hope is the thing with cotyledons, and other spring 2020 instagram thoughts

IT FEELS LIKE 100 YEARS, but it has “only” been about a month. I know because I checked in my calendar for the week where everything was canceled “till further notice,” and also for the date when I did my last in-person shopping. And I also checked on Instagram, to see what I’d “said” in reaction so far. That train of thought (in case you don’t follow me there yet):

March 3

EUROPEAN UNION? The first Apis mellifera aka European honey bee I see each year is always having at the first Eranthis hyemalis or winter aconite to open, likewise a European species. I don’t know enough to know if their distant ancestors did the same dance way back when, but I like to wonder (and I like to imagine they might have, cause that’s how my brain works). And now I will spend 57 hours reading esoteric botanical and entomological research papers on the native ranges of each if I can even find them, because it beats reading the news lately. By a mile.

March 20

SURVIVORS! Lichen and moss are ancient creatures, living on earth for hundreds of millions of years already through thick and thin. When I filled the bird feeder this morning, I looked more closely than I usually do at the community that has formed using a slat of a very old wooden bench as its substrate, and just thought: right, hunker down and stay put. Thank you, lichen and moss for setting an example (and for just being so beautiful in your unfancy way). How are you all out there doing your version of hunkering? #socialdistancing

March 23

AND ANOTHER ROOMMATE: This morning I came downstairs to be greeted by a firefly larva, who was apparently reading my notes to self from yesterday. In my hand was a cup into which I had already scooped 11 Asian lady beetles to put outside. Spiders of all descriptions, stink bugs, you name it….and that tachinid fly from a couple of posts ago. I am sheltering in place in this old house that is an entire microbiome, full of life. Hilarious, and a great distraction keying each new visitor out on bugguide.net and learning about their lives. Who are you homebound with?

April 1

THIS DEPENDABLE old friend knew I needed cheering (don’t we all?) and did its thing right when the headlines were relentless and the weather here outside mostly gray and drippy. Thank you, dear yellow Clivia … which I think came to me as a tiny-tot eons ago from wholesalers San Marcos Growers via a friend. #awaytogarden #clivia #cliviaminata #houseplantsofinstagram

April 3

HOPE IS the thing with cotyledons. (Sorry, Emily Dickinson … you know I love feathers, too.)

  1. theresa says:

    Dear Margaret,
    Like you and everyone on this earth I am hunkering down, it seems more like a winter comment somehow

    I so look forward.to your inspiring prose. I love Emily Dickenson and you’re reference makes me know

    this time will be slow to leave but we will be able to see the changes spring provides for all and no mask required to look out your window. Keep on keeping on.

    one of your admiring fans.

  2. Molly says:

    It’s always a pleasure to find A Way to Garden each Sunday morning but even more so now. It is so soothing to read and listen to your garden news and look at the beautiful pictures. It’s also wonderful to know you are taking such good care of yourself. You are a treasure we need more than ever. Be well and happy.

    1. margaret says:

      How sweet. A number of people have mentioned a passage in that book about when I came here fulltime to live alone in Nowheresville 12+ years ago and lost my bearings a bit — like all of us sequestered at home now.

  3. Kate says:

    Just a quick comment to say how much I appreciate your posts and the podcast. <3 Having things come alive and gardening stories to listen to gives me so much hope and fills me with gratitude. I really appreciate your work!

  4. Karen A says:

    And hope is the thing with blooms! So many beautiful flowering things right now – daffodils still going, Burkwood viburnum, sour cherry tree, dandelions (picking greens to saute). Hope everyone is safe with a stack of books and ways to be productive inside or outside.

  5. Donna says:

    I’m so glad I made the visit to your open house last spring, Margaret. I can visualize your property now as you write, and this lovely interview with Jenny of Tiny Hearts has a place in my minds eye.
    What a blessing to have “sheltering in place” mean permission to get into the garden!!

  6. shari says:


    Hi. So glad to see a photo of your newest roommate – lol. I am sending you warm spring wishes. Like my fellow commenters, I so appreciate your books, webinars, Sunday posts and podcasts! Two zones to the south, spring is in its full glory giving us signs of hope and continuity. Looking forward to the Tiny Hearts webinar on dahlias.

    Take care,


  7. Beverly says:

    Last week I saw a black ant in the kitchen, caught it in a tissue and put it outside. After doing this about 3 dozen times, I gave up. Now when I get a glass of water in the wee hours, I say
    “Hi ants”, as I see them entering through the old-timey exhaust fan.
    As soon as the peonies bloom and there is enough for them outside, their visits will end.

    Thanks for the firefly larva photo – now I know what they are!

  8. Rita Hlasney says:

    I will never take your Sunday am post for granted . I confess in our other life, it would be Tuesday or Wednesday before I took the time to read and always enjoyed and learned along the way. But the past several Sundays, I have opened your post first. While the house is still quiet, I sit in bed with my cup of coffee and enjoy the solace of reading from start to finish. I love to propagate. Yesterday, I dug up several small no name hosta, couple hellebores, a comfrey, Purple oxalis, and some variegated Lilly of the Valley. As often happens, other plants out grow their space.
    So now I have plants to put in pots or to share.
    I have enjoyed my garden this year more than ever and I might add, it looks great.

  9. Grace Fener-Markofsky says:

    I don’t know when I will be able to start any gardening this Spring/Summer. But reading THE BOOK would be wonderful! I don’t know if this is “the bottom of the page” where THE BOOK might be won?

  10. Lyn Babcock says:

    I don’t know what possessed me last fall, but I planted 50 “Worlds Favorite“ tulips. Herds of deer are regulars in my Pittsburgh neighborhood, so I prayed. And I used “Deer Defeat” way more frequently than the label suggested. TWO and only TWO flowers were bitten off, and I now have 48 beautiful blooms. We all need something to make us smile during this pandemic, and my entire neighborhood is enjoying the tulips!

  11. Amelia Hefferlin says:

    Thanks for your post today and the information about dividing plants — a great idea for all of us in these days of staying at home!

  12. phyllis says:

    Thank you for your always inspiring and hopeful posts especially in these uncertain times.
    On this Easter Sunday morning, I am reading your posts while listening to some vintage John Prine.
    “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” Alexander Pope
    Stay well, Margaret.

  13. Catherine Salam says:

    Hope springs eternal in the gardeners breast (variation on a theme). This year will be the best garden ever!

  14. Diane Wertman says:

    I love the section on 16 ways to growing tomatoes. There’s always so much to learn and they’re one of my favorite crops with so many different heirloom varieties to explore. Can’t wait to try a few new ones this year.

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