Sunday, March 22, 2015

Springtime and New Beginnings

Signs of Spring in the Garden--Blue Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium sp.)

I am so thankful for spring this year. Even though we didn't get hit very hard, I feel like it's been a tough winter and it is really good to get outside and feel the sun and smell the dirt. My dad died in January, which was hard enough, but on top of that my husband and I have been in the process of deciding if he should take a new job out of state. After long months of discussion, we decided to take the job and make the move and so we're preparing to leave the place we've called home for 19 years. We listed the house just about a week before the wildflowers started blooming in the yard and I had to dig up some old spring yard photos from last year to use for advertisements. It felt a little deceptive since the actual yard was bare and brown, but I knew they'd come back, and now, several weeks later, the yard is exploding with gorgeous spring colors. It felt like the leaves appeared on the trees in just a day. I almost imagined that I could hear them growing. Last weekend the temperature was up in the high 80's and the butterflies arrived en masse. It's like wonderland out there! And that's the hard part. We are making this move not because we were unhappy here, but because something new and wonderful attracted us elsewhere. We still love our home. And when I walk around the yard I feel melancholy, saying goodbye to it all. I've put a lot of myself into creating this lush habitat and nature sanctuary. I've gotten many years of joy from it. I used the yard as therapy, working away issues and problems as I painstakingly pulled out the entire front lawn by hand. I know each little plant and have moved them around many times trying to find just the right place for each one. I can see when something is out of place and can spot weeds from across the yard. It's so satisfying to watch the sprouts of that I planted last year grow and flower. This year the White Indigo I planted from seed several years ago is finally big enough to have blooms. I can finally see the native "cottage garden" that I envisioned taking shape. And last fall I decided to start a sandhill habitat in a sandy, sunny section in the front corner. The plants are coming up and I think it will be very pretty this year. But we will not be able to see our personal sandhill in its fall glory because we will have moved by then. I feel the same thing when I go out on hikes and visit favorite natural places. I am aware every day that I am trying to take it all in because I know this will be my last spring and summer here. I have begun the long process of saying goodbye. I know will come back to visit, but I don't know exactly when or for how long.

Cottage Garden Taking Shape

First White Indigo Flowers (Baptisia alba)

One of the plants from my homemade Sandhill--Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata)

The Butterflies arrived! Horace's Duskywing resting on the bark
There's a lot that I will miss. The sweet smell of Orange Blossoms and dainty purple Toadflax flowers in the spring, the Anole lizards doing pushups and flaring their dewlaps, the Honeybees with their tummies colored purple and filled with grape jelly from the Oriole feeders, the Glass Lizards flopping across the sidewalk, the Southern Toads singing their mating songs in the backyard pond, the Cooper's Hawks that perch on the bird feeder, the tiny Pine Woods Snakes that live under the flower pots, the endangered Woodlands Poppymallow that has stubbornly planted itself in the crack on the front step. I will miss the Orioles scolding me when their jelly dishes are empty. I will miss being able to observe the whole Pipevine Butterfly Lifecycle in our yard each year. I will miss the Giant Swallowtails that blew my mind when I first moved to Florida. (They are so big and waft so slowly that they hardly seem real.) I will miss having people stop as they are walking by and tell me how pretty the yard is. (Someone last week said he saw the for sale signs and just wanted to thank us for building a beautiful habitat that he enjoyed.) I will miss seeing the 2 foot tall (now) Buckeye tree that I planted as a tiny sprout, mature and bloom some day. I will miss the call of the Mississippi Kites that nest in our neighborhood in the summer. I'll miss crawling through the Ditch with Maralee and volunteering at the La Chua trailer at the Prairie. I'll miss wildflower walks at Morningside. I'm going to miss being an hour and a half from the beach, and I'll miss those amazing springs. Florida has worked itself into my heart in a way I never imagined possible we I came here 19 years ago. I'm really going to miss it here.

Woodlands Poppymallow growing in the cracks (Callirhoe papaver)

My little baby Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)

Toadflax (Linaria canadensis)

Purple Honey Bee

Brown Anole in the Garden

The Pipevine is starting to grow back, ready for a new batch of hungry caterpillars (Aristolochia tomentosa)

Blue Butterwort from the Ditch (Pinguicula caerulea)

Alligators just hanging around at the Prairie
But as they say, with every closing door, another one opens, or something like that. We're moving to Athens in Northern Georgia and that will be a whole new adventure. It's about a 6 hour drive from here. My husband and I found ourselves another neat house in Athens with a big yard. The landscaping is pretty formal with traditional azaleas, camelias and rhododendrons, but I can fix that. Formal landscaping didn't stop me with our Florida house! I predict that by this time next year there will be some very informal looking butterfly and wildlife gardens around our new home. I'm looking at Georgia Wildflower books on Amazon and will connect with Native Plant, Audubon and Butterfly folks when I get there. There is much overlap in Florida/Georgia plants and animals, but I will still have a lot of learning to do. I was pleased when we visited last time to find that the William Bartram Trail runs through our new hometown, just like down here in Alachua County. But the climate and terrain are different from Florida. Georgia has winters and hills and mountains. Georgia has rocks! I'm looking forward to learning about Georgia--getting to know salamanders and The Piedmont, the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Okefenokee Swamp. And the barrier islands! There is a lot to love up there and I already know I will love many of the plants and animals that I will meet up there. The State Bird is one of my favorites--the Brown Thrasher--and it turns out that we have some living in our new front yard. The State Reptile is another old friend, the Gopher Tortoise, which I take as a good sign. I know that new birds will come to our feeders, new butterflies and flowers will fill the yard, and next spring when the Sandhill Cranes leave Florida and stop in Georgia on their way up to the Great Lakes, it will be like having familiar visitors bringing greetings from our old home. Here's to new beginnings.

We Bring You Greetings From Florida!


  1. Really beautiful post. You seem to already being feeling your Athens home. John and Janet

    1. Thank you! We are excited to start this new phase.

  2. It tugged at my heart when you described missing Florida and your home, but on further reading it sounds like you are more than ready to embrace your new life here in Athens GA!! Great read! Looking forward to seeing you again soon!

    1. Hi J., Thank you! You know how it goes--it's hard to leave something you've gotten used to. But we're excited about Athens and our new home. I'm eager to get to know this new territory so I can write about it!