Friday, March 30, 2012

Conducting a Recount

This week I cut down my daffodils, counting as I cut.  The grand total:  460.  What?  460?  But my daffs have been declining for the past few years:

2009: 347
2010: 282
2011: 175
2012:  460

I was so surprised by the number, that I pulled all the stems out of the compost pile and counted them again.  Yep:  460.

Last fall I dug up some of the clumps and replanted them.  I didn't expect that to do much to change the daff count this year, since the too-crowded bulbs would have already formed whatever flowers they were going to form for this year.  So I thought I wouldn't see any change in flowering until next year.

Boy, was I wrong!  But I'm still not sure why there are so many more this year.  When I dug up the daff clumps (yielding 200 bulbs of assorted sizes), I replanted them starting with the largest, 20-25 per section replanted (for a total of 150; the other 50 went to Mom).  And here you can see the nice performance of the two sections that got the largest bulbs:

The third replanted section had only one flower, as I expected.  The fourth section (planted in the front lower border, not pictured) also had one flower.  The rest didn't flower (I didn't expect them to; those bulbs were tiny!)

So my replantings don't account for the (nearly) 300-flower increase in production this year.  Those as-yet-to-be-divided clumps really ramped up their output, with no help from me.  For comparison, here's a photo I posted last year of the same area as in the top pic:

I have no idea what the cause of this bloom-fest was, but I'm grateful!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Bedding Down

We've a predicted low temperature of 28 degrees tonight.  While I wasn't so ahead of the calendar as to plant out anything tender yet, some of my plants have jumped the gun a bit.  When I heard the forecast, I didn't pay much mind to it, other than to think, "Brr!" since I have pretty hardy plants in my yard.  But then a Md Extension post caught my eye:  blueberries!  Yes, mine are already in flower, and apparently they don't like to be cold.  So instead of packing myself off to bed, I took some bedsheets outside and tucked in those blueberries.

It's been extremely windy today, so I anchored this sheet covering my lowbush berries with a few bricks I had lying around.  I didn't have anything to use to pin the sheet wrapping my highbush varieties, so we'll see how well my hurried (it's cold out there, folks!) fold-and-tuck holds up.

And those strawberries already in flower?  They didn't get a sheet.  We'll just see what happens.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Early Iris

I know everything is early this spring, but I never expected to see an iris in March.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Proof is in the Box

In front of my house, I have two English boxwoods.  These came from my grandfather's "box-farm".  Not really a farm, just a 4x10 plot where he grew box from cuttings to fill in or replace the shrubs that lined and surrounded his yard..  Some were huge:  they'd been growing there for decades.  Before my grandparents' house was sold, I moved a few that were about a foot tall to my new yard.

There are several types of boxwood, and they grow at different rates.  Mine are the super slow-growing type.  I've had them for nearly seven years, but they are still really small.  When my front-bed perennials get going in the summer, the box seem to disappear. 
Boxwood in March - only as tall as the daffodil leaves

Box hidden in September

Are they actually growing?  Well, they are slightly bigger than when I planted them in 2005 (I think!), so they must be.  Here's the proof:  growth buds!

Box in March - it is growing!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The "Boulevard"

What is it called?  That space between the sidewalk and the street, sometimes filled with manicured lawn, more often filled with weeds (like mine), and sometimes a beautiful garden? Some call it a parking strip, some who try unsuccessfully to beautify it call it a "hell-strip".  I've seen a few garden blogs refer to it as a "boulevard".  That's a new term to me, but the nicest term I've seen; so let's go with it.  Welcome to my boulevard!

A previous owner must have had a never-ending supply of brick.  Brick retaining walls, brick patio, brick garden edging, and a bricked-in boulevard:

If only it actually looked like that.  Usually, it looks like this:

About once a year I go pull out all the weeds, fill in the gaps with sand, and end up with the first picture.  That lasts about two weeks.  I'd been wanting to pull out the bricks and plant something, and last fall I finally removed the bricks.

My trusty cart holds a lot of bricks, but it is hard to push when full.  I found the 28 bricks (four courses of brick) was the most efficient number to move at once.  It took me 15 loads, over several days, to remove all the brick.  For every two loads of brick removed, I brought back a load of leaf mulch.

No more bricks!

I've admired photos of other boulevards that have been planted like a garden.  My space isn't very wide (only 2.5 feet), so my options are more limited.  There aren't usually cars parked in front of my house, except when I have visitors, but I do have to leave the space car-door friendly.  (I think the city requires that.)  Some people solve this by using gravel or a walkable ground cover for the first foot or so, and then plant taller things next to the sidewalk.  But since I have such a narrow space to work with, I think the whole thing needs to be low.

Another necessity of this space is that whatever is planted needs to get by without attention or intervention from me.  My hose doesn't reach that far, and I'm not going to hand-water.  I think a lot of trial-and-error will be involved to find plantings that work.

So far I've put in some bulbs:  crocus, snowdrops, scilla, and anemone.  All low-growers.  They were a nice, colorful addition this spring.
 I also divided up some moss phlox that was growing in the back along the patio terrace, and plopped it in the boulevard.  By winter, the phlox looked to be a goner, mostly dried out and brown.  But it surprised me this month, when at least some part of each patch showed green leaves and flower buds.  This might just work.

Of course I have a lot more of the boulevard to plant.  I might try liriope:  I have quite a bit that can be divided.

And then there's the "other" boulevard.  The one around the corner that I never see, because it is hidden from my view by my ivy-covered fence.  People do park along that one every day.  And it gets a lot of shade (from my ivy).  Something to mull over while I admire my new view in the front.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Side Garden Cleanup

I spent part of the weekend cleaning up the side garden.  Taking down last year's flower stalks, trimming ivy, cutting back the butterfly bush, trying (and failing) to control the rosemary, and general weeding.

Before:  looking toward the front

Before:  looking toward the rear


I think I removed more from the area than I left behind!

Now I just need to mulch. I generally get a load of leaf mulch delivered from the city, but it is more than I can really deal with, and the pile sits in my driveway for months.  This year, I think I'm going to rent a truck and bring home just what I can use.  It will cost more to rent the truck, but my sanity is worth it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

No Weeping over this Willow

I arrived home from last week's trip to find my backyard landscape drastically altered:

The willow tree that used to dominate the back yard is gone.  Yes, I'd contracted to have it removed, but I had asked if they would do it while I was home (you know, just in case anything happened, like they dropped a big limb on my roof, I wanted to be around to deal with it.)  Fortunately, the tree came down without incident.  The crew did an amazing job of cleaning up after themselves.

Here's a before-and-after shot, looking out at the patio:

The stump couldn't be ground out because of the proximity of the tree to the garage, patio, and stairs.  All reasons the tree had to go.  Plus, it was unhealthy, and growing into the power lines that feed my house.  I'm also hoping the added sunlight on the veggie garden will help production this year. (OK, just maybe that was the primary reason I finally got around to getting the tree taken down.  Just maybe.) Oh, and I won't have to clean up after this very messy tree anymore.  Yay!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

So Those are Joshua Trees? Huh.

Driving through the high desert in California, through a rugged and mostly barren landscape, I saw only some ugly, scrubby trees.

My traveling companion informed me they are Joshua Trees.


For a tree that got its own national park, I expected something more.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Green Wall

I was in Las Vegas recently.  (My first visit.)  Had fun gaping at all the extravagance on the strip, but was missing green things.  I did find this green wall.

I wonder what the plant is, and how much water it needs.

Oh, I also bought myself some lucky socks.  They paid for themselves.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Planting Peas

March third I started sprouting my peas. On the tenth, they were ready for planting.

Now, I just have to wait for May.

Evening addendum:  I checked on the garden this evening, and the peas are coming up!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 2012 Blooms

I returned home from a trip this afternoon excited to find out what had started blooming in my several-day absence.  The yard didn't let me down.

As I stepped out of the taxi, the first flowers I noticed were the anemone I'd planted in the sidewalk bed last fall.  Finally, I have red flowers!

Pretty white ones, too.

 Also in that bed, moss phlox (that survived a late transplanting with no care whatsoever) and some scilla. 
Heading up the front walk: a nice view of pansies, daffodils, and the pear tree behind: 

Around the side:  lots of daffs, and a rogue centaurea
In the back:  the plum tree in full bloom and a hyacinth in the herb garden

And around the other side:  purple and lavender hellebores

How nice to return home on Bloom Day to such treasures!  I hope you'll pay a visit to May Dreams Gardens to see what else is blooming today.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fruity Flowers

When I was working in the garden Sunday, I noticed the plum tree buds looked like they were getting ready to burst open.  Just a few more days, I thought.  But I was wrong:  They surprised me Monday.

The pear tree in the front had almost completely escaped my notice, since I haven’t started working on that part of the yard yet.  Then, when I was admiring the plum tree, I saw a ball of white out of the corner of my eye.  That pear didn’t want to be left behind.

Happy spring!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Yellow wins, but is it a fair contest?

The first daffodils opened Saturday, February 25.  All yellow.  Not too surprising, since I only seem to have one white early-flowering daff left.  It opened the next day.  I wonder what happened to all the others?  I don’t think my Daff Wars are really a fair contest anymore, if there is only one white one competing against a yard full of yellows.  I may have to remedy that for next year.

I have other white daffs along the front walk, but they are a shorter, later-blooming variety.