Harbingers of Spring

by Beth Shepherd
( February 27th, 2015 )

Just when I feel I can’t take another day of dreary gray, I see them. Little sprigs of brilliant green poking out from the wet earth. Crocus! Spring is on its way. Although March 20, the official first day of spring, lies several weeks away, the signs that winter is moving on are everywhere (at least in Seattle!). A mere week later, my crocus are adorned with purple and white flower heads.

crocus in spring

purple white crocus

Hellebore too, tight purple and pink  buds cover the plants, waiting for just the right moment to open. Known as the Lenten rose, Helleborus Orientalis, begin blooming in February, and are true harbingers of spring. I love the intense color they bring to dark corners in the garden  where, weeks earlier, there was none.

Hellebore before budding

Purple hellebore

pink hellebore

My Virburnum Mariesii is filled with tiny flower buds. Soon they will flower, prolific and white, and my lovely shrub will look as though it were covered in snow. Nearby, delicate Epimedum—fairy wings—float in the air on stems so tiny you truly think they are flying.

Doulbe-file viburnum

Epimideum flower

I love this time of year when my garden is filled with magic. I am always in awe: How is it that each leaf, each bud, each flower knows exactly what it is meant to do? For me therein lies the wonder and the beauty of nature.

Each leaf,
each blade of grass
vies for attention.
Even weeds
carry tiny blossoms
to astonish us.


- Marianne Poloskey, Sunday in Spring


Me and house in reflecting ball


Take the road less traveled, Beth

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Five jaw-droppingly gorgeous gardens

by Beth Shepherd
( February 25th, 2015 )

Many of my readers know gardening is a passion of mine, so I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I love to explore gardens and parks when I travel. My ‘Garden Bucket List’ is is much longer than what I’ll be able to see in my lifetime, but as spring breathes new life into the flora of our world, I’d like to share five of the gorgeous gardens I’ve had the pleasure to visit.

Kauai’s Limahuli Garden and Preserve was breathtaking. It’s located at the end of the road (literally) on the north shore of Hawaii. As I toured the amazingly diverse gardens, I felt like I got a glimpse of what the Hawaiian islands looked like a long time ago. Dense greenery on the lower levels of the park are coupled with spectacular views of the ocean from the top of the hill. Limahuli is also filled with information about native Hawaiian plants and, sadly, invasive plants that are taking over tropical paradise. In the shadow of the Napali coast mountains, Limahuli is well worth a visit if you are on Kauai.

Limahuli Garden on Kauai

Ritan Park, my favorite park in Beijing was stunning, but in a different way than most of the other parks I saw there, like the Temple of Heaven or Beihai, which were so expansive it was hard to comprehend their size and grandeur. Ritan, with its stone boat cafe, masses of lily pads and weeping willow trees was intimate and accessible, the perfect spot to sit and meditate. Plus, it’s only a stone’s throw away from the Silk Market, if you’re in Beijing and need a break from the craziness. Such a contrast!

Ri Tan Park Beijing

Monet’s Giverny was one of the gardens on my bucket list. While the crowds were a bit overwhelming, I feel so fortunate I was finally able to visit when we were in France a few years ago. Throngs aside, the gardens are spectacularly beautiful. Monet’s house, too, was a festival of color. I loved the bright green window shutters adorning the outside of his home. And if his kitchen, bright-as-the-sun yellow—and I mean all yellow, every last thing—doesn’t perk you up, nothing will.

Monet Giverny France

Of course, one cannot visit Paris without wandering through the Jardin des Tuileries. The gardens have a certain je ne sais quois that makes them feel oh-so-French. Whether you’re meandering along the grand promenade passing by flower gardens and manicured shrubbery, sitting at one of the cafes in the park sipping wine and nibbling French cheese, or watching the sunset cast orange hues on the fountains, the Tuileries are not to be missed.

Painting in the Tuileries Paris France

A trip to London would be remiss without a stroll through Kensington Gardens. Magnificent trees, arbors, flower beds…and a royal palace! So elegant and serene. I’ve seen pictures of the park fully decked out in its green-leafed glory, but even when the trees were bare in late March, Kensington was still lovely and peaceful, more so I thought than its famous next door neighbor, Hyde Park.

Arbor at Kensington Gardens London, England

Take the road less traveled, Beth

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Kids on Kauai: 8 things to do rain or shine

by Beth Shepherd
( February 20th, 2015 )

A year ago, we vacationed on Kauai. We rented a house on the north shore near the town of Kilauea.

the island of Kauai

I’d like to say we spent the entire trip sunning ourselves on a sandy beach, but sun was a scarce commodity. Big Papa would remind me: Well, we are staying within a few miles of the rainiest spot on earth.

Poipu

But the ocean was—right there—as were turtles, so I am fondly reminiscing. Plus, Big Papa got me a tropical bouquet for Valentine’s Day this year with a few of these:

Ginger flowers

And these…so I’ve been missing Kauai.

Kauain Bird of Paradise

This was Little Bird’s first trip to the tropics. For a 2-1/2 year old, island life is grand. Here are 8 of her favorite things to do on the island of Kauai, rain or shine.

1. Ride the mini-carousel in Hanalei. We did this several times during a downpour. Bring lots of quarters.

Hanalei carousel

2. Eat shave ice. It’s extravagant, colorful and yummy. This monster cup is from Ono Ono in Kapa’a.

Shave Ice Kapa'a Ono Ono

3. Go to the beach. Anini Beach is awesome for Keiki—little ones. And there are turtles.

Upside down at Anini Beach

4. Chase chickens. They are everywhere, so why not?

Chasing chickens

5. Hop aboard the Kauai Plantation Railway. Beautiful farmland, a train stop to check out goats and pigs. Samples tasty rum back at the depot. Something for all ages.

Kauai Plantation Railway

6. Kanoodle with the babysitter. First time we’ve ever had someone sit for Little Bird on vacation. Sharon was the bomb. Arrived with a suitcase full of fun. Ardea loved her. Best $ Mama and Dada spent!

Babysitter on Kauai

7. Luxuriate in the outdoor shower. This was Mama and Little Bird’s special together time every day. We had a blast.

Outdoor shower

8.  Which brings us to the BEST thing of all to do on Kauai. Run NAKED as much as possible. Who cares about free-range chickens? Free-range kids are where it’s at.

Rain or shine, run wild, run free. Be a kid on Kauai.

Naked kid in Hawaii

Take the road less traveled, Beth

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