Thursday, April 30, 2009

Surprise Package

My box of plants from Roots and Rhizomes arrived this week during 80+ degree our heat wave. Each plant was encased in brown paper and the box was packed with packing peanuts. It was a real surprise package since we ordered these plants the first week in February and had pretty much forgotten what was coming.

Here they are released from their solitary confinement, looking a little pale and pathetic. The Echinacea, "Arts Pride" and the Siberian iris, "Roaring Jelly" were sealed in plastic bags. We planted these immediately since they are still dormant, even though the weather seems to be returning to normal. This of course meaning that our June 1 frost safe date is still in force. Siberian iris, "Butter and Sugar " are on back order.

After their photo op, Ed transplanted these plants into slightly larger pots. They will be joining our carry out during the day, and carry in at night brigade for the next month. I'm sure they will perk up and green up in no time. I can use the month to decide where to plant them. I must have had some idea in February,but now my vision is less clear.

These are the exciting garden days with so much growth and promise of things to come. There are weeds to pull, flowers to deadhead, beds to prepare, seeds to plant, and the lawn to mow. We stay outside and play until we are good and tired. It makes for a deep and peaceful sleep with a few sore muscles thrown in. We couldn't be happier!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wild Trout Lily

Trout lilies and our homestead exist together in contradiction. We have the single leaved never flowering plants by the tens of thousands. Both the meadows and the woods are filled with the barren plants. Rarely do we find a trout lily in bloom. These three flowers and a bud are the best display ever found here. The close proximity of flowering plants and nonflowering plants is a mystery.

John Burroughs, in the first essay of his book Riverby, discusses the habits of this lily. He found the bulbs of flowering plants eight inches below the surface of tough sod. Bulbs of nonflowering plants were less deep. Since all of these plants started from seed, Burroughs felt the mechanism that sent the bulbs deep worthy of study. The glaciers left our land filled with stones of all sizes. I have no trouble seeing the impossible task of a bulb sending itself eight inches into the ground here. Multitudes of shallow nonflowering bulbs are a rather obvious consequence of our stony ground. The mystery is the source of all of the original seed.

The shameless nature of these flowers deserves mention. I understand that reproduction is the name of the game for flowering plants. With the sepals clasped behind, the parts to be pollinated are pushed forward. Their moment in the sun is short, leaving no time for coyness.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lost and Found Again

A decade and a half ago, when we first bought this land, I found a single dwarf ginseng (Panax Trifolium) while exploring the woods behind the pond. I took a picture of it then, but I was never able to find it a second time and believe me I have searched.

Yesterday I found not one, but three tiny plants. Again I took a picture, but this time I tried to memorize unusual trees and rocks that would help me to find the plants again. With a little temporary confusion I was able to lead Ed to the spot. Again I took a photograph, but when we got back to the house my picture was fuzzy. Today Ed took the camera and went back into the woods and found it again. The flowers have yet to open so we will try to find it again. This beautiful plant is above ground for at most two months, April and May. After that it dies back to the ground. Like so many things, if you are not paying attention, you can miss something wonderful.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Forsythia and Shadblow

Ed's used his free wood chips under the forsythia by the driveway. These plants were a gift from my dear friend Jane. Forsythia are very popular in this area. Drifts of their bright yellow flowers are a welcome sign that spring is here.

Serviceberry trees , sometimes called Shadblow, are the first white flowering trees of spring here. Their white flowers dot the hillsides and are just as lovely as any flowering tree purchased in a nursery.

I've read that the dark blue berries are delicious although I've never actually tried them. It was suggested that they are better cooked to bring out the almond flavor of the seeds. I will probably be content to enjoy the flowers but this could be the year of the serviceberry cobbler.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I Forgot My "Weeding" Glasses

It's another 85+ April day today. I watched three deer cross behind the stone wall early this morning. They were jumping, twitching and flicking their ears. I found the bug repellent before I headed outside. I would so like to avoid last spring's swelling and hives adventure. Once outside I chose the bed in front of the house to do a little weeding. The dirt has really warmed there. The pink poppy seedlings and the dill are beginning to come up. With the reflected sunlight off the white house that is our warmest garden spot. I weed with careful attention watching for the things I want to grow. It didn't take very long for the heat to drive me to a place where I could work in the shade.

The patio on the west end of the house is shaded in the morning. I chose to work there. The first thing I had to do was come in the house to get my glasses. Last year when the red creeping time was cut back after flowering, I sprinkled the cuttings here on the patio. The wind blew the cuttings away, but some of the seeds stayed.The picture you see is a tiny little red creeping thyme plant perhaps three eights of an inch across. It's very hard to tell a tiny thyme plant from a tiny speedwell plant. I carefully weeded the patio, happily finding several more tiny thyme plants. I also cut back some of the dead growth on the older thyme plants.

While I was out there I saw a wild turkey. I also saw a crow fly off with a small snake hanging from its beak. Those pesky crows are good for something!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What Will This Be?

I love butterflies. It is part of my garden plan to include as many plants that attract butterflies as possible. I don't just plant the flowers, but the plants preferred by the caterpillars too. Yesterday while cleaning up under one of the
apple trees, Ed found this chrysalis. I recognize some kinds, but I don't know this one. I have a wonderful caterpillar book that shows the caterpillar and the moth or butterfly, but this step is missing. I will keep checking on this one, but I would have to be very lucky indeed to see what crawls out of this chrysalis. Does anyone recognize this one?

Just for the record after frost yesterday the temperature was in the high eighties today!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fog, Frost & Free Fun

This morning we awoke to both fog and frost. Usually it's one or the other but not this time. The sun wasted no time in burning off the fog, and then melting the frost. For awhile there were white shadows everywhere the sun didn't reach. The daffodils were drooping, but now at 9 AM it's warm, the frost is gone and they are back to being their cheery selves.

Ed is already outside having fun with his free wood chips. Trees were being trimmed along the road and the crew left us with a huge pile of free wood chips. Nothing, but nothing is more fun for a gardener than using free stuff in the garden. Free wood chips, free leaves , free manure, free stones... what could be better? I'm sure that's part of the charm of building walls from the stone we have here. I guess it also explains my love for plants that self seed . I love a bargain, but free can't be beat!

What a glorious day to be out in the garden. We were just about to come inside for lunch when Ed spotted a raccoon over by the compost pile. He was a beautiful specimen and loped over behind the garden shed. I was headed inside anyway, but now I moved just a bit faster. I'm not really that scared, but in the middle of the day it's a little unsettling to see one so close. Ed was really that scared. He was between Becky and the raccoon. The raccoon covered a lot of ground quickly when he determined that it was time to go. Fortunately it rolled on down the driveway away from us.

In the afternoon when we went over to check on the new arbutus plant, I got a glimpse of a ruby-crowned kinglet. I spent a few minutes watching this cute little bird flitting around in the brush. Being the second smallest bird in New York State and subdued in coloring, I was lucky to see it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Beginnings

Here we have new plants in a new bed in front of a new stone wall. Yellow downy violets, shooting star ( pink and white) and blue bead lily have been planted here. the cage is to give some protection from passing animals who might want to try the newest thing on the menu. Wintergreen plants are on order to fill in the front of the bed.

The wildflower books consistently mention the importance of soil ph. The blue bead lily requires a very acid soil. We needed to make an adjustment. The area under a pine tree was scraped and screened to get some fine acidic compost. This material lined the planting holes for these lilies. Lighter colored soil surrounds these plants. We will wait and see if blue bead lilies can flourish here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Natural Look

This is the chosen spot for the new trailing arbutus plant. Now that Ed has mulched the plant with leaves and pine needles, it looks like it might have been growing there for years. Of course the plastic tag would indicate otherwise. It is our hope that the plant will settle in and thrive in this natural looking setting.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Plants in the Shade Garden

The trillium and the round lobed hepatica plants are in their new home. Ed spent considerable time mixing the dirt using part duff and part garden soil . We even checked the ph. We want these plants to be happy here.

I heard the peepers for the first time today. We finally had some decent spring rain and perhaps that is what is making them sing. Of course their "singing in the rain" is not about dancing, but I bet they are really "happy again!"

After dark we experienced our first thunderstorm of the year. It was a bit of a surprise as cool as is was, but then surprising weather seems to be the new norm.

Monday, April 20, 2009

We Went Wild !

We took a trip yesterday and went just slightly astray stopping at the Catskill Native Nursery in Kerhonkson, New York. We went there on purpose of course with a short list of plants we were looking for: wood lily, wintergreen, yellow clintonia , white trillium and yellow violet. They didn't have the wood lily. There are many yellow violets. The chosen one was not available but another was. The rest of the plants on our list were there. Yes,we did buy some other plants that Becky just couldn't resist: shooting star (pink and white), Dutchman's breeches, round leaf hepatica and a primrose. There was one more thing that I was not expecting to find.

Trailing arbutus is one of my favorite wildflowers. We have some growing here, but it is along a deer path on the side of a steep hill that we now find treacherous. It's a plant whose fragrance will make you drop to the ground to get a better whiff. This was a unexpected and thrilling find. We will do our best to provide perfect conditions for it and our other new "wild" plants in a place where we can enjoy them.

When buying native wildflowers there are concerns about the source of the plants. I hope these plants were raised in nurseries and not wild collected. The plants are so well taken care of and beautiful . I have to think that the owner of this nursery is conscientious. I like to shop on Ebay too but I don't like the idea of buying "hot stuff!"

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunny Yellow

More flowers are coming on now. This is the first of this particular daffodil, but the stage is set for a beautiful display.

The King Alfreds are blooming at their peak. What a mood brightener these sunny yellow flowers are, and they are just the beginning!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What's Up Doc?

This morning I watched a big mama rabbit carry something from under the clove currant bush over to the south side of the stone wall, and then return to beneath the clove currant. E.F. went out to take a shot at catching her, but she's a speedy one. What was she up to?

The south side of the stone wall looks fine at first glance. The cage on the Giant Glory of the Snow does stick out into the path, but I just had to save some of the flowers from the rabbits. Uh Oh!

A closer look from a rear entrance perspective shows what is going on. Plans for raising a family right in the middle of my garden are being made. She was carrying the grass that lines her nest. It is a lovely spot for a nest. The aroma of the onions would hide the bunny smell. With a hidden private entrance next to the stone wall, this spot is almost perfect. Unfortunately for her, the landlord here is mean. Eviction proceedings start now. This could get ugly!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Primitive Playthings

One of the visitors to our garden yesterday was a three year old boy. He was not interested in the plants , or the flowers. The delicious smelling lemon verbena leaf I gave him dropped quickly to the ground. It was the walls and the stones that captured his eager imagination. Soon he had collected and built a stack of stones. One of them he was sure must be solid gold. He took his treasures with him. We certainly have stones to spare here. How wonderful to share in the child's delight of our stone piles.

At this point in out lives Ed and I both have a firm grip on the child within. It's one of the things we really like about each other. Time spent together looking at interesting stones,watching the wildlife and puttering around with our ongoing garden projects is precious. Today Ed is working on his stack of stones.More fascinating stones are being placed in the shade garden wall. If we keep looking we might find another one that's sure to be solid gold. If not, it's the fun of looking that is important.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Planting Peas

Ed planted the first bed of peas this afternoon. Two rows of Oregon Giants are planted on the east side of the chicken wire,and two rows of the Lincolns on the west. The stone markers are in place. This year I plan to leave the markers until next spring so I know where things were planted this year.

After the seeds are well watered,the wire sides will go on the bed. The wire helps to protect the new peas from our resident varmits.

We had a lot of fun in the garden today , weeding, pruning,and planting. Our first human garden visitors stopped by today too. A garden is even more fun if you can share it with friends.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Wall's Coming Around.

The shade garden wall is growing. Ed was out first thing after breakfast this morning working on his wall. It gets so much more exciting when the end is in sight. In this case there will be no end of course because the wall is coming back to the spot where it began.

This wall has been different for Ed. He's a very linearly symmetrical kind of guy and this wall is neither circular nor oval nor regular and varies in height. Yes, he is using the level for the top of the wall. The center stone below the level is the one being placed. We can't go completely wild can we?

The brush alongside of the driveway was visited by an unusual bird today. I saw an all black head and bib. The breast flashed red. Black wings and tail were tipped with white. It might have been a rufous sided towhee. I hope I get another look.

Monday, April 13, 2009

It Ain't Over Till ...

It's been almost 4 months since Stefan had his surgery. That's a long time to be in the plant ICU. I have to say he was looking dead. I thought it was the compost for Stefan. I should have had more faith! Check out those promising bumps!

Obviously Stefan not dead at all. He's making a comeback. I guess it's silly to become attached to a dracaena marginata that can be replaced anywhere for a few dollars, but after almost 20 years, I've gotten used to having him around. Now what to do with the stem cuttings that are also sprouting? Pot them up of course, but do I have room for a big dracaena family?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ice Puddles and Daffodils

Crunching ice puddles is one of my all time favorite pastimes. It's something I have passed on to my children. When I went out to the garden today , this was not what I was hoping to find!

I planned to do a daffodil post for Easter thinking they would be open and gorgeous. These King Alfreds are gorgeous, but this is as open as they are at this point. It's like a cold, blustery day in March out there, even if the sun is shining. The Easter Bunny is set with his fur coat. The rest of us will just have to hang onto our bonnets, and wrap our coats around us. Like the daffodil we'll wait for a warmer day to open up.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Basil Baby!

Our little basil plants started from seed are popping up nicely. We love basil! We planted spicy globe, lettuce leaf, Genovese, Aroma 2, Dani and Mrs. Burn's lemon, anise and Red Rubin.

These basil babies have a lot of growing to do, but that's good because they won't be happy outside until all danger of frost is past. TLC in the house will be needed for some time. Last year Memorial day was too early and my basil plants died a premature death. This year I hope to do better!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Onion Planting Begins

Yesterday warmed up beautifully and Ed lost no time in getting onion plants in the ground.It's a satisfying feeling to get started on the planting for a new garden year. Copras and Red Zepplins are under the first two cages. The cages are there because we have problems with something, perhaps crows , pulling the new plants out of the ground. Potato onions and shallots are planted between the cages. The next cage will be Walla Walla, Ringmaster and Mars. Bought in a sampler pack, they will be mixed although Ed tries his best to separate the kinds.

I placed flat stone markers to keep track of where things are planted.I write on both side of the stones with permanent marker. The sun tends to fade the lettering, but the downside remains intact. Every year I plan to mark everything we plant in this way. So far so good.

Today looks like another wonderful day to be out there. Time to go!

We had a fabulous time in the garden. It was warm and the sky was blue with just a few wispy white clouds. Looking up we watched a bald eagle soar on the air currents. His wings held flat, he rode the wind using very slight wing movements to change his direction. We watched for a long time and never saw a single flap. Eventually he became a tiny speck in the distance on the other side of the river valley.What a treat!

Now the clouds have rolled in and the temperature is dropping. Rain is beginning to fall. What a fun day in the garden!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Chilling Out

Outside the garden is in a holding pattern. It's chilly and snowing. Here the green grass is still showing, but my friend at just a slightly higher elevation, has snow on the ground. This is not unusual weather for April here. Sometimes we get some serious snow in April or May.

Ed took the opportunity to get the rest of the inside seeds started. My onion plants arrived today. We opened the box, admired the plants and put them aside in the basement to chill out until they can be planted outside.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bunny Brunch

I nearly missed getting a picture of my new Giant Glory of the Snow .The clumps of flowers were so beautiful and this is the last remaining bloom. As you can see it too is slightly damaged.I'm aware that the Stone Wall Garden is the place to be if you are a rabbit. I'm sure Mr. Rabbit went home to his burrow and said, "Honey, I saw the most delicious looking flowers when I went by the Stone Wall Garden.I haven't taken you anyplace really nice for awhile.You're wearing such a lovely fur. Let's splurge!"

Unfortunately I get stuck picking up the tab every time. I actually had no idea that early spring bulbs would be so inviting to the rabbits. The bulb catalogs don't say " These bulbs are especially good for attracting rabbits to your garden." This restaurant needs a better bouncer and more wire to keep out unwanted patrons.

Today we are getting a nice spring rain with the temperature in the fifties. The grass is greening and the trees are getting some color almost while you watch. Maybe an acre of green grass will take some of the rabbit pressure off the garden plants. I hope so!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Garlic Galore

Two of three garlic plantings are visible in this photo. Each five ft. by twelve ft. planting contains 240 plants. A great deal of apprehension builds between October planting and April emergence. Mold is always present to some degree in the harvested crop. We have a sneaky rot that only appears as brown soft spots on the back of some cloves. Some cloves in a infected bulb are fine. A slight hollow feel is the only clue about this problem. Infected cloves do not emerge in the spring. The test of the quality of the selected seed is measured by the emergence of healthy plants. At today's count 695 plants show green of 720 cloves planted. Some of the missing may still appear. The pressure is off.

The true nature of this garlic grower can be seen in the neat spacing of these young plants. At planting I lay the welded wire fence on the ground to guide the dibble. All of the rows are parallel and the spacing is uniform. Each clove is planted with the flat side facing the planter. Cloves must shift during the winter as the plants are never in similar orientation to each other. I do not try for that. It is just easier to hold the cloves that way.

Deer walk across the garden all of the time. The fence keeps the deer away from the planted cloves. These sections of fence will soon be moved to protect the peas. Once the garlic is up and growing the deer usually do not bother it.

Two years ago a new variety to us was obtained from Lambs Quarter Farm in Plymouth. Grandfather had this garlic in his pocket when he passed through Ellis Island coming from Poland in the 1930's. This is the only garlic his family grows. It is one of the best that I have. Six to eight dark tan cloves of uniform size are produced by each plant. This variety has yet to show a double clove. Storage is long and the flavor is excellent. The large striped bulbs are striking on the drying screen. I feel fortunate to share in this family's heritage treasure. Garlic can be more that just another plant.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Plants On The Move

Our spring ritual of carrying plants outside during the day has begun. I am so encouraged by the new green growth on the lemon verbena plants. They don't look at all like dead sticks this year. Now that they can get out for some sun and rain they should do great. We just have to bring them back inside when the weather turns cold.

Many more plants will be joining them there. We had a box hanging from the mailbox yesterday. At first I thought it was some yarn I was expecting,but it was too soon for that. Then I thought it was my onion plants, they can be planted outside now. Nope,it turned out to be some perennials that I ordered during those dark cold days of February. Apparently then April seemed like far distant spring to me. May 15th would have been a better arrival time for this surprise package. I'll try to be more careful about that next year. In the meantime my new plants will have to be placed in pots and sent to join the lemon verbenas on the wall.

When it warms up today the plants will get to be out in some real rain. I know they will love it.

We started some of our seeds today. Basil, parsley, peppers,and some lettuce all got their start today.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Am I Blue?

Today was a gorgeous blue sky day, perfect for working outside in the garden. This incredibly blue Siberian squill's beauty is a boost to the spirits, and I needed it! These squill are new to us planted just last fall. We look forward to a well filled patch in a few years.

Unfortunately there was also some angry blue smoke hanging over the garden. Why? RABBITS, that's why. I was raised on Beatrix Potter and had a pet rabbit as a child, but that's all in the past . Those darn rabbits dug holes under my liatris and my Clara Curtis chrysanthemum. The broody bunny is looking for a nest for her soon to be born babies. Fortunately we found the damage in time to restore the plants before the roots dried out. The rotten critters even dug up a hummingbird moth chrysalis and left it exposed . We carefully replaced it just beneath the surface of the soil.

Cute, brown, and furry or not, those rabbits are in big trouble now. More galvanized wire cages protect the plants. From now on I'm rooting for Mr McGregor, Elmer Fudd, and anything that eats bunnies and I don't mean the chocolate ones!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Today's Beauty!

This little Dutch iris is the fairest one of all, at least for today. These delicate looking, but incredibly hardy plants are a favorite of mine. Their early spring bloom time brings joy to my heart. They grow in cold weather, sometimes peeking out of the snow, but not this year. With the warm weather and then rain, this plant grew and bloomed in just over one day. Ordinarily the leaves would appear and green in the sunshine. After that the plant would flower. Our somewhat freakish weather has hurried this pretty little lady and so her leaves are a bit pale. With such a magnificent flower I'm sure no one will notice. Now that the weather is cooler again,the flower will last longer.