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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pansies in February

I wanted a chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting. Or perhaps sea salt caramel frosting.

I'd been wanting one for days, thinking about it off and on whenever I either drove by a cupcake shop or was breathing.  Just one cupcake. It would be a treat. One.

Then I saw on Facebook that a local garden center had pansies for sale. On February 17th. This is unusual enough for our gardening zone that I took notice.

After all, if there are pansies available, I must have them.  But never before have I looked for them before March. In March, I used to cruise by garden centers looking for signs of life, for a few pansies out front. I wanted to always be the first gardener to have a container or two of them planted up in the spring.  I still do.

I'm "wired" to get the pansies in March, not February. But I can be re-wired. I can adapt.

When I saw that the local garden center had pansies, I contacted the local greenhouse where I usually buy all my annuals to find out how their pansies and violas were coming along.  "They look great. We just sold 10 flats to a local garden center."

The plot thickens. The garden center had them because the local greenhouse had some.

Well, after some back and forth online chatting with the greenhouse owner and a quick check of the long-range weather forecast to be sure we weren't being totally fooled by Mother Nature's gift of warmer-than-usual temps in February, I hopped in my SUV and went to the greenhouse.

When I pulled up, they were sitting out front on a break. Laughing. Enjoying the sunshine. Waiting for me to pull up.

After all, traditions. As much as it is my tradition to be the first one to plant pansies in the spring, I think it is their tradition to have me be the first customer to buy pansies in the spring.

We went back and checked out the pansies and violas.  Of course, the garden center people bought the flats with most of the flowers, but I had my pick of all the rest.  I picked 'Candy Mix' and bought two flats of them to take home. Two flats is what I call "a good start".

I've already planted them up. Two long boxes on the porch, one window box under the front window, one big container by the lamp post and one smaller container that probably should be moved because it is in a shady spot by the front door.

In another week or so, I'll go back and get some violas to put with them.

In the meantime, I can think again about getting that chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting, or perhaps sea salt caramel frosting,  at least until the violas are ready to plant.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - February 2017

Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for February 2017.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana the mild winter continues. We speak of it in hushed tones–the warmer temperatures, the lack of snow, the sunshine–as though saying anything about it out loud will cause the snow, ice, and sub freezing temperatures to return abrubtly.

So, let me whisper to you about the blooms in my garden today.

The garden was bathed in full sun when I walked about and took pictures of the blooms. I wore a winter coat but I would have been comfortable in a heavy sweater.

There are crocuses in bloom, of course. I've planted so many over the years. Some disappear, some return.

There are still a few gold crocuses nestled in a bed of sedum under a tree in front.  I generally don't plant gold crocuses in the lawn, lest someone mistake them from afar for dandelions.

Instead, I fill the lawn with white, purple, and lilac colored crocuses.
They are up all over the place. I walk from one group to the next admiring them, remembering them, and marveling at their resilience in the face of winter weather.

The first to come up are those that tend toward the blue side of the purple spectrum, along with the occasional white crocus.

A few days later, these crocuses which tend more toward the pink side of the purple spectrum pop up.

I plan to plant more crocuses, specifically C. tommasinianus, in the lawn  in the fall, to increase the amount in bloom and stay ahead of the squirrels who like to dig them up.

These crocuses are not alone in the garden.

The witchhazel, Hamamelis vernalis, is in full bloom as well.
It has a lovely scent but you have to get right up to the blooms to smell it.

Nearby, the Christmas Rose, Helleborus niger, is also blooming.
It's like a bit of Christmas decoration that I never got around to putting away last month.

What else is blooming?

The snowdrops, of course.
I do like them but they are tiny and I don't have enough of them. They come up in singles and doubles here and there but would be much nicer in drifts, don't you think? I'll add a few dozen to my next bulb order which I'll place as soon as the bulb vendors start taking them.

I may also add another favorite to my order, Iris reticulata.

Yes, the first Iris, Iris reticulata, just opened up in time for me to share it on bloom day.
I'm hoping soon it will be joined by the hundreds of other reticulated irises I've planted over the years, mostly in the front garden.

What's blooming in your garden on this lovely February day? Please join us for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and show us.

It is easy to participate and all are welcome. Just post on your blog around the 15th of the month about the blooms in your garden, then leave a link in the Mr. Linky widget below and add a comment to tell us what you've got to show us. As your hostess, I intend to visit each and every one of your gardens, via your blog posts, in the next few days.

And remember always and every year since the first post in February 2007, “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year.” ~ Elizabeth Lawrence

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Garden Fairies discuss sunny and 67º in February

Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we have not posted for awhile, which as you know, is not our fault.

Carol hogs the computer. She doesn't like us to post too often because she said, "How am I going to be taken seriously as a garden writer and disseminator of great gardening wisdom if I let garden fairies post on my blog?"

As if!

We have a thing or two to explain to Carol about the wisdom we provide to her garden knowledge. Or is that whimsy? Two words, both start with W. Hmmm. Something for us to ponder. As if we had the time.

We do not have the time. We had quite a day yesterday in the garden. Here it is not even Valentine's Day and it was 67ºF and sunny in the garden yesterday.  We garden fairies decided to take full of advantage of it and open up every single crocus bud that was showing in the lawn.

And there were a lot of them. We got them all open and waited for Carol to come out.
And waited.

And waited.

"Waited" is another one of those W words like "winter".  We are garden fairies, we notice stuff like that.

Anyway, we waited.  Honoria Hellebore was hopeful that Carol would come out and cut back some of the old hellebore foliage so she could show off the blooms without the old foliage.
Honoria Hellebore is still hopeful and still waiting.

It was quite the party in the garden especially since Carol wasn't around to  keep us in check. We did as we pleased.  And you know if you let garden fairies do as they please in a garden... well, let's just say there are going to be some surprises for Carol in this year's gardens.

No, no.  We aren't going to tell what those surprises are just yet. Let time tell its tales, we say.

Anyway, at first we thought Carol might be inside watching more episodes of "Poirot" on Netflix. By the way, she watched an episode called "Hallowe'en" the other day and was indignant that the gardener was involved in the murders and they actually buried one of the murder victims in the garden. Tsk, tsk. We were indignant that she might be watching "Poirot" instead of tending to the garden.

Well, finally Carol came out rather late in the afternoon and walked around and took some pictures, then went right back inside and left again.  We garden fairies were indignant at that so we sent some scouts inside and together with the houseplant fairies, we figured out Carol went to a garden program all day. And she bought books and got some ideas.

We are garden fairies. All ideas must be run through us before being planted in the garden. After all, as readers can plainly see, without us garden fairies, nothing would have gotten done in the garden yesterday. But we did quite a bit done and look forward to Carol discovering just exactly what we did, as we discover more about her ideas.

Submitted by:
Violet Greenpea Maydreams, Chief Scribe and Head Scout at May Dreams Gardens

Friday, February 10, 2017

Dirty Knees and All is Well

A few days ago, the crocuses were covered with about an inch of snow and winter was decidedly present in the garden.

Today, the snow has mostly melted except in the coldest parts of the garden and the crocuses are coming up faster than I can count them.

Count them?  I did attempt a count last year, early on, and quit at about 300. I know I've planted well more than that–perhaps 3,000 over the last several years–so I expect to see crocuses popping up for several more weeks.

Time to crack on with the early spring chores in the garden, don't you think?

I ventured out today when the temperature reached 47ºF  and began cutting back the switchgrasses, asters, and daisies, amongst several other perennials I left standing last fall. There isn't anything magical about that temperature by the way. It's just the temperature I noticed when I saw the sunshine and felt that old familiar pull from the garden, heard that song I've heard so often before. "Come out to the garden, Carol."

I almost convinced myself that I wouldn't get that dirty in the garden and therefore didn't really need to put on my old jeans.

Fortunuately, I came to my senses and changed into an old pair of jeans. No restrictions now! I knelt down and commenced to cutting back what was left standing in the garden.

Did you know that after winter, most of those old stems will just break off with a little twist? It's not too tidy but it does speed things up to just snap them off. I do that, and then go back and give them a nice trim so there aren't jagged ends sticking up all over.  Then later, before the little shoots come up, I'll rake up the worst of the debris left behind.

This year, I think I'll also have time to add some more mulch to the perennial borders, mulch that is greatly needed.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself out in the garden. I got my knees dirty and thought once again how all is well in the world if you have a garden and you can kneel down and get your knees dirty, and then get back up again.

This winter isn't quite over yet, but the signs of spring are showing up, bloom by bloom, dirty knee by dirty knee.  I'm looking forward to all the new growing season has to offer and hope, as I always do, that this will be my best year yet in the garden.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Delights of the winter garden

I am delighted to see several crocuses blooming in the lawn in the first days of February, our last full month of winter.

I checked my garden journal, which I will admit contains mostly sporadic notes these days, and discovered that the crocuses have been in bloom this time of the year for the last several years.

It was a good reminder to me of the difference between being surprised because something unexpected happened and being delighted because something nice happened as expected.

Like crocuses blooming in the lawn in early February.

The crocuses are the earliest blooms in my garden this year, beating out by a day or two one lone snowdrop.

Where are the other snowdrops, I wonder.  I know I've planted more than one so I'll expect more in the days to come.

I noticed the witchhazel is blooming now, too.
This is just the species Hamamelis vernalis. No specific variety. It has a sweet scent which doesn't exactly waft across the garden. I had to walk up to it and sniff the blooms to notice it.

But that is the garden in late winter. Nothing is going to smack you down with a big surprise. Blooms must be sought out and when found will make you smile with delight.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

The Man Who Grew Vegetable Marrows

It would make a great Jeopardy game show clue.

"The Man Who Grew Vegetable Marrows".

The answer: "Who is Hercule Poirot?"

We might also accept the answer, "What is the title of Chapter 3 of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie?"

I've been watching "Poirot" on Netflix for several weeks and finally in season 7, episode 1, in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd,  the famous Belgian detective from countless Agatha Christie mysteries had just retired to a village called King's Abbott and taken up gardening.

I knew he would take up garden eventually. How could he not?

His neighbor finally meets him in Chapter 3 in the book...

"I saw the chance to escape into the garden. I am rather fond of gardening. I was busily exterminating dandelion roots when a shout of warning sounded from close by and a heavy body whizzed by my ears and fell at my feet with a repellent squelch. It was a vegetable marrow!

I looked up angrily. Over the wall, to my left, there appeared a face. An egg-shaped head, partially covered with suspiciously black hair, two immense moustaches, and a pair of watchful eyes. It was our mysterious neighbour, Mr Poirot.

He broke at once into fluent apologies.

'I demand of you a thousand pardons, monsieur. I am without defence. For some months now I cultivate the marrows. This morning suddenly I enrage myself with these marrows. I send them to promenade themselves - alas! not only mentally but physically. I seize the biggest. I hurl him over the wall. Monsieur, I am ashamed. I prostrate myself.'

Before such profuse apologies, my anger was forced to melt. After all, the wretched vegetable hadn't hit me. But I sincerely hoped that throwing large vegetables over walls was not our new friend's hobby. Such a habit could hardly endear him to us as a neighbour."

In the "Poirot" episode, this particular scene is slightly modified. In the adaption for television, Poirot goes on to express his frustration that the marrows he is growing don't grow all that big in spite of his efforts to provide water and fertilizer, remove all weeds (he removes them with tweezers he says) and eliminate all but one flower so all the energy goes to one marrow.

Yet still they don't don't grow as big as he'd like.  And that is his frustration

Yes, I also had to look up marrow. Marrows are mature zucchini squash. But in this episode, they use what looks like watermelon for the marrows. Poirot simply does not understand why his marrows don't grow larger, given the great care he takes in growing them. He gets so frustrated that he chucks one over the garden wall.

Dr. Hortfreud took great interest in this scene, as did I.  She thinks many gardeners are frustrated in their gardens, frustrated enough to throw vegetables, no doubt. She said that if she, who shares her fictionality with Poirot, were to talk to him, she would tell him that the results he is getting have nothing to do with his methods, though weeding with tweezers seems a bit extreme. She would calmly explain to him that he probably isn't growing the right variety of marrows. He needs a variety that grows bigger.

After all, the variety of a vegetable or a flower can make all the difference between success and failure, between feeling satisfied and feeling frustrated. A good lesson to consider on a winter's day, while watching a Belgian detective who has solved so many murder mysteries, yet doesn't seem to know that variety matters.

Well, as I said, if Dr. Hortfreud could just meet up with Mr. Poirot once in his garden, she could set him straight and help him choose the right varieties to grow big marrows.