It appears that our pieris plant may actually be a native! I had just assumed that it was the Japanese variety and hadn’t even really registered that there is a regional alternative. The other day when we were sitting on the porch I noticed that it was covered in bees of all sorts. So we looked it up again and identified it as a “Forest Flame” pieris, which is (as far as I can tell) a hybrid cultivar.
Over the past few years I’ve been vigilant about cutting out any damaged sprigs and the new growth is starting to fill out the shape of the plant. Once we removed the struggling evergreen on the north side of the pieris there was more room to grow in that direction. With the addition of the oak leaf hydrangea, that shady section of acid-loving shrubs with white flowers is now complete!
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.
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!
I just spotted a new life bird, a Philadelphia Vireo, moving through the trees in my backyard, a gift of both the fall migration and the weather being cool enough for me to open the blinds while I sit at the computer. It stayed long enough for me to make it outside with both the binoculars and the book and confirm the identification; two windowpanes and a screen introduce a fair amount of uncertainty into these things.
I had just the other day been trying to determine if I had the oomph for any kind of birding, as it’s something I’ve missed this summer what with the heat and the not being able to walk very well and barely being able to open my eyes in the early hours which are ideal for birding. Now that the migration’s on, though, I could probably make it to the lake around 4pm at least once and just see what’s around. Or, I could continue to just look out the window and let the birds come to me!
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.