Friday, April 23, 2010

Ch-ch-ch-chain-saw changes

The stump on the left used to be a tall balsam that balanced the balsam on the right with the stairs between them.

Sometimes, after I'm gone for the day, dramatic changes welcome me home. Sometimes, a tree gets planted. Other times a tree gets moved. Or, like most recently, a tree gets cut down.

I knew it was coming -- we had talked about the necessity of taking down a balsam that stood sentinel on one side of the entrance to the little wooded enclave we call the Shady Nook. The tree was tight against an aspen -- as tight as crossed fingers -- and the situation with its girdling roots wasn't good for either of them. Then, this past winter the top of the balsam snapped off. No sense putting it off any longer. The tree, which had been ailing for some time, had to come down. I went off to class and the resident head gardener pulled out the chain saw. And suddenly, the Shady Nook looked very different.

First, of course, this means the Shady Nook isn't so shady anymore. And it means that the area, which was the very definition of dry shade, also won't be so dry anymore. It means opportunities to rethink the area and to use the balsam stump as a pedestal for a pot of something trailing or a place to put a birdhouse. Maybe one similar to the birdhouses with roofs planted in succulents that we saw at Winter Greenhouse. It means that someday, a new conifer of our choosing may sink its roots there. And the Not-So-Shady Nook may become the Shady Nook again.
One of the green-roof birdhouses we saw last year at Winter Greenhouse.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day

A couple of seedlings grow on the stump of a dead tree along the path to the stream. (Photo was taken in March, just after the spring equinox.)

Today, Earth Day, is a good day to plant a tree -- or anything!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday bloom report

Spring flowers are in fine form several weeks early thanks to our weirdly summerlike temperatures. Here's a sampling of what's in bloom right now.

Tulip Professor De Monsseri

Tulip Turkestanica

Friday, April 16, 2010

A few of our visitors this week

We get lots of blue jays, but these two seemed more in sync with each other than most.

The rabbit has finished with the crocus and moved on to nibbling the trees.

We may live in the gopher state, but they're really not welcome here. A live-trap has been set in hopes of relocating this guy. We think he's setting up house in some of our drainage pipes. (Watch dog obviously is sleeping on the job.)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Not-so-sweet surrender

Reemay on a pitchfork was meant to be a temporary scarecrow. Now it's simply a symbol of surrender.
I'm over it now. Really. I am. Over. It.

Disappointment hung thick around here for a couple of days. Overnight, the much-anticipated Dutch crocus extravaganza was gone. Those bright, bold, sassy Crocus optimistas are now in the bellies of the almost-resident deer herd.
 The Dutch crocus show was off to a good start.
I thought everything was OK. The show was just opening; I sprinkled Milorganite. The live trap was set in a strategic position in case of rabbits. I feasted my eyes on what already was and imagined the potential. Although the deer had been noticeably absent in recent days, we made plans to spray Plantskydd, a nasty but generally effective animal deterrent with dried blood as a main component. 

The deer must have overheard our plans. They came in the night before the planned spraying and by morning the blossoms were gone. Those sweet, silky cups of color had been neatly excised, along with the tips of their foliage.
 Foliage stubs are all that's left. The plants aren't completely toast; hopefully we'll get more foliage growth this spring for another try at blooming next year.
Other than a serious (make that expensive!) fence, there's really very little that stands between a hungry deer and a tender morsel. I'm not sure the Plantskydd would have been completely effective although it certainly would have helped. I mean, really, even if sprayed with repellent, a patch of succulent, fresh blooms would be hard to resist after a steady diet of brown twigs. 

A motion-activated sprinkler might have worked, but those are useful only when there's no danger of frost at night. Still a little too early for that.
So the crocus are gone, but the nighttime binge did reveal the results of an experiment. Last fall, we planted some Scilla siberica, also called Siberian squill, among the crocus. Scilla has a reputation for being deer-resistant so I (reluctantly) agreed to planting some in the crocus berm. The scilla appear none the worse for the marauding.

It's a tough call. Design-wise, I like the crocus on the berm where they make a statement viewed up close and at a distance. But the location makes it difficult to manage for wildlife. Scilla is pretty, naturalizes well and, given time, could make a nice statement, too. I suspect we'll be planting a lot more of it in the crocus berm come fall.
Scilla (right) is undamaged. Little is left of the crocus (left).

Friday, April 9, 2010

Seventh Day April up for viewing

This time of year, the sky's the limit for gardening plans. The maple out front is leading the way.
Recent days have been bursting with activity. Unseasonably warm temperatures have taken care of the snow, and we're seeing an abundance of buds, shoots and blossoms. You can see, too, by going to the slide show at right, top of the page.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I like ... slowlovelife

During a recent purge of the bag-lady room I recycled a bunch of magazines, but not before I ripped out and saved some of my favorite columns written by Dominique Browning. I also had to keep a few copies, including a special garden issue from 2000 and the final edition in November 2007.

I love magazines. Especially those with beautiful photography, great design and well-edited features. Which is why, when House & Garden folded in 2007, I was really disappointed. It was full of gorgeous homes and gardens, the likes of which I probably never would visit. They were way too rich for my blood, but I loved the peeks into the lives of the homeowners and garden-makers the magazine showcased. But what I really loved was editor Dominique Browning's column. It was smart and beautifully written and touched on topics I cared about. I often said that even if the rest of the magazine disappointed (it never did) I would subscribe to House & Garden just for her column.

So I was happy to rediscover Browning and her blog at slowlovelife. I read about her job loss here and found much in common with her experience. Her work inspires me; maybe it will inspire you, too.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

After-breakfast nap

Going outside to pee and check on the status of the squirrels first thing in the morning and then having breakfast takes a lot of energy. Nothing a little post-breakfast shut-eye in a favorite spot won't cure.

Friday, April 2, 2010


Dutch crocus on the berm by the road.
1. Crocus are blooming on a warm and snowless Good Friday. (Easter bunnies welcome, as long as they don't come for dinner.)
2. Some daffodils and scilla are starting to come up.
3. Nubbins of sedums and phlox are showing purple and green.
4. Chives and sorrel are just about ready for nibbling.
5. Evening grosbeaks and juncos are among the visiting birds.
6. Lungwort is showing its spots and forget-me-nots are remembering how sunshine feels.
7. Rosy stubs of peonies and rhubarb are pushing up.
8. Iris is coming to attention.
9. Primula and tulips are breaking ground in anticipation of showing their colors later this month.
10. Shooting stars (Dodecatheon) are shooting through the earth.
(And this is just a partial list.)

The show is just getting under way.