What a Difference A Little Warmth Makes!

April in Connecticut was nasty! It was the 5th or 6th coldest April on record (and our records go back into the late 1800s, so that’s a good bit of weather to compare with!)

We got almost 2″ of rain above average–you won’t ever hear me complaining too much about rain, but when it’s so cold, extra rain is extra ugly.

And we had over 6″ of snow above average. That I will complain about!

But so far the beginning of May is making up for it–or as I always say, we only have two seasons here in this state, winter and July.  We haven’t had much temperate weather–it’s either been below average (or much below) or much above. I presume that’s how averages are made.

Still, when I got back from Oklahoma, I found all this in bloom!

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Azaleas were everywhere ( as were forsythia, but I don’t have those)

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Magnolias similarly were everywhere. I have a star magnolia, but I am a bit concerned that it somehow died over the winter. I see no signs of life–either blossoms or leaves. This is a 30 year old tree. I hate when that happens!

My yellow magnolia is doing fine and will be in bloom shortly.

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Bulbs are popping up in places where I planted them–and where I didn’t. More about that in another post.

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My weeping cherry–which is always later than the magnolia–is spectacular.

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And this funny plant–petasites japonica–is doing quite well because of all the moisture. It will do well as long as it’s moist. If it becomes hot and dry, it will get ratty and I cut it back.

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So I was very pleased to see spring at last on my return.

 

 

Don’t Try This at Home

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This doesn’t look so bad, does it? The orchid looks nice and healthy and there are new growth tips on the roots. What could the problem be?

I’m not sure if you can tell, but when I re-potted it, I didn’t have the proper size clay pot available so I used a plastic pot. Bad mistake. Because while the orchid is happy, I am not.

First of all, it continually tips over and that’s really not good for the plant. I have already damaged one of its leaves that way.

Next, when I go to re-pot this plant, I am inevitably going to have to damage some of the roots–and I am going to have to cut the pot off. That’s not good for either of us.

With a clay pot, if I got desperate, I could just have broken the pot away (something that accidentally happened that led to this fiasco).

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But check out these roots coming through the bottom here. Not good. I mean, the roots themselves look fine, but how will I ever be able to disentangle them from this pot at re-potting time? Oh boy.

So take my advice–don’t try this in your home!

Got Herbs?

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I love herbs and I love growing them. And I hate to give them up at the end of the season.  So this is my compromise.

Everything you see here–with the exception of the basil–will winter over just fine right here.  There’s also a lavender that you don’t see that’s not hardy for my zone that’s also going to winter here with these herbs.

If I need some fresh thyme or chives or Bay, I know right where to find them–no wading through the snow required.

And it’s just a nice garden to come home to at the end of the day as  well.

If you have an unheated porch that gets plenty of sun, give it a try!

I Thought the Drought Was Over

Although I thought that the national media did a horrible job of publicizing the fact that the northeast just endured well over two years of extreme drought, complete with water rationing,  reservoirs drying up and massive plant die offs along with insect infestations, most of that seems to be over now, thank goodness.

The drought stretched from Maine all the way down to the south at times and as far back as the Ohio Valley but New England was particularly hard hit. Parts of Massachusetts were rationing water for well over a year and here in Hartford County Connecticut we are still drier than we should be even after abundant rainfall elsewhere.

Still,  this year, things look much better than they have for years with the exception of the aftermath.

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You heard on Friday that my gardening is pretty much limited to pointing my finger or my camera at this point for the next several weeks.  But the Spoiler has had to call in help to clear out all of the drought killed plantings–& every time we look we find more. This partially killed blue spruce around our pond is just one example.

In many cases, things haven’t been killed outright,  which is a blessing.  I just wonder, after the pruning, what they will look like. This kerria will look just fine. The blue spruce that I showed above, not so much, I fear.

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And then there are the things that are just dead and need to be pulled out. Several hydrangeas and a rose finally succumbed.

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And finally there are things that just aren’t going to bloom this year at all–but at least they survived and came back. This peony is one example. (And notice that lovely “grass and weed” mulch. I may never recover from that either–but that’s a different issue!)

I have rhododendons taller than I am also without blooms–but it would be a catastrophe to have lost those.

We’ll need a few more weekends of help to get the pruning all done. Good thing it’s a long summer.

If There’s Such a Thing as Foodscaping, How About Berryscaping?

I wrote Monday about foodscaping and showed you a photo of my vegetable garden that incorporates flowers and herbs as well. All throughout the discussion of edibles that I have been having here, I said that I don’t grow too many fruiting plants.

There are a couple of reasons for that. I was into habitat gardening and established my “habitats” or wildlife gardens long before I ever established dedicated to grow food. And while that wonderful book I talked about Monday, The Foodscape Revolution makes clear that you can grow food anywhere and everywhere, if you are gardening for wildlife you are going to be competing with that same wildlife for the food you are growing and so you are going to have to create some sort of effective fencing to separate your food from them.

I’ve talked a little about that little issue before. The Spoiler is opposed to fencing of any sort. And then he wonders why he has no blueberries and isn’t getting tomatoes. You reap what you sow! And when what you sow isn’t protected from all the hungry critters that romp through your yard after you’ve invited them in, well, them you don’t reap very much.

But this surely doesn’t mean that there are no ways to grow fruit crops in landscapes. For one thing, many of them make great container plants. Some of the smaller varieties are even suitable for balconies and patios.

And some of a new line of fruiting berry plants called Bushel and Berry™ have been specifically bred to be both beautiful and prolific.

There are 7 plants in this line. Most are blueberries–there are 5 different blueberries–and a raspberry and a blackberry. All are self-pollinating and compact making them perfect for landscapes or containers. Their marketer is Star, who also markets the Drift™ and Knockout™ series of roses and a hydrangea which is completely unfamiliar to me called LA Dreaming. You can read all about the plants here.

I have to say that my attempt to grow two of these plants has been a dismal failure–both have died. Perhaps I didn’t give them large enough containers. I do have two other full size blueberries in pots (shown above) that are doing just fine, so go figure. But I adore their blueberries, especially the variety called Peach Sorbet. The colors the foliage turns in the fall is wonderful.

Another great plant for beds, borders and just about anywhere is the alpine strawberry. This incredibly hardy strawberry will give you tiny strawberries all summer long, up to a hard freeze. It has great fall color–vivid scarlet–and when you have to fight chipmunks or squirrels for the fruit, don’t despair. They will actually plant more of these plants for you. I have them self-sown all over my property, even into other containers. I started with 5 plants. I now must have 50 thanks to my wildlife.  And I am keeping them all!

So in answer to my question: yes, berryscaping can be a “thing” too. Just be mindful of sharing with your wildlife!

Wordless Wednesday–Is Your Flowering Cherry Dropping Flowers?

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Flowering cherries are lovely but, like all flowering trees, their blooms seem so short-lived.

So imagine my dismay when I saw fully opened blooms on the ground under the tree the same day that the flowers started to open. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I hadn’t remembered that from prior years.

The answer was revealed the following day when I came home from walking the dog. I found a pair of finches systematically plucking off the blooms. They would pluck, hold the bloom in their beaks for a brief moment, and then discard it.

As I started to notice, I found a pair of house sparrows doing the same things to the new shoots of my Japanese maple. And squirrels do this to my sugar maples, but they do it with larger bits, breaking off small twigs.

It’s only the loss of the flowers I regret, though. You can see why below.

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Stop Right There! Is It Safe to Clean Up Your Garden Yet?

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You’re going to hear a lot about pollinators from me and all the other Garden Writers (yes, I use capital letters because we’re all members of GWA, formerly Garden Writers of America) in the next few months.

For years we’ve been hearing about particular individual pollinators like bats, who were in decline from white nose fungus, or monarch butterflies who were declining because of loss of habitat and perhaps pesticide use and of course the honeybee and colony collapse disorder.

But have we ever stopped to consider that we might be the cause of some of the problem? It’s a dreadful thought, and not one that any of us want to think about I’m sure.

I know that I like to think that I do my part for pollinators. I plant native plants whenever possible. And I am the organic gardener that I am specifically because of butterflies–or the lack that I found when I moved to my current property in 1994. As soon as I convinced the Spoiler we had to stop using pesticides, the butterflies came back (now, if only I could convince the rest of the neighborhood!)

But I recently read this fascinating piece from the Xerces Society about leaving spring clean up in the garden until later in the season to allow the ground nesting native bees to seek shelter on cooler nights and to permit the overwintering butterflies to hatch out.

Whoa! That’s huge! Why does no one ever talk  about this?

I know we’re just starting to publicize leaving leaf litter and twigs, etc in the garden in the fall for just these same reasons–shelter and cover for beneficial insects and native bees.

You’ll be seeing a lot more from me–this month and in June, during Pollinator Week–about this topic.

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The realization that for my climate I still need to be leaving the stems of my perennials standing a wee bit longer was amazing. I’ve been thinking about cutting them back for weeks and only time and wet weather prohibited me (thank goodness it’s raining again!)

If you live somewhere warmer, file this under “to be remembered.” The Xerces Society post has a great chart about how to know it’s safe to do spring clean-up by simple things like whether you have done your first spring mowing or whether the apple and cherry trees in your neighborhood have finished blooming.

Considering that’s a big fat “NO!” for me right now, I guess I and my neighbors will need to look at a messy yard a little bit longer–at least on my property!