Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sweet Surrender

I stepped outside early this morning to greet my gardens, and these beautiful cactus flowers smiled at me.

Dear Friends,

I surrender. From now on, my hours in the garden will be all about peace–not battles. It seems as though I spend too much time fighting with interlopers that are trying to take over. Centranthus (Jupiter's Beard) is galloping through every empty space. Why do I tug it out and try to reign over the spot it wants to fill with green and blossoms, butterflies, and bees? Isn't it better to have life over empty spaces?

Bloom you strong-willed vagabond.

Nigella (Love-in-a-mist), have your way with the sundial garden (and after my work outside this morning, I know you're springing up in four of my raised beds too).

Columbine, I'm happy that you overtook the pathways and fled the confines of your bed.

Rose Campion, claim your territory in every crack and crevice...

...and bloom.

Spanish lavender, you're so headstrong. You've overrun the narrow pathway along the wall. You've gone from two plants and multiplied. Now there are ten of you, and you're enticing all the bees in the neighborhood into this tiny garden.

Thalictrum, you've pushed your way into pots throughout the garden. You started living with me over 30 years ago. You were a mere one gallon splurge. Year after year, you've let me know that your life-force exceeds anything I could ever imagine. Have your way.

Blanket flower, you're strident. You're thriving. How in the world do you fit in with all the pinks and purples in the back yard? The butterflies and skippers, bees, and syrphid flies worship you. Maybe I should too. 

Oh, you hollyhock ladies. I started with eight of you along the back garden wall. Now there are dozens, a troupe of dancing pink, red, and rose hummingbird pleasing blooms.

You're crowding the Matilija poppies, nudging aside the grape vines, poking through the broad hands of fig leaves, and providing my grandkids with perfect, frilly dresses for their flower dolls.

I won't even go into the beds that are thickets of spearmint, nasturtium, catmint, Eryngium, Lunaria, and more. How did this all happen? Am I the keeper of the garden or is the garden my keeper?

Meanwhile out in the garden, the hummer babies are thriving, although I may not be. I'm enjoying every minute with them, but I also worry about them constantly.

April 15th

April 16th-two sleeping babies.

It's getting crowded in this nest. Eyes are open now and bill is longer.

April 17th-This little one saw me and opened her bill in hopes of a feeding.

I'll end this now. It has been a long, long day, and it is late. I have spent most of my time writing and drawing, and trying to answer letters and e-mails, but I am way behind (on everything). At least now, since I'm letting the garden (or is it letting me) have more free will,  I'll  have an easier job taking care of it!

Jeff and I are trying to work on some sort of letter with lots of answers for the questions you ask about publishing, agents, etc. Please be patient with us and we'll try to sort through everything.

Come visit me in Oklahoma City on June 1st for the Oklahoma County Master Gardeners meeting. Mark the date, and I'll give you the details in an upcoming blog entry. In late July, we'll also be traveling to Austin, Texas (one of my favorite cities-watch out Linda, here we come), Dallas, Texas, July 29th Agriculture in the Classroom in Oklahoma City (again), and some stops in Wichita, and Kansas City.

Sending love and hopes for a joyous spring,


P.S. Be sure to leave a comment on this posting to be entered in the next give-away of Ivette Soler's great new Timber Press book (need I say more?), The Edible Front Yard

This book will give you so many useful and whimsical ideas for creating paradise in an area that is normally not planted with edibles. Ivette is opinionated and spunky. You'll love this book. If a Grimy Hands Girls' Club member is drawn, a bonus surprise will be included with the book. Good luck!

P.P.S. Please visit Love Sown blog for a chance to win a copy of my book Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots.   


Marigold Jam said...

I'm all for a bit of live and let live in the garden especially if the "weeds" are as beautiful as those in your garden!

Rebecca said...

Sounds like you've come to terms with your garden. How beautiful it is. Even the intruders.

The picture of the humming bird babies lying on their back is a prize-winner, I think!

I received my Grimy Hands Girls' Club packet Friday (I believe it was). Thank you, thank you! You two are certainly busy as bees.

Darla said...

You really are never 'in control' over the garden....It's best to make peace and leave some of them I wonder if my Centranthus is going to have the same strong will as yours..hmm.
I too received my packet this past Saturday. Nice things in there, can't wait to try the lettuce, may have to wait until fall, as it will be in the 90's this coming week.

Blondie's Journal said...

Your garden is bursting with color! I didn't recognize many of your flowers...are they native to your area?

I am so looking forward to the weather getting warmer here in the Midwest so I can start my gardening as well.

So happy you shared more pictures of the hummingbirds, they are so precious! It's amazing that they can manage to fit in that little nest!

Take care, busy lady!


Sue Bleiweiss said...

Here in Massachusetts my hummingbird feeders are out but haven't had a visitor yet. How lucky you are to get to see those babies!

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

This post made me feel so happy. I can just see every nook and cranny of your sweet garden filled with all kinds of delightful 'spreaders'. Sometimes, it's so much easier to stop fighting with our gardens and let them do their glorious thing. Your cactus is really something with those fantastical blooms.

I received my pkt. Saturday. Thank you so much. I was going to plant the basil seeds yesterday morning, but after getting hands dirty with another gardening job, the heat and humidity were just too much, so I came inside. It is a joy to be part of Grimy Hands Girls' Club.

Love and hugs to you,

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful cactus! I love seeing spring come alive in nature...and in us humans...!

Alyssa said...

I agree! Sometimes it's best to let little things grow in the nooks and crannies! My father-in-law has "Moose Poop" growing everywhere! Beautiful blueish purple flowers sent to him from my niece in Alaska. They call it, "Moose Poop" there as it takes over I guess. He is now cursing the moose poop, but I think it's so pretty and will be planting some in my yard. Have you ever heard of it?
Thank you, thank you so much for the gift from G.H.G.C. My Will loves your card...He said, "It's a book, but it's not!"
Will you be lecturing in Maine or MA this summer?
All the best!
Alyssa ;)

Robin Larkspur said...

A wonderful new attitude about the garden....why do we always worry about things taking over. How super to see those hummer babies growing, love the photos!!

Snap said...

It's always fun to see what surprises come up in the garden ... this year particularly with our horrible winter. I didn't replant any tropicals. Two years in a row the plumerias *GOT IT*...I'm getting tired! So this year, roses went in! Wonderful shots of the hummer babes. Would love to win the Edible Front Yard (title makes me think of my neighbor who plants all his veggies in his front yard). Happy Spring!

Vee said...

I know so little of what you speak, but I found myself smiling throughout. Sometimes I have found that a weed is as lovely as the flower and I did give up with tugging on the moss on the side grows so well there in all that shade and it is perfectly soft and green. This may mean more time in the garden just enjoying it, might it not? Hot tea in the evenings and cool drinks in the afternoons and watching your beautiful hummer babies grow...

cheris said...

Oh I can't wait until you come visit us in Austin! Please let us know the date when you can.

Debbie said...

Dear Sharon,
Your cheery post matches the bright sunny morning I am enjoying here in MA. this am. You have your own little Eden there, and the critters know it!
But why wouldn't you? You belong together! I'm very interested in your book give away. We are adding two raised beds in our FRONT YARD this week!
Safe travels and thanks for a wonderful post!
Love from across the miles,

eidolons said...

Such lovely flowers! The only thing I have blooming right now are violets. But I'm okay with that, because they're beautiful. (:

I got your package this weekend. Thank you so very much for the Grimy Hands gifts. My boys and I are going to play in the dirt this week and plant the seeds you sent.

Angela Faust said...

I love this perspective of "surrender". And how beautiful are all those "intruders" in your garden!

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

I'm having the same kind of disagreement with garlic chives. The Herbal Husband keeps moving them to other parts of the garden after I remove them from the herb garden. So pretty soon, you know what will happen. I'll let you fill in the blank. I would just like to get on top of them because they can take over every part of the garden! Would love to win the book, but my copy is wending its way to me from as I type! You are taking good care of those hummer babies, Sharon. Someone must! Lucky you! Hi to Jeff. xxoo Nancy

Unknown said...

With garden thugs as beautiful as those . . . .

I have a friend in Austin -- though it's an 11 hour drive, maybe I can make my way out there . . . .

I was just looking at that book at Borders last week. I would love to win that. And now, away from the computer and out to my own garden.

Pat said...

I agree - the garden is definitely our keeper! I see you talk to your flowers too...that is why they thrive so. It is the companionship!
Received your delightful packet on Saturday and now if the snow would just go away, the basil seeds could find a happy home. Not this week though - more snow on the way.
Take care.

Susan said...

Some of the most aggressive plants in my garden turn out to have the most extraordinary like you, I let them be. I also learned, from my grandfather, that when it came to "critters" in the garden, you plant twice as much. Nature is a part of us and I'd rather live with it than take the time to fight against it.
I love seeing your little hummers thriving--I just planted my fuchsia to attract them to my yard. It takes my breath away to watch them in action. Love,XOXO

The Herbalist's Cottage said...

my kind of garden -let it grow where it wants (with in reason)
Lovely to read your cherry spring post - here in NZ we seem to of gone straight to winter brrrr
The hummer nest seems so small to house the babies - love seeing he photos.

Love Leanne

Fun Mama - Deanna said...

I'm all for letting the garden tend itself! Since I learned that dandelions are a vegetable, I'm trying to learn more about what is in my yard and how much of it is edible. We have a raised bed in our front yard and often plant tomatoes, herbs and peppers as decorative plants that we can quickly get to for dinner. The book sounds like it's right up my alley!

Thea said...

Good morning, Lady Lovejoy! Loved your post today! Do you sometimes feel like you are the Dr. Doolittle of flowers - the way to talk to them seems to make them preen with glorious splendor. Your cactus, for instance. I have friends who'd love for their cactus to bloom, but it never quite gets there. But yours - wow! I walked my garden beds and I seem to be invaded with girls-gone-wild violets - and of course, i don't have the heart to pull them while they are blooming away - even the plain purple ones. And I have dandelions popping up through my walkway - okay, i will wait til they are ready to poof before i take action. Anyhoo, I think i've mentioned to you that i'm in a garden club. each month the members get a floral design challenge and this month we are doing a basket of fruits and vegetables with some flowers included. So i'm making a big salad and i'm looking in my garden for some early edibles to include so i think i'll add some dandies to the mix. tomorrow a bunch of us are doing garden days of virginia, touring gardens in the arlington/mclean area. cannot wait. well, take good care of the babies! xo thea

Storybook Woods said...

What sweet babies!!! Well I think one only has soo much controle in thier garden. yes, better to go with the flow xoxo Clarice

ps. I recived my lovely mail today. Thank you soo much and Renee too xxox

Kim said...

Oh, what a lovely garden you have Sharon - so full of life and beauty! Mine is just now waking from its winter slumber.

Huskerbabe said...

What beautiful pictures. We just had 14 inches of snow last week, so flowers are still a dream of spring to come. Thanks for sharing.
Kris in Nebraska

Larkrise garden girl said...

Hi Sharon, Having a garden is being humbled by nature and creating a painting with the plants we use as our canvas. I love the seeds and notecards and it was a happy moment to get seeds in the mail. I am a proud member of the Grimy girls club.Love your flowers I am going out in my garden today to plant a meyer lemon tree a nice gift for my birthday from a fellow gardener!Aren't plants the best gift!I love giveaways, Cheri

Anonymous said...

I had to laugh at your post, as I have a similar problem: I don't want to surrender to the toads that keep ripping out my sunflowers. Every year I plant Russian gigantic sunflower seeds in a couple of raised beds in my vegetable garden and every year the toads are upset that I've disturbed their territory. For the last three years the toads have resorted to digging out the young sunflower plants and depositing them in the pathways. They rip 'em out, I retrieve 'em, replant 'em and the toads rip 'em out all over again. Grrrr...why can't the toads and I live in peaceful coexistence? I know the toads are the guilty ones because I happened to actually see one of them kicking up the dirt around a helpless plant. I LOVE the toads and I LOVE the sunflowers. Heck, I even placed toad abodes in the beds, but MY toads prefer the warm earth and even stare up at me from their little tunnels, all the while lecturing me with their croaking. I've given them backrubs so that they'll be still long enough for me to study them; they probably think I'm trying to mate with them, LOL. I really would like to have sunflowers in these certain beds, but I'm not sure I have the will to continue to do battle with the toads.

Please Dear Lord, give me strength to just sweetly surrender to the toads and resign myself to doing without the sunflowers where I want them to be.


Diane in North Carolina

m.o.M. said...

What beautiful pictures! I'm joining the Grimy Hands Girls' Club right now because that's the way my hands usually look at the end of the day!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Dear Diane in North Carolina,

I wish I had an e-mail address for you 'cause I'd address the toads comment in a lengthy reply.

The toads are actually doing their job and going after larvae, bugs, insects, and more. Obviously the sunflowers get in their way. If I were you I would plant the sunflowers and cover them with either a lightweight floating row cover or those small plastic baskets you get strawberries in. Since toads are very active at night I'd definitely cover the sunflowers somehow at least during the night.

I don't know if you've read my book A Blessing of Toads, but they are indeed a blessing and I envy their presence in your garden. So far they haven't found me in my new little garden in town.

Good luck with the sunflowers. I'm transplanting mine late this afternoon, but putting out canola oil and soy sauce to trap the destructive earwigs before they devour the little plants. If I had toads I wouldn't have the earwig problem.



Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

My husband and I have had discussions about intrusive plants. If they enter into the lawn, they are weeds no matter what science calls them. :)

I LOVE all the color in your garden!

Erin | Bygone Living said...

Your garden is breathtaking! Wow! You have nothing to worry about!

And speaking of gardening, I received your GHGC packet in the mail yesterday... how adorable! I love the basil seeds as well (they'll be put to great use!) Thank you so much :) ♥

Anonymous said...

ahhhh, sweet surrender.what beautiful photos,, just wonderful.Our ground is still snow covered in spots and to see such color is a treat.I've been enjoying your art and photo for many years and you never fail to impress .thank you for sharing,,

Claudia said...

But what a wonderful surrender. I thinking your garden is overjoyed and spilling over into every available space!


Lori ann said...

What a sweet post, your humor in the garden is so charming Sharon. I think everything you touch grows and so you may as well resign yourself!

I know how you feel worrying about the wee feathered friends. They'll be fine, i'm sure!

Michelle said...

I love the natural look of a garden that has been allowed to grow forth at will. LOVELY photos!

Bonnie K said...


Good luck with the live and let live theory. Sometimes nature has a different plan about what grows better where. Thank you for sharing the baby hummingbird photos. How they fit in that nest. I used to get quite a few hummingbirds up here, but lately not as many. If Diane would like to send some toads my way I would be happy to oblige. She may want to send a sign "North Carolina or Bust" in case they don't enjoy the Black Hills as much as I do. I know the last batch of transplanted toads wasn't very impressed. Thanks for the lovely blog and enjoy your trip. Austin is a beautiful city!

Terra said...

Yes, let's surrender. If you saw my garden you would think I already did!
I am a Grimy Hands member and please enter me in the contest to win the book; edible and pretty plants are the best. My neighbor when I lived on a farm called Jupiter's Beard flowers Meet Me By the Gate, so I call them that.

farmlady said...

Acceptance is the key to a happy life. Let the wild, flowery things join you in your garden. They are beautiful, strong....
and, obviously, want to be there.

Love the baby hummer's. We are watching Linnets build a nest on the porch. What a gift nature is.

Thickethouse.wordpress said...

What a wonderful climate you have for gardening in California...Of course, I love Ohio dearly, but it seems that so many blogs I read have things coming into flower earlier that we do. But our day will come. The photos of hummer babies on your blog are fantastic. Thank you! I would love to be in the running for Edible Front Yard! I already have most of your books, and they are also used at the CSA farm I belong to ( which has a lot of educational outreach programs. My grandson is in Tiny Tillers and loves it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sharon,

Thanks ever so much for your comments about the toads. I have your book, A Blessings of Toads, and it sits on the table near my side of the bed. I have read it many times and it is my favorite of your books.

I love having the toads and as you say, they are such beneficial little creatures. I would never want them to leave and if I need to allow them their space without the sunflowers intruding, then it ought to be a small tradeoff for all the joy the toads bring to me. I'll try the rowcovers or strawberry baskets and keep my fingers crossed that it works.

I deeply appreciate your comments and if you still want to tell me more, I'd be so excited to hear from you! My email address is

Thanks again for taking time to give me counsel about the toads. I hope the toads in your neighborhood find your garden soon! They'll be the luckiest little critters once they come to live there, I'm sure.

Joy to you too!

Diane in North Carolina

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

I think I have almost all of the flowers you showed in this post, and they are all spreading around the garden, although they probably like your climate better. Verbena bonariensis is another one that is finding it's way all over.
The baby birds are so cute. I've been enjoying watching them grow.

Debbie said...

Love your blog and club!!
Would love to win the book!

Anonymous said...

I am glad to see that I am not the only one talking with the plants to see if we can compromise and join forces!!!

Love the baby hummers!

Thank you so much for the wonderful packet in the mail!

Linda said...

There are always surprises! Some are so good and usually make up for the bad ones! That's what keeps us all doing this endless job we call gardening.

Shady Gardener said...

Spring is so special! After a long winter, I so look forward to seeing my "old friends" from last year again! ;-)
I want to thank you for the packet I recently received!

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

thank you for this wonderful post.
I dream of when my new garden will be overrun with plants.
you and Jeff stay so busy. take care on these travels....

Pam/Digging said...

My heart leaped with excitement when I read you were coming to Austin, and then I saw that it'll be late July. Rats, I'll miss you! It's awfully hot in July and August, and we're getting out of Dodge for a vacation then. But I'll be happy to let people know about your visit, if it's open to the public.

Great hummer shots, by the way! And I'd love to win a copy of Ivette's book.

KarenB said...

I didn't even know you had a blog till today. I bought your Sunflower Houses book way back in 1991 when I lived in Massachusetts. Then when I moved to California for the second time, I visited Hearts Ease on the way up the coast. Now, I'm back in Southern California for the third time. Gardening is so much different here than the East coast or Midwest. I'll definitely be back to see what you're up to. Would love to hear you speak someday!


Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Pam,

So sorry to miss you when we're in Austin. I am HOPING to do something at Natural Garden, and then my publisher is working on something at a wonderful bookstore. I'll also be doing a segment on Central Texas Television. I've worked with them many times and love Tom and Linda. What a great show and it leads me to many other great gardeners. Love it.

Spring joys,


Anonymous said...

I know what you mean--the ideal we have for order in the garden versus nature's takeover tendencies. I'm constantly reminding myself that my garden is my joy not a chore. Beautiful photos, Sharon. I especially love the dark pink hollyhock. I'm hoping mine do better this year.

Casa Mariposa said...

I love that Jupiters Beard is thriving in your garden! I wrote a post last summer about how our heat/humidity kills it every year. Rose campion takes over in my garden, too, but I just leave it be. It's so beautiful!

Donna said...

I'm so excited to find your blog from Blondies!! I LOVE your work and have for years!! To see what inspires you and how you think and work is amazing to me! And to know that you know Susan Branch...another of my!

Color me a new follower!!

Lili said...

Everyone should be so lucky to have those types of intruders in their garden! It sounds like it's more of a reflection of your green thumb and so happy that you have shown us how glorious it can be to have all these prolific blooms surround and abound! I enjoy knowing you too worry about the little backyard birdies, it's such a curse, but often I fret over them as well. Enjoying so much all the shots you have captured of them. Hugs to you dear Sharon! ~Lili

Privet and Holly said...

If only my wild
and crazy encroachers
were this beautiful,
I'd let them have their
way!! I received your
Grimy Girls packet and
am so excited to get
my seeds planted. We
can't put anything out
until Mother's Day at
the earliest, but it is
fun to dream; thank you!
Happy Easter, Sharon!
xx Suzanne

Vicki Boster said...

Hi Sharon- I'm so glad you are letting the flowers win! Lol!! Might as well give in my friend! Such gorgeous blooms- that cactus flower is fabulous!

How wonderful to peek into that little hummingbird nest- they are lucky to have your watchful eye looking after them!

I know you have such a buy schedule- so many demands- I'm grateful that you continue to blog when you have the time. I so enjoy my visits here~~
Happy Easter Sharon-

Lydia said...

This may be your loveliest post yet.

"My" matalija poppy has flown the nest this year. It escaped the confines of my back yard and is now popping up in the canyon beyond.

Jim Longs Garden said...

The cactus flowers are gorgeous but the hollyhocks are awesome. I'm not sure why hollyhocks are such a delightful sight, given they are such rustic, worn-looking plants. I use your hollyhock spray almost every year and some years, we even get blossoms!

Susan Freeman said...

I am so thrilled to be a member of the Grimy Hands Girls Club!! I want to wish you and your family a Blessed Easter.

Lots of love,
Susan and Bentley

Anonymous said...

It´s a bit funny because most of those plants You describe more or less as weeds are cherished pot plants here, they have hard times surviving at all in flower beds :-) :-) :-)

Have a great continuing of easter!

Aunt Jenny said...

Oh Sharon..I loved your post! I am finding as the years go by and I relax a little (a lot actually) that sometimes the volunteer plants are my favorites! I can hardly wait until things are blooming HERE like yours are blooming THERE. It will be a couple months yet. Worth the wait though. I have to make do with my seedling "patch" waiting to go outdoors when they grow up.
I plan to really do alot on my front yard this year. Edible yard sounds like they way to go! I get so many ideas from you..thanks so much! Have a wonderful Easter!!

Tammy said...

I am now determined to get some thalictrum to overrun my garden!

Another book your readers may enjoy is The Practical Garden of Eden: Beautiful Landscaping with Fruits and Vegetables, by Fred Hagy. (I am not affiliated in any way) It's an oldie but goodie!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hello dear friends and hope you had a peaceful and joyous holiday with friends and family...or with yourself and nature.

Tammy is right...that is a wonderful book, which I have in my collection. I really got a lot out of it and I think they have old copies for sale on A Libris.

I will write a posting tomorrow and let you know who won the give away of Ivette Soler's great book. You'll love it...and if you're a Grimy Hands Girl you'll get more goodies included in the extra give away.

My front yard is planted!! I finished in the dark last night and will take a shot of it tomorrow morning to share with you. Hint-Nepeta, fruit trees, tomatillos, artichokes, and lots of sunflowers grown from seed. Love it all.

Joys to you,


Beth said...

I love flowers which run away and go where they want! We used to have rose campion in one of our gardens, and I want it again. Most satisfactory! Have you tried growing feverfew? That's another one which spreads and then it sparkles all over the garden like little stars.

Marqueta (Mar-kee-ta) G. said...

Dear Sharon,

I'm so glad I stopped by your place today~ What sweet pictures of the garden and hummers! We have a nest of robins in a wreath on our front stoop; funny birds!

I am absolutely thrilled to learn that you will be coming to Kansas City. We moved here last November, and are still learning our way around. I would love to come see you when you're here; I'll keep watching your blog for more details.



p.s. The word verification is "cityromp"! :)

rebecca sweet said...

Sweet surrender is right! I have 2 sections of my garden that I refer to as my 'growing grounds'. One is my daughter's old swing-set area where lobelia, feverfew and nemesia re-seed and provide me with plenty of transplants each year. The other is down the side of my house where more feverfew, rose campion and columbine grow like crazy providing gifts for my clients. Sometimes its nice just to 'let go', isn't it?

Olive Oyl said...

My front yard is what has sunshine, so of course all along my driveway is my edible garden.