Prospect Gardens Summer Time

Prospect Gardens Summer Time
Summer Scene

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

What's Blooming

The skies outside my window are overcast and the deck of our balcony is damp from the misty light rain. Another day similar to those we enjoyed during the winters of Oregon. Yesterday, Ann and I returned to Home Depot and came home with another Martha Washington geranium and a pot of marigolds.  My Mother, Anna, and my Mother-in-Law, Ethel, always had marigolds in their gardens. The marigolds' yellow and orange blooms are a reminder of their vibrant lives.
Here are eight pictures of flowers that are blooming in the Prospect Gardens. The white delicate blossoms are some Sweet Woodruff that were planted several years ago. Ajuga are the  three small purple blooms. The cluster of leaves roughly in the middle of  the picture are weeds waiting to be removed.  This rainy Spring has meant plenty of weeds.
Here's the Golden Alexanders. It's their second year in the Gardens and transplanted from gardens on the near east side of Madison. 
Of course these are the lovely and delicate Columbine. This one is the progeny of seeds planted eight years ago when we began the Gardens. Others have spread throughout the Gardens. Wow, hard to believe it's been eight years.
I have no idea what species this is with its delicate light blue blooms on one stem. The plant is about a foot tall.  I do not recall planting this lovely addition to the Gardens. May it continue to thrive and spread.

These are the flowers of one of two Pagoda Dogwoods that I planted nearly five years ago. This is the first year they have blossomed. I have been waiting patiently for the arrival of these delicate blooms and now celebrate this developmental stage. They were about two feet tall when first planted and were on sale. Great investment. In the next few years, they will grow in height.
Pictured to the left is Solomon's seal.  These came from a friend's garden.  I so enjoy the delicate bell-like flowers. This plant loves the deep shade and nicely compliments hostas.

Spring would not be Spring without the Jack-in-the Pulpits. This one graces the hosta garden and is rather tall.

Prairie Smoke, an early bloomer, produces these beautiful pink star-like blooms.  This one in on the Dudgeon Monroe side of the Garden and another one resides in the Regent side of the Gardens. Last year I had about a half dozen, and two survived. Not a good survival rate, I would say.

The Gardens, like life itself, does constantly change as the seasons pass. Each plant has its life cycle. Some are with us for a long time while others just for a brief span; adding their beauty and then disappearing forever.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Busy Week, Dirt Therapy and Wet Stalwarts

We have been busy gardening for the last eight days and since I last blogged.. Besides working in the Prospect Gardens, Ann and I enjoyed shopping for and placing potted plants on our long deck that extends across the front of our apartment. A variety of annuals joined a statute of Buddha, a small water fountain, and two large pottery vases. We brought these four items with us when we moved last August into our apartment.  Ann's ability to select and match colors contributed to a very pleasing display of flowers.

On May 13, a sunny Saturday, Ann and I joined the crowd at the annual UW- Arboretum plant sale. We arrived at 9 a.m. and chatted with others as we waited about a half hour before getting into the tent. I enjoyed a cookie while patiently listening to a woman with a wonderful accent telling us about a mysterious plant in her garden. She kept showing us several pictures on her camera while expecting us to guess the plant's name.  I felt like I was caught in a version of  "Garden Jeopardy". After about ten minutes she revealed the plant's name.

We purchased five Columbines and made our way to the Gardens. The five replaced those that didn't survive the  winter.  Ann and I spent more time than I anticipated. Laura, a stalwart volunteer, joined us after walking her friendly little dog. We weeded as time swiftly flew by. We ended about one o'clock.
My niece's husband refers to gardening as "dirt therapy."  The analogy is somewhat appropriate, from the perspective of relieving stress. For me, however, the difference is that when gardening I don't do self-analysis or seek self-improvement. Gardening is more like meditation with the object of meditation being the task before me. As I garden I experience calmness, a feeling of generosity, being connected to Mother Earth, and time dissolving.

On Friday, May 19th, before the rains arrived in the late afternoon, I planted four boxes full of Sweet Woodruff. Ann S.,  a friend and leader of our Japanese Crane sessions, offered the plants. Ann S. cares for an garden area that makes up an intersection in front of her home.

Sweet Woodruff is a great ground cover that spreads quickly and took over her small garden.  Digging it out required pulling on the carpet-like root system after digging under it. The slopes that make up much of Prospect Gardens need ground cover. The quick spreading Sweet Woodruff will help prevent erosion while adding early spring green color that will last until frost. Perfect!
Here is one area on the border of the shade garden with the newly transplanted Sweet Woodruff. The stump is from a tree removed several years ago and is at the top of the slope. Over time, the area in front of the stump should be covered, and in early Spring with many delicate small white flowers also. Three other areas in the garden gladly received more Sweet Woodruff.

Today Ann and I returned to Ann S's intersection garden for more Sweet Woodruff and transplanted them into the Prospect Gardens. I already had some, planted a few years ago. We also transplanted grasses from Janice's rain garden. Janice was our neighbor when we lived on Keyes Avenue. Thanks Janice and Ann S. for the gifts.  

Saturday, May 20th, arrived with cloudy skies and rain once again in the forecast. The rain fell all Friday reminding me of the rainy Oregon days when we lived in Portland in the 1970's. We headed for the gardens just before 9 a.m and as we left the garage, sprinkles hit the windshield. We persisted. Two stalwart volunteers joined Ann and I. Here's Joyce pulling weeds. Notice her winter hat; needed because the temperature was about 45 degrees.

The rain increased, but then would stop for awhile. Here's Laura working diligently.

While working, Nick who lives next to the Gardens, leaned over the picket fence and offered future use of water from his rain barrel. This includes a hose. I gladly accepted. Thanks Nick. You may recall that  Nick and his son made the bird houses that now grace the garden.

One bird house has attracted a wren. We don't know if Mother wren will actually select the house in which to lay her eggs. Mother wrens, along with the help of their male mate, build several nests. Mother selects which one to lay her eggs and bring up her brood. I will be watching the house to see if it was selected.
When this picture was snapped the rain had already increased, as you can tell by the soaking of Joyce's jacket. Joyce's smile and laughter lessened the sting of the cold rain.

By 10:30am,  we threw in the trowels, giving in to Mother Nature. Ann distributed her delicious homemade lemon bars and we all headed home. We were pleased with what we accomplished. Thanks Laura and Joyce.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

2017 Season Arrives: Weeding and the Red Bud

The 2017 gardening season at Prospect Gardens officially begun last Saturday, May 6th, on a perfect Wisconsin spring day; sunny, temps in the low sixties and a blue sky.  Incidentally, May 7th was naked gardening day. We passed on the opportunity to participate a day before this happening. Pulling stinging nettles in the buff would have been a challenge.

Weeding was the primary task. The mild winter perhaps encouraged the abundance of Creeping Charlie.  You may be surprised to learn that it was intentionally brought to North America by European settlers. Maybe our ancestors were influenced by a Greco-Roman doctor, Galen, who recommended it for inflamed eyes, or the English herbalist, John Gerard (1545-1607) who believed that Creeping Charlie reduced ringing in the ears, according to

Regardless, on Saturday much of our energy focused on removing the thriving Creeping Charlie. Steve, a long term volunteer, and I spent most of the morning removing it from the strawberry patch. The winter really thinned out the patch.  Or was it the rabbits? On Monday, my wife Ann, and I refreshed the patch with donated plants from Jennifer, a Regent neighbor.  Today, I will add more plants donated by another Regent neighbor, Ann. Ann and I belong to a small group of retirees, "Going Forth." We meet once a month to talk about situations involving retirement and aging while applying lessons from Buddhism.

Here are two more volunteers, Ann N. and Laura, working in an area just west of the strawberry patch.  Creeping Charlie  also invaded the area. Ann's daughter and our daughter, Emily, were school buddies since Kindergarten.  Now adults, the two are still in contact.  Ann's daughter has twins who bring much happiness to Grandmother Ann. 

This season, Garlic Mustard, the terrorist of gardens, is hardly present throughout the Prospect Gardens.  I am wondering why that is the case. It's  a Eurasian native likely brought to North America by early European colonists as a food and medicinal plant.  In late April, neighbors working in the nearby Glenwood Children's Park held a "Weed Feed" feasting on dishes that included Garlic Mustard.The park's Facebook page ( also mentions Stinging Nettle soup and recommended the roots of Burdock. 
 Stinging Nettles were in this area being observed by Steve in this picture.  Steve has that determined look as he surveys the hillside. I managed to pull most of the plants with only a few stings on my wrists when my long sleeve shirt sleeve pulled up.  The stinging sensation continued for nearly 24 hours.


We once again enjoyed Ann's, my wife, special homemade treat. Here's Ann N. (the Regent volunteer), Loren, Laura, and Steve enjoying Hungarian Kalacs . Thank you all for helping out.  You deserved a break. 

We enjoyed this wonderful pastry with lots of walnuts along with a yeast dough and based on Ann's Grandmother's recipe.  I jokingly refer to Ann, as the Union Boss, since she makes sure we take breaks. I tend to forgot about time. . 

The morning disappeared so quickly. We made some progress in removing the weeds with me acknowledging many still remain.  Another session is scheduled for May 20th.  Ann and I will most likely return before then, if the spirit moves us. 

In the meantime, the blooms on the Red Bud, planted several years ago, are fading. A marker of time passing while broadcasting the beauty of this spring season.  Spring also reminds of the impermanence of life in the midst of beauty.

This picture was taken several weeks ago. I marvel at how this lovely sign of spring was once a scrawny twig.  Steve brought the twig over and confidently put the twig in the ground. I kept my skepticism about its future to myself. The wonders of nature and an example of the tenacity of this particular Red Bud.   



Monday, December 5, 2016

Winter Arrives, Steam Train and a Snowperson

Yesterday morning shortly after waking up and while doing my Tai chi, the snows of winter arrived. This was the scene from our deck. More snow fell during the day. We received nearly six inches of snow. Before retiring for the day, I heard the grader clearing the Knickerbocker parking lot across the street. In a few weeks Roman Candle Pizza will be opening just across the street from our apartment building. 

About 2:45 pm and after a heartwarming Holiday concert at our church, First Unitarian Society, a quick shopping trip, and a telephone call with our daughter, I bundled up and headed to the Prospect Gardens. I anticipated enjoying how snow transforms the Gardens while being grateful that a blanket of snow now protects the plants.

Yesterday's snow and winter is a new beginning. Without the pause of winter and the protecting snow, there would be no spring here in Wisconsin.  I wish the Gardens a peaceful rest. The next five pictures show some of what I enjoyed during my pleasant visit to the snowy Gardens.

A snow covered path goes through the Gardens. This is a view towards the west. The city usually plows the path early because of bikers and pedestrians. I met both during my walk. I watched as a father and two young sons skied by. One, about eleven, took a tumble and with the assistance of Dad, got back up on his skis.  A biker, dressed for the elements, passed me by, following tracks made by another biker. A bike with wide balloon tires plowed through the snow with the rider bent over and peddling with a determined expression on his face.

 Here's the lacy remnants of a Rudbeckia (Black Eye Susan). The snow now shelters its roots. May this protective blanket remain until the spring thaw.
 Here is one of the birdhouses with its snowy mantel on the roof. A species of staghorn sumac (Tiger Eyes) is in the forefront. Hopefully, birds will move into the house, build a nest and bring forth a new generation.
This little house is a spring and summer shelter for butterflies.  I noticed the circular mantel of snow perched on the roof.The snow adds beauty to the old picket fence in the background.  The fence is showing its age. It was here when trains rumbled by on what now is a commuter path.

When Emily, our daughter, was a fifth grader at nearby Randall School, she along with a small group of students and I interviewed former students of Randall. We interviewed former students form each decade since the school was opened, which at the time of interviewing totaled nine decades.  A women told us about the steam powered trains that would rumble through the neighborhood. When she and her friends would hear the train's whistle, they ran to the bridges over Harrison or Edgewood to experience the thrill of being engulfed by the bellowing steam pouring from the roaring engine.

Yesterday I heard no steam trains or roaring sounds as I walked through the Gardens and followed the commuter path. Just memories of them along with the stillness of snow and this enchanting snowperson. The accessories, except for the buttons, are plant remnants from the Gardens.

Note the sprigs of hair.  I'm imagining that a child, with the assistance of a parent or grandparent, made this wonderful winter symbol. May the joy and laughter of the creators, whoever they are, continue as we celebrate the holidays.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day 2016 and Fall

 On this historic election day and after voting this morning, I found my way to the Prospect Gardens.  My visit prompts thoughts of this Wendell Barry poem.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethoughts
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

The Gardens are cultivated by humans and a place where one would not find a wood drake, yet visiting them on this beautiful, sunny fall day gave me peace as I wait for election returns.  In the meantime, I share these seven Garden scenes with the aspiration that we experience moments of peace as we move further into what is now unfolding.

Black Eye Susan still in bloom; a testimony to this warm fall.  Below is another hearty clump in a different section of the Prospect Garden. Surely in the next few weeks both will feel the effects of the inevitable frost and cold winds of approaching winter.                                          

No, this is not a replica of Mother Earth. It sure looks like our blue boat home.  It's a bowling ball given to Ann and I by Steve, our former next door neighbor. Ann and I returned from an out-of-town trip and found the blue orb in one of our front yard flower beds of our Keyes Avenue home.  After we moved, Earth was moved to the Gardens.

 Brilliant yellow trees that provide shade for the Hosta garden.  The Hosta plants have also turned a golden yellow, as the leaves from the trees drop to the floor of the garden. Yesterday, on my walk through the UW Arboretum, I felt the leaves from the oak trees, lazily falling around me as I strolled underneath the trees. Watching the leaves drop to the Garden made me think of the impermanence of all things while feeling a soothing calm. 
The grasses have turned a delightful brown.  These were gently swaying in the wind as I snapped the picture.

A view towards the East and the Capitol and Camp Randall. The dome of the Capitol can be seen from here.  The sculpture-like object in the foreground is seed pods from a shrub. 

 I end with Hydrangea blooms. April, an incredible gardener, from about a half block east of the Gardens,  gave me the plant from her spectacular garden. When I planted the Hydrangea about a month ago, I never expected to enjoy its blooms on election day.

Darkness now lies outside of my windows. In a few hours, I will tune in to the election reports with the intent of maintaining peace experienced this morning while visiting the Gardens.  May you also experience moments of peace during the aftermath of this chaotic election season.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

2016 Season Ends and Days Ahead

The 2016 Prospect Gardening season ended last Saturday, October 22nd.  The day started with clouds and temperatures that required a stocking cap and extra layers of clothes.

Here's Bob weeding one of the beds in a section of the Garden that borders the Regent Neighborhood. The Gardens straddle the Regent and Dudgeon-Monroe neighborhoods.

Thanks, Bob, for your help. Love that stocking cap!

About ten o'clock the sun came out, warming all of us.  Temperatures reached the upper sixties by noon, as the magnificent fall day continued to unfold.  
 Here's Ann sweeping the steps, after working hard weeding, cutting back plants and hauling plant material up the ramps. Cleaning up, I think, is her favorite task. Thanks, Ann, for a being a loyal and dedicated volunteer.   
A final task is to put up the orange plastic snow fences; hopefully to signal the city snow blowers that snow should not be pushed into the Gardens. The fences have accomplished this goal since we have erected them.

Here's me, along with Bob, putting in place the first of three sections of fencing.  Bob is a Boy Scout leader and knows his knots.  He attempted to teach me how to tie a square knot supplementing my usual granny knot.  The lesson really didn't stick. After the first attempt, I returned to my favorite granny knot.

 Throughout the 2016 season, Ann always provided a homemade treat for the crew. Here's Bob, Laura and Ken enjoying delicious lemon bars. After finishing work, everybody left with bars to enjoy later.
 A closeup of Bob enjoying a lemon bar. Bob once joked that the major reason he volunteers is because of Ann's treats. So indeed food could be one way to a volunteer's heart and motivate gardening behaviors.

Gardening always includes opportunities to connect with neighbors and friends.  Here's Laura and her dog, Esther, approaching the crew during the break.

Esther loves Ann. The two bonded the first time they met. Esther becomes so excited when she hears and sees Ann.  Ann scoops Esther into her arms, and Esther enthusiastically expresses her love.

Shortly after noon,  Ann, Laura and I returned our wheelbarrow full of tools back to a small shed near Ernie's  backyard. The shed is on city property bordering the bike path and has been there for years.   I covered the wheelbarrow and the contents with a tarp, in anticipation of the snow that will most likely find its way through the shed's cracks.

We said goodbye to Laura, a wonderful hardworking, steady volunteer gardener, and walked to our car.  Ann and I felt the physical effects of gardening while being grateful for Bob's, Laura's and Ken's companionship, diligence, and assistance today.  Thanks, Ken, too for your hard work as a volunteer on many work days.

In the afternoon, Ann and I enjoyed lunch at the next door German restaurant, the Freiburg. We intended to lunch at Colectivo, about a quarter block further east. On our way, we changed our minds. This behavior indicates the choices we have within walking distance.  Urban living has its advantages. 

Now I anticipate winter while enjoying the remaining days of fall. Yesterday included a long walk in the University of Wisconsin Arboretum. On Thursday, I will travel to another beautiful Wisconsin location, Pine Lake, near Westfield, for a meditation retreat concluding with a Sunday lunch. I look forward to the solitude of the retreat, the beauty of the grounds and being disconnected from the media, email and from my cell phone.  Ann enjoys her own kind of retreat at home.     


Friday, October 21, 2016

Fall Clean-Up

Last Saturday, October 15th, volunteers began the fall clean-up of the Prospect Gardens. Pictured to the right is the mammoth pile after the three hour work session. Ann and I are enjoying the results of a productive morning with everyone.  The pile almost comes up to Ann's shoulders.  Laura, who frequently volunteers, took the picture.

This upcoming Saturday, October 22nd (9 to noon), we will most likely have the final work session of the season. We will finish cutting back plants, remove Creeping Charlie from a section of the Garden, and put up the orange snow fences. If time allows, the dead raspberry canes will be removed.

A few days ago, the Madison Water Department disconnected and removed the water meter from the fire hydrant. Yesterday, I returned the key to the Department and finally met in person, Amy, who is responsible for garden water accounts throughout the city. She told me we only used 105 gallons of water;  another indication of this season's plentiful rain.

Dave, pictured to the right and a student at the nearby Edgewood College, pitched in. Dave's hard work is greatly appreciated.  Thanks for coming. 

 Here's Dave in action.  He diligently cut down plants for over two hours. Without his help, we would have never accomplished as much as we did.  
Ken, another frequent volunteer, is working his way through a section of the Gardens bordering the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood. Ken is using Laura's Fiskar pruning shears. Fiskar shears are an amazing tool with adjustable, long handles that make cutting so much easier than the cheaper ones I was using. Thanks, Laura, for lending them. Fiskars are now on my list of things that must be purchased for next year.

  Here I am with those well-designed Fiskars, before turning them over to Ken.  While this picture was taken, I was doing a poor impersonation of Edward Scissorhands --- not even close.

Back to work weeding the Columbine bed. Weeding is such a challenge because of the rocks.  The roots of the weeds are under the rocks, which requires picking up each stone to get at the roots.  Persistence and patience are required.

Ann provided homemade pumpkin bread for a tasty treat; enjoyed during a break. I kid her that as the "union steward", she ensures that breaks are provided.

Laura, along with Ann, also swept the ramps, removing slippery leaves and pine needles. Bike riders should appreciate their efforts.

Another gardening season is ending. Volunteers, some pictured in this posting, make these Gardens possible. Without their vigilance and diligence, the Gardens would be overrun with weeds and invasive plants.  Thanks to all who have pitched in.