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

Friday, February 26, 2010

Last Fertilizer Friday of February.

It's hard to believe it's already Friday, what a busy week it's been with an even busier weekend coming up. I had really wanted to get to the nursery and pick up some more seeds. I'm hoping to get some indoor seeds started in the next week. We did get some Sweet Peas started outside a few days ago and I'm trying them in pots this time like I saw Joanne do in her garden last year. The place I used to have great success growing them is where I now have the Blueberry bushes, which also love the spot. Plus I thought the other advantage would be that I could move them to the deck when they bloom and we can really enjoy their scent that way.

This is the last Fertilizer Friday of February and I feel lucky to have more blooms to share:
Old Fashioned Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis) is probably one of my very favorite Spring flowers. I have several in my yard, but each Spring I feel like I need to have more. I never get tired of the heart shaped flowers. They are perfect for putting in little Spring bouquets.

Tete-a-tete Daffodils were almost covered in snow this time last Winter. The little clumps throughout the yard have been multiplying nicely.

Navelwort (Omphalodes cappadocica) 'Starry Eyes'. I can't wait until I can spell this one without looking it up every time! My other plants are finally getting larger, but they are in too shady of an area to get good pictures of.

The first Snowflake (Leucojum) is blooming under the newly moved Dogwood tree.

A freshly planted pink Pansy in the front yard, dirt and all.

Hellebore 'Red Lady' (H. orientalis) which was just planted last year has it's first couple of flowers just opening.

The Corsican Hellebore (H. argutifolius) has flowers opening left and right. It actually started blooming a couple of weeks ago, but I just think it's so pretty I had to post a new picture.

Hellebore (H. x nigersmithii) 'Ivory Prince' was bought on clearance last Spring. I was a little worried it wasn't going to bloom.

Muscari blooms are just popping up.

This is probably the thing I'm most excited about though. Our tiny Meyer Lemon Tree has got several of these tiny lemons forming. They are about 3/4 of an inch. It might not sound like much, but it's the first time we've gotten them. Guess our hand pollinating worked! Now we just hope they continue to grow.

Fertilizer Friday is hosted each Friday by Tootsie at Tootsie Time. Visit her to join in or see who else is "flaunting their flowers."
I hope all of you in the Northeast getting all the snow and wind will be safe. From what they are showing on the news here it looks like it's quite a storm you're getting. Hopefully this will be your last round of snow!
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Shake a tail feather!

The American Robins are year round residents here, but during much of the winter we don't see them on a regular basis. Once they start appearing in small flocks in our neighborhood I can always count on them for entertainment. Of all the birds that visit our yard, the Robins seem to like bathing the most. They've been in all of the birdbaths and the pond waterfall splashing around. When one hops out the next one hops in for it's turn.
I loved watching this one splash around like crazy, the hop to the top of the Cherry tree and shake his tail feathers again and again.

Who needs television when you can look out your window and see this happening?!
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"It's still February."

While outside so much the last week working in the yard I've been noticing how many plants seem to be in a hurry to start blooming. It seems like almost every day I've found something new beginning to leaf out or flower buds beginning to show color. They are making it hard to believe we still have 25 days of Winter left. While walking through a nursery on a sunny day last week I had to keep reminding myself, "It's still February, no reason to buy every plant I have on my list today, pace yourself." I was eying a Hydrangea 'Annabelle' (thanks to Edith Hope mentioning it in a post and it sounding like the perfect plant for a difficult area in my yard), but it was still sticks and not one leaf on it yet. Despite my excitement in finding it, I knew it was too early to buy it, especially since I couldn't tell if it was alive or not. "It's only February" I told myself, "still plenty of time to come back and find an 'Annabelle' that has signs of life."
I know that even if our Spring is early I still need to pay attention to the last frost date, which for my area is April 9th. I also need to remember that it's generally around Mother's Day or mid May when it's warm enough to plant things such as annuals or tomato plants outside here. Our Springs are generally not that warm and quite wet.
These plants are some of why it's hard to believe that it's still February:

Pink Flowering Currant (ribes sanguineum) is pretty close to my favorite blooming shrub. In another month or so it will be covered in drooping pink flowers. The flowers don't have any scent, but hummingbirds do fight over this shrub while it's in bloom. When I bought this plant 6 or 7 years ago it was a tiny 1 foot tall stick. I couldn't imagine it ever getting very big. It's now about 8 or 9 feet tall. It did take about three years before it began to bloom heavily, so be patient if you try this one. It's worth waiting for. I have it growing right under a large Pine tree and it does great there.

Mock Orange (Philadelphus coronarius) has the most delicious smelling blooms. This one has chartreuse colored leaves and just pops out in this part of the yard. The leaves tend to change to a more green color as the summer progresses, it may be because it doesn't get as much sun as it would like.

Lilac 'Ludwig Spaeth' ( Syringa vulgaris) buds are growing quickly. This is one I'll be concerned about if we get a late freeze. I moved this from the back yard a few years ago because it wouldn't bloom. It's gotten really tall and has lots of flowers now that it gets the full sun it needs.

The top of the Lilac is a favorite hangout for the birds visiting the bird feeders in the front yard. This guy was singing his heart out.

The Weeping Cherry tree is blooming a little early now. This was the first tree we planted about a year after we moved in to our house 10 years ago.

Two years ago we planted two Pear trees in our front yard, one for each daughter. It's important to plant different varieties that will cross pollinate each other. We're hoping to get our first pears this year.

The Water Hawthorn (Aponogeton distachyos) is really beginning to bloom a lot now. They begin blooming when the water is about 50 degrees. I've told in earlier posts that I had read these blooms smell like vanilla. After I took this picture I picked this flower to give it a whiff. It does smell good, but I wouldn't compare it to vanilla. I think these flowers are so pretty, I love all the brown seeds contrasting with the white flower.

So while it does feel and look like Spring, it still is only February.
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Monday, February 22, 2010

Turning an unused side yard into a new garden area.

We've been talking about our upcoming outdoor projects around here over the last few weeks. Or I should say I've been talking about them and trying to convince my husband of what I think are some great ideas. We both know we have to replace our side fence, it's practically about to fall over. The side of the house it's on has been the dumping grounds of our yard, it's where we keep the yard waste can, compost bin, plants with no home, and empty plant containers. It's also home to a very ugly metal shed that came with the house.
When I took my husband out to show him my newest ideas for the side yard, it wasn't long before he was loading up the back of his SUV with two big stumps, a broken concrete fountain and other things too big for the garbage can and off to the dump he went. The poor guy doesn't always know what he's getting himself into when he joins me on a "garden tour". After he finished the last job that required his muscles, which was removing a fence post that had been set in concrete, he went off on a bike ride. Sweet Pea and I took it from there.
Off to the home improvement store we went for compost and brick pavers. It seemed everyone else in town was there for garden supplies as well. I wonder how many of the men were there after the women in their lives convinced them of garden projects?
We had perfect weather to work in, sunny and clear skies and the temperature close to 60.

Gracie, our little white dog, soaked in the sun on the deck. Occasionally people have asked what breed of dog she is, she's a Bichon Frise.

I wish I would've taken some before pictures, but I guess I was too excited to start the cleanup on this part of the yard. There was a lattice panel attached to a fencepost and to the fence. The whole back area was gravel and stumps, broken fountain, etc. Earlier in the week I took stacks and stacks of nursery pots to a pot recycling center at a nursery near us.

Sweet Pea dressed for gardening. The area she is standing on was about 3 inches deep of crushed gravel. We removed the gravel and finished edging with brick pavers about 8 feet back and 7 feet toward the fence. After the fence is replaced this Spring, the metal shed will go and we'll be putting a cedar potting shed just behind where Sweet Pea is standing. I'd love to find one with a few windows and add shelving inside for tools and other garden supplies. I've wanted a potting shed since we moved here 10 years ago.

The fence post to the right of the cement cat is where the lattice panel was. The whole yard already feels bigger with that divider gone. Most of the plantings in front of the fence were added this past fall, so they are just starting to grow a bit now with the mild weather we've had.

This is where the potting shed will face out to. We used hoes, rakes, shovels and my favorite: a pickax to cleanup here. Then we added many bags of compost to the clay soil here. Look at all that open space to fill in!

And while we've had such clear skies recently the Littlest Gardener has been just fascinated by the moon being out all day. Each time I looked up from the digging I was doing I saw the moon right above us.

When my husband came home from his ride he was quite impressed with what we got accomplished over the weekend. I hope that in a few months the fence and shed will be up and this unused side yard will be another pretty part of the garden.
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Friday, February 19, 2010

Front yard - what I've been working on.

With the nice weather we've been having off and on over the past month or so I was able to get a project crossed off my list already. I've gone outside to work on any day that it hasn't been raining. I can't believe how much easier digging and removing grass is when the ground is really wet. The grass practically came off in strips as I pulled it out. I remember removing grass in the summer and it was very difficult to dig out. If you need to get rid of grass, try doing it while the ground is wet from a good rain.

I realized I hadn't taken any pictures of the front of the house for a long time. I used to have front of the house shots as my blog header, but for now I just can't part with that cute hummingbird. Here you can see just how long the grass is already. I've seen people out mowing their grass, much earlier than usual. Ours is about half grass half moss right now. We're just leaving the moss, it's actually pretty looking.

The crooked line of edging was what I had wanted to fix. I had enlarged two different parts of this big bed last summer and didn't do a very good job matching up the edging. Removing the grass and dirt here took a couple of days.

This is after I moved the edging back and refilled with about 18 bags of soil. All that blank space equals more room for new plants.

This is looking down from the other side after I was able to do a little cleanup and weeding here. In the new area I sprinkled in Poppy seeds, moved some Veronicas out that didn't have enough space and planted the Siberian irises from Linda. Even though the edge isn't perfect I think it looks much better.

Another place I cleaned and even moved a couple of plants around. Look at all that bare space, I can't wait to fill it in with seedlings from winter sowing and the dahlia tubers I dug up last fall.

I can't believe how long the grass is, maybe I should at least edge it. I love how the light shines through the Spirea 'Magic Carpet' new red growth.

And a view about halfway down. The closest shrub with the green leaves is an Abelia and the one in the middle is a Mexican Orange (Choysia). Both are evergreen and add some much needed green during the winter.

I still have more to do in the rest of the front yard, but what a great feeling to get something accomplished already!
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Pond in February.

The pond and the garden around it has been showing a lot of new growth over the past couple of weeks. Our weather was sunny and mild today so I got out early to clean around the pond a bit. The surviving fish were up near the top and swimming around the edges looking for bugs that may have fallen in.

The sun was shining for most of the day, making the pond look more like a day in spring than winter. I made a lot of changes in the flower bed along the old fence last fall. I'm anxious to see how it looks in a few months. I even moved smallish Dogwood (which is to the left of where the picture ends) and the buds on it appear healthy so far.

On the other side of the pond by the birdbath you can see how big the White Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis) is. The shrubs near it are all starting to leaf out. Luckily the apple tree is not starting early, it seems to know that it's still February unlike the rest of the yard.

The glass pond float from the Garden show. The water is green and cloudy from being stirred up while I was scooping leaves out earlier in the day.

The Hostas along the back edge of the pond are all starting to come up through the ground.

Deutzia 'Chardonnay Pearls' was moved to this spot behind the pond in the fall. It's covered in flower buds already.

Lots of birds have been at the pond and the trees around it. This Spotted Towhee has been around a lot lately.

American Robins have been in both our front and backyard in small flocks. The ground is so wet from all the rain that the worms are all up near the surface.

This spring the pond will be needing a major clean out, something I put off from last spring. Once that is done and the water is a bit warmer we'll be looking for a few new fish to add to the pond.
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bird count results and a bird behavior question.

It's been fun seeing how many other bloggers participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count this year. I wonder if there will be a noticeable increase in participants this year?
Since it was mostly rainy during the counting I did I took most of the pictures on this post from inside. I also thought I'd try out some new settings to help with the poor light. This was also one of the only times I've used the optical zoom on this camera too. While it helps to get pictures of the birds at a distance, the quality isn't as good.

Pine Siskins have made their debut for the year in the garden during both bird counts I've done. They shared the bird feeder together for a long time.

February 12 (counted for one hour)
Black-capped Chickadee 7
Chestnut-backed Chickadee 2
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
Bewick's Wren 2
Song Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 10

Spotted Towhee in a just starting to bloom forsythia bush. I used the Optical zoom from inside and set the ISO to high. A couple of friends that do photography for a living told me that raising the ISO helps prevent the need to use flash. Not that good of a picture, more of an experiment with the settings.

February 13 (counted for 45 minutes)
Black-capped Chickadee 4
Chestnut-backed Chickadee 2
American Crow 3
Song Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 5
Pine Siskin 7
American Robin 5
Spotted Towhee 1
Seagull 1

A Dark-eyed Junco, our most common year round visitor.

I've been trying for awhile to get a picture of how some of the Juncos look here this winter. There are quite a few with these white patches all over their body. Some have much more white than this one. Any ideas to what it could be?

February 14
(counted for 45 minutes)
Black-capped Chickadee 4
Chestnut-backed Chickadee 3
American Robin 5
Townsend's Warbler 1
Spotted Towhee 2
Anna's Hummingbird 1
Dark-eyed Junco 6
Seagull 2
European Starling 1

February 15 (counted 30 minutes)
Black-capped Chickadees 7
Chestnut-backed Chickadees 4
Pine Siskins 2
Bewick's Wren 2
Dark-eyed Junco 5
American Crow 1

It's pretty interesting to go to the detailed reports page to see which states have had the most checklist or types of species turned in. I noticed that in our town's results only one Townsend's Warbler was seen during the whole count, and that was from my count.

Black-capped Chickadee

I also saw the strangest bird activity I've ever seen yesterday. While the Littlest Gardener and I were outside I noticed a neighbor cat walking through our yard. Minutes later I saw what looked like an injured Chickadee flapping around on the ground. Feeling upset that the cat hurt the bird, I realized as I got closer it was actually two Black-capped Chickadees and one appeared to be attacking the other. It was pretty aggressive too, with feathers flying around them. Once we were about 3 feet away they both flew off, neither appeared injured. The birds have been very noisy and appear to be looking for nesting places already. I wonder if this fight had anything to do with this. I'd love to learn what this behavior could have meant.

Kylee at Our Little Acre will be putting together a post with links to bloggers that participated in the Bird Count.

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