Friday, May 20, 2016

Maytime in the Cottage Garden

Crabapple blossoms

I wish May would last forever, just go on and on. The garden feels so fresh and new in the early morning with its subtle verdant shades and its sweet spring flowers. It draws me outside each dawn to mark the daily changes with my camera. Here are the pictures I took on May 15, the day that garden bloggers around the world celebrate Bloom Day with Carol at May Dreams Gardens. I looked back at previous GBBD pictures and was amazed how many of my shrubs have filled out. That's one of the joys of blogging: every year is different.

Along Bluebell Creek the English bluebells are blooming, rekindling memories of springtime walks in the woods of my childhood.

English bluebell Hyacinthoides non scripta

Nearby, the pieris shrubs in my Woodland Walk provide color with their flaming May blooms. I recently learned that Pieris is sometimes called Lily-of-the-Valley plant. I think that name applies to those pieris with tiny white flowers -- I have that type too. I'm so happy some of the shrubs and flowers I planted here survived the winter and the deer.

The Woodland Walk

Speaking of Lily-of-the-Valley, I can see the sweet flower and smell its perfume in the Woodland Walk and several other shady areas.

Lily of the Valley, Ladies' Mantle and Sedum

Also, in the Woodland Walk, the newly planted brunnera survived some deer nibbles and put forth its forget-me-not blooms.

Brunnera macrophylla  -- can't remember which one.

I'm choosing Brunnera as my May plant for Diana's Dozen as I couldn't imagine a shade garden without its beautiful foliage. It's fun to compare my choices with those of Diana in her stunning South African garden.

Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'

I'm naming the shade garden 'Serenity.' Serenity gardens are often associated with Japanese gardens, but it is the perfect word to describe the way I feel in this space.

My  Serenity Garden

The cottage garden and the pond are filled with spring beauty. The forget-me-nots are everywhere.

Blue and White Forget-me-nots in the Cottage Garden

Allium shoots up with buds full of promise.

Allium 'Globe Master' and some late daffodils

We planted the dwarf cutleaf maple to shade the waterfall from the harsh summer sun. It has reached its glory this year. I can't resist showing how it looked three years ago.

That was then ...

The Pond, May 2013

This is now ...

The dwarf maple May 2016

 Notice the yellow iris in bloom in the pond.

Dwarf cutleaf maple Acer palmatum

I've started adding annuals in pots to the garden; this hanging basket of calibrachoa was the first.
Dude and Billy, along Penny Lane, patiently wait for their breakfast as I continue with my photo shoot.

The kitchen garden is ready for me to finish planting. The cool weather crops: lettuce, snowpeas and onions are in. Notice the bottom-left of the picture: the rhubarb went to seed early. I wasn't vigilant and only noticed its blooms when I took this photograph. How did I miss it? No rhubarb pie this year! What a bummer.

In the herb garden on the patio I planted more lettuce, also spinach, flat-leaf parsley and Swiss chard. There are rosemary and sage from last year, too. Also, I thing the borage plant is coming back.

The seedlings under the grow lights in the potting shed, and those in the house, are doing well. A few plants are ready to go into the ground ...

Strawberries, fuschia and cosmos hardening off on the outside potting bench.

Finally, the May 15 view from the den window. I've decided to take a picture from this location on the 15th of every month to mark the changes in my garden.

The pond from the den window.

As I said, the pictures in this posting were taken several days ago.  I'll shoot more before the end of the month to observe the progress. Every day brings changes to my gardens. This is the BEST time of the year!

Happy Maytime,
Pamela x

Late daffodils frame one of the mini gardens

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Spring Cleanup in the Cottage Garden

We opened the pond and made a good start at the spring cleanup in the cottage garden. The pond opening, one of our biggest spring tasks, was sizeable this year because I repotted most of the water plants. Although you can't see all of them in the picture (many being under the water's surface) I have a dozen or more plants in there. We began the pond-opening procedure by emptying out some of the water, pulling the crates of plants up from the bottom where they spent the winter, checking pumps and filters, skimming sludge from the bottom, then adding clean water and switching on the spitter and falls. I gave the newly potted plants some food before placing them on ledges at the appropriate depth. I added salt and bacteria to the pond but the water is rather muddy-looking still; I hope it clears soon. I'm adding bacteria weekly to jump start the process. A visiting American robin, however, didn't mind the dirty water.  Soon after H.H. switched on the waterfall and came indoors, the bird arrived to check it out ...

An American robin flies down to a rock near the waterfall.
He looks around to be sure it's safe.
Nimbly, he climbs down to the water's edge.
He launches himself into the water.
He paddles and splashes about for several minutes ...
... before returning to his rock to dry off.

The pond requires quite a lot of maintenance, but the visiting wildlife, including birds, dragonflies and frogs, make it worthwhile. The frogs and toads, in good voice now, produced lots of eggs already and soon we'll have tadpoles. We didn't lose any koi fish this winter and can see some very pretty new ones, including a beautiful red one that I hope to photograph soon.

As well as opening the pond, I've checked off quite a few tasks on my spring to-do list:
  • cut back ornamental grasses and the perennials left standing over the winter
  • weeded, weeded, weeded
  • removed dead wood and suckers from trees and shrubs
  • divided perennials
  • planted some new perennials including two dicentra and a David Austin rose -- all of which I received free from vendors at GWA in Pasadena last year (I'm trialing these and will report on their progress)
  • prepared the kitchen garden for planting
  • started annual and vegetable seeds indoors for planting after the last frost
  • weeded (did I mention that?)
One of the joys of working in the cottage garden at this time of year is discovering new shoots and blooms ...

Creeping phlox Phlox subulata
Primroses and violets
Primrose, Primula vulgaris. Yellow primroses remind me of my childhood in England
Found this little beauty in the Hydrangea Garden
My favorite violet, Viola Sororia 'Freckles'
A volunteer in the horseshoe garden ...
... so sweet.

Actually, I always begin the spring cleanup in the shade garden because this is my view from my favorite chair in the garden room, so need to make it tidy ASAP. I find a shade garden less work than a full-sun garden, so I finished the cleanup there in a day.

The shade garden is greening up. Hosta shoots make an appearance around the birdbath.
Lamium maculatum 'Shell Pink.' Lamium loves the shade.
The common name is Dead Nettle. I prefer Lamium.
Leaves swell on the climbing hydrangeas, Hydrangea anomala, along the fence.
Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' with its first 'forget-me-not' type blooms

One task I didn't list above is to clean out the miniature gardens. When grandson, Jonathon, comes he will add more stone to the path and more glass marbles to the creek.

Pink lamium blooms and miniature hostas make an appearance.
More common blue violets -- in the shade garden -- Viola sororia.

The biggest spring task in the Woodland Walk is to continue the work of removing invasive multiflora rose. H.H. fights this endless battle every year.

Woodland Walk

I'm happy to see a few of the new plantings in the Woodland Walk survived the deer although many didn't. I chose deer-resistant plants, but no plant is truly resistant. They nibbled hellebore and brunera this winter.

Hellebore Helleborus x hybridus untouched by the deer -- hurrah!

When I gave the horse and goat their hay in the paddock this morning, I noticed the white birch tree has lots of catkins.

You can see the beautiful bark of the white birch to the right of the paddock.
Catkins of the white birch.
Beyond the white birch -- blossoms of the old pear tree.

Several jobs remain on the to-do list:
  • Add a good layer of compost to each garden (H.H. has the first load on his truck -- will start spreading tomorrow)
  • Clean out the potting shed and move into it the plants I started from seed
  • Plant, or direct sow, vegetables in the kitchen garden after the last frost
  • Add a new layer of mulch to all gardens
In spite of aches and pains I love this time. The whole gardening year lies ahead, holding the promise that it will be the best one ever.

Happy Gardening,
Pamela x

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Spring Blooms, Terrariums and Backyard Birds

Today marks the first day of beautiful weather expected to last a while. In my cottage garden, in spite of the extremely low temperatures of the last week, the trees and shrubs are budding, spring flowers are blooming and the grass is greening at last. I walked with my camera and rounded up the usual suspects (to quote from my favorite movie) gratified to see that the sub-freezing temperatures hadn't done too much damage to these early blooms.

Lungwort, Pulmonaria
Hellebore Helleborus 'Ivory Prince'
Bud on the Crabapple Tree
Grape Hyacinth, Muscari with yellow Primroses, Primula vulgaris

We planted a Snow Fountain cherry tree in 2013. As a weeping tree, it features cascading branches that now dip all the way to the ground, giving it the appearance of a white fountain when covered with its pure white flowers. This cultivar is known by several different names, including 'Snofozam' Weeping Cherry and 'White Fountain' Cherry. It will grow 6’-12’ in height and 5’-12’ in width. During the summer the leaves are dark green; in the fall they turn gold and orange before they are shed. It is said the small, white and five-petaled flowers are butterfly and hummingbird magnets. I don't see many butterflies or hummingbirds in April, but maybe this tree will attract some earlier visitors to my garden. I was careful to plant this cultivar in full sun where it gets plenty of air circulation to ensure disease free growth.

Snow fountain cherry Prunus x 'Snofozam' its first year.
Snow fountain cherry Prunus x 'Snofozam' today

My mother, in England, lived her last two years at Cherry Tree Court, an assisted-living facility, where we planted a cherry tree in her honor, later adding a plaque in her memory.  Mom passed away two years ago this month and my cherry tree bloomed on the exact date, a timely reminder of that beautiful lady. I wonder if the tree we planted in England is blooming?

I'm linking with Diana at Elephants Eye on False Bay for her 'Dozen for Diana' meme, choosing this lovely weeping cherry tree as my April pick. I'm also joining bloggers all around the world for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day hosted on the 15th of every month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Blossom of Snow Fountain Cherry Prunus x 'Snofozam'

I'm anxious to make a start on the spring gardening chores since snow, freezing temperatures and, lately, torrential rains kept me indoors, but the ground is too wet. While dreaming of dirtying my hands outdoors, I've been busy getting soil under my nails indoors creating terrariums and dish gardens: adding three to my collection of fairy gardens. I describe how I made my first terrarium here. Following the same method, I constructed a closed terrarium with three adorable plants: Red Veined Sorrel Rumex sanguineus, Button Fern and a red Peperomia caperata. The bottle I used didn't have a lid so I inverted one from another container, as it wouldn't fit the right way up.

Closed Terrarium

I placed three airplants in a glass bowl for my second creation. This is the first time I bought tillansia and I'm amazed by these plants that need no soil.

Terrarium with Air Plants, Tillansia

I filled a dish garden with succulents and deer moss. Deer moss isn't a moss at all but a lichen, Cladonia, another plant that doesn't need soil to survive. The succulent garden is my favorite creation.

Succulent Dish Garden

 I'll display my terrariums at a couple of workshops I'm doing on Miniature Gardening. Such fun!

On a final note, pardon the pun, it's wonderful to hear birdsong again. Our backyard is filled with so many feathered beauties. Maybe it's something to do with H.H. placing at least 34 birdhouses all around the property.

American Goldfinch wearing its yellow feathers again.
House Finch
The Mockingbird is back...

... and look who visited us this week. A pileated woodpecker searched for grubs and insects in a rotting tree stump in the pasture.

Pileated Woodpecker

Happy Gardening, dear friends,

Pamela x

A basket of Johnny-Jump-Ups on the deck.

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