Heavenly Blue Morning Glories, a favorite of Vita Sackville-West

Lost Garden Story: I love morning glories. This heavenly blue variety was a favorite of Vita Sackville-West. After five years I am still trying to find the perfect spot for them and the time to plant them. It seems I keep planting them too late; they never bloom until the frost comes in the fall, and unless I cover them every night they die. This year I tried to outsmart them by starting the seeds indoors two weeks before the last frost. Pictures above are my flowers through the years and my little seedlings this year! I love the way their centers glow! I’m planting them back in the spot they liked most, the west side garden fence with trellis’ to give them more room to climb. I hope to have the beautiful heavenly blues again in my garden this year, hopefully to enjoy way before the frost hits! .

In Your Garden by Vita Sackville-West

I think I have read just about everything Vita Sackville-West wrote about gardening, I also own many of her garden books. She continues to be the place I go for advice and also cute little anecdotes about additional uses for flowers most gardeners never think to mention. .

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Been fidgeting in the garden since late April, but the final frost will be tonight, and we can finally welcome summer in our gardens. So glad the lilacs and other flowering trees and bushes held off blooming for a few days so the frost didn’t kill their flowers. It’s about to smell really good in Michigan soon!!

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Sissinghurst by Vita Sackville-West and Sarah Raven

The sudden warm weather in Michigan has got me thinking of the garden. A couple years ago I wrote a garden blog every week dedicated to the garden writings of Vita Sackville-West. Some days I miss her writings, her wonderful way of describing “ordinary” flowers and plants like human beings. She knew them all so well—more so than humans actually which made her a bit cold when it came to her human relationships. Her friend, lover and muse, Virginia Woolf was an expert on people and enjoyed exploring the human condition. Thus being opposites, they made a nice pair. I think I have collected the entirety of Vita’s garden works. Her books helped me get through some of the most cold & dark winters of my life, she kept me alive and green. Anyone needing a little lift would be right to pick up something of hers. This book gives a great introductory view of Vita’s talented green thumb.

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For the Bride: Today is our Wedding Anniversary

For The Bride: A scrapbook for brides from 1920’s. My mother gave me this as a sort of joke on my anniversary one year along with a book called, The Silent Hostess, also another inside joke. .

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My husband and I were married 14 years ago today. I was 22 years old. It was 70 degrees in Michigan, and the leaves were still brilliantly colored on all the trees. We were indeed blessed. It was before everyone got really creative with wedding pics. Ours are very standard and professionally posed. Nothing fancy like people all jumping at the same time or pictures of shoes and rings, etc. Some details I remember: Our photographer had been hit by a car that day and had managed to limp his way to our wedding despite this. There were ladybugs flying all over the place, got themselves caught in my veil, on my gown, in the hair of bridesmaids and groomsmen. My uncle Jack flew in from California to surprise me on this day, and my dad asked if I was nervous before he walked me down the aisle. I denied being nervous but hummed Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture because I WAS nervous (and because I’m a weirdo). I couldn’t find Bryan for most of the event, and everyone kept asking if I was pregnant. 😂 .

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Here’s to all the brides out there!

Cheers 🥂 .

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Indoor Gardening: A Happy Journey Through Winter.

The fashion for growing plants indoors is very understandably on the increase.  The lead had been given to us by the Scandinavia countries, where the climate must be more difficult to manage than our own, and where the inhabitants go to the most elaborate lengths to ensure a supply of living vegetation and greenery in their rooms throughout their long winter.  It is a pleasant fashion, and I hope it never proves to be ephemeral.

-Vita Sackville-West
November 14th, 1954

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Rather on the contrary to Vita’s fear, I think indoor gardening is on the rise.   I myself, don’t think I could live without the pleasure of gazing at my blooming houseplants all winter long.  I feel so blessed to have a collection that provides me with something at all times.  I no longer dread the coming of winter because I know my work indoors will begin.  Just because the roses are gone and the dahlias are dug up doesn’t mean I won’t have flowers.  In fact, I will have plenty.

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Forget fresh flowers in each room- what about live flowers instead?  With all the positive research which proves plants provide clean air for our stagnant wintery houses why wouldn’t one want a plant to bring some new oxygen and color?

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My love for flowers began with the cactus- if you can believe it.  They were inexpensive and there little pots did not impose on the limited space in our home.  However, as I was trying to roll myself out of a wintery funk, gazing upon one little cactus wasn’t good enough.  My broken spirit needed something more- something bigger than me.  Soon that little pleasure took the form of a therapeutic obsession which branched out into the interest of other plants and soon tramped off to expand itself outdoors.  I followed it willingly and found myself feeling the greatest pleasure.  I attached myself to a positive energy that spun all the heaviness away.


In the dead of winter, we can all get a little run down.  So when this happens, I venture off to my favorite place: Telly’s Greenhouse in Troy, MI.  Their collection of house plants is out of this world and the displays are nothing short of inspirational.  Stepping out of the cold and into their greenhouse (pictured above) one is immediately struck by the humidity and the most wonderful smell of wet dirt.  Find a nice greenhouse near you and make it your safe haven.

People tell me they kill cacti, succulents and orchids too.  I myself cringe at the times I threw phalaenopsis orchids away when their blooms died.  Not anymore.  I have one that has been blooming consistently (taking short breaks here and there), throwing up blooms since two years ago.  Don’t let anyone fool you, their care is not challenging.

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My latest achievement however, is getting my dendrobium to bloom this year.  I’ve been waiting two years and my hard work has finally paid off.  Since dendrobium’s and cacti need a drought period in order to bloom, they are such rewarding plants when they finally shoot up some color for you.  Indeed, they teach patience and perseverance.

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Sounds complicated and annoying to have to wait so long, but that’s the fun of it.  If you need a distraction or feel a bit heavy, get out into the garden and start with something simple.  I promise you, gardening can cure all mental ailments if you’re willing to be cured. Whether indoor or outdoor there is an endless amount of knowledge to learn and practice.  Be well this winter; allow the flowers to lift your spirit.

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Vita’s Wish For Nasturtium…

What about Tropaeolum speciosum, the flame nasturtium, with brilliant red trumpets among the small dark leaves?  This is the glory of Scottish gardens…

-Vita Sackville-West
In Your Garden
November 24, 1946

Something rather peculiar happened when I was planning my garden back in April.  I knew I wanted to plant seeds, two in particular; the zinnia and the morning glory.  But a picture of a brilliant red flower caught my eye so I picked up the packet to examine it.  I had never seen nor heard of the nasturtium before.  However, I didn’t want to bother with new seeds I knew nothing about so I put it back…or so I thought.

I came home that day and discovered the packet in my purchase bag as if Vita herself had put it there.   I took this as her spirit coaxing me to try them.  I carried her spirit with me a lot in those early days of spring, unsure and uneducated in the way of gardening.  But she helped me very much, and I do believe this was her way of coaxing me along to experiment.   So I did.

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They soon came up in these cute little clumps of lily pad-like leaves and they grew and multiplied; covering the ground, expanding and taking over my bare areas where I needed the extra growth.   I love the leaves with their defined veins reminiscent of exploding stars, and the tiny flowers hide inside their abundance as if they were a secret.   My Grandma came over and noticed them.  She told me that her mother, my Great Grandmother use to grow nasturtiums all the time.  This I never knew.  However, I waited a long time for them to flower.   They took all summer to do so, but they are lovely!  They are indeed like flames among the green, coming in bright orange and brilliant red.

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The other day I experimented by clipping a few of the flowers for a vase.   Although they didn’t last more than a week it was a good opportunity to see the flowers close up and get a whiff of their delicious scent, which is like a delicate baby powder.  They are so low to the ground one would have to get on one’s hand and knees to smell them.  I’ve often thought that next year I should try them in pots.  That way I can move them around to my liking and have them burst and melt over the sides of the pot.  They will also be at eye and nose level for my ultimate delight.   I do recommend these curious ground loving plants. Go ahead and grow something different.  As Vita would say, “Try“.

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Just In Time For Tea

The marvel of Peru, Mirabilis jalapa, is familiarly called four o’clock, because it opens only at tea time and shuts itself up again before breakfast.   It is an old-fashioned herbaceous plant, seldom seen now, but quite decorative with its mixed coloring of yellow, white, red, or lilac, sometimes striped or flaked like some carnations.

-Vita Sackville-West
A Joy of Gardening
1958

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Indeed, the four o’clock flowers show themselves every afternoon and until morning, then shut themselves away again. I suppose they are conserving themselves for the next show.  It’s rather intelligent of them to expel their energy only after the blaring heat of the sun has gone.

I’ve found that mine don’t open until dusk.   They’re scent is subtle, but increases as it gets dark. It is a sweet fresh scent that I can’t really describe specifically.   Next time I happen to catch it wafting through the humid night air I’ll do my best to detect it.   You can cut it, the blooms will open for you.  But to get its second bloom, one must be diligent to trim the stem every few days to keep it fresh.

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I planted them last year.   My Grandma had given me some left over seeds and I thought I should try them.  Assuming they were annuals, as told to me by the package, I planted a few seeds to try my luck, jam-packing them in a neglected corner.  They came up yellow that August.  Not that impressed, as yellow was not my favorite color last year, I vowed not to plant them again and didn’t give them much thought after that.

Imagine my surprise when the pesky things found their way into my garden this year!  I failed to take note of their self-seeding quality.  Happy in their random places they have found for themselves, they are popping up everywhere in the most unexpected nooks and crannies.  But a couple pink plants have emerged!  Magenta we’ll call it, as my daughter argues it has a purple tinge.  I rather like the places they’ve turned up.  They seem to keep politeness and punctuality about them – showing themselves on schedule every day and not treading on my rose bushes or my other coveted plants.  Perhaps they know best as they’ve shown up in spots that were left bare by me and now my garden has filled out in a lovely way.

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