Green Thumbing


I don’t believe I have informed you of the fact that we have three bird nests in the yard this spring.  Starling in the chimney, eurasian doves in the blue spruce and magpies in the Austrian pine.  It’s been a thing to endure, at times.  Well, not the doves, I like doves very much and they make pretty noises.  I have neutral feelings about the starling.  However, the magpies are making me nutty.  Allow me to dwell on the magpie situation for a little while.  First of all, their nest is a hideous, pseudo-spherical smathering of sticks that constantly loosen themselves and rain down on the Airstream and one of my gardens.  Secondly, they make generally awful noises and begin their scratchy, dissonant yodeling in the early hours of the morning.  Thirdly, the adults tried to kill the cat on a regular basis until the cat ate one of them (it was a miracle, I rejoiced).  Revenge was very sweet for Rhubarb who had enough of  being bullied and having his tail pulled multiple times a day while sunbathing on the lawn.

So you get the general idea that I have not been delighted by the magpie nest in the yard, however, the chicks have been emerging this week and they really are the cutest little tender and fluffy things with enormous raven-esque beaks on their faces and I squeak a little each time I get a good view of one so I suppose the magpie situation hasn’t been all bad.  I’ve even sat up on the roof with binoculars in order to get a closer look at their antics.  Boy howdy they’re cuties, to be sure.

I do look forward to the time when their handsome little family disperses into the sagebrush higher up the mountain, later this summer.  In the meanwhile I keep ear plugs on the bedside table as a peaceful response to all the early morning racket.

Now, about the garden, isn’t this a magnificent rose?  Robert and I have been planting, digging, tearing down, building up, weeding, soil pepping and frolicking about the yard like we are made of ten green thumbs each.  I love this time of year!  The raspberry canes already look full.  The grapevines are about to pop open into broad leafiness.  The roses are coming on strong.  The peach tree and plum trees look very promising.  We have grand hopes for the peonies.  My numerous clematis vines are zooming for the sky.  It’s sheer magnificence no matter where you look here.  We have plants growing out of every nook and cranny.  We need more space which is, I suppose, why we are casually shopping for a ranch.

Today we’ll buy our tomatoes and I might pick up a few peppers, to boot, though I never have great luck with them.

How does your garden grow?



  1. All of my wee green lovelies are still trapped in the greenhouse. The gingerman and I both obsessively check the temperature in the evening and mornings, and adjust the propane heater to compensate for what have been chilly nights here in the Klondike. BUT even confined, the peppers and tomatoes are blooming, the radishes are screaming to be thinned, and my army of wee basil and lavender plants stand ready for the full heat of the midnight sun.
    Yesterday while walking the dogs I spotted my first flower, a blue beauty, the lime green of new wild rose and raspberry growth and the first fuchsia shoots of fireweed. Spring is slow but sure here, though none the less thrilling! Thanks for taunting me with the promise of neon brights! Enjoy that rose!!

  2. AH….spring comes so slowly in the North.

    I grew AWESOME peppers when we lived in Alaska. My secret was to actually grow them in the outhouse which had a clear, corrugated plastic roof that changed the space into a sort of greenhouse. My peppers LOVED it in there. 🙂

    I hope you find two more blue beauties today.

  3. Hi Jillian, can totally relate to the magpies – last weekend I was so honored to have 2 baltimore orioles in my treetops, until by the 2nd day the singing was really starting to grate my last nerve, then they left, whew. As for gardening, I cannot wait to get home – I have the next 4 days off and I have 2 of 4 veggies beds ready, my herbs are in and then the rest of veggies and seeds this weekend – plus some nightmare nettles in my woods I need to weedwhack, and numerous flower beds to mulch, but it’s all good! BTW, my mother’s favorite gardening tip was to always keep an eye out for free flowers – look in abandoned yards, fields, dumpsters next to nurseries after Easter, etc – she called it propigating, not stealing! Got lots of goodies in my garden this way! 😉 Have a great weekend!

  4. Those roses!!!!! wowsa.

  5. My window sill garden grows well— I live in SF and my window looks out to another building, but I have a garden of asparagus fern, ivy, and some succulents, along with a humming bird feeder! The hummers seem to be hungrier at this time of year– and I love to watch them, they’re so close to my window. My impatiens were whittled down my some wee-beasties, but then a sturdy, green weed popped up out of the dirt and now it has bloomed with a yellow flower! The Urban Jungle…

  6. A ranch! Awesome! I bet the magpies would love the space! 😉

  7. Ahh, such a handsome rose bush! I just wrote a little blog post about what has been happening in my garden and my (lack of) garden plans. Since we hoping to be moving sometime in the next year and I have a generous trade with a farmer at the market I do, I have decided to work with what is already happening (mostly perennial herbs, for teas and medicine and such…) and not add much more, although there are a few empty terra cotta pots out front that I will probably fill!
    We, thankfully, don’t have the bird nesting problem early in the morning, but I used to live in an A-frame in the White Mountains and had a red squirrel in the wall of my bedroom (Oh joy! Scratching at 3 a.m.) and also a woodpecker that worked rather hard at getting through the metal roof. It sounded like a machine gun!
    Can’t wait to hear more about your garden and the ranch search!!!


  8. Wowzas! A ranch! That is exciting, casually speaking of course. 🙂 Where ID has magpies, TX has grackles. I am not a fan of grackles. Such a bully of a bird. Messy and noisy as well.

    And my pitiful thumb is terribly black. It is a sad shame but at least I am aware and not embarrassed to admit it!

  9. rhubarb: ninja cat. go get ’em….
    i mean, really. can’t a cat sunbathe in peace on his lawn??

    and. SNORTguffaw. the girl who loves nature so very much has earplugs at her bedside….

  10. after this dreary winter that started early and ended late, desperate for color i jumped the gun and filled planter boxes, pots, and small beds with a riot of blossoms. i’m sure we looked ridiculous during the mother’s day snow carrying everything that wasn’t nailed down into the garage and covering what was nailed down with all manner of empty objects. the good news is that all we lost were the coleus and a watermelon which have already been replaced. (well, also the cauliflower and brussels sprout that the bunnies chomped down and won’t be replaced…) now the perennials are zooming up and blooming and every day is like a treasure hunt to see what’s new. we need to get the rest of the vegetable gardens planted and then sit on the deck and sip some wine and soak in all of the beauty! i think that really helps the gardens to grow!

  11. Those pesky Starlings can be quite the dive bombers! And Magpies! You poor thing.

  12. oh, wonderful. sounds like you are having a grand ol’ time. my garden on the other hand, doesn’t really grow at all. we had big plans this year to put in raised beds but then our landlord put our house up for sale, so forget it. i’ve got a few hanging baskets and pots, some lush herbs too, so at least the deck is a peaceful space. someday we’ll have a space of our own to build a big garden!

  13. unfortunately, I manage to kill every plant I bring home. so I don’t bring them home anymore. it’s too sad. I had a jade plant that a friend gave to me for my birthday one year and she handed to me, hesitantly, and said “please don’t kill it”. I swear I babied that plant the best I could for over a year and it was beautiful. but all of a sudden it just got sad and I couldn’t coax it back to life. that was it for me and plants. I am no plant whisperer.

    I have to say I really LOVE all the photos in this post. they remind me of paintings by Clare Elsaesser. especially these two…

  14. Hi Jillian–your gardening efforts sound fantastic. Makes me wish I lived farther from the city. My husband and I rent, but he is a landscape architect (and gets a lot of free plants) so we manage to make the most of whatever space we have. We are about to move and I am selfishly wanting to dig up the peonies and hydrangeas…but will try to refrain. Thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures, jewels and words! They are a total joy. Best of luck on the ranch, can’t wait to see what you guys eventually find.

  15. Elizabeth Waggoner says:

    Wow! That rose is some kind of gorgeous!!
    Giggling about the birds – so easy to love and hate at the same time! I remember that I used to get so irritated when the cowbirds would come take over the feeder.
    I had a lovely little robin’s nest in a large bush right out my back door this spring. Mama sat there for the longest time and then one day she was just gone and the three little eggs cooled down beyond salvation. I brought one inside but the other two had little chips out of them and now they are gone without a sign. Here in the middle we have the tamer birds, but boy howdy, the blue jays can be mean as snakes. I had always loved the tanagers, but I have a fair trade here with the gold finch.
    Spring flowers and birds are a great combination.

  16. Elizabeth Waggoner says:

    PS: Jillian, have you read “The Color of the Wild: An intimate look at life in an untamed land” by Gin Getz?
    You would love it. It’s on Amazon. (And she has a blog)

  17. Your rose is gorgeous and I can see that it likes being hugged by you. I hope it has a delightful scent. These days I only grow grass and catnip. It makes certain fluffy ones happy. My green thumb has to wait for other seasons. I love that you tend to this earth with so much love. xx

  18. hi Jillian! i just got out in the garden for the first time today to plant my first clematis and to move some other things around. it felt so good to get my hands dirty. peonies are by far my favorite, but fade far to quickly… i hope yours do well. 🙂 we also have birds nesting in one of our birdhouses out back. what a joy!! happy planting!

  19. For several years we had magpies that would nest in a tree by our walkway,my husband,son,and the cat would make a mad dash for the front door because those crazy birds would start dive bombing them. The birds never bothered me and my husband would say that it was because I was such a sweet and kind person. I finally told him that every year I would tell the birds that I knew how to wring a chickens neck! 🙂

  20. Today, I picked up a tomato plant from the Farmer’s Market which I immediately transplanted into a bigger pot and right now it’s yellow flowers are night-“sunbathing” next to a vintage wood lamp.

    I’m also growing lettuce from seed — oak variety. My window sills serve as urban-garden-beds.

    A ranch — what a gutsy dreamer you are, Plume. Add a Steinway grand for the living room, close to the fireplace, along with an easel, and a catnip toy for the feline…

  21. Oh gardening is the best! I would love to get my hands in to the soil. My garden would be something slightly wild, like a secret garden! All lush and romantic.. I have always dreamt of an small small orchard too, plum-cherry- and apple trees. Ah, ah! It’s good to have dreams. So good luck with the ranch thing! Fingers crossed.

    Your roses are gorgeous! That color is just delicious.

  22. Thanks for all these lovely thoughts and mentions of gardens and growing and magpies (ugh). Love having you here!

  23. Catherine Chandler says:

    Ha! I have to say…the magpies here sound like cute little songbirds compared to their counterparts in Australia. Those Aussie Magpies look and sound like demented ravens.

    We are starting a little garden here this year. Mostly because one of my girlfriends gifted us a whole bunch of veggie starts, so I tilled and worked the soil along the path around our apartment and have planted tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, chives, cilantro, basil, and chard. Fingers crossed my thumbs are green this year and everything is happy! It was sort of a whirlwind affair, since spring began at the end of the semester’s craziness.

    In addition to the veggies, we are the managers of the apartments, and with that comes grounds maintenance. Honestly, I’m tempted to pay a crew sometimes to do all the weeding. We can only weed as much as our green bin will hold, which fills up really fast. And then we have to wait until the next Tuesday when it’s been collected to start again. Today I’ll begin hacking away at some rogue rose bushes–I know it’s not the right time of year but these things are monsters. I love roses, but I don’t love their ways.


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