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.

 

 

The Dawn Chorus

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No matter where you live, if you are in the Northern Hemisphere, this is happening right about now.  I am not referring to sunrise–that happens worldwide of course.  I am referring to the dawn chorus.

You may not know the name for what I am referring to. It’s the cacophony of bird song at or even slightly before dawn this time of year.

Very few birds sing in winter, at least in my climate. I will hear what I call “the first bird of the day” ( who coincidentally also sings last at night all winter — that’s the cardinal). And there are assorted woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees, titmice, finches and sparrows. That’s about it.

Once spring arrives the robins, always a vocal bird anyway, become the first and last bird of the day. They are often joined by other mimic thrush type birds–mockingbirds, catbirds–and then there are blue jays, crows, starlings , grackles–the bird loud mouths.

At times it’s so loud it will even wake me, even with windows closed. And I am a very sound sleeper.

Why does this happen? Well, the birds aren’t saying precisely. The theories are that the birds are defending territory,  looking for mates, or both.

The next time you wake up early,  listen for the bird song. It’s a great way to start the day.

Wordless Wednesday

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I have been traveling lately. I visited my sister and Mom in Oklahoma.

My sister, who lives in a townhouse condo, had a persistent problem with folks traipsing across her porch–& setting off her security camera–& being just plain annoying as they went from a parking lot to other units. This is how she solved it. I helped her plant this mixture of succulents, rushes and annuals while I was visiting.

I think it is a lovely–effective– barrier.

Sustainable Gardening

It’s easy to walk into a big box store–or even some garden centers–and get very discouraged by the bewildering array of chemicals and synthetic fertilizers. All you need to do is approach these aisles and you can smell these products. And generally, they are not good smells.

With all of that going on, then, it’s hard to remember that we’ve come a really long way since that first Earth Day over 50 years ago! More than ever before, people are indicating an interest in growing organically and growing their own food organically.

And more than ever before, people are listening when you tell them, please don’t spray this–or please don’t spray now–because you will endanger our pollinators. Those sorts of things really are resonating with a majority of people in a way that they might not have 10 or 20 years ago.

In fact, I have even had people tell me that the word “sustainable” is too out of date. I am not sure what the current word or term or phrase might be. I kind of like “sustainable.” To me, it indicates something that’s going to be around awhile. Isn’t that what we’re aiming for?

The other thing that’s almost mainstream these days is native plants. Even the box stores are carrying them. They may not have big signs screaming “Get Your Native Plants Here!,” but they will have some tough, hardy natives that grow well in almost every region available.

Part of this has to do with planting for pollinators. Part of this has to do with planting for unpredictable weather–natives seem to cope with that much better than other plants (once they are established, of course). And part of this has to do with the fact that natives are just nice plants to grow–many of them bloom for a long time, or produce berries or have lovely fall color–all attributes of other ornamentals that might be harder to grow or fussier in other ways.

Back on that first Earth Day, almost no one was growing natives–or if they were, their neighbors were looking upon them with suspicion as “long haired hippies”, no doubt.

And those first Earth Day chemicals? Names too terrible to mention. So we really have come a long way.

Recycling and “Other” Life Changing Events

On Monday, I talked about the many ways my life had changed since that first Earth Day in the 70s or even since I first “married” my house and my husband 22 years ago. These things are all changes for the better and they are so automatic that for the most part I don’t even think about them–which makes them far easier to incorporate into daily or weekly routines.

What sorts of things am I talking about? How about lighting for a start. Does anyone use incandescent bulbs anymore? Or how about CFLs? For the most part, our home is all LEDs and I am so grateful we’ve made the switch both from an energy efficiency standpoint, but also as someone who gets dreadful migraine headaches. The LEDs are much easier on the eyes. The CFLs have an almost imperceptible flicker–but if you get migraines and are sensitive to light, you know what I am referring to.

Then there are the reusable totes. I hope most folks are using those by now. They save so much plastic. I did recycle my plastic bags prior to using these–but if I never have to take a plastic bag, it so much the better. I just place them back in the car when I am finished and they’re ready to go for the next time (the question of laundering–or wiping the insides of the plastic-y ones, is best saved for a different discussion).

And then there is recycling. Of course, the optimal goal is to have as little trash or recycling as possible. I am in awe of those families whose yearly trash fills a shoebox. I am not there–or anywhere close–yet. Still, our trash goes out just once a month (in winter months–in summer we roll the bin down more frequently just so it doesn’t become more fragrant).

We do have more recycling than trash. Our bin is full every two weeks without fail. I like to think that that is because we make a concerted effort to recycle every single thing we can–and that’s partly it. The other part is that we still get too many paper newspapers (I can’t convince The Spoiler to go digital) and too much junk mail, sadly.

One Monday, I will talk about the many ways the garden is improved from that original Earth Day in the 70s!

 

Wordless Wednesday–Real Plants Instead of Plastic

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Less than a week ago I had photos from our local mall of the most dreadful plastic plants.

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These are from an atrium of a building in West Hartford center. They never see a hint of natural light–and barely get any artificial light either. I had to touch them to believe they were real.

And most of these are plants that clean the air as well. Beautiful job!