Friday, March 25, 2016

Spring Projects

Yay! These opened on the 17th -- a lovely St. Patrick's Day gift!

Well, spring is officially here now, even though it has been so warm for the past month that it has felt like spring for some time now. I've been spending some time outside working in the gardens getting a few jobs done, like cutting back last year's foliage and raking out leaves. These jobs always feel like such progress and are satisfying to get done.

Last weekend I also got a start on one of my several spring projects that I have planned for this year. I got three pickup truck loads of leaf compost from the local landfill and put most of it on my new North Border front section -- the one I will plant with flowers mostly transplanted from the old North Border back section (which will be planted with evergreen trees and shrubs for winter interest).

Then I started moving a few plants from the old part to the new. I started with the 24 Allium 'Globemaster' bulbs that I planted in 2014. I know it's better to move them in fall, but the foliage was up and I need them to be out of the back section by mid-April, when we need to spray the numerous perennial weeds there like Creeping Charlie (ground ivy) and then plant the trees and shrubs before it gets hot.

(While I was working outside last Saturday, it actually started to snow, first tiny sleet and then big, floppy flakes. It became quite cold and unpleasant, and I was really wet and muddy and chilled by the time I was done moving all 24 alliums. But the snow was gone by noon the next day. I guess in March we take what we get, weatherwise, and don't complain.)

The new North Border: I put a layer of compost on the new front curvy bed that I removed the grass from last year and had my husband till up, and it was good to go. I started transplanting perennials and bulbs from the back section. Still many to go.

I also got started on moving some of the other perennials that are growing in the back section: achillea, phlox, peonies, mums, Shasta daisies and others. And I also moved about 50 Asiatic and Orienpet lily bulbs, marked with sticks where I planted them (again, I know this is better done in fall, but needs must).

There are so many plants in this large border that it will probably take weeks to move them all -- which is why it's good to get started as early as possible. I had trouble identifying everything, since I apparently didn't make a map of what was growing there, and it can be hard to identify plants when their leaves are tiny and only an inch out of the ground. We'll see how things turn out as the summer approaches...

There are a few other projects I'm hoping to do this year. Here's a short overview:

The Peony Border: I'm planning to slightly enlarge this border that is right next to the North Border. I made it smaller last year by grassing over the back part that can be seen tilled up and seeded in this photo from last May. I plan to remove some grass in a curved area at the bottom of this photo, and plant it with irises that I will divide from other beds, as well as alliums, poppies and other mid-spring perennials and bulbs that I will add this spring and fall. I want this to be a May-blooming border, perhaps with a few lilies for summer time. I'm inspired by photos of the Schreiner's Iris Gardens, with their crescendo of irises and other May-blooming companion plants.

The Rainbow Border: I'm thinking about shortening the length and changing the focus of this border, pictured a couple years ago from an upstairs window to capture the entire length of it. The Rainbow Border has been challenging for me, both because it is planted in a progression through the colors of the rainbow (white, pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and back to white at the far end), and also because of the sheer size of it. I am considering removing both ends of it and mixing up the colors.
I would remove the white sections from both ends (transplanting the plants to other borders), and perhaps remove parts of the pink and purple sections too, leaving it roughly the length between where the two protruding points are. I know it looks better to make a border the length of the backdrop (in this case, our East Windbreak), but it's just too big to maintain, and I hope it might look OK if I match the length to the edges of our driveway instead. What do you think?

The north side of our house: I'm trying to figure out what to do to make the back side of our house less unattractive. I'll post more about this problem in my next post.

A new West Terrace Bed: I've been thinking of planting something under this silver maple tree for years, but I've been intimidated because of the roots. I once tried to plant a few bulbs under it when the ground was dry and I think I would have needed a pickax to penetrate the ground. However, I think small bulbs could be planted on both the south front side and the north shady side, if a shallow layer of compost was spread on the area, and the whole area was well-watered before attempting to plant. I'm thinking of making a half-circle shaped bed around the tree to the retaining wall. Planting would be mostly early small bulbs -- sunny bulbs on the south side and shady bulbs and plants (like snowdrops) on the shady north side. Perhaps followed by perennials and annuals from seed that don't mind dry conditions, both dry sun and dry shade.

Anyway, these are the projects I'm thinking about these days as we enjoy warmer days. The last few days have been chilly and rainy, and last night we had a heavy frost, down to the low 20s -- the daffodils in the first photo are looking a bit droopy, but I hope they will recover and that our other tiny flowers will be OK too. The next several days are predicted to be warmer, so maybe I will get a bit more time in the gardens working on these projects.

I trust you are full of ideas for changes in your own gardens -- we gardeners aren't happy unless we're always planning for an even more beautiful future (which is why gardeners are happier than average folk, and why I love gardening, which is full of hope). Thanks for reading! -Beth

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Early Spring!

They always remind me of little fried eggs....

What a happy time of year! Spring is literally springing forth: the weather was lovely this past week -- warm, sunny and in the 60s, and not even too windy for a few days. I imprudently worked outside two days in a row and my joints ached -- but I was still tempted to do more, it was that nice outside.

And the first flowers are blooming! Crocus, winter aconite and tiny irises are in flower, and the grass is slowly greening up. These little early flowers always make me so happy -- I'm making a mental note that I will plant more of them this fall, and I have a new planned area I think I will devote to them and other minor bulbs.

Here are a few flowers from outside and inside:

More crocus. I love their Easter Egg colors.

These tiny irises are blooming and tulips are pushing up out of the ground among them.

Winter aconite are also in flower. They're pretty small, and require an
extreme close-up.

I couldn't resist buying a six-pack of these cute pansies that are already for sale at Lowe's (most stores around here will likely not have any flowers for sale for several weeks yet). I potted them up and left them inside, not because they wouldn't be OK outside, but because I know I will see and enjoy them more inside at this time of year. I'll plant them outside in window boxes before long.

I was able to force these forsythia branches to bloom early by cutting them and bringing them inside this year. I tried it last spring, but without any luck and I thought I had done something wrong, but it turned out that the shrub itself only had about three flowers on it last year for some reason,. Now that I have been successful, I feel better about the whole forcing branches idea. (The daffodils are from the supermarket, which always has a special on them every spring, and which I greatly look forward to as one of signs of the desperately waited-for end of winter. Happy days!)

Spring is definitely arriving early this year. I think this is the earliest we've had this many flowers blooming for a number of years. The weather has turned rainy for the next few days, but that will make the grass green up, and then it will really seem like spring!

I hope your spring is arriving as well, and that warm, sunny days are heading your way. Thanks for reading! -Beth