Friday, March 30, 2007

Frosted Elm Flowers

First, blame must be properly shared with Elm trees for the nasty pollen plaguing the area. They cannot get off the hook for the tiny spores they are spreading around town.

Secondly, there is a reason why they warn you not to jump the gun while planting tender perennials in Spring. A very good reason. The reminder came this morning. We had frost this morning. And it was pretty persistent too. The whiteness hung out for several hours before the sun could burn it off. The recent batch of warm weather nearly fooled me too. Fortunately, I was going to give in today and buy some plants to set out, so the plants were never actually in my pocession.

Thirdly, my backyard is doing its darnedest to make me mow in March. I'd say some of the tufts of grass are over five inches. But I will hold off until April! I will!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Cedars and Junipers and Maples, Oh my!

Pollen is getting high in the region. The culprits are cedar, juniper and maples. Just what I don't need recovering from this cold. Of course, I didn't need it while I had the cold either.

There are nicer plants that are in bloom at the moment. In the neighborhoods to and from work, I've spotted cherry blossoms, pear blossoms, forsythia and saucer magnolias in bloom. In my neighborhood, they are just starting to open up. My holly bush also has big buds swelled up. It should be in bloom next week.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Unfair Tactics

Yesterday was a fine day, but not beautiful. The 80 degree temperatures crossed over into a preview of summer complete with haze and humidity. But still it was a nice change from all the snow cover, so I can't complain too much.

However, by the time I got home from errands, ate dinner and had a little decompression, the weather was changing. I only got ten minutes of weeding in before the downpour started. A downpour accompanied by thunder and lightning. I simply had to go back in.

But I did discover a third peony shoot just poking out of the ground. I have three peonies! It doesn't look as robust as the others, but I'm hoping that will change once it is up longer.

And the weeds in the iris bed just don't play fair. Every other one are right next to the iris rhizomes. You can't dig them out at that point. You can just pull gently and hope that the roots don't pull the iris out as they come. The runners are worse. They go under the rhizome but above the iris rootes. Argh.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Well, I checked out the backyard last night to see what was blooming there. To be honest, the soggy ground is quite off putting. But it had dried out slightly last night, so I wasn't squelching around. Of course, that also meant it was harder to pull weeds. Ah, the trade off.

At any rate, there are a few wildflowers blooming, including the periwinkle. It is allowed to stay in the difficult spot under the stairs, but the battle is joined when it ventures into the iris bed. The iris are doing well. I didn't spy any flower stalks, but it is still pretty early for that sort of thing. I did have to remove a couple weeds and adventurous grass plants from the iris bed. One more gardening chore that I am vastly out of shape for.

The hosta leaf buds are just waiting at the moment. They are above ground, but not really popping yet. They've been in a holding pattern for a few weeks, I guess a few more wouldn't hurt.

We have peony sightings! Two peonies survived my bungling! They also survived a heavily waterlogged winter! Yippee! I'll have to go clear the thin leaf cover tonight to see if there are any more that survived. But I have peonies!

I also still have a beebalm plant. But then it is related to mint, so that shouldn't be surprising. *wink*

Monday, March 26, 2007


The tiny crocus have been joined by their larger cousins under the hydrangea. The purple ones are just so vividly purple, I couldn't help but notice yesterday. The gold ones blend in a little more with the leaf litter at a distance. Distance being the end of the front walk without my glasses.

Tulip leaves have made an appearance for the second year in a row. I'm resigned about them flowering this year. I would have loved it last year, but I doubt I'll see blooms this year either. This really isn't the right zone for tulips to naturalize. But I leave them as a distraction to the squirrels, but my squirrels don't seem to unearth bulbs. I am sincerely lucky.

The daffodils are going gangbusters by the shed. If I'm still here in autumn, I'll have to see about extending the plantings down the rest of that garden, as well as poking some in the birdbath garden. The ones out front are a week behind their bretheren in the sunnier spot. But the crocus are keeping that spot cheery in the meantime.

The peepers are still singing their little hearts out. Although, they aren't as prevalent during the day any more. I guess those guys found mates already. Way to go!

Thursday, March 22, 2007


My daffodils should be opening today. They got delayed by a shot of cold air yesterday. But it supposed to be more springlike today.

The hummers have been spotted in North Carolina, so it is time to put out the feeder. (Especially since there was no chance of frost today.) There might be some swift flyers, and the weather is supposed to be gorgeous today.

This is the new feeder I got for Christmas. This should be bee proof. There is an internal tray that is far enough inside that it takes long tongues to reach. I'll still need to figure out an ant moat though.

Monday, March 19, 2007

T'pence a Bag

Well, Friday we had our Nor'easter. The frozen stuff started tinking off of windows fairly early in the day, but thankfully, the snow held off until I got safely home. I fed the birds two extra times Friday evening. Saturday morning, they got a lot of extra food, primarily since all the normal food sources were under half an inch of snow. Of course, seeing a red-wing blackbird feeding on my deck railing was awesome. Even got a nuthatch and three juncos, in addition to all the doves, cardinals and brown sparrows.

Daffodil buds are up, they'll be opening this week. The crocus are still holding on. The hydrangea is developing leaf buds. The rhodadendrons are perking up, although, I think a few of the leaves suffered frost burn. And the hostas look ready to start leafing up.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Spring Peepers

With warmer temperatures this week, the spring peepers have started singing their little hearts out. While most nature guides list them as nocturnal, you can't blame the little guys for singing all throughout the day during breeding season. Let's face it, some days, it is only warm enough for them to sing during the day. The poor cold-blooded froggies need the warmer temperatures that the day brings, since it still gets pretty chilly during the night. Not to mention, you never know when your amorous song is going to be rudely interruped by a wintery mix. Hopefully they'll find some nice leaf litter or loose bark to hide in tomorrow.

Some other fun facts, spring peepers like to sing in trios. The male with the deepest voice starts the song, and the other two follow in. And a few of these little guys keep singing away into autumn. It is a nice background. And it is amazing that those little breeders have lasted three years, before they get to mate.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tweedle Tweet!

Beautiful 70 degree weather midweek, warnings of wintery mix and flurries for the weekend. *sigh* Daffodils are pushing up the buds now.

The birds aren't the only ones whistling this spring, I am too! Back in the nebulous days of grade school, I took violin. My poor suffering parents, who recently recieved belated thanks, fought with me to practice. I was just too lazy, and hated the sounds of missed notes. I stopped, because the public school system program stopped, and there was no way I was asking my parents for private lessons. I knew I wasn't dedicated enough. But I learned how to read music and am forever grateful for the experience.

Flash forward to modern times. I had seen these really gorgeous wooden recorders at a local festival and debated with myself about getting them. After working myself up, the vendor wasn't there the next year, so I recognized that I should probably learn on plastic before taking that kind of finacial plunge. Last week, I finally ordered a beginner's kit from Amazon. Tweedly-dee-dee! I'm doing pretty good, although, I still need to train my fingers. There is quite a bit of squeaking from popped fingers.

But, I'm also limited to practicing only 15 minutes a day. Again from my fingers not being used to being in these positions, nor for as long. Especially my poor abused thumb. The fact that that is the thumb that was overused with the nippers recently, bears no relation to anything. Right?

Monday, March 12, 2007


I have a few tiny yellow crocus popping up in my yard. I should see about planting out some more in the fall.

Despite the fact that my ice piles (from where I shoveled the snow) are still in my front yard, the season for opening windows in the afternoon has arrived. I'm glad to be able to air out my house again.

I trimmed my snake plant this morning. Most of the original leaves have been suffering and wilting. It is mostly because they had bent over. But some of it is because of the different light conditions. There is plenty of new, fresh growth, and I wanted to give the new leaves a healthier start.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Pictures of Lily

Well, another day, another snow storm, another icy artic blast. Yesterday's snow was probably about 1-2 inches, but it didn't lay very well at my place. Only got a dusting on the grass. Howevever, the Alberta Clipper was in front of an artic air mass, and the mercury in some points in the area was lower than the snow total this morning. Yikes! And double yikes to icy fog! Meaning you pass through a fog bank, and get covered in ice. However, temperatures should return to normal this weekend.

The Cherry Blossom forecast is coming out later this morning. And that's always good news.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Fruit Trees

I don't really have room in my garden for any kind of tree, let alone the ones I like, but I still get tempted by fruit trees. It would be nice to have my own apples, instead of hitting up the local orchard. But they are work and take a lot of planning. Pruining is a pain, and the idea of pollinators is rough. And I'm not talking about the bees here. I'm talking about apple-type trees that produce pollen to fertilize the apple tree that you want to bear fruit. Most apples are self-incompatible. Heck, some varieties are completely sterile. Meaning those pretty flowers you see are females that at best, produce fruit. I'm betting it is rough to find apple varieties that will produce pollen.

But luckily, that bane of lawn mowers everywhere, the crabapple can come to your rescue. It seems, that crabapples can pollinate apple trees. And do it for most apples you find in the store. Many orchards plant crabapple trees specifically to pollinate their produce. Or graft a few crabapple branches onto apple trees. Or bring in some crabapple branches.

Pear trees suffer a worse fate. It seems that bees actually prefer dandelions to pear flowers! It seems that pears don't have as much sugar in their pollen as many common weeds, so the bees aren't as attracted to them. Yikes!

Citris are a little easier, even if they can't stand the frost. Some varieties can actually pollinate themselves, with a little help. The popular houseplant varieties can make due with a little human intervention at the proper time. If you are actually up to messing with the flowers.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

March Winds

Well, the winds are back and so is the cold weather. Windchills in the single digits and talk of snow on Wednesday. This is a picture of my poor rhododendrons from February, but they look just the same this morning.

And I finally took a picture of my flowering maple. It is still blooming. However, the lighting in the afternoon has much to be desired.

I need to buy a nice pot for it and repot it. The companion stalks have all died, so a smaller pot is in order.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Early March Clean Up

Last Friday was the first time since, well, mid-January that I got to open up the windows and air out. It turned a bit chillier on Saturday, but I still got some spring cleaning done. The snow was gone enough to finish mulching the rhododendrons with Christmas tree needles.

And while I was playing with the nippers, I took down the rest of the hosta flower stalks and the dried black-eyed susan flower heads. I figure the birds have already cleaned them out. The daffodils are still green, although there does look to be some frost burn on the leaves. No sign of any other spring bulbs, though.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Art of Seedlings

Mike McGrath is issuing his seed starting tips, so it must be getting close to time to play with the seeds in the DC region. I'm only starting my Red Velvet sunflowers inside this year, because I'm not a good seed mommy. But sunflower seedlings are highly robust, and I don't trust the birds with them.

Other than that, I only need to prep my milkweed seeds for direct sowing. I probably should have put them directly in the garden last fall, but I didn't think of it then. Most internet sources agree, that they should be vernalized before planting. Which means a couple months in the refridgerator. Anywhere from 20 to 90 days. Yikes! Glad I'm aiming for a May 15th release date. They should go in soon. Then I'll probably do the scarification to help up the odds. I actually have some cleansed sand that I could use.

And, as I learned last year, it is good to plant seedlings as close to the dates as possible. You hit a sweet spot between nest building. I can only figure that birds ripped up last year's milkweed crop to line nests. Most of my seedlings went this route, unfortunately.