Peonies in the Garden including an Itoh Hybrid Peony ‘Hillary’


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Peony Hillary

Paeonia ‘Hillary’ a hybrid between garden and tree peonies

Peony season is still in full swing in my garden! Our temperature is quite mild here (in Ireland), which would have an influence on how quickly (or rather, slowly!) the flowers bloom. It started around the middle of May with the blooming of my Tree Paeonia Renkaku. Following quickly behind that was my new hybrid peony, Paeonia ‘Hillary’, which started to bloom on the 20th of May. I only bought it in early spring this year, so it was a treat to have a flower this year!

Paeonia 'Hillary'

Paeonia ‘Hillary’

“A hybrid peony?” you ask.  Why yes, it is. I had not heard of a hybrid before and was curious to learn about them (and to get one!). Here’s what I’ve learned about my new hybrid peony ‘Hillary’ (from the Peony Shop Holland):

Paeonia Intersectional or Itoh Hybrid Peony Intersectional Peony Hybrids, also known as Itoh Peonies, named in honor of Toichi Itoh, the originator of these unique hybrid peonies. They are representative of the progeny of crossing or hybridizing the two main groups or selections of peonies; the herbaceous hybrids which die down sub surface buds during their dormant season and the tree or woody shrub peonies which retain a year round woody branch structure above ground level.

During their dormant season, the Itoh or Intersectional hybrids retain only extremely short (1″-2″) woody stems above ground level. Ornamentally, they achieve the best of both parental worlds with the handsome flowers and foliage of the woody tree peonies displayed on an herbaceous plant, with annual new growth originating from buds below ground level.

Strong healthy plants form attractive dense, neat rounded bushes which are shorter in stature than most tree peonies. Flowers are displayed above the handsome foliage that remains greener longer than their herbaceous parents. Intersectional hybrids are somewhat hardier than tree peonies and more tolerant of heat and humidity which extends their ornamental potential in both the North and south.

Paeonia 'Hillary'

Paeonia ‘Hillary’

The Irish Specialist Nursery Association hosted St. Anne’s Park Plant Fair in Dublin in March. I don’t usually head into Dublin on the weekends, and honestly driving someplace new is always a challenge for me, but I was intrigued enough to put aside my fears and check out what was on offer at the park. A slight tangent here, but St. Anne’s Park is absolutely fabulous! It was full of life with the plant sale along with a farmers market and lots of families milling through, just in the hour or so I was there. It is on Mount Prospect Avenue in Raheny, with free parking all along the outside of the park, but I’m sure any Irish ‘locals’ would know all about it already!

The point of telling you about the Plant Fair is that I bought my hybrid Peony there from Leamore Nursery. It was well worth challenging my uncomfortableness of driving someplace new (especially on my own!) to get such a lovely plant (and a few others, too).

Paeonia 'Hillary'

Paeonia ‘Hillary’

The description for ‘Hillary’ stated that it should have large double flowers opening as very dark pink, gradually fading to cream on the upper part of the petals. I found the color difficult to describe – I’m not sure I’d describe it as dark pink. It did fade, though, changing the look. I look forward to seeing it in years to come with more blooms in different stages of color!

Paeonia 'Hillary'

Paeonia ‘Hillary’

I’m always thankful for a fully hardy plant, and it enjoys either full sun or part shade, with deep, fertile, humous-rich moist but well drained soil. I think it is in a really good location, so I’m hopeful that it will be happy in my garden.

Peony 'Bowl of Beauty'

Peony ‘Bowl of Beauty’

Fast forward to June 11th for the next blooming peony (Bowl of Beauty).

Peony 'Bowl of Beauty'

Peony ‘Bowl of Beauty’

‘Bowl of Beauty’ is an herbaceous perennial (no woody stem like the Tree Peony has) which grows to 80cm tall, and has mid-green, divided leaves. What I like about this peony is that it looks completely different closed as when opened. The flowers are a bright vibrant pink on the outside with a cream almost pointy-like petals on the inside, and open as wide as 20cm.

Peony 'Bowl of Beauty'

Peony ‘Bowl of Beauty’

Just in case you’ve ever wondered (like I have!), the peony, or paeony, is a flowering plant in the genus Paeonia. They are native to Asia, Europe and Western North America. There, now we all know! 🙂

Peony 'Bowl of Beauty'

Peony ‘Bowl of Beauty’

I try to support them as they tend to flop over with the weight of the flowers! There are some handy metal supports you can buy. I have tied them up, too, which also works. My next blooming peony plant needs lots of support (no woody stems like the Tree Peony!) as again the flowers are heavy. I don’t know the official name, but it is a common white variety that normally just has a streak of pink in it. This year, though, it is more pink than white!

White Peony that is pink

White Peony (really?)

I even checked my pictures from last year (because I was doubting myself!) – they were 99% white last year with streaks of pink. Funny isn’t it?

White peony up close

White Peony (with lots of pink)

Don’t get me wrong, I love pink! I think they are still so pretty. They were quite conical in shape this year too.

White Peony

White Peony with shades of pink

This next Peony, which is also currently still blooming, was added to the garden in 2017, and this year is the first it has bloomed. The color is one of my favorite – a deep fuchsia pink! I bought it at National Trust’s Hidcote, in Gloucestershire, England, which is an Arts and Crafts garden in the north Cotswolds. I was there on a very special ‘Gardening Gals Getaway‘, so it reminds me of the wonderful time I had with some very special friends.

Peony 'Kansas' in bud form

Peony ‘Kansas’

I’ve had a difficult time capturing the color with my camera – the sun distorts the color!

Peony 'Kansas'

Peony ‘Kansas’

Peony 'Kansas'

Peony ‘Kansas’ + Foxglove

You’ll just have to take my word for it that it looks different in person (and much prettier).

Every year peony plants add more flowers, which is such a delight. I have two more Peony plants that aren’t quite blooming yet, both of them ‘Sarah Bernhardt’. And then the Peony season will be finished in our garden. That’s not a bad run!

The last one to bloom … Peony ‘Sarah Bernhardt’.

Peony ‘Sarah Bernhardt’

I hope you have enjoyed my Peony tour! It was a pleasure having you visit! Which is your favorite Peony? 🙂

In Peace,


Killary Harbour Coastal Walk


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Killary Harbour

view of Killary Harbour and the farmed mussels behind us as we hiked towards Rosroe pier

I have lived in Ireland for 11 years and the beauty here never ceases to amaze me. There is so much to do and see, especially along the Wild Atlantic Way. To celebrate my Father-in-law’s 80th birthday, all 20 members of the extended family went away for the weekend to the Killary Lodge, which is a stone’s throw from Killary Harbour. Despite the bad weather we’d been having the past few weeks, we lucked out with two nice days of no rain! 🙂

view of Killary Fjord from hiking path

The coastal path had a great view of Killary Fjord.

Killary Harbour (An Caoláire Rua) in Connemara is one of just three glacial fjords in Ireland, the others being Lough Swilly and Carlingford Lough. It forms a natural border between counties Galway and Mayo and is 16 kilometres long.

I turned to to learn some more information about the area:

On the northern shore of the fjord lies the mountain of Mweelrea, Connacht’s highest mountain, rising to 814 metres. To the south rise the Maumturk Mountains and the Twelve Bens.

There are two minor settlements nearby. On the southern side near the mouth of the fjord lies the hamlet of Rossroe while Leenaun lies inland to the east.

Nearby lies the so-called Green Road, a rough road running along the side of the fjord back east towards Leenane at the head of the fjord. It stretches for approximately nine kilometres and was part of the famine relief program during the 19th century.

Aquaculture is important locally with a salmon farm based at Rossroe while mussel rafts are a common sight more to the east.

Killary Harbour

beautiful views of the harbour

Organizing activities for 20 people to do together is challenging. On this day, given the different abilities, we split into “hiking” vs. “non-hiking” groups. Our hiking group included 5 cousins, 2 brothers and two sisters-in-law. This hike was really nice. The only challenging part was the fact that it was 14 kilometers. It took us four hours to complete, and by the end we were all pretty tired! 🙂

stone wall along Killary harbour walk

Stone walls are a (beautiful) common feature.

Here in the West of Ireland, the stone walls, typically for dividing fields, don’t have mortar and are thus called dry stone walls.

full view of a long stone wall

View of the other side of the stone wall along the Killary harbour walk.

climbing a gate along the path

Climbing a gate along the path.


Waterfalls are great for photos 🙂


It is harder to see, but this is the view of the same waterfall taken from the Killary Harbour boat tour we took the day after our hike! You can just make out the stone wall pathway.

hiking along Killary habour

We hiked at a family pace, and whenever I needed a rest I just took pictures!

climbing high on the Killary coastal path

The walk was manageable with some rocky terrain, some dirt paths, and some country roads.

view of Killary harbour

A requisite selfie with my husband 🙂

Killary harbour view

a blue sky backdrop looking to Rossroe

We stopped and had our picnic lunch when we reached Rossroe pier. Not only did blue skies appear, but the weather turned warmer at this stage, too.

Rosroe pier

Rosroe pier is where the coastal path ended and the country road path began.

stone cottage

stone cottage along the road

stone wall and sheep

Two common features: stone walls and sheep.

Mayo Blackface Sheep

Mayo Blackface Sheep, originally from Scotland, are mainly raised for their meat and not their wool.

looking down hill of path

The two littlest in our group, 9 year old cousins, added walking sticks at about 8 kilometers, helping them to keep going for the entire 14 kilometers!

view of hills

Although different from the coastal views from the first half of the hike, the views were beautiful along the entire walk.

lake view

We passed some lakes, too (see the sheep?).

rhododendrons and lake view

The Rhododendrons were at the very end of their season, with just a few blooms left.

lake and mountain view

It was at about this point (about 9 km) when we started singing Scouting songs! (Did you catch them on my Instagram stories?)

We saw some interesting things along the way!


a quiet donkey

turf drying out in pyramids

In the bog you could see the turf being dried out after being cut into briquettes, and arranged in pyramids.

turf pyramid

briquettes of turf

bog land

Harvested turf

bog cotton

Common Cottongrass (Eriophorum angustifolium), also known as bog cotton (thanks goes to my sister-in-law for knowing this!).

sheep in road

Typical scene in Connemara

road sign

End of the hike for us

A picture of ‘just the girls’ at the start of our 14 km hike

I have to add that the next day, we went on a boat tour of the harbour and were delighted to see three dolphins! I managed to capture one of them with my camera, and enjoyed seeing the others “live”.  What a treat it was!

dolphin fin in Killary harbor

Dolphin in Killary Harbour as seen on our boat tour

Any plans to visit Ireland? 🙂

In peace,

Tree Paeonia Renkaku


Tree Paeonia Renkaku

Tree Paeonia Renkaku

Hi there! One thing you might not know about me is the fact that my memory isn’t great. 🙂 I have a notebook that I use to track the plants I buy and where I plant them because I will forget! I like to tape the plant tags into the book, which means that it is quite fat at this stage. It’s also a hassle to go through when I’m searching for a plant name. So recently I started a “google sheets” file of my flower beds and what is in them. It is so much easier this way!

Tree Paeonia Renkaku

Tree Paeonia Renkaku

One of the first plants I put into the file was this Tree Peony. Its name is Tree Paeonia Renkaku and from May 11th through May 21st I was obsessed with tracking its progress with my camera!

Tree Paeonia Renkaku

Tree Paeonia Renkaku – this reminds me a a bowl of vanilla ice cream!

I was so excited to see the huge flower bud on it this year! I think this poor plant has been moved a couple of times (peony plants take time to adjust when moved). But honestly, only for the fact that I had to look up its details in the notebook did I realize that we bought it way back in 2012. So only having one flower is not a great sign.

Tree Paeonia Renkaku

Tree Paeonia Renkaku

I’m undecided if I should leave it here or try yet another place in the garden.  It is not ideal for it to be all squished where it is now and where it can’t be fully seen.  😦

Tree Paeonia Renkaku

Tree Paeonia Renkaku

This Imperial Tree Peony species is native to China, and is a deciduous woody shrub peony featuring large, showy flower(s). The plant can reach 5 feet tall with a 4-5 foot spread, but is slow growing.

Tree Paeonia Renkaku

Tree Paeonia Renkaku – the flower is a handful!

The flowers are quite delicate and are easily damaged by rain, hail and frost (typical early spring issues!). By the time my flower finally opened up, it lost one of its outside petals to harsh wind!

Tree Paeonia Renkaku

Tree Paeonia Renkaku

In hindsight, I can say that I prefer the pictures of the progress along the way as opposed to the final “I’m open!” pictures. The petals were so delicate, lovely, and pure white.

Tree Paeonia Renkaku

Tree Paeonia Renkaku

Just like in life, it is better to enjoy the journey and not just focus on the final destination.

Tree Paeonia Renkaku

Tree Paeonia Renkaku

I loved seeing what the Peony looked like every morning, as it grew and bloomed.

Tree Paeonia Renkaku

Tree Paeonia Renkaku

The petals were starting to get a bit frazzled by the time the flower finally opened up (although it was still lovely).

Tree Paeonia Renkaku

Tree Paeonia Renkaku

It was a pity that the outside petal came off!

I’m hoping to keep better track of my flowers with my “new system”. And I’ll probably move this lovely lady one more time.  Wish me luck!

In peace,

Gardening – it’s worth the effort!


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Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’

Hello there! It is a rather funny name for the post today, but as I was working in the garden most of the weekend, it seemed apt. Maintaining and growing a garden *is* a lot of work, and I think even more so when you do it organically. This is worth it to me, though, as I absolutely love being in the garden and seeing how it is transformed and how it brings such beauty into our lives. And when things start to not balance out, it’s time to change things up and find easier plants to maintain!

Playhouse garden

Playhouse garden with yellow lupine, Iris ‘Benton Storrington’, and bleeding hearts

The weather hasn’t been great recently, so I haven’t been keeping up with the weeding. It reached the point this weekend, though, that my husband even pointed out to me that “those flowers would look much nicer if there weren’t so many weeds! How sweet of him to notice  🙂

early stage pears

early stage pears

You’ve heard me say it before, and it remains true, that we like to grow what is easy (to grow and maintain)! Our fruit trees are a prime example. We’ve been very fortunate with an abundance of pears and apples the past few years. We’ll see how it goes the rest of the season, but as of right now we have a bumper crop of pears! All of this with just composting on a regular basis and light annual pruning.

Iris ‘Benton Storrington’

Iris ‘Benton Storrington’

I try to add some new flowers every year. This Iris was added in 2016 and has done really well in my yard. I started with just two rhizomes, and last year we divided what had developed into a huge clump. I was actually trying to find spaces around the yard to fit in the divided plants! We planted several rhizomes around the yard, all of which are now ready to bloom.

Purple Sensation allium

Purple Sensation allium

The Purple Sensation allium is a new addition which we added into two beds last fall.  Actually, I bought “Purple Sensation” allium years ago, but it most definitely was not Purple Sensation as the color is quite light, which you can notice in the picture below.

Purple sensation allium

Purple Sensation allium and NOT Purple Sensation allium

a view of the main rose bed

a view of the main rose bed to the right of Abies Koreana (Remember when I planted those boxwood plants? Spring 2018)

The longest blooming flower in our garden is the rose, so we created a second rose bed a few years ago, and filled it with David Austin roses. The empty space between the roses was filled in no time with poppies (I didn’t plant them here, they “moved” from different beds in the garden, and possibly from my compost!).

Rose bed filled with Poppies

Rose bed filled with Poppies (with a few allium “popping” up!)

Poppies love my yard.  I’m not sure if I’m going to be 100% happy with them in this rose bed. They’ve grown incredibly tall, but thankfully they are also sheltering my rose plants from the harsh wind we’ve had recently. Pity you can’t really see the rose plants here though!

David Austin roses light pink

David Austin roses (the far side of the poppy invasion)

David Austin Standard Tree Rose Princess Anne

David Austin Standard Tree Rose Princess Anne

My first Standard Tree rose went into the garden last fall. It is rather tall and the roses are bright pink and very much visible!


Poppies in the Rainbow garden

The Rainbow garden is filling out even more with the addition of two varieties of Iris last year. Poppies are definitely hogging the stage at the moment, though.

Iris + Poppies

Iris among the poppies

Rainbow garden with one chicken

A full view of the Rainbow garden (with one chicken)

2 chickens in Japanese Maple tree bed

the chickens love to roam the garden!

Hawthorn trees + Japanese maple

Hawthorn trees in bloom (Weigela florida ‘Alexandra’ is the bright flowered shrub) + chicken about to jump!

flower bed of iris, hosta, sedum

this flower bed at our front gate is filled with Hosta, Sedum, Iris, Roses, Asters, Lavender, Bergenia, and the White Lilac is visible from the other side of the fence. We added the Bergenia (at the very front) last year.

Front gate garden

front gate garden today

This little ‘Front gate garden’ has Aster, Sedum, Foxglove, a new Climbing Rose, and two new Primula capitat subsp mooreana, Woodlander (thank goodness for plant tags!). They are right on time for blooming now and should go until July (we’ll see!). My one variety of peony has just finished blooming – the blooms usually fall through from the other side of the fence and give a splash of color here (you can just see the spent redish flowers on the other side of the fence).

Primula capitata subsp mooreana Woodlander

Primula capitata subsp mooreana, Woodlander

I’ve already made many “new flower/plant/tree” purchases for this season! Hopefully, everyone will settle in and adjust to our garden (and not be eaten/dug up by the chickens). There is just so much going on in the garden! The next flowers to bloom should be the rest of my peony plants.

Garlic beds + sweet pea plants

Garlic beds with sweet pea planted in the middle.

Oh! and I almost forgot that we’ll be harvesting our garlic in July!  I’ve planted some sweet pea down the middle of one bed, and sunflowers down the middle of the other.  I’ll find out soon enough if that was a good or a bad idea!

So the main point I make to myself, on a regular basis, is to keep a balance. I can’t spend all of my time in the garden. I’ve learned to be O.K. with weeds – I’ll get to them eventually. The garden is a long term project for me anyway, no point in rushing!  🙂

I hope you get to spend the perfect amount of time in a garden and enjoy every minute of it!

In peace,

‘1-4-3 Day’ to celebrate Mister Rogers’ message of love


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Mister Rogers sculpture

‘Tribute to Children’ sculpture of Mister Rogers

I had the pleasure of seeing the ‘Tribute to Children’ statue of Mister Rogers, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in April. It was a beautiful spring day, and we were enjoying a pleasant walk along the river when we came across the statue. Seeing “Mister Rogers” brought back many happy childhood memories of watching his show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood!

Mister Rogers statue view over the river

Mister Rogers’ statue view over the river

Today, May 23rd, the 143rd day in the year, has been declared Mister Rogers day by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, to celebrate Fred Rogers’ message of love, which he often said as ‘1-4-3’ for ‘I Love You’.

“He would always refer to 143 as a way of spreading kindness, and remembering how he felt toward other people,” said Roberta Schomburg, executive director of the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College.

I was feeling nostalgic, and bought the book “Life’s Journeys According to Mister Rogers – Things to Remember Along the Way” by Fred Rogers. It is a lovely little book so full of wisdom. One of my favorite quotes is this one:

“just who you are at this moment, with the way that you’re feeling, is fine. You don’t have to be anything more than who you are right now.”

Yes, I think it is a wonderful idea to bring back more of Mister Rogers’ ways of spreading love and kindness to our neighbors. What a gifted person he was! Creator, composer, writer, puppeteer, and host of his show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. In everything he did, he was spreading the message of kindness and love. Always. It might be impressive for this Presbyterian minister to have been inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, as well as having been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. But I think the positive impact he had, and continues to have, on countless lives is the true gift which he gave to all of us.

Mister Rogers statue view from the back

Mister Rogers statue view from the back

Today’s recognition of Fred Rogers’ message of love and kindness is to encourage a statewide celebration of kindness (not just today, but especially today) – and people are being encouraged to use Twitter with the #143DayinPa hashtag.

Mister Rogers sculpture

Mister Rogers bronze sculpture in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The 7,000 pound (3.5 tons) bronze sculpture was created by famed artist Robert Berks. The 10’10” height was Berks’ way to convey the “overwhelming awe” children felt while watching Mister Rogers. The location with the beautiful view along the river was chosen to honor Mister Rogers’ love of swimming. The site also has a sound system, where visitors can listen to 29 musical compositions by Fred Rogers.

Tribute to the Children plaque

Fred Rogers always spoke in such a calm and soothing manner, and his message was always clear and simple. I think we could all benefit from going back to basics to truly focus on what is important: Love your Neighbor.

“Would you be mine, could you be mine, won’t you be my neighbor?”

In peace,

Gardening as Therapy


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'Queen of the night' Tulip

‘Queen of the night’ Tulip

Sometimes, things happen. Things that we don’t expect to happen, happen, and life changes… forever. We’re living through that at the moment, and it is really hard to navigate through all of the emotions we are feeling. Gardening is such an important part of my life, and it is in the garden where I feel healing. Please join me for a few minutes to enjoy some peace and tranquility in my garden.

‘Queen of the Night’ Tulips

The Queen of the Night tulips are strikingly beautiful, and for me their darkness also represents the sorrow that we feel. A friend and colleague of ours, and a genuinely super nice guy, Shay, achieved his life long ambition to reach the summit of Mt. Everest last week. Tragically, he fell on his descent. There are no other details, other than he is missing. It just doesn’t seem possible. Not Shay. But this is our new reality, including feeling numb with sadness. Gardening seems so trivial at times like these, but the garden is where I can go to find peace, and beauty, and renew my faith that somehow we, the immense community with whom Shay has so positively impacted, will all somehow get through this sad time. Come walk with me, as we use gardening as therapy…

Viburnum surrounded by Mystic van Eijk (the large tulips) and Don Quichotte (the small purple tulips)

Viburnum surrounded by Mystic van Eijk (the large tulips) and Don Quichotte (the small purple tulips)

The first of my tulips bloomed in March. They are circled around the Viburnum which blooms in May. The Beech hedges along the fence are still wearing their winter browns in this picture.

Viburnum opulus 'Roseum'

Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’ May 21, 2019 with the remnants of the tulips still showing. The Beech hedge is now wearing sporting green leaves.

parrot tulips

Parrot tulips also bloom early in the season

Princess tulips April 27

Princess tulips April 27

The Princess tulips are just a couple of years old. Tulips can tend to “fade” with time (not look as nice after a few years). These are still young enough to look fresh.

Princess tulips + Queen of the Night tulips

Queen of the Night tulips + Princess Tulips

Queen of the Night tulips + Princess Tulips

I thought the contrast of the dark Queen of the Night and the bright Princess tulips would be nice together.  My only complaint is that the Princess tulips wither much quicker than the Queen of the Night tulips. But they are pretty.

Blushing Lady tulips

Blushing Lady tulips

The Blushing Lady tulips are special to me, because they were one of the first flowers that I planted in our home in Manlius, New York. A number of years ago I planted some in our current garden right next to the playhouse, but they were dug up (unintentionally!) and destroyed in the process.  So these were planted autumn 2018, well away from the playhouse. They are tall and the flowers are huge.

Blushing lady tulip

Blushing Lady Tulip

Merlot tulips + cherry tree

Merlot tulips + cherry tree

The Merlot tulips are also a new addition, planted in autumn 2018.  It is quite a strong color, which I like.

Merlot tulips + aubrietia

Merlot tulips + Aubrietia

The Merlot tulips look amazing with the Aubrietia (this is a second grouping of the Merlot tulips in the same bed).

Merlot tulips

Merlot tulips

Here’s a look at the full bed.  There are 3 groups of Merlot tulips, and 2 spare Ballerina tulips (they are orange) that were supposed to be moved out of this bed last year. The Aubrietia did really well this year. It is ever so slowly making its way to crawl over the wall (hopefully). The Boxwood (Box) has a lot of new growth, giving it a yellowish hue. I have a few Rose plants in here, too.

Merlot tulips open May 14

Merlot tulips open May 14

I do like capturing the inside of tulips.

Double Angelique tulips

Double Angelique tulips

Ballerina tulip fully open

Ballerina tulip fully open in May

Ballerina tulips are a fiery orange.  I have (most of them) at the ditch wall in our garden and they can still be seen from across the yard.

Tulip Ballerina

Ballerina tulips

Ballerina tulips open in May

And that brings us to the end of our garden tour, using gardening as therapy. Thank you for walking with me on this journey of grief. I pray for Shay, and his family, and that all of us will find peace.

In peace,

Phipps Conservatory – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


side view of Phipps Conservatory

Our family had the pleasure of visiting Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania recently to visit with family. It is fun to visit a location as a tourist, as you can really delve into what is on offer. We visited a few places that I would highly recommend to you!

display of flowers

one of the first flower displays at the start of the tour

The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is one such place which we highly recommend. The history of the conservatory goes back to the glasshouse, which was built by philanthropist Henry W. Phipps as a gift for the people of Pittsburgh in 1893. Their brochure says that they “strive to demonstrate the important and innate connection between people, plants, health, beauty, and the planet.” Following our visit, I think my daughter and I would agree that they are right on the money.

my daughter was all smiles among the flowers

My daughter is 15, and I have to say that she is usually agreeable to joining me to see gardens (well, most of the time!). I wasn’t really sure how much she would enjoy this visit. But we went through the entire conservatory, each of us pointing out something interesting to the other with lots of “oohs” and “ahs”! There were beautiful artworks by American glass sculptors Dale Chihuly and Jason Gamrath featured throughout the displays, which we particularly liked. Truly, we both thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

These “Cattails” were created by Dale Chihuly for his first exhibit at Phipps in 2007.

blown glass display

“Seven Paint Brushes” glass art display by Dale Chihuly

I still surprise myself with how much I enjoy learning about plants and seeing them in their best state.  I find myself shouting out the names of plants when I see them. You do that, too, right? No? Just me?

blown glass display

These beautiful pieces are Jason Gamrath’s signature blue pitcher plants and reside in the Fern Room.

Jason Gamrath’s signature blue pitcher plants up close

blown glass flowers

These are oversized orchid blooms by Jason Gamrath and provide a colorful complement to the Butterflies in the Butterfly Forest.

There are a lot of pictures. It was difficult deciding which ones to leave out! I hope you’ll enjoy our little tour of Phipps Conservatory. It is well worth a visit, any time of year!

In peace,

glass light hanging with cactus plants

This glass work by Dale Chihuly was created specifically for this spot in the Desert Room.  What a gorgeous sun it is!

we had a lovely sunny day that wasn’t too hot in the glass houses

room after room with beautiful blooms!

the ordinary looking extraordinary!

Dwarf Fothergilla – Fothergilla gardenii (southeastern US)

Doublefile Viburnum – Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Shasta’

Doublefile Viburnum – Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Shasta’    (one of my favorites!)

I loved the glass art! This Celadon and Royal Purple Gilded Fiori piece is at the center of the Tropical Fruit and Spice Room.

floral artwork

child statue in garden

“Joyous Boy” also known as the “Teddy Bear Statue” was sculpted in 1923 by Geneva Mercer.

“Joyous Boy” also known as the “Teddy Bear Statue” by Geneva Mercer. Too cute!

Lot of things for kids (big and small) in the Discovery Garden!

having fun in the Discovery Garden

This is an Albutilon pictum, also knowns as a flowering maple. It was quite tall and the flowers were above our heads. (Thank you to Cheryl M. for giving me the plant’s name on my Mom in the Garden facebook page!)

These are referred to as “The longfellows” which are whimsical glass figures created by Hans Godo Fräbel, residing in the Orchid Room.Aren’t they neat?

“The Longfellows” by Hans Godo Fräbel

just a few of the many beautiful orchids

There were rainbows of colors throughout!

A full view of the oversized orchid blooms by Jason Gamrath. I’ll take a set of those, please.

lovely pink dogwood tree and Japanese maple

growing willow is on my “going to try this one of these days” list…

a very pretty Rain Chain

Japanese Stewartia – Stewartia pseudocamellia – Japan (isn’t that bark pretty?)

if only I could get my veggies to look this good!

joyous color!


this piece is amazing! (see photo below for more details)

This is the Goldenrod, Teal and Citron Chandelier created by Dale Chihuly which hangs from the glass-domed entrance of the Welcome Center.

The End! 🙂




Good things come to those who wait … for Chickens!


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The chickens can be seen out our kitchen window

The chicken(s) can be seen out our kitchen window

I can just hear you say “Welcome back, Dana!” as you read this post. Yes, I find as I get older that time seems to go much, much faster than it used to, and I just don’t get as much done as I’d like to! But alas, here I am writing a post (finally).

Chicken in the coop

Chicken in the coop

“So, what’s new?” you ask? Well, after waiting nearly 11 years, I am now the proud owner of chickens! It is kind of a funny thing to want, and to wait for, but before we moved to Ireland I had it in my head that I wanted to get chickens. There have been many good reasons why we didn’t get them over the years. But thankfully, there were no excuses this year and we now have 4 chickens and a cute little hen house.

Two chickens in the coop

Yep, we went in their tiny run to get some pictures!

Their current run is small. We intend to build a nice size run for them in the coming weeks. Although we’ve done some reading on the subject, we just wanted to get them and see how it went! Ideally, they’ll get out to roam in the garden, but our schedules are so crazy that I’d rather they have a nice, secure and safe (read: fully enclosed) “back yard” to play in whenever they want.

chicken coop outside view

The girls spend their day alternating between staying inside their coop and going outside.

I live in the country, so to source chickens I simply asked my neighbor, who is a farmer. I quickly had the name and number of a breeder in the next town. Easy peasy. Our chickens are a Rhode Island Red hybrid. They are 23 weeks old, and should start laying eggs in the next week or so, hopefully.

view of chickens from kitchen window

another view from the kitchen window

The girls are quite friendly! Unfortunately, I haven’t spent enough time with them to know who is who. They are all called “the girls” for now, although we do have names picked out for them when we can figure out their personalities!



Getting chickens has always been my thing. My kids were never interested in this idea, and wondered why I was so intent on getting them. But all three of them have spent their free time “playing” with the girls. O.K., chickens don’t really “do” anything, so playing with them means watching them, taking pictures of them, laughing at them, and of course, speaking chicken to them! I love it. I think everyone should have chickens!

Viburnum opulus 'Roseum' tulips Don Quichotte and Mystic van Eijk

Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’ surrounded by tulips Don Quichotte and Mystic van Eijk

I suppose I knew it already, but this is just another example of the idea that if you really want something, it will be worth the wait, and not to give up hope on getting it!

pink hyacinth in a jug with chicken house in the background

Hyacinth and chickens 🙂

Flowers and chickens, yes, that is what makes me smile! It is the simple pleasures in life that make it all the sweeter!

I hope you have sweetness in your life, too!

In peace,

A bit of self care goes a long way


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white Tulips from The Bay Garden

Tulips in The Bay Garden, Wexford (2016)

I had a few choices of what I could do today (lucky me!). As it happens, self care is not something I’m very good at. Doing things ‘just for me’ doesn’t usually happen, which is something I’m working on improving. Today was delegated a self care day! One important part of self care is nurturing friendships. I have really neglected spending time with friends lately. There just seems to always be too much to do and not enough time to do it – and well, sitting down and relaxing doesn’t usually feel like the right thing to do. But sitting down and relaxing, especially with friends, is sometimes the *perfect* thing to do.

Pink Purple Tulips Douglas Bader

Pink-Purple Tulips (Douglas Bader) in The Bay Garden, Wexford (2016)

Today was one of those days where I jumped at the invitation to join some friends for breakfast. How lucky I am to be able to do so. I absolutely appreciate that I have the time to meet friends and enjoy their company. We exchanged parenting stories, life stories, tried to solve some of the world’s problems; essentially we had a lovely time together!

Blushing lady Tulip

Blushing lady tulip, in my garden

After I arrived back home, it was time for more self care: of the “Health and Fitness” variety. This is something that, throughout my entire life, I have stayed on top of. I’m not sure why, but it could be that from a young age we were always involved with sports all year long. Throughout my adult years I’ve tried different fitness programs and different sports. Last year we did a lot of biking. The training was for a challenging 100 km bike ride in September, which was an incredible experience. But when I got on the bike in January, I wasn’t enjoying it, for a number of reasons. So I went back to basics, which for me meant walking.

Ballerina tulips

Ballerina tulips, in my garden

I love walking. I have always loved walking. But even walking is different for me now. Three years ago I was diagnosed with a genetic heart condition called Long QT syndrome (type 2). It has to do with the electrics of the heart. Another time I’ll go into the details of that. But the treatment for LQT2 is beta blockers. I heard a description of what it is like to exercise while on beta blockers, and I have to say it is a pretty fair assessment: It is like trying to run through deep, wet cement. Personally, in the beginning, it felt like someone was placing the palm of their hand on my forehead and preventing me from going forward. It was tough. So basically, when everyone else’s heart rates are increasing to circulate the blood throughout the body, mine is “blocked” to stay at a low rate. But I’m still trying to do the same activity as the person next to me, just not getting the blood circulating through my body like it needs. This = going slow, and sometimes feeling ill while doing so.

Tulip conbination: Don Quichotte and Mystic van Eijk, in my garden

It’s frustrating. I’ve gone through a period of feeling sorry for myself. Yes, I did.  Still creeps in there sometimes. I want to go fast! I want to keep up with everyone else! I want to be the best I can be! But wait, I am still the best I can be. I just shouldn’t compare myself to everyone else. But wait again, I probably shouldn’t have been comparing myself to everyone else anyway… 🙂

Foxtrot Tulips, in my garden

Foxtrot Tulips, in my garden

It has taken me six weeks, but I am finally feeling my fitness levels starting to improve. I had an awesome walk today! I’m not fast, and it still takes me a long time to recover, but at least I’m feeling better during the exercising. Hopefully soon enough I’ll be back on the bike and enjoying it again.

Queen of the Night tulips with a backdrop of Hawthorn trees in flower

Queen of the Night tulips with a backdrop of Hawthorn trees in flower, in my garden

I could probably find a hundred things to do instead of exercise, but just like meeting with friends, it is important to take care of ourselves. I think I’ve written a few times about similar topics, actually, because I need to keep reminding myself of how important it is! The more busy I get, the more important it is to take time out, for me. It helps to keep me balanced. And happy. 🙂

I hope you are making time for your own self care. It’s something we all need.

In peace,

Parrot tulips, in my garden

Parrot tulips, in my garden