Sunday, May 09, 2021

Any colder and it would be snowing

Around here, Mother's Day seems to be designated as Visit Local Nurseries Day, but I wonder how many families are out in the cold, windy, rainy weather. Personally, I would opt for a cuddle on the couch and a good movie.

My SO and I stopped at Menards the other day. I've been on the lookout for a decent water fountain. The one I have is not well designed and dribbles. All I bought in the garden department was a package of coleus for the front porch. Last year's variety was HUGE, so I'm opting for something smaller this year: Wizard Scarlet. I still have the mother plant from last year, plus a couple of starts off that; they will go into pots.


This past week, the Lawnganics people treated the front lawn again. I don't know specifically what they use, but the dandelions are now drooping. I think the clover and wild strawberry will survive, though, which is what I was hoping for. The grass itself looks very healthy, but then it usually does in the spring. So far, I'm pleased. After edging and mulching the beds around the trees in the front yard, I'm thinking maybe I will outsource that labor as well.

Monday, May 03, 2021

Fifty shades of pink

The flowering crabs around town are just stupendous this year. I'm surprised I have not rear-ended someone while I gawk at them. One house I drive past frequently has six mature ones in their front yard that creates a wall of color. My own flowering crabs are still small but just as lovely. Per usual, my photography skills do not do them justice.


The actual color of the blossoms on this 'Prairie Fire' flowering crabapple is more coral than pink. And they are dense. While examining the tree, I removed the empty bagworm casing my granddaughter had noticed earlier. I also noticed that there is no central leader. I purchased this specimen online. I can't recall if it came truncated or was damaged and in need of pruning or if I cut it off for unknown reasons. My aim was to have a small tree that would be tall enough to provide some afternoon shade for the nearby AC unit. That goal may be thwarted, at least for a while.


My SO and I continue to undo the raised beds. We are not as young and spry as we used to be, so it will take us a while. In the front yard, I've been edging the flower beds. And there is so much weeding to do!

I'm a little concerned about the redbuds. While the snow did not seem to damage the blossoms, the trees are not starting to leaf out yet. The bloom time came a couple of weeks early - usually, they are peaking around now - so maybe the leaves are following their own schedule. I hope so.

The chokeberry is blooming, as is the prunifolium. Last summer's transplants on the south side of the house are starting to break ground. Last year's bumper crop of "whirlibirds" - samaras from the neighborhood silver maples - are causing a bumper crop of seedlings. The rhubarb is ready for some pie.

I'm sorry if this blog is becoming a bit of a bore while I downsize the yard and garden. After this season, things should get more interesting as I concentrate on the designated areas for the future.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Snow joke

This past week we received about five inches of snow, first wet and heavy, then, after the temps dropped into the 20's, a topping of soft powder. Everything in the yard bowed down under its heft, a couple of trees past the point of breaking.



The redbud next to the deck lost one of its central leads. Redbuds usually have split trunks, so I don't expect this loss to affect it much. I hope it leafs out well enough to once again provide some delightful afternoon shade.



The 'Perfect Purple' flowering crab in the front yard lost its central leader which has left a bit of a hole. Given enough time, I'm sure it will not only survive, but maybe even improve from the harsh pruning.



Oddly, other than a puddle of pink petals under the rhododendron, none of the spring blossoms were affected by the snow and cold. My completely unscientific theory is the snow protected the blossoms from the cold like a good blanket should.


There was still a bit of snow left in shady spots when I mowed a few days later. This week we are in for some unusually warm temps, maybe even 80 degrees. Quite the yo-yo of a season.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Breaking the rules

After mentioning my plant diet last week, I received the Bluestone Perennials catalog. Last year I grew zinnias and strawflowers in containers with medium success. I have also tried to grow perennials in containers with one success (penstemon) and several failures. After thumbing through this catalog, it occurred to me the I would have better success if I selected plants whose descriptions include "great for containers". I haven't decided quite yet what to get, but I'm leaning toward some hyssop and a butterfly bush.

Some sad news: 1)The Dracena did not make it. 2)I brought the seedlings inside as the temps have fallen, only to witness their destruction by Beau the Feline Destroyer of All Things Nice. He ignored the plants when they were on the counter by the refrigerator, but decided their presence on the breakfast bar meant they were for munching. For the record, the cats are *not* allowed on the countertops; one cat obeys, the other does not.

Outside, things look much better. The serviceberry is blooming, and so are the redbuds; it's early for the latter. I don't have an ornamental pear, but those around town are putting on quite a show; too bad they are so invasive. Even the magnolias are holding onto their petals for more than the usual day or three, hanging in there for one-to-two weeks, thanks to the cool weather. Unfortunately, we may get snow next week.

My Rhododendron 'PJM' is even joining the party. Originally there were three plants, and there may still be three plants, but over the years, they have faded quite a bit. Last summer, we pruned back its neighbor, the purple leaf smoke bush, so it would get more light; that seems to have helped. Now I need to eliminate the Northern Sea Oats that grow under it and mulch it with peat moss, and maybe it will return to its former glory.


I added the oriole feeder to my collection of bird feeders in the backyard, but so far no takers. I read online that the ratio for the sugar solution for orioles should be 8:1, but for hummingbirds it's 4:1. I recall being somewhere many years ago where the residents hung hummingbird feeders under the eaves, then were upset that the orioles were hogging them. I'm surprised the orioles were able to feed from the hummingbird feeders, and if the sugar solution was 4:1, it didn't seem to hurt them.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

What the?

I must be the least observant person in the world. Every day I walk past the Dracena marginata I took a cutting from and rooted, without noticing it's in dire straits. It is difficult for me to believe that I neglected to water it last week... unless I neglected to water *all* the houseplants? Most are large with large pots, so a missed watering does not bother them much. But this poor guy. I watered it today, in hopes that it will revive.


The seedlings are not fairing much better. The weather has been mild - highs in the 70's, lows in the 50s - but many have given up. Of the remaining few, they are *still* not putting out true leaves. It's a good thing my livelihood does not depend on my not-very-green thumb.

I mowed for the first time this season, and began the never-ending chore of weeding, starting with the bed by the front walk. While working, I contemplate what I would like to grow there along with the 'Autumn Joy' sedum. There are a few clumps of "naturalizing" daffodils as well as some 'Golden Bells' carpet daffodil, a row of 'Sunny Twinkles' allium, and maybe some surviving winter aconite. The bed gets morning sun. I'm on a plant diet this year - not going to buy anything new - but I can move stuff around, like the grape hyacinth? They need to be divided anyway.

I recently read a novel called Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane. It's about friendship, but the main character May Attaway is a botanist. Her father is a retired English professor who wants a tree planted in his memory on the university campus where May works on the grounds crew, so he keeps leaving her "tree sheets" to elicit her opinion. Also, a fair amount of plant talk is seamlessly woven into the story. I've been wanting to plant another tree in the backyard, so the tree sheets and their accompanying sketches were of particular interest to me. It's a fun and easy read as well.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Simply gorgeous

We are having a beautiful spring day, so I moved the seedlings outside. Using the under-cabinet lights is problematic because leaving them on all day heats up the insides of the cabinets. Also, I don't have much counter space to start with, so I am glad to have the seedlings out of the way. On nights when the temps drop below 50, I'll bring them inside. (Photos still refuse to turn out halfway decent.)

Almost everything has sprouted BUT almost none of the seedlings are forming true leaves. The one exception is some Black Eyed Susan Vine I decided to try even though the seeds are really old. And everything is spindly. I feel like my green thumb has faded.

A frosty night left many of the spring flowers face down, but most of them have righted themselves. Shrubs and trees are showing signs of life, even the Japanese maple that the sparrows have damaged. Maybe if I keep the bird feeders full in the backyard, the sparrows will leave this tree in the front yard alone.

One of the trunks of the sandcherry shrub has a trunk canker. Very gross. From what I have (just recently) read, sandcherries rarely live more than ten years because of problems like this. I can't find a blog post about planting this specimen, but it is mentioned in one from 2008. I really like its spring flowers and purple leaves, so if it succumbs, I may just plant another.


As you can see in the pic above, this bush has required some severe pruning, not only to remove dead limbs but to keep it from scratching my car. If I do plant another, I will locate it farther from the driveway.


On a completely unrelated topic, last fall I had to call my home improvement company to come fix some sagging soffits. The contractor did part of the work from the roof, where he noticed my chimney needed repair. It was too late to get it done then, with cold weather coming, but I made sure to get on the schedule for this spring. It's all fixed now. The fireplace is woodburning and doesn't draw well, so I never use it. If that contractor had not been on the roof, I would have had no idea that there was a problem until something happened that might have resulted in actual damage. So, if you have a chimney, you might want to have it inspected, just in case, even if you don't use it.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Out like a lion?

We are having blustery March weather which has yet to exhibit any lamb-like tendencies. And it has been reliably wet, which is a good thing this time of year. The croci and daffs are blooming their hearts out while the grass is turning a nice lush green color.

I have found the little doodad for making seed starting pots from newspaper; the seed starting heating mat is still missing, as is my horticultural knife. The knife has been replaced with a brand new one. It is really hefty, should last a lifetime... as long as it doesn't disappear.


I also ordered a mini LED grow light garden from Gardeners Supply, but it is backordered. In years past, I dragged some wire shelving in from the garage, mounted shop lights, and started seeds in the den. This year, given the reduced garden size, I decided to put the seedling pots on the kitchen counter, under some under-cabinet LED lights. (Photos refused to turn out.) Given the limited amount of counter space in my kitchen, this is not the best solution. However, the zinnias and hollyhocks are up, as are most the herbs. Maybe this time I will have more success keeping the seedlings alive than I did earlier this year.

Still not a lot of birds at the feeders, although I did see a red wing blackbird the other day. I've determined (in a completely unscientific way) that the difference between winter robins and spring robins is the former feed in the trees while the latter are on the ground listening for worms.

There is a web site I have just discovered that forecasts bird migrations (among other things). It's called BirdCast and may be found here. I'd like to know specifically when orioles arrive here so that I can put out my oriole feeder.