Saturday, March 27, 2010

Odds and ends

Today is sunny and chilly, a perfect March day, just right for doing a little of this and a little of that. Of course, the most exciting thing about gardening this time of year is seeing the barely visible growth that indicates successful wintering over. Sighted today, if you look closely, are epimedium, baptisia, Solomon's seal and hosta. The amsonia appears dead, but I doubt it. Buds just starting on the hydrangeas.

Planted peas (Sugar Ann, "Still the best, extra early, short-vined snap pea. Sweet, crisp, 2 1/2" pods for picking well ahead of Sugar Snap. The 2' vines do not need support"). Sawed up (yes, with a saw!) a huge dead branch that fell from my neighbor's oak tree in the high winds a week or so ago.

Off to the dump with the remains tomorrow.
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Everything is yellow now - daffodils, kerria, forsythia - cheerful and pretty.

Point, shoot and hope

My latest photography technique has been prompted by the shy spring flowers that look humbly at the ground, making it hard to see how beautiful they are. I've taken to pointing the camera up from the ground, hoping I have something in view, and pressing the button. Oddly enough, it's been working pretty well. Here is a hellebore under the oak tree...

And leucojum in the white garden...

and epimedium in bloom under the oak tree - if I were more familiar with episcopal headgear, I would probably realize with this photo why it's also called bishop's hat.
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I'm sure real photographers are familiar with this technique, but I'm feeling very smug for having invented it for myself.


This is the year the indoor bulbs sat and sulked. I've been forcing paper whites for thirty years, and for some reason I lost my knack this time around. Out of half a dozen bowls, maybe three actually bloomed. The others began to stink and die. And these were from WFF, usually quite reliable, so it must be operator error.

Amaryllis are a bit harder, but I've been able to winter them over fairly well, and the ones you buy ready to sprout are usually easy peasy. Not this year. Here are several of them in a row, refusing to grow, let alone bloom.

The only one that's showing any signs of life is one I've wintered over for several years. I guess it knows the drill better than the others.
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

The week of the daffodils

This is the week the daffodils suddenly burst into bloom. The first was one of the miniatures I planted in the front garden, planning for more color and interest there in early spring.

Next up was a clump of these under the oak tree...

And now the King Alfreds (or Carltons?) in the cutting garden are starting to take off, too. Here they are plopped in a vase with some hellebores.
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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring fever

The first day of spring brought everyone outside, but because I have a habit of leaving the back door open on nice days - no screen door - I sometimes have unexpected visitors. This afternoon it was a Carolina wren who flew in and landed on the window screen at the other end of the sitting room.

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The wrens are usually very bossy and vocal, but this one just froze there. At one point it made some sad little mewing sounds, but that was all. Eventually, with a little encouragement from me that it probably ignored, the wren flew to a picture frame, then perched above the door frame, and finally flew back out again. Wish I knew what it told its mate about this little adventure.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

They grow up so fast

The saga of the seedlings continues. I planted them with some trepidation and placed them on the seed-starting table. This table has two slots for the trays on which the seed trays live. I had the trays on the lower slot, so of course the fluorescent light was too high above the seedlings. But I reasoned that I had about a week before buying additional chain became necessary.

Not so - some of the seedlings emerged immediately and became leggy almost overnight. So yesterday, I was measuring the amount of chain needed when light dawned. Why not just move the trays to the higher slot, where they would be close enough to the light? You see why my career choice has never included anything the slightest bit mechanical.

Easy enough, but when I tried to hook the light to a higher link on the chain, there came a pop! and a burst of light, and the light fixture went dead. Could it be the ballast? After two new bulbs, these meant especially for gardening, and then, when they still didn't work, a new light fixture, the seedlings should at last be a bit happier.

Moral of the story: my lack of faith in my own mechanical abilities (or even common sense, I'm afraid) is fully justified.


Here are the seedlings just emerging...

 and here they are reaching up to the light. The fact that my hand-scribbled lists of which seeds were planted in which tray, and in which order, have inevitably gotten mixed up in the course of all of this just means more excitement later, when I try to figure out what the heck I have actually been growing.
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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spring beauties

The early spring bulbs are much appreciated this year after all that snow. It's amazing how the winter aconite can show off after a few days of sun. Here they are under the oak tree, just opening...

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and here they are at the end of a sunny day.

I have also loved the tommy crocuses that Mom liked so well. I hate planting bulbs, even though these are as easy as anything to stick in the ground, but I had no idea how much I would love their smiling faces:


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If I just keep planting another 50-100 each year, the front lawn will soon be filled with them.


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Unlovely, but full of hope: the two seed-starting trays. Contents include cleome, tithonia, two kinds of cosmos, bronze fennel, and cardinal climber vine. Need to get additional chains to bring the lights down close to the seedlings, but I have a few days to get that together.

I'm probably a bit late with this, since the extension agent said in the paper that our average last frost is April 20-30, not May 10th as I had remembered. (And fyi, the first frost is October 19-29 by his reckoning).

For some reason this process makes me very nervous - I guess because the chance of killing off the babies is so high - but onward!