Tuesday, May 1, 2018

APRIL SHOWERS



"The sun was warm but the wind was chill.

You know how it is with an April day.

When the sun is out and the wind is still,

You're one month on in the middle of May.

But if you so much as dare to speak,

a cloud come over the sunlit arch,

And wind comes off a frozen peak,

And you're two months back in the middle of March."

- Robert Frost







Last April I purchased four hens and it has been delightful to watch them grow. Granddaughter Lea loves to feed and play with them. They are all good layers and the mother hen ( the red one -Henrietta ) lays the largest eggs I've ever seen.

True to its "April Showers do bring May flowers " reputation, April has been very rainy with some teasingly warm days and some very cold days.

Amazingly the hellebores have continued to bloom since Feburary. The dogwoods, red buckeye, Asian pear , apple, nectarine and peach trees have all bloomed and luckily weren't hit with a late April freeze as they were last year.






This outstanding foliage plant, Butterbur, or Petasides, a passalong plant, is colonizing in my front woodland garden and adds a much-needed spot of color.







The long stretch of below freezing temperatures caused my evergreen 'Lady Banks' rose to drop its leaves, however, it recovered very quickly and bloomed profusely.

The Autumn Sages, a favorite of mine, were also hit hard by the prolonged freeze but also have recovered and are blooming nicely. It's one of the longest blooming, drought-and-deer tolerant plants in my garden. I have at least six reds but fell in love with this purple one and had to have it.







A grand lady that shows off her finery in April is the lovely "Marie " viburnum ( Viburnum plicatum tomentosa 'mariesii ' , as she stretches her arms full of blossoms. The blossoms will be followed by bright red berries, another spectacular show.





April is full of activity as the bluebirds, Carolina Wrens, Bluejays and Cardinals set up their nests. I have four birdhouses full of newly laid eggs. No sooner had I installed a new birdhouse it was promptly claimed and the nest built very quickly.

As April fades away the Iris, catmint, hellebores, ajuga, green and gold groundcover, vervain, Solomon's seal, woodland phlox and Euphorbia are putting on a spectacular Spring show.

I know that gardening is the "Slowest of the performing arts " but I'm glad to finally see the fruit of my labor as my garden is beginning to fill in and mature.

Farewell April and welcome sweet May.



Monday, April 2, 2018

March Into Spring





"Daffodils,

That come before the swallow dares, and take
The winds of March with beauty."
-  William Shakespeare 




This march was seldom kind, teasing with its warm days followed by winter-like weather and true to its reputation, chilly winds and lots of rain.

One cheerful flower that  continues to brighten up my garden is the long- blooming Helleborus. As everyone knows who has them they are prolific spreaders which I don't mind because and as they grow I am going to divide and spread them about my woodland garden.  I love them for their evergreen foliage as well as their bright blooms.

I need to plant more daffodils and spring-blooming bulbs .  I added alliums last Fall and as they are mid-to-late season it will be sometime in April before they bloom. 


I found this most unusual lavender  ( fern lavender ) and couldn't resist it.  Can't wait to see how it performs in the heat of summer this year.

I am continuing my search for a native rhododendron 
( Maximus 'rosebay' ) and a nearby garden center has promised to try to find one for me.   I may try PJM rhododendron as I have seen a few that have survived our hot summers and look spectacular this Spring.  My neighbor has one that is around 7 - 8 feet tall.

With Spring finally arriving the last week of March things are popping up in the garden - variegated Solomon's Seal, hostas, Japanese roof iris, viburnums, dogwood, Ajuga, Catmint, woodland phlox, butterbur, clematis, tulips, and fruit trees to name a few.

Looking forward to a nice April and praying it doesn't bring us a late season freeze this year.





Thursday, March 1, 2018

A FEBRUARY FACE



"Why, what's the matter, 

That you have such a February face, 
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?" 
-  William Shakespeare,  Much Ado About Nothing




My February face this year was quite frosty.  Last February was so mild I was re-seeding my lawn and planting cool season vegetables. Even the potted bamboo I have in a pot turned yellow and dried out.  

The harsh winter we have this year may have killed off my semi-tropical plants such as the Banana palm and Elephant ears. I like them so much I will replace them if so.


Blooming in my garden now is Edgeworthia , aka, Paper bush  .


Edgeworthia is so fragrant and is a cheerful sight in the midst of February.  A most unusual shrub which originated in China and was actually used to make paper.

Another favorite is my Hellebores all of which were gifted to me due to their habit of spreading quite quickly.  They were late to bloom this year but now they are putting on quite a show.



I have a border of various colors -ranging from the pink/lavender/burgundy above to a pure white. 

My fruit trees -peach, apple, nectarine and pear are budding and some are blooming.  Last year a late April freeze nipped the Asian pear trees in the bud and I had only a few pears from them.

And a first -Lady Banks rose, an evergreen thornless variety, lost its leaves for the first time.  It has already bounced back due to the warm up we had at the end of this month.


Even though it blooms just once it's a great addition to a trellis because it's green even when not in bloom.

Since we had such an unusually cold winter it's my hope and dream that we will have an early pleasant Spring.  Just a gardener's dream as in the painting I did with that title.


Friday, February 2, 2018

JANUARY BRINGS SNOW AND BITTER COLD

     
     Neither rain nor sleet stops the blooms of my treasured Prunus Mume, aka Japanese Apricot.  I love it so much I planted a second one. What other tree blooms in the deep of January ?

We had an unusually cold January with the biggest snowfall since I've been in North Carolina -8-10 inches !  Of course businesses and schools were closed for 3 days until temperatures returned to the 60's and melted it away.

I thought my girls would suffer during the extreme cold but they made it through with no side effects.  I fed them warm oatmeal every morning and cracked corn in the evening.  Surprisingly they continued to lay eggs.


Good riddance to January and hello February as we move closer to Spring.  Spring in the South usually arrives in April .  I'm praying that I haven't lost many tender perennials to the freeze.

Monday, January 1, 2018

DECEMBER IS THE GARDEN OF THE MIND'S EYE





Here we are in the last month of the year.  There's been no snow but this must have been one of the coldest on record.  The last day of the year we had bone-chilling temperatures in the teens.  I hope that all my beloved plants are safe and snug beneath their covering of mulch. 

Chickens eat one and a half times more food in the winter so I have been adding to their diet.  Feeding them cracked corn before they retire for the night helps keep them warm as their digestive system goes to work.  I don't have electricity in the coop so I bring out fresh water a few times a day.  The chief hen, Henrietta, is still laying huge eggs. 


Above :  The pecking order -Henrietta, the red star is the oldest and bossiesst, Moon, the Americana , Hei-Hei, the Buff Orpington and the most unique chicken in America -Cleopatra, the Cream Legbar.

Since I can't be outside gardening I'm spending lots of time in the studio. This coming New Year I'm planning to join the local art guild and have an open studio which is a popular art event for the entire county.  I had to cease painting activities for awhile to have surgery on two "trigger " fingers on my right hand. I am able to use my fingers for a limited time but it will take a few month before they are completely recovered.

Looking forward to the New Year and the beginning of the gardening season.  Right now December is the garden of my mind's eye. 



Friday, December 1, 2017

The Gold of November


peering from some high window;
at the gold
of november sunset
(and feeling:that if day
has to become night
this is a beautiful way)
~e.e. cummings



This November was one of the coldest I remember since I moved to North Carolina.  I also think that the beautiful golds and reds of Fall were more brilliant this month.  The golds of the Sweet Gum trees, the reds of the Viburnums, Dogwoods and Oaks paint the landscape with an artists brush.

I have had the row covers on standby and used them  in the vegetable garden for more than 6 or 7 days of below freezing temperatures.  I have planted chinese cabbage and kale from seed and they are growing nicely.  Also planted Savoy cabbage and it's thriving as well.  I've added elephant garlic and stir-fry broccoli this last month.


Taking note of what's still in bloom this late November.  The aster above , ' Raydon's Favorite ' is also one of mine.  It grows wide and tall, blooms late but long.  I have divided it into several transplants that I've spread through-out my roadside garden.  It goes well with the ornamental grasses.


Another favorite is Autumn Sage.  I have several different colors-red, red and white and now this new cultivar -violet.  They also spread and become a woody shrub with a long blooming period.  The hummers , butterflies and bees love this plant.  Last year mine bloomed through-out the winter.

Another bright shining star in the November garden -'sheffield's pink ' Korean mum.  Blooms early but stays late.

My favorite annuals -Dianthus and Snapdragons-are still acting like perennials despite the harsh freezes we've had.   Soon the hellebores of which I now have many passalongs will be in bloom.

The herb garden which I planted right next to the chicken coop so I could pick oregano and thyme to feed the chickens is still growing.  Oregano is considered an antibiotic and the girls love it .I used sage and thyme to season the turkey dressing and chives for the potatoes.   Speaking of the girls only two of them continue to lay eggs -the red star Henrietta and the Americauna Luna.  I doubt they will lay all winter but I'll have to wait and see.

This last week of November brought back some Spring-like weather of highs in the upper 60's.  I'm just waiting for the last leaves to fall so that I can shred them and return them to the earth to enrich the soil.

And now on to the last month of the year.  It's hard to believe that it's here but with it comes a lot of good cheer and a time of rest for the gardener.




Friday, November 3, 2017

The Glory of October

In the October Garden

In my Autumn garden I was fain
To mourn among my scattered roses;
Alas for that last rosebud which uncloses
To Autumn's languid sun and rain
When all the world is on the wane!
Which has not felt the sweet constraint of June,
Nor heard the nightingale in tune.

Broad-faced asters by my garden walk,
You are but coarse compared with roses:
More choice, more dear that rosebud which uncloses
Faint-scented, pinched, upon its stalk,
That least and last which cold winds balk;
A rose it is though least and last of all,
A rose to me though at the fall. 

 My aim is to use the plants as mulch - planting them so close together that they shade out weeds.  I'd rather buy perennials and plant them than mulch and have to apply it. I do add a good layer of mulch to newly planted trees and shrubs to help in the consevation of their watering.

October was relatively dry and required additional watering for new and transplanted plants. The late blooms of mums, asters , Autumn sage and goldenrod are still hanging on.




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