Wednesday, March 19, 2014

For Love of George





Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since
(I've) been here . . .

~ George Harrison


Not that George . . . this George!

Our sweet old boy had his thirteenth birthday just before Christmas.  He's the primary reason I've been absent from the blog so long. 

 Back in early 2012, we received the presumptive diagnosis of Degenerative Myelopathy - the explanation for mysterious, progressive neurological symptoms we'd been seeing in our sweet boy since late summer of 2011.  DM is a disease of the canine spinal column, believed to be autoimmune, where the body attacks the myelin sheath that protects and insulates nerves in the spine.  It's believed to have more than one form - a form that resembles Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis in humans, and another that's more similar to ALS.

As the disease progresses, it eventually causes the dog to lose the use of its back legs, and later as it progresses up the spine, the front legs as well.  Left to its natural course it eventually affects the organs of the respiratory system.  Few dogs make it that far, and most either die of other causes or are euthanized due to complications of the disease, or often, due to another illness.


The average lifespan post-diagnosis is only a few months.  Many dog guardians have their dogs euthanized almost immediately after diagnosis, and others, once the dog loses use of their back legs.  

Some, like our sweet old boy, have guardians who opt to do what it takes to keep them happy, healthy, and enjoying life for as long as possible.  It's a lot of work, but for many of us who opt to wait until our dogs are ready to leave us, it's very rewarding, and very worth the effort for these loyal, loving canine members of our families.


We have some special equipment for George.  This was his first doggie wheelchair/a/k/a cart.  Over time, as his front legs compensated for the paralysis in his back legs, this cart got to be difficult to use.  An Angel donated a different cart to us.  It's counterbalanced with a variable axle, and transfers more of his weight to the wheels, taking a lot of extra weight off his shoulders, and giving his freedom for walks and backyard romps back to him once again.


There's also this harness (below).  You can't see the top since  he's busy rolling around in last fall's leaves, but it has handles in the front and back, making it easier for us to lift him and help him get around.  Our sweet old boy is still happy, enjoying life, and doing all the things able-bodied dogs can do.  He just needs a little help.


There's no sugar-coating it though, eventually we'll lose him, either to DM or a complication, unless something else gets him first.  A dog's life is just much too short.  In the meantime though, as long as he's still happy and otherwise healthy, and as long as I can take care of him, we're taking life one day at a time, putting in the effort needed to make sure he gets plenty of exercise and play, good food, lots of supplements targeted for the disease, and a medication that helps slow down the progression in most dogs lucky enough to try it.


We feel fortunate to have had our sweet boy so long.  He's a big dog - a Lab/German Shepherd Dog mix, and he's already outlived the expected lifespan of both breeds.  It's never long enough when you love a dog, but we are blessed still having him with us.  Every day is a gift.


Keeping a dog with Degenerative Myelopathy healthy and happy is a lot of work.  It's physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging, and it takes a lot of time and focus.  


His smile, his happiness, and the love . . . they make the sacrifices worthwhile.  Some pictures are worth a thousand words.


So I'll try to make it back here to the blog when I can.  In the meantime, if anyone's looking for me, I've just been a bit busy and preoccupied.  It's all for the love of my sweet George.

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it's all right
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
It's all right, it's all right.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wildflower Wednesday


Normally starting to bloom in July, Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower), like quite a few others this year, is blooming a bit later than usual.  The cooler-than-usual spring and early summer may be responsible, or maybe it's because I pinched them to help prevent sprawling.  It's the first time I've pinched them.  I hoped it wouldn't prevent them from blooming, and it didn't.  I definitely like them better more upright.  I don't think the hummingbirds care.  Cardinal flowers attract hummingbirds here like nothing else except the fuchsias we pot up every year.


Spigelia marilandica/Indian Pinks are reblooming!  They usually do, though not as prolifically as their initial bloom in June.


Helenium autumnale, a/k/a sneezeweed, just getting started.


Earlier in the season somebunny chewed Elymus hystrix (bottlebrush grass) to the ground.  It rebounded, and is blooming here for the first time.  We started bottlebrush grass from seeds Monica sent in spring 2012.  She sent seeds for several native grasses, and all were very easy to start and grow. I put it here in this messy-looking border in front.  I'm still working on convincing the Lawn man we need to yank the ugly yews and Euonymus.  I think I'm getting closer . . .


Monarda fistulosa isn't blooming in the original spot I planted it.  I moved a clump to a sunnier spot this spring, and I'm happy to see it doing so well here.


Joe Pye weed, formerly known as Eupatorium purpureum, now Eutrochium purpureum,  was a flopping mildewed mess and hardly bloomed at all during last summer's heat and drought.  They've recovered beautifully this year, though not quite as tall as usual.  I've said it before and I'll say it again:  I really wish 'they' would quit re-classifying and re-naming plants.  It took me a long time to learn so many botanical names, and I'm getting too old for this!


Related to Joe Pye, I believe, this volunteer mystery plant appears to be a eutrochium/eupatorium.  For the first time, it decided it wanted to turn a nice dusty pink this year.  We lost a spruce that gave this plant a lot of shade in previous years.  The shade never prevented it blooming, but it's much taller this year, and it's nice to see the pink!  In the past this plant produced white flowers that faded to a rather unattractive gray.   This year they started white and aged to pink!  Whatever it is, it attracts an unbelievable number of bees of every kind.

Please visit the  host of Wildflower Wednesday, Gail at Clay and Limestone, where today she's featuring Blue Mist Flower/hardy ageratum.  Her in-depth posts on natives she grows in her garden are educational, entertaining, and feature gorgeous photography, as well as links to many other Wildflower Wednesday posts. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

August Blooms




New here this year, complements of Walters Gardens, this is 'Midnight Raider', a semi-evergreen tetraploid daylily.  They have made a beautiful addition to an area where there's lots of morning sun.  'Midnight Raider' is a reblooming daylily.  It may not rebloom its first year, but I'll be hoping, and watching for more of these beauties later this summer or in early fall.


Another trial plant sent to us by Walters Gardens this spring is this beautiful hardy hibiscus, 'Heartthrob'.  And yes, mine does (throb) when these gorgeous , dramatic 8" blooms open.



One of a bunch of hanging baskets here.  This one is New Guinea impatiens and scaveola (fan flower).  I haven't tried scaveolas here before - didn't think we'd have enough sun for them to bloom well.  Apparently I was mistaken - so glad I tried them, and will definitely grow these again here.


The foliage is nothing fancy on this hosta, but the 4 foot scapes loaded with double blooms in light pinky-lavender are pretty awesome.  I look forward to the blooms of Hosta rectifolia 'Fujibotan.' all summer, and so do the hummingbirds.



Surprise lilies were divided and spread around last year.  Some are sulking (as they often will after moving or dividing) and didn't bloom this year, but we do have a few small clumps like this. Phlox, bellflowers, and coneflowers are blooming in the background.



Wax begonias are substituting for impatiens this year - maybe every year going forward.  They are so much less thirsty than impatiens, and are great in part sun.


Phlox paniculata 'David', with Diamond Frost euphorbia.


After last year's drought, agastaches are a shadow of their previous selves this season, and one didn't return this year.  It was a surprise, as they've always seemed so drought tolerant.  Hopefully the remaining ones are gaining strength with our cooler, wetter summer, and will return big and strong next year.


Phlox, black-eyed susans, and coneflowers



This is 'Crystal Palace Gem' pelargonium.  I love the chartreuse foliage so much, I'd grow this geranium even if it never bloomed.  I took cuttings from last year's plants, rooted and overwintered them in our basement greenhouse.




Echinacea purpurea 'Butterfly Kisses' is another trial plant from Walters Gardens.  At maturity it will be a diminutive 18 inches tall.  In its first season, it's under a foot tall - perfect for this border of small and miniature plants, and oh, so cute.  That's dragon wing begonias in the hanging basket, and more Diamond Frost euphorbia in the basket and in the background.  I overwinter Diamond Frost, and they get bigger and better every year.



Another surprise lily, with calamint, black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, and agastache.  About to bloom is a pink Japanese anemone.  The tall yellow coneflowers in the background are 'Herbstonne', also known as 'Autumn Sun'.  They languished in last year's drought, stunted, mildewed, and hardly bloomed.  They're in their glory this year, like nothing ever happened.  None were lost.  'Herbstonne' may do best in full sun with moist soil, but they do extraordinarily well in our dry, part sun garden.



'Blue Paradise' phlox is blooming again, here with a pelargonium I've overwintered for years, more coneflowers, catmint, calamint, surprise lilies, and 'Mocha' heuchera villosa.  'Mocha' blooms all season, from late spring through frost - the longest-blooming heuchera I've ever seen.  Hummingbirds love 'Mocha' blooms in our garden, along with many other heuchera flowers.  The cooler weather seems to be keeping 'Mocha's foliage more greenish purple this year.  Most summers the foliage is a beautiful mocha-brown color.  


Phlox was one of the first perennials I ever grew, and they remain long-blooming favorites in our summer garden.  This one is 'Laura.' 

Happy Bloom Day everyone.  To see more August blooms, please visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wildflower Wednesday


 It's the fourth Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time to show off the native plants blooming in our garden.

 Veronicastrum virginicum, or Culver's root, is one of my favorite natives.  The dark green foliage stays clean and beautiful all season, and the candelabra blooms are pretty cool.  Culver's root is easy to grow, very well-behaved, a beautiful plant in the garden, and we just love it here.


Stokesias are just about finished,


 while purple coneflowers are just starting to bloom.


 This ginormous plant way in back looks just like Joe Pye weed, with white flowers instead of pink.  It's a volunteer, though I've no idea how it got here since nobody surrounding us grows it.  Wherever it came from, I'm glad it planted itself here.


Liatris spicata needs protection in our garden, lest somebunny eats them.  These get only morning sun, and seem to be doing fine.  They've been here three years, and these are their first blooms.  Last summer after they were mowed down by critters yet again, I fenced them.  They join the growing list of plants with little fences surrounding them to thwart the dastardly rodents.



Asclepias tuberosa is blooming for the first time.  Added four years ago, it's a thrill to see it finally bloom.  They went dormant last summer during the drought, and that makes these blooms extra special.  I wasn't sure if they were dormant or dead last year.

What wildflowers are blooming in your garden this month?


To join the celebration of natives and other wildflowers blooming around the country and around the world,  please visit Gail at Clay and Limestone

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wildflower Wednesday


Crazy weather seems to be the norm in the Chicago area this spring, and now summer.  A derecho blew through our area suddenly last night, but didn't seem to cause much damage in our garden.  The minor hail damage on the foliage in this post is from another recent storm.  In spite of our crazy weather so far this season though, wildflowers are thriving in our garden.  

I may have made peace with Ruellia humilis, a native petunia who likes to sprawl and seed herself all over the place.  I pinched them back hard in early May, and even with our record rains, they are standing upright.  As for the rampant self-seeding, last year after they bloomed I cut them way back again, and this spring we've had only a few seedlings.  So as long as I can keep them in check, they'll be sticking around.


Tradescantia Ohiensis - Ohio spiderwort is another purple-flowering native blooming in our garden this month.  The spiderworts bloom well in a pretty shady area, while the ruellias weren't happy there at all and are now situated in full sun in our front foundation landscape.


Asclepias purpurascens - purple milkweed, has been here a few years, and has never set set seeds yet.  I've seen hummingbirds nectaring on these blooms for the first time this year, and hope they're doing some pollinating in the process.  I'd love to be able to collect seeds from this gorgeous plant.  It's the only asclepias that has thrived and bloomed in our part-sun garden.


  I think this is Oenethera fruticosa - narrow-leaf evening primrose.  I had these many years ago in a previous garden. They were passalong plants back then, and the gardening neighbor who shared them with me called them sundrops.


It's hard to pick a favorite June-blooming native in our garden.  If I had to, Indian pink  (Spigelia marilandica) might be the one.  Their red and yellow blooms are unique and so interesting.  Although hummingbirds are said to love these, I've yet to see them visit ours.   I'd hoped to see some seedlings here.  Since none have appeared after four years, last fall I divided our single plant and now there are two.