It’s the first day of spring and while it’s still way too soon to start planting anything outdoors in Minnesota, it’s never too early to start planning.

a pile of flower and vegetable seed packets with handwritten plastic plant markers

Over the years I’ve acquired so many seed packets – hand-gathered and purchased, vegetables and flowers – that it will take awhile to organize them. Maybe I’ll have a plan by the time outdoor planting season rolls around.

So there were some failures in 2014. There were even more successes – perhaps due to a lot of rain early in the growing season, perhaps due to many of the plants simply being one year older.

Blue-eyed grass was listed as a failure earlier, but in a different location, it did just fine:

blue-eyed grass with about 40 blooms

The 2013 blazing star didn’t come back, but this summer we bought a new one that bloomed before the end of the season:

one blazing star stem in bloom

Our “tiny monster” geranium isn’t so tiny anymore. In fact, it’s starting to crowd out many of the plants around it, so we will need to divide it in the spring:

side view of tiny monster geranium with about 30 tall flowers

Moving the lamb’s ears from a shaded backyard location into the sunnier front yard did wonders for this plant:

six lamb's ears plants

The purple prairie clover had a few blooms in its first year:

one purple prairie clover blossom

This new coreopsis was planted late in the summer, when we thought it was done for the year. But the six plugs grew and grew, and half of them bloomed and bloomed. This will be one to divide and watch closely in 2015:

six coreopsis flowers and several buds

This yarrow was a volunteer plant in the backyard, and it didn’t flower last year, so I thought it was simply a pretty fern. But after we moved it to the front yard, it bloomed and showed its true identity:

yarrow leaves, buds, and flowers

The spiderwort is now two years old, and like in 2013, it had pretty flowers every day, all summer long:

spiderwort with many blooms

The black-eyed susan created many baby plants at the end of 2013. We divided it and moved it to three additional locations, all of which looked like veterans by the end of 2014:

side view of about two dozen black-eyed susan flowers

I didn’t even know that hens-and-chicks is a flowering plant until a stem started growing! I’m always surprised that this succulent makes it through the cold winters, and this year it surprised me yet again:

hens and chicks stem with buds, and a close-up of the flowers in bloom

We had varying success in the vegetable garden, and the beans were one example that exceeded expectations. They even grew through the squirrel fence:

bean leaves growing through a fence

Not surprisingly, with all of the wet weather, mushrooms were quite prevalent from time to time:

two dozen short, brown mushrooms

And we enjoyed lots of insects, like this dragonfly on a budding purple coneflower:

dragonfly on a budding purple coneflower

While not from our own garden, I had to include this harebell. It’s my favorite photo from Tettegouche State Park, but it was saved in the wrong folder and so I overlooked it earlier.

several harebell flowers next to a river

The entire weekend was as close to perfect as it gets, weather-wise. High 70s, sunny, no clouds, low humidity.


It may have been the best weekend of the summer, and it came after Labor Day. The bees and bugs were enjoying the weather as much as I was.

grasshopper on black-eyed susan

This year, I’m finding it incredibly hard to leave the garden. I can’t even glance at the flowers in the morning unless I plan to be late for work. We end up eating dinner really late every night because I’m checking on the day’s progress and watching the bee activity. And I’m usually outside late enough that it’s too dark for pictures.

bumblebee climbing out of a turtlehead

Oh, who am I kidding? This happens every year.

bee climbing on sedum

It’s been three months since I’ve remembered to cut flowers for pressing. Somehow I thought of it Sunday afternoon.

cut flowers on tissue paper: zinnia, liatris, coreopsis

I chose several pretty blooms, arranging some to lie flat with the blossom showing and some with a side view. Three new pages of flowers are now pressed between tissue paper in an old college textbook.

cut flowers on tissue paper: calendula, cosmos, hollyhock

I’ve set a reminder on my calendar for January 10, 2015: “Unwrap the pressed flowers.”

a textbook that won't close because of three layers of pressed flowers

What a fun memory of today’s weather it will be when the holidays are behind us and we will most likely be freezing under several feet of snow.

bouquet of cut flowers waiting to be pressed

We’ve never exactly appreciated the squirrels that live in our neighborhood, but this year they seem especially mean.

This sunflower already had its top bitten off, and the rest didn’t last long after this photo.

sunflower sprout

An entire evening primrose was pulled out of the ground, stem by stem.

four evening primrose stems lying on the ground

This white coneflower, which bloomed this year for the first time, was snipped off near the ground.

a wilting white coneflower with three blossoms lying on the ground

I was especially annoyed that the squirrels were damaging our flowers for no good reason: they weren’t even eating them. But then they turned to the vegetables, and I wasn’t any less upset even though the food was being eaten.

A chicken-wire fence, which stopped the rabbits, wasn’t enough to deter the squirrels from picking the tomatoes. So we had to add another fence to the top to the garden, which makes it a challenge for the humans to harvest the tomatoes and kale.

half of a green tomato, and a whole green tomato lying on the ground

Earlier this summer, when the squirrels were ripping up the squash and gourd flowers, we fenced them all in, which stopped the damage – but we eventually had to remove the fence because the vines were too constrained.

At one point, we had two acorn squashes. One disappeared completely, and the other ended up with a good chunk eaten off the top.

acorn squash with lots of little bite marks on the top

Same thing with this yellow squash. They also got two zucchini, but I don’t have the photo evidence because I was too busy rescuing the untouched zucchini to document it.

summer squash with a hole eaten out of the top, with chunks of the rind lying nearby

There were at least five gourds at one point, each distinctly different in appearance.

a small, round green gourd

Two disappeared, one is now just a fraction of a rind, and a few scattered “crumbs” were all that remained of the fourth.

the remains of a green gourd

After this week’s gourd and squash damage, we re-fenced our one pumpkin and one remaining gourd. Without a top to the fence, though, I fear it’s just a matter of time before they’re gone too. At least we have tomatoes and kale!