Seasonal Chores & Observations...
In and Out of My Zone 6 Garden
Copyright © 2013 Hilda M. Morrill
May 8, 2013 - The pink tulips are glorious. Amazingly the voles have not found all the bulbs and have left us a few to enjoy.
This particular variety has performed well for many years with little attention on my part beyond making sure to remove the spent blossoms and allowing the leaves to yellow before removing them.
I seem to remember that when I purchased the bulbs they were advertised as dependably perennial as opposed to varieties that decline from year to year. In fact, many of my friends treat tulips as annuals and discard them every year. I just can't bring myself to do that.
Species tulips do well and we've had some for at least 15 years (if the voles haven't found them).
All of the potted plants that spent the winter in the cellar are now outside in a shaded area waiting to be placed here and there in the garden beds. Among them are callas, cannas, agapanthus and a hibiscus tree.
I read that hummingbirds have been spotted in the area. Although it seems early, it's time to bring out the hummingbird feeders.
April 16, 2013 - The first daffodil blossoms have appeared in our garden. Such a beautiful sight to behold!
Also in bloom are the blue Siberian squills (Scilla siberica), crocuses, several different colored hellebores, grape hyacinths (Muscari), and some remaining white snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis). The forsythia shrubs are full of buds as are the Korean rhododendrons (Rhododendron/Azalea mucronulatum) and the Andromeda (Pieris japonica).
The last couple of days have been glorious. Spring has sprung! And, yes, pollen allergies have returned.
We've done some pruning and cleaning up, but still have a long way to go. Our grandson will be happy to learn that we finally found the croquet ball that went missing last summer.
It's amazing how vigorous the weeds are. Some are even blooming, just waiting to spread their nasty little seeds all over the place.
Lots of bees have been buzzing around. A good thing for sure!
There have been several sightings of otters in the neighborhood. Don't know if that's a good thing or not. But, I haven't seen any myself.
Indoors, the holiday cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) is re-blooming after putting on a show around Thanksgiving last fall.
Sadly, the mail is full of ads for tomatoes "as big as grapefruits" and strawberries "as big as peaches." I hope people don't waste their money.
Earth Day will be celebrated on Monday, April 22 and Arbor Day on Friday, April 26. Lots of garden clubs are scheduling plant sales.
No wonder April is called National Gardening Month!
March 2, 2013 - Recent heavy rain storms have washed away much of the snow cover exposing the welcome sight of emerging snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) in our garden. Also visible are the tops of much of the daffodil foliage.
Lots of new life is also evident in our unheated cellar, where potted cannas, callas and dahlias have been spending their winter.
Soon it will be time to do some pruning. Getting a trim will be the butterfly bushes (Buddleia), the Russian sage (Perovskia), the Endless Summer hydrangeas (which bloom on new growth), and all the dried sedums ('Autumn Joy', 'Matrona', etc.) that added interest to the winter garden.
Rhododendrons, azaleas and forsythias will get their haircuts much later, as soon as possible after they bloom.
Maybe spring really is right around the corner!
On top of everything else, Daylight Saving Time begins next week. I'm certainly not sad to see February go.
February 2, 2013 -The month of February always makes me think of hearts and Valentine's Day. A new heart-shaped wreath now adorns our front door, replacing the Christmas wreath that blew off during the recent two-day major windstorm. Our favorite heart-shaped flower is the Bleeding Heart (Dicentra).
Speaking of flowers, some of our Hellebores are blooming. Despite such common names as "Snow rose," "Christmas rose" and "Lenten rose," Hellebores (Helleborus) are not members of the rose family (Rosaceae).
Unbelievably, we found a dandelion flower in our so-called lawn a week ago. As pretty as it was, it was unceremoniously removed before it could go to seed. Of course, since the offending plant and roots were not weeded out, it probably won't be long until we are "blessed" with more blossoms. Dandelions are perennials with deep roots, so I must find my weeder for sure!
Yesterday, hubby saw a red fox in the woods behind our house. He tells me that it was big and fat. I wonder what it's been eating? Hopefully, lots of voles and mice!
Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, are the largest members of the squirrel family. Punxsutawney Phil, the most famous family member, did not see his shadow today. Good news! An early spring was predicted.
The days are definitely getting longer and we welcome the additional daylight. We can't wait to get out and work in the garden.
January 3, 2013 - New Year's Day was sunny and pleasant after a week of winter storms with lots of snow and ice. Helping ring in the New Year was one of our favorite televised events, The Tournament of Roses Parade, live from Pasadena, California.
It is always amazing to me that per official rules of the parade, all surfaces of the floats' framework must be covered in natural materials (such as flowers, plants, seaweeds, seeds, bark, vegetables, or nuts), with no artificial flowers allowed, nor can any of the materials be artificially colored. Amazing for sure, considering that hundreds of thousands of flowers are used.
Resolutions for 2013 have been made and one of mine is to enjoy our garden more and try not to make any extra or unnecessary work. With that thought in mind, we have removed five potted Dwarf Alberta Spruce trees (Picea glauca 'Conica') that have graced the six-foot-high and more than 70'-long stone wall on one side of our house for 20 years or so.
Although attractive, especially during the winter months, over the years the large containers have toppled off many times, especially during wind storms and Nor'easters. It hasn't been easy for hubby to hoist them up, especially as the "dwarf" evergreens grew in size and weight. Of course, during the growing seasons and hot summer months there were also the necessary frequent waterings. So, we are presently looking for a good home for them as they wait in our driveway.
Seed and plant catalogs continue to arrive in the mails and a recent newspaper advertisement for the Ocean State Job Lot stores featured packets of 2013 seeds on sale. We will have to take a look.
Groundhog Day will be celebrated on Saturday, February 2. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when the groundhog emerges from its burrow, spring will come early. If it's sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow; and the winter weather will continue for six more weeks.
We wonder what's in store for us?
December 3, 2012 - December arrived with a gentle snowfall that didn't amount to much in the Greater Boston Area.
Today, however, is a beautiful, sunny day with temperatures expected to reach at least 60 degrees. It feels like spring in December.
I'm hoping to get outdoors and continue to decorate our pots with holiday greens. And, maybe even rake up some more leaves, at least off the sidewalks, which can become slippery when covered with wet leaves.
Now that most of the trees are bare, it's fun to see how many bird and squirrel nests are visible.
The holiday cactus bloomed at Thanksgiving time. It was spectacular, unlike last year when it didn't bloom at all. As I wrote at the time, I think it was because I did not leave it out in the unheated porch long enough to experience a period of cold, but not freezing, temperatures.
A gift from our dear friend Mitch more than twenty years ago, it has never been re-potted in all that time. All its dried-up blossoms have always gone back into the container to enrich and add to the tilth of the planting medium, whatever it was originally.
Our plant, with its "pointy" or "toothed" segments, is a Schlumbergera truncata. It is often confused with a Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii), which has "rounded" or more "scalloped" segments.
That is why years ago someone suggested "Holiday Cactus" might be the better common name since there is so much confusion, even among some nursery and flower-shop employees.
Incidentally, the "leaves/segments" of both types are really stems!
Amazingly, there are still some blooms on some of our Knock Out roses outdoors. And, many plant-and-seed catalogs continue to arrive in the daily mail.
November 4, 2012 - Neighborhood tree leaves continue to flutter down while the Japanese maples in our yard continue to hold on to theirs.
We have survived the "Storm of the Century" aka "Hurricane Sandy" and we were luckier than most. Daylight Saving Time ended today and we now prepare for the long dark winter ahead.
Incredibly, we have not had a totally killing frost yet and we still have beautiful pink Knock Out roses in full bloom as well as lots of chives and Swiss chard in the vegetable garden. In the refrigerator is the last of the zucchini that we picked last week.
Indoors the Holiday cactus has set buds and will soon be flowering. The potted plants have been brought into the cellar for their winter respite. Dahlias, calla lilies and dracaenas will get some insecticidal soap spray to make sure they do not harbor any creepy-crawlies inside our home.
The long-neglected "upstairs" houseplants, such as the African violets and the crotons may finally get re-potted.
The dark winter nights will be perfect for us to plan for next year, especially the rotation of crops in the veggie garden to prevent soil disease, as well as what small trees need to be pruned come next March. We will also note which new trial plants performed well for us this season and which ones didn't.
The reality is that as Thanksgiving approaches, we really have much to be thankful for.
September 24, 2012 - Autumn crocus blossoms are popping up here and there throughout the garden, even as our hostas and other perennials are winding down and turning brown.
Colchicum autumnale is also known as meadow saffron or naked lady. The name "naked lady" comes from the fact that the flowers emerge from the ground in the fall, long after the leaves have died back. They grow from bulb-like corms.
Recent mornings have been chilly. Sadly for us, the hummers have left for their trip south to warmer climes, and the Monarch butterflies will soon be following.
A groundhog has visited the veggie garden where he gobbled up most of the Swiss chard. He also nibbled through a new type of compost bin that we were testing. Made of mesh walls with an open "bottom," it was no match for our resident critter. So, thumbs down for this type of bin. One good thing, however, is that the groundhog eats the goutweed.
We're still harvesting tomatoes, zucchini and green beans. The cucumbers have stopped and the corn was a failure.
I must scatter my saved digitalis and salvia seeds about, hoping that they germinate before winter arrives. It's always fun in the spring to see where they'll pop up, adding a cottage-garden element to the flower beds.
The sidewalks and street are covered with brown oak leaves. Soon it will be time to take out the rakes.
August 22, 2012 - Our Hibiscus moscheutos 'Kopper King' adds lots of drama to the August garden.
The showy plant is also known as Hardy Hibiscus, Rose Mallow or Swamp Mallow. Depending on whom you ask, it is considered a woody perennial or a small shrub. The big copper leaves and showy white flowers with a red eye add a tropical flair to the garden.
It dies down after the first frost, and in late winter we cut the branches and stems down to almost ground level. Late to emerge in the spring, it will throw off new stems and start the cycle all over again.
It has been a strange summer for sure, the hottest on record for the Northeast according to meteorologists. We have had some heavy downpours, and a severe windstorm blew over our Cotinus tree, which sadly, could not be saved.
Some of the azaleas have new blooms, and even more amazing, so does our dwarf lilac! Have never seen that before.
In the veggie garden we've been harvesting lots of zucchini, pole beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, Swiss chard and basil. We are growing corn for the first time in more than 30 years. A small crop to be sure, but it's fun to see the threadlike silks on the ears turning brown.
A welcome surprise is that we have not seen any Japanese beetles this year and the lily beetle damage was minimal. However, Hubby was stung by a bee and I was bitten by a tick that had to be removed from my arm.
The weeds are quite vigorous and healthy looking and our so-called lawn is full of crabgrass. Incredibly, phlox paniculata and autumn clematis (terrible thugs in our garden) continue to pop up here and there after years of faithful removal.
We enjoy seeing butterflies on the hummer feeders and small birds hovering over daylily blossoms. Something different, to be sure.
It's time to sow seeds for the fall garden. Lettuce is high on the list, since our spring planting was such a dismal failure.
Muscari leaves are emerging, preparing the way for next spring's grape hyacinths' blossoms. Fall is definitely on the horizon.
Thursday, July 5, 2012 - Summer has arrived and with it, record heat temperatures. Many blossoms in the gardens and containers help draw attention away from the many weeds. Especially pretty are the different colored daylilies.
But also catching our eye are the blue, white and pink hydrangeas, multi-colored Japanese irises, the fragrant lavender, Shasta daisies, pink dahlias and Knock Out roses.
Also adding interest to the garden are the large seed pods of the Baptisia, as well as the emerging green Kousa dogwood berries.
Hand pruning our rhododendrons, azaleas and hollies is a daily "chore" we enjoy, avoiding shears as much as possible.
While on the subject of pruning, we are not missing "pinching off" or deadheading the blooms of our incredibly prolific Supertunia 'Watermelon Charm', a petunia hybrid sent to us to trial by Proven Winners. As noted in our Home Page article about gardening "myths," in many cases pinching is no longer an absolute must because today's commonly available bedding plants are bred to be more compact with continuous blooms. So, you don't need the pinch to manage growth or promote blooms.
In the veggie garden, there are several baby green tomatoes. The lettuce never germinated; I guess it was too hot for the late-planted seed. The zucchini is doing well as are the green beans and the cucumbers. Keeping our fingers crossed, of course.
Thursday, May 31, 2012 - The peony blossoms have been spectacular this year. They are presently at their peak. Some years they have been knocked down by heavy rains in spite of the metal "grow-throughs" that help keep them upright. So far, so good!
Pollen is the worst that I can remember. Drifts of yellow dust are everywhere to be seen. For the most part, we are keeping our windows and doors closed. Our allergies are really acting up.
The daffodil foliage is beginning to look ratty. Not liking to braid it, I push it to the side of emerging perennials while scattering seeds of annuals, like cleomes, in among the yellowing leaves. If I think of it, I'll also sprinkle some granular fertilizer around.
We have spotted a Fisher cat darting around the neighborhood and hope there's not a family of them. Have never seen one before.
The seed birdfeeders and the suet cage have been taken down. It's time to mix up some sugar water for the hummingbird feeders. Can't wait to welcome our little friends back.
Summer is just around the corner!
Friday, April 27, 2012 - Our one clump of red trillium is especially outstanding this year. Trillium erectum is also known as Wake-robin, purple trillium and Stinking Benjamin, among other names. The spring flowering perennial is native to the north-eastern parts of North America.
I've often thought about dividing it in the fall, but have put it off or forgotten. Now I find out from noted garden writer/blogger Margaret Roach that she recommends doing it in the spring, when they are in flower.
So, I will do the deed this coming weekend, and look forward to increased enjoyment of the pretty harbingers of spring for years to come (if I don't kill them in the process).
Amazing weather we've been having. Everything is so early. Hubby has already mowed our so-called lawn twice.
I never thought I'd be looking forward to April showers. Thank goodness for the recent rain. It was really needed because everything is parched and there have been many fires.
The veggie garden has rhubarb, chives, Egyptian onions, lovage and sage ready for harvesting.
Of course the weeds are abundant, too. The war will never end as we battle wild onion, creeping Charlie, garlic mustard, Japanese barberry and Sweet Autumn clematis, a beautiful but terrible thug in our gardens.
Speaking of Autumn, we've received our first fall catalog! Too early for me.
Thursday, March 1, 2012 - A couple of days ago I was admiring many blue Siberian squills in bloom. They (Scilla siberica) joined the emerging white snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) in our garden.
According to the meteorologists, February was the warmest on record for the Greater Boston area. The "Snowless Winter" has been a favorite topic of conversation for everyone. The warmth has resulted in earlier blossoms for sure.
In true New England fashion, however, today we're having a late taste of winter with intermittent snow and rain, which began yesterday, February 29 or "Leap Day." We'll wait and see if anything happens to our blooming friends. For such delicate looking plants, however, they are really hardy and should be OK.
In last month's "Observation," I featured bleeding hearts using their botanical name, Dicentra, by which I've known them forever. I now find out that the name has been changed to "Lamprocapnos." I can hardly pronounce it, and I'm afraid it gives me a headache. Maybe I'll just continue using Dicentra.
The finches at our birdfeeders are beginning to show some yellow on their feathers. Daylight Saving Time begins on Sunday, March 11. We'll celebrate St. Patrick's Day on Saturday, March 17 and the first day of spring on Tuesday, March 20.
Maybe this will be the year that I find a four-leaf clover!
Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - When February arrives, most of us think about hearts and Valentine's Day. So it was time to finally take down the Christmas wreath. As I look around the neighborhood, I see that I was not alone in my tardiness. Our favorite heart-shaped flower is the Bleeding Heart (Dicentra).
The weather continues to be unseasonably warm. The temps reached 60 degrees today. Hubby played golf. Truly amazing!
Lots of robins are hanging around the yard eating the berries off our holly bushes. They don't head south in winter anymore.
This past weekend, we planted the last of the daffodil bulbs that were forgotten last fall. Many had already begun to leaf out. To make it easier and not have to dig holes, we found a spot in the garden that had a natural deep depression.
After scratching the surface with a hand-weeder, we poked the bulbs (pointy side up) in the loose soil and then covered them with a couple of bags of pine bark mulch. After tamping down the area gently, we then lay some grow-through rings on top, to deter the squirrels from digging up the bulbs. Although poisonous to the rascally varmints and not eaten by them, daffie bulbs have been dug up in the past.
Indoors, my new air plant is developing a bud! So exciting. Will take a photo if and when it blooms.
Monday, January 16, 2012 - It's a new year and I have a new houseplant. The best part is that I am told I can't kill it, no matter what!
Many thanks to our wonderful daughter for such a lovely and unique Christmas present. I've never grown one of these before.
Known as an air plant, Tillandsia is a genus of around 540 species in the Bromeliad family (Bromeliaceae). Tillandsias are epiphytes (also called aerophytes), which means that they normally grow without soil while attached to other plants. Epiphytes are not parasitic, depending on the host only for support.
A "repurposed" design per the care card that accompanied the gift, my new plant is mounted on what appears to be an old piece of wood crown molding with patches of paint. I only have to remove it once a week and submerge it in water for 2-4 hours according to its distributor www.RootsinRust.com.
How simple is that? I love it and it looks so pretty in our kitchen. Thank you, Maria!
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