Life as I know It

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

Monday, May 2, 2011

Apologizing to Onions

This mini-hummingbird garden is in my upcoming Lowe's blog posting.

Dear Friends,

Have you ever forgotten to plant something you bought? I am guilty of this. I bought lots of onions, shallots, and garlic in February and promptly forgot about them. They languished in my garden shed through the gentle rains of spring, and last week, during a heat spell, I walked inside the shed and smelled the wonderful aroma of onions. "Yikes," I yelled as I grabbed the basket filled with small red and white Cipollinis (the best onions for sauces and caramelizing). "I am SO SORRY I forgot about you."

This was filled halfway with onions, which I have dutifully planted (finally).

I immediately took them to the newly mulched garden beds and planted them around sunflowers, tomatillos, artichokes, and cinnamon basil bordered by Nepeta (catmint, not catnip, but the lovely lavender flowered catmint). Honestly, if I apologized less than a hundred times (once for each onion), I would be amazed. Now here is the thing.  I believe that plants have the most amazing will to live, so I'm betting that though many of them were shriveled little fragments of paper, many will survive and thrive.

You can see the Nepeta, the tall spires of love-in-a-mist (I use the seeds as flavorings), and the little twigs sticking up all over. They are markers for the sunflower seeds so that I don't dig them up accidentally (also so my grandkids didn't stomp the seedlings during their hunt for Easter eggs).

I witness the amazing will to live every time I work in my garden or spy a seedling struggling up through a tiny crack in the pavement. When I attended the scion exchange of the California Rare Fruit Growers, I picked up a few twigs of pomegranate to graft onto my old bush, and then I forgot about them until last week. I reached into my jacket pocket, pulled out a handful of twigs, and realized that I had another handful of forgotten possibilities, but I believe in the life force. I stuck the twigs into a glass of water on the kitchen counter and VOILA...

...the miracle of the life force of plants.

I never take the miracle of a plant's life force for granted. So, I am optimistic about the onions and the pomegranates, and I am optimistic about the life burgeoning in my gardens. And, I'm not only talking about plants, but also birds. I want to share the final days with my little family of hummers.

To make sure that they would have plenty to keep them in my gardens, I planted more coral bells, fuchsias, impatiens, and red nasturtiums, and right outside my studio I filled a big container with a mini hummingbird garden.

Heuchera (coral bells are a hummingbird favorite)

Colorful Lotus vine to frill the edges of my hummingbird container garden.

Alum root, Heucheras, and Lotus Vine– watch me design and plant this in my upcoming blog for Lowe's. It includes a video and photographs. I hope it will make planting a hummer garden easier for you. And please, do leave a comment!

Together for the last time.

Perched on the side of the nest, and then LIFT OFF, and I was there to watch its first flight.

Little sister left behind just fluffed up, spread out, and enjoyed the dappled sunlight, the roomy nest, and a mama who kept coming back with food she didn't have to share with anyone.

To say that I checked on this little one 50 times a day is probably no exaggeration. She was so used to me that she barely budged, just sat and eyed me until two days after her big brother had left. Then I walked out to check on her, she helicoptered straight up from the nest and flew away. I'll admit it. I got hit hard with the empty-nest-syndrome (again). I felt relieved that they'd made it, but so sad to lose their welcome presence in my garden and in my life.

Look at all the hair, feathers, and spider web.

I turned to walk to the studio and there she was; the little one sat on a twig above me and chittered her tiny call. I grinned from ear to ear. Ahhh, that amazing life force. Onions that were left unplanted and hummingbirds that thrived despite the odds. I watched as Mama dueled with jays, chased crows, and put up with a nosey human. They made it. Hurrah!

Later in the day, I was feeling blue. I sat at my work table and there, right outside my studio door, was one of the hummingbirds feeding at the coral bells. Maybe I shouldn't wallow in my empty-nest syndrome. Maybe they'll raise their young here someday, and the life force will flourish. 

Until next time.

Lovingly and see you in Oklahoma City on June 1st at the Oklahoma County Master Gardeners meeting.


The Kitchen Gardener's Handbook

P.S. Please leave a comment to be eligible for this wonderful book give-away. Jennifer Bartley, the author of Designing the New Kitchen Garden, has written The Kitchen Gardener's Handbook, which is stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey with goodies galore. You'll enjoy great recipes, ideas, and photographs of bouquets you can adapt for your home, an A to Z compendium of edible and decorative plants for the home and garden, and Jennifer's professional yet do-able garden designs. I love it that she describes this as a book that "will help you live with the seasons, embracing what each has to offer." She does it with her inimitable grace and style. I want her to adopt me. Drawing will be next Monday, May 9. Comments must be dated May 8 or earlier.

Remember, members of the Grimy Hands Girls' Club always receive an extra gift if they're the lucky winner, like Susan Freeman of Ash Tree Cottage.

Thank you dear Jennifer for letting me excerpt one of your recipes for others to enjoy. This is a bit esoteric, but I know that many of you will love the process of picking wild elderberry flowers and making your own cordial. I love doing this and haven't done it in years, but I will this year.

Elder Flower Cordial

Makes 6 cups

12 to 15 large flower  heads
3 lemons
4 cups sugar
3 cups water

Select flowers at the peak of their bloom: the tiny flowers will be fragrant and white. Remove flowers from the stems and place in a crock pot or ceramic bowl. Zest the lemons and add to the flowers; then slice the lemons very thinly and add them to the bowl with the sugar.

In a saucepan, heat the water until it's just boiling. Pour it over the flower-lemon mixture and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Cover and let steep in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 days, stirring periodically.

Strain the liquid through a muslin cloth and place in saucepan. Bring the mixture to a hard boil, cook and pour into sterilized glass jars. Attach lids and store in the fridge for 1 to 2 months. Serve with 3 parts of sparkling water or champagne to one part elder flower cordial. 


Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh the circle of life surrounds us everyday,, the budding sprigs of twigs, the tiny birds surviving their first flight and the onions waiting patiently for planting.I remembered you were the very first person to follow my newbie art blog and when cming here today I was the first to comment!I can't begin to say how much I have enjoyed your work and writings so too have you follow my blog just makes my heart sing.We had snow last night still so your blooms are a treat to these winter weary eyes.Thanks again.

Robin Larkspur said...

Sharon, this post today is packed with so much to take in!!! I was so interested to read your about your planting those forgotten twigs, and onions. I have had this happen to me on several occasions, and always feel so terribly guilty. Some grew, and some didnt. The saga of your baby hummers has been great, reading since the beginning. I love the way you said the hummer "helicoptered" away. I do indeed want to plant a small hummer garden; what a super idea!! Please also, enter me in your giveaway, that book looks awesome! And I am a charter member of your Grimy Hands Girls club, too!! Sharon, I adore your posts, thanks for all the info, the smiles, and the love!!! Robin.

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

Just the sweetest that your hummers are gone, but will be coming around because of what you grow in your garden, Sharon. I'm sure of it! It still must have been a little sad! Finally, a book I don't have. Have her first one and it is very good. I always plant everything right as it comes through the door!;>}Well, OK not always! Has not stopped raining, but boy is it green and lush! xxoo Nancy

Suzanne said...

Oh Sharon, a hummingbird garden--I love it!!! I just love seeing all your plants and flowers, such beauty:-)

Genevieve said...

Sharon, what a full post! Just like life, a little of this and a little of that. I adore the Elderflower cordial recipe. My partner Trevor's grandma used to make something similar.

I'd certainly love to win this book!


Krystal said...

LOVE this post! Those little hummers are so precious and I adore the tale of the onions and pomegranates. I'd apologize too!

Looking forward to my own hummingbirds here in MI. Just put the feeder out yesterday. Heard the orioles are in town, too, so I'll have to fix them a meal as well.


Michelle said...

Your gardening is so inspiring for me. We have been so incredibly wet lately, that I hope to finish some projects this coming weekend. Love the hummingbirds. We have some now at the feeders and a Chipping Sparrow with a nest in our porch fern. My daughter is in love with it.

Kay's flowers said...

I can't tell you how many things I've forgotten about! It makes me feel better to know that someone else does it too. The hummies are the sweetest and maybe they will come back and nest in your garden. I loved your post. Have a good week!

Leontien said...

oh thank you for this post! great info and LOVED the pics!!!

have to go to Lowes tomorrow and find me some of those plants!


Carol said...

Loved the story of the hummingbirds. I'm always forgetting to plants things too. I just found a box of Iris that I bought last fall and forgot all about. Hopefully they will forgive me and flower next year for me.
Would love to be the winner of the book.

Donna said...

Wonderful post!! Love the hummingbirds!!

Pat said...

Oh those hummers grew - what an experience you have enjoyed. Love the idea of a special planting they would like and will be watching your video!
Another wonderful have the most special giveaways. And offering an extra bonus to entice those of us who are Grimy Hands...though mine are still staying much too clean...'30's and overcast again today. Where oh where is our Spring??

Deb said...

How wonderful that you were there to witness the 'take-off'. I think that is fabulous. I, too would have had a lump in my throat. Loved the photos.
Hugs, Deb=^..^=x5

Bonnie K said...

I have faith all of your little onions will be fine. One year my strawberries came and we got 4 feet of snow. By the time I got to plant them I was sure they were all gone. By golly they made it. I so love your hummingbird photos. I hope mine return this year. They are so fragile and yet so hardy. Thank you so much for sharing and I'm so happy you got to see your little ones off.

Larkrise garden girl said...

Hi Sharon,coral bells I will have to get them next time I am out. There was so much information about plants I loved it! The hummingbirds going out in the world was priceless.I bet you felt like a mom. I felt like that when I let my monarch butterfly fly away. Cheri

Vee said...

Oh they've gone. Now why am I feeling blue all these miles away? The power of words...

Until this week, I had not known that one could put an old dry stick in dirt and sometimes get a surprise like leaves and flourishing plants. I'm not sure what I'm growing, but it's great fun to watch.

Hope that all your onions and other plantings grow beautifully.

Susan said...

Sharon, I know the feeling of empty nest :) When we lived in Connecticut, our pond was home to several Canadian Geese families. I looked forward each Spring to see the goslings, following their parents so obediently. Watching them grow, from toddlers to teenagers in a matter of weeks, knowing they'd be flying off to find their mates and start the cycle again.
I thought about that today with your hummingbirds taking flight. Life does go on, although sometimes this fact is hard to imagine.
Thank you for sharing a peek at your garden, Love, Susan XOXO

Fun Mama - Deanna said...

I want to make elderflower cordial! I'm not sure how to find elderberries in my area (I'm afraid I'd accidentally use polk). I love the way you photograph books. It's like you were reading and stepped away for a moment and someone took a picture of what you left behind. It looks so cozy!

hens teeth said... in the middle of England, it is a treat to see your wonderful garden and it's occupants...plant and feathered forms. Such a pleasure to see the Hummingbirds and the nest...Thank you x
ps: We are off to Kent to visit Sissinghurst, Great Dixter and excited. x

Anonymous said...

Just watched a hummingbird in its nest last weekend at a wildlife refuge. Awesome!

Please enter me in the book contest... thanks!

Darla said...

As always your post brightened my day and helped me to focus on a few things, rather than get lost in the hustle of everyday life. I also have some onions that need to be planted, but we have so much rain that I've been afraid to plant more and watch them turn to compost. This week I think I'll have to plant them despite the deluge. Thank you for your many wonderful posts and maybe I'll win a little something this time.

From the Kitchen said...

I have spent a whole cup of coffee in your garden this morning--enjoying every sip and every plant. I'm quite intrigued with the potted garden for hummingbirds and look forward to watching how you put it together.


Sonia said...

I just adore wonderful to be able to watch a nest and see them fly off into the world! I live in Oklahoma City and hope to go to the June 1st meeting..I'm a new follower of your blog! Love your books!!

Miss Bloomers

Leslie @ Farm Fresh Fun said...

teehee, no I've never forgotten to plant something I bought! ;-P Wish all mine had the happy ending yours seem to... Usually it's some bargain plant that thought I'd save money on, then realized a dead plant is not saving money! I so enjoyed all your uplifting pics n ideas. Thanks for another wonderful escape!

Unknown said...

Sharon, you are too funny! I think we have all forgotten to get new plants in the ground. Or in my case just didn't get to it. I always feel guilty too because the poor little things want to live and thrive and who am to get in the way? Love the recipe and your wonderful hummer garden too! May I share it on my blog this week? I think my readers would enjoy learning how to create one of their own?
Happy days in the garden to you!

Marguerite said...

Sharon, what a lovely story. I too believe in the power of plants. Despite what we do they often survive anyway! So nice to see those little hummers all grown up and flying on their own.

Doc Chery said...

What a special privilege to share in this little families journey. Thank you Sharon for bringing this to all of us! Isn't it wonderful how technology has helped us share so much with so many?

Angela Faust said...

I have very much enjoyed following the hummingbird story. The miracle of life indeed! Nature has so much to tell us.

cheris said...

Yes, my chickens got into my garden recently and dug up all my onions. I popped them back in, hoping some would survive. May we have bulbs in the future!

Jimmie said...

What bittersweet joy in watching the little hummers grow and do what nature commands - fly off to raise families of their own. You are forever connected to these two little ones and I feel lucky to have watched them through your pictures.

Your comments about forgetfulness are so timely. I just found a packet of Grandpa Ott Morning Glory seeds - more than a month since I bought them and promptly forgot where I put them for safekeeping. Let's hope I get them nicked, soaked and planted before my memory fails me again!!

Please enter me into the drawing for the book.

Love from Diane in North Carolina

Anonymous said...

Your hummer family are lucky and wise to have gotten their start within the parameters of your accommodating landscape. What a joy to be a part of the process!

Glynis Peters said...

Catching up on your wonderful posts. Thank you for sharing so many delights with us.

My garden is at the pleasant stage. In a few weeks I will be frantically trying to save every thing from the searing heat and drought.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Dear Friends,

As soon as I can harvest some elderberry flowers I will show photos of the bush and the blossoms.

I've planted a native elderberry against the wall in our front yard, but I expect it to take at least a year to get tall and full. Maybe it will have a few blooms this year, but not many.

Elderberry is a wonderful shrub to include in your landscape (you need to give it elbow room). Thrushes adore the dusty gray blue berries.

More later,


Anonymous said...

I've loved the ongoing story of the hummingbirds. How wonderful that they've now taken flight!

HolleyGarden said...

I bought some canna bulbs that have been sitting in their plastic bags for months - I want them, but have no place to put them! Can you tell they were an impulse buy? I've read that hummingbirds go back again and again to the same places - so maybe you'll see your little ones again - and see them raising families!

Mozart's Girl said...

Hello dearest much did I love the happy ending hummer story?! Gorgeous. We have many heucheras of all colours in our garden but I suspect that we'll never have a hummingbird feeding there (if we did we'd be a wonder of the western world!!) Thank you for sharing & for the wishes about my back at his beloved farm & feeling much better. Love you both xoxo R

rufuspt said...

I loved following your hummingbird story and also knowing that I'm not the only one who forgets to plant things! Would love to win The Kitchen Gardener's Handbook.

Carol said...

Dear Sharon, Oh! I must visit all of the posts I have missed. What an elixir to see these tiny jewels. How blessed you are! I would be blue too . . . but will hope that you discover a new nest one day. Fabulous photos and post!

Jacqueline~Cabin and Cottage said...

I so much enjoyed reading this inspiring post. Congratulations on your little fledged family. Those of us who are not skilled or graceful in the garden can take heart, have a little faith, and push forward despite our shortcomings.

Diane said...

Thank you so much for your visit, it has been grrat finding your blog and I will be back for sure. I love your garden and the family of humming birds are so special. Take care Diane

AnaGF said...

Thank you for another beautiful post. It has happened to me to forget about bulbs I had planned to plant - or even worse, to forget to water plants that desperately need it... I feel SO guilty when that happens! But you are right, nature has a strength in itself that doesn't cease to amaze me, not just when I think about my clumsy gardening experiments, but also when I look around me at the roads, dams, and buildings that seem to multiply everywhere. In any case, I'm determined to improve, both as a gardener and as a environmentally-conscientious citizen.

Thickethouse.wordpress said...

Elderberries just appear in my hedgerow...My husband's family is Hungarian and and I've had several wonderful versions of Elderflower cordial, some that only last a few weeks (the one I make) and some that last all winter.......I've also made fritters with the blossoms. My daughter who just turned 36 remembers doing this with me in our apartment in Budapest in 1984 when we were there for a year on a research exchange. The giveaway book sounds wonderful...And I agree with you about the force of life! It wants to live!

Carolee said...

What a lovely, lovely post! I always think of life force when I plant seeds. Our hummers are not yet back...maybe all the storms drove them off course. Didn't realize Lotus vine was a hummer plant, so thanks for the info. Hugs, Carolee

Linda said...

The post today was wonderful. Very uplifting on a day I needed it. We all have "blue" days and then something unexpected makes us smile. Just last night, I put out two hummingbird feeders, so maybe soon I'll be smiling at humming birds in my yard! Thanks!

Eva said...

I totally love the idea of "life force of plants." Absolutely!

Thea said...

there's been so much work to do in my garden this Spring. So much tree damage from storms. and yes i found a bag or two of tulips that didn't get into the ground this year and when i found them, they'd tried to grow in the bag. i feel guilty, poor things. i didn't mean to make their life a struggle. my peonies and roses are just popping and i've got to leave town to go visit my dear old dad in Denver. I'll miss their first bloom, but worth it because my dad is in his last bloom. he, too, struggles because he so loves life. that life force, it is compelling.

Angie said...

What a fun post, Sharon!! I have hummingbirds and I so enjoy their antics. :D I would love to have that book; I'm always sticking things in the ground for the birds or my kitchen. I can't wait to see it. :) I wish I were close enough to come to your lecture.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi all,

I've heard from you that you can't access the Lowe's blog and my video, but it is up and running now so try again.

Now it is YOUR turn to plant a hummingbird pot.



Teri said...

Can't wait to try some of these ideas at my new house...just as soon as I get all the stuff put away that is! Have you ever tried to move 37 years worth of accumulation? What a job!

Rachael said...

I have just found your books, therefore your blog. I am excited about your books and will be working my way through the list. They are perfect for my niece and nephew, there daddy is doing a garden and this would help them have an outlet. I love your blog!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE the hummer container garden!!! It is FABULOUS!

Patti said...

You have such interesting and varied posts. They are delightful! I've enjoyed the hummingbirds. The Kitchen Gardener's Handbook looks like a great book!

Anonymous said...

Lovely blog! Thanks for sharing your garden and life with us!

La Table De Nana said...

Hello Sharon..My friend lent me your wonderful book last night to peruse..she loves it..she is a talented artist herself..
I am enchanted.. ..Roots Shoots Buckets and Boots..
So sweet.
What a lovely work of art and heart~

Sharon Lovejoy said...


Your comment started off my day beautifully. Thank you! Roots was the most difficult book I've ever done.

All joys to you and happy weekend,


Farmhouse Soaps said...

Oh Sharon, my heart kind of sank as you described the little sweet hummer's ascent to the great blue sky. Maybe because they are so used to you, they will visit often!
I just started raised beds this year with the idea of a kitchen or potager garden. I stumbled upon one of your drawings you did a long time ago for (I think) Country Living Magazine and it has been my inspiration to begin a small potager garden ever since. The book looks lovely. Thank you for generosity!
Spend the Thyme Farm
P.S. The soil is almost warm enough to plant Renee's beautiful Zinnia seeds that you sent from the Grimy Club! Can't wait to watch them grow!

Debbie said...

I've enjoyed reading about your baby hummers. I have planted flowering vines to attract my hummers. And yes, I look forward to your visit to us in OKC in June.
I'm very interested in the elderberry wine receipe- is there anything that can be made w/ mulberry fruit? My tree is coming into full fruit right now. It's amusing, each year, to see the robins drunkingly wobbling around after eating the over-ripe fruit. Debbie

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Debbie,

And I am looking forward to all of you crazed gardeners in OKC too. I had the time of my life at the talk I gave to the Tulsa Herb Society a few years ago. Made some good friends too.

Debbie, I think you can adapt the elderberry cordial to the mulberry fruits. I've used this basic recipe for many cordials. They only last a couple of months though. Or, you can dry the fruits and feed them to your birds next winter.

See you soon,


Lori ann said...

Dear Sharon,

Reading your blog is like having one of your books come alive, I love it so, and you too.

When I am in NYC next week i'll be peeking back in here to get my regular much needed dose of Sharon philosopy and wisdom on nature (and so much more).

And when I get home I'm making a mini hummingbird garden!

With love,

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

Though I'm not a gardener, I always enjoy breezing through your posts and seeing the cheery photos.

Do you know the picture book called Hummingbird Nest by Christine George? It's self-serving to mention it, but my husband illustrated it and it's a sweet book about watching the life cycle of a hummer from egg to adult. Your pictures made me think of it.

And I'd love to know more about your friend who has the home on Nevis!

Nellie said...

What an amazing post, Sharon! So full of the "stuff" of life! Yes, we've bought things to plant in the vegetable garden and forgotten about them at times.:-) We have found that it is wise to remember how much to plant, for "if you plant it, it will come.":-) The book sounds just like something we would enjoy!

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

Your blog is a treat for the senses, so happy to have found you! Keep up the good work through your trained eye (talented photography) and well-chosen words. Well done.

Donna@Conghaile Cottage said...

Oh My Sharon, "YES", I am SO guilty at not getting things planted...They say we should always have a home picked out for what we buy, "BUT" I can NEVER EVER pass on a pretty face and I'm ALWAYS bringing home more than I get planted! Not to mention wintering pots that should have their toes wiggling in the soil and not captivated in plastic containers...Oh Well! LOVE,LOVE,LOVE your post today as always! and Oh My Yes I am also suffering the "Empty Nest Syndrome", NOT with hummers BUT with Lots and Lots of other Fine Feathered Friends!
Big Hugs to you,

Melissa said...

Dearest Sharon, please visit my blog to see the creations I have made that will be sold next week at a local boutique. You have been my inspiration! Thank you for your books, your blog, and your energy! xo

Storybook Woods said...

Well first thank you for sharing about the onions, now I do not feel soo bad about plants I forgot. I just found a humming bird nests with two tiny babies. The wonderful things of nature!! Clarice

Jude Walsh said...

This blog is a-mazing! Have requested the jpeg to add to my blog and join the club. I'm inspired by your hummingbird watch. I have some nesting here (Dayton, Ohio) every year but have never found the nest. Maybe this year I'll be lucky.

I love the hummers and feed as well as plant for them. They make me laugh with their feistiness and bold chirps. Whoever said they were shy????

Thanks for this lovely, life affirming post.



flowerweaver said...

Sharon, I'm so glad you found me and enjoyed our hummingbirds on your visit to my blog. Thanks so much for your kind comments. We are undoubtedly kindred spirits! I loved reading about your hummingbirds today, and will now be following your blog!

Vicki Boster said...

Sharon- I'm not at all surprised that those onions are thriving! I'm sure you whisper sweet growing words to all the plants in your gardens.

Your garden photos are fabulous- you have the green thumb for sure! I would love to be able to walk in your special gardens!

How precious that we have all been able to share in the birth of the little hummingbirds- your photos have been delightful! You have been a good protector for them all. Your new empty nest will soon be filled again- wait and see!

Lili said...

Oh Sharon I really was taken with this post. There is such an important uplifting and inspiring message in here for all of us to remember. I kind of felt a little sad right along with you for the empty nest, but how amazing that they successfully completed this important step. You have been the best guardian Mama of these little creatures and I'm sure you are forever imprinted in their little birdie memories. xoxo ~Lili

*Ulrike* said...

What an amazing event to be able to watch! I so love hummingbirds. Where my aunt used to live the hummingbirds would always come back, and my cousin was actually able to have one come to him; so tame was that little one.
Speaking of onions the same thing happened with me. I planted them about 4 days ago, poor little fellas, so dried up droopy looking, but now they are showing how happy they are with their green tops showing!