Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cry Me a River

Pouring rain now for two days, almost 3 inches already and still coming down.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Seed sowing

Another very cold day, below freezing overnight, and now in the low 40s but feeling colder.  We got so spoiled in mid March, thinking the potted plants should go out, and digging in the ground to make the new bed for the stewartia at the top of the driveway.  I wanted to dig out the bed for the magnolia and other plants too, while it is still cool, but this is too cold!

I sowed seeds today, a good 6 weeks before last frost.  Sowed two flats:

Nasturtium Empress of India, a deep red.
Zinnias Button Box Mixture, they only grow to 10 inches high.

Later, in three weeks (by April 20), I'll sow a flat of mixed color nasturtiums, Alaska Mixed:

Also, in three weeks a flat of Zinnias Cut and Come Again Mixture, which get to 2 feet high:

That way I should have multi seasons of zinnia and nasturtium flowers.  This is a lot of warm (red and orange and yellow) in the garden.  The nasturtiums will go under the doublefile viburnum where the pincushion flowers are now (which I don't like, they're coming out.)  The zinnias can go anywhere in the middle of the garden.

I have more zinnia seeds, but I think I'll keep those over for another year, I have two sizes to complement each other: Zinnia State Fair Mixed, which will get to be 3 feet tall, and Zinnia Lilliput Finest Mixed, growing to 18 inches high

I also have cosmos seeds to sow, but maybe I'll just direct sow those in the ground in early May, out in the meadow.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Okame cherry

Cold today, really cold, it was in the lower 40s, but felt much chillier.

The Okame cherry tree is in bloom. It's the earliest of all the flowering cherries to bloom, and here it is on March 27!  Even before the forsythia, which is just yellowing up now, but not really in full bloom yet.
Can't wait for this to fill out in a few years.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Between the Rain Storms

More rain is on the way, but today was nice, a little cloudy, a little cool in the 50s, but pleasant outside.

I cut the mulch area around the new Katsura and the pear tree to be a little wider and neater, and split a 1 cu. foot bag of compost on them.  Then I did the same with one of the willows (still need to do the other two).  The willow took a full bag of compost (1 cu. ft.)

I added two cu. feet of compost to the front walk bed.  Boy does that "neaten" it up.. looks so nice now.  Tulips and onions are poking up.

Spent the better part of the morning watching Olmstead's cottonwood being dismantled and taken down.  It's completely gone now.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Too Windy Today for Chores

The rain finally stopped after 3 days of cold gloom (1.55 inches).  Sun came out but it was windy, too gusty to do much in the yard.
I did pick up bags of compost at Bosco's.  They no longer have the 2 cu. feet bags, just a 1 cu. ft. size.  I got 12 bags, so that's 12 cu. feet (.4444 of a cubic yard)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rethinking the porch

Cold, gloomy and rainy today.  We got 1.35 inches overnight.

I decided to re-do the porch.  No one ever sat on the love seat, and the place has always been too crowded.  So we took it out, and I put the propagation plant stand in that spot.
This will give me space for my cuttings without having to worry about them in the sun and rain... there really was no protected spot for them outside, and the plastic zipped cover that went over this shelf stand was a pain to manipulate whenever it rained.

Imagine this nook all decked out in plants and foliage and blooms... this is going to be my "conservatory" now.  No one besides me ever used the porch, and it's too small for entertaining... so I'm turning it inward as a private retreat, not a summer porch looking out over the yard!  We'll see how this works.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rain today

Gloomy, rainy, in the low 50s.  A let down after the record breaking warmth and taste of spring we've had over the last three days.  But the rain will water in the Preen I spread about.

I stopped by Moscarillos and Gledhill, and they are open, but have nothing out yet. Absolutely no woody plants, and only pansies in containers.

I bought two packets of nasturtium seeds, I'll spread nasturtiums under the doublefile viburnum this year.  Low growing, colorful.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

First Day of Spring

Very mild again today, hazy sunshine, in the 60s.

I finished spreading the Preen in all the gardens.  Rain is expected tomorrow, so that will water it all in.  Potted up some pansies:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Record temps

In the 70s in the sun again today, and yesterday broke all temperature records by a mile at 73 degrees!

Spent a little while on the back hill pulling bittersweet off the roadside trees by the road cut, but then Jim and I went for a drive on such a nice day.

I put the rest of the Preen on the gardens, but need more to finish the Birch Garden and around on the east side.  Rain coming Sunday night will water it in.

Planted both female kiwi vines on the east side of the deck.  Just not sure about this.  How do they climb?  Do they have tendrils or root hairs?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Earliest Bulbs

Another spectacular day, the last day of winter.  70s in the sun again, light breeze.

I moved the iris reticulata to the front walk where they can be seen close up.  In the Fall I will plant snowdrops (Galanthus) so the whole area under the spreading Crimson Queen maple will be late winter ephemeral bulbs.  Later the tree will spread over the area, and the new grasses (Hakonechloa Beni Kaze) will fill in at the edge.

I put Preen on this area and the rest of the front walk and watered it in.

I cleaned up the Meadow's Edge garden, cut back liriope and some other plants, including the Worcester's Gold caryopteris (it has good buds).

I put my cutting of Blue Chip miniature buddleia in the blue flowered pot.  We'll see how it does there.  I'm still not sure about eventual size, miniature being the operative word.  It says OK for containers, but the blue flowered pot is pretty small.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Feels like Spring

Another beautiful sunny day in the high 60s, and 70s in the sun.  A little breezy at times.  Good weather to continue cutting the sod for the new garden extension at the top of the driveway.

I finished cutting, although it needs tweaking for the shape.  Jim called Peter for a delivery of dirt, but we haven't heard from him.

I sprinkled Preen on the dry creek bed, watered it in, then put a few more bags of the small river stones down.

Transplanted a few tiny sedum Angelina sprouts; they're everywhere!

The iris reticulata is finally blooming. So tiny, not very impressive from even a few feet away, but so pretty close up:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day

It reached the low 70s today in the sun!  Sunny, mid 60s in the shade, no breeze, just a beautiful day.

I put the rosemary out under the birch, and planted the Little Henry iteas in the front walk.  It's a microclimate there, very warm and sunny this time of year so even though it's early, the newly planted shrubs should be fine.  I also moved the smaller-leaved kinnikinniks so they are away from the Massachusetts larger leaved ones (they were all supposed to be the same cultivar.)  Also divided some of the beautiful deep red sedums at the very front edge.

I started cutting the extension of the garden at the top of the driveway, where the new stewartia monadelpha will go.  Ground was moist, the day was so pleasant, it was not hard work, but I am a little achy and tired now.  More to do.  Jim called Peter (Bluestone) to order 6 yards of dirt.
Bad news: the kiwi vines I picked up at Broken Arrow are females.  I really wanted the male, which has more noticeable coloration (and even then, it can be iffy).  So I am going to plant the females on the east side of the deck to climb up the railing.  I mail ordered male 'Artic Beauty' from Whiteflower farm (along with 3 bunchberry plants) for the pots.  Sheeesh.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Heath is blooming

What a gorgeous sunny day after the nor'easter that brought almost 2 inches of rain (and wind) the past few days.  Today was in the high 50s and sunny.  Everything is soggy wet.

Look what's blooming: the heath (Erica darleyensis 'Ghost Hills').  It looks nice with the deep maroon sedum groundcover in front of it (must divide and get that to spread at the very edge of the walk.)

I cut back the all grasses today.  They are so natural looking, I love them, and they are easy care (no care) until this one chore in late winter, cutting them back.  They're messy and it's hard to do... and what to do with the dry stalks of grass?  There's a lot of volume of dry material to dispose of.

Also cut back the caryopteris all the way back.  Buds at the base are really very blue gray colored.

I cut the lower angled branch off the Oklahoma redbud.

Tried weaving the cut branches from the willows into the trellis (where the kiwi vine in pots will go).  It looked kind of nice, but I decided against it, I think it will get tangled up when the vines grow over the trellis.

The witch hazel Diane is definitely in very soggy (almost standing) water.  Everything is very wet out there right now, but that end of the garden drains so poorly.  I think I will take it out and move it to the new areas I'm cutting for the new stewartia and other plants on the west side.  Then what to put in the soggy spot behind the dry creek bed?  I'll try a cutting of the Nishiki Willow, and if it takes, I'll put a dappled willow there!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Stone steps

Random design ideas:
I'd like bluestone steps set into the rise of the front yard: one set from the driveway in front of the dogwood up to the front walk - S shaped.  The second mirroring that, coming from the walk at the light post, curving around the post and the planting bed to the right.

And re-do the concrete walk in bluestone, maybe add some gentle curves.

Some pictures, but think of these in bluestone.
This idea, only far fewer steps, maybe just a set of 6 or so.

Perhaps like this:

Or maybe this, but curving more around the dogwood bed and around the light post

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Broken Arrow

Cold, low 40s. rainy, stormy.  Got 1.3 inches of rain yesterday and today.  Wind.

Jim and I went to the Magic Witches of Winter talk at Broken Arrow.  The slide show / talk was ok, nothing I didn't already know.  But he did pass around cut branches from various hazels, and for the first time I smelled witch hazel fragrance.  Very perfumy!  Sweet, a little heady and cloying, but out in the open they would be delightful.

There were several examples of Hamamelis intermedia Diane.  Here's what it is supposed to look like:

Here's mine.  It definitely needs a green (conifer) or light (another hamamelis but yellow) background so we will see it from the kitchen window, so start thinking what to plant behind it.  And I guess I need to be patient.
Some tips:  prune off the tips of the branches down to the buds for fuller compact growth.  It needs very acid soil... try some elemental sulphur?

Here's Broken Arrow's own introduction, a Hamamelis mollis Sweet Sunshine.  Really nice, maybe put this behind H. Diane for the contrast of red and yellow (plus a green conifer)?:

Another note of interest: Broken Arrow has a mature Gingko Spring Grove growing in the circle by the house (where the toy railroad runs).  Check it out in leaf in summer!  It looks to be about 3 or 4 feet tall, with a solid looking trunk, lots of branches.

And finally:  I picked up my major new acquisitions!
  • Magnolia Elizabeth 
  • Hydrangea serrata Bluebird
  • Stewartia monadelpha
  • Cercis Silver Cloud
  • Two Iteas for the front walk (Sprich Little Henry)
  • Two Actinidia kolomiktas for the pots in front of the meters
There's some concern about the variegated redbud Silver Cloud.  Adam at the nursery says it really needs perfect conditions (well drained, but consistently moist, some shade).  Another customer said he had killed two already.  It might be too fussy or fragile for the center of the backyard right off the patio, where I want to put it (in full sun).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Weeding the Woods

Another day in the mid to high 50s, no breeze.  But not sunny, it's overcast today.

I spent several hours on the back hill pulling multiflora rose, lopping bitterweet and yanking poison ivy off the trees.  Hard work, and it seems like I've got everything I can see, then I turn around and there's another tree wrapped in woody vines.

The bittersweet is the most damaging, cutting deep ridges in tree trunks where it wraps itself.  The roses are the worst to handle, with their prickers and canes that stretch for yards.  The poison ivy is literally everywhere, the vines twist along the ground blanketing the floor of the woods under the leaves, only occasionally rising up a trunk.

It's such a job, weeding the woods.

While on the top of the bank, I was stabbed by a long sharp thorn... a barberry bush is up there, a large one!

This is the time of year for this effort.  Cool temps, the woods are open and I can see the offending vines.  They'll grow right back, and later in the season they'll take over, but once foliage leafs out, I can't get up there.  And when it gets hotter, it's too miserable.

I'm hoping once a year in early spring I can  do some damage and keep at least some of the rampant growth from starting up.  And maybe year after year of doing this will have a more lasting effect.  But I know despite getting everything I can see, freeing all the trees from choking growth, and ripping out what seems like acres of brush.... by summer the place will be overrun again.   Sigh.

I'll go back out there later, maybe in April, before it gets too grown and do more chopping.  But come May I'll have to give up.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sunny again

Another sunny, Spring-like day.  Temps in the high 50s, really warm and nice.

Repotted the aloe into one of the hypertufa bowls; it's shallower and bigger.  Used the cactus potting mix.  The root system was pretty small, and the heavy aloe leaves are making it tip over ... not enough roots to hold it upright!  But already it looks better in the bowl than in the small houseplant pot.
We put up the weather station today on the post where the old bluebird house was (on the east side).  Seems to be working!

I took out the Stella d'Oro daylilies in the front walk, they never did much there, and they were messy.  Gone.

Moved the nepeta to the Birch garden where the mint was.  It was awfully dry in the front walk strip when I dug them up, and they kind of got ripped out.  We'll see if they take in the Birch garden... it's only March and frosts (and snow) are still on the way.  Root systems were pretty extensive. 

Moved some sedum angelina sprigs from the Northern Exposure garden to the back edge of the front walk.  The angelina that's there now looks good all winter, and spreads beautifully, so I hope this will spread out along that back edge.

I cut back some of the lambs ear, need to do the rest.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Hardware cloth

Upper 50s today and sunny, but a little breezier.

Cut back the tiarella foliage, and the wispy clematis vine.

Jim finished mowing the back meadow at least up to the area in back of the spruce berm.  I pulled some poison ivy as it was easier to move around with the weeds mowed down.

He helped me fashion trunk protectors from hardware cloth to put around the rabbit gnawed buckeyes.  I thought it would be more moldable and better than the stiff green plastic fencing material I had been using.  But it was not!  Very hard to cut with tinsnips, very hard to mold, not very easy to put around the spreading low branches of the buckeyes.  Maybe it's easier to use around a straight trunk, but even then, it was hard to cut and handle.  A definite NO.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

First warm day

Low 50s today, lots of sunshine, just a little breeze.  Perfect day for doing all the late winter chores.  It actually felt like Spring.

Jim mowed the back meadow.  What a difference... it makes the yard look so different.
I cut back the foliage on everything in the birch garden: agastache, foxgloves, wandflower, cut down the butterfly bush, trimmed the coral bells.  AND I removed all of the mint!  Two great big clumps and runners, I took them out. (I'm sure I'll still have to battle runners and anything that resprouts from what roots are left.)

I'll replant the nepeta from the front walk in the place where the mint was.

What I also cut down:
The Albury St. Johnswort, the butterfly bush in Meadow's Edge (and the little Blue Chip in Northern Exposure).  Cut down the helenium, the lavender cotton, all the amsonias, the wandflowers by the bulkhead door.

Shrubs I pruned:
Took out 1/3 of the abelia stems.  Took out quite a few of the older redtwig dogwood stems.

Witch hazel blooms: on such a warm day they should be out, and Diane is, but they're not much to see.
Yesterday at Sturbridge I saw two big mature witch hazels, and they had tiny little coppery flowers.  Pretty underwhelming, although any bloom at this time of year is a plus.  My vernal witch hazel by the driveway is not really blooming at all, but there are buds.  But that's new, just transplanted last Fall.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cutting circles under the willows

Nice day in the 50s, not too breezy.

I cut the turf away from the circle around the third willow.  Next step is to widen each circle a little, make them quite large before adding mulch.

It's hard work, sawing that turf grass away from the plant.  I can only do a little each time, my wrist and hands hurt!

So after just a half hour widening the circle under the willow, I called it quits, and we headed up to Sturbridge for a lovely afternoon!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Deer zappers

Mid 40s, a little breezy.

Put the remainder of the deer zappers out.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Replaced deer stakes

Mid 40s, a little breezy but comfortable.

Found 11 of the 12 wireless deer stakes, replaced batteries and lures.  Put 4 out in the meadow, need to install the rest tomorrow.
Looks like they worked on the spruce berm around the hollies!  No damage to the hollies this year at all.

Took off the plastic spiral deer guards from the tree trunks of the trees on the back hill.

Cut back the miscanthus by the garage door entrance.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Taxes today

Snow, wind.  After yesterday's foray outside in mild weather, this is discouraging.

Today I will do the taxes.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pruned the willows

Temps in the low 50s, calm, no breeze.

Ordered five Sheffield Pink Mums from LazyS.  Will ship week of May 3.

Cut back dead foliage on epimediums.

Pruned the Nishiki willows.  Cut out 1/3 of the bigger stems.  Started to cut away the turfgrass to make larger circle under each willow (will mulch), but it's a job.  I use the serrated steak knife to saw away at ground level.  Two circles are done, but could be wider.  The third is still to do.
Before pruning:

Hope they're ok.  Last summer the willows had odd growth, with leaves sporadically along each branch, about a foot of bare branch between each cluster of leaves.  Is this stem discoloration a problem?  
I cut willow branches to use for weaving in the trellis by the electric meters: