Sunday, February 7, 2016

4 February 2016 - Scilla

I think all gardeners have special plants - ones that bring back memories of childhood, family and friends or special places.  Scilla is one of those for me.  We had them growing, a small patch of them, between 2 Azaleas in the front of the house.  They were tiny things, not flashy or showy and likely to be overlooked by most people, but as a small child, they were right down there where I was and I loved the color, such a deep, clear blue.  I now have lots of them spread throughout the garden.  They come up early and don't last all that long, but while they are here, they are just so pretty.  Since I've not been adding much cultural information to these posts lately, I decided I'd check on the zone for this one (2-8) and found out that it is considered invasive in some places.  Originally from Russian and Eurasia, it has been grown here in the U.S. since the late 1700s.  Grow them in part sun and a place with good drainage.  I like them in masses as they are so tiny, one or two in a place are likely to be unnoticed.  Bees seem to love them and in the very early spring, I'm sure it is a relief for the bees to find something, anything blooming.  They spread by seed and the short, only about 6 inches tall, if that much, is gone by early summer.  Hostas come up around most of ours, so I don't really know for sure when the foliage is gone .  If you aren't growing them, I would recommend them.  They are one of the cheaper bulbs, so you can buy a whole bag of them and spread them around the garden.

And there is a pink form which I also grow, but it will never have the place in my heart that the blue ones have.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

3 February 2016 - More Cactus

A few days without WIFI has certainly put a crimp in posting things here, but as promised, some photos of other cactus that are hardy here.  These are all Opuntias of one sort of another, all hardy and all gorgeous when in bloom, as the following photos show.

The pads on Opuntias are mostly oval and flattened with spines of one sort or another, some more vicious than others (though none are really weeding friendly)

The first is Opuntia fragilis.  It is widely distributed in North America and is hardy almost up to the Arctic Circle.

Opuntia humifusa also grows happily in much of the U.S., from Montana down to the Florida Keys

Opuntia phaeacantha with persimmon colored flowers.  The phaeacanthas are less widely distributed, being mostly found in the southwest U.S. to the lower midwest.  We have these with several different colors of flowers.

Opuntia Super Rutila is a hybrid and is hardy to zone 5.  Very pretty pink flowers on this one.

Wish we still had them growing wild here in Athens County Ohio, but pigs rooted out most of the wild populations in the 19th century.  We will continue to plant them as try to re-establish a native population, at least here in the hollow.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

2 February 2016 - Hardy Cactus

People are often amazed when they tour the gardens, that we have a good collection of cactus growing here.  Most are Opuntias, many types of which are perfectly hardy here and grow and bloom easily. They're not crazy about being covered with a foot of snow or ice, and sometimes look a bit bedraggled in the spring, but they survive and bloom.

 Some of the other we grow are also perfectly hardy, but can't tolerate the  wet winters.  Our solution is to put used, and no longer good for fish, aquariums over them.  It lets in the light and keeps the rain off.  They thrive this way.  In fall and spring we just need to prop one end up a bit with a rock to keep them from getting too hot.  Even cactus, those heat lovers, don't want too much of a good thing.

I know it's hard to see the cactus inside, so here's what it looked like last summer.

And since these snowdrops (lots of them now) are just about the only other thing blooming right now, I think I'll continue the tour of the cactus collection tomorrow.  You con't get flowers much cheerier and bright than those on cactus.  Weeding can be a challenge, but well worth it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

2 February 2016 - Petasites

Petasites japonica Gigantea.  3 foot tall stems, 3 foot wide leaves and about as tropical looking as you can get.  Looks right out of a tropical rain forest.  All that, and here it is blooming in February, which is what it does most every year. We grow 5 different varieties.  All are happy growing in light shade and love moisture, even going so far, in the case of 'Golden Palms' to preferring seeps and springs on the hillside to anywhere else.  Rubra has better color in sun, but won't get as big.   People are instantly attracted to them in the garden.  While they can spread a bit more than one might like, they are easy to control.  They also hybridize easily with each other, so if you're going to grow more than one kind, it is probably best to separate them.  They spread both by runners and by seed.  But enough talk, here are some photos.  The first is a bud, ready to open and only bothered a little bit by the cold.  These blooms are about the size of a baseball and just covered with little white flowers.

This is Petasites hybridus, the leaf is a little more heart shaped than gigantea

And here is the bloom from P. hybridus which is unlike any of the others we have growing here

A patch of P. gigantea

And a bloom that has opened.

P. rubra showing that good red color on the undersides of the leaves.

And P. variegata, the first one we grew and still a favorite.

P. 'Golden Palms'.  Different species, different leaves, different blooms.  Much more difficult to find and slower to grow and slower to spread.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

1 February 2016 - Hoot Owl Hollow HIstory

I am by inclination a historian.  I come by it naturally; got it from my grandfather.  I love old houses, and that is why I put up with the idiosyncrasies of the antique which I call home.  I have lived in this house longer than anyplace else.  I have no desire to ever leave.  Luckily I am pretty handy and can keep up with its ever changing challenges - bad floors, composting windowsills, no central heating, and right now, one electrical circuit that had ceased to function, making lighting in half of the downstairs a challenge.  But I do love the history of the place and knowing a bit about those who have been here before me.  We have been fortunate to have know people who were raised here and who could tell us stories.  The house was built in 1862, from plans you could get back then, from wood that was cut on this land and with a cut stone foundation which was also gotten on the property.  We have tried to keep it as original as possible, with the  'modern' stuff in an addition on the back that we added when we took off the 1940s addition that had pretty much composted.  The Stewarts owned it back in the late 1800s or early 1900s, but only had a daughter who inherited the house with her Rhoric husband, hence the name of our road.  When Hank bought the place, it was one of only 2 houses on the road, a distance of about 2 miles.  There were usually only 2 cars to come by a day - the mail person and the newspaper person.  Times have changed a bit since then, but it is still quiet and without much traffic.  This was a dairy farm for many years, and one of the owners 'drove' the horse drawn schoolbus.  They farmed with horses, 2 of which are buried on the hill above the back garden. It was a farm in our early years here too - horses, pigs, geese, chickens, ducks, goats and I'm probably forgetting something.  It has evolved from that to being purely a pleasure garden - pretties and not much to eat, though I do stick edibles here and there and hope the deer and rabbits don't find them.  But enough talk.  Here are some photos from times past.

This first one is take just about at the end of the driveway.  The horses used to bring in the firewood.  Amazing how not wooded it is down there compared to now.

This is one of the sheep the year she had quadruplets.  This was taken back near where the bog is now

And 2 geese, Gus and Gloria

The back barn and Roch, the horse. The back pasture was a lot cleaner then as the sheep grazed over there back then .

This was the parking lot back then it was for growing potatoes or popcorn or sunflowers.

Monday, February 1, 2016

31 January 2016 - Thawing Out

The snow is still here, though not so much in town, as we found out this morning.  Still ice on some paths, but it is certainly melting and it is once again safe to walk and enjoy the garden. That means new photos of the progression from winter to spring, though probably temporary progression as more cold weather is predicted after our nice warm spell.

As you can see, the creek, though still frozen, is starting to run nicely again.  At least visibly nicely.  It was running all along under the ice.  Very cold water right now.

Another spot on the creek with very fast water.  Tiny creek with rapids.

Shady spots still have a lot of snow.  This ivy doesn't seem bothered by it, though.

Lake Amanda, the large pond in one of our shady gardens looks like it has ice bergs floating right now.  Too late to save the yew foliage as the deer took care of it while the pond was still frozen and they could just walk out and get to it.

On of the pots of iris that grow in Lake Amanda.  I think they're in a bit too much of a hurry.

And you can't forget the Snowdrops. Tiny buds are showing already.

The Tibetan Hellebores are also in a bit of a hurry.  No snow on them as they have been covered by an insulated box to protect them.  They are just in too much of a hurry this year.  They are always early, the first ones to bloom, but this is just a bit much.  They will be covered again when the cold returns.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

30 January 2016 - The Creek

I've always thought it was grossly unfair that having been blessed with a creek, and just loving the flowing water, both the sounds and sight of it, we have also been blessed with what is a sort of seasonal creek.  On damp years we get a trickle all summer, but most years, about the time it warms up enough to want to go wading, there is no water in which to wade.  While I love all of God's creations, there are a few places where I think S/he could have put a little more thought into things, as in a creek that runs all summer, the time when we need it most for enjoyment, watering plants, for the birds and animals to drink and a whole list of things.
I could play in the creek for hours, looking at rocks, watching the tiny fish that swim in the deep puddles (and which sort of mysteriously disappear in the summer drought, only to reappear with the fall rains).  Every heavy rain brings us new rocks, the most unusual and prettiest of which get carried up into the gardens for edges or accents. There is a piece of cut stone down there right now that I would love to bring up, but which is way to heave to lift.  Maybe a couple of strong guys will volunteer for that job.  There could be some free plants in it for you.
As a child I was fascinated by the little spiders (are they actually spiders?) that walk on the surface of the water, as if they had little floats on their feet to keep them from sinking.  Lazily moving across the water.  I could watch them for hours.  Still can.  They seem to inhabit the same pools where the tiny fish live.
A creek is not a static thing. It is continually changing.  In the last 20 years, ours has dug itself a much deeper channel. It used to be only about a 1 foot step down to it, but now it is at least 4.  It keeps it from flooding the gardens, but the banks crumble with heavy rains or floods, so I expect it will at some point be more level with the surface of the gardens.  That's a log time away, though, so I probably won't live long enough to see that change.  Across the road, it becomes very wide and flat, probably at least 12 feet wide.  It's lazy and slow compared with our narrow one near the house.  I don't walk there much as it is hard to get to sometimes, but its banks shelter ferns, yellow violets and trilliuims so it is well worth the trek.
Here are some photos from the many seasons of our creek, which travels from it's source above our back pasture and joins others to enter the Hocking River at White's Mill which then heads on the the Ohio River.

This is between our wooden bridge and the bridge down on the road.  What you see on the left of the photo is where the road used to go.  The 'new' bridge was a WPA project, so it is getting pretty old too.  The road used to go almost right in front of the house.

It's amazing how we can have rapids in our little creek when the water gets high and fast.

And 2 photos of different floods.  Only once has the water come high enough to get near the house and that was during a hurricane where we got 9 inches of rain in not too many hours.  I think that had more to do with the rain than the creek.

The water here is at least 4 feet deep and would wash me all the way to White's Mill is I was silly enough to venture into it.