Friday, March 30, 2012

Sunny Day, End of March

Quite cold this morning, in the 40s.  It felt chilly and windy as I worked on the back hill cutting multiflora rose and painting the cut stems with poison ivy herbicide.

By the end of the day the wind stilled, the sun was bright, and Jim and I sat in the gravel garden and just enjoyed a beautiful March afternoon.

I used to like clearing the back hill.  It felt so good to get at the bittersweet and get things "under control" over several days in spring.  Not so any more.  It's discouraging.

I worked slowly and carefully, not ripping vines out as before, but carefully cutting canes, handling the pot of herbicide and brush with caution, and scrambling where I could to paint the stems.  Slow, tedious work, and even this early in the season it is a jungle out there.

It looks neat and easy in the diagram, but it's a job out in the tangled mass of canes and vines.  Not as rewarding as clearing out the brush used to be several years ago.

In the gardens I planted several new pots of drumstick alliums that I got at Warner's.  Such little bulbs.  I added them to the top of the driveway garden next to the new smokebush, and a few around the far edge of the gravel garden.  You need a lot to make a statement.

I added lime and fertilizer to the clematis (Alba Luxurians by the patio, and Jackmanii in the big pot.)

Added bulb booster to the emerging alliums and to the tulips in pots.  One pot is ready to bloom, the white ones at least.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hauling and Toting

Cold today, in the high 40s and overcast.

The perfect weather for hard work in the garden.  Yesterday I got 10 bags (3 cu. ft. each) of mulch at Warner's and today we got 12 bags (2 cu. ft. each) at Moscarillo's, so Jim and I spread a full 54 cubic feet of mulch today.  That's 2 cubic yards.

It didn't quite cover the spruce berm, but keep in mind we widened it by moving the yellowroot out and extending toward the new bridge.  We still need more.

I took buckets of rotted leaves and partly done compost from the windrow in back and piled it around the sassafras, the clethra and the spicebushes on the back of the berm. Then covered the good rotten stuff with mulch.

Those plants all want moist woodland conditions, and they are competing with big spruce roots on a steeply banked berm.  The decaying compost under the mulch will help with moisture.

I also toted and hauled buckets of half finished compost and rotted leaves to Meadow's Edge garden and spread that about.  A lot of work, but it's good for the garden.

I'll cover that with mulch eventually.  Right now it looks messy.  I even got several buckets of finished compost from the tumbler.

I sprayed the hot pepper wax all around today, an early attempt to discourage eaters.

Moved the cup plant from the berm out into the meadow.

Divided some geums.

My body hurts and I am tired.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Some Changes Here

A little rain today, finally.  Not much, but something at least.  Just 2/10ths of an inch by the time it was done this afternoon. 

The gorgeous big early magnolias all over town, the big saucer magnolias, have turned to brown messes from Tuesday's 25 degree morning.   So sad to see the stately pink magnolia blooms look so awful, top to bottom.

I made some changes in the gravel garden yesterday.  The flimsy plastic Adirondack chairs were always getting blown about and were not comfortable for Jim.  Do you like these better?

And how about the twig tuteurs?  I don't think the plumbago plants made it through the winter in their protected pots in the garage.  I'll have to get more.

It's a different look, narrower, smaller, and not as casual as the low slung plastic chairs, but I like it.

I think I really like it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Cold last night.  25 degrees.  Yikes.

The little star magnolia that was so cute flowering away all over its tiny branches got zapped.

The left side of the Birch Garden has frustrated me for a while.  It slopes down in full sun and has quite sharp drainage.

All the smallish stuff I put in there doesn't hold any weight with the right side where the nepeta billows, and the left side just fades down and away.

It has always given me a challenge, right from the start, and many different plants have been tried there.

So, if I move the little rose and the small blueberry that I tried here to fill the spot, and instead put in the big Carolina Moonlight baptisia that I already ordered this spring ... what do you think?

Originally the baptisia was to go under the guest room window where the Oklahoma redbud used to live.  A filler.  But it's the only space where I like the now pink Umbrian pot (I'll put a Bonfire begonia in it).  The pot is nice hidden among the grass and conifers, and the fothergilla nearby will fill out more now.

The Carolina Moonlight baptisia will add some big billowy weight to that left side of the Birch Garden.  It won't block the peony since the peony will bloom before the foliage of the baptisia fills in in spring.  That low spot in front is where it will go.

An earlier photo, before I put in the dwarf rose and blueberry

The little rose and the small blueberry can move to the back of the Birch Garden behind the Orange Dream maple, another spot I've had trouble filling.

Hmmm.  Thinking.

Monday, March 26, 2012

More Like March

The hot summer weather is gone, and now it is much more like a normal March.  Blustery.  Cold.  It is in the 40s, but with the strong wind it is really nippy out there.

Forecast is for low 20s tonight, so I brought the pots of tender things into the enclosed back porch.  When I took the big pots of tulips off the front steps, I saw the deer had been there.

Nuts.  The idea was to keep them in pots so they would not be subject to depradations.  But the deer came right up the sidewalk and to the stone steps.  If I want to have these pretty tulips bloom out on my front steps, I will have to bring them in each night.

In the cold wind today Jim and I finished moving the yellowroot, and now that major project is all done.  Great progress and we aren't even in April yet.

You can see how much space there is behind the curving line of shrubs now.  I'll have to put some heavy mulch down to keep the space open, and the yellowroot will fill in a lot and even creep back up toward the spruces over time.
I like it.  Good job.

Bartlett came today and ground up the pear and redbud stumps with their funny radio controlled machine.  They also pruned out the cracked branches from last fall's storm that I could not reach on the dogwood and maples.

Wow, the wind is howling right now.  Jim got all the screens up in the warm weather so we could open windows, and now with March gales, it keens and makes a weird noise.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Making Progress

Well, we didn't get the badly needed rain last night.  Nada.  Today was very cool and occasionally there was spitting mist, but that was all.

We are making great progress on the big tasks for spring.  And here it is still only March.  I thought moving the sourwood would be the biggest challenge but that was easy and it was all done, including moving the river birch into its spot, in two hours.

The tougher job has been to move the yellowroot shrubs.  I thought they would dig up so easily, but they have really spread and are woven into the spruce roots.  So far we have gotten the ones around the birch tree moved forward a bit into good soil.

Jim has already spent two full intense days removing the strip of sod, and I helped for part of that.  Then today we spent a couple hours digging and moving the shrubs, but are only halfway done.

It's not being done neatly or prettily.  I am ripping out shreds of roots and haphazardly replanting them.  They do root easily, but we'll see how this harsh treatment works.  At least they will be lower on the slope of the berm and a little further away from the drying spruce roots.  Need moisture!

I took a walk around in the drizzle today.  Sassafras buds are swelling.

And did I see this before?  Deer rubbed one side of the magnolia 'Elizabeth' raw.  It will survive, but I don't remember if I knew this happened last fall or not.  Reminder to self:  wrap the delicate trunk next season.

The low deutzia gracilis 'Nikko' is doing a nice job of layering its arching stems, and I cut a few and replanted them along the east side under the Rose of Sharon.  They are almost completely leafed out already.

And the stars are the Valley Valentine pieris, and the Ogon spirea.  Such flamboyance for muddy brown March.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring Is So Early

Not so warm today, in the 50s and overcast, rain on the way.  We really need a soaker.  Here's what is blooming now:
All over town and all along the highways forsythias are in full glory

Spirea Ogon in front of the ever enlarging Swiss Stone Pine

Spicebush just starting to open its pale yellow blooms

The dappled willows I hacked back are resprouting

I love this little baby Star Magnolia

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Summer in March

The record temperatures and sunny days just go on and on.  This is March, for heaven's sake.  It's been in the 80s, too hot to do much outside in the afternoons.  The first few warm days were odd and novel feeling, but now it just feels like summer is here to stay.

Windows are open, even at night.  Jim put all the screens up.  He's been digging out the strip in front of the berm where I'll move the yellowroot shrubs to get them further away from the spruces.  It's hot work!
Curves need some softening, still a lot to do.

Everything is popping out.
Forsythia is blooming, all over town.

Deutzia has leafed out and will bloom soon.

Pieris is blooming.

And look who popped out!  The new little star magnolia.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Record Heat

It must have been a record today, the last day of winter.  In the sun this afternoon it was in the low 80s, in the shade it was mid 70s.  Very still, and actually too hot to work in the middle of the afternoon.  So sunny, so dry, so warm.

4 yards of topsoil / compost mix was delivered today by Envirocycle.  I filled in the borders around the gravel garden, and Jim created a small ramp by filling a dip in the yard leading to the arched bridge across the creek bed.

The bridge looks awesome.  Just the perfect size, and aligned just right, it really finishes that end of the garden.  

I love it.

Right now it is bright cedar, but it will fade, and the dirt surrounding it is dark black, but will be grassed in as the sod covers it.

Just perfect.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Another Warm March Afternoon

Another warm, unseasonable day, in the low 70s, sunny and still.  The morning was quite cold and foggy / overcast, but by the time I went out to cut back the grasses at noon, it was lovely.

This is the time of year I hate ornamental grasses.  Cutting back the smaller ones is not too bad, although you're just left with a big blank spot in the garden when done.  The miscanthus, though, is messy and impossible to cut neatly.  I have to use the Japanese pruning saw.

The fronds blow around no matter how I tie the clump up first.  And then disposing of the light colored stalks is a problem.  They blow around unless weighted down in a pile, and they are an eyesore, very bright colored out in the compost row.

I put them on the back hill and piled other stuff on top, but they are like a beacon from the kitchen window.

The panicums and the Karl Foerster grasses had already been cut back after last fall's snowstorm.

Sitting in the Adirondack chairs in the gravel garden in the sunny afternoon is delightful.  This is still March, unbelievably.  All the grasses are cut back now, and the caryopteris too.

I pruned the climbing hydrangea, which needs much more shape and it needs to be trained toward the pergola, which it just reaches finally.   A lot of the main branches want to arch out in the other direction.
Not a very graceful reach to the top, and it's too woody to bend.

Tangled woody stems almost reach the top of the pergola

I should have trained the very young twigs in the general direction toward the garage side, but I waited till they were long enough, and now they are too woody and twisted in unbendable shapes.  Eventually the lattice panel and the cedar tuteur will be removed, and the vine will stand on its own, reaching the pergola for support.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Chilly, damp and gray today, in the 40s, but then in the afternoon the sun came out and it got up into the high 50s.  Everything looked better with the sun out.  Yesterday was Bob McGoldrick's funeral --- a cold wet day and a sad day, although the mass was truly a celebration and it was good to see old friends from work.

Today I took things out.
  • Removed the last of the irises in the front walk and put them in the Birch Garden.
  • Removed the perennial foxgloves from the east side.  Gone.  Didn't like them so much.
  • Took out the hops vines.  No place to transplant them so they are gone.
  • Removed more daylilies from Meadow's Edge. They are completely wrapped around the maple's roots and impossible to dislodge.  Where space was freed up I moved the small Goldflame spirea.
  • Removed lots of grass from garden edges, and weeded some.
I divided the two blue eyed grass clumps into six plants along the edge of the gravel garden.

In the Birch Garden I moved some sundrops so they were not so crowded, and some columbines from where they had seeded.  I divided and moved several of the Elfin Pink penstemons back from the very edge of the garden too.

Last year in March the ground was still too frozen to work.  Here I am this year digging and weeding and moving and dividing, all in mid March, in cool but comfortable weather.  Wow.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I Did It

Much cooler today, an overcast, chilly day in the 40s, no breeze.  Perfect for doing hard work outside.  And perfect for transplanting.

After worrying all winter about my plan to move the sourwood away from the patio and replace it with a river birch, I did it.  It was not so hard at all.  I started mid morning and was inside for lunch, my pants dry and relatively clean because of the chaps. 
Sourwood in its new home
Jim had to help me wrestle the sourwood into its new location, it was quite heavy.  I dug up the three zenobias (I put the non-blue leaved one in the strip in front of Meadow's Edge).  Then I dug all around the roots of the sourwood.  It came out ok.  Shallow rooted, and not very wide (although I cut some long roots to get it out).  But still, it's a five foot tree, and a lot of soil came with it, and it was heavy. 

Oxydendrum does not like any kind of root disturbance.  So this may have been fatal.  

But it moved ok, Jim got it positioned next to the gravel garden, and I filled in with soil.  It is standing straight, there wasn't much maneuvering to get it upright.  All in all, pretty easy.

Then I moved the small river birch into the spot by the patio, put the remaining two zenobias back in, and planted the new zenobia from Woodlander's.  Not a bad project, and I like it already.
Young river birch and zenobias by the patio wall

Here are the pros about this move:
  • The river birch is as tall as the sourwood was, but will quickly grow very tall, and finally make some shade for the patio, and that should happen in a season or two.
  • The sourwood just looks better next to the inkberry hollies by the gravel garden.  It's better as an element of a woodsy planting rather than the focal point of a patio corner.  And it was just too small next to the patio, not providing enough shade.
  • The sourwood might actually do better away from the less acidic stone wall and walkway.  That is, if I haven't killed it.

Some cons about this move:
  • I pretty much destroyed some of the alliums I had carefully planted around the patio wall last fall.  Some were starting to come up, but got dug.  I tromped on others.
  • The transplanted Mara des Bois strawberries that I wanted to spill over the edge of the gravel garden got destroyed too as I wrestled the sourwood into place.
  • I'll get shade on the patio from the river birch, but it will also dominate the view out the kitchen window now.  I won't have such a clear look into the back yard when all I see are leafy birch branches.

So . . .  was it worth it?  Yes.  It was easier than I thought, and I got it done.

Please, please let the sourwood thrive, and may the birch grow quickly without overwhelming that spot.  And let a few strawberries and alliums come up after all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Feeders are Out, Seeds are Up

Just beautiful today.  72 degrees, sunny, only a light breeze.  But so dry.  The top inches of soil are very dusty, and all the pots left outdoors needed a good watering today.

It's only March 14.  The tulips in pots have fat buds.

I hung the hummingbird feeders today for the early scouts.  Normally I would wait until the very last days of March, but it has been so unusually warm the advance males might be coming through early.

I cut back some more perennials, including the epimedium foliage, but I am leaving the grasses for now.  They still look good, and their tawny waving forms are the only bright spots around right now.

As I have been digging around, I noticed little tiny leaves on the oregano 'Kent Beauty' that I planted out in the soil last year.  I think they made it through a winter here, although this was a mild one.  Each one was in the wrong place for what I was doing, so each got moved, and I hope that didn't do them in.

I set up and organized the potting bench today.

Moved and divided a few of the geranium wlassovianum from the very edge of the bluestone walk back a little (into the open space now vacated by the blueberries).  With the blueberries gone, there is more room, and they were reaching over the walkway too far.

I put out the windmill and the direction sign.

And --- there are seeds popping up under the grow lights in the living room!!  Only five days after sowing, a few sunflowers are peeking up and the linaria (very, very fine sprouts) are up.  Now I need to leave the lights on for 12 - 14 hours every day.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Blueberries Moved

70's today, hot, sunny and still.  Lovely late winter day, unusually warm.

Seeds were planted on Friday 3/9 on trays under the grow lights on the half wall.

Yesterday we went to Logee's and I got three little begonia 'Bonfire' 2 inch pots.  They did not have plumbago or the plectranthus 'Mona Lavender' that I want.

Today, in the nice weather I pruned the blue hollies on the berm into more pyramidal shapes.  Only the one on the far left is the shape I want.  It gets the most direct sun.  The others are smaller and not as well shaped, but the idea is there.

I took the green plastic mesh trunk protectors off the trees today.  The ones on the back hill had been on for two years, and were so tight.  Meaning the trunks have demonstrably grown!  And the linden in the cul de sac was bursting out of its mesh cage too.  That's removed now.

And ....  ta da .... I moved the blueberries, which has been on my list to do for a while.  They do so well in spring in Northern Exposure, but get overtopped by the rampant, rangy amsonias in summer.  The blueberries then languish, too shaded and too wet.  I moved them to the strip in front of Meadow's Edge.

They are shallow rooted and easy to move, but it was a job.  I am feeling my age.  Lovely day, satisfying project, and I wanted that rich experience of coming in at 4 in the afternoon tired, a little sunburned, and happy.  But I am still sick with the awful cold I got in Hawaii, still coughing, nose running, and it was hard work.  Hack, hack.  Wheeze.  No energy.  Wish I was younger.

The poor blueberries --- they do not like root disturbance, so we'll see how they do after transplant.  I watered them well.

Conditions in the garden are SO DRY.  The top inches of soil are dust.  No snow cover to wet the land, and no rain for ages.

Aren't these little iris reticulata so cute?  They are popping up through the kinnikinnik, just as the snowdrops and a lone crocus do.

I like how the groundcover hides the failing foliage, and I really like how the purple iris looks with the red tinged kinnikinnik.  But as with the tiny snowdrops, I need a lot more.  A lot more. They aren't much to look at spread so sparsely by the walk.

Thank goodness they are right by the front walk where I can see them.

Friday, March 9, 2012


Love this plant.  I really need to get it, and see how it does for me.  I could try it in pots, and keep it in shade that way.

from Terra Nova Nurseries