Magic in the garden is a broad topic, too broad for one to get a proper handle on it. Magic and gardens are synonomous, for the act of growing in itself is a miracle. Better to narrow the range a bit, make it more personal, for each being has their own idea of what is magic. To me, magic is in the unexpected, the surprise. Like finding spider webs outlined with dew. The webs are always there, they are just not visible. Moisture can reveal the artistry that was there all along.

Magic is a way of looking and seeing, adjusting the blinders to things we see so often that the details might be missed in the rush and hubbub of modern life. It is the revelation of something profound and important in something you may have once seen as ordinary or routine. It is slowing down and getting on hands and knees and really looking at our surroundings. It is in the detail of a curved branch, the stamens that cannot be seen except from below of an Erythronium ‘Pagoda’, in the light of an early morning sunrise.

Let us talk about that light. We are early risers, up well before dawn even in the long days of high summer, waiting for the power of the sun to fall across the land, section by section. We look to the east for the moment that the intense light appears in the horizon. There is magic in the light of every single day as it illuminates our world to start a new beginning.

We cannot stress enough the early morning light and the magic it holds. It bathes the plantings of the garden in warm tones like watercolors that have spilled across a painting, blending golden yellows across the page.

This is still somewhat vague in the quest for magic and its meaning. So far we have mentioned surprise, looking, and light. Now let us talk about plants, in particular, those plants that are surrounded with ancient lore and myths. The primrose, Primula veris is said to preserve youth and beauty when worn or carried, or restore those traits if they have gone. It was used medicinally and also as a protection against evil, including ne’re do well fairies who might upset a farmer’s cows. They are said to be favored by the good fairies, who use the flowers as umbrellas for their wee babies. Our plants were grown from seed and have been divided over and again to provide plenty of good magic here.

Magic can arise from the happiness of seeing beautiful plants thrive under our care. The flower form of bearded Iris germanica ‘Cinnamon Girl’ holds us under its spell.

All flowers have magic, the power to hold our imaginations and give delight. The intense blue of these volunteer morning glories blind our eyes to the unsightly chain link fence that they are twining upon, unless someone points it out. The white centers look like a gateway to another dimension, and perhaps it is, if one could only unlock its secrets. Magic lives in our imaginations.

Any discussion of magic in the garden would not be complete without the mention of the wild visitors. Pets are welcome, children are precious, but it is the guests that come to dine that are untamed yet freely visit that offer the touch of the wand. Butterflies and birds, insects large and small, furry critters and…

…those not so furry are a welcome sight, adding another dimension to the living organism that is the garden.

In every season, spring into summer, fall into winter, the magic is there to see, if one only knows how to look for it. It is training our eyes and our minds to be open and astonished at every single thing around us that allows the magic to find us.

But the most magic of all can be found in nature’s own garden, where the touch of man has altered that power the least.
(Photo taken at the most magical of spots on earth, Christopher’s North Carolina mountainside.)

This post is in response to an assignment given by Dave of The Home Garden. He wanted to make sure that his offspring will be able to find the magic in his garden and their own someday. My belief is that he has already shown them the path to finding it, and the way to see that path. Having your children be able to see the magic and to keep the torch passing from generation to generation gives life meaning beyond measure.


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43 Responses to Magic

  1. ssaa4ever says:

    i like that
    where can i find this environment?
    in wich country?

    This, my garden is in the United States, in the southeast corner of Tennessee. I am glad you like it.

  2. Lynne says:

    What gorgous and, indeed, magical images. Very hard to choose a favourite here πŸ™‚

    Thanks, Lynne. No need to pick a favorite, they are all special in their own way, just like we all are. πŸ™‚

  3. lotusleaf says:

    Frances, I think your garden, the time and your very words carry magic! I too sense the magic so many times, but am unable to capture it like you do! After reading your post, my spirits have been lifted magically!

    Thanks so much, Lotus, you are always so sweet in your thoughtful comments. It makes me happy to think your spirits have been lifted. πŸ™‚

  4. tyziana says:

    Hello Frances, now I do not know why you are with the poetic and I must say that I know would prefer under her dress ironic or romantic …..
    Your garden is lovely as always in all seasons and with the morning light, day and sunset. Thanks for giving me a sunny morning in this gray and dreary day!
    A hug!

    Hi Tyziana, thanks so much. Your first sentence is an enigma to me, perhaps the translator got a little creative with what you might have been trying to say, but I appreciate your visiting and the kind sentiments. It pleases me to offer a little sun, for it is grey and dreary here as well. A hug right back to you. πŸ™‚

  5. Edith Hope says:

    Dear Frances, At the risk of being accused of writing a clichΓ©, this is a MAGICAL posting. Your outstanding pictures [the spider’s web alone is a triumph] combined with a very considered and thoughtful commentary make this a comprehensively satisfying experience.

    For me, the kind of magic which you point to are those unexpected or easily overlooked natural incidents. These are totally unplanned and yet so powerful.

    Thanks Edith. It was fun searching through the archives for these shots that seemed to portray garden magic to me for this post. Time well spent to remember past seasons and dream of the future, coming soon I hope! Surprise is always there, and holds the most magic, I agree. We just have to keep our senses atuned to it. πŸ™‚

  6. Beckie says:

    Frances, your photos are awe inspiring! Wonderful for they show the magic in one’s garden if we just take the time to look. As you say, we just have to get down on the garden’s level sometimes to see all her beauty. Even the most ardent of gardeners are likely to miss things if they don’t take the time to really see beyond the plantings.

    I think taking a camera into the gardens is one of the best ways to get ‘up close and personal’ with it. As you have so well shown.

    Maybe soon it will warm enough for us to get back out there. πŸ™‚

    Hi Beckie, thanks so much. Having the digital camera opens a whole new world to us, doesn’t it? The surprises as the pictures load onto the computer screen are priceless, showing things we cannot see with our own eyes. We wait, not as patiently as we should, for those warmer times. Soon, I hope, we will be out there and see things growing. πŸ™‚

  7. Darla says:

    The majestic beauty of one’s garden lies deep within the heart of the gardener. You have shown your heart very well here. As for the Primrose I need to roll around in a patch of that! Passing the garden torch from generation to generation is magic in itself…it can’t be captured only felt.

    Hi Darla, thanks. I can picture you rolling around in the primula! The fairies would be amused too. Magic is in our hearts, you have said it well. πŸ™‚


  8. Les says:

    Fabulous post, both photos and prose, or is it poetry? I will have to get some of the primrose if they can perform their magic act. At this point I am not so much interested in restoring beauty as much as youth, at the least, putting a hold on aging.

    Hi Les, thanks. Holding back aging does sound enticing, if pointless. I wish our society were more open to aging and reward those who do it gracefully rather than expect thirty year olds to have plastic surgery at the first sign of a wrinkle. It is a mindset that saddens me. Better to have a youthful outlook, maybe the primrose can offer that, for I feel young just looking at it. Sorry for the soapbox, I should delete this but won’t.

  9. Ninni says:

    You have a really georgeous garden which I have followed a year or so. I’m impressed by your plants og the way you present them in pictures. Magic is the word πŸ™‚ Do you have spring at your part now? Here in Norway the winter is hars this year, much snow og really cold weather. I hope we get some sun and milder days in March, but usually spring does not appear until april.

    Hi Ninni, thanks and welcome. We are not yet into spring, but in another month it should arrive with the blooming of early bulbs and budding tree leaves. The photos in this post are from year’s past except the one with snow, that is recent. Our last frost date, when most plants can safely be planted outside is mid April. I too wish for you to see the sun and feel warmer air out of doors. I wish the same for us, it has been a cold and harsher than normal winter for us too. πŸ™‚

  10. Frances, thanks for the little touch of magic you have given me this morning. Now if you will excuse me, I off off to find a Primula veris, I am feeling the need!

    Hi Deborah, thanks. I hope you can find some Primula veris, it is the most wonderful plant, even if it won’t reverse aging. (See the chewing out I gave Les in a previous comment. I really should delete that but won’t.)

  11. Rose says:

    What a beautiful post, Frances! This has to be one of your best–so thought-provoking and inspiring. I think you’ve put your finger on why my younger grandchildren enjoy being in the garden with me–their minds are still open to the possibility of magic. They believe me when I say there are fairies under the leaves, and though we’ve never actually seen the fairies, we do see caterpillars and toads, two of their favorite “magical” creatures. Beautiful images of your garden, even under snow!

    Why thank you, Rose, that is very sweet of you. It is you who have hit upon what makes the magic, keeping an open mind. Your grandchildren are lucky to have you as their mentor, in many ways. πŸ™‚

  12. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Magic is certainly in the eyes of the beholder. I find all that you see here as magic so in my garden as well. I will have to get out to see what kind of magic the snow brings.

    Thanks Lisa. There is magic in the snow too, even though we get tired of seeing all that white and long for the magic of green! πŸ™‚

  13. Steve says:

    Gorgeous post, Frances. I like your magic – it is very similar to mine. Light, the wonder of blooms and serendipity – that spider web is awesome as is your turtle. You seem to have – or you had better have – a nice relationship with that Primula. You know far too much about fairies (especially the ne’er do wells!) to slack at keeping them healty. That was a fun read and thanks.

    Thanks Steve. I loved the spider web and turtle too. We just can’t say enough about the light and appreciating all it brings to the world as well as the garden. I do like to keep the fairies happy, even if we don’t have any cows. πŸ™‚

  14. Frances the photos are definitely magical! The light makes everything stand out. The photo of the tree through the arbor with the light highlight the sinuous branches is very cool. “The unexpected” is a great way to think of magic in the garden!

    Thank YOU Dave for thinking up this topic. It certainly helped to think about magic when our weather is seeming less than delightful this winter. Spring will come, won’t it?

  15. easygardener says:

    That was a lovely post and the photos were beautiful. Best of all we know that the magic of the garden will repeat itself day after day as long as we look for it.Though I must say – the presence of the sun adds that extra glitter!

    Hi EG, thanks. I agree wholeheartedly, the sun is just the thing for extra magic. We are sorely missing its presence this winter.

  16. Liisa says:

    What a delightful post! Your garden is truly overflowing with magic and beauty is in abundance. Your photographs are breathtaking. I too so enjoy the early morning light, and enjoy watching the colors of the garden wake up from the darkness. Such a special time of day.

    Hi Liisa, thanks so much. Glad to hear that you also are up to enjoy those first rays of morning light. There is nothing like it. πŸ™‚

  17. How sweet Frances. I could go take a picture of that path now and it would still hold magic though the early fall shot feels most warm and enticing. You really have not yet wandered off the beaten path into the woods where all kinds of delights are to be found. Spring with the violets, trilliums and hepatica are the best. I really like the front porch shot with the Carolina Jessamine.

    Thanks Christopher. It was a magical day when that shot was taken, including the totally encased in ice petunia. Our visits there are always too short. I would love to see the spring wildflowers in the woods. Maybe this year…

  18. Great post, Frances. The contrasting shots are great… and the wildlife bonus! πŸ™‚

    Say – can you get into Blotanical?

    Hi Shady, thanks. Blotanical is down, has been for several days. Word is that Stuart is changing servers to make it faster and better. You will know it is up and running when the little *x* in the badge on my sidebar, or yours if you show it, goes away and it looks normal again.

  19. Sweet Bay says:

    Frances, all of these images are magically beautiful. The birth of every new day is magical too.

    Hi Sweet Bay, thanks so much. I agree, each day is magical. πŸ™‚

  20. If there was ever a magical garden, it is your fairegarden.


    That is so sweet, Cameron, thanks. πŸ™‚

  21. Pam/Digging says:

    Frances, the enchantress, I enjoyed your musings on magic. Getting up early for that slanted light is good advice. Too bad I love to sleep in! I opt for slanted afternoon light but have the nagging feeling I’m missing something. πŸ™‚

    Thanks Pam. Do what makes you happy, if it is sleeping in, and you are able to do that, then be all means do. We are up because of The Financier’s job and have gotten into the habit even on weekends, sadly. Waiting for the sun to come up is a ritual here every single day, and when it does become day, it is cause for celebration. The afternoon light can give some amazing photos as you illustrate so well. My garden is more situated to be illuminated by the morning sun better than the afternoon. But we think every ray of sun is full of magic. πŸ™‚

  22. cheryl says:

    I look out my window this morn as snow falls and return to the pooter screen. Thank you Frances you brought colour to my world. You have such a wonderful eye for photography, not easy capturing a spider web. By the way, what is that yellow flowered vine? It’s beautiful !

    Hi Cherly, thank you for those kind words. It makes me glad to have brought you memories of the warmer seasons. The yellow flowered vine is Carolina Jessamine. It is no longer growing here because it decided to eat the house, growing under the siding and roof, pretty as it was, that is not allowed.

  23. michelle says:

    Magic indeed! It is everywhere.

    Thanks Michelle, glad you agree with our take on magic. πŸ™‚

  24. Beautiful shot of that pine tree… it looks like it’s ablaze!

    Thanks Jenn, that has always been a favorite here as well. πŸ™‚

  25. ssaa4ever says:


    what a great garden
    take care

    Thanks, so glad you enjoyed this post. You also take care. πŸ™‚

  26. gittan says:

    Magnificent post! Not to mention the Fairegarden morning light – WOW!!! Now I’ve been scrolling up and down a couple of times just looking and enjoying ( I’ll have to get a better dictionary soon) everyone of them over and over again. I think that even the pictures are full of magic, just great! Kram gittan

    Dear Gittan, thank you so much for those kind words. It was fun picking out shots from the archives that seemed the most magical, then trimming the number down to a reasonable amount for one post was difficult. I’m glad you liked the selections. πŸ™‚

  27. Meredith says:

    Oh, Frances, how delightful it is to read your well-chosen words! And to see the lovely photographs of your garden, too, of course. The sunrise coming through the treetop and the tortoise with his deep amber eye will stay with me a long while, I suspect. πŸ™‚ As will this sentence: “It is training our eyes and our minds to be open and astonished at every single thing around us that allows the magic to find us.” Yes, yes!

    Hi Meredith, thank you for those kind words. This post was fun to put together and write, for magic in the mundane is a subject dear to my heart, and apparently yours as well. πŸ™‚

  28. joey says:

    On this dreary day, thank you, dear Frances, for reminding us of magic and the power of light!

    It makes my day to lighten up yours with a little magic, dear Joey, for you have added so much to mine with your delicious recipes and fabulous photos! πŸ™‚

  29. Town Mouse says:

    What fun! Yes, it’s the surprises, the unexpected that seems truly magical. And what a great idea to remind the kids — which are often too protected and always surrounded by adults. More magical if you can explore on your own.

    BTW, I did a moss post just for you (and linked to your moss post twice from my blog — links improve visibility of a post on google)

    Thanks Town Mouse. I loved seeing your mossy spots, and am envious of the succulents that grow so happily beside them, a delightful mix! Thanks for the mention and link love too. I read somewhere that having links in your posts made them harder to steal. But I just like to offer links to my older posts or the blogs of others, even if no one clicks on them. I should have filled the moss post with links! Now we know the real story! As for the children exploring, it is a different world than the one I grew up in. I fear for my grandkids in a way that never was a thought when their parents were young, if maybe it should have been. Sad. But they can still be taught to see the magic in the ordinary, it’s a way of looking at things, don’t you agree?

  30. Frances, I hope one day to be able to capture the magic that I see and feel as well as you do in words and images.

    Thanks Ricki, you are so sweet. I think you already do just that. πŸ™‚

  31. kerri says:

    There’s magic in that light you’ve caught in your photos, and magic in your words. Lovely post, Frances. Spring will find us soon and shower us with warm light and warmer air πŸ™‚ Meanwhile, I hope the sun shines on your corner of the world a little more often.

    Thanks Kerri. We did get some much needed sunshine yesterday. I worked outside from sun up to sun down, tired but refreshed at the same time. πŸ™‚

  32. Lola says:

    Wow, what a thought provoking post. It does enlighten the mind.
    I hope that I have in some way transferred that magic on to my GGS’s.
    I too find the woods magical for all that it provides if only one would take the time to explore. Some of my most enchanting memories have been from walking into God’s world with surprises around each turn.
    Thank you, Frances, for that awakening.

    Thanks to you Lola, for visiting and those kind words. You are lucky to have those woodlands, they are indeed magic at every turn. πŸ™‚

  33. Siria says:

    Hello Frances! What a great post! I really enjoyed your thoughts and beautiful photographs. You (and your garden) are captivating! Thank you!!!

    Thanks Siria, so nice to see you here. Glad you enjoyed the thoughts shared today. πŸ™‚

  34. Gail says:

    Frances, Beautifully said and your accompanying photos are perfect. I love that you are able to capture spider webs and the light in the trees above the arbor is stunning. We have a similar effect with the sunset setting the trees on fire in the afternoon. 45 degrees tomorrow…it will be balmy;) gail

    Thanks Gail. The balminess of yesterday was a tonic to this winter weary soul. I was outside the entire day, and plan to do the same again today, and every day that the weather allows. I hope you did too. πŸ™‚

  35. chuck b. says:

    Big, beautiful pictures. The light is incredible.

    Every once in awhile I wake up before dawn and think about actually getting up. It never happens. If you want to come here and do it for me here, you’re welcome to! πŸ™‚

    Hi Chuck, thanks. I don’t blame you for not getting up in the dark, it is not fun at all and we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t have to. But we might as well take advantage of that first light, it is magical. I would imagine your wonderful forty feet is enchanting when bathed by that morning light. Maybe just once…. πŸ™‚

  36. I can just imagine a little fairy taking refuge under the yellow lily umbrella. I love dew covered spider webs, although have not seen one myself since I was a child. Thank you for sharing the magic in your garden.

    Hi Noelle, thanks. Isn’t that a sweet vision, the little one under the tiny umbrells petals? The dew was scarce here this last summer for some reason, only one day of it yielded the opeining shot. We hope for more in 2010. πŸ™‚

  37. Magical post. Morning glories are emitting lights, just enchanting.

    Hi Muhammad, thanks so much. The morning glories are rarely even noticed here, their seeds must be in every square of soil along the fence lines, common as dirt, as the saying goes. But the flowers are marvelous indeed. πŸ™‚

  38. This is indeed a magical post. Your photos are truly breathtaking. I love the one of morning glories, they look like they were shining from the inside. You are very lucky for having such a beautiful garden.

    Hi Nova, thanks and welcome. I am glad you enjoyed these photos of the past. Do visit again. πŸ™‚

  39. Ooh, Frances, love all the magical photos, especially the spiderweb, primroses, and painted turtle! I think magic, by its very essence, defies precise definition.

    Hi Monica, thanks. I agree. That is why we tried to narrow the perimeter a bit on this topic, making it smaller and smaller, pinpointing just a few ideas brought to mind when perusing the photo archives. πŸ™‚

  40. Jake says:

    Very beautiful pictures and story. I personally like sunrises better than sunsets.


    Hi Jake, thanks. I know what you mean, I am a morning person too. πŸ™‚

  41. Frances – thank you for making something so beautiful with your blog. Every time I’ve visited, I’ve been amazed by how you capture your garden in such a winsome way. It is becoming a habit to come here when I need a beauty fix.

    Hi Kelly, thanks, that is so sweet of you to say. My garden is my passion, right after my family of course. It, the garden, gets my full attention as much as possible, and gives back that time in pleasure immeasurable. πŸ™‚

  42. Sunny says:

    those photos are absolutely gorgeous well done, I love your photos, the brighten up the dreariest of Irish days πŸ™‚

    Hi Sunny, thanks. I am glad to have brightened your day, we know how it feels to be light deprived. πŸ™‚

  43. I’ll join the chorus: this is a beautiful photoessay, and I love that the subject of magic is being openly blogged about – isn’t that why we grow plants that aren’t for practical use? And hang around them? That top photo blew me into a different universe, thanks for letting me visit it!

    Thanks so much for those kind words, Pomona. The words garden and magic are synonymous to me as well. Glad you liked the spider web shot, I thought it deserved to lead off the topic. πŸ™‚

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