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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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Gardeners Bible: A Book Review

My custom for many years has been to start each day with a devotional reading, preferably while sitting in my garden with the calming sounds of the early-morning birds and the waterfall splashing in the pond. During the long winter months I still rise early to read in my favorite armchair, resisting the urge to check my email and social media first. In this way, I feel renewed, relaxed and ready for whatever the day will bring. When I saw this book displayed at the Garden Writers' Association Conference in Pasadena last year, a devotional written especially for gardeners, I was amazed and excited. Shelley Cramm, the editor, was there and I was honored to meet her. Immediately impressed with both Shelley and her work, I bought the book and promised to write a review on my blog. Over the past six months, I've found NIV God's Word for Gardeners Bible unique, inspiring and applicable to daily life -- particularly to my life, the life of a gardener.

Longing for warm weather when I can sit by the pond again.

The book's attractive cover in lavender and greens has a garden theme. The super-simple layout gives 260 daily readings and 52 weekend readings. The readings have a structure: 12 weeks of touring actual gardens mentioned in the Bible (loads of information new to me); 23 weeks of garden work such a planting and pruning; seven weeks of garden tools, for example prayer and work ethic; and ten weeks of garden stories about topics like the weather, pests and Jesus' horticultural parables.  The invaluable 30 page introduction lists and explains each Bible reading and its related essay.  At the end of the book is an index of readings in canonical order. The NIV translation of the Bible is a perfect choice for any devotional.

I'm illustrating this posting with Bible plants in my garden mentioned in Shelley's essays. I took note of them as I read. Later I discovered some of them in Shelley's plant guide on her web page, click here, where she gives photographs, descriptions, planting tips and recipes. Shelley lives in Texas where the climate is similar to that of the Bible lands, so she can grow more of the plants. Check out Shelley's blog, Garden in Delight, which is a delight indeed.

"We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost -- also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic" -- Numbers 11:5



I'm growing leeks for the first time this year:

I started these seeds indoors this week.
I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together: That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it. Isaiah 41:19-20 - See more at: http://www.gardenindelight.com/plant-guide/boxwood/#sthash.G2N5mkaL.dpuf

I have boxwood, mentioned in the garden tour to the Cedars of Lebanon:

"I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together: That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this."
-- Isaiah 41: 19-20

Two spherical boxwoods in the shade garden border in front of the statue.

I learned the Promised Land had seven necessary foods in abundance: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olive oil and honey. The farmer who tends our fields sometimes grows wheat or barley. We have a grape vine for ornamental purposes covering a pergola.

Concord Grapes Vitis labrusca 'Concord'
The grapevine that covers the pergola is just one plant.

Hyssop is one of the zone 7 plants that is not perennial here. I have the closely related agastache. I also grow verbena which is sometimes called wild hyssop.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:7
- See more at: http://www.gardenindelight.com/plant-guide/hyssop/#sthash.lLhGMrO7.dpuf
Hyssop Agastache 'Blue fortune' a bee magnet
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:7
- See more at: http://www.gardenindelight.com/plant-guide/hyssop/#sthash.lLhGMrO7.dpuf
"Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."
-- Psalm 51:7

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:7
- See more at: http://www.gardenindelight.com/plant-guide/hyssop/#sthash.lLhGMrO7.dpuf

The crocus mentioned in the bible is the autumn blooming one. I must plant some this year.

Spring crocus
Speaking of the desert: 
Like the crocus it will burst into bloom.
Isaiah 35:1-2

Another favorite place to read.

I have very few criticisms of this book. The print is a little small, though if it were larger the book would be heavier. The page number for the next daily reading is conveniently written at the bottom of each essay, but occasionally it sends you to the wrong page. This is easily rectified by turning to the Introduction which gives all the links.

The essays are not too long. They are thought-provoking, often uplifting and/or inspiring, always refreshing. They are full of metaphor, but not in a corny way. Today, I read, "The battle against weeds is a sobering metaphor for the spiritual battle being waged on this earth." Shelley reminds us to stand firm against the wrongs in our lives just as we diligently destroy the weeds in our gardens.

I'm not as devout a Christian as I should be -- many a Sunday I choose working in the garden to going to church. In these uncertain times, however, I am thankful to start each day in my garden with this wonderful devotional. I sincerely recommend it to you, my gardening friends.

Pamela x

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