more than once to “sit on the couch all day and not go to school and not get up, never ever.” There were many tears the first week, but they seem to be gone for the most part and some days she actually wants to be the first one at school!

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5)  To celebrate the joyous occasion, a friend had a mom’s back-to-school evening, complete with a ridiculous amount of champagne and homemade margaritas and treats, including the fanciest donuts you’ve ever seen from Donut Bar, a gourmet donut shop in Southfield. Gotta love Grosse Pointe’s “go big or go home” motto when it comes to gatherings. Works for me.

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6)  I attended our second grader’s parent information night held shortly after school began. This note was waiting for me (husband couldn’t come – no sitter). After searching the room for a checkerboard with turtles on it, the teacher told me that Checkers is the name of the class turtle. OH.

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The parents were also given tiles 1 through 10 and had to complete this worksheet. OMG so stressful!

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7)  I’ve been so excited to introduce the girls to the Star Wars movies, starting with episode four (of course). It kind of bums me out that so many kids in our eldest’s class have already seen it and therefore have ruined some of the plot but we didn’t think the girls were ready for it until now. It wasn’t as thrilling for them as it was for me (and there was a lot of – mom, is he bad? mom, is she bad? mom, what is that?) when I first saw it as a kid but….they enjoyed it at least.

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8)  A couple days after Shirley’s passing, a flower appeared along our front walkway that I did not plant or see before (bad photo, taken well after the flower’s prime). A coincidence if you want to call it that.

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But then last week… the rose plant I bought from Trader Joe’s at the beginning of summer that stopped blooming over two months ago AND that I had neglected and hadn’t thrown out due to laziness, started growing again, producing the prettiest lavender-pink blossoms. I’m sure I’ll continue to be surprised by my garden over the years, and each time I will see it as a reminder of Shirley’s promise to live on in those she loves.

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9)  The dahlias I planted many moons ago (gifts from The Garden Detroit’s flower farm) bloomed this month. My favorite variety, Cafe au Lait, began to open a couple days ago and I was so worried that the wind and rain from today’s storm would damage the petals, but so far so good.

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10)  Our youngest turned five! She requested yellow cake cupcakes with chocolate frosting and I found a great recipe online from Smitten Kitchen that turned out great!

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11)  I went for my biannual mammogram this month, which is never fun. But I do love seeing this sweet prayer request table in the clinic’s lobby. I jotted down a request this time, too.

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12)  My former co-worker Jill happened to be in town the day I got back from Tahoe. She quit her lucrative advertising job and is driving all over the country in her (very fancy) RV with her dog Juno. You can read about her adventures here. It was so nice to catch up with someone from my SF life. I think the last time I ran into her was something like 12 years ago at a bar in the Mission? It’s been a long time, anyway.

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13)  My husband and I, along with eight of our friends (four couples) redeemed our tickets to the Great Escape Room in Royal Oak this month. We didn’t know quite what to expect, but the experience was pretty close to the description on the website – “Locked in a room with no way out, you must search for hidden compartments, secret passageways, and clues to plot your Great Escape. It is a hybrid of a scavenger hunt and a puzzle game.”

You have an hour to escape and I thought (considering that the puzzles were hard!! and I’m a puzzle person!) we did super awesome, but we didn’t make it out in time. We solved all but the final puzzle, which I’m certain given a few more minutes, we would have done. It was fun and different. Highly recommend. I do not recommend stuffing 10 people into an 8-person limo.

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14)  A thank-you to my mother-in-law, who let me come over one afternoon to divide her hostas and take the extras home. So many! When I moved here, I was so-so about hostas, but they are one of the only plants that love our shady backyard and that thrive with very little care. And they’ve grown on me – I quite like them now.

Happy Autumn, everyone!!

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Saying Goodbye: A Tribute

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I wrote about one of my first encounters with my neighbor Shirley here. I met her in the spring of last year, while she was in her backyard (and I in mine) tending to her garden.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that she played an integral part in getting me excited about my own garden. At most, I’ve watched my Hawaii family expertly grow and care for flowers (orchids, roses, bird of paradise, red ginger) and produce (mangos, papaya, peppers, jackfruit, tomatoes, ginger root), but hadn’t done much of it myself.

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On top of that, gardening is so different in the Midwest than Hawaii or California. In Hawaii, you plant something and it just sort of grows (except my mom/auntie have not had success in growing cherry tomatoes, whereas they grew like weeds for my grandfather, who planted in the same spot). San Francisco is a little trickier because of the fog and cold, and I didn’t get much opportunity (except for pruning) to work with plants while we were there because we had a shared backyard and finicky neighbors.

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Here in Michigan, zone 5 (didn’t even know what a hardiness zone was and that you even had to pay attention to them), the weather plays a huge factor on what you can plant and when. And shade plays a big part as well, which is tricky with our backyard, which is bordered by massive maples and evergreens. And let’s not forget soil acidity. GAH.

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Sedum, ground cover. The first plant we transplanted together.

She taught me how to divide plants, how to transplant them – what soil/compost mixes to use for planting, which plants like shade vs. the ones that like sun, which ones are good for ground cover, perennials vs. annuals, etc.

She reminded me that transplants take a year or two to really flourish (she gave me so many last year. Half my beds are filled with flowers/plants from her garden), so this spring was very exciting as I watched the different plants rise up from the ground, strong, healthy and happy.

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I was aware that Shirley had cancer. I had heard from a couple people (bless this town), though never from her personally. On the outside, she was just as healthy and happy as those spring plants, but this summer it hit hard, and she passed away Saturday morning in her sleep.

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I didn’t have a chance to see her during her last days. By the time I figured out that things weren’t going well, her visitor list was limited, as she needed to reserve her strength. Fortunately, I was still able to communicate with her through email – via her daughter, who relayed sentiments from me to Shirley and vice versa.

I was able to tell her how much she meant to me. More than a teacher or a mentor, she was someone who came into my life when I was feeling not so great about having moved here (small towns are hard to crack, especially as an adult). And being able to work the land gave me a connection to Grosse Pointe that I desperately needed.

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Her daughter wrote back… “Did (Shirley) ever tell you how she became interested in gardening?” (no, she did not) “It was not from her parents–they never gardened. It was a neighbor who gave her a paper cup with a few seeds planted in it which she put on her windowsill. It was the first thing she ever grew.”

She also expressed that “she is happy to know that some of her favorite plants will live on in your (my) garden” and I promised her that I would continue to have the girls plant with me and help tend the land, even though they might not do things exactly the way I want. I promised teaching with patience, in her honor. It’s going to be really hard, but I am going to try my best to stick to that promise.

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One of the most memorable things I learned from Shirley was to say goodbye and thank you to my garden. One afternoon I saw her and her husband walking slowly around their garden, and she told me she was saying goodbye.

My first thought was, “why? what happened? are you moving?” What she meant was that gardening season was coming to an end, and thus she was no longer fertilizing, dividing, weeding. The plants would be left alone to their own devices until the following spring, so she was thanking them for being a part of her garden and saying goodbye until next year.

And so I say goodbye and thank you to you, Shirley. Thank you for being a part of my garden and goodbye. Until we meet again.

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