Spring blooms

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Spring is definitely here.  The days are warming, as are the overnights (a little too quickly for my taste).  I wake up to the chorus of song birds, and fall asleep to the lovely sound of the spring peepers.  The bunnies, chipmunks and squirrels are frolicking around the yard, and we had our first siting of Mr. Woodchuck yesterday afternoon as he ambled over to the apple trees from his winter burrow.

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All of this is wonderful and magical to witness; every year feels like my first experience of spring.

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As magical, is the awakening of the garden.  Green is evident everywhere now – in the grass and all of the flower borders.

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I finished cutting back all of the dead perennials yesterday and was astounded at the amount of basal growth I was uncovering.  Even the roses, which are usually very slow to awaken up here, have little, pink buds.

Daffodils, Hellebores and Scilla are blooming, and the tulips, camassia lilies and alliums show a fair amount of growth (although none should bloom until I return from Ireland, I hope).

 

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I was delighted to see this pansy growing in the peony border, although also somewhat disturbed as it’s evidence of our increasingly mild winters (i.e., climate change).  Pansies are generally annuals up here and do not over-winter. 

 

Lambs in Sweaters?!

Finn lambs with sweaters

“To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

This post is not even remotely garden or wildlife related, but I couldn’t resist sharing these photos.  A friend of mine, who happens to raise sheep and shears (including my 3 dumplings), was out shearing a flock of Finn sheep a couple of weeks ago.  Lambing season for many up here begins in February/March, but others time it for slightly warmer temps in April.  The “mother” of this flock, just to make certain the lambs remained warm and toasty, knitted beautiful, little sweaters for each.

Finn lamb coats

It has to be one of the most adorable things I’ve seen, and my friend was obviously smitten.

Signs of Spring

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We put two nesting boxes in our orchard a couple of years ago.  They sit on opposite sides of the space, probably 200′ or so apart.  Last year, a tree sparrow couple took up residence in the one closest to the house and graced us with a family of 5 that spent the summer pirouetting over the orchard.

A bluebird couple moved in to the 2nd home shortly after the tree sparrows arrived.  The bluebirds are not that common around here – at least not in backyards — so we were delighted to have them move in.

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About a week ago, we noticed 3 tree swallow males vying for one of the houses (tree swallow in photo above).  Within a couple of days, the bluebird couple returned (I like to think it’s the same couple, but honestly, how would I know?) and claimed the very house the tree swallows had been sparring over.  The female has been bringing nesting materials into the house for the past couple of days, as the male sits watch (see below).

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The tree sparrows have stopped fighting among themselves and now have taken to sitting on the fence or the power line overhead, watching in disbelief that they have been supplanted.  No more sparring.  I’m hoping one of them will eventually realize that there is another empty house in the area.

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Not bird related, but Tilly, our corgi, was enjoying the beautiful spring day yesterday as well.  It’s wonderful to see new life all around us.  And did I mention the peepers returned on April 10th!  Always a delightful sign of spring.

See additional photos below from yesterday morning.  It’s so wonderful to finally see the plants breaking through the ground and sending up new shoots. From upper left to right: peonies breaking ground; basal growth on sedum and alchemilla mollis; and on the bottom, rhubarb.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – April 2017

This is my first time participating in the monthly bloom day meme hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.  I certainly can’t offer the spectacular range of colorful blooms that many of the bloggers have posted today.  I’m afraid, up here in very northern NY, we’ve barely stepped out of winter.

But the somewhat warmer temps of the past week, along with plenty of rain, have spurred some growth.  I’m excited to see what had been the predominantly browns of the pasture and yard start to show some green.  The daffs and tulips have also begun to send up green shoots.  But blooms are still a bit sparse.  I did manage to find the following among the messy beds however.

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Hellebores above and below – I have no idea what species since they were part of a mix packet that I planted 4 or 5 years ago.

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Crocus sieberi I think.  I didn’t plant the crocus or the snowbells.  They were all in the garden when I arrived and I have disrupted many of them as I have expanded the borders.

 

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Crocus biflorus perhaps?

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Galanthus nivalis – the common snowdrop

 

New Arrivals

I’ve been trying to get better about growing more from seed and taking cuttings to expand my garden, rather than buying every plant that looks and sounds exciting to me.  My gardening habit has become quite expensive!

Nevertheless, I’ve added or expanded a border every year since I started this garden in 2012 and that requires lots of new plants, however acquired.  This year is no different.  I have plans to redesign the front yard and have several borders in the backyard that need expanding as well.  I’m trying to incorporate permaculture principles to the extent I can as I expand and, toward that end, I continue to add shrubs and trees to the areas immediately surrounding the house and underplant these with a mix of perennials, annuals, certain vegetables and herbs.

Since this blog is, in part, my garden journal, I thought a review of what will be arriving this year in the mail — usually by the 2nd week of May — was a worthwhile exercise.  So, in this year’s line up, we have:

Lychnis coronaria – commonly known as rose campion; it’s an herbaceous perennial that grows 2-3′ tall and blooms from May to July; it has brilliantly colored magenta blossoms with silver foliage; I find the color contrast mesmerizing. It’s a short-lived perennial, but self-seeds happily.  I’ve none in the garden and couldn’t resist adding.

Clematis terniflora – also known as “Sweet Autumn” clematis; this is replacing one that died last winter.  This clematis blooms in August and September and can reach a height of 30′ or more in a season.  It becomes a spectacular mass of white flowers.  I love it, I miss it, so I’m replacing it.

Here’s a photo of the one that passed; it was just starting to bloom in this photo; climbing the trellis on the side of the front porch

Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’ – this is a red-blossom honeysuckle.  Honeysuckles do very well in my garden; they’re hearty climbers and the hummingbirds feast on them!

Clematis ‘Diamond Ball’ – this is a new variety for me; it has 4-5″ light lavender blossoms.  It looks beautiful in the photos – we’ll see how it fares.

Iris ‘Immortality’ – I love Bearded Irises and have been trying to add new varieties throughout the borders every year. ‘Immortality’ is a white, reblooming variety and my intent is to add it to the revamped front borders.  Below is not ‘Immortality’, but I needed some color in this post!  The Iris below is ‘Autumn Circus’.

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Stachys Byzantina – commonly known as “lambs’ ears” – it can be found growly freely in this area, although not as frequently now as I recall as a child.  A wonderful, silver-foliaged plant that works great on the edges.

Canna ‘Tropicanna’ – another new addition to the container plantings; this has multi-hued, fiery looking foliage.  My plan is to put it in a large container and place it toward the back of the hot border.

Baptisia ‘Solar Flare’ – blooms late spring to early summer; ‘Solar Flare’ has bi-colored blossoms opening as a bright, lemon yellow and then fading to a warm orange at the base, leaving you with a two-toned blossom-lined stalk.  Another new addition to the hot border.

Penstemon digitalis ‘Mystica’ – clusters of small white flowers with lavender shading, with deep purple stalks and foliage; blooms late spring to early summer and is a great butterfly and hummingbird attractor.

Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ – blooms in late summer through fall, Sedums grow easily in my garden.  I have many ‘Autumn Joy’ already, but like the burgundy foliage in this variety.  Butterflies are fond of Sedums, and it provides seeds to birds during the winter months.

Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ – also known as “Fountain grass”, this is a perennial, ornamental grass.  I just started to added perennial grasses to the borders a couple of years ago.  Some, despite claims that they were hardy to Zone 4, didn’t make it through the first winter.  I’m hoping this one will.   This variety has bottle brush plumes and should reach 30″ or so.

Philadelphus coronaries ‘Icelandic’ – common name “Mock Orange” — a 6′ shrub with creamy-white flowers in spring, I’m adding this to the front yard.

Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’ – This variety has a rounded 3′ shape with subtle grayish green leaves that look almost variegated (from the photo in the catalog – I’ve not seen one “live”), and reportedly has fragrant clusters of pale pink flowers that bloom in May.  I purchased two and they’re going in the front yard.  Well maybe one will go in the back yard; I haven’t yet decided.

Cornus alternifolia ‘Golden Shadows’ – commonly called “Pagoda Dogwood”; I love the look of this tree.  I bought two. I know I want to add one to the front, who knows where the second will end up.  I love the lime-green, variegated leaves.  It grows to about 8′ tall so it’s perfect for my smallish front yard.

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Cercis Canadensis ‘Appalachian Red’ – common name, “Eastern Redbud” – blooms in early spring with fushia pink to red, pea-like blossoms; can grow 15-25 feet tall.

I also have several flowers and vines that are direct seeded after the last frost (usually not until after May 15-18 in a good year): Monarda mixture (a/k/a Bee Balm) – seeds from John Scheepers; Tropaeolum ‘Old-Fashioned Tawny’; Sunflowers – usually 3 or 4 varieties every year; Zinnia (Oklahoma mix); Ipomoea purpurea ‘Grandpa Ott’s”; Thunbergia ‘Sunrise Surprise’ and ‘White-Eyed Susie’; Hyacinth Bean – a new vine I’m trying out this year.

 

If you can’t garden outside…

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Clearly I’m not able to get outside and do any cleanup with the snow and water on the ground, and likely won’t be able to do so for awhile yet.  But the indoor “nursery” has been hopping for a few weeks now.

I have roughly 200 plants in seed trays and pots right now, and I will sow another 50 or so in 3 weeks.  That’s a couple of hundred less than last year, but N and I will be in Ireland for 10 days at the end of April/first week of May (yeah! our first time there).  My brother will move into the house to tend to our various animal babies, and well as the green babies.  I didn’t want to overwhelm the poor guy!

So, here’s what’s cooking inside at the moment:

Flowers

Several salvia varieties, Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria Blue’, Salvia farinacea ‘Fairy Queen’, Salvia splendens ‘Flare’ — salvia is a perennial in zones 8 and up, but treated as an annual in our neck of the woods since it won’t overwinter; will tolerate poor soils and some drought; ‘Victoria Blue’ has a deep blue flower (and it’s a true blue, which is rare) and blooms from June through the 1st frost.  I use it as a filler in the mixed borders, as a butterly attractor, and simply because I love the color.  This is my first year planting the other 2 varieties.  ‘Flare’ is a flaming red, so they will end up in the hot border.

Digitalis purpurea ‘Strawberry Fayre’ (common name: Foxglove) — biennial and prolific self-seeder; quintessential cottage garden flower; comes in shades of pink, purples and white; I have many purple varieties already in the garden; this one happens to be the Strawberry Foxglove variety; they are attractive to bees, butterflies and certain birds.

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Dianthus (also known as Cottage Pinks) — in shades of pink, red and white; these work wonderfully in front of the border, and I plant them everywhere.

Echinacea purpurea (common name: coneflower) — a perennial that blooms from mid-summer into the late fall; a favorite of the bees and butterflies; and not just another pretty face, Echinacea is an excellent immune-booster.  This plant makes an appearance in many of my borders as well.  I’m a sucker for anything daisy-like.

Dahlia – varieties: ‘David Howard’ (orange with deep burgundy foliage; I love the look of this plant (see below)); ‘Thomas Edison’ (deep purple flower); ‘Worton Blue Streak’ (actually lavender  in color, rather than the blue that the name suggests); ‘Kelvin Floodlight’ (a huge pale yellow flower — seriously, each flower is 8-10″ wide).

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I also have dozens of an unnamed red variety that were given to me by a local gardener that are quite spectacular.  Dahlias will not overwinter here, but I dig up the tubers after the first hard freeze kills off the foliage and store them in the basement.  I replant them in pots in March and by the time we’ve had (hopefully) our last freeze in mid to late May, they’re ready to go back into the ground outside.

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Hollyhock — it is, of course, impossible to have a cottage garden without hollyhocks (the old-fashioned, single bloom variety); I adore them and have them in a variety of colors — pinks, burgundy, white and yellows; they are biennial, self-seeders and you’ll have volunteers popping up all over the garden if you leave them to their own devices; they look marvelous planted at the back of the border, and against walls and fences.  I have a dickens of a time getting them to germinate inside, and usually only end up with a handful of seedlings.  They do so much better when allowed to freely self-seed outside (and I do allow them to do so), and yet, I keep trying each season to start them indoors.

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Cleome (also knows as spider plant) — annual — predominantly in shades of pink or white, in a good year, the plants can tower up to 6′ tall.  Another plant that doesn’t like to germinate inside for me, but a hearty “volunteer” outside.

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Lathyrus odoratus (commonly known as Sweet Peas) — an annual; a 6-8′ vine with wonderfully fragrant flowers.  I’m planting several varieties this year and although I generally direct seed in early spring, I decided I would try starting some inside this year.  Even with pinching off, they’re already 5-6″ tall!  I’m growing the following varieties: ‘Chocolate Flake’, ‘Spring Sunshine Champagne’, and ‘North Shore’.  I also have a pastel mix from John Scheepers.

Vegetables

Cauliflower (‘Purple of Siciliy’) — an heirloom variety, beautiful, and quite tasty

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Eggplant (‘Casper’) — a white eggplant (probably evident from the name) that originated in France.

Peppers (‘Autumn Bell’) – red bell pepper

Tomato (‘Thessaloniki’ and ‘Nepal’), medium sized slicing tomatoes; Tomato (‘Koralik’), cherry tomatoes for the hens and ducks (and occasionally, I even get a few).

Walla Walla (sweet yellow onion) — absolutely delicious cooked on the grill!

Herbs

Agastache foeniculum (common name: Anise Hyssop) — perennial and member of the mint family.  This blooms in the summer and attracts a diverse variety of bees and butterflies.

Matricaria recutita (commonly known as German Chamomile) — a medicinal herb known for its calming properties; great in teas, but also a delightful, little daisy-like bloom.