Bittersweet

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I am in Oklahoma this week on a bittersweet errand. Part of it is quite joyful. I am happy to be able to celebrate my Mom’s 90 birthday.

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But for the third time in numerous years, my sister and I are helping her plan a move. She is moving from her apartment, down the hall to assisted living. At least she is able to do that and doesn’t need to leave the lovely property where she’s lived for the 7 years.

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We had a little party here for her this past weekend. Some cousins drove out from the East Coast. More are flying in this week. Turning 90 in my family is very special (I am guessing it would be in most families).

So in addition to helping Mom, we took the cousins to a few Oklahoma sights. The first 2 above are from the Land Run Memorial, commissioned for the Oklahoma Centennial in 2007.

Despite Oklahoma’s sad history, the sculptures themselves are amazing pieces of art. The details rendered in the bronze are stunning.

The absence of plants are also notable. There is, of course, the grasses (and nothing was identified) presumably designed to simulate the prairie.

There was the prickly pear cactus shown in my top photo of the leaping jack rabbit.

And there was red aloe (that I grow in containers in Connecticut) but which is clearly hardy here.

On Friday I will show photos from my other “tourist” trip (a museum I have been to many times but my cousins had not, so they took the docent tour and I went outside to see what was blooming).

Crisis or Opportunity?

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You probably remember this photo from a Wordless Wednesday a couple of weeks ago. A plant like this is sort of easy to manage when you are around to water. When you are going to be traveling for a week or more, it’s difficult to keep any bonsai watered–particularly one that’s glued into the pot and with no drainage at the bottom. That’s a recipe for disaster for almost any plant!

I am fairly adamant about not repotting anything this time of year and that goes for these disasters too. I think repotting in winter causes more harm than good.

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That being said, I will have to see if these 2 plants can survive my travel without repotting. The serissa is known for being much thirstier than the fig. I have already moved it once because it was drying too quickly.

And on a different note, there’s no question that this serissa is not a “bonsai.” At best, it might generously be called a pre-bonsai.

Again, I haven’t done a thing with it. No point in training it if it won’t survive my trip out of town. Been there, done that. Besides, I was kind of hoping to get a nice bloom from it before I chopped it back. We’ll see.

Next time you see these plants, they’ll look more like bonsai–if they survived my absence.

Spring’s Progress

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On Friday these little bulbs were just green shoots on top of a stereo. You may remember that this is where I had a pink bulb and a white one in full color.

I also mentioned that I had brought 2 more up from the basement that had been started just a month ago.

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Here they are. They are already showing evidence of blooming in 4 weeks time. You may wonder how this can be, when the original bulbs took 8-9 weeks.

Two reasons. First these bulbs, although they weren’t planted, have been in the same cool spot as the others so they have been chilled for the same amount of time.

Next, we are closer to spring (even though spring comes in July in my climate–we’re still closer now than we were in November). And all plants, even bulbs, can tell that. So once they are given a signal to wake up, they do so more quickly than they do in November.

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My “white” amaryllis continues to be interesting. It’s probably more interesting than a plain white one would have been. So that turned into a gift, I suppose.

Next week I will be out of state. It will be interesting to see what the flowers of the south are doing.

A Taste of Spring

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Remember these?

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Here they are, in their full glory.

(Please disregard the background. It’s a Civil War artifact that belongs to the Spoiler. It was his family’s).

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And here are the next two, coming along right behind them. Spring bulbs in the dead of winter require a little planning. These were started Thanksgiving weekend (the last weekend of November for my non-United States readers).

Once I saw the above 2 coming along so nicely (the first photo), I started 2 more–roughly the last weekend in December as I recall. And as soon as these two bloomers finish up, I will start 2 more (I only have 6 forcing vases, so I kind of stagger the starting 2 at a time).

But this is the perfect time for all of these to start blooming. It’s when it’s the coldest here and when we are likely to have the most snow. It’s a full month before any of the flower shows start. It doesn’t get any better than this for me.

Oh, and did I mention hyacinths are fragrant? Ah, spring!

Gardening in Winter

I talk all the time about how I garden in the “frozen north.” This year, it has alternated between being frozen and being something else. We have had stretches of milder days (40s and 50s when it should have been in the 30s) and then downright unreasonably warm days in the upper 60s and low 70s.

By the time this is posted, we should be back to something approximating “normal” for us or even below normal–20s or low 30s and blustery winds. That’s certainly not the sort of weather that makes one say, “Gosh, I want to get outside and do some gardening!”

But on the warmer days, there are things that can be done if the ground underneath is still frozen and you don’t risk compacting wet soil by walking on it.

First, you can prune small dormant trees. Any large-scale pruning is best left to the arborists of course. But removing dead twigs from a Japanese maple, for example, is a great thing to do, and will stimulate growth in the spring.

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It’s easy to tell the dead from the living twigs. The dead twigs are usually ashy gray while the living twigs are “tree colored” for lack of a better description. On my red Japanese maples, they are reddish and on my green Japanese maples, they are greenish.

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With small hand pruners, remove the dead twigs neatly back to the living branch. It’s that simple.

Other easy chores are to just walk around and collect small branches that have accumulated (already) during the windy days. You can stack them somewhere for a small animal burrow, or tie them into bundles for your town to remove, if your town does that.

Or you can take a walk and enjoy the lovely weather and get ideas from other people’s gardens, when you can see the structure more clearly.

Or you can just enjoy taking a walk, without spring pollen (if that irritates you!)

While winter warmth can be troubling, it’s also a gift and a blessing in many ways. I always try to use those warm days to my advantage–there are never enough of them!