Don’t Be Too Quick To Clean Up In Spring

It’s mid-March. Next week is astronomical spring, otherwise known as the vernal equinox. If you’re lucky, you have some signs of spring coming up in your yard or somewhere nearby.

I must encourage you, though, please don’t be too quick to tidy up in the yard. We gardeners are a manic bunch, aren’t we, hating to see even a leaf out of place? What is it we think might happen?

Please leave some of the leaf litter in place until some real warmth takes place and holds awhile.

This would be the same for some plant stems–if you left any in the garden in the fall.

Why am I asking you to leave your garden messy? Simple. There are “things” living in the leaves and the plant stems that need time to emerge and find new homes. If you clean up leaf litter too early,  you might be destroying overwintering butterfly larva, or worse yet, the lovely mourning cloak butterflies that are sunning themselves there.

If you cut down and discard hollow plant stems, you might be discarding all sorts of beneficial bugs, including valuable native bees.

When we talk about all the “good bugs” in the garden, these are the ones that you want. If you’re not seeing them, ask yourself if your clean-up practices might be accidentally contributing to their demise. You surely wouldn’t want that.

On a warm spring day, go outside and take a walk instead. That will help you get over the urge to tidy too soon–and you won’t feel too lazy!


Unwelcome Guests


This photo–which appears to show just a jumble of plants–actually shows an invasive brown marmorated stink bug on the orchid spike in the photo.  Since the new year, I have been having a mini invasion of sorts. They have never been a problem before for me,  either in the house or the garden.

I know enough not to kill them. If they are somewhere where I can catch them and toss them outside,  that’s what I do. Otherwise,  they seem to die rather quickly on their own. Problem solved.

On the same day that I took this photo,  I heard the unmistakable calls of grackles. Sure enough,  the next morning,  I saw one strutting around on my neighbor’s lawn.

That may not seem strange where you live,  but they’re a full 3 weeks earlier than usual here. Is spring really on its way?

Need A Winter Container Indoors?


As you plan for winter arrangements, scavenge in your yard for some foliage.

I don’t live in the Pacific Northwest so I don’t have a lot of those wonderful cedars with cones that you see in the professional arrangements.

And here in the northeast, our magnolias are not evergreen, so that lets out using their lovely glossy leaves.

And I usually want to leave my berried plants–holly, juniper and crab apple–with their berries–as winter treats for my wild life.


This is what I have left: scavenged branches from the bottom of my Christmas tree (Fraser fir from good old Somers, CT), some variegated euonymus and some hellebore leaves.


By the way, that adorable nativity just to the left of the top container is from El Salvador. It’s one of my favorites (I collect nativities, among other things) because of the rainbow arch, the palm trees and the sweet little lambs.

I doubt you’ll ever see most of my collection on here (not gardening or weather related) but most come from countries like Peru, Vietnam, Mexico and the more “rustic” they are , the better I like them!

The Unofficial Winter Forecast

According to the “mets” in the know (and “mets” is a familiar term not for a New York baseball team, but for meteorologists) just about this time, give or take a few days, we are in for a winter weather pattern shift over the northeastern two thirds of the United States.

The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO for short) is about to go “negative” on us and that can lead to a much colder pattern of air taking hold, particularly in a La Nina year. So hello and welcome Polar Vortex! Brrr!

A few other things are leading the mets to this conclusion that winter weather will be arriving–and possibly a snowy pattern, or at least a stormy patterns–along with it. I will spare you the technical details.

So of course what did I do around the end of November when I started hearing all this talk of negative NAOs?  I consulted my squirrels!

For those of you not familiar with the long accustomed practice of consulting squirrels’ nests as a way of predicting winter weather, it goes like this: the higher up in a tree the squirrel’s nest is, the colder (and presumably snowier, but I am not sure they actually predict precipitation–just cold!) the winter will be.

I usually try to find a squirrel’s nest right on my own property. I knew that I must have one in an oak off the edge of my property because every morning and evening my dog loses her mind  barking when she sees the squirrels running up and down the tree trunk. So I started looking up into the tree.

Oaks are funny because they hold a lot of their leaves, even into the winter, so it’s sometimes tough to see into the canopy.


Finally I spotted the nest, almost at the top of the tree. (But you can tell just from this photo how difficult that was. It’s about mid-photo, way up high, right where there’s an awkward looking crooked branch. )

So I guess the mets are right. It’s Polar Vortex time. Better break out the woolies. I’m already wearing the long underwear. Not sure how much more I can pile on!



The Plant that Keeps on Giving


I bought this plant (the one in the base of the citrus) as a 6″ annual for an outdoor hummingbird container I was planting in 2015. It was called “Jewels of Opar” (don’t you love common names sometime? They’re so romantic!) The botanical name is talinum ‘limon’ presumably for the chartreuse foliage.

As I was scouting around for the botanical on this, lo and behold, I also discovered it was edible! Gracious! This really is the plant that keeps on giving! When I entitled the post that, I merely meant that since 2015, it has self-sowed into various containers of mine and continues to bloom all over the place. You see it here in 3 containers in 3 different stages: blooming, near bloom, and seedling.


It was blooming outside in my garden beds as well. When I find these flower stalks going to seed, I shake the seeds over my beds and borders and the next season I find plants coming up in the gardens. How delightful. Plants without work. I am all for that!

The article I link to above makes mention of how wonderful these itty bitty tiny flowers are for pollinators. So many of us grow huge hulking flowers to draw in bees and butterflies but we forget about our smaller bees. There are bees that are the size of a grain of white rice and we need to be mindful of those pollinators too!

Of course, if you are going to attempt to eat what you are growing, make sure that you are growing it organically. No pesticides of any kind, especially on the plants but even in your soils. Be mindful of that.

Otherwise, just enjoy these lovely plants and flowers.


Leaping, Sneaping Deer

Say what?!

Have you ever seen those signs along the highways with the image–in silhouette–of the leaping deer and then a number underneath like “next two miles.”

There’s a stretch of the New York State Thruway where first you see a sign that says deer next 1 1/5 miles, then almost immediately there’s another that says deer next two miles, then there’s another that says deer next 52 miles. I guess they figured they would run out of signs pretty darn fast at that rate.

After Monday’s post about the deer, mice, habitat and ticks, I thought I would do a post about deer and deer encounters with vehicles. We are right smack in the middle of “deer prime time:”–October, November and December are the 3 months, statistically when you are most likely to encounter a deer (in a negative way, of course) with your vehicle.

Is there science to this? Yes, actually. Believe it or not, this is deer mating season. So bucks will actually chase does straight into oncoming traffic. Ah, love. Or something.

Also, we have just (or most of us have just) changed from daylight savings time to standard time. So we’re all adjusting to driving in the dark again. Ack! This is our problem, not the deer but the reduced visibility makes it difficult to see.

Finally (and this will occasionally happen in the spring as well) deer will gather on the warm pavement on cooler nights at the change of seasons so beware of that.

All of the insurance companies have statistics about how deer/vehicle collisions go up this time of year. Be aware of that and try not to be one of those statistics.