Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Daffodil 'February Gold'

Such a hopeful name.  Any flower that is willing to bloom in February gets my vote.  Unfortunately, in all of our years in the hollow, I don't think this pretty yellow harbinger of spring has bloomed in February more than once.  March or even early April is more like it.  It does bloom in February down south of us in zone 7, but still...  It has been around since 1923, from what I could find out and was hybridized by deGraaf in Holland.

In fact, it isn't even our earliest bloomer.  'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' from around 1943, is the first large flowered one to bloom.

The prize, though, for the earliest bloomer, goes to a little miniature one, unnamed, that grows along the driveway in amongst the Snowdrops.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Dicentra of various sorts

Is there a flower more perfect for Valentine's Day than Dicentra, or Bleeding Heart.  Besides the old fashioned pink one, we grow a number of other ones here.

The first is Decentra exima with it's ferny leaves and more elongated flowers.

This one is Dicentra 'Gold Heart', though it's the leaves that are gold, actually, not the heart-shaped blooms.

Dicentra 'Burning Hearts' is rather new in the Hollow.  Very pretty red.

And the first one we got, the old fashioned Bleeding Heart

The white version is a bit less robust and doesn't increase as fast, but is just lovely.

And last, but not least, is 'Spring Magic'  We have had this for many years and it is still just a small clump.  This one is a much more petite Dicentra, only about 10-12 inches tall and the most lovely shade of pale pink.

These all like shade and woodsy soil.  On years with hot summers, they will go dormant by mid summer.  On more moderate years, the foliage will persist, though the bloom is only in the spring

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Cold, Sun, Blue Skies

10 A.M. and 10 degrees outside.  Not a day to be running around taking pictures.  The hollow is sleeping under about 10 inches of snow at this point since we got more overnight.  I hate the cold and am not crazy about this much snow, but when it is this cold, the snow offers a nice layer of protection for the plants.  Just a few weeks until we can be outside working and getting ready for the new season of gardening and sharing plants  Hard to believe as I look out the window right now.  So, for today, photos of lovely blue skies so we can pretend that the snow isn't really here.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Rhus radicans, otherwise known as Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy.  Dreaded garden weed.  So pretty in the fall.  I know it doesn't seem like the time to talk about summer and fall weeds, but what some people don't realize, is that you can get a very bad rash from the roots, and they are pretty hard to tell from other roots when you are clearing land or making new flower beds in late winter of early spring.  My worst case ever happened just that way, at a new house that I had moved into over the winter and didn't realize that where I was clearing for flower beds was actually a massive patch of poison ivy.  The results of my good intentions weren't pretty.

The fall color can vary greatly, from yellows to reds to oranges and combinations of them.  The tiny white flowers turn to shiny white berries, looking something like Mistletoe berries, which the birds will do their best to spread to other places where you'd rather they didn't.

I am blessed to have a partner who isn't allergic to it (I think 40% of the population isn't) and can pull it for me.  My father wasn't allergic either and I wasn't until I was in my 20s, about the time my other allergies also appeared.  

So enjoy the photos from a distance, and if you do have a run-in with these leaves or roots, there are 2 things that I find work very well to relieve the itch.  The first if Jewelweed,   Impatiens capensis is the orange one and Impatiens pallida is the yellow form.  The sap will sooth the itch pretty quickly.

If you don't have this growing nearby, an even easier fix is to just submerge the itchy spots in water at a temperature that is as hot as you can stand (or use a washcloth for places you can't easily submerge.  This takes the itch away for me for at least 8 hours, and usually more like 12.  Since my hands are the most likely place to be itchy, just washing dished in very hot water usually does the trick.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


And now to write about a subject about which I know very little - and about which I would love some advice.  I have always looked at Tillandsias and thought that sometime I would like to try some.  About a month or so ago I became the proud owner of this one.

I have read up on them and so it gets dunked or sprayed once a day (our house is a bit dry this time of year).  It has bright light for about 12 hours a day and gets a nice soak in pond water once or twice a week. Not cold pond water; I brought a jar of it in the house so it would be nice and warm.   What else do I need to do.  I know they are called air plants and some articles would have you believe that you can just totally ignore them.  The whole idea just doesn't ring true.  It must need some sort of care.  It hasn't changed or grown, but it hasn't died either, so I must be doing something right.  Any comment would be most appreciated from people who are successfully growing these.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Snow, again.

Between lack of a WIFI connection and nothing much outside to talk about, I've been absent for a few days.  Back now, and enjoying watching the snow, since I don't have to go anywhere for a few days.  I took a walk a bit ago and here are some photos.  I seems that we did a pretty good job of pruning trees and shrubs along the driveway since, despite things being covered in snow and hanging down, it was still easy to walk out.  That's a big improvement over a few years ago when walking was impossible as the whole driveway would be gone - covered with leaning branches.  No comment needed on these photos, just some pretty snow.

Sunday, February 7, 2016


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

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

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


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

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.