garden : first spring flowers

Purple crocuses.

White and purple crocuses.

After several years of hoping, my crocus bed is now full of crocuses! It’s nice to be greeted at the sidewalk steps by perky little flowers when returning from our walks. The daffodils are budding, and we have the first flower along the side of the house. I’m going to do my best to map the types we have this year in order to better group and arrange them in future seasons. That requires brain power, though, so don’t hold your breath.

First Ice Folly daffodil with a very cold, possibly dead, bee on it.

In making the inspection of the front beds, the biggest casualty was the lavender. I suspect that most of the stress actually happened last year during our two blizzards when it was buried under feet of snow and ice. Nonetheless, the die-off this year was bad and I had to prune nearly half the plant. (It probably didn’t help that I failed to appropriately prune it in the fall.) That was sad, but what’s left is healthy and I’m hoping it will bush out again this year. The front sidewalk bed is in decent shape, with everything coming up green. I’ve decided that this is the year I am going to really move ahead with converting the yard to natives and a select few non-invasives. More about this in a later post, but what this means for the sidewalk bed is bye-bye orange daylilies. You’re cheery and hardy and send up green shoots nice and early, but you are one of the devils of the Southeast and you need to go!

Healthy lavender sprig, post- massive pruning of dead bits.

Sedum growing into phlox.

garden : first spring flowers

is this thing on?

Not only is it already March, but the month is nearly half over. Yikes! I got sucked into a black hole of sick household members and even less sleep than before that led me to not be able to type anything coherent but instead simply stare at the computer screen and try not to drool whenever I’ve had a couple of free moments to myself. I’ll try to do better.

What have you missed? I took the lazy man’s path and stopped doing the Dark Days Challenge when the host became unable to keep up with the round-ups due to circumstances in her own life. We continue to eat locally, I just am not making any effort to be creative or branch out from our regular recipes. I did plan to post about the soup I made in the summer that we recently ate from the freezer, and the recipe is this: make leek and potato soup, dilute with a bit more water, add pre-cooked chopped kale and a can of white beans at the end (and probably more salt; I use the mushroom seasoned salt that we get from our farmer). It’s good, and makes for more of a meal than regular leek and potato soup. I also made macaroons, since I was craving the ones I’d had in Portland with dried apricots, pecans, and a dark chocolate bottom. The macaroons were delicious, and I managed to make them last a whole week (!) by putting them in the freezer. I need to remember that option for future cookie cravings, because I love to make them but really don’t need to eat quite so many at a time.

What else? I managed to get outside and clean out the garden beds in the front of the house, so now the daffodil sprouts can actually see the sun. The crocuses are up, and I’m looking forward to seeing which daffodils bloom; you never know which ones will survive both the replanting and the hungry squirrels. I’ve been working on my garden plans for this year, but they really deserve their own post. (Stay tuned!)

Finally, politics are driving me a little nuts these days. On the local level, I was heartened by the way our surrounding neighborhoods embraced a rally in opposition to the Westboro Baptist Church (my favorite sign said, “Thanks for bringing the community together!). On the national and state level things are pretty sucktastic, as I don’t need to tell you because you’re an educated person who reads the news, right? Local delegates tried to play politics and sank Maryland’s equal marriage bill: I hope no one votes for anything those two people support for at least a decade (because I’m sleep-deprived, and that makes me surprisingly petty). All the money we have left after donating to NPR, Planned Parenthood, and the unions is being squirreled away so that we can live during the impending (Freudian slip: I nearly typed “impeding”) government shut-down. After using my energy taking care of the sprout, I have absolutely none left for filtering or using polite language: it’s gotten a little sailor-ish around these parts. Thank mother nature for oxytocin, I cannot imagine how much crabbier I would be about all of this without the mama hormones. (Of course, I’d have orders of magnitude more uninterrupted sleep, so maybe it would balance.)

And now: back to thinking about spring and daydreaming about the garden!

is this thing on?

garden : irises!

One of the lovely purple bearded irises.

The purple irises against the side of the house.

I love irises. There’s something about them that I find jaunty, and jauntiness is a quality I value highly in a flower. Also, they grow by the sides of ponds and lakes and in swamps, so I enjoy them as I enjoy everything else about water ecosystems. In my garden, I now have three species: German bearded (tall purple and yellow, shorter white, and some mystery varieties that haven’t bloomed yet); Siberian (only acquired last spring, so not yet blooming); and some shorter native ones (larger taller blue and shorter smaller white). I purchased the natives, but the others were gifts from neighbors. This spring I’ll be moving the shorter white irises into a new spot at the corner of the front bed, which will hopefully give more room for the taller ones to propagate. Eventually, I’d like to have several areas bursting with color-coordinated irises, and (as with most things in my garden) that requires patience and organization in the absence of a large monetary outlay. (This is also the plan for the daffodils, by the way: identify them by color, move those that are similar into clumps together and hope that they multiply over the course of several years if left largely alone.)

Of course, the area with the irises is precisely the side of the house that is slated to be dug up, steeply graded, and replanted later this summer. Which will be great opportunity to separate the yellow flowers from the purple ones, assuming I keep track of them adequately in the interim. Look for little bits of plastic tied around stems, that’s the best system I’ve devised so far.

The short native shade irises under the dogwood.

garden : irises!

garden : daffodils!

The varieties of daffodils that bloomed in March and April, mostly unidentified.

A friend of ours acquired so many spring bulbs with the house they purchased that every time she wants to move or remove or plant something in her yard, she unearths dozens of bulbs. Since other parts of the yard are invariably already full of bulbs, she’s been offering them to me. As I’m a softie who can’t say no to free plants, especially flowers, I most recently accepted about 100 daffodil plants of various kinds. Yes, we know you’re not supposed to divide them in the spring, but the ones that had buds have all opened into flowers (many while the they were still in the bucket waiting to get a place in the ground).

Our yard started with just a couple of clumps of plain yellow daffodils (most likely King Alfred, an extremely common regular yellow trumpet variety) next to the front steps. I would have sworn that we had a jonquil pop up in that bed a few years ago, but I haven’t seen it since and don’t know which bulb it might have been from (there are a few that have only been foliage since I moved them around two years ago). I also unearthed a number of narcissus along the back fence while weeding, which I moved into the lamppost bed two years ago, but they have yet to bloom (although one did produce a bud this year, so I’m eagerly awaiting its flowering). Because I’m really only gardening in the front until we replace the fence in the back, I have been hesitant to attempt anything like a plan involving spring bulbs. However, I dove in once I had a bucket of plants sitting around waiting for action!

In the end, most of the plants went into the front sidewalk bed. I used the smaller varieties—a true dwarf yellow trumpet daffodil and an 8″ (or so) yellow non-trumpet daffodil where the part that should be the trumpet is a flat ruffle on top of the outer petals—to create a thick border row along the bottom of the bed below the line of orange daylilies. This is where I attempted to introduce carpet phlox last year, with no success at all; it was far too shady once the daylilies came in and the phlox all died. I am more hopeful about this new plan, as Christopher Lloyd specifically recommends interplanting with daylilies, as the foliage of the later plants grows up and hides the dying foliage of the daffodils (about which he is otherwise fairly disdainful). Seems reasonable. In addition to that row, I planted several clumps in the empty spots left by the demise of the creeping sedum I’d introduced several years ago (one regular sized yellow daffodil with a fairly bright orange trumpet, one regular height slender yellow daffodil with a more muted soft orange narrow trumpet which might be the Jetfire variety, and a clump of the aforementioned flat ruffled soft yellow type).

Once I’d basically filled that bed with daffodils, I was left with only a gazillion more to put in other parts o the yard. I planted four clumps of Ice Follies (the one variety I could conclusively identify!) under and in front of and in between the various azaleas in the yard, with a couple more clumps of the shorter varieties interspersed (most likely the flat ruffled kind). I then gave away 20 or so plants and bulbs to another neighbor. And have not yet started to find places for the tulip bulbs (I’m thinking a fair number can go into the spot in the front foundation bed where the poker primrose didn’t survive).

I will say that the front looks quite cheery with all the yellow and white and orange blooming this early. I’m curious to see how it looks next year, and whether the masking effect of the daylilies works as advertised. When my partner returns later this week with the digital camera, I’ll try to get a photo of each of the different blooms. In the meantime, I need to train a climbing rose up a pyramid trellis and move a few perennials around. Yes, this is the year of sitting back and watching things grow. Can’t you tell?

garden : daffodils!

garden : spring is popping up

It’s always exciting to see the first daffodil buds, particularly since I’ve moved the bulbs and as a result am never sure I’m going to get flowers. This year I have crocuses in the little bed I created by the lamp post, so even if I did plant them too deeply (as I suspect) they’ve recovered enough to flower. The daylilies are sending up shoots, the sedum has buds, and the aster already has a number of sprouts breaking through. This year is (planned to be) a year for watching things grow. We have no plans for new beds, moving things around, or new plants. This could change, but simply sitting back and observing the perennials is the official plan.

It’s too rainy for taking pictures, and exactly rainy enough for ordering a new dehumidifier for the basement. I’m on it.

garden : spring is popping up