Thursday, March 31, 2011

Walking the Paths

Snow is finally leaving the wilderness garden and our garlic is beginning to peek out. Storm warnings have been posted for tonight so these plants could be under eight inches of new snow tomorrow. Our walk revealed several of these piles of dirt. Their source is a mystery. No machines have crossed this path since the first November snowfall. No depression is under the disturbed dirt. No disturbed sod can be found near the mysterious dirt pile. Not for the first time in my life I am completely clueless about what I am seeing. How did these dirt piles come to be here? We found something green and growing near the path. Princess pine is fairly common in these parts but finding something off to a fresh start this time of year is exciting.

Gray and growing is also exciting. Reindeer moss is very common here. When the weather is dry the plant becomes very brittle and is described as flammable. Any contact breaks branches and they do not recover. Rain softens the plant and the contrast between these two states is quite amazing.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Necessary Housework, and Plants on Stones

Obviously something is missing here. This winter's snowstorms were hard on our bluebird houses . We had to wait for the snow to melt to find the house that belongs on this post. Temperatures here have been staying right around freezing . So far no bluebirds have been seen. Last year they came back on March 9.
Cold or not, we want the bluebird houses to be ready when the bluebirds arrive. Ed reattached the house to the post and cleaned out the remains of last year's nest. I walked around with the garden with the camera. Although not much is happening in the garden, I did find some moss growing on an interesting rock in one of Ed's stone walls. Small round holes in the rock have moss growing in them. The tiny green patch in the lower left of the picture is the larger plant in the picture below.

As time goes by the stone walls here become so much more interesting with the mosses and lichens that choose to grow on them.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Searching for Spring Color

It's still cold and not much is going on in the garden. Signs of spring are coming slowly. The familiar aroma of dead skunk in the road, big flocks of robins working the open green places, and turkey vultures circling overhead are all welcome signs of spring. Even so Ed had to take a long walk to the back to find something colorful to photograph. He found this partridgeberry berry left over from last year. The turkeys and grouse missed this one. Red partridgeberries have two belly buttons since a single berry comes from two pretty little white flowers. So distinctive, the berry and the leaves make it possible for positive identification. The berries are edible but don't taste like much. In my opinion they are definitely not worth a case of "beaver fever" unless you really are lost in the woods. Ed left the berry for a grouse or wild turkey that might happen by. Later when May arrives, we can look for flowers.

Ed took a couple of pictures as he found the plant. To confirm the identity of the plant, the berry was turned up revealing the twin buttons. The final picture, the one seen here, was snapped with both buttons up.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The First Flower in the Garden, 2011

Today has been chilly. At one point snow was swirling around enough to obliterate the hills on the north side of the valley. It's hardly a nice day for a flower opening. Still around lunchtime, this Dutch iris had begun to open.
This afternoon the sun is shining and the flower has opened a little more. A second bud is coming. This beautiful purple flower may look delicate, but sometimes looks can be deceiving.
The first flowers of spring in zone 4 have to withstand Mother Nature's cold shoulder and bloom anyway!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Outside ... Freeze Frame, Indoors... Action!

Outside we have more snow and more cold. My pretty, hardy, little Dutch iris are just sitting there, closed tight, waiting for things to warm up at least a bit. They only have one chance to bloom and they will wait until the conditions are right. I hope the first blossom will open soon. I'm impatiently watching.

Inside things are on the move. Ed has set up his lights and planted his first seeds. The lettuce likes it cool, so the basement temperature is fine. Other seeds like it warmer so they have a bottom heat pad and a plastic dome.

Baby lettuce plants raise my spirits and ease the pain in my wallet from buying lettuce ever so slightly. A package of lettuce seeds and a pot of dirt is a better investment these days than putting money in the bank. It will be weeks before we get to eat our own lettuce, but we are off to a good start.

Safe inside a plastic dome, with warmth from below and light from above, Ed's China aster plants are growing nicely. Last year we started two kinds of asters, but we lost track of which was which. One kind was a disaster, but we don't know which one. This year we are planting one kind. There will be no room for confusion at least where the asters are concerned!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Textures, Tunnels, Ice and Snow

Yesterday was a cool but nice day to walk outside and look at what the melting snow had uncovered. This dead and freeze dried lettuce plant caught my eye.

Amy's photograph of a mulched area pressed by the snow almost looks like a piece of fancy handmade paper.

She couldn't resist the fascinating maze of tunnels that meander everywhere.
The architects of these tunnels never heard of a straight line, but all these curves are so much more intriguing.

This area raises more questions. I can't help wondering what those furry little rodents were doing here.

The remaining snow has turned to ice . A dark leaf, attracting the heat of the sun, sinks into a leaf shaped hole.

This hole is even deeper. It was a treat to walk around and observe the long awaited melting of the snow.
This morning we looked out on a world of white. Several inches of heavy snow have covered the garden again. I am recording snow on this date, but I balk at taking another snow covered garden picture. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Slowly Going Snow

The calender says that spring is here so I hiked to the back to check on the wilderness garden. It appears that this planting area is sited where the north wind piles massive snow drifts. Late snow melt could be used to delay the emergence of frost tender plants. Now that the natural order is understood, this disappointment can be turned to an advantage. For now I will recheck closer to April to see how the garlic planted here is growing.

Low winter sun combined with shadows from the pine covered ridge keep this area cold. Walking from the brown grass onto the snow pack is like stepping into a giant walk in cooler. Even when the snow is gone the temperature difference remains. Brown rivers amid the snow mark the path of the melt water. Springs keep this area wet year round and the action of frost here is unique. Vertical columns of ice crystals raise the soil several inches above its normal level. Walking here now can drop your boot well into the muddy mess as the surface crust softens.

Gravel is near the surface under the pond. Water flow from many springs keeps the pond full during summer. Winter stops spring flow here and the ice slowly depresses as the water drains from under it. Snow melt and spring flow have filled the pond and soon we will see salamanders and polliwogs. Plans call for another attempt to replace some of the goldenrod with other native plants. Ground nuts, blue flag and cardinal flower will be placed on the dike. Iris insata, not even close as a native plant, is also moving here. Personal preference trumps principled planting here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring Fever 60 and Rising

With the snow melting, I was unbelievably excited to get outside with the camera today. I know my photography teacher would say this is a picture of dirt and so it is, but isn't it gorgeous? The plant in the center is one of Ed's beloved cardinal flowers. In spite of being inside a cage it has been trimmed level to the ground. Now who do you suppose did that?

The trumpet vine has a firm grip on this weathered locust fence post.

Can you believe the number of spruce tips scattered on the ground by the squirrels? I wonder just exactly how unhappy I am about this? They are cute and funny for a rodent, but have they crossed the line into unwanted varmint status?

Ahhh! Here we have more dirt, a catnip that needs pulling, emerging bulbs and perhaps some Siberian squill from seed!

Just yesterday snow had these plants covered and flattened. My salad burnett and this Johnny jump up flower are well pressed. One has to wonder if that flower was there last fall and got pressed to the ground by the snow, like the flowers Mom used to press in the dictionary.

The snow drops and tulips don't let the tree peony leaves stop them from growing. They just pierce the leaves and head upward. Rose campion had a great winter here. There are way too many of them at the top of this picture.

Never before have I seen fringed polygala leaves in the spring. Last summer Ed moved this plant from the back woods to the shade garden. It had always been May before I even looked for them. Located in my front yard, they will now receive daily scrutiny. The dark green leaves with purple underneath make me see how this plant once was called flowering wintergreen. It is too soon to declare the transplant a success but these new leaves are certainly encouraging.

This picture of lichens, moss , stones and oak leaves is no doubt a result of my reading Wiseacre's blog. In the past I might have ignored these things completely, but now I have to stop and get a picture. I didn't want to stop, but the camera insisted on a battery charge. Well fine then, even more snow will be gone tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

As the Snow Goes

Every day the snow shrinks a little. As the snow goes more of the garden is revealed. The stone walls are uncovered, but we are still waiting for the stone paths to appear from their winter blanket. Every spring I am greeted with many small catchfly plants. They are rampant self seeders, but I love their bright pink flowers, and the hummingbirds agree, so I always let some of them stay. The truth is I'm very happy to see them!

The hens and chicks look like they have had a terrific winter. It will be awhile longer before the entire clump is revealed. It's so nice to see them peeking out from beneath the snow ice. Today huge snowflakes are falling. It's pretty, but at this point I would prefer rain!

Ed has planted Dahlia roots in pots. Last year the mid-March planted tubers were in bloom by July 1st. We had blossoms for a full three months. There is one possible snag. The root masses were still moist when they were placed in the galvanized can. He may have planted compost in the pots. It's official, stone wall garden 2011 has begun.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Take It Off...

Progress is being made in the garden. It is teasingly slow, revealing just a little bit at a time, not unlike a strip tease. I think it's more exciting that way. These beautiful allium plants are a welcome sight. The nearby river is staying in its banks. Flooding in the area has been minimal. We are fortunate indeed!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Snowed In, March

Mother Nature won this one bigtime. Ed came in late last night, exhausted, his plow broken with the pieces missing in the snow. It's the day after the storm and this is where he starts.

It's a good thing a shovel has always fit Ed's hand so well!

The birds were waiting including three unhappy looking tricolor blackbirds. Ed stopped shoveling long enough to slog through the knee deep snow and fill the feeders.

I ventured out the shoveled path to take some pictures of the snow. Our roof has a new wave!

I surprised myself.Under these conditions, I didn't think I would see this snow as beautiful, but I was wrong.

Here we have the answer to an age old question. "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a sound?" It does, a loud one even from inside the house.

We are hoping that Rick or George will come by and be able to plow the driveway. In the meantime if Ed is going to keep shoveling , he'll need lunch.

PS. Later in the afternoon the sun came out, and I watched the bald eagle circle over Amy's meadow rising higher and higher until he was a tiny speck against the blue sky. George stopped by and helped to get the driveway so that we could get out, but the soft gravel, and snow have left the driveway a bit of a mess.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Quick Spring Preview

Warmer temperatures and overnight rain have cleared the snow in the shade garden. Without knowing it, we sited the shade garden directly in the path of the north winds. Wind had already diminished the amount of snow cover here. Ed braved the wet weather to get a couple of pictures. My clumps of bluets look fantastic. It's a joy to see them again. This is the first time that bluets have survived the winter for us.

The cardinal flower that Ed transplanted into the shade garden looks great as well. Spending the winter under a blanket of snow has obviously been beneficial. Close to the house a few other plants have been uncovered. Green grass shows in places where the snow was not so deep.

We were standing by the window watching the rain when the a bald eagle did a low fly by and then made low circles in the area shown here. A second bird flew in and joined in the circles. How amazing that the birds were flying low enough to disappear behind the stand of spruce trees and then reappear into the open area. We watched them intently for several minutes until one bird disappeared behind the stand of spruce trees and the other flew off in the direction of the river. Speculation about a possible nearby nest is running rampant. These eagles may be of breeding age. A mature, white heads and tails, pair were photographed in a field near us early last year. It is a challenge to keep our excitement in check.

Now the few snow flakes falling in the picture above have been replaced with many more. The plants will again be under a blanket of white. I can't say I mind this time. It will give the brimming river and streams a chance to recover and protect the plants. Such a quick spring preview was a bit of a tease, but a welcome one!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Blueberries Bounce Back

A little rain, warmer temperatures and sunshine released the blueberry bushes from their heavy coat of snow. It's amazing that they can be bent so low and bounce right back like nothing happened at all. Flexibility is really an asset. It makes sense that these "wild" blueberries would be able to deal with the snow. Sometimes we forget that in the not so distant past more winter snow was the norm here.

Ed had occasion today to dig through eighteen inches of snow exposing the ground below. He was pleased to discover that there was no frost in the ground now. Our snow cover has been continuous since December and the frost was well into the ground when the snow came. Under the insulating blanket of thick snow cover, the warmth of mother earth worked its way to the surface. Our perennial plants should have had an easy winter under these conditions. Now we are really impatient waiting for the snow to leave so that we can have a look at our plants.