Wednesday, April 30, 2008

White Trillium

White trillium in the wild

White trilliums along the edge of an evergreen woods

It's cold here today! It went down to 27 during the night. My husband still went out to work in the garden this morning, but there were little white flakes falling here and there. I stayed inside.

This afternoon we decided it would be nice to drive by, and revisit the wildflowers. The white trilliums were in their glory, standing proudly. This is the kind of weather they are accustomed to, and they love it. The spring beauties were like me, a little too cold. They were closed up tightly today, even though they were open before. The whole wild flower process has slowed back down to a more normal pace. There are lots of buds waiting for their usual May opening. This last April night will be another cold one. Tomorrow should be better. In 2008, it looks like May showers will bring the wildflowers.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Heavenly, Fragrant, Buffalo Currant

My gardening friend Elle gave me this plant. The original plant grew on her grandmother's farm in Bennington, NY. Since Elle was a nurse in WW2, you know this plant has been around for a long time, so it is a treasure. It always makes me think of her. She called it spice bush.

I have found it listed as buffalo currant or clove currant. Lewis and Clark carried a sample of this plant to Thomas Jefferson from their western exploration. Our eastern location must be missing the natural pollinator. We usually have numerous blossoms for a long time and few berries. Last year the hummingbirds returned in time to visit the blossoms. We had numerous berries last year.

It has just begun to open, and honestly with this cold snap, I hope it takes its time. These little flowers fill the garden with a spicy aroma that is fantastic. I look forward to it every year. Every breeze carries that delicious fragrance across the garden. Elle cut branches in bloom to bring this fragrance into her house. I think I will go and cut some for my house now. Thank you Elle.

Monday, April 28, 2008

April Showers

Serviceberry or Shadbush

At last the weather feels like April. We finally got an all day rain, not a storm, but spring rain. The spring flowers are taller and happier. The grass is greener. You can see the pea plants growing from the living room window. For a gardener, this was a truly beautiful day.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Spring Ephemerals

Trout Lily in the woods

Cultivated trout lily in the garden

Bloodroot with it's seed capsule (I missed the flower, I told you they go by fast)

Now is the time in the northeast for those beautiful wildflowers whose spring appearance is so very short. They have only the time from snow melt to tree leaf out to complete their life cycle for the year. I just came back from an amazing place near here. Trout lilies, white trillium, spring beauties, stinking Benjamin, meadow rue were all in bloom. The blood root finished blooming a few days ago. What a thrill, a whole hillside covered with wild flowers!

We have some wildflowers here at home. I try to take good care of them. If I want wild flowers for the cultivated garden, I get them from a good, environmentally aware source. The New England Wildflower Society is a great place to start.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fresh asparagus

Last evening, just before dinner, I went out to the garden and cut the first asparagus of the season. There wasn't much, but I steamed it lightly and we shared it with great delight. I must say as a child I disliked the vegetable. It was usually overcooked and never picked fresh. This is one place where the home gardener has the advantage over the most expensive restaurant. The flavor of asparagus picked just before it is steamed is, well, different. It's one of our late April through mid June special treats.

I did not bounce right out of bed this morning, and my husband brought me coffee. That behavior is laudable and worth documenting. Thanks Honey!!! But as I relaxed and watched out the bedroom window, I saw movement in the trees beyond the garden. I watched for a few seconds to see what was moving just inside the the cover of the blueberry bushes. It was the coyote. He was headed east like he had someplace to go, not going fast, but not stopping to check anything out either. He (I say "he" here, I was not that close, nor would I want to be.) was a large, magnificent looking creature.

It was during my second cup of coffee when I noticed two huge turkey vultures on the ground near the garden. They were in the vicinity of a rabbit, thought to be responsible for pulling out the onion plants, who had a serious accident yesterday. These accidents usually happen nearer to the coyote's route. They are always gone by morning. Turkey vultures close up are quite a sight with their featherless red wrinkled head and awesome size. As they flew we got a great view of the feather pattern on the underside of their wings. Their primary flight feathers are pure white. Wow! I already had the start of goosebumps from the coyote, then the vultures added a few shivers. What a way to start the day!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

WILD Catnip

It's nice to see the return of the catnip. It is the one thing growing here that is a "cash crop." This strain of catnip was growing here when we came. It is a potent strain, and although I had no cat, I did have a pattern to knit catnip mice. I have made hundreds.

All my little kitty friends will be happy to get a new mouse with fresh catnip. Last year's supply ran out some time ago. The catnip will need some time to grow. It's at its best around the time it flowers. I have some mice all ready, just waiting to be stuffed.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bluebirds and Tree Swallows

My view out the kitchen window

This morning while I was eating my breakfast, I was watching the tree swallows and bluebirds on the nest boxes. The bluebird was sitting tight on the box on the left, the tree swallows were on the right. But, soon the tree swallows swooped down on the bluebird repeatedly. They dive so fast and get so close! Now, I love tree swallows, but deep in my heart, I'm a die hard bluebird fan. So I was horrified to see a tree swallow hit the bluebird, and knocked off the nest box. My husband went out to check for an injured bluebird lying on the ground under the nest box. Of course the bluebird was not there, but has gone away for now.

Bluebird's view (I hope) of my kitchen window (The smaller one on the left.)

As soon as I was dressed, I got the camera and went outside. I positioned myself behind what I consider to be the bluebird box, and put the camera on top of the nest box. The tree swallows dived at me repeatedly, making a funny clicking sound. I took countless pictures as the brushed past my head. Every picture looked like this one. They are just too fast for me. They never actually hit my head, and thankfully bombing does not seem to be their style. So the part of this picture that you don't see is a tree swallow diving at your head. I only hope that my being there made the tree swallows want that box less, and not more. After all they have the other one.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Double Exposure

Now things are really beginning to heat up in the garden. The days when I had to search for something to take a picture of so I could blog, are gone. Now I have to make choices. I had a little trouble making up my mind today so we have two pictures.

When we dug up daffodils last fall and put in the alliums, this one got missed. It looks nice against the stone wall, standing so proudly all by itself.

The second exposure is my husband's well armored pea bed. It's our method for growing vegetables in the middle of a wildlife area. Since we like to eat the peas, we try to keep the deer and rabbits out. He uses 4" X 2" welded wire to built the cage. He bends the wire on the ends so that straight sections of wire can be fastened on with string in three places on each side. A row of chicken wire down the middle of the bed will support a double row of tall peas planted on each side. To weed or pick the peas, we just untie the string, and take off the side fence pieces. The peas are planted, and caged, so now we just need some rain!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Trout Plant

This plant was given to me by my friend Sarah. She called it trout plant. The leaves have lovely speckles on them, and are a deep dark green. The flowers are pink as buds and when they first open, then magically turn blue as they mature. So there they are, pink and blue flowers on the same plant. Mother Nature is full of neat little surprises. This is one of them.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Red Maple Blossoms

For a long time I knew there were flowering trees. You know the ones, cherry , apple , magnolia , dogwood... Never did I give a thought to the fact that other trees have flowers too. The maples that grow here are red maples with red flowers. Flowers on sugar maples are green.

Anyway as promised, the blossoms are open, now that the weather has gotten so gorgeous. It's a great day to be in the garden . Right now we're in for lunch and a blog, but the garden is calling with things to be done. It's a fine day to be outdoors.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Deer Pruned Tree Peony

Looking at the new buds on my caged tree peony, I can't help but think perhaps I should hire the deer to prune for me.

Last fall I forgot to cage the plant as you see it now. During the winter the deer came by and ate the center out of the plant. I was horrified, surely the plant had met it's doom. I found a cage and surrounded the tree peony with wire, locking the barn after the horse had been stolen!

But now new growth is appearing, and guess where the new growth looks the best. Why where the deer pruned the plant of course. So again I need to learn more about being a ruthless pruner. We'll see how this tree peony does. If it needs to be pruned, will I have the nerve to do it myself, or let my doe eyed garden helpers do it?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Grape Hyacinth

The flowers are still buds, but I always love to see these bloom in the spring. Not always, but sometimes, I see my first hummingbird of the season on the grape hyacinths. I have a real thing for hummingbirds, butterflies, and hummingbird moths.

The other bulbs are growing nicely too . They are indeed rewarding plants for a gardener in the spring. I'm sure it is no small coincidence that two catalogs for spring bulbs to be ordered for next fall, came today. I've been looking at the pictures, so far my sales resistance is holding, but there's nothing like beautiful spring flowers to loosen up a gardener's credit card.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Red Maple Buds

Yesterday we took a trip to my daughter's. She lives about two hours south east of us. There, the red maples are in full bloom, the forsythia and daffodils are blooming too. As I stood in her garden and looked up through the trees, I thought, "Now that is the picture I want to put on the blog." It was a wonderful visit. They always are.

Back home again I look at my closed tight forsythia, daffodil buds and red maple buds and think "Wow this should be an exciting week. The garden is really coming to life." So here is the picture of the red maple buds the way they are here and now. If you have never noticed the tree buds try looking up. The grand opening here should be sometime this week.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Giant Glory of the Snow

I got one of those great bulb catalogs with 50% off last fall. I just couldn't resist a sale like that. New bulbs make for some great surprises in the spring. Now that we have had some warm days and rain, the bulbs are exploding out of the ground. It is amazing how quickly they can grow. These are Giant Glory of the Snow. I've never had them before, but I think they are lovely. The dead looking plant in the background is a butterfly bush. The jury is still out on that one.

Because of the rain, and because I have been doing a lot of Benadryl induced sleeping, I have been absent from the garden for a couple of days. The itching is subsiding, so I hope to be back at it soon. The S word was mentioned in our forecast for tomorrow. It's April in Upstate New York, snow is to be expected.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Yesterday's Special

Time in the garden yesterday was wonderful. My husband stripped sod from the path between two beds. He uses his mattock to cut neat squares of sod that he piles away from the garden. In time the sod will break down into beautiful soil. Next he picks up the large stones and carts them to where ever they are to be used. He then sifts out the dirt to be placed in a bed, and finishes the path with small sized stone. This seems to be a reasonable solution to gardening where the glaciers left more stone than soil.

I spent my day cleaning up and weeding. It was my day to be reminded that although people think they are on the top of the food chain, the food chain is actually a circle and we are in it. I knew my eyes were itchy and watering a bit. "Tree pollen" I thought as I pressed on, enjoying the day.

When I looked at myself in the mirror before bed, I looked SWELL, and not in a good way. The bags under my eyes are like trans-Atlantic steamer trunks. I guess that I was so busy, I didn't realize I was the special of the day on the insect's menu. It's not a lot better this morning so I will be faced with a day of "What happened to your face?" Did I tell you I absolutely LOVE the garden?

So I found the insect repellent to add to my long sleeve shirt, long pants, sunscreen, sun hat, and gloves. If that doesn't do it, there's always the bee suit!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Blue Birds and Flowers

The little dwarf iris are so amazing. These look like the flowers that a magician pulls out of his hat. It's been a busy day outside today. My husband is planting the pine trees we ordered as I write this. We are supposed to get some rain so the timing is perfect.

There's lots of bluebird activity today. Everyone wants the best nest box! All this squabbling helps to get their hormones going. I watched a group of male bluebirds doing just that, while a single female watched. What a delight to watch those flashes of dazzling blue. I don't know how impressed the female bluebird was, but they really do it for me! It amazes me how old I got to be before I ever saw a bluebird. Now I get to spend the summer watching them. It seems miraculous, and encouraging that something so formerly rare has become so familiar. The flash of brilliant blue lit by the sunlight as the birds fly is an exquisite sight. If you live in a place where you could have bluebird boxes, and you don't, you are missing a real happiness!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


If it looks like spring and sounds like spring it must be spring. The spring peepers and wood frogs  are calling. It's music to my ears.  I seldom see these cute little frogs, let alone take a photo of them. My nipped in the bud iris is flowering so bravely, standing there next to its perfect neighbor
I had to post it.

I have a few crocuses up. (Look for the bee!) They are the ones that are surrounded by lemon thyme. The bulb eating critter that ravished my bulbs doesn't seem to like them with lemon thyme on the side.

It's been wonderful in the garden the last few days. But in the bed by the porch I found something that made me call for E.F. Mama rabbit had a lovely hole dug, filled with soft grass. My fear was that there were baby rabbits in there. I covered my eyes as he dug with the spade, but it was a new nest. EMPTY! Timing is everything. We filled in the hole, the eviction is complete. Wait, didn't we do this before? Odds are we'll have to do it again.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Moss in Bloom?

There are many kinds of moss growing here with textures from long and matted, to smooth and soft, and colors from pale to bright green. I don't know much about moss. This moss is growing on top of the stone wall entering the basement of the house. The ground level view gives a different perspective on the plant. I found this spring color surprising.

Builders of dry stone walls are fond of moss. Some of them mix up interesting concoctions to get moss to grow on the stones. We didn't do that. Unplanted soil, even gravel, doesn't stay that way long. Plants of some kind will move in. We call some of them weeds, but not this one. Look how gorgeous it is. They don't call the planet we are on God's green earth for nothing!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Dwarf Iris, to Cage or Not to Cage

Blooms at last! The dwarf iris are beginning to bloom. They are a favorite of mine, so delicate and beautiful, but so brave and hardy. The snow drops, another favorite, are looking great!

It's a gorgeous day in the garden and the tree swallows are back. Of course that means the bugs are back as well, but I'm glad to see them anyway. I love the way they swoop around.

I made a start out there today. It's great to get that dirt under my nails again.

You might have noticed that we have wire cages of different sorts, here and there in the garden. I guess it's our version of the Great Wall of China, a defense against the plant marauders in the neighborhood. Below, you see a dwarf iris left unprotected. It has been nipped in the bud, the top left on the ground. Grrrr... And another dwarf iris inside a fence. "I know why the caged bird sings," well, why the iris blooms. It's because those darn deer can't bite them off.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Tarragon is Back

This picture is probably not so exciting for you, but for me, it is. My French tarragon is coming up. It's one of my very favorite herbs. I love the way it numbs your tongue if you slip a leaf in your mouth while weeding. I restrained myself, the shoots are just too small.

Tarragon is one of the things I put in my "interesting" salads all summer. French tarragon does not form seeds. If you see tarragon seeds, they are for Russian tarragon and you will be disappointed. This one you have to buy at a nursery or get from a herb growing friend. It's not a really pretty plant, but it is delicious!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Familiar Face

Now it begins. One by one the plants greet the spring. It's frosty this morning, but will warm during the day. It's the height of sugaring season here. It's a great year, or so I've heard. I chose the Johny Jump Up today. The snow drops are blooming too, but there's something about that little face.

Tiny plant are popping up where they have self seeded, and many of the perennials are beginning to make an appearance. I stopped in at a nursery to inquire about lemon verbena plants. "Come back in May." I was told. Oh yes, I'll be doing that!