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

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gardening in winter.

As I watched the news this morning and saw how much snow places like New York has gotten, I almost feel guilty admitting that I've gotten quite a bit of gardening done in the last week.  Aside from me complaining about the rain during the winter, which we have had a lot of, when we do get a break it's usually mild enough to go outside.  Parts of the yard are too wet to do a lot with, but still other areas can be weeded (ever growing weeds, a downside to a mild winter) and there are plenty of perennials that need cutting back.
Today I did a little more winter sowing:  Foxglove 'Apricot Faerie Queen', Blue Flax, Nicotiana sylvestris and Cleome 'Rose Queen'.   Some of the seeds that were winter sown on January 10th are already sprouting.  Both Hollyhock and Lupine had germinated by January 22nd.  Now the fun of checking on the rest of the seeds starts just waiting to see which ones will be next.  Every time I lift the lids it's like opening a present and wondering what will be inside.

Last spring I finally got the shed (or Bothy thanks to Edith Hope for teaching me something new) that I had been wishing for.  I call this part of the garden the "shed garden" (creative aren't I?).  I finally got some Primroses in which has brightened the area up.  Daffodils, Tulips and Bluebells are all poking through.  Having a shed to work in during the winter has been really nice.  I finally have a place to store my tools, seeds and other gardening equipment.  The lawnmower wasn't allowed in and sits with a tarp over it behind the shed.  Maybe it will break for good from sitting outside and then the grass will have to be all be taken out.

I plan to hang at least one narrow shelf above the work bench so I have some space to put all the seeds, bulbs, etc.  A lot of this used to sit inside the house piling up on desks and tables all winter.  I love coming out and sorting through seeds or finding tools that are nice and dry rather than them sitting out on the potting bench getting wet and rusty.  One day I'd love to have electricity in here so I can set up grow lights for indoor seed starting.

The "driveway garden" was where I focused my energy yesterday cutting back perennials, weeding and cleaning out leaves.  My neighbor laughed and said, "Are you out here already?"  Then she came back with a large bag of coffee grounds she had picked up at a Starbucks for me to use around some plants.  Today I went back out to the "driveway garden" to sprinkle in the seeds of Breadseed Poppies ('Hungarian Blue' and 'Imperial Pink') and my favorite Larkspur 'Shades of Blue'.

As well as finding Phlox already starting to come up I saw that the buds on the Magnolia tree 'Vulcan' getting plumper.  I'm a bit nervous about the buds getting damaged in freezing weather which I'm sure we'll get again this winter, but for now it was nice to see since it's only been here and couple of years and hasn't bloomed yet.

Yesterday I made a visit to the nursery to pick up a Sarcococca for the entry garden, while I was there a women that works there told me that many of the roses were already in.   Bare root trees and blueberry bushes were there as well, it's hard to believe it's almost that time again. Pin It

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gnomes in terrariums?

It wasn't too long ago that I showed a picture of a terrarium that my husband got for me not long before Christmas.  Not being the most creative person I had a hard time trying to figure out how to plant it.

For some time it sat like this on the dining room table.  I felt a little guilty every time I saw those tiny plants just sitting there, especially since they fell victim to my forgetting to water them very quickly.  The tiny pots they came in didn't leave much room for error and they dried out quickly, so before they died I started trying to figure out how to plant them.

I tried several different things out, but nothing was deep enough for the plants, yet low enough to look right inside the terrarium.  That was until I saw the plastic shoebox sized container that was sitting empty in the laundry room.  I filled the bottom couple of inches with gravel and filled the rest with potting soil.  I then used moss from the craft store to cover the sides.  The plants showed signs of new growth within a week.  I still plan to do a little more with the "decor" but haven't decided what yet.

Which brings me to this guy.  I'm not against gnomes, in fact there are some that live in our back garden hidden under shrubs.  Actually I don't really get why some people are so against them, really when you have young kids they have fun looking for them.  But I'm not sure they belong in a terrarium.  This little guy seems to have something for the fairy inside the terrarium and even brought her this little flower.

You can see the fairy of his dreams just inside the terrarium here, but I'm just not sure a fairy and a gnome would be safe together trapped inside a terrarium.

I tried to get a picture of the terrarium from the side, but the lighting was tricky and the only picture that turned out was this one, with the gnome.

So whether you're pro-gnome or anti-gnome I think for now this guy will need to find another place to live.  I just can't bring myself to have one in the terrarium.
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Sunday, January 23, 2011

What have we here?

We were lucky enough to have another dry day and even some sun peeking out on Saturday.  After watching a very close and nerve-wracking basketball game of Sweet Pea's (they won!), we hurried home to be able to enjoy the weather.  It was so mild that it felt more like early spring than the middle of winter.  While I started cleaning up the shed garden and around the pond both of the girls worked on the fairy garden, giving it a little "updating".  Sweet Pea showed me the 2 inch tall Japanese Maple "sapling" that she planted in the tiniest terra cotta pot I've seen.  The little pot is only about 1 1/2 inches tall itself, perfect for fairies to tend.  She plans to do a post on it soon, her blog is listed in the PNW garden blogroll.
I walked around the path garden looking for bulbs that may have popped up and found a really nice surprise...

One of the Pulmonarias has begun to flower!  This tagless one was rescued from the nursery a couple of years ago, this is the first time it's bloomed.

Even though it's only January the path is already starting to get the look of spring.  The Pink Flowering Currant's (Ribes sanguineum) buds are growing more each day, Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum) is greening up and the scent of Sarcococca/Sweet Box carries across the yard.  Can you see the Tete-a-tete Daffodils coming up?

Old-fashioned Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) are emerging.

The Fairies have hung their door at the bottom of the giant Ponderosa Pine and are busy getting the garden ready for spring.  The green coming up at the bottom of the picture are Bluebells, we have lots and lots of them ☺.

Fairies lounging by the pond.

And fairies hiding in the shed garden.  This little area is becoming one of my favorite parts of the shed garden.  This is a Flowering Currant 'King Edward VII' with Epimedium and Hellebore 'Blue Lady' growing nearby.  Epimedium has done so well in my dry shade that I plan to pick a few more up this year.

I found an interesting post on Cliff Mass' weather blog (he's a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington) talking about what has happened with the La Nina winter we were predicted to have here in the Pacific Northwest (a prediction of increased snowfalls and colder temperatures than we've had in many years).  As most of us have noticed that live here, aside from snowing a few times, the weather doesn't seem that unusual compared to most winters here.  His blog is always interesting and if you live around here it's a great one to check out.
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Numb hands, warm heart.

This morning we finally woke to a dry day.  I don't remember the last time we had a completely rain free day.  After my oldest daughter had gone to school I took the Littlest Gardener to preschool wearing my gardening clothes (who wants to waste time changing clothes when you have a limited time to garden) figuring that the teacher and other parents had seen me enough times to realize that I don't normally dress this way.  I practically ran home not wanting to waste a second of the 2 hours of uninterrupted time I would finally have to work outside.  The grass/moss was so soggy I felt like I was walking on wet sponges, but then that's why I usually garden in rain boots anytime before May.  My gardening gloves didn't keep my hands warm for long since it was only 39 degrees when I got to work, my hands practically went numb.  But all that was okay because it wasn't raining and I got to work in the garden.

Real live actual sun!!

  I was able to prune the out of control Butterfly Bush back.  I never worry about timing when I prune it because I'm pretty sure it can't be killed.  All of the "winter interest" was cut back and the leaves that were forming a wet mat over the ground were finally raked up.  I found several stakes that I have no idea of what they are marking or what they were holding up, guess I'll once again be surprised this year when the plants show up.  One day I just might make a diagram of what is growing where, until then the excitement of discovering a forgotten plant is still fun.

 Dianthus I started from seed last year, I'd forgotten about it.  Hopefully it'll bloom this year.

 Agastache that never died back, usually in my garden it dies all the way to the ground.

 Lots of new growth on Irises and Daylilies.

 Clematis 'Little Nell' is a type 3 and will need to be pruned in early spring, I was too happy to see the leaf buds to cut it back.

 I thought I had noticed some fruit trees with buds on them recently when I was out.  Both of the Pear trees have lots of promising buds on them.

 Verbascum and Hollyhock that were started by winter sowing last year look good.  Hoping for flowers from them too this summer.

 Here is an example of how much moss we have around here.  It is growing on everything;  in the lawn, on paving stones, on houses, on trees, on everyone's roofs and anything else that's not moving.  This Dogwood tree has never had so much moss on it, but I have to say I like the character it adds.

 Some Primroses came home with the girls and I a couple of days ago and I can't wait to get them planted.  I ran out of time before I was able to get them in the ground, but just seeing them sitting in their pots on top of the soil added a much needed pop of color.

It's amazing what a little time in the garden will do.  I felt so much more energized after I finished, although it's possible that it was the chocolate that I started eating as soon as I came inside...
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The pond and garden in January.

Our January so far has been very wet!  We've had snow and we've had lots and lots of rain.  On some of the recent rainy days our temperatures made it up around 50 degrees and it seems that quite a few plants are deciding to start sending out some new growth.  As excited as I am to see new growth I have to keep reminding myself that we are only half way through January with the potential for snow and freezing again before the winter is over, and there's no question that we'll see lots more rain too. 

I was able to take this picture at almost 4 pm the other day.  The days are definitely getting longer now, as of about a month ago it was practically dark at 4:30.  This is a very exciting change!  The garden behind the pond is pretty young since about a year and a half ago I took almost everything out and started over.  I have been trying to stick to a plan and color scheme since and doing pretty well with it.  So right now what is there is still on the small side.
Quite a few of the fish were swimming around, I was happy to find so many of our favorites still there.  I know that at least a few are missing, another two were found dead in the pond the other day which seems strange.  I'm not sure what has been  happening with them.  After all the years of having this pond it's extremely rare to just find a fish dead in the pond.  There have been no signs of raccoons or any other wildlife in the pond.  Very strange.

The Marsh Marigold has lots of new growth coming up.  This usually blooms very early in spring.

Heuchera 'Autumn Bride' is looking great now.  For being such a light colored Heuchera it has handled the sun very well.

This is looking out from the shed garden.  This was all brand new last summer.  There are quite a few evergreen plants in this area, although they are still quite small.  I found many bulbs beginning to pop up in here.  Now is the time I give my daughters warnings about where they are stepping while playing in the garden, "Lookout for bulbs!"  I say as I see them running around.  Somehow I doubt they remember and that's okay, they should enjoy the yard too ☺

Last fall I planted a deciduous Azalea 'Pink and Sweet' near the front of the shed, it's supposed to be very fragrant with pink flowers.  I'm hoping it has some blooms this year.  I can't wait to see how this all fills in as the year progresses.

The forecast calls for a sunny day tomorrow and I'm hoping I can finally get out in the garden and do some clean up.  The winter interest isn't looking very interesting anymore and I think I may cut the butterfly bush back.  Spring can't come soon enough!
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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Getting inspiration.

This year I made a few resolutions.  Usually I'm not very good about making or keeping them, but this year I decided I needed to do something for myself.  As a stay at home mom most of my time is devoted to kid stuff.  Taking them to and from school, to and from sports practices and games, to and from ballet, etc.  I find that I don't have a whole lot of time to do things that I really enjoy.  I decided this was the year I would start finding more ways to enjoy my hobby of gardening and learn more about it and maybe even meet a few new people that enjoy it like I do.  My first goal is to take the Master Gardener classes in 2012, it's too late to start the program now, but I've got the date on my calender for when I need to send in my application.  My gardening friend and I also decided to join the Northwest Perennial Alliance.  Today we went to our first lecture and it was great to go and sit in a big room full of other gardeners and listen to an interesting speaker, Sue Goetz
I learned so much from listening to her and seeing her wonderful examples of how to give an existing border some excitement.  Her advice was to take a look at your garden when it's looking its worst and see what is missing.  For me winter is definitely the time my front border is at its worst.  It's so hard in the middle of summer to think about how things will look in 6 months because I'm just too excited to cram more flowers in.  Now I look at it and see that it's lacking in evergreen plants.  She suggested visiting local nurseries year round so you can see what is looking good at different times of the year and avoid being overwhelmed by all the blooming plants in spring.  I think that is probably how I've run into the lack of winter interest I have in my garden.
Sue's advice was to pay attention to shapes of the border, layering of plants, texture and repetition.  All such great advice for someone like me who is easily distracted by the flowers blooming in the nursery.

One of our hopes has been to put up a picket fence.  Once that happens the outer grass area (that will hopefully one day be going away) will be inaccessible from the inner grass area unless you climb through the plants.  Trying to decide where to "split" the border is the first challenge.  This border extends both to the left and the right from what you see in this picture.  I'm thinking the path will go to the left of the Dogwood tree.  My plan would be to curve both sides of the path out towards the front,  giving me some more planting space.

This long straight edge has always bugged me, but I just haven't gotten the urge to change it, now I do.  I plan to add a bit of curve to it, nothing too dramatic, but it needs some help.  Then I will be following more of Sue's advice by using repetition plantings along the edge.  Right now it's just a mix of low growing perennials.

These brown sticks aren't really all that exciting to look at, I need to add some other textures in here, preferably some that are evergreen.  This is where I think the path that will divide this long border will go.

Looking at the front from the driveway down I think I'll curve this bed to the left where it will meet with the driveway and that curve will hopefully mirror the curve I plan to make where I divide the bed.

Her final bit of advice was to:
- rip out or revive plants that aren't thriving or working well where they are, 
- evaluate and plan - and to do this when your garden is looking its worst,
- just say no when you go to the nursery - have your list of what you need and don't get distracted, 
-dig in,
- top dress

If it hadn't been 4pm when I returned home I would've started taking the yard apart right then!

Edited to add I'm linking this post to My Little Garden in Japan's world gardening carnival.  Gardening for the new year. Pin It

Saturday, January 15, 2011

January 2011 Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

After the snow, rain, cold and wind we've been having I had to wonder if there would be a flower blooming at all right now.   Today is the first bloom day of 2011 and I'm happy to have a few flowers to share.  I looked back at last year's January bloom day post and found that the same flowers were blooming, just more of each of them.

Sweet Box or Sarcococca ruscifolia started blooming at the end of December.  The scent from these tiny flowers is delicious.

Now imagine a whole row of them blooming at once... Yum!

Hellebore 'Blue Lady' is the only Hellebore blooming but the buds are up on most of the others so it shouldn't be too long.

The only Violas blooming now, the rest are still on a break since the first freeze in November.  Hopefully they'll get back to work and start blooming soon.

The Pansies seem to be having a tough time too with the weather, not many are blooming right now.  I did find one very tattered purple Pansy in the front that must have self seeded and the hummingbirds seem to love it.

And speaking of self seeding just look at where this breadseed Poppy decided to grow.  This is the base of the basketball hoop.  What a strange place to try to grow, and it's also the only poppy seedling I've seen.  It has survived snow and freezing in it's plastic growing spot.

Another exciting find was that the Bleeding Hearts have started to pop up.  I found that they were doing the same thing last winter at this time, so they are right on track.
Join Carol at May Dreams Gardens to see what she and other gardeners have blooming right now in their gardens.
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Monday, January 10, 2011

First batch of the year!

No, it's not brownies that I'm making, it's winter sowing!  This is my third year winter sowing and it has probably been my most successful form of seed starting.   I had never heard of winter sowing until I came across it on a forum on Garden Web a few years ago.  Now I can't imagine not doing it.  The prep work can be a little messy to do indoors if you're like me and are wimpy about doing this outside in the cold weather.  The first year I tried it in the kitchen I made a huge mess, last winter was so mild I was able to do it outside.  This year it's freezing out complete with snow flurries.

You can use many types of containers, if you click on the winter sowing forum you'll find all types of ideas for what you can use.  I found that foil pans are fairly cheap and reusable and take up little storage space.  I learned a few tricks to prevent the mess I made the first time.  I lined a couple of large cookie sheets with paper towels to absorb the muddy water that leaks through the bottom of the pans.

Probably most people would use a bucket full of potting soil and a shovel to mix the water in with rather than a large mixing bowl and spoon, but since all that stuff was outside and covered in dirt I used what I could find inside, besides isn't this a better use?  Maybe that's because I'm not much of a cook?

There are holes punched through the bottoms of all these pans so that the muddy soil can drain.  I fill them just about to the top, the soil is pretty wet.

Because I don't need huge amounts of plants I use half a pan for each type of seed.  This year rather than trying to use tape to write names on each pan I just numbered the sides and lids and wrote the name of the seed on a piece of paper.  I try to be sure to put seeds that will have different looking leaves from the one they share the pan with so I can tell which is which later on.  The Columbine seeds are from Alison at Bonney Lassie and the Brunnera are from Lona at A Hocking Hills Garden.

I just sprinkle the seeds right on top, maybe pat them down just a little.

The plastic lids have holes punched in so that rain can moisten the soil.  They will sit on the deck for the rest of winter and be transplanted after the last chance of frost.  Some seeds germinate quickly while others seem like they never will and then surprise me right after I threaten them with the compost bin.

I will do more winter sowing in a few weeks and wait even longer to winter sow annuals since most of them seem to sprout quickly.  There is a Facebook page for the winter sowers group that also has lots of information on it.  
It feels so good to have started the first seeds of the season.  Now I look forward to seeing blooms!
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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Fresh greens.

One color that there is always a lot of here is green.  From the green of the large evergreens around us down to the soggy green moss that seems to be carpeting everything.  If the forecasters are correct in predicting a "snow event" in the next few days the green will once again be covered with snow.  I've hardly had a chance to enjoy seeing what's growing since the snow melted and now it may be covered again.  I was pretty excited when I went outside yesterday to see all the activity that's been taking place in the garden.  There are bulbs beginning to sprout and the flowerbuds on the Flowering Currants are swelling.  Green was everywhere, and not just the usual evergreens, but fresh new green that reminded me that spring will eventually be here.

Almost all of the Hellebores have flowers coming up.

Daffodils, Bluebells and Crocuses are making their way through the soil.

Every year I'm surprised at how early the Pulmonarias have buds on them.  I love this plant, it blooms early and stays in bloom for a long time.  It also reseeds giving me new plants to spread around.

The Flowering Currant 'King Edward VII' which was new last year has lots of buds on it.  In front there is Epimedium and Hellebore.

Acorus has been a great evergreen addition to the front entry garden.

Moss and lichen are flourishing on the old wood fence.  This poor fence is in need of being replaced, but I love how the old wood looks decorated this way.

Green Man looks sleepy while waiting for spring.  (I'm hoping to have this gate painted purple someday.)

Lamium in the shed garden adds color and texture with it's fuzzy leaves.

If we don't get snow this week I'm hoping to start my first round of winter sowing.  Then I'll be watching those containers for the fresh green of new seedlings.  I can't wait!
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