Monday, April 29, 2013

Red Map

I don't like seeing the red color on this map. It means that precipitation for Connecticut is 50% of normal. April has been very dry.

It hasn't rained a drop in the 5 days since this map was published, and there is no rain in the forecast.

I have been watering anything new that I just planted -- the American hornbeams, the blueberries, my new parrotia and styrax and even the day lilies and alcehmillas. But the year old trees, like my Forest Pansy redbud and the American holly need water too.

And the yellowroot and buckeyes don't like such a dry spring.

The reason spring looks so tentative here is not that we've had such cold weather -- it was cool in early April but is warm and seasonable now.  It's the dry conditions that are holding back the leaves and flowering. At 50% of normal, nothing wants to open up and nothing looks lush.

The grass is very green, though.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

April Ends Mild and Dry

Some nice days, in the low 70s. It's been dry, and we do need rain.

I putter, I dig some more edges out, I move dirt. No real plan, but lovely days getting stuff done. I built a little wall under the Bloodgood maple. Doesn't look like much, made of rocks dug from the yard, but here it is. The bergenia under the maple looks so awful in spring.

I moved the green plastic compost tumbler to the side of the deck, and I hope that makes it easier to use in winter, and that we'll actually take the kitchen scraps out to it more frequently. There is a hose right there so I can keep it moist. It's not attractive there, but at least it fits in the little ell by the stairs.

Epimediums are blooming.

Acer palmatum Orange Dream is dreaming. And very orange in spring.

Magnolia Elizabeth is opening, but only below, not at the upper branches yet.

The climbing hydrangea is climbing, and has finally reached the pergola.

The Blackhaw viburnum outside the bathroom window has finally reached tree size and I have it pruned into kind of a nice shape. With the grasses removed the a/c units are so obvious, but they don't really bother me as a walk down the path.

The little green buns at the foot of the blackhaw are the new alchemilla mollis I just planted. They'll spread.

The smokebush is late to leaf out. Right now it looks like dead stubs, but it will gow rapidly once May comes. But not a good early spring look.

In addition to the smokebush, other things that look dead right now because they are late to leaf out:
Winterberry hollies in Meadow's Edge.
St. Johnswort (I actually may have lost the new one in Meadow's Edge)
Persimmon trees out in the meadow
All the Rhus aromaticas in the Drive By garden.
All the black gums
And of course the Rose of Sharon and clethra

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Reversal

Complete reversal in comfort levels outside. After whining and complaining all month about the cold, today was warm and still and sunny. 72 degrees! It was a perfect day, just a day after I bitched about the cold yesterday.

Forsythia all over town is in full bloom finally. Here is ours at the road cut. I like the undulating form, but the cuttings I made to extend it further to the right haven't really taken yet.

I planted the rest of the blueberries out in the meadow today, and it was -- can you believe this -- hot work.

The Carex Ice Dance was looking mop headed and messy, although all winter it had looked good. With nothing else greening up much yet, all I could see were the messy mounds of carex.

I probably should not be cutting it at this point in late April (it's blooming already), but I don't think any harm was done. As I got close in I could tell each clump is sending out offsets and spreading. I'll have to dig them and keep this carex under control. Already it is looking a little over eager. Some say it is rampant.

Much neater now.

I love the three new steppers I got and plunked in Meadow's Edge where I walk.

And the Ogon spirea is opening up and blooming above the lush foliage of the camassias.

I planted lettuce today in the big bowl along with some pansies.

All of a sudden the juniper under the birch tree looks terrible, with brown branches underneath.

I got the pruners out and cut away the brown branches. I hope it's okay.

The forecast for the rest of the week is for nice temperatures, not as warm as today, but nice.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Like A Winter Day

Really. It is 44 degrees at mid-day and it feels like being outside on a winter day.

I have looked forward to working in cool weather to plant and dig holes, and get work done before it gets too hot. But this just feels raw. My hands are freezing as I work in the cold soil with just gardening gloves on.

Sunday was sunny and cold, yesterday was cloudy and cold, today is gloomy-gray and cold.

I do go out and work, but then I come in for lunch and can't motivate to go back out again!

I planted a couple of the six blueberries from the conservation district sale. It turns out the "set of three" that they sold included three different types -- an early, a mid and a late season variety.  And I got two sets, since they gave me three extras.

Northland is an early blueberry and it is the most cold hardy. It is a slow grower, and is actually a half-high type that will get only 4 feet tall. It has small, dark fruit and it is described as having a wild berry taste. Fall foliage is orange and the stems in winter are reddish.

Berkeley is a midseason blueberry and the fruit is mild. The berries are described as light powder blue. The shrubs are rounded and get to about 6 feet tall. Good fall color and the twigs are yellow in winter.

Darrow is a late blueberry, and the berries are the largest of all cultivars (they say even to the size of a half dollar?) The fruit is delightfully tart. In the north they don't produce very heavily, but the huge size of each berry makes up for that. These also get to about 6 feet tall, and are upright.

I really only wanted to plant these blueberries in the meadow for their bushy habit and fall color. The birds can have the berries, but now I'm looking forward to harvesting some!

The lawn loves all this chill weather, and the grass is thick and green all of a sudden. The first mowing was yesterday. (The John Deere is laid up, and can't go in to the repair shop until the beginning of May, and then it will take two weeks! So Jim can't mow. We have had to hire Dynamic. Jane did a good job yesterday.)

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Rain came through last night  and we got 4 tenths of an inch, a nice soak.

Today was cool, in the 60s with a chilly breeze. Spring wants to arrive, but it is still cold.

I got three carpinus carolinianas, a gray dogwood and highbush blueberries from the North Central Conservation District today. I picked them up at Auer Farm. Nice container specimens.

The three blue beeches were planted out by the road cut, to form a little grove. Nothing to show yet, just sticks in the ground.

Then I was faced with some conundrums:
1. The gray dogwood was to go at the top of the ridge by the road where the others had been planted years ago. When I looked up there I found multiple suckers -- the dogwood is forming the big thicket that I wanted for screening. I don't think I need to plant this container dogwood there, but where to put it? 
I dithered most of the afternoon trying to figure out where to put this good sized cornus racemosa. 
2. The other conundrum was where to plant the blueberries I got. I ordered three highbush blueberries to go out in the meadow. But they gave me six! When I went back to return the extras, after I had gotten home and checked my original order, they told me to keep them. So now I have to figure out where to put six highbush blueberries. 
Epimediums are starting to bloom. The camassias are all up and ready to flower soon.

I potted all the seedlings of the Black Beauty dahlia.

The winter honeysuckle doesn't look like much, but it has such a sweet, tropical, but delicate scent. I love walking by it at the end of the dry creek bed. I can't wait for this big shrub to mature in the coming years.

It really smells heavenly.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Goodbye Rosemary

Today was in the 60s and cloudy, with a stiff cool wind that made it feel much colder. Same as almost every other day this month.

But yesterday was an exception -- a fine day, still, sunny and pleasant, up to 70. I loved it, loved puttering around and getting things done, and found my energy. One day only, though. Back to cold and windy today.

I potted up some plants for Pam. Some annuals in containers (the Cherry Swizzle zinnias and a Black Beauty dahlia) for her front porch. And I divided the big ivy that was on the porch. We'll see if that can sit in the top of her bubbler fountain (which doesn't bubble) and "spill" down the sides.

And I took out my beloved Valley Valentine pieris from the east side. I'll take it over to Pam's to replace the fernspray falsecypress that got zapped by snowloads and needs to be taken out. It may do better on her shady patio.
Pink flowering pieris at the bottom of the photo. It never did much, and has yellow leaves.
Too much sun? I hope it will do better at Pam's
I always think of the east side of the house as shady, but it doesn't get shade until 1 in the afternoon. That means there is sun from 7 in the morning until after noon -- six hours of direct sun is not a shade garden!

In the andromeda's place I put in the new zenobia that I got at Broken Arrow.
Where the pieris had been there is now a leafy zenobia. Not the glaucus Woodlander's Blue.
This one is a green leaved form.

The Golden Peep forsythia is such a lovely color, but it continues to die out in the middle as all the others along this border did before I took them out. Take this one out too?
What to do about the dying middle? Take cuttings and plant more in the empty spots?

Today we took out the dead rosemary 'Madeline Hilll'. I will miss its mass and dark form anchoring the end of this border.
That's a dead rosemary. But even crispy fried, the brown needles smelled wonderful.
Goodbye, rosemary.

In its place I planted a Hypericum kalmianum 'Blue Velvet' that I got at Broken Arrow. It should form a dense, bluish mound, very compact and very tidy, with the starburst yellow flowers of all St. Johnsworts. The foliage is fine leaved and is very similar to the blueberries next to it, so I am not liking the lack of contrast. But the flowers and dense habit should make up for its fine leaves.

The leaves are bluish, and should echo the Woodlander's Blue zenobia further down the border.
University of Delaware cooperative extension

Yesterday in the warm, still sunshine I planted up all 25 of the new thymus plugs around the steps to the gravel garden.

I planted several alchemilla mollis at the foot of the air conditioners. They won't screen them -- that's the point, to leave the front of the units open, but they fill the empty spots where the panicum grasses were.

I did some more edging, fixing the curve along the front of the spruce berm (yikes, under the river birch it is impossible to cut out any grass -- the roots!)  I edged the east side when I planted the zenobia.

Edged the front line of Meadow's Edge. Puttered. Did some other stuff.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

No Energy

Another couple of windy cool days, with unsettled clouds and the occasional brief spitting rain. It got into the mid 60s today, but felt chilly and damp.

I am worn out. I am actually getting stuff done in this cool weather, but I thought I'd be more energized. I usually love to putter and dig and then come in after a whole day outside -- what a wonderful feeling. But not these past weeks.

The wind wears me out, and I have no energy.

I have to remember I am 63 years old and I am shoveling and moving dirt by hand in a garden cart. But I miss the excitement, I am very tired, and every day looks gloomy in this gray cold spring.

But here's what I got done:
Cut back multiflora roses in the meadow on the east side, and painted the stems with Brush B Gone. It's kind of delicate, slow work, being careful to get each stem and spill nothing. 
Moved one of the white pines from the meadow over to the east side to screen the two houses below. It's going to be too close to the red oak there, but. 
Moved the struggling persimmon from the road cut where it was too shady, out into the middle of the back meadow. The roots were pretty deep, actually, and I ended up ripping them right off. Poor thing. Will it make it in the new spot?
Dug and cleared three holes for the blue beech grove at the road cut, and hauled several cartloads of soil + compost out there. I'll pick the little trees up this Saturday.
Added some soil + compost to a couple of low spots in the gardens, and also around the sassafras on the hill.

Then I dragged sheets of cardboard and a tarp out the the compost windrow, where the rest of the soil + compost will eventually be carted. I'll store it there under another tarp for later use. There's about a yard or maybe more left.
It is a lot to accomplish, but it doesn't seem like it. And so much more edging yet to do . . .

I just got no energy.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Reluctant Spring

Another chilly, cloudy, windy day. It only got to 50 today. I waited all morning for the temperature to get up to the mid 40s to go outside, and then, when I put on my garden pants and headed outdoors, it was spitting rain.

But it stopped. I did get outside to get some cool weather chores done, but the chill and wind was uncomfortable.

It has been such a reluctant spring. There have been a few nicer days, but mostly it has been cold and dank, or bitter and windy, or chilly and rainy (we got 6 tenths of an inch a day ago.)

The forsythia just doesn't want to bloom. They should have been bright yellow out by the road cut a week ago. They are barely noticeable now, at mid-April. But look how green the grass has become!

There are blooms on some early shrubs and a few daffodils are up, but nothing looks like much. The winter honeysuckle is blooming on twiggy stems, and the fragrance is wonderful, very sweet but not overpowering. I spent some time by the dry creek bed just to smell it.

Golden Peep forsythia is reluctantly opening, but not fully blooming yet. Half of it has died back on the left.

The tiny pieris Valley Valentine has its gorgeous dangly blooms, but when you step back you see it is still just a foot high, with only a few blooms and yellow leaves.

Dawn viburnum is blooming. No fragrance that I can detect. It turns out that the pink flowers will be open when the pieris shows its pink blossoms, and when the yellow forsythia opens. All at once.  Should be colorful and springlike when these plants start to mature.

Anyway, despite the slow, timid spring, I got some things done over the past couple days.

I added 8 cartloads of soil + compost (ooof) to the new chevron garden, then planted the day lilies. I put 10 in -- 5 on either side, which will soon fill in, then put two more up in the rocky scree on the back hill where the lupines are. I bet they take off up there, which is ok.

I potted the Jelly Bean blueberries in two large containers. Love these! Jelly beans!

I planted the Niobe clematis under one of the Austrian pines, and will try to get it to climb up the pine.

I took out the clumps that remained of the liriope. It's a tenacious plant and hard to remove, but the soil was pretty wet and I got them out. I tried so hard to grow a long line of them along the front of Meadow's Edge, and bought so many. But they never did well, they look awful in spring, and what was left was random and unattractive in front. Gone now.

I weeded, I cut some roses back and lopped off some bittersweet on the hill (losing battle).

And I organized my new shed!

Neat, huh?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

This Was Not so Easy

Cool today, in the 50s and damp. A rain soaker coming tomorrow, and we got another quarter of an inch overnight last night.

Well, we put it together and I now have a shed by the potting bench.

This was not at all easy to assemble.

Jim did a great job, but the instructions were very frustrating and unclear, the quality is chintzy. and nothing was plumb or fit together. It's a shed, not fine furniture, but I expected more for the price.

It does not seem very watertight, although I can caulk where needed perhaps. There is a gap at the top of the doors where they meet. The overhang will direct water off it, but I may try to put something there too. I like that the hinged lid lifts up to get at shovels, and the front doors open to get at bags of things on the floor inside.

The idea is to keep gloves, and pruners, and boxes of twist ties, and the mini-tarps and things that need to stay out of the rain in here. Right now I have to walk back and forth all the way around the house to the garage to get any small item, or my gloves, or tools.

The shovels fit angled into the corner. I'll add some shelves and baskets.

It smells wonderfully of cedar. The color will turn silvery by the end of the summer.

With some pots of flowers nearby, and my potting bench used now for empty pots and watering cans, it will look nice. And by the time I add shelves and hooks and baskets and clippy things inside, it will be sooooo functional.

In other news of the day, I dug holes.

I have three sweet birches coming and three blue beeches, and a hop hormbeam, all of which will go out in the meadow. The day was cool, the soil is moist, so I did the clearing and digging and hauling fresh dirt to each spot today. Then, when the trees come I can concentrate on planting.

I got four holes cleared from the still dormant weeds, and dug them out and hauled some of the soil + compost to them (actually I dug five, but I changed my mind about a spot in the middle of the flat meadow. Too wet, soil was very heavy and I didn't like the placement).

Three more to dig out by the road cut and then I'll wait for the trees to arrive!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Humid and Springlike

Today was cooler than yesterday, in the 60s, but with a springlike, almost summery feeling of humidity.

It rained a quarter of an inch last night, enough to wet the top dusty layer of soil, and thunderstorms are threatening for tonight.

I pricked out the seedlings from their trays and potted them today:
  Dahlia Black beauty -- almost a dozen and they look hearty
  Salvia Hummingbird -- a dozen, looking good
  Regatta Rose Lobelia -- roots weren't really developed and they were very dry
  Morning Glory Blue Picotee -- only three came up, but they look ok
  Butterfly Weed -- only a few came up, but they are good

I dug out the area where the twig towers are and settled them deeper in the soil so they won't blow away (I hope). Planted Variegated Queen nasturtiums in each, and also at the side of the new arbor, as the kiwi vine won't be big enough this season to climb much. This nasturtium is a trailing type, in mixed colors and I hope I can get it to go up the towers and up the side of the arbor.

I scattered the tiny Lauren's Grape poppy seeds.

I planted the Kintzley's Ghost honeysuckle next to the Japanese maple in front, and added a lot of soil and compost to the bare spots in the kinnikinnik. It had quite a bit of winterburn this year, which I cut off as best I could. Popweed is everywhere in that square and I need the kinnikinnik to spread more.

You can see some of the winterburn here.

The color combo going on in the front is wild. The heath is blooming bright pink and the Angelina sedum is bright gold.

The whole effect is a clashing color riot, but it's the brightest thing going on in early spring right now. I don't think the two gauras on either side  of the green sedums are coming back. They can be finicky.

The star magnolia is opening. Too early, of course. We have no frost in the next 10 days, but we are a month away from the last frost date, and the blooms will turn to mush. Unless the flowering is already over by then.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dramatic Change

Sunday was bitter and cold, Monday was delightful and pleasant, and today, Tuesday, was too warm! I kid you not. It was in the 70s today and I got hot and tired working outside. What a change.

There was lots to do.

On Monday we took a ride down to Broken Arrow and I picked up a Parrotia 'Vanessa', a Styrax japonicus fargesii, a new St. Johnswort, and a zenobia, although it is not the blue-cast variety that I already have.
The new Styrax to shade the gravel seating area
The new Parrotia at the back edge of the Drive By Garden
Either the St. Johnswort or the zenobia will go where the (dead?) rosemary is now.

I also got one more Tide Hill boxwood to complete the row in the gravel garden.

Today, in warm sunshine I planted the trees and the boxwood. I'll hold off planting the shrubs for now.

I edged some more around the front, and more of the Drive By Garden. I moved the most forward camassias in Meadow's Edge, and divided them at the same time. This is not the right time to do that, just as they emerge and before bloom, but I did it anyway. It was just a few that were in the wrong spot.

And . . . we got 3 yards of soil + compost delivered this morning. After planting and edging and moving a few things around, I was too tired to shovel and spread the dirt where it is needed. And too hot, amazingly.

I don't know if it is the sudden warmth, but I had no energy by the afternoon. Nada. Pffft.

But what a lovely day to sit outside and look at my new (dormant) trees!

We need rain. It's surprising how quickly we went from the sogginess of March to a dry April. The soil is dusty. Some rain is expected tonight.