LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 45: Life Is A Garden, Friends Are The Flowers

The riotous beauty of the daylilies has me feeling that I’m somewhat neglecting the glory of my hostas, so today I’m featuring the front yard.

As I’ve written in the past, I’m no fan of lawns and mowing, thus we’ve converted nearly every foot of our yard to beds, including the front yard.

The sight in the first few years was not good, but I had a vision. It started with the removal of the pitiful grass under the shade of the Red Oak Tree and the delivery of two very large rocks, one for Christmas and the other my birthday present, eight years ago. Then we started hauling in smaller prairie rocks ― lots of ’em. We used our trailer and a ramp and the wheelbarrow. We kept the neighbors amused, no doubt.


Then, I started with about a dozen hostas or so each year. I’ve recently learned this about hostas: the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap. It certainly does take patience, but this year they are spectacular ― all 126 varieties.

Here are some of my favorites:

The ones shown below were just tiny sprigs when I received them in the mail, and it has truly taken patience to see them become worthy of their names.

And what the heck, I’ll wrap this up with some of the latest daylilies:

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Glen Campbell And Other Musings

When I was a little girl, Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” was a big hit on AM radio. Somehow, because my father had been a lineman in Mississippi in the time period after World War II  I got confused and for a little while and was pretty sure he and Glen Campbell were one and the same person. I eventually got this sorted out and understood the truth, but I’m still rather fond of the song.

Other musings: This photo was a happy reminder for me of a past hike, taken five years ago today. I so love Theodore Roosevelt National Park that I’ll climb the tall bison fence to get into the backcountry. My husband took this photo. My sister, Sarah, joined us for the hike and just as nimbly clambered over that fence.

Garden news is that I planted the hosta seed I’ve been harvesting. We’ll see what happens. A seed can be magic, a miracle in the palm of my hand.

On the way to pick up supplies at the grocery store, I spotted this sign. Good sentiment.

Other tiny seeds have turned this summer to these beauties.

In the kitchen, I’m converting the bounty to yellow tomato lime sorbet and listening to Campbell’s last release as I putter.


Adios, indeed, Mr. Campbell.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak Garden Notes No. 26: Hosta Harvest

This year, I resolved to try new things in life. After years of my husband urging me to write more, I started my blog. It has been surprisingly gratifying. I spent a lifetime writing newsletters, press releases, letters, memos, emails and the Stoxen Library blog, and one does get better at writing by, well, writing. Reading thousands of books by really good writers is helpful, too.  (Incidentally, my husband resolved to be more grateful, a worthy goal.) Healthy distractions from the nonsense out of D.C. is as much as anything that I seek.

Since I was an undergraduate, I have enjoyed the essay form, and I rather like calling myself an essayist. It is not at all likely that fame and fortune will follow, but I care about that not one whit.

I also broke down and got on Twitter, @wilddakotawoman. It is a good source of headlines and such, and I follow writers and thinkers who I respect, including @RobertMacfarlane, @TimothyEgan and @TerryTempestWilliams.

The other day, I decided to try another new thing, in this instance with respect to gardening. I am harvesting my hosta seeds and planting in an area in the vegetable garden to see if I can successfully propagate my plants. If successful, I will add these to the garden sale that my sister and I are having this fall (perhaps this will be the “fortune” part).

Saturday was a pleasantly cool day with a gentle breeze, so I went to work. I cut off the stems with the blossoms and carefully placed the seed pods into envelopes, which I marked with the names of the plants.

At this point, I’ve harvested 11 varieties. There will be more, from plants that have not yet produced seeds. Before I plant, I will dry these in the sun for a time.

I was outside today, almost all day.  Now “that’s” a good day.

Speaking of the vegetable garden, Jim continues to harvest fresh vegetables each day. He is the little white speck you can see in this picture. He says planting the garden is very satisfying and harvesting it is the most satisfying thing he does, and he’s done it for many decades. Soon he is going to start making pickles, and I need a place to hide since I “hate” pickled anything.

Our year is anchored on gardening season, and we don’t travel far from home in the summer for this reason. At this point in July, I again find time to read books that are piling up. I highly recommend this book. Rebecca Solnit is a keen observer of the world and a brave writer. I’m savoring it. Her Facebook posts are excellent.

All good reasons to stay home. Cheers!

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Hosta Meditation

When we purchased Red Oak House, we were thrilled to have so many mature trees, however, we recognized how these should shape what we would do with our landscaping, especially in the smaller front yard.

Sum and Substance (lime-colored) with Humpback Whale (front left). I'm excited to watch Humpback Whale grow as huge as the name portends.
Sum and Substance (lime-colored) with Humpback Whale (front left). I’m excited to watch Humpback Whale grow as huge as the name portends.

I’m no fan of mowing grass, and it grew in a rather insipid fashion under the shade of the red oak. Hence, I purchased these two books straightaway and proceeded to transform the front yard to a shade rock garden, dominated by hosta.

My dear friend, Bernnett, first turned me on to hosta and directed me to the Minnesota Arboretum, where they were displayed in glory. Yet, I’d not had the opportunity to grow them in earnest until we bought this house.

Once we’d identified the sprinkler lines, Jim tilled up the grass, and we began to haul rocks. I’m certain the neighbors thought we were nuts, particularly when we had the two huge boulders delivered. (In fact, just this spring, Dave, from across the street, the senior inhabitant of this block, informed me that in spite of his misgivings, my yard had begun to look quite beautiful, confirming my suspicions.).

It takes patience to complete this transformation and, indeed, it did not look very nice the first few years.

I love hostas colors and their clever names and different sizes and shapes and textures. As I tend these, I think how much fun it must have been for the propagator to cultivate and name these.

Now my garden is the peaceful place of meditation and shade that I had envisioned, and I’ve accumulated 120 varieties of hosta. These are punctuated by other shade plants such as astlibe, ligularia, ferns, globe blue spruce and impatiens. (These I buy by the hundreds in the spring from nearby greenhouses.) For some reason, the impatiens are slow to bloom this year.

Gentle reader, I hope you enjoy these photo highlights of some of my hosta.

Thursday, I capitulated to a dear friend in her request that we put our gardens on the Bismarck Mandan Garden Club tour in August. Please stop by if you are in the neighborhood and enjoy these in person. I hope we don’t get any hail storms between now and then, but abundant rain. Namaste.

The kitchen project is completed

On Thursday, I spray-painted the old stove hood to match the new stove we bought last fall and my newly refinished countertops.

All of the new light switch plates are installed.  The kitchen re-do is complete!

Let the cooking commence.