Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Plants In A Box

Yesterday was cold and blustery. The freeze warnings were out. Ed headed out to cover the plants that we felt might suffer some damage like the lilies and my Angelicia gigas. As fortune would have it, he accidentally locked the basement door on one of his trips. Muttering to himself he walked around to come in the other door. There on the porch sat our box of plants from Richters. How lucky we were that he found them. Last night was not nice for tender, new plants to be caught outside. Perhaps the UPS man has a new muffler on his truck, or maybe the wind was noisy enough for him to be able to drop off my box of plants without my noticing. The important thing is Ed found the box in time.

The three blood root plants that we ordered were out of stock, disappointing, but in the box was a balloon flower, a finger bowl lemon scented Geranium, 3 Patchouli plants, a Rosemary officinalis, an Arp Rosemary, a golden rain rosemary, 3 alpine strawberries and 3 lemon verbenas.

I'm pretty pleased with my new arrivals. Even as stressed and chilled as these plants were, their fragrances are terrific! The lemon verbenas are small, but healthy looking. This patchouli is another matter. Although listed as easy to grow, I know from past experience that patchouli plants like it hot. With the cool reception on arrival here, I guess it has a right to look stressed out. If I am concerned about the plants recovery, I am told to contact customer service within 48 hours. Let's hope the sultry 65 that I keep my house will suffice to perk up this plant. I really hate to make that kind of call!

Monday, April 26, 2010


This is our second day of perfect spring rain. The garden is loving it. The plants are responding . Of course the rain is falling on the flowers and the weeds alike . After just two days of spring rain when you gaze out the window at the garden landscape, the trees, the bushes,the lawn,and the garden plants shout out in unison"GREEN!". Our one neighbor that can be seen when the leaves are off the trees has disappeared behind a green curtain. For now,we content ourselves with looking out the rain blurred window. When it clears off, we will tour the garden looking to see what difference the rain has made. Perhaps Ed's peas will be up. Maybe the asparagus will be too.I bet the weeds will be easier to find!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Glorious Garden Day

After a clear night with starry skies, this morning's freeze was even harder than yesterday's frost. That didn't make much difference to my first "Rebecca Viola " blossom. She's lovely, and she's tough. Ed is already outside in the garden. He's pretty darn hardy too. I'm a little more of a tender perennial myself. I'll go out when it warms up just a bit more.

The daffodils than have not already gone past are in their glory. They are built for April weather too. They might droop a little in the cold, but the sun brings them right back to magnificent. Perhaps we can learn a lot from daffodils!Times wasting. I'm heading out for some fun in the sun with Ed in the garden.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Frost and Fog

Valley fog usually protects us from frost. That was not the case last night. Uncommonly clear skies and radiationial cooling combined to create fog and frost. Cold air sank to the ground with warmer air above it. Frost formed at and slightly above the ground. The higher warmer air remained above freezing and filled with fog. We sited our garden in a frost drain. Cold rolls downhill from left to right. The frost that formed on the welded wire fence is thicker on the right side.

The air was so filled with fog when we woke up that pictures were impossible. Sunlight first burned off the fog then the frost. Plant shadows preserved some frost. I wanted a close look at the frost on the wire fence but I remained inside. Foot prints on frozen grass turn black in the sunlight where my step breaks the frozen blades of grass. It was also cold outside making it much easier to take it all in from the relative warmth of the living room.

We have freeze warnings for tonight. What will become of all of that tender new growth pushed to an early start by our unseasonably warm daytime temperatures?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Planting Of The Peas

Today Ed got out his Warren pattern hoe and made the furrows to plant the first bed of peas. He only uses this hoe for planting peas as the rest of our garden is planted in a grid. It is hard to justify having a tool that is used only once each year, but peas are a favorite vegetable and they shall have whatever is deemed necessary. The chicken wire fence is for support. The welded wire fence is to exclude rabbits, woodchucks and deer. That seems like a lot of hardware for a few meals featuring our own fresh or frozen peas.

Ed asked me to bring him Oregon Giant and Lincoln seeds. I disappeared into the house and came back with 3 kinds of new pea seeds. "No, not those" he said. "Those are for later." For reasons that I don't fully understand, Ed likes to use up his old seed first. Making a second trip, I located Lincoln seeds from 2008 and Oregon Giants from 2009. If these seeds do not come up, the bed will be replanted.

Two more pea beds just like this one will be planted about two weeks apart. Two rows of seed are planted on either side of the chicken wire fence. We get forty-eight feet of planted row from twelve feet of the bed. Garden fresh peas are among our most delicious reasons for gardening. Even with the necessary fortifications to keep the animals out, they are worth the trouble.

We heard the tree frogs peeping for the first time tonight!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We're Hummingbird Ready

The grape hyacinths are blooming, and the clove currants, Ribes oderatum, are beginning to bloom. These two flowers are where my first spring hummingbird sightings usually happen. So far there has been no familiar buzzing in my ears. I suspect this year these flowers are just a little early. Last year they were blooming on May 5. There's still time . These flowers will bloom for awhile. The clove currants have only a few open flowers. Their incredible fragrance does not yet fill the garden but it surrounds the plants. I can still hope for the hummers!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Wildflowers And Untamed Weeds

It's hard to contain the excitement when a long sought after wildflower comes up. In the case if this Yellow Clintonia or blue bead lily, I couldn't wait for the flowers to open to take a picture, but look at those great buds!

Ed managed to get the potato onions in before the rain started, and the beds are ready for the onion plants imminent arrival. Another bed is all ready for the first planting of peas. Sometimes we get them in before the late April rain, and sometimes we don't. When thing dry off a bit, we're ready.

It's not just our chosen plants that respond to the rain, the weeds are coming on strong too. This small Valerian plant qualifies as a weed since it is growing in a place reserved for thyme.Perhaps if it comes out nicely, I'll put it in a pot. The speedwell is a persistent weed here. It makes beautiful bluish-purple patches in the grass. I love it there, but not in the garden beds. Here in the cracks of the patio it has to go.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I Didn't Lose My Breeches After All

Last year when we first planted our little Dutchman's Breeches , it was adorable. I knew this plant goes dormant so I was not surprised when it disappeared. I was concerned , however when there had been some digging activity where it was planted. All I could do was wait and hope that the plant would return this spring. I was so delighted that the plant came back so beautifully.

It was not until now that Ed confessed that last fall he mistakenly dug up the little bulbs that look like pieces of corn. He replanted them and never said a word. He was far more relieved than I was when the plant returned so vigorously . There is even a tiny little baby plant several inches away from the original plant. It's amazing that these delicate looking wildflowers are so incredibly tough. They withstand the worst of weather. Sometimes if they are happy in their new surroundings the manage to increase their numbers.It's a real delight to see this plant doing so well. We don't always get it right. Our trailing arbutus plant that looked so fantastic last fall is looking decidedly dead so far.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Caged Flowers

Perhaps it's unfair to keep these lovely daffodils in a cage. In truth if they were planted by themselves things would be fine, but the lilies that are planted with them are too much of a temptation for the garden critters to leave them unprotected. Since the weather has cooled these flowers should last for awhile. At the moment we are back to the kind of April weather we are accustomed to, and that includes a probable frost tonight. The Johnny Jump Ups will bloom on no matter what. They make a great addition to our spring salads. The benefits of the garden have started: fresh peppermint and spearmint for tea, Egyptian onions for scallions, chives, chervil, lovage for seasoning. One parsley plant seems to have survived the winter. Ed has planted out spinach and lettuce plants. There is much to be done, but every day in the spring garden brings new rewards.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wildflower Photos By Amy

Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis

Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis

Sharp-lobed Hepatica, Hepaticia acutiloba

Sharp-lobed Hepatica, Hepaticia acutiloba

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Cold, Wild , Wind From The West

It was hot here yesterday, temperature in the eighties, so it was no surprise when thunder storms were predicted. The gusts of wind that blew in from the west were extreme. There was a lot of noise out there in the dark, and this house is fairly quiet during a storm. In the morning light, the first thing I noticed was that one of the garden benches had been blown over, and landed several feet from where it had been sitting. This bench has cast iron ends and is extremely heavy. The tray of plants that Ed had put under the bench for shade, sat exactly where he had placed them. The lantern porch lights on the house were blown askew giving the place a slightly tipsy appearance. A few cages were out of place, but most of the garden plants looked just fine. This big spruce tree was not so fortunate.

This tall spruce snapped in the wind. I would estimate the break to be about 12 feet from the ground.

Inspection revealed that this spruce had a split trunk. At first I thought we had lost two trees. It is interesting that the tree snapped just below the split in the trunk. Looking at the blackened inside of the tree, I immediately thought of lightening, but Ed feels that acid rain is responsible for the decay where the two trunks came together. It is unlikely that we will do anything to change where this tree fell unless it blocks the exit of the trail through the pines. There are small trees in the foreground to take it's place given time.

We took the truck and drove the perimeter to check for more storm damage. Apart from a lot of small branches scattered here and there things were as they should be. We were even lucky enough to see a blue bird while we were out.

Today the temperatures are in the forties. Since the predicted low temperature for tonight is 31, freeze warnings are out. I don't mind going back to normal April temperatures so much, it will give the spring plants time to do their thing. The wild winds caused by the precipitous temperature drop I could do without. It gave me the bends! I need time to decompress.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Back In The Woods

The pile of waste stone in the back of Ed's truck has been growing. Whenever he works on a new bed he gets lots of stones. This afternoon we drove up the lane to the back woods. Ed spread the waste stones in the lane where they will do some good.

While he was working I took a short walk with the camera. It's amazing what goes on in the woods when no one is watching. This broken tree has a very sculptural quality.I used to think of the trees in the woods as steady, permanent. Now I know change is constant in the woods. This interesting arrangement was build by gravity, decay, and the winds. I can only imagine how the forked branch landed in such a way as to hang there like it does. I think being in the woods when this happened would have been quite scary!

The blossoms on the red maple trees are completely open, a full 10 days ahead of last year. Their red color is evident when you look at the hills. Very soon the blossoms will litter the forest floor, and the trees will begin to leaf out.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring Ephemerals

I always read WiseAcre's blog for his witty prose and to admire his fantastic photographs. I must thank him for mentioning that the wildflowers are nearly a month earlier than last year. Asleep at the switch, I would have missed seeing some of my favorites. Thanks to him, Ed and I went wildflower hunting today!

Our first picture looks like a dandelion. This flowers' seed pod also looks like it belongs to a dandelion. I remember my surprise when it was pointed out to me that this early spring yellow ray flower is called coltsfoot. I also discovered that coltsfoot should not be introduced to a garden. It spreads by an underground rhizome that has no limit and accepts no barrier. Enjoy this early bright color wherever you see it but leave it in the wild.

Bloodroot flowers are delicate. Opening up in full sun, they close at night. These white and yellow beauties will only last a couple of hot days. A heavy windstorm can blow their delicate petals away. We were lucky to catch these while their stems are still tightly clasped by their leaves.

This picture shows a progression of emerging bloodroot flowers. It begins with a small tightly sheathed leaf, a slightly larger clasped leaf and finally the lovely flowers with the leaves just beginning to release their grasp on the flower's stem. The sap of these beautiful little plants is carmine red and somewhat toxic. Ed has tried without success to introduce bloodroot to our land. One year and gone seems to be its growth habit here. We are anxiously looking for any sign of life from the plants set out last year. Just to be safe new plants have been ordered again this year.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Found: My Siberian Squill

My lost Siberian squill have been located. Perhaps it is because they were planted in 3 different spots that caused me to totally forget where I put them. Every year it becomes clearer to me that labeling plants when you plant them is important. I suppose the time may come when I no longer care what the flowers are , just that they are lovely. I'm not there yet, and I hope I won't be for some time. Anyway,the issue of digging up bulbs when planting something else will always remain.In the first picture the squill are over by the fence near the driveway.

These are planted on either side of the allium bed directly in front of the house. Stone markers will be made today.

All week I have been trying to get a good picture of these giant glory of the snow flowers. The white centers ruined the picture every time. Finally I went out after the sun had set to take this one. Beautiful blue flowers from bulbs are a special early spring treat!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Moving To The Shade Garden

For once it's not some critter digging holes, but Ed collecting leaf mold to provide the top dressing for the shade garden. Several plants were moved there today. Both my pink and white shooting stars were moved in since the flowers were nipped off where we chose to plant them last year. We suspect chipmunks! Also moved was a division the trout plant given to me some years ago. It failed to thrive in full sun where we had it planted.

The wheelbarrow contains the screened leaf mold that Ed has prepared for the shade garden. Yes! There is a flat stone in the wheelbarrow. When you find a perfectly good wall stone under the leaves, you just can't leave it. You have to bring it back to add to your wall stone collection.

The newly moved plant looks happy in its new home already. While working around the shade garden , we saw a new kind of woodpecker for us here. It had a considerable amount of red on its head. We watched it fly away in typical woodpecker style. Three flaps of its wings followed by a glide with his wings tucked in tight . His pointed beak leading the way reminded me of an arrow. We were so taken with the red head and the fascinating flight , we failed to notice the more subtle black and white markings that would have helped us identify this new bird. I certainly hope he comes back to give us a second chance.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Fun In The Garden

As I drank my morning, coffee I watched out the living room window as a herd of deer walked into view. By the time they all arrived there were 15. One of the deer noticed me as I stood by the window. He stamped his feet and walked stiffly in the direction of the house. It's quite amusing when you are inside and not very close. Since I really don't want deer in the garden, I opened the window. At that point the deer snorted loudly. This is a rather impressive noise. Once it sent me scurrying into the house before I knew what it was. I thought I would have to go out to chase the deer away, but when I waved my arms, he turned with a snort, flashed his white tail and rump, and headed off up the hill with the herd following behind him.

Once out in the garden, I had a great time cutting back and weeding. I even saved one huge piece of quack grass that I managed to remove for Ed to see. It was a beauty! Several long rhizomes with their growth tips intact made this pulled weed a real trophy. Ed mixed up some dirt for the shade garden, moved stones, weeded, and carried the plants out so they could enjoy the beautiful day. This afternoon the wind came up. It was so strong it blew the white flowers off the Cyclamen. They do remind me a little of "The Flying Nun". After returning the plants to the safety of the basement, Ed came in and asked if we still had a kite. We did. It was a wood duck. Ed started flying the kite in the garden, but the gusty wind in the shadow of the high meadow didn't allow the kite to get much height. I took a turn with similar results.

Not willing to give up so easily, Ed climbed up to the ridge where the wind was steady. Now he was really getting some height with that kite. It was getting higher and higher right up until the moment when the wind gusted. Our poor wood duck dove and since he was so high he dropped across the open area all the way to the tree covered gravel bank hill. Trapped in the top of an oak tree a wind gust sent the kite spinning. The resulting string tangle guaranteed that the kite had found its final resting place.

The wood duck had ended up in a kite eating tree. Ed tried to retrieve it, but it was hopeless, so we cut the string. As I told the children, kites and balloons are not meant to last! That message was repeated to my much older "child" today.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Firsts of April

It was a great day for working in the garden. Ed spent nearly the entire day out there from this morning , before the valley fog burned off, until time for dinner. I joined him after lunch. I'm a bit puzzled by this cute little plant nestled so close to my round lobed hepatica.Whatever it is it can't stay there, but is it a weed that should be composted or something cool that I don't know about? I could stick it in a pot, but I hate potting up weeds.

This is the first day back for the tree swallows. They wasted no time camping out in some of the nest boxes. It's also the first day that I caught a glimpse of a butterfly . It was orange and moving very fast. I had no chance for correct identification. We haven't seen many honey bees, but did manage to catch one in this crocus. The temperature went over 70 today. It's the first day I got overheated in the garden, and headed for the shade to work. I'm a pale person and I wilt quickly in full sun.

I had to include a picture of the snow drops and blue dwarf iris. They are incredibly beautiful, but like me they will wilt quickly in these warmer temperatures. It's always hard to say goodbye to these magnificent early spring blooms. Tomorrow's temperature is forecast to hit 80 degrees. We may watch these flowers melt. Their early bright color is truly special.