Monday, March 31, 2008

The New Bridge

So what does this have to do with gardening???? More than you might imagine. Those of you who haven't been here for awhile might remember the 'composting bridge' that used to take you over to Lake Amanda. Last summer Hank (who had been resisting replacing the quite lovely in its own way bridge) fell right through it and landed in the creek. It is now quite sturdy and last week we replaced the handrails, so it's all ready for visitors. Lake Amanda has the more wonderful spring garden with daffodils, primroses, crocuses, hellebores, corydalis solida, witchhazel, daphne and all sorts of other delights that are somewhat overshadowed later in the season when the hostas take over as the dominant plants. Saracenia are starting up on the island where they grow happily out of the reach of the rabbits who have been the worst problem in all of the gardens this winter. (Time for some rabbit stew???) I potted up some trilliums, gingers, and a new variegated pinellia last week so they should be looking good for opening day the end of April. A big bunch of perennials should arrive next week. Now if the weather will only cooperate and get nice enough for all of these things to be outside !

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Iris danfordiae

Another of the early spring iris types. This one springs up seemingly overnight and is much brighter yellow than this image would let on. Like the one I put up yesterday, this one is only about 4 inches tall. The blooms don't last for all that many days and can be damaged by heavy rain or a freeze, but they are just so cheery. I just wish Hank had planted them closer to the house, rather than at the far end of the garden around a pond. Not that they don't look nice there, but it's a long walk. There's something about being able to see things from the kitchen window that is just so nice. Something to take your mind off washing dishes and such. We now have 2 different daffodils blooming, the Tete-a-Tete and Rijnveld's Early Sensation. The February Gold should be out any day. We have had years when they actually bloomed in February, but most years it's more likely to be the beginning of April before they come up. Peonies are starting to show their deep red tips and daylilies are beginning to green up and grow. Spring is certainly slow this year, but making progress.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin'

This wonderful little iris came into bloom yesterday. It is tiny and could easily be overlooked if you weren't paying attention, but it is just too wonderful to not have in the garden. The colors are unusual and even a bit more greenish in person. Flowers come before any leaves and are no more than 4 inches tall. These might be tasty for critters, especially the underground types, so when we plant these and anything else the critters might like, they get planted with a Repelex tablet. So far that seems to be working. We also water generously several times a year, but especially when planting with either castor oil or Liquid Fence's Mole and Vole Repellent. Castor oil is cheaper, but hard to mix unless you have easy access to hot water - something I don't have in my garden, so unless it's a small project and I can keep running into the house, I stick with the easy to use stuff. I know people who use wire cages around bulbs, but that's a bit time consuming and voles will just dig down from the top. They do the same in flower pots. Not, to say the least, on of my favorite critters.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


The first daffodil has bloomed so spring must surely be here. Crocuses and witchhazels are nice, but they can bloom long before spring, so for me, at least, daffodils are the sure sign. This one is tete-a-tete which is one of the miniatures and always one of the first in bloom. The whole plant isn't more than 8 or 9 inches tall, sometimes shorter. There was barely a sign that it would burst into bloom in the morning, but mid-afternoon, there it was. Certainly made my day. Daffodils are also one of our 'for sure' spring flowers. Deer don't nibble the foliage or blooms and rodents don't eat the bulbs. They multiply reliably and except for years like last year with freaky weather, bloom over a long period of time if you plant a good variety. Last year we had a late freeze just when they had started blooming. I think we had less than a week of bloom before a 3 day freeze. So sad to see them with their faces frozen to the ground. Those that hadn't started blooming yet were also done in by the freeze and spring seemed to be over before it started. I usually have bouquets of daffodils in every room of the house this time of year, but last year the house was so less cheery. If you haven't been to the gardens in the spring, you have to imagine that there are daffodils everywhere - through all of the peony beds and tree peonies, and among the daylilies on the hill and then along to the north over most of the rest of the hill in large rows and huge sweeps. We've even been adding them to the gardens among the ponds in the back and even around the peonies in the back. There are some in the parking lot and at Lake Amanda. We have good old American types and a few years ago added a couple hundred varieties from Northern Ireland and New Zealand. You might say I get excited about daffodils. Just don't try hybridizing with them unless you are extremely patient. From seed to bloom can take 7 years. I'll stick to daylilies and hostas where in a year of 2 you know the results of your work.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Crocus tommasinianus

This is Crocus tommasinianus, a very early spring species. It has increased rapidly; this clump is 3 years old from a single bulb. Our biggest problem here is rabbits eating the flowers and foliage and rodents of various sorts eating the bulbs. We have spread Milorganite around this year and so far none of the crocuses have been touched. Someone told us this would help keep deer from eating things and that's why we tried it, but it seems to be working for the rabbits too. Daffodils are showing color, at least some of the very earliest ones, so we should be looking pretty cherry soon. Opening day for the nursery is April 25th and we should have a wonderful daffodil show this year for opening weekend. In years with early springs, the daffodils can be almost finished by then. Visitors are free to take home a bouquet with them when they visit.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

OK Spring is here and it's time for me to get back to blogging on a regular basis. Hibernation is over and the work in the garden has started in earnest. This was taken about 10 days ago when we had our snow/ice storm. Witchhazel is such a wonderful thing in the spring. Besides being pretty and cheerful and colorful, it makes the whole yard smell good. I also like that it doesn't much mind the cold or snow unless it gets below zero and really windy. The one thing that ends its quite long (sometimes 2 months or more) bloom season is heat. Early springs do it in quickly. It is not too quick getting big, but will eventually make a large shrub. Full sun is best, though some of ours get a little shade. I've tried to add a lot of new pictures of ours to the photo gallery section of the website since we've added so many new varieties in the last few years. There are still a couple which haven't started blooming yet this year and those will be added shortly. We typically don't have them for sale at the nursery because they are past their bloom time by April when we open and just another leafy green shrub by then. We can point you to great sources, though, if you suddenly find the need for one in your yard.