Spring’s Trying

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Despite the snow a few days ago–and despite the fact that it can snow here for another 6 weeks or so–spring is doing its best to cheer us up.

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The rose foliage is fairly far along for this time of year. Traditional planting for bare root roses–and pruning of traditional types–would be about the first week of April.

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This is a crabapple leafing out. All the fruit from last season hasn’t even been consumed by returning migratory birds yet.

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This is the bud of a dwarf Korean lilac. This usually blooms for me at the end of May. It seems as if it will be earlier this year.

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Finally this is my weeping cherry. It normally blooms before the crabapple. This year, who knows? It is always gorgeous when it does bloom.

Spring clearly is trying to help keep our spirits up!

Managing a Woodland for Wildlife

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I’ve talked before about how a small portion of my property is wooded. It’s between 1/8-1/4 of an acre so very small–but in the heavily developed suburbs, that is the size of a building lot–and indeed, it is part of a second lot that we own.

Because it is wooded, we try to leave it in as natural state as possible. That means if a tree dies, and it’s not near enough to endanger our neighbor’s home, it stays.

What does this accomplish? Several nice things. Many birds nest in dead trees, which can be difficult to find, particularly in the suburbs. I have an abundance of woodpeckers on my property because I manage it in this way and woodpeckers are one of the birds that nest in dead trees.

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It also brings insects that digest such materials–and keeps them where they belong, in the woods and not in our home.

One drawback is that I am constantly scouting for invasives. I had just about gotten rid of garlic mustard out of here–after a decade of hand pulling–and I now see it’s in all my neighbors yards so it will be back here shortly.

Oriental Bittersweet is a constant issue. I try to find the seedlings when they are small. If all else fails, I cut the vines before they fruit–but of course, I will have twice as many vines the following year. At least, without the birds eating the berries, I won’t have multitudes more and I won’t have spread it to my neighbors.

But the fact that I do have a place for birds and wildlife is important to me. It makes the work worth it.

Ugliness is in the Eyes of the Beholder

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This is a juniper. At least the evergreen on the right is–on the left is a weeping Norway spruce. But for the purposes of this post, I am talking about the juniper.

When this garden was put in back in 1993 (before I married the house and gardens, as I say), the juniper was one of those crazy ornamental things with 5 or 6 pom-poms at the end of branches.

Time, heavy wet snows, ice storms and other things have caused it to revert to its natural shape. Several times the Spoiler and I have discussed removing it. And always, just about the time when we decided it needed to go, something would happen like a neighbor who planted their swingset on our property line. It’s amazing how much this big shrub blocks.

The final “it stays, and as it is,” decision came one February as I looked out my second story den window in a snowstorm. I pretty much overlook this garden from my den.

In this juniper, in the snow, I counted 14 American robins–and there could have been more. They were feasting on the berries.

So that was all I needed to see. The shrub stays–and of course the more shrub there is, the more berries there are.

Bring on the robins!

Persistent Fruit?

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Back when I worked in retail gardening, there were certain plants that everyone wanted–until they understood what was required for fruiting. Hollies (the genus ilex) was one of these. Everyone wanted the red berrying hollies.

No one wanted to plant a male plant (in other words, one without berries) so that they could get the red berries. If you knew how many times I answered the question about “but my neighbor has a holly. Can’t I just use theirs for the male?”

So we sold far fewer hollies than we should because they are lovely, deer resistant native plants for New England and they have persistent fruit (meaning their berries stay on the shrub and don’t fall off and make a mess) until they ripen after the winter. That’s why the birds harvest them in the spring and why they’re available if you choose to cut them for winter decorations.

Since my retail gardening days, hollies have come a long way as well. Breeders are making smaller shrubs and more heavily berrying shrubs. You still need plants of both sexes for most kinds of hollies to get berries–but now at least, the sizes of the shrubs are a bit more manageable for home gardens!

Another small tree that was a near impossible sell was the crab apple. Crab apples have come a long way and they too have persistent fruit. But many folks remember the older variety that dropped messy “apples” and so won’t even consider them.

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Crabapples are another fruit that remains on the tree throughout the winter and is available for returning migratory birds in early spring so it’s a valuable resource.

Take a little time to learn about our new and improved plants the next time you are shopping for a small tree or evergreen shrub. You might be pleasantly surprised.

More Travel

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Although there are just a few grasses visible in this photo, what I was really taking was the sculpture inside the glass. It’s called End of the Trail and it’s by James Earle Fraser. It’s a heartbreaking work–even through the glass in my bad, shadowy photograph the dejection of the figure and horse are visible.

To me, that sums up much of the history of Oklahoma. While it is a thriving place to do business now, (as they repeatedly insist in commercials, the airport and elsewhere), the history is still here of course.

So I chose to walk in the gardens of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum while my cousins toured the exhibits.

I didn’t go too far–there are proper gardens and a burial site for former rodeo horses. But some sort of construction seemed to be occurring and I didn’t want to clamber over too many cables.

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I did see some creeping phlox just beginning to bloom, which was a nice treat.

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The museum has 7 Frederic Remingtons. This is an enlarged version of one called Coming Through the Rye.

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Interestingly enough, these palm trees didn’t seem to belong–and yet they appeared in a few places in the garden.

My other favorite thing in this museum is the vast murals of the west.

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There are 5 of them but this one of Yellowstone is my favorite. I could stand in front of it for hours.

My sister says they give the bar exam in this room (hence the desk for the proctors in front). I surely never could have concentrated in a room like this!

Winter Wonderland

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About a week ago, we awoke to quite a little mess. The forecast was for 3-6 inches of snow, followed by sleet, freezing rain and maybe a little rain. Sadly they were very mistaken. Sleet and freezing rain fell for 12 plus hours. We were quite lucky not to lose power.

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So when the sun came out the following day, it made for some fairly spectacular photos.

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Unfortunately, it also made for some fairly treacherous conditions. I chipped at the ice on my driveway for 3 hours and managed to clean up just a 5 square foot patch. That’s when I realized that I wasn’t going anywhere until the ice melted–maybe 5 days from now.

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I went inside and cancelled all my appointments.

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Luckily a warmup is coming just before Christmas so I can get out and buy dinner. By then, my cupboards will be a little bare.

A Digression for a Really Cool Tree

I know I said that it would be all house plants all the time henceforth, but something happened this past weekend that only happens once a year and I think it’s cool enough to post about.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t get the “before” photo, but on Saturday morning, when I walked the dog, this tree was in full leaf.

On Sunday when I walked her, it was completely bare.

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Even prettier, the ground is covered in this puddle of gold leaves. The tree literally defoliated overnight. And it does this every year. I’ve been watching for this because I know that it happens. It usually happens right around this date–November 15th.

This year it was slightly earlier–overnight November 9th. I can only think it’s because we are having such unreasonably chilly weather. It was 22 degrees on Saturday November 8th for a low–so that probably caused the early leaf drop.

What tree does this? It’s the gingko biloba. And yes, this is a female tree, so it makes fruits. I have heard all sorts of things about how one should only plant male trees because the females are incredibly stinky but as someone who has walked dogs around and under this trees for 25 years, I’ve never noticed an unpleasant odor–even when the fruits are all over the ground and crushed. Supposedly it is the butyric acid in the rotting, crushed fruit that makes these trees smell.

I can’t say that I have ever noticed that–but I can say that the fruit is uncommonly attractive to schnauzers. Most of mine have eaten it with no trouble. The current one loves the fruit as well but it doesn’t agree with her. Must be that pesky acid. And yes, I recognize that it is NOT a recommended dog treat.

So I try to give the tree a wide berth and admire it from across the street with this particular dog–but I do admire the tree.