"One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it brings."

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Backyard bird watching.

The sun came out for awhile yesterday and out came the birds.  Lot's of activity on the bird feeders while they were there.  The apple tree in our garden is a favorite perch in between snacks.
This little Anna's Hummingbird (thanks to Aerie-el at Gardener's Roost and Petunia's Garden  for both helping me to identify correctly) sat for a long time on this branch.  I stood about 20 feet away and just watched.  He seemed to be enjoying the sun too.
I can't believe I was able to sneak up on him.  
A Red-breasted Nuthatch on the suet feeder.  The birds seem to love this feeder.
Now a Chestnut-backed Chickadee takes his turn.  They seem to be the friendliest of the birds in our yard.  They will sit 4 or 5 feet away and wait for the feeder to be refilled.  It was their calls that caught my attention.
Another of the same type of chickadee and a Dark-eyed Junco in the apple tree.  These birds seem to travel in flocks together.  Still some fog in the distance.
A Robin was also resting on the fence, but he didn't stay once I went outside.  
Identifying birds is getting me ready for the Great Backyard Bird Count, which you can read a little bit about on the link attached.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

A little color on a gray day.

We're back to our pretty usual gray and wet winter here in the Pacific Northwest, although the sun did peek out for a few minutes yesterday.  I guess I really can't complain given the terrible weather part of the south and east are getting.  The gray weather can get a little depressing around here, but all in all we are luckier than a lot of other parts of the country, or world for that  matter. 
I was out in the yard with our dog for a bit yesterday and managed to find some color.
These mini daffodils have little buds showing.  Usually I have no luck with daffodils, all foliage and no flowers.  I was pretty happy to see that this spring I'll be seeing yellow.
Clematis armandii buds look as if they are starting to open.  I was worried there wouldn't be many flowers since I really cut it back last year.  I can never get it to grow along the fence like I want and see in other peoples yards.  It always becomes a tangled mess.
Some of the fish were out swimming.  These are a few Comets.  We also have red and white Sarassas, spotted Shubunkins and even a couple of small koi.  They stay pretty low this time of year, but once the sun is out they are pretty friendly.  They will follow us along as we walk past the pond waiting for us to feed them.  
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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Winter Sowing, my first attempt.

I remember reading about winter sowing last year, and decided I'd try it this year. While at a nursery a couple of days ago I asked several people working there if they knew anything about it. They had no idea what I was talking about. So, I found two great sites with lots of information. The first one is the Winter Sowing forum on Garden Web. There were lots of very helpful people there that answered my questions.
I also found another great site Winter Sown.org. The directions seem pretty clear and simple. I have plenty of seeds as I mentioned in my previous post, might as well try it. I'm in zone 7 (or 8) depending on what chart you look at. According to the replies to my post on the winter sowing post I can start hollyhocks and larkspur now. I'm going to try columbine too, just to see what happens.
A few of my supplies: seed starting soil, covered foil pan, seeds and water.
They really were easy to do. A bit messy, I probably wouldn't do it on my kitchen counter next time. I went a little crazy with the water and it overflowed everywhere. Oh, well.
Here are the finished products. Hopefully squirrels or raccoons won't make a mess out of them. I'm going to try to do a few more in March. I'll update on here occasionally to show if anything happens. Hopefully something will.
If anyone else has had good results or experiences with winter sowing I'd love to hear any advice you might have.
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What was I thinking when I bought all of these seeds?

Look at all those seeds.  Believe me there will more to come too since the nursery was out of several things I wanted.  I've been slowly accumulating them over the last month.  Yesterday I went back for more, and even bought seed starting soil.
Do I have a greenhouse?  Do I have grow lights?  Do I have a large sunny windowsill without any draft?  No, I don't have any of those things.  But, for some reason every winter I'm tempted by all those beautiful seed packets.  I usually buy 2 or 3 at a time.  Frequently I have my daughters with me and they also hand more to me.  Some of the packets have such pretty pictures on them.  My favorite art is on the Botanical Interests ones.
The directions on the back always sound so simple:  "seed directly outside after all danger of frost has passed" or "lightly press into soil."   How could I go wrong with those simple directions?  Last year my attempt at Bells of Ireland resulted in about three 6" tall plants.  Although they did get flowers on them, it was not quite what I was hoping for.
I have my tried and true easy favorites that I always have success with, well 90 percent success:
Sunflowers, sweet peas, zinnias, cosmos, alyssum and poppies the one time I planted them.  
I've had minor success with lupines, hollyhocks and columbines.  They have now reseeded themselves, so that made things easier.
I think in the winter I get so anxious to plant something that I go look at the seed racks inside the warm nursery.  I just can't help myself.  With all of these seeds on my desk I remembered something I read about last year.  So, I went searching on the internet and discovered something called winter sowing.  All of the growing takes place outside, during the winter.  From what I've read it's quite addicting.  I'm going today to gather the rest of my supplies and will see what happens. I will try my best to hold off on more seeds.   

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The generosity of gardeners.

This envelope I received in the mail today made me realize something I've noticed about gardeners.  It is their generosity.  They are always willing to share plants, flowers, cuttings, seeds, produce or their knowledge.   It's the same giving nature they have when they tend their own gardens.  Hoping to see other gardeners succeed or learn from their own mistakes.  Maybe it's the fun of seeing  divisions of plants thrive in someone else's yard.  Whatever it is, the happiness is felt on the sides of both the giver and the receiver.
While visiting the cottage garden forums on Garden Web, where I usually just lurk, I asked if anyone could recommend seed catalogs, as I was looking for breadseed poppies.  A kind woman graciously offered to send me some from her garden.  She doesn't know me, and yet she still has that generous nature that gardeners have.   This is what I found inside the envelope.  A kind note, the poppy seeds (enough for my sister and I) and a surprise.  Gromphena "Strawberry fields".  I can't wait to see how they grow.
I couldn't help but remember other examples of gardener generosity.  
While on a walk quite a few years ago I commented on a plant to someone out working in their yard.  This man, a former neighbor of ours, stopped what he was doing and told me to wait.  He then went out back came back with a shovel and pots and proceeded to dig up several clumps of the prettiest oxalis.  It has become a favorite of mine to share with my friends and family.  
Our next door neighbors own a small wholesale nursery.  A business that is not always thriving,  but they were so generous.  Each spring our neighbors would bring flats of primroses to everyone on our street, followed by hanging baskets later in the summer, and then several poinsettias at Christmas time.  Knowing how much my daughter and I loved working in the garden, he invited us to his nursery where he let us choose some perennials.  There was large scabiosa he told us was a floral designers favorite.  It grows the tallest and largest lavender flowers I've ever seen on a scabiosa.   Sadly, he passed away 6 years ago from cancer.  I still think of him every time the scabiosa blooms.
My best gardening friend is always asking me if I would like seedlings she has.   Corsican hellebores, that are not cheap in the nursery are free from her.  She's glad to see them growing where they have room.  
When I was working as a visiting nurse I had one patients family member that would bring me carrots from his garden.  He would insist I take them and share them.  Nothing better than fresh carrots.  Another woman, whose husband I was there to see, brought me an envelope of poppy seeds.  This was when we rented a house, so I never got to save the seeds after the flowers were finished.  They were a red peony type.  Remembering those flowers are actually what inspired me to go searching for more breadseed poppies.
I have also noticed how generous with compliments gardeners, at least the ones I know, are.  My friends and I like to take mini garden tours of each others yards, where we can point out our newest finds or ask about what grows well where.  Nothing better that giving or receiving compliments for something that required a lot of work.
I am glad to see that my oldest daughter is also generous.  She loves to work in the garden with me.  She digs out clumps of grape hyacinths and brings them to our neighbor.  She is also known to chase our friends down as they leave while she puts bouquets of flowers together for them.   
The garden bloggers that visit each others blogs to offer compliments or advice is another form of generosity to me.  It takes time out of these peoples day (or night) to not only visit your blog, but then to occasionally take the time to comment.  
Maybe if more people gardened they would see how good it feels to give.  Most of what we gardeners give is free to us, but when we see the enjoyment it brings to others it's worth more than money!

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Mt. Rainier this morning.

Several years ago, the school behind us moved some of their portable classrooms, and took down a few dangerous trees.  When that happened we discovered something.  We now had a view.  And not just any view, but one of Mt. Rainier.  This gorgeous mountain is almost a trademark for Washington state.  We see it's image on everything, including for a time a beer named after it.
Many mornings I stand and look at the beautiful colors around it as the sun rises.  This morning was one of the most clear views we've had for awhile.
Mt. Rainier is a sort of active volcano.  The last time it erupted was  somewhere between 1820-1894.  It is pretty well accepted that it will erupt again sometime in the future.  It's about 500,000 years old, 14,410 feet high and located about 54 miles south east of Seattle.  
Mt. Rainier is known for many things, climbing, recreation and it's fields of wildflowers.   July through August is the peak time to see them in bloom.  We've been there once during the spring and I think it was a bit early to really see the flowers in their glory.  I'm hoping we can try this summer.  It's a rather long and nerve wracking drive up there.  Beautiful yes, but those mountain roads make me nervous!!  I learned some of this information from the National Park Services website.
The top photo is the actual view, the bottom one is telephoto.
As you can also see, the school replanted some new trees, and I think one day our view won't be as nice.  We'll just have to enjoy it for as long as we can, or add a second story.  Hey I think I like that idea!
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Sunday, January 25, 2009

A perfect kind of snowy day!

To me a perfect snowy day involves:
  1. Snow falling all day while I can watch it.
  2. Snow only sticks to trees, grass and plants.
  3. I don't have to go anywhere.
When we woke up this morning we were treated to a light dusting of snow across our yard.  As the day has gone on, it has continued to snow.  The "chance of flurries" that the weatherman predicted is turning into more than just flurries.  Of course my daughter is already hoping school will be closed tomorrow.  So far it's only accumulating on the grass, but the temperature is hovering at 34 degrees, and getting colder.
This is our Japanese Maple.  It is the most beautiful tree in our yard.  It always looks good to me, but a little snow makes it's graceful shape standout.

My trusty hellebores, they hold up through all kinds of weather.
One single snowflake that my daughter found.
Bluebells have started reaching out of the ground all through the gardens.
Lavender has held up well too, considering all the snow that we've had.
A bright pansy face.
Sword fern beneath the cedar tree.
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Saturday, January 24, 2009

My try at macro, indoor flowers.

I have been experimenting with my camera the last few days.  After seeing so many beautiful pictures on the many garden blogs I follow, I thought I might see what I could do.  I've really never been very good about taking pictures of my garden in full bloom.  This year though, I'm going to see if I can do a better job, especially of individual flowers. 
So, since it's been so cold the last several days and there are hardly any flowers to practice on I had to work with what I had inside.
The first is a pink hyacinth.  Since we hadn't planted any outside, I wanted to enjoy it's scent inside.
These African Violets turned out pretty well I thought.  They have lots of sparkle to them.
Another close up.
I probably had 6 blurry shots to every clear one I was able to get.  I'm beginning to understand how my camera works a little better.  Another fun hobby to add to my growing list.
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Friday, January 23, 2009

Confessions of a plant mover.

Sometimes when I look around my gardens I think, "how many places has that poor plant been?"  Then I start looking at just  how many of my plants, shrubs and trees have been moved.  I'm sure most gardeners do this as well.  I have all sorts of reasons why I do, and they all seem right to me.  My husband, though, just doesn't get it.  Occasionally, I have to be a bit sneaky and surprise him with the moves.  He'll say, "wasn't this tree in the front?" or "what happened to that shrub I planted there?"  I always have a great explanation though, at least I think it is.
For example, the dogwood, which has had 3 homes, and now is in it's final growing place.  Originally it was planted beside our driveway where it received protection from the afternoon sun from our neighbor's large cedar.  By the end of the summer that the cedar was cut down, that poor dogwood was a dried up mess.  Now, it happily blooms in the back yard where we can enjoy it and it gets the proper amount of shade.
The blueberry bushes were planted on an impulse originally, and I didn't realize how much shade they were getting.  Once they were moved to the raised beds in our side yard they grew and started to produce delicious berries.
Perennials, have been moved for various reasons.  They got too big, stayed too small, didn't get enough sun or shade.  Maybe, it was too dry and I wasn't following through on my promise to them to give them the extra water I knew they would need.  Sometimes the color combinations didn't look pleasing to me.
Most of my plants new homes have made them, and me much happier.  After almost 10 years of working in these gardens I now really understand and accept how sunny or dry an area is.  I've  
 also learned to put my faith into certain plants.  Like the tree peony that took 5 years to put out it's first bloom, and now gives me more each year.  Or the camellia in the back yard that always looked yellow and had 2 blooms every spring.  After several years of  doting on it, it now has shiny leaves and is full of buds.
My yard is small and if my plants aren't growing or blooming after a few years they, sadly, must go.  I usually find a sister or friend that has a better place, and they pack their roots and go. Occasionally though, a plant has to make his final resting place the compost bin.
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Summers past...

Oh, another cold and frosty day.  Forecast of possible snow this weekend.  I needed to feel warm this morning.  I looked back at some pictures of my gardens from the past few summers.  Hope you will feel warmer too!
This is the front of the cottage garden area.  It's full of a variety of perennials and shrubs.  The pink carpet rose in front blooms nonstop spring through summer.  I continue to prune it back which seems to encourage more blooms. The tree right above it is a weeping cherry.  The taller tree further back is a pink flowering dogwood.  Gorgeous in the spring covered in flowers.
Here is the beginning of the backyard facing the pond.  This 'Summer Ice' daphne blooms spring through summer.  Lining the edges of that bed is catmint.  It does attract the neighbors cats, but it's tough and always bounces back.  There is an oakleaf hydrangea, a dwarf variety, across the path with a monkshood not too far behind it.  This area gets morning shade and several hours of afternoon sun.
Here is my favorite part of the garden, our pond.  I'll have to post sometime about how we put it in.  There was a lot of hard work involved, but well worth it.  It is situated in our yard where we can view it from our dining room.  I can even watch the fish from inside our home.  Our apple tree is just out of view to the right.  My hope is that the branches will grow out about halfway across the pond.  When it's in bloom it's beautiful.  Many perennials grow around the pond.  A large hardy fuchsia grows to the left of the waterfall.  You can also see yarrow and hyssop here.  The very large pink shrub is a favorite of mine.  It was bought in a one gallon container and grew this large in two years.  It is lavatera 'Barnsley', sometimes referred to as tree mallow.  I cut it back to about 3 feet every fall, by the end of the summer it's at least 6 feet tall, and covered with flowers.
Here is a close up of the lavatera.  I highly recommend this one.
These plants are growing along side the shadier part of the pond.  Many varieties of hosta, astillbe, and ferns.  The pink flowers come from an unknown variety of oxalis that was given to me by a former neighbor.  It is so easy to divide and flowers all summer and fall.
I can't wait to show these flowers when they are actually in bloom, that means it'll be warm!
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Frosty morning birds.

As is my usual ritual every morning I looked out all the windows to see what was happening outside.  My first check is always on the pond.  Many mornings I see that the raccoons have been here by the wet footprints and plants that have been knocked in.  I think it was too cold for them today.  Many of my plants that looked so good a few days ago are weighted down with frost.  I worry that their flower buds will freeze and not bloom this spring. 
These bushtits greeted me on our suet feeder this morning.  There had been more, but they don't stay on long.  
I love the look on the bird on the lefts face, caught with suet on his beak.
This is some geum growing in our back yard.
A purple heuchera, not sure of the variety.
The berries on the Viburnum 'Spring Bouquet'.
While I was kneeling down taking the previous picture, this hummingbird kept coming and landing on the feeder, I tried to get a good shot, but this was the best I could do.
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