Wednesday, April 27, 2016

46 Pots And Pails

Once again severe cold is forecast for tonight.  These Camelot lilies are spending this cold night under the cover of a plastic pail.  This protection has been necessary all too often lately but so far these plants have escaped frost or freeze injury.  We will see just what tomorrow brings.

This cluster of Cardinal Flower plants have also been protected with a plastic tub.  Their placement on the north side of a stone wall provides some stored warmth from the wall.  This native plant gets more help from us than any other plant.  Nineteen plants have been potted up and are spending yet another cold night in the basement.  Some of those plants are already growing stems while these left outside are just holding on.

There are not enough covers for all of the plants and this Cardinal Flower has been repeatedly exposed to freezing temperatures and frost.  It is only almost totally dead now but tonight will hit it hard again.

Another native plant, Jack In The Pulpit, has no frost tolerance.  Without a protective cover, its growth tips would be black mush by now.  When that happened here before, the plant survived but with almost no above ground growth.  Flowers and seeds need not form every year for the plant to survive but we do want to see flowers as often as is possible so we cover.

Becky secretly took this picture of me sitting on a wall that I built to protect the arbutus transplants from lane traffic.  My back is painful nearly constantly but two simple things really help ease the discomfort.  First, constant good posture is a must.  My head should be back over the shoulders more but I am looking down at the plants.  Walking while maintaining an upright stance also helps greatly.  These are free medications with only positive side effects.  The sweet scent of the arbutus flowers only added to the moment.

There are included here no pictures of our daylilies.  We cannot cover them and they have been hit hard by repeated severe cold.  Some are more hardy than others and should survive with flowers this year.  Others may simply be gone.  If they cannot endure our temperamental weather, they will not be replaced.  We need more plants that can survive here on their own. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Worth The Wait

One of the advantages of these no film cameras is that large numbers of images are essentially free.  Arbutus flowers present several challenges to any camera.  Tiny blossoms with a deep central cavity make finding a clear focus nearly impossible.  Some part of the image is always blurry.  White coloration is not handled well by these cameras.  These pictures do not come close to showing the colors that I saw this morning.  Light pink splashes of color were seen on nearly every flower but cannot be seen in the photos.  This morning the sun had not yet cleared the ridge when these pictures were taken.  The first image shows the promise of splendid displays yet to come.

These flowers present much more pink color to the eye.  One blossom has already been knocked from the plant.  Many of the bud clusters are under the fallen pine needles.  One must do a little staging to bring the flowers into view.  Despite working reverently and carefully, I may have dislodged the fallen flower.

Here the base of a male flower is in focus.  The tan grains will soon produce pollen.  Clear or white moist appearing hairs line the walls of the tunnel that leads to the base.  Soon the tan structures will be covered with yellow pollen.  This has only been seen in the photo of another as we have to date always missed it.  Arbutus is a plant that is built on five parts to many features.  Five petals make each flower.  There should be five of the tan pollen producing grains but that is not what the photo shows today.

This is the state of the transplants that were moved here two years ago.  I was unable to carry water to these plants last fall and feared for the condition of the bud clusters.  Many remained brown and shriveled but some managed to open flowers.  Fallen white pine needles covered the lower parts of each plant.  Light penetrates the needle cover and some insulation helped these plants survive our snow-less winter.

Here is the entire patch.  Six transplants were placed entirely too close together but each can almost be seen.  One the left edge of the picture, two plants lie between the stones.  On the right edge, three plants are in a line between the stones.  The center plant is still small as pine sap killed several leaves during its first summer here.  The single huge plant centered at the top completes the group.

This may be our best photo yet of arbutus flowers but more will follow.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Sweet Scent Of Spring

The arbutus patch is clear of snow.  The flowers that we found before the last snow storm are still there. Today was sunny and warm enough to enjoy being outside in the garden provided we were wearing enough clothing.  That included winter hats hooded sweatshirts, gloves and an extra coat layer for me.

As cool as it was we wondered if there was any chance that the arbutus flowers were emitting their fabulous scent.  We both wanted to get our nose close enough to find out.  While ladies first has been the rule, Ed , gentleman that he is, went first.   For us at this point getting down prostrate on the ground is not easy, but getting back up can be worse.  I waited with anticipation  while Ed sniffed finding the long awaited aroma was indeed present.   Knowing that gave me the motivation needed to ease myself down to the ground with my nose in the flowers.  Breathing in that sweet scent of spring was a delight.  Ed had the camera but he was sweet enough to refrain from taking my picture or worse yet making a video of me getting back up.  I did a cross between a push up, downward facing dog  and a few other moves that defy description.  It wasn't pretty, but I did it!   The fragrance of my beloved arbutus  was absolutely worth everything!

All of the flowers that are open now appear to be on a single plant.  Most of the others have buds.  Some of them are tightly closed.  Some are beginning to show white buds.  We will look forward to warmer  sunny days when we will experience the  fragrance of arbutus on the breeze.

Planting the new asparagus bed was another exciting development in the garden.   Perhaps not everyone would would see the beauty that we see here, but the prospect of dining on just picked asparagus gathered from a weed free bed is the stuff of dreams for us.  It will be two years before we can harvest from this planting.  Must be we plan to still be here then.  The promise of new life that comes with this season instills one with positive feelings.  Today was a cool, glorious spring day and one to be remembered!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Winter Storm Watch

I was not sure what to expect when I awoke this morning.  There was talk of snowing, blowing and frigid temperatures.  Ed and I had decided that this would be a great day to stay cozy  in the warm house.  We did get snow overnight.  This morning when we woke up at about 7:30 the garden looked beautiful.  I love the way it looks when it has a new blanket of snow.  April snow is common here.  It just happens that this year snow has been uncommon here.  I missed it.

Snow was perched on top of the wires of  the cage that had been placed over my Siberian squill.  The daffodils that were open had a similar topping.  It was calm and quiet but not for long.  I watched as it began to snow again and the wind picked up.  Swirls of snow danced along the ridge.  Wind whistled around the house drifting snow in some places and leaving others bare.

By lunch time the  ridge disappeared in a cloud of white.  Sometimes the snow was falling straight down at an incredible rate.  Other times it seemed to fly past the window parallel to the ground never landing on the garden at all.

One thing about winds like that, they move the clouds right along.  Dark storm clouds were replaced by fluffy white clouds and patches of blue sky.  The April sun is strong and despite the cold, the snow began to melt.  On the south side of the house the roof dripped like crazy.  On the North side the dripping was slow enough for icicles to form.

Now the cage has no more snow and the Siberian squill are uncovered again. The bed on the south side of the house is nearly naked.  Most of the stone garden paths are free of snow.  If you look closely the yellow of daffodils can be seen inside the square.  For some of the garden the snow is here today and gone today.  Now the warm April sun is dropping behind the hill.  The temperature will drop too.  When I first came to live here in upstate New York I was told, " If you don't like the weather, wait it will change."  Today it was fun to watch!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Cardinal Flower Rescue

Native plants hold a particular fascination for us.  Nothing is ever simple and in this case we have the conflict between plants taken from the wild and having beautiful flowers in the garden.  In this case, we bought our first plant so were not directly involved in its possible wild harvest.  Cardinal Flower lends itself to cultivation.  Our plants have been in our garden for at least two decades and number far greater than the single plant purchased so long ago.  It is likely that our first plant was grown at a Sandy Mush Herb Nursery in Asheville, NC.

Various books describe Cardinal Flower as hardy to zone 4.  We have only seen this plant in the wild twice and both sightings were well south and east of our home.  Early spring appears to be an extremely perilous time for this plant.  When the snow cover melts, bright green leaves clearly mark the locations where the plant has grown during winter.  Then the freezes and frosts inevitably occur.  With no protection from location or cover, the plants in the first photo show serious damage.  Overnight temperatures in the teens are forecast for the weekend.  Protective action must be taken now.

This cluster of plants are close to the stone wall that anchors the center of our garden.  Located on the north side of the wall, these plants are shielded from the cold air that pours down from the ridge and sweeps across our garden.  The stone wall also stores heat and that has helped these plants survive to date.  We plan to cover these plants in place with a plastic tub this weekend.  Two bottles of warm water may be placed near the plants.  Chances favor the survival of these plants with help.

Damaged plants that appeared still alive were cleaned up and placed in pots.  These plants will spend the next several weeks on the wall just outside of the basement door.  When severe cold threatens, a quick move into the basement will keep these plants alive.  With luck we will have seventeen lively Cardinal Flower plants to scatter about when the weather stabilizes.

One of these potted plants is not like the others.  Since each mature Cardinal Flower plant should produce six daughter plants, full trays could have been possible.  Faced with one empty square my choice was to disturb an entire cluster for a single plant or pot up the Valerian plant that was already out of the ground.  With its reddish cast and completely different leaf structure, it should be easy to spot!

We have numerous small Gloriosa Daisy plants showing green leaves.  Potting them up is next on the list for today.  Light rain is falling and some might think it strange to see me digging in the garden while getting wet.  One has to take advantage of the conditions each day offers.  Those who know me already find me to be a bit different.  Of course some of those people spend April 1 standing in the rain with cold water up to their waist trying to catch a trout.