Thursday, March 31, 2011

Goodbye March

Overcast, gray, in the 40s.  Rain and snow on the way.

I'm over the shed.  And I'm so over March.

Some tasks accomplished yesterday: One more dead vole.  That's three.  The electronic trap is working.  I also spread the castor oil based mole / vole deterrent all over the front walk garden.  It has a very strong smell.

I set up the hoses.  This year a different system.  I had such trouble reeling the long 150 - 200 foot extensions of hoses back to the house after watering the Birch Garden or Meadow's Edge, or out to the back hill.  This year I am going to keep just 50 to 100 feet on the reel at the house, and roll the mobile cart to any place where I need water out in the yard.... just hook it up to the end of the "house" hose.
ready to easily roll to each "house hose" connection where needed
I like the moss green color of this very narrow lightweight hose from Gardeners Supply.  But it is made of a "sticky" sort of material that won't let it slide as it is reeled over the cart.... kind of a problem to reel in.  We'll see how long this lasts!
like the moss green, but the hose itself kinks and is not easy to wind up

And we'll see how the remote station by the side of the deck works this year with two hoses, a coiled short one for watering stuff on that side of the deck and a longer one for hooking up to the rolling hose cart!
will this work?

I ended up not knowing what to do with the pair of silly triangle shaped white vinyl planters.  I put them by the boxwoods, since it's kind of a formal look, and I need to put something in... maybe the crocosmia bulbs I just got, in pots?  Yes, I think so.  A little mini parterre sort of thing.  Kind of.  I dunno.
seems like overkill for this simple gravel area, but what the heck

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Unsettled, Unhappy

In the 50s, today, a little warmer.  And the wind was not so strong.

Despite the sunny relative warmth today, I felt out of sorts all day.  So much to do, but nothing can be done in the earth yet, everything is still brown and matted.  April is here Friday, but it comes with snow.  That's not unusual, but it's the waiting, waiting, on-hold kind of feeling right now that has me so unsettled and unhappy while I wait for spring.

And then in the mail: the association denied our request to put in a shed.  They didn't like the color.  Didn't think a $2,800 garden shed was nice enough... a maintenance problem, not anything the occasional walker down at this end of the cul de sac should have to look at.   Chumps.  I live in a neighborhood of idiots.

This is the Shed Not To Be:

Which would have looked like this with landscaping:

Moving on.

I will enjoy the view from the bathroom, which the shed would have obstructed.  I do like Bob's little windmill out there and find myself checking it out the window a lot to see how the wind blows!

I'll still take out the knockout roses, which are going gangbusters, but I never liked the flower color.  I'll put in a smokebush Cotinus 'Grace' I think, and keep it vertical and flower-free with hard pruning each winter.  Or maybe put the new Tardiva hydrangeas there and the smokebush along the curve of the walk?  Hmmmm  Check out Nancy Ondra's 'Grace' smokebush with drumstick alliums, which I have in that spot already:
from her post 3/27 on cut-back shrubs, check out the very end
what it looked like after her pruning

Jim will help me stage the garage with shelving and better organization to get at the gardening tools. 

I've moved on.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

North Wind

Sunny, mid 40s today but still windy.

I finally got out there even though it is still cold and blustery, and I cut back the grasses.  The Panicun 'Northwind' (ha! how appropriate for the weather today) are tall and narrow and easier to get at, but this is the season I dislike grasses.  The cut-back is always a chore (sharp stalks hurt, the fronds blow all over even if I tie them, the semi-woody stalks are very hard to cut efficiently, it's a nasty effort).  There is no good place to dispose of the straw colored grasses... sitting on top of the compost pile or dumped in the meadow they are a bright beacon and they blow about.

Then, when the chore is over, you have a stunted blob of nothing in the garden.  But all is forgiven when they grow to screen the AC units and when they are so wavy and elegant in a breeze and when they stand through the winter.
ok, this is when I love grasses: August.  Not so much in March
A job that can be done in cold wind is the heavy duty task of turning the compost.  Our windrow of large garden brush and grass clippings really isn't's too bulky, but I did go out there and do some kind of job turning some of the layers.  Hard work, and I worked up a sweat in the cold wind.

Up on the back hill a large, 9 foot tall oak keeled over.  It was one of the earliest I had planted back in 2006 or 2007, and it was part of the screening that was filling in along the top to hide the road.  Gone, just knocked over.  On inspection, there were no roots:

It was similar to a pin oak that keeled over out by the road cut.  It also had no roots, and just died and fell over.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Compared to Last Year

Mid 40s today but very windy.  It does feel a little warmer than yesterday's frigid winter feel, but it's still too unpleasant and cold and windy out there.

In shady areas the ground is frozen.

One of the benefits of keeping this online journal for a year now is that I can easily go back and compare dates a year apart.  Last March 28 I was complaining about the unseasonable cold!

My pictures from March 31 - April 1 last year show forsythia in bloom, and the Okame cherry blooming.  Nothing even remotely ready to bloom this year!

I found a great article on Nancy Ondra's blog about cut-back shrubs and coppicing, which I saved on the Pruning page above.

I think I will let the 'Nishiki' dappled willows go this year, and cut them back completely next year, alternating years.

Same with the redtwig dogwoods, I'll wait to cut them back every other year.  The redtwigs had great stem color this winter.

The only thing in bloom is the pink heath 'Ghost Hills".  The one smaller plant looks good, but the fuller, bushier one has a lot of dead branches in front.  I don't know if it was voles or too much winter snow or wind... not sure why all the dead twigginess.  They'll both get a severe cut back as soon as the blooming is over.
One looks good . . .
the other doesn't.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Again it was too cold to work outside.  Sunny, but in the 30s and blustery.

I keep thinking I can get a lot of heavy work done while it's so cool, like removing the Golden Peep forsythia and cutting up sod to expand gardens, but it is just unpleasant and uncomfortable out there.  These are winter temps.

So I went inside and cleaned the basement.  Made a big pile of junk to be hauled away.

I am waiting waiting waiting . . .  Waiting for spring to start.  Waiting for the Okame cherries to bloom, and to see any daffodils.

Waiting to begin yard projects.  Still waiting to hear about the shed (the association has taken a month so far.... well over the two weeks required in the bylaws for responding.  Well, they have responded, but just to tell us they can't make a decision.)  Waiting for the garden centers to stock something; so far they have nothing and some are not open til April.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


It never got out of the 30s today, despite sunshine.  The water in the hose by the back patio froze, leaving the hose completely unusable to fill the birdbath, even at midday.

I am so anxious to get out there, that I put on my gardening clothes and a jacket and headed outside.  The ground was frozen solid, so there would be no digging in the earth, but I wanted to get the grasses cut down.  But after only a few moments out in the cold and wind, I went back inside.  My fingers were numb.

Cutting back will wait
Too cold, too raw, not worth being out there.  A real winter day.  Not even pleasant enough to go around taking pictures of emerging shoots or swelling buds.  Too cold.

I went inside and did the taxes.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Then and Now

Compare last spring to this year ---

The 'Okame' cherry on March 27 2010:

The 'Okame' cherry on March 25, 2011, buds hardly ready to open:

Winter Won't Let Go

Wednesday and Thursday it snowed, about an inch, and it melted by Thursday afternoon, but it was cold and blustery and very wintery for two days.  Today is sunny but cold, in the 20s.

Winter just won't let go.

And the voles in the front walk won't either.

I'll try this stuff that I got at Bosco's.  It uses castor oil as a deterrent.  And I ordered more poison baits, I'll keep trying with that.  I just don't want to dig up the whole area and put down the gravel and hardware cloth.

After catching two in the electronic trap, and filling in their tunnels, I'm seeing new tunneling, so they are still there.  I'm still using the electronic trap, but they eat the bait positioned at the far end ... simply walk in and get it without getting zapped.  I'm not sure how to test if it's working. 

I love the way the 'Angelina' sedum looks in winter, very golden bronze.  There are tunnels all underneath the sedums here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Overcast and blustery today, in the low 40s.

I put the windmill from Bob in the Birch Garden and it looks right at home there.  Also put the chicken family from Hope and Steve along the west walk, they look like they are chasing bugs among the plants that line the walk.

Then I spent some time in the cul de sac.  I went there to trim the overgrown rose canes away from the pines.  I thought it would be easy to move one of the azaleas away from the pine while I was there.

Of course it was not easy to move.  Even small shrubs are pretty well rooted and the soil was cold, and I ended up yanking it out and moving it into a hole barely big enough just a few feet forward.  We'll see if it survives.  It certainly was not going to survive much longer inside the pine's lower branches!

As I dug the new hole for it, I unearthed lily bulbs, and pulled them apart and replanted them (not very well) around the base of the linden in the cul de sac.

Then I went after the front walk.  After bagging two voles, I hope they're gone.  I hope.  I filled the tunnels in, left the electronic trap out, and we'll see if new tunnels develop.

The brand new little itea had about 15 green shoots coming up right under it and through it!  The voles had moved the bulbs to the empty space where the itea's roots had been and bulbs were packed densely in that space!  I pulled up the itea (barely any roots), scooped out all the bulbs and replanted them throughout the walkway garden... not even sure what they are, they might be the allium moly or the autumn crocuses.  They were small.

The itea was replanted, my hope is it will regenerate some root system and grow.  If not, I'll need to replace both of them.

One remaining iris reticulata popped up in Meadow's Edge (I thought I had moved all of them).  I dug it out and put it along the front walk with the rest, all blooming now, but still needing to clump up and spread for more impact.

As I did, the bloom snapped off.  : (

Monday, March 21, 2011

First Day of Spring

March 21, first full day of Spring:
This is Spring?
Should I have brought the pots in?
Dreary.  Cold.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Success With The Trap

It got cold after the warm sunny day on the 18th.  Yesterday and today have been in the 40s, but very blustery and quite cold.  Very March.

Another dead vole in the electronic trap today.  Two down.  This may be the solution.

Friday, March 18, 2011

First Warm Day

It reached 70 today, and it felt like summer!  It was actually kind of humid, a little stormy feeling in the a.m., but then sunny, breezy and warm in the afternoon.

The sweetpeas indoors have sprouted.

Tasks today were all about clean up.  The whole Birch Garden is chopped back, everything.  And most of Meadow's Edge.  I just have to cut down the grasses there, and the grasses along the west walk.

Got a vole today in the electronic trap I placed along the front walk.  One down.

After cleaning up I decided to do something about the liriope that edges the back garden.  It doesn't do well with the maple roots and in full sun.  I bought so many to make a cascading line of mounded foliage at the front edge.  Nah.

The deer eat them to the ground, and the clumps they miss are awfully ratty by early spring.  If they had better soil, less competition, and didn't get so chomped, they'd be nice mounders.
Liriope 'Big Blue' - will it look this good in a pot?
My thought now is to take out some, and leave a few, interplanted among the sedum kamtschaticum, which is spreading and has really nice, ground hugging foliage.  But taking out a half dozen was a chore!  They are wound around the maple roots and had to be chopped out.

I put what I dug up in five low containers and if they mound over and cascade the way they should, they will cover the pot edges.  I can use them various ways... maybe plop them in the garden in their pots as foliage fillers.  They do have nice blue spiky blooms.

I just hope they do well in the containers now.

The gardens look so bad right now, but spring is coming.  I love the only green thing in Northern Exposure right now, the Pieris "Bisbee's Dwarf'.  It has such a dapper shape and clean shiny foliage.  That's what I think every time I look at it: it's so dapper!
And in just three weeks look at what it will look like: this was April 7th last year:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Abundant Sunshine

All is forgiven from yesterday!  A glorious warm spring day today, after the rain of yesterday.  Sunny all day, in the 50s, but out in the sunshine it had to be in the 60s.

The heath is in bloom.

I worked in the yard and got too warm!

I even sat on the patio in the sunshine late in the afternoon.  Just lovely.

A little iris reticulata has appeared among the still blooming snowdrops by the front walk.

Tasks accomplished today:
Cleaned up all of Northern Exposure.  Cut back the amsonias, cleaned up the foliage from the tiarellas, got it all neat.

Cut back butterfly bush, Montauk daisies and cayopteris in Meadow's Edge.  Cleaned up and cut back around the patio.

Got short metal stakes and tied up the sourwood to re-straighten it.  Re-did the stake and ties on the top branch of the black gum in back, (trying to force it to become the leader.)

Much more clean up to do.  I haven't even cut back the grasses yet along the West Walk, or touched the Birch Garden, but it's only mid March.  There is time.

Zinnia seeds indoors sprouted after three days! 

I got the potting bench organized and put tools and stuff back out there where I can get to it, and hooked up a hose and turned on the water.

A concern: the big green plastic potting bin was coated inside with a smelly oily substance.  I think the Vine-X, which was tipped over, has spilled into it.  I left it out in the sun to dry out, I certainly don't want to rinse it out and get herbicide all over everything.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Will March Ever Be Over?

36 degrees, steady hard rain today.

I did not leave the pots out on the deck yesterday.  They could handle the cold temperature, but I wanted them in out of this heavy rain.

So everything is back on the porch, making it impossible to walk out there.  There are seed trays are to the right of the door too.

I really hope the rain is not washing the Preen away, or the hort oil I sprayed yesterday.  A light rain to water in the Preen is good; a heavy rain washes it away (and worse, could wash the toxins into the pond and storm drains). 

I didn't think it would be such a downpour all morning.  I'll need to reapply the hort oil later anyway.

I gave the big rosemary in the bowl a haircut to tidy it up a bit and encourage a fuller shape.  It's growing really well and the fragrance when you touch it is intense.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Overcast, low 40s today.  A little sun, but mostly gray.  Thick fog this morning, but it burned off.

I sprayed dormant hort oil today on both viburnums.  They had aphid damage last year.  I tried to cover all the tips of the branches all the way around.  It's the new tip growth that the aphids go after.

I spread 2 containers of Preen on the gardens.  We are expecting rain tomorrow to water it in.  That's 5.65 pounds each, or 11.3 pounds, coverage for 1,800 sq. feet.

I moved pots out onto the deck.
All of these are hardy and can stay out in below freezing weather, just not below zero all winter in drying winds.  So I may leave them out, they should be okay even if the temps dip or a freeze happens.

I potted up the red dwarf dahlia tubers.  They had been in bone dry peat moss all winter in the basement.

I put them in three pots in damp potting soil, just barely covered, and with only 1/3 of the pot filled.  As the eyes bud, and growth starts I need to add more potting soil over several weeks.  Also need to pinch new growth when there are 3 or more leaves.

Only one large tuber had any visible eye sprout.  But sometimes it's impossible to see the eyes this early.  I put several of the biggest tubers in each pot.  They need to stay in the warm indoors, not on the porch, to sprout.  We'll see what happens!

The idea is to group these blue and gray containers with the bright red dahlias around the cobalt blue pot with the Black and Blue salvia, if it comes back.

Here's what the dahlia looks like, in the garden last year.
I have forgotten the name of this dahlia, but it was bright red, very short and compact, and the foliage was nice.  Should be really nice in these pots.

I also planted the nasturtium seeds today.  I put one big fat seed (they are like peas) into each pocket of both strawberry jars.  I'll keep the containers on the porch to keep them out of frost or freezing temps.

Five days to SPRING.

Monday, March 14, 2011

More Winter Damage

The forecast said abundant sunshine today, but I'm sitting here this morning watching it snow.  It's 37 degrees, overcast and spitting snow.

The Cornus mas, my little sprig of a tree, was decapitated from all the snow this winter.  The tiny twig of a leader was snapped, but not all the way.  It was hanging, with a thin strip of bark still holding on.  So yesterday I got some velcro tape, wound it around the thin twig to hold it upright, then clipped it with a plastic clip.

Like the repairs to the trunk of the Japanese maple, I hope by keeping the twig's halves pressed together, it will graft back together.  It is certainly full of fat buds.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spring Forward

Partly sunny, windy, in the 40s.  A typical cold breezy March day, not bad for working in the yard, but not all that pleasant.  We sprang the clocks forward for daylight saving time last night, and the day feels odd.  It always takes a few days to adjust.

I got out and did some late winter pruning.

I took off the leftmost stem of the paper birch.  It had felt soft and mushy at the base, and was leaning and didn't look healthy, but it was actually solid and hard to saw off.

I got it cut, with a good angle, but not close enough to the ground, so I tried to recut it lower and made a botch job of that.  Couldn't get it sawed through.

I also pruned the blackhaw viburnum in the back yard --- the one I nearly killed by violently transplanting it in the heat of summer last year, ripping it right out from the berm  But I think it survived.  I want it to be a single stem small tree, not a shrub.
Blackhaw viburnum has a very dense, twiggy habit, and after pruning it looks very contorted.  As it grows more, I may take that crooked branch off too, but for today, I had already taken almost a third, maybe a quarter of the branch structure off, so I stopped.  The branches are all gnarled together in the middle!

Other tasks on this windy March day:

> Sprinkled handfuls of lime on the clematis, redbuds and bergenia.

> Sprinkled handfulls of elemental sulphur on the blueberries, the sourwood tree and the zenobias under the tree.

> Cut back the mums... what immense woody stems, and they are spreading everywhere.

> Cut back the Albury St. Johnswort, it looks terrible in winter.  The other St. Johnswort in Meadow's Edge, 'Sunburst', never needs cutting back.

> Chopped back the winter damaged floppy miscanthus grass by the garage door.  That's a job!  The panicums will need cutting too, but they are much more manageable.  For now I like hearing them rustle in the March wind, and they are still adding nice tan vertical structure to the flat muddy gardens.

> Took out the Dusty Miller that was flopping on the northern walk.

Buds on magnolia 'Elizabeth
The grass and gardens are still soggy wet, so it's not a good idea to be out there traipsing around as much as I did today.  But it feels good to get started on chores and cutting back stuff.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Seed Planting

The torrential drenching rain has finally stopped, and today was partly cloudy, partly sunny, and in the 40s.  The day was nice enough, but the ground is still far too wet to be walking on, so chores in the garden must wait.

I started seeds today, each individually in cowpots or plastic nursery pots, rather than sown in a big flat.  I think this will be easier at transplant time

I planted:
Heirloom Sweet Peas - Lathyrus odoratus 'Painted Lady'.
I really just want one plant to put at the base of the hummingbird feeder and have it vine up the hanging post.  But of course there are many seeds, so I potted half of them up.  Not sure where I'll put so many sweet peas if they all germinate!

Zinnias - 'Exquisite'.
These are pink and red and rose.  Later I'll get some orange ones, I loved how the orange zinnias looked with the blue caryopteris around the patio and in the distance in Meadow's Edge.  I'll plant the nasturtiums later directly into the terra cotta strawberry jars.

I put some seeds in pots to germinate inside on the living room half wall.  I put others out on the porch.... no danger of frost out there, but the cool temps may make them germinate slower.

Planting was a pain.  There was still slippery icy snow mounded on the patio, so I couldn't get to the potting bench without having Jim shovel the patio first!

And all my tools are stored away in the garage, the water is not turned on yet outside... it's too messy to pot inside, but I had to keep going in and out of the house to get this small job done!
I'll be happy when everything is set up outside.  I'll be happy when spring arrives.