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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Garden fairies discuss the end of winter

Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we have decided to post on this blog to talk about the weather and in particular the end of winter.

Is winter ever going to end?  We ask ourselves this over and over. Just a few weeks ago it seemed like the question was if winter was ever going to get started because it really wasn't all that bad and it hadn't snowed that much.

Then all of a sudden. Wham!  Winter must have heard us talking about how wimpy it was and decided to show us.  Now we have colder than normal temperatures and snow on the ground and tomorrow, which by our reck-o-lecting is the first day of March, we are supposed to get more snow and more cold.

We are garden fairies, and we do not like this one bit. We believe the first day of March ought to be when we are talking about the beginning of spring and not the end of winter.

Oh sure, there are signs of the beginning of spring. Carol saw snowdrops, well one snowdrop, on January 24th and that got her to wondering if spring was going to come along fast and furious before she was ready.

Ha!  We can see that didn't happen. Now we think Carol is worried that all this lingering winter-ness is going to impinge upon her spring-ness and in particular her fervent need, yes we wrote fervent need, to sow peas on St. Patrick's Day.  And if she has her way, she also likes to plant pots of pansies and violas about that time, too.

We garden fairies see her looking outside at the perennials in the garden that she left to cut back in the spring.  We know what she is thinking, what she is muttering.  She is thinking and muttering stuff like "will the ground be 40F on March 17th so I can sow peas?"  "Maybe I ought to hire someone to cut back these perennials, but they can't work in the snow and I want to do it?"  "Will the crocuses and glory of the snow really be up and blooming on Easter for the big egg hunt?"  "Will winter ever end?"

Of course winter will end. We are garden fairies and we have never seen winter not end.   Oh sure, we know there is always a first time, but we are garden fairies and we don't think this year will be the first time winter doesn't end.

Just wait.  In fact, we garden fairies predict that in a few months, Carol will be all whining around about how spring has gone by too quickly.

We are garden fairies, and that's how it will be here at May Dreams Gardens.

Submitted by
Violet Greenpea Maydreams, chief scribe and spring scout here at May Dreams Gardens

Sunday, February 22, 2015

I am the conflicted gardener

Just a picture of a wooded garden scene
I am the conflicted gardener.

On the one hand, I feel as though I should be buying plants for my garden that will reduce the amount of time, effort, and strength needed to maintain it.

To that end, I ordered two pawpaw trees to plant  where the big viburnums grew until two weeks ago when I had a crew cut them out.

The pawpaw tree is a native tree for me, and once established, it should give me years of enjoyment without too much care. Plus. if I'm lucky, I'll get some pawpaws to eat in early fall. The pawpaw trees will be like sentries on two corners of the vegetable garden and add to the other edible fruits - apples, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, honeyberries, grapes, and strawberries - I've already planted.

On the other hand, I feel as though there are some plants I still want to try to grow, even if they need a bit of extra attention, knowing that even if I give them that extra attention and we have a particularly cold winter, they could up and die on me anyway.

To that end,  I just ordered three cold hardy camellias, the hardiest I could find.  I will plant them this spring, baby them through the summer and fall and hope they survive the winter and give me a few blooms next spring.  They will anchor my Garden of Southern Follies and Delights and add to the crepe myrtle I planted last fall.

Two ends of the gardening spectrum.  Easy care to molly-coddling care. It's a conflict within me. Which should I choose?

When we encounter conflict, I think our natural tendency is to try to resolve the conflict quickly so we can live in peace once again.  Either do that, or retreat away from the conflict.  Me? I think I'll keep this conflict in my garden going for awhile.  After all,  if I stay somewhere in the middle, I'm sure to save some time in some areas of the garden and therefore have some time to spend on some interesting plants for other areas.

With that, I think I've resolved my conflict.  Or have I just reached a nice compromise?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

In one month...

In one month, give or take a day or two, I'll be out in the garden planting peas.

I know it doesn't seem possible that it will be warm enough to sow peas in a month, given today's high temp of around 7F and the snow that blankets the ground right now.

But it is always this way.

No one will believe me when I tell them in mid February I'll be out planting pea seeds in a month, right on St. Patrick's Day.

I believe me, of course, because I grew up with a father who gardened, who knew when to sow peas.

And so I know when to sow peas.

The secret is that the air temperature doesn't have to be all that warm.  It's all about the soil.

We just need the soil temperature to be above 40F.  And trust me, it will be above 40F in a month.

Another garden season is just over the horizon, just beyond this next cold front or maybe a couple more cold fronts. It's coming. I can feel it in my gardening soul.

In one month...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - February 2015

Welcome to Garden Bloggers's Bloom Day for February 2015.

If you have been posting faithfully for bloom day since the beginning, you are now starting your ninth year of bloom day posts.

Yes, that's right. If you've been playing along since the first post back in February 2007, you really do now have eight years of an online journal of blooms in your garden.  And you probably claimed you could never keep up a garden journal, didn't you?  Ha, you were wrong!

I tip my trowel to the many who have been so faithful and I welcome all those who have joined along the way.  Thank you for being a part of bloom day.

Here in my own USDA Hardiness Zone 6b garden, we had a brief warm up last weekend, but this weekend the cold has returned and  the wind is blowing. It seems almost foolish to be out in the garden looking for blooms.

I went outside anyway because sometimes it's nice to appear a little foolish.  For my efforts I was rewarded with just a tiny glimpse of the soon to open blooms of the witch hazel, Hamamelis vernalis.

They are almost ready to bloom but may take their time in all this cold.

When the witch hazel finally does bloom, it won't be the first bloom of the year in my garden.

I spotted the first snowdrop, Galantus sp., blooming way back on January 24th.

There are two other snowdrops now blooming to join that first bloom.

I feel a bit foolish showing just one snowdrop bloom, after looking at pictures of the swaths of snowdrops blooming in British gardens.  I am making a note now to order more snowdrops this spring for fall delivery, before the bulb companies are all sold out. I want my own mini swath of snowdrops.

Elsewhere in the garden, skeletons and shadows of last year's blooms are all around in disarray. I hope the next nice day is one when I'll have the time to cut them back.

Inside, the begonia I purchased last fall is blooming.

The begonia blooms are pretty but don't have the scent of the hyacinths and lily of the valley which I forced into bloom earlier this winter. I'm not including them in this bloom day post because they are past their prime and not picture worthy right now.

Perhaps in a few weeks I'll have some crocuses blooming indoors?
These little crocus sprouts are part of a grand experiment I started a few weeks ago.  I had some crocus corms chilling in the refrigerator and I was too lazy to pot them up properly, so I planted them around the bases of some of the amaryllis bulbs.  They've all sprouted, but will they bloom?

Only time will tell.

And that's what mid February is like here at May Dreams Gardens. How are your gardens doing in February? Join in for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and tell us all about your blooms or attempts to have some flowers in the middle of winter.

It's easy to participate.  Post on your blog about your blooms on the 15th of every month, then come back here and leave a comment to tell us what you've got blooming and put a link on the Mr. Linky widget so we can find you.

In the words of Elizabeth Lawrence, "We can have flowers nearly every month of the year".

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Requiem for Two Viburnums

Let us pause to remember the snowball bush, Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile’, for its years of service in my garden.

It provided shelter for birds and blooms for me.  It anchored one corner of the vegetable garden, blocking the view of the compost piles.

It hid more than one weed under its branches, and no doubt a fair number of rabbits sought refuge under its wide boughs.

It taught me to love large shrubs and reminded me always of my grandmothers, who had big snowball bushes in their gardens.

It just grew and flowered and sat in the corner mind its own business.

Then last summer it caught fire blight from two nearby dwarf apple trees. I was shocked. I didn't know Viburnums were susceptible to fire blight. But they are, and there seemed to be quite a few branches infected on the snowball bush.

Today, a tree removal crew came and removed the snowball bush and another viburnum, the way faring viburnum, Viburnum lantana, which anchored the other corner of the vegetable garden.  It, too, was large and past its prime.

The drought two summers ago was not kind to it, and many of its branches had died back.

I will miss them both.

But I won't let the openings they created go unplanted.

I have plans...

Friday, February 06, 2015

The little (okay, big) gardener inside of me

Snowdrop in the snow, as it should be.
Are you ready?

I looked at the weather forecast for tomorrow, a Saturday, and noted the high temperature will be 50F and there is no chance of rain.

The little (okay, big) gardener inside of me, who is always thinking about plants, and soil, and flowers, and gardens, and gardening books, etc. would like to go out and play in the garden.

And by "play", the little (okay, big) gardener inside of me means cut back some of the perennials left standing last fall, check for plants that have heaved out of the soil and push them back in, and otherwise occupy myself with pruners in the garden.

But part of me, the "isn't it nice not to have a garden nagging at me" part of me is thinking, "What? Winter is over already? I'm not ready. I haven't ordered my seeds. I haven't taken enough naps, spent near enough time in front of a fireplace reading. This winter is going too fast."

I'll let the little (okay, big) gardener inside of me work it out with the "isn't it nice not to have a garden nagging at me" part of me as to what I'll do on Saturday.

In the end, I think both will get part of what they want. After all, there is a little (okay, big) gardener inside of me and she will not be kept indoors easily if it truly is going to be 50F and sunny on a Saturday.

She'll tell the "isn't it nice not to have a garden nagging at me" part of me that winter is far from over. This warm day is just an intermission of sorts and it will do all of me some good to go outside and exercise a few of my gardening muscles, even for an hour or so.  After all, there will be many more winter days to spending resting and reading before spring arrives.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Five things your garden wants you to do this winter

Hyacinths are blooming in the sun room.
Winter-time and what's a gardener to do?

Well, there's a lot a gardener can do, as it turns out.

Here are five things your garden wants you to do this winter.

Visit it.  Yes, go out into the garden, even if it is under snow, and see what's going on.  Take some paper and a pencil with you and make some notes. What needs to be cut back? Where are the winter weeds taking hold?  Are there broken branches you should at least cut back enough so they don't cause more damage?

Get estimates.  If there are big changes to make in the garden or the garden just seems to need more than you are able to give it, call now for estimates and to get on someone's schedule so when spring arrives, and you know it will, you'll be first on their list.

Order seeds.  Depending on where you live, you may be just a few weeks away from starting seeds indoors for some types of vegetables, especially tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.  I won't start any seeds here until early-mid March but I should be ordering seeds now.

Check your houseplants.  Look over your houseplants to make sure no little critters, like red spider mites, mealybugs, or fruit flies, have taken up residence. They can hitchhike in on new plants you may have purchased on a whim during the dark days of winter.  Trim up the houseplants a bit if the look scraggly and make sure they are getting adequate water and light.  Around the time you start seeds indoors, give the houseplants a nice dose of fertilizer to prepare them for spring.

Go to a garden show.  Every city of any size has some kind of flower or garden show in the wintertime or early spring. Go to it, even if you think it doesn't change from year to year. You'll enjoy the scents of flowers and dirt, you'll like seeing blooms and green leaves.  You will leave with a longing for spring, and that's always good for your garden.

And a bonus sixth thing you can do for your garden. Read. Read good gardening books and good articles about gardening.  Search the web for a new idea of two and then commit to trying it in your garden this spring.

Your garden will thank you for doing these things and when you've done these things, you'll be ready for your garden on the first spring-like day of late winter!

Oh, and one more thing you could do. Feed the birds. Yes, a squirrel or two might also visit your feeder but the birds will appreciate having another source of food on those colder than cold winter days. And just watch, you'll be surprised at the variety of birds who will visit your feeder.