Tag Archives: almanac

The August Garden From Above

Garden With Meditation Circle After Rain

Garden With Meditation Circle After Rain

At midnight a thunderous storm blew heavy rain against the window panes. After a 92°F. day, normal for mid-August, the air was still quite warm as I opened the front door to peer at the downpour.

In the early morning light the garden stood refreshed.

Facing west, light enters the garden first from the north through a break between my house and the neighbors'.

Facing west, light enters the garden first from the north through a break between our house and the neighbors’.

The garden is more filled out and more lush and green for this time of year.

Early morning garden

Early morning garden

I enjoy noticing the abstractness of the garden layout from above.

Garden With Meditation Circle After Rain

Garden With Meditation Circle After Rain

Today will again be a 90-degree day, but unseasonably cooler weather will make the rest of the week feel luxurious: eighty degrees Wednesday, high seventies Thursday, mid-seventies (but rain) over the weekend. The nicer forecast offers an opportunity to enjoy the garden from more than as an observer looking down…

Garden With Meditation Circle After Rain

Garden With Meditation Circle After Rain

Early Morning Garden After The Rain

Early Morning Garden

Early Morning Garden

Thunderstorms prevailed overnight. At dawn, rain rinsed the everything one more time for good measure, then left quickly. From an upstairs window the early morning garden stood strong, having withstood the winds and driving rain and looking calmly fresh and serene.

The bare spot in the northern border on the right is where I have been digging up Irises in order to remove Spiderwort. There is more work to do on that project all along to the back fence.

Early Morning Garden After Rain4

Swallowtail Acrobatics

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), Buddleja davidii ‘Adokeep’ (Adonis blue Butterfly Bush)
I have not seen many butterflies this year so it was fun watching this Swallowtail spiral its way around the flower clusters of an appropriately named Butterfly bush.

This is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), a North American native butterfly species. I believe the Buddleja upon which today’s garden visitor is feasting is Buddleja davidii ‘Adokeep’ (Adonis blue butterfly bush).

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Almanac

One weather source gives the temperature as 88°F (with heat index it feels like 101°F), but another reporting station shows 92°F and my money is on the 92°F. Last year the actual high was 99°F. Thunderstorms are predicted for later this evening. They have been regular occurrences lately.

Late June Blossoms Redux

Hemerocallis (Daylily)

Hemerocallis (Daylily)

Sifting back through photographs of last year’s late June garden, I noticed striking similarities between them and the images shown here that I took this morning of today’s garden.

A year ago Garden Phlox in the western border were just beginning to bloom. Liatris and White Swan Coneflower highlighted a small, front-yard circle garden. The tangerine hue of a daylily brightened the southern border and Cleome had reseeded and were showing up everywhere. In today’s garden I observed the same plants repeating the cycle.

This evening a huge line of thunderstorms is approaching. The rumbling sky has darkened dramatically. Almost daily rain is perhaps the biggest difference between the June gardens this year and last. Every plant in the garden seems to soak up strength and encouragement from the water, just as I do from seeing the garden cycle repeating.

Hemerocallis (Daylily)

Hemerocallis (Daylily)

Hemerocallis (Daylily)

Hemerocallis (Daylily)

Liatris spicata 'Floristan Weiss' (Gayfeather) and Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan' (Coneflower)

Liatris spicata ‘Floristan Weiss’ (Gayfeather) and Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ (Coneflower)

Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan' (Coneflower)

Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ (Coneflower)

Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan' (Coneflower)

Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ (Coneflower)

Lantana camara (Common lantana)

Lantana camara (Common lantana)

Lantana camara (Common lantana)

Lantana camara (Common lantana)

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) and Veronica spicata 'Pink Goblin' (Speedwell)

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) and Veronica spicata ‘Pink Goblin’ (Speedwell)

Phlox paniculata (Garden Phlox)

Phlox paniculata (Garden Phlox)

Phlox paniculata (Garden Phlox)

Phlox paniculata (Garden Phlox)

Phlox paniculata (Garden Phlox)

Phlox paniculata (Garden Phlox)

Lavender and Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower)

Lavender and Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower)

June Heats Up

Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower)

Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower)

Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower) is beginning to bloom profusely in several parts of the garden.

This week temperatures are rising along with the humidity. Currently it is 85°F (heat index makes it feel like 91°F). The pattern throughout the day for the last few days and forecast for the rest of the week is this: clouds move in and eventually spill their rain, sun emerges and steams everything, then clouds move in again. Yesterday’s heavy rain turned the meditation circle into a pool for a brief time, but today’s mid-day shower was light and the sun quickly returned.

At this point in the season I enjoy the strong colors that prevail in many of the borders. Previously I showed this tomato-red daylily (possibly ‘Michael Arnholt’) but it caught my eye again today. I very much like its rich color combined with that of the Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue.’

Many birds are enjoying the feeders, but the American Goldfinches prefer to select their own food and so head for the swaying Verbena bonariensis (Tall Verbena) in the Western Border. Their beautiful yellow against the purple Verbena always delights me. Unfortunately the Goldfinches are too quick for my camera, but the color of Dahlia ‘Stargazer’ suggests a similar idea.

Verbena bonariensis (Tall Verbena) In Western Border

Verbena bonariensis (Tall Verbena) In Western Border

The western border often looks unfulfilled so I have tried to enhance this area over the last few years. Many textures are too similar and plants need to be edited but this spot has been more exciting this year than usual. One successful pairing is the Allium ‘Drumstick’ the Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower).

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Here are a few more details within the Western Border.

Also in the western border my favorite Gladiolus bloomed recently. The buds are deep, deep purple, but the flowers open to a lighter hue.

Lavender has been blooming for a couple of weeks now. It is especially nice along the Southern Side garden. Cleome has self-seeded between the stones.

Southern Side Path

Southern Side Path

At the end of the Southern Side path I encountered a busy hummingbird a couple of days ago enjoying the Lavender and Monarda. I gave up using hummingbird feeders years ago, but hummingbirds visit the garden often, this year more than ever. These fuzzy hummingbird pictures were fun to take—hope you can make him out.

Summer Beginnings

Summer Solstice 2013 was at 1:04 AM (ET) on Friday, June 21.
Summer is my favorite season so I welcome its official arrival today. The weather is glorious—clear and sunny, only 78°F., humidity is low at 40%.

Summer is not the best time of year for my garden, that would be spring, but the weather has been fairly moderate with ample rainfall, so the garden is in stronger condition than usual as the seasons transition.

Gladiolus In Northern Border

Gladiolus In Northern Border

I always keep a few Gladioli and they recently began blooming.

Gladiolus

Gladiolus

When I began this garden I encountered some snobbishness from a young horticulturalist about growing Gladioli and I remember it was an odd moment. Never before had I really thought much about why one chooses to grow (or not grow) a particular plant. It is an interesting subject to me now. Preference is one thing and the avoidance of invasive species is a necessity, but why would a plant carry a social stigma?

Gladiolus

Gladiolus

I love reading about what other gardeners are growing and I enjoy learning about new (and old) plants. The gardener’s personality comes out in one’s plant choices, it seems to me, and that can make each garden quite special.

Gladioli

Gladioli

Though I mention that incident from long ago, I actually I never worry what the neighbors might think if they spot a Gladiolus in my garden. The tall spikes of blossoms remind me of summer and of my maternal grandmother, who grew rows of glads, as she called them, for cutting flowers. As a child I loved helping her make large and colorful bouquets for her sun porch and that memory seems reason enough to grow a flower.

Gladioli

Gladiolus

As summer begins a few other plants characterize the garden. Echinacea and Salvia have been blooming for a few weeks now. Yesterday a friend offered me a piece of orange Echinacea ‘Sunset’ which I had recently vowed to quit trying to grow. I accepted without hesitation, of course, and will try to give it a good home.

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue'

Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’

A small container of mixed Sedum from last year has spilled over the sides of its pot and is flowering for the first time.

Mixed Sedum

Mixed Sedum

Happy Summer!

Mid-June Musings

Garden View In JuneThe garden at this point in June seems like an entirely new one—so different from the early spring palette. A salmon-orange Gladiolus from years ago brashly turned up in the Southern border today. I almost admired it for being so bold, but in the end I cut it and placed it in a nice vase indoors. Beebalm is in full bloom, Echinacea is maturing in many parts of the garden and last year’s Allium ‘Drumstick’ is back. All are attracting bees. A hummingbird visited the beebalm yesterday. There have been a few other hummingbirds this year, but now that the beebalm is blooming perhaps there will be many more.

Foxglove

A Foxglove mystery may be solved. This Foxglove has been in the garden since 2008 or 2009 and I thought it had caramel in the name, but never could find the tag. The coloring is creamy when the flowers first appear. Inside the flowers are yellow with reddish-brown veins and a hairy lip. Today I researched it a bit and hope I have it identified properly now. Could this be Digitalis ferruginea (‘Gelber Herold’, ‘Yellow Herald’, Rusty Foxglove)?

Almanac

Today the weather was clear, hot and very humid, reaching 93°F. before severe thunderstorms passed through this evening. The winds overturned a bench and a flowerpot, but otherwise things seem ok for us. Some of our neighbors are reporting trees down, cable service lost and even roof damage.

Irises and Spiderwort

Iris Border

Iris Border

Despite the heat I chose today to dig up some of the dozens and dozens of Spiderwort that have aggressively expanded throughout most of the borders. I had to dig up many irises in order to get to the roots of the Spiderwort, so now there is a lot of work to replant some of the irises and find a good home for the rest. Fortunately the high temperature tomorrow will be a nice 81°F. so the work should be enjoyable. The irises have needed division for years, but actually they bloomed incredibly well this spring anyway. The amount of Spiderwort I managed to dig today is just a small portion of the total I want to remove.

Tradescantia (Spiderwort)

Tradescantia (Spiderwort)

This white one looked so innocent and beautiful this morning. Actually this particular clump has not spread like the others, but it is getting very large.

Tradescantia (Spiderwort)

Tradescantia (Spiderwort)

Garden Fauna

A variety of birds fill the garden with color and song. Fireflies or lightning bugs have been out in the evenings for several weeks. Frogs sing frequently and incessantly, though I have not seen one in the garden. A couple of little bunnies are nibbling Thyme in the meditation circle. No sign yet of the 17-year cicadas.

Rainy Sunday Happiness

It rained off and on all day and the outlook is the same for tomorrow. I’ll need to schedule some time for straightening and pruning after a fierce thunderstorm passed through last with heavy wind and rain, soaking the garden and sweeping over the catmint, roses and scabiosa. Fortunately the peony buds withstood the battering. Actually almost everything was fine and I am very happy with the way the garden has come together this year.

The first bloom on the black iris appeared today. The standards of this enormous ruffled flower are very deep purple, the falls are inky dark.Iris germanica (Bearded iris) -4

Iris germanica (Bearded iris) -3

Iris germanica (Bearded iris) -2

Iris germanica (Bearded iris)

Despite ongoing efforts to reduce the amount of spiderwort in the garden, it is still cropping up everywhere. I find it lovely early in the season, but must redouble my efforts to keep it under control.
Tradescantia (Spiderwort)

The garden is far from perfect, but I do not picture it too far ahead. My garden is a journey, maybe just a playground. At any it works. It is enough. Every time I glanced out the window and glimpsed the garden today, I felt such happiness.

The Garden At Mid-May

Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood)

Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood)

The Flowering Dogwood bloomed very well this year and with its fresh green leaves looks very healthy after years of just getting by.

By the time I visited my garden today the sun was already high in the deep blue sky, casting a strong, harsh light. I walked the meditation circle, where both Husker Red and Pike’s Peak Purple Penstemons are nearly ready to bloom.  Nearby, also in the mediation circle, one tiny blue flower is visible among the leaves of Thyme. Rows of salmon Dianthus are startlingly pink, hardly meditative or sedate. Though they overwhelm, I remind myself they also overwintered and therefore will stay for now. (Elsewhere in the garden are some other bothersome color combinations I need to work out as well.)

Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red' (Beardtongue)

Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue)

A large stand of Monarda, more than three-feet tall, is preparing to take over showcase duties from its interplanted Columbine neighbor. Hummingbirds are visiting the garden more frequently.

In the northern border Peony buds look lovely as they grow larger, but they seem to be in no hurry to open.

Peony Paeonia 'Pink Parfait'

Peony Paeonia ‘Pink Parfait’

Phlox divaricata (Woodland phlox) now in full bloom pairs nicely with a large planting of Nepeta.

Phlox divaricata (Woodland phlox) and Nepeta 'Walker's Low' (Catmint)

Phlox divaricata (Woodland phlox) and Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ (Catmint)

Sweet William is an old-fashioned flower that I really enjoy.

Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William)

Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William) and Dusty Miller

Digitalis ‘Dalmatian Purple’ (Foxglove) is new to the garden this year. I expected it to be more purple than pink, but I like that the flowers face outward.

Digitalis Dalmatian Purple (Foxglove)

Digitalis ‘Dalmatian Purple’ (Foxglove)

I do not know the name for this Clematis. It has bloomed better than usual this spring.

Clematis

Clematis

I am mystified as to why this Black Iris is growing in its present location, having been searching for it anxiously in the opposite border for several weeks. The nice big buds look promising.

Black Iris

Black Iris

Black Iris

Black Iris

Almanac

Today’s 87F temperature is a reminder of summer days ahead, but forecasts suggest more moderate days this weekend (82F and 78F), but with possible thunderstorms; cooler 77F on Monday, then back to 87F again by next Wednesday.

Enjoying The Garden

Today was perfectly beautiful, with low humidity, light breezes and temperatures this afternoon in the high 60s. The light was glaring when I visited the garden today at mid-day, but the deep coloring in this Siberian Iris is strong enough to stand up to the sunlight. Last year this Iris barely bloomed at all but conditions have been good this year for all the irises.

Iris sibirica (Siberian Iris)

Iris sibirica (Siberian Iris)

The garden is richly satisfying at present, with many plants poised to take over as the Irises fade, including Peony, Echinacea, and Penstemon. The Iris show is not quite done though. I added a new deep purple Iris last fall called Iris germanica ‘Davy Jones’ (Tall bearded iris). It is a late-flowering variety and indeed has not flowered yet, but may need to be rescued from the shadows of nearby Monarda which is beginning to tower over it.

Yesterday I observed the last of my pass-along Irises is in bloom. This one looks pale, almost gray from afar, but up close it displays complex color and variation.

Today I especially enjoyed this expanse of Nepeta in the northern border. This view is looking toward the meditation circle.

Garden View With Nepeta 'Walker's Low' (Catmint)

Garden View With Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ (Catmint)

Observations and Iris In Early May

Thunder rumbles in the distant night after a nice spring day. There was a brief shower early this morning and then the sun peeked in and out. Temperatures are warming and the garden quickly has become more lush and full, a very different garden than just a few days ago.

Northern Border

Northern Border

Echinacea and Canna are emerging.

Tender young foliage weaves in and out offering strong textural and color contrasts, although they are more observed than actually planned.

The Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ is blooming. (Certain plants are difficult to photograph and this is one.)

Baptisia 'Purple Smoke'

Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’

Only a few flowers are present so far in this massive planting of Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion).

Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion)

Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion)

The highlight of the garden is the Irises, now in full bloom.

Meditation Garden On A Rainy Day

Garden and Meditation Circle

Garden and Meditation Circle

Seeking Balance

This twenty-foot diameter meditation garden was created years after the patio, French drain, perennial beds and Red Maple were all in place. This accounts for the odd positioning that makes the circle appear to be balancing on top of one corner of the patio.  I have always been satisfied with the design of the labyrinth itself, but never fail to notice the awkward detail of how it is situated.

Garden and Meditation Circle

Garden and Meditation Circle

A smaller circle could have been better integrated to fit among the existing elements of the landscape, but would not have been as functional for my walking meditation. I briefly considered using a square, but found the circle much more compelling.  Although the circle’s placement by necessity is a bit eccentric, the pleasure of having the meditation garden far outweighs the downside and serves as a reminder to me there are many ways to achieve harmony and balance in a garden.

Almanac

Late afternoon, 63F. It has rained off and on during the day and more rain and cool temperatures are forecast throughout the week.

Garden and Meditation Circle

Garden and Meditation Circle

Summer In April

Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud)

Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud)

Winter was a long time leaving and now Summer is intruding on springtime. After a beautiful and warm day, it is 87°F at 7:00 pm. Yesterday the Easter Redbud was opening against the deep blue sky.

Also yesterday, several spikes of Meadow Sage revealed purple-blue buds. Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) was ready to pop open. Bumblebees were courting, a yellow butterfly drifted through the garden and a ladybug investigated a chrysanthemum.

Meadow Sage ‘May Night’

Meadow Sage ‘May Night’

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

Ladybud On Chrysanthemum

Ladybud On Chrysanthemum

Mulch Update

Today the mulch project I began in early February was finally completed! The garden beds have all been weeded. There is still some cleanup to do to thin out some of the most aggressive growers (almost everything in the garden it seems). Nevertheless the garden looks tidier and feels ready for the green, the growth and the surprises that follow winter. And the patio is ready to be reclaimed for something other than mulch storage.

A few new Iberis ‘Purity’ and some Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’ have been added to the center of the meditation circle in hope the mulch soon will not even be noticeable. The planting areas between the paths on the left are ready to plant tomorrow. I have used Angelonia there the last two years and it has performed great, blooming until October. It is an annual though and it requires trimming back several times during the summer in order to be able to comfortably walk by. I will try Dianthus year, an not very exciting choice–we’ll see.

Meditation Circle

Meditation Circle

New Plants

I ordered new plants from a mail-order company in Michigan in February and finally received them today. I expected them by mid-March, but was dismayed as the shipment dates were pushed back several times. Perhaps the severely cold winter affected the company’s ability to fulfill the order, but now the temperatures here are extremely hot and the plants will need extra care. I will try to get them in the ground early in the morning.

3 Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Plant, Orange Glory Flower
12 Delphinium x ‘Pacific Giants
12 Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William)
1 Clematis ‘Wildfire’
3 Veronica spicata ‘Rotfuchs’ syn. Red Fox (Red Fox Veronica)
1 Paeonia lactiflora Duchess de Nemours (White Peony)
1 Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’ (Lil’ Ruby dwarf Oakleaf Hydrangea)
1 Digitalis purpurea ‘Pam’s Choice’ (Pam’s Choice Foxglove)
1 Paeonia lactiflora ‘Black Beauty’ (Nightlife Peony)
20 Anemone coronaria de Caen ‘The Bride’ and ‘Mr. Fokker’

Dutch Iris And Other Blooms

My maternal grandmother grew rows and rows of flowers for cutting—Dutch Iris in spring and Gladioli in summer. When five or six years old I sometimes spent the night with her and every morning we would head out early in the morning to clip the flowers that were ready to be added to her large, tall vase.

I have only a couple of Dutch Iris, just enough to make me smile and be happy when they bloom. The warm temperatures of the last few days must be encouraging them. I first noticed their tall stems this weekend. By this morning buds suddenly were bulging and by late afternoon, a single flower had opened.

Dutch Iris

Dutch Iris

Dutch Iris

Dutch Iris

Also Blooming

I added a few more Daffodil bulbs last fall, something I had planned to do for years and never quite got around to before.  These new Thalia Daffodils opened this week, in front of the Ilex crenatea ‘Drops of Gold.’

Thalia Daffodil

Thalia Daffodil

At the street end of the side garden a large patch of Emerald Blue Phlox is almost in full bloom.

Phlox subulata 'Emerald Blue' (Emerald Blue Phlox)

Phlox subulata ‘Emerald Blue’ (Emerald Blue Phlox)

Spring Weekend

Alyssum 'Easter Bonnet Violet'

Alyssum ‘Easter Bonnet Violet’

This weekend the weather was ideal for working in the garden. Highs today were in the 70s and was still 69°F at 8:00 pm.  Even warmer weather is forecast for the week.

On Friday afternoon I visited a favorite garden center, checking out each and every offering and finally bringing home mostly more of my same favorites. Last year Alyssum, an annual, bloomed well into winter so I decided to use it this year again to fill in. I chose a pretty violet, rather than white.

At the store I figured out exactly why I needed each plant and where it would go, but once home I could not match ideas to reality, so most are still unplanted.  No regrets, but in fact I still need to focus on cleaning up the perennial beds and mulching. This task that has taken much too long.

The sunny, warm weather this weekend helped motivate me though and I was able to make some progress, but the beds need serious renovation. I expected just to pull weeds and spread the mulch but there are many plants that have become so overgrown and entwined with neighboring plants, it is taking a long time to clear small spaces. Daylily, tradescantia, bog sage, another unknown type of salvia, perennial sweet pea and columbine are the biggest offenders this year. Tansy and yarrow are also getting out of hand. The soil looks beautiful though and I am finding lots of earthworms this year.

It was satisfying to spend the daylight hours outside. This time of year there are no mosquitoes, no air conditioners humming. It is pleasantly quiet and peaceful.

Iberis 'Purity'

Iberis ‘Purity’

Plants

3- Phlox subulata ‘Emerald Blue’
6- Alyssum ‘Easter Bonnet Violet’ (annual)
1- Creeping Lemon Thyme
1- Dianthus ‘Early Bird Frosty’ (White) –blue-silver leaves
6- Dianthus ‘Ideal Select White’
6- Dianthus ‘Ideal Select Red’
1- Diascia ‘Dala Desal’  (annual)
1- Salvia nemorosa ‘May Night’ (Hardy Sage) (Mainacht) [synonym Salvia × sylvestris ‘May Night’ (Meadow sage)]
6- Iberis ‘Purity’ (despite their poor performance last year)
10- Angelonia ‘Purple’  (annual)

Early April Color

At mid-afternoon and mid-week, it is a sunny 54°F. There is a freeze-watch for tonight, but the plants in the garden seem emboldened by the moderating temperatures of the past few days. In these first days of April spring is inching forward, bringing deep, rich color.

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

Euphorbia 'Blackbird' (Spurge)

Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ (Spurge)

Phlox subulata 'Purple Beauty'

Phlox subulata ‘Purple Beauty’

March Blue Sky And Sunlight

Blue sky and 43 degrees mark the day at mid-morning. As we head toward a warm day near sixty degrees, much of the garden is just emerging from the frosty shadows and many plants are rimmed with ice.  Today at last the Spiraea shrub is beginning to bloom, three and a half weeks later than last year’s very early flowering.

Spiraea

Spiraea

Spiraea

Spiraea

Welcoming March

Sunlight greeted the garden this March morning, pulling an Iberis inflorescence out of shadow as February slipped into history.

Iberis Sempervirens (Candytuft)

Iberis Sempervirens (Candytuft)

A blue-violet Hyacinth opened this week, one of only two remaining from an impulse planting a decade ago.

Almanac and Mulch

Clouds are moving in this afternoon and temperatures will remain cooler than normal, but at least rain is out of the picture for a few days. When I began a project at the beginning of last month to mulch the garden, little did I know we would have rain for 14 of February’s 28 days. And it was cold. What I estimated would take a week is dragging on, although progress is visible and the effort actually has been enjoyable. The driveway had been hidden by 14 cubic yards of double-shredded hardwood mulch, but at this point the remaining pile seems almost a minor detail. There is still a lot of weeding and trimming to do in the back.

Looking Around

The mulching project has afforded me a chance to notice the garden’s earliest plants waking up.

Powerful Wings

A Bald Eagle flew over the garden today. What an enormous bird and, in the true sense of the word, awesome. The Jordan Lake EagleCam is currently monitoring a nest with one chick at nearby Jordan Lake.

A Sunny February Day

Today there is flowering on the Red Maple.

Acer rubrum (Red Maple)

Acer rubrum (Red Maple)

Acer rubrum (Red Maple)

Acer rubrum (Red Maple)

Near the front sidewalk a lone hyacinth planted a decade ago is again working its way out into the open.

Hyacinthus orientalis (common hyacinth, garden hyacinth or Dutch hyacinth)

Hyacinthus orientalis (common hyacinth, garden hyacinth or Dutch hyacinth)

February has been wet. There may be freezing rain tomorrow morning and another wet weekend is forecast, but today the sky is deeply blue and the sunshine is warm enough for face and heart.

I am making progress mulching the garden, though the job has been slowed equally by the wetter, cooler weather and a healthier crop of weeds than I had expected.

Though many birds keep watch as I work, only the Carolina Chickadees are brave enough to attempt a move toward the feeder while I am in the garden. From the windows I have been watching them too. Flocks of American Robins have been around for several weeks. They teamed up with Red-winged Blackbirds and Cedar Waxwings on Monday to strip the neighbors’ holly berries and make merriment. Eastern Bluebirds are beautiful but fairly pushy at the feeders. Northern Cardinals are lovely too but seem much more patient. The Mourning Doves make me smile.

Mulch Game Heads Into Overtime

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' (Winter daphne)

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ (Winter daphne)

A week ago I had a large quantity of hardwood mulch delivered to our driveway. I immediately set out to distribute it, one garden cart at a time, around the shrubs in the front and down the sides of the house, before finally bringing the bulk of it to the back where the garden lies. Each day since, as I loaded the mulch into the cart, frequent drifts of lemony fragrance from the nearby Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ (Winter daphne) made me happy and content to be outside.

I hoped this job would take just a few days, but secretly estimated it might take a full week. The front and sides are complete. With merely scant work done in the main garden, the project has now gone into serious overtime, but I am enjoying each moment.

Southern Path Leading To The Garden

Southern Path Leading To The Garden (facing West)

The side path down which I am carting the mulch into the main garden is tricky. Not well designed for a bulky cart, its slow meander is better suited for viewing Lychnis coronaria and lavender in spring and echinacea and rudbeckia and Perovskia atriplicifolia in summer.

Southern Path - Mulch week 1

Southern Path – Mulch week 1 (facing East toward the mulch pile)

Once lined with shrubs such as Sky Pencil and Wintergreen boxwood that succumbed to drought years ago, this side garden is a hodgepodge of plants. During winter it receives very little sunlight but in summer it gets strong, hot sun

As I put down mulch I am also doing some trimming, thinning and putting things in order. I usually forget to prune the ‘Jackmanii’ Clematis, so am trying to include tasks like that in this mulching project.

I saved for another day the job of cutting back the Muhlenbergia capillaris (Pink Muhly Grass), but cleaned up many plants, including Hedychium coronarium (Ginger lily) and Canna.

Daffodil

Daffodil

A patch of daffodils instantly looked better after mulching. There were signs of new growth from the Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ and more daffodils are emerging.

A section of stepping stones that lead through the gate were reconfigured, an adjustment that took several hours. During that time no mulch was being moved, but I was able to salvage some stones for another project.

Monarda didyma (bergamot, scarlet beebalm)

Monarda didyma (bergamot, scarlet beebalm)

All the while as I worked in this area, the minty scent of Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm) kept me company.

On the opposite side of the house, our property is just a very narrow strip where buried gas and electric utility lines run. There are few plantings along this side, but new mulch has helped improve the look. Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) and an attractive but weedy ground cover, Aegopodium podagraria(bishop’s weed), green it during summer.

Last week while mulching there I discovered the first open flower of the winter camellia, Camellia ‘Coral Delight.’ A group of Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten rose) brightens up that spot as well.

As for the main garden, there remains much work to be done. I have created several piles of mulch back there. This helped reduce the size of the mulch pile in the driveway and by Sunday night I was able to move the car back into the garage. (Bluebirds spent a great deal of time on the car last week.)

Mulch Pile On Wednesday

Mulch Pile On Wednesday

Over the week I put in one 8-hour day, but averaged 4-5 hours most days. It was cooler and more overcast than expected, but never was I uncomfortable.

A friend in the neighborhood volunteered a couple of hours of her time. She brought another cart and loaded one while I carried the other to the back garden, which was a huge contribution.

Most neighbors walking by the front of our house though were astonished, often helpfully suggesting I should hire someone to help.

Even putting cost aside, no one else has a special relationship with this little piece of earth, nor would know to be careful of the little wonders tucked away in various spots. The benefits are overwhelming for doing this task myself.

Purchasing the mulch forced me outside after too many days of lingering inside this winter. Moving mulch last week I was so content being outdoors working in the garden, it never seemed like work all.

Almanac

Last week’s weather forecasts of sunny, mild days held true for only a couple of days last week. Most nights were below freezing and it took a while to warm up each day enough for me to want to be outside. Just before the Northeast U.S. had several feet of snow, the storm brought an inch of rain here, leaving the garden too wet to work for a time.

Rain fell overnight and continued through this morning. Today’s high will 61F.  It will be slightly warmer this week, but overcast, then raining again by midweek. The forecast for this week does not portend well, but forecasts can change.

February Kickoff

While many American fans were busy watching the Super Bowl last night I made plans for the garden season opener.  The weather forecast for the week looks decent, high of 48F today then rising into the mid-50s through Sunday, some sunny days, some overcast, but at least no rain for a few days. This gives me a chance to mulch the garden before the plants get out of hand. I placed my order at 8:15 this morning and promptly at 11:30 a truck backed into the drive, dumping 14 cubic yards of double-shredded hardwood mulch. Oh my!

Hardwood Mulch Delivery-14 cubic yards of work

Hardwood Mulch Delivery-14 cubic yards of work

Last year the garden was never completely mulched so this is a chore I really wanted to do.  It will be a challenge to get it all spread quickly, as access to the garden is by way of a narrow little path not easily traversed with a garden cart full of mulch.

After just a couple of hours I was already in want of a break to rest my back, but as expected, the time spent is rewarding. I am trimming back old foliage and stems from last year and closely inspecting each square inch. Progress will be slow but steady. It took this drastic measure of blocking the driveway and garage access to get me out into the garden.  I will not be able to get my car in the garage until I finish this project. Now that I have my playbook for this game, there is nothing left to do but try to win it for the home team.

A Frozen Meditation Moment

Frozen Meditation Circle

Frozen Meditation Circle

A smidgeon of snow and then an afternoon of sleet and freezing rain left the meditation circle and surrounding gardens locked in a quiet stillness. This view was taken through the window glass just before dark.

Throughout the day numerous birds visited the feeders—Northern Cardinals, Eastern Bluebirds, Song Sparrows, Carolina Chickadees, Brown-headed Nuthatches, and Tufted Titmice. There was also a Dark-eyed Junco feeding on the frozen ground, the first one I have noticed in a few months. Yesterday there were many American Robins and a pair of Mourning Doves.

Almanac

The temperature is 26°F on its way to a low of 22°F.  Light freezing rain will continue tonight making the roads treacherous, but tomorrow we will see some sun and 47°F. And by Tuesday? 70°F.

Hellebores And Mid-January Notes

Remembering that many plants were on an extremely early blooming cycle last year, I have been curious about what this year’s timing might be like for the garden.

For the last few weeks I have watched expectantly for the first Hellebores of the season and today I finally noticed an open flower.

Helleborus orientalis (Lenten rose)

Helleborus orientalis (Lenten rose)

Last winter (2011-2012) these hellebores bloomed very early, by December 30, 2011, whereas the winter before that (2010-2011) there were no blooms until several days after Valentine’s Day. So they are somewhere in-between this year.

I have never been bothered by the leaves on hellebores, but enthusiasts recommend pruning them before the buds begin forming to make it easier to enjoy the blossoms. Too late to do it properly but today I carefully trimmed away many of the lower, older leaves. They do look tidier after this cleanup.

Helleborus orientalis (Lenten rose)-2

Helleborus orientalis (Lenten rose)

Growing adjacent to the hellebores and full of buds is a winter blooming Camellia  x ‘Coral Delight.’

Camellia x 'Coral Delight'

Camellia x ‘Coral Delight’

The garden is saturated from recent rains. I was surprised to see moss growing along the northern side garden where the hellebores and the ‘Coral Delight’ are planted. The high temperature reached a fine 72°F this afternoon, well above the average 54°F for this time of year. The nice warm weather should stay through Monday so I hope to finally tackle some weeding chores I have been putting off.

My time in the garden was brief today, but I did take a few minutes to walk the labyrinth. As I stepped along the path I smiled to note how well the Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ has worked  to supply some year-round interest.

Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red' (Beardtongue)

Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue)

Winter Daphne

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' (Winter daphne)

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ (Winter daphne)

The blushing reddish pink, fleshy flowers forming on Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ (Winter daphne) are a cheery sight on this gray and soggy day. There are three of these low-growing evergreen shrubs planted along the front porch. By late January or early February each should be covered with white clusters of sweetly scented blooms.

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' (Winter daphne)-5

Heavy rains that began Christmas night have saturated the garden. Three loud claps of thunder during today’s lunchtime downpour have set into play my father’s old saying, “thunder in winter will bring snow within two weeks.”  (Other versions of this folk wisdom bring snow within seven days!)

We do not get a lot of snow in this part of North Carolina, but I have known thunder and snow to coincide this way a few times, making the rare snow events even more delightful.

No snow in the official forecast. It is overcast and 46.2 °F on this day after Christmas.