Perennial Arrives!

My books are here, my books are here! Woot! They look so lovely, just as I’d pictured them. Thanks to Jenn Reese for the gorgeous cover design, and to Steve Berman at Lethe Press for the beautiful overall design (I love the matte finish, Steve!).

Thanks to Lethe as well for being willing to take a chance on such an odd little book: part garden romance, part cancer memoir, part poetry collection. And illustrated by novice artist me. It’s a very personal little book, but I hope one that many of you will enjoy.

I’ll have books available with me at PenguinCon (next weekend in Southfield, MI), at the Saturday night SLF party at WisCon (Memorial Day weekend in Madison), and at the launch party in Oak Park (June 14).

There’s a slim possibility I’ll make it to Denver ComiCon, and I should be at OutWrite in D.C. in early August, and WorldCon in San Jose in mid-August.

Otherwise, I recommend buying them directly from Lethe!

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Came home from teaching and DOVE into the garden. Pruned two fairy roses, three David Austin roses, including the lovely Eglantyne, which I just got a compliment on from a neighbor, who remembered how gorgeously scented it was last year. Three more neighbors complimented me while I was working, including one woman (in her 80s or so) who treated me to a little lecture on how God was so good to us to give us the beauties of nature. I may be a cheerful agnostic, but I am willing to celebrate the beauties of nature anytime.

Planted nine martagon lilies (three near the little free library, three under the tulip tree, three under the redbud — they’re notoriously a bit fickle, so we’ll see if they bloom this year). Planted one hellebore (if I keep adding 1-2 each year, I’ll eventually have a hellebore paradise) and also one wintersweet — it is a tiny 8″ thing right now, but eventually it will hopefully be a roughly 5′ wide by 8′ tall, tremendously fragrant, winter-blooming shrub. Boring the rest of the year, just a big green thing, but everyone I’ve seen who grows it says it’s worth it for the winter flowers / scent. We’ll see! My winter garden is pretty minimal right now, and it’d be nice to give people something to enjoy on their walk to the train.

SO GOOD getting out into the garden for a bit. Need to check the forecast now — if we’re done with overnight freezing temps, tomorrow, I think I may move my potted dahlias outside to start soaking up some sun.

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Nice gardening moment — last night’s pizza delivery came with an older man, maybe mid-50s, heavy accent that I couldn’t place, but might have been Middle Eastern.

“Flowers not freeze?” [gesturing to the pansies, hyacinths, and muscari I’d potted up earlier in the day]

“No, pansies are tough; they should be fine. Even if it snows a little.”

“Not freeze??” [making sure he understood me, I think]

“Not freeze! They’ll be fine!”

[big smile] “Beautiful, beautiful! Buy at Menard’s?”

I didn’t actually get them at Menard’s (local hardware store), but I’m sure Menard’s has them too, so I nodded yes. He went off with a little extra spring in his step — I suspect there’ll be pansies added to his yard sometime this week.

Garden proselytizing is the best proselytizing.

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I’m planning to start seeds this weekend — it’s the first time I’ve done this in a systematic way, as opposed to just tossing a few random morning glory seeds in the ground and hoping.

Some will be started indoors in trays (with light and heat), some (lettuce-type things) will be sown outside now, and some will be sown outside in two weeks, four weeks, six weeks, eight weeks, and ten weeks. Because that’s what the little packets say to do (you find out what your last frost date is in your area — it’s May 31st here — and then count from there when it says 4 weeks before last frost, etc.), and I am I nothing if not obedient.

I may have gone a little overboard buying seed packets, though. They’re just so cheap compared to buying actual plants. Kid in a candy store.

Wish me luck!

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Marching into Spring

March is a tough time for a Chicago gardener. One minute it’s warm and sunny; the next there’s a snowstorm (we’re having one right now). There’s the desire to get out there and dig already (too soon!) set right up against the desire to hide under the covers for another two months.

But this is actually a great time to be in your garden. You might do a little raking back of protective leaf mulch (or you might wait until April, if you don’t have tiny snowdrops to uncover). You can prune some shrubs (and if you layer the pruned branches underneath, that’ll provide a little cover for beneficial insects and butterflies).

Mostly, though, it’s a time to observe and plan — the heavy labor will come later, don’t worry! There’ll be plenty of time for doing.

Note where the hellebores are unfurling their thick buds and leaves, and think about whether you might want to add another one or two for next year. Pay attention to where there are gaps in the garden, places you might add spring-planted, summer-blooming bulbs like cannas, gladioli, and lilies. Don’t forget the dahlia tubers to brighten your autumn! Enjoy the budding viburnum; you might even brush your fingers against tightly-furled buds on forsythia, cherries, peaches.

Consider the snowdrops — the ones on bare dirt are dramatic and the ones on grass are barely visible, but resist the urge to move the latter. Soon the grass will green up, and the white of the snowdrops will contrast beautifully. Instead, just make a mental note for where you might want to add more snowdrops for next March.

Also, are there some close enough to the sidewalk for the neighbors to notice as they walk to work in the morning? Maybe you will move a few of those closer to, once they’re done blooming for the season, so next spring will be just a little cheerier for the whole neighborhood.

I read somewhere once that the best thing for a garden are the steps of the gardener. I think that’s true — just remember to stay on the path in the March garden, so you don’t compact the soil too much.

Walk in potential. Dream a little.

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Perennial update

Have *finally* done the Perennial layout edits and sent the note to the layout person. I knew what I wanted done four months ago — why did I wait so long to do a five minute task? It bewilders me.
Am hoping he can turn it around quickly, and we can actually be selling the book by April. Thanks to everyone who has been so patient for so long! I do think it will be a charming little romance, a pleasure for garden lovers to enjoy, and a nice gift book for people going through cancer treatment and survivors.
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Garden Dreams

Woke up, got the kids off to school, and went back to bed to finish reading Thomas’s _The Hate U Give_. Finished book, wiped tears away, going to make some notes for my own YA.

Then go back to prepping questions for a doctoral student’s dissertation defense @ noon today. Later today, meeting some friends to talk to them about maybe joining the Garden Club; I’m hopeful that they’ll have both time and energy to be more involved, maybe work on one of the bigger projects. (Julie, Nara, Amanda — if you happen to be free @ 3:30 today and want to join us at Serenitea, I’d love to talk gardens with you too.)

There’s a lot the Garden Club could do, but it could use an injection of energy from younger members. We should do more partnering with all the other local garden organizations for a start — West Cook Wild Ones, the Deep Roots Project, the Forest Park Community Garden, etc. I have daydreams about doing more with community gardens, native gardening, reaching out to Austin gardeners, etc.

I had an idea last summer for a project — border gardens, partnering people on both sides of Oak Park’s borders (so, for example, on the west and east sides of Austin), getting donations of time and money and plants and know-how to help people on the borders add more flowers to their gardens. Haven’t had time to seriously look into it yet, but I don’t want to forget about it, as I think it could be a really nice way to start building partnerships and community with our neighbors. We could gather mums and bulbs in the autumn, for example, and plant both; I can see ribbons of color extending around Oak Park. Well, we’ll see.

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My front yard has dozens of snowdrops now. I would like to have hundreds, if not thousands, but snowdrops are kind of pricey as bulbs go ($5 each from White Flower Farm, for example).
They are supposed to multiply fairly rapidly — you plant them in clumps, and then they throw off offsets from the mother plant. I figure if I add another clump of ten every year for the next ten years, eventually, there will be lots. They look so bright and cheery against the soil and the early grass; they just glow.
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Wild Animals

I’ve been up since four — woke up with my heart thumping from a bad dream. It’s sort of ridiculous in retrospect, because it wasn’t anything like my childhood nightmares of being trapped in a house with wild animals trying to eat me (for some reason, that was my recurrent nightmare in childhood, and interestingly, I got quite good at fighting the animals over time, but let’s put that aside for now).
My heart was thumping because I had *forgotten something on the schedule*. Specifically, I’d forgotten that I’m hosting a seed starting garden club meeting at ten a.m. today, and the person I’d inveigled into presenting would have been there for half an hour without the handouts I was supposed to print out, and without being introduced, and without the lemonade and cookies I’d planned to bring, and I felt horribly guilty and was going to throw my hair in a ponytail and pull on some jeans and jump in my car and race over to the library, which is thankfully only five minutes away, in the hope that I could get to her before her talk ended. And then I woke up, heart thumping.
I might have a few too many things on the schedule right now.
Local folks, you should come to the garden club thing. There will almost certainly actually be lemonade, cookies, and handouts. Main library, small meeting room, 10 a.m. today. Stephanie Wahlquist of West Cook Wild Ones will be talking about seed starting, and I plan to overcome my weird anxiety about seed starting and actually just try starting already, after hearing her talk.
I would like to set small things growing right now.
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