Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sick Bay, Intensive Care

I removed all, well almost all, of the bad leaves from the plant and put it in solitary. I see some signs of insects, sticky spots and a few traces of white web. I wonder about spraying. Rubbing alcohol has been recommended, but it is poisonous and we do use the bay leaves in cooking. I have to wonder if vodka would work just as well. Some people add cinnamon to the spray , some detergent, and some cooking oil. I'm conflicted! At this point I'm taking a wait - and - see approach, not wishing to make my care overly intensive.

Now that most of the leaves are gone, it is more obvious that the tips of the branches are dying back. Now I think perhaps some cutting back is needed too. But what to do next? That's the rub. (Please forgive the little alcohol joke. Puns are fun!) I'm not cut out to be a plant medic. This is a good reminder for me. I used to buy pathetic looking plants when they were on sale. I have since learned that I'm much better at taking care of healthy plants. That being said, I still would really like this sweet bay to recover.

It's sunny but cold here today. This afternoon Ed braved the cold to dump my kitchen compost and to fill the bird feeder. Today is his lucky day because as he came around the shade garden wall to get the bird feeder, he came face to face with a skunk. It's been very cold for days, after a long nap a deep-sleeping skunk gets hungry. The skunk raised his tail in ominous warning. Ed backed away in a hurry. The skunk took off in the opposite direction and headed for cover. Once he was long gone, the birds got their seed. It's likely later when it gets dark , the skunk will return too!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Won't You Please, Please Help Me?

It's easy to see from these leaves that something is terribly wrong with my sweet bay. In years past I've had scale. I know what to do about those disgusting little things, but this is something I know nothing about. I have questions. Should I remove all the leaves that look diseased? Is this some contagious disease so that this plant should be isolated from my other plants? I prefer not to use chemicals, but maybe? Worst of all, is this something terrible and terminal so that my bay tree should be exiled and sent outside to an icy death?

It's easy to see from the picture that this plant is in big trouble. Perhaps I let it get too dry or watered it too much.The important thing is what should I do next?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Back To Winter

The winter storm that blew through this morning obliterated the hills just beyond the garden. It's so amazing that so little snow driven by the wind can white out like that. The temperature dropped like an express elevator.

This afternoon came sun,calm, and cold. From inside the house, I watched a hawk glide above the garden and disappear to the West without flapping a wing. We're back to single digit temperatures tonight. The garden has a new blanket of snow, but it's a very thin one. Being back to winter with February just 2 days away, a heavier blanket should arrive soon.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Unexpected guest

Today when I gazed out he window watching the snow fall, I noticed a large bird sitting atop the bird feeder. We feed the birds, but the feeding station is not close to the house. I found the binoculars to get a closer look. The bird in question was a mature male Northern Harrier, formerly called Marsh Hawk. He was slender and sleek like a jet plane. His back was gray , his white chest was flecked with reddish brown, and I could see his bright yellow feet. I wanted to exchange the binoculars for the camera, but as soon as I moved he flew out of sight. His sharp eyes caught the movement even through the window. I snapped a picture anyway. At least it shows where he was. The books say these birds eat rodents and snakes which makes them very appealing to have around. Perhaps he was sitting there to watch for rodents, but the blue jay feathers scattered here and there might indicate that he sometimes takes advantage of the bird feeders clientele. The evidence is circumstantial of course. I'm sure Ed would love it if he carried off the red squirrel that frequents the feeder. I don't know if that's possible. A red squirrel gives a whole new meaning to the term "fast food."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Overnight Thaw

Yesterday the garden was white with snow. What started out as a chilly, below freezing morning turned out to be a day of rising temperatures and brisk winds. By afternoon a slow melting process had begun. But during the night it rained, and rained hard. The slow melt quickly turned into a fast thaw.

Today with almost constant rain, and the temperatures in the low fifties, most of the snow in the garden is gone. Only spots where the snow had drifted, or been piled up are still left to melt. Water from the melted snow added to the rain runs off into the river. The Unadilla is high , but still in its banks where it belongs. Water has collected in all the low places in the farmers' frozen fields. This is quite normal and expected here. Most years we have a thaw in January followed by a quick return to winter. It would be really nice if the rain stops. Time is needed for the water move downstream to avoid flooding, and I would love a chance to walk in the garden, and see what's been going on out there under the snow.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Peeking Out Of The Snow

Today was sunny, blue sky day without frigid temperatures. A month past the solstice the sun is getting strong. My footprints in the garden were added to those of the critters. I was searching for some sign of green peeking out of the snow. The green I found was the Egyptian onions waiting there for spring. I love this plant. I'll have these "spring onions" to use very early without doing a thing. Their growth habit is so interesting that they are visually pleasing as well. While they do spread, they do it at a walk so I wouldn't call them invasive.

Even more stones are peeking out of the snow. The receding snow pack is obvious on the top of the wall. Even on the stone path, the power of the sun can be seen. Ice remains where the sunbeams cannot yet reach the path, but the sunny side of the path is clear.

I bought my first carrots from the store today. The carrots from the garden are gone. This will happen more and more as spring approaches. I really should check to see which of my garden goodies remain. I get really used to having what I need to cook tucked away in the freezer or hanging in the basement. Ed's heat mat and seedling trays have arrived. No doubt about it, the garden is heating up, if only a little.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pelargonium Playtime

Outside the snow is falling on my sleeping garden. Looking at garden catalogs is fun, but I need some real plant contact. Time to play with my scented geraniums. Yesterday I removed all the less than perfect leaves from my rose geranium. I was rewarded for my efforts with a delicious aroma that filled the house. It was much more intense than the brief whiff you get when you give the plant water or brush against its leaves. This year Ed took cuttings so this plant is spending its first winter in the house. It's getting pretty tall and needs to be cut back so that it can bush out a bit. The top of the plant is pretty, even looking at the underside of the leaves. All of the leaves on this plant face the sunlight. I must try to remember to rotate the pot a little each time I water.

When I lop off the top of this plant it will be about half its height. I'm a rather reluctant pruner. I don't know that I will ever be a ruthless pruner, and I'm not sure I want to be. I've heard that practice makes perfect so I'm going to practice on "Rose". I know perfect lies somewhere between where I am and ruthless. I need to start in that direction. I'll put the top in a vase where a cut rose belongs.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

To Buffa10 Or Not To Buffa10?

I've been on the fence about attending Garden Bloggers Buffa10. It runs from July 8 through July 11. It would be so easy to leave the garden now, but I did a search of 2009 to remind me what the garden I would be leaving for four days in July looks like. It's right in the middle of poppy season. Last year Ed started his garlic harvest on the eleventh.There's a lot going on here. Then there is the other thing, this blog has been my garden journal. Granted I have opened it up for the world to read, but only through a window whose view I control. Am I ready to take myself, and my "Not So Secret Garden" out of cyberspace and into the real world?

I've spent some great time in Buffalo in the past. Amy went to college there. Stefan, the Dracaena marginata is from Buffalo. I used to stop in the city at a big garden center to buy plants and pots that I could not find near home. I still have sweet woodruff and Blue Parrot tulips that came from there more than ten years ago. The Buffalo Botanical Gardens is an old friend that I would love to see again. I can't help wondering if the incredible wax native wildflower display is still in the science museum. It all sounds like so much fun! Deep down I know this is my chance. It's close enough to drive to Buffalo. I think I even remember the way. It's time to get off the fence and make those reservations. Becky from Plants and Stones is going to Buffa10!

Winter Walk

Outside is where I need to be. Measurable physical indicators are more normal when I come in from fresh air and sunshine. No lunch time insulin is necessary after my first of this winter walk in the woods. Vitamin D from the sunlight could improve my mood. Stillness in the deep woods is for me calming, although some find it terrifying. Then there is the impact of slogging through the snow. Physical exertion always makes me feel better.

Walking in the woods in winter has been delayed. The gun hunters own the first half of December. Stillness is what I am seeking, not the terror of wondering just how close the next bullet will land. Cold held the day for the second half of December and the first half of January. Acquired years have left their mark. My hands now ache if the temperature is well below freezing. Hibernation is too extreme to describe my behavior, but I have stayed close to home.

A small beech tree is in the picture. Just over the fence line is the parent of this tree. That giant tree has fallen, but members of the next generation are scattered in the nearby woods. Years ago I moved several small beech trees from the woods to the open areas near the woods. The transplanted trees have remained alive, but barely. Much later I read that beech trees are second growth trees. They grow under the canopy of mature trees. The transplanted trees were moved from their natural habitat. I do not do that anymore.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Garden Visitors

On a beautiful sunny day like this , the garden draws visitors, even me! I put on my boots, and trudged through the snow to see what I could find. It was warm enough for me to stand still long enough to get a picture of this Chickadee. I don't have a long lens, so this kind of shot requires patience on my part, and impatience on the part of the bird. I won this time. I never tire of hearing the flutter of the wings of these tiny, brave, little birds. The foot traffic in the area of the shade garden is heavy. There are so many prints in the snow that it would take a far better tracker than me to figure it out. I can identify bird tracks, and some Ed tracks. Of course I have proof of the birds, and Ed fills the feeder. The rest are a jumble.

The air temperature is not above freezing today, but the sunshine is having its effect. The snow on top of the stone wall is shrinking to the North. It can't stand up to the direct sunlight. If we get a few days like this in a row, the snow on top of the stone wall will be gone, even though it refreezes every night. Hope is alive for the perfect January thaw. One where the roads and driveway melt enough to be clear, but the snow remains on the garden plants to protect them from the next deep freeze. Today is a great start!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Things I Could Have Learned In School

Yesterday was another day of single digit F temperatures. The frozen vapor rising from the remaining open water of the nearby Unadilla River dusted the trees and plants with white. This may be our miniature version of lake effect snow. Near the center of the photo is a branch hanging near the surface of the water. It carries a heavy load of ice that must be some combination of frozen vapor and splashed liquid water.

The Locust tree in the shade garden was coated with frozen vapor even though we are up the hill from the river. Today is still cold with snow in the air. I've been doing a little reading in the White Flower Farm catalog. It has fantastic pictures of perfect plant specimums, all listed by their Latin name. I love a catalog that uses the Latin names of plants. You know exactly what plant you are planning to purchase. There is something more. Printed under the Latin is the phonetic spelling of the word. Thymus (tie'mus), thyme (time) should be an easy one, but I have always said the Latin wrong. After so many years of wrong, I wonder if I can get it right? When I was younger and could learn things so easily, I though French sounded so much more interesting than Latin. I chose chemistry instead of botany. Actually a typing course would have been a great idea too. Who knew? But this is today so I will keep on trying. In the meantime the truth is I only speak Latin well enough to get my face slapped. Hmm...Liatris( lye-at"-riss)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Almost Too Cold For Icicles

Here we are with our first daytime temperature reading of zero degrees Fahrenheit of the winter. This morning frozen vapor rising from the not-yet-frozen part of the river painted the trees and plants white. I admired this wintry fairyland from inside the house . Later when we did venture out the sun' rays had erased most of the white frosting even though the temperature is still well below freezing. Snow crunched loudly underfoot. The car started with a some hesitation, and my red car is covered with a not so lovely frosting of ice and ugly brown road salt. However warm it needs to be for the stuff they are using now to melt, today didn't reach it. It has stayed below freezing here for two weeks. The North end of Ed's unheated garden shed shows no sign of melting.

Looking closely at the Southeastern corner of the shed, a short little icicle can be seen. Even though the temperature has stayed below freezing,the rays of the sun have caused a little of the snow on this corner of the roof to melt.

The Southwestern corner of the shed has quite a magnificent icicle, given our cold temperatures. It's actually almost ten times longer that the other one. It makes and interesting compass. If you're lost out in the cold, don't bother looking for moss on the North side of trees, just check out the icicles.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

It's So Bright. I Gotta Wear Shades.

The sun is shining here today. It's so bright in the rooms on the south side of the house that sunglasses are a must. Though the thermostat is set for almost 65, the temperature in the living room and bedroom is a sultry 66. The tuberose actually looks a little perkier. With our southern exposure, even when it's very cold, we get some solar gain on a sunny day. Outside the temperature has worked it's way up to the teens. Even at that, I see an occasional drip from the eaves on the south side of the house. As the sun goes lower in the blue sky , the temperature will plummet.

Ed spent this cold morning clearing snow and shoveling. Even with multiple layers of clothing, it was cold enough to take a lot of the fun out of being outside in the sunshine with his tractor. Still, it's a beautiful day. The garden's blanket of snow glints with the sunshine. Shadows of posts fall across the fox tracks that lead in and out of the stone square. Welcome to a sunny January day in upstate New York!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Layers Of Snow

Even though it's still snowing here every day, the hens and chicks seed heads show above the layers of snow. Exactly how the ridges were formed in the snow on top of the stone wall is a bit of a mystery to me. A child's mittened hand could leave such a print on the edge of the snow but there are no children here. This wall faces north so it gets no direct sunlight. Heat sufficient to melt the edge of the snow might have resulted from reflected sunlight.

We had to go out today, and as we passed the sumac trees in the fence line along the lane, a beautiful red tail hawk left his perch, swooping low then flying to a perch in the top of a nearby ancient apple tree. We seldom get such a close look at this majestic bird with his perfect red flared tail. The presence of a hawk usually brings the full chorus of crows but today this hawk was alone.

Just a single plant catalog, High Country Gardens, arrived in the mailbox today. It's a great looking catalog, but I usually think twice about shipping plants from a place so far away. One might think it just added one more to the ever growing stack on the coffee table. Instead, our first plant order of 2010 was completed today. Why? For several years Ed has been looking L.philadelphicum and today he found it. A few more choice specimens were chosen to make a total of 10 . Paid for today, our plants will be shipped the week of May 3. Ed finally owns the native wood lily he's been searching for. They are just spending the winter in Santa Fe.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Snow With French Tarragon

We have been getting lake effect snow every day for what seems like weeks. The amazing thing is that while there is snow in the air all day, by evening the increase in the amount accumulated on the ground is not so much, perhaps an inch or less. Early in the morning the flakes are super fine almost like a white mist. As the day wears on the flakes become larger, falling like feathers, and looking like the fake snow that falls on a movie set of Paris. Very little is happening in the garden right now. The driveway gets plowed every other day. The amount of snow does not require plowing, but if the snow is driven on, it becomes a hard slippery surface that will remain until the next thaw.

Today we pulled seven gardening catalogs from the mailbox. Added to the those already on the coffee table, the stack is becoming immense. Some of our favorites are here now: Richters Herb Catalog, Select Seeds, Johnny's Select Seeds, White Flower Farm, Shumway's,Thompson & Morgan, Miller Nurseries... Don't get me wrong. We don't order from all of these catalogs. We read them. We look at the gorgeous pictures.We compare prices and make lists. As is always the case the cream will rise to the top. Sadly the catalogs on the bottom of the pile will end up in the recycling . Those residing in the center of the pile will stick around as reading material, but those that capture our fancy, and find a place on the top of the heap will be the winners. Eventually and inevitably orders will be sent, but not until we've had our fun!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Remember To Weed The Brahmi

As I made the rounds watering the indoor plants, I stopped to admire the thick growth in the pot of Brahmi. This plant is from India, reputed to increase mental clarity and memory. I brought some inside in a pot to try to save it to plant back outside in the spring. It seemed to be doing remarkably well. Closer inspection revealed the the pot also contained chickweed. Chickweed has some great qualities of its own, but it grows here as a weed, and certainly doesn't rate pot space in the house. The pointed leaves are chickweed. The rounded leaves are Brahmi.

Since I already miss weeding, I cheerfully went to work. Extracting the chick weed from the Brahmi was a little like getting chewing gum out of a child's hair. What a tangle! Stem by stem I removed the pointed leaf chickweed, leaving the rounded succulent leaves of the Brahmi. When the job was finally done the pot had a very different look. Left alone to battle for pot space, chickweed is a powerful adversary. But now I will be watching, if I remember.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Garden Doings

Looking out a window here reveals slow but steady snow. Garden activities today involve being indoors. Ed brought our one butternut squash from last year up to the kitchen. It is baking in the oven now. It's a beauty at twelve inches long, and was grown in the new bed in the back. It was, however, the only squash we got from the vines there in spite of the presence of numerous squash blossoms. Ed suspects lack of pollination is the problem. He speculates that perhaps the bees preferred the adjacent acres of milkweed blossoms to our squash. Perhaps next summer will see him hand pollinating the big yellow squash blossoms with a soft brush.

One of my new year promises to myself is to reread some of my collection of gardening books. I started with The Harrowsmith Salad Garden by Turid Forsyth and Merilyn Simonds Mohr. Now is the perfect time for this book's luscious pictures of garden scenes and spectacular salads. It's a great read and even includes some nice recipes. The ingredients to make yogurt vinaigrette salad dressing are on my shopping list right now. Allof these gorgeous salads have me excited about salad greens. The Cooks Garden catalog now has my attention. I want fancy lettuces, mesclun mixes and nasturtiums. I want salads made with fresh picked greens and flowers. I guess I better step outside and cool off. It's only Jan. 1 for Pete's sake!