May 15! But who would know it? Lows in the 30's, how am I supposed to plant, I ask? So afraid of stalling growth in plants by putting them out too soon. Are you in the same persistent winter-reluctant spring boat as me? These are the questions that keep gardeners up at night, when they should be resting up for a hard day's work/play in the garden.
So...slim pickins for GBBD. For my first in so long after going without a garden during our building process, I had hoped to re-enter with a blooming bang instead of a floral whimper. Alas, here are my offerings for this May 15, (supposedly the average last frost date for my area).
I love this little flower. Not technically a violet, although the yellow blooms do a downward-dog pose.
Also known as trout lily, fawn lily and adder's tongue. Dog tooth refers to its canine-shaped bulbs. This named cultivar has the same brown mottled leaves as the species, but has a bit larger, more curled flower. One of the first to pop up in spring, I know it has been a bright spot on my thrice daily rounds in the garden lately.
A little instant gratification I bought for a pair of quickie containers at the front door. But here's the cool thing. Recently I learned about pollen in shades of steely blue, like that of scilla (Siberian squill) flowers. Sure enough, this one does. Bees compartmentalize each flower type so you can see small cells of blue pollen in honeycomb.
These honeyberry bushes were planted not only for extreme cold hardiness and blueberry-like fruit but to cover an unsightly fence. The new neighbors took down that section so now I may have to rethink their location.
Will pollinators find these early blooms? It's pollinating partner is 'Berry Blue'.
And finally for the grand finale, a flourish of tulips.
Thanks to Carol at May Dream Gardens as always for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom .Day
Ooh, I'm so excited. I can see my little pea seedlings poking their heads out of the soil. I can hardly count the days until they are ready. Get out the butter!
Lately in catalogs and garden centers I've noticed more and more pea trellis apparatuses, (or is that apparati?) for supporting the treasure-laden vines. Some are flat, some are tilted, some are arched, but all are pretty pricey.
I've always made my own pea trellises from bamboo poles and zip ties. They end up looking sorta cottage/sorta Asian. A little wonky. Whatever, they do the job.
For each trellis buy one bundle of 4' bamboo poles. They're sold 8-10 in a bundle for around $3-$6. Lay down an old blanket or paint cloth on a flat surface and arrange the poles in a grid. Leave more space at the bottom so those ends can be pushed into the soil to hold the trellis in place.
I bind the poles where they cross with small black zip ties. See the photo below. Work on the edges then inward. The poles may want to twist a bit but you can adjust this when you're done. Trim the off the excess plastic when you have the pieces all in place. Watch out, the edges can be sharp.
Adjust for your pea plant spacing and then push into the soil. I use galvanized u-shape pins to anchor them in place since my garden is exposed to wind along that side of the house.
Well at least the snow makes the trellis easier to see!
Now all you have to do is wait for your peas to germinate, climb the trellis and fill their pods! That's the hardest part.
Oh, math. I'm all about words, I don't do numbers.
I don't buy into the stereotype, it's not about my gender, it's just not my genre!
Beyond basic measuring and simple operations, I refer and defer to my husband the engineer. Or when he's home from college, the mathematical prowess of my son, the almost-engineer and general spread sheet wizard.
I can hardly wait for spring, so when I had to figure out the few inches of topsoil/compost mix needed to refresh my raised beds, I turned to Tom. Like a trooper he went out in the snow ( I know, I'm an optimist that more melting will happen soon) and measured the beds, came inside and noodled a bit, arriving at the answer. But he's not always here. On any given day he could be in China, Brazil or the wilds of Borneo. What to do then?
Am I the only one who didn't know about soil calculators? Plug in your numbers; length, width, depth and voila! It's all there in cubic yards and feet, the lingo that landscape companies and garden centers use for bulk materials. I linked to the one on Gardeners Supply, but there are lots more. Take your pick and never be boggled by Big Math again.
You've heard that saying "Bloom where you are planted"? Well I turned it around to "Plant where you are bloomin' stuck". I've been stuck in limbo at my daughter's house in Birmingham waiting for the roads to melt...all the way to Minneapolis. So why not plant an herb garden in the mean time?
It's not a bad thing to be stuck in Birmingham, Hannah and I can go larking about, but in the end, I'm close to overstaying my welcome, she's a gal about town with things to do and places to be, without her mother tagging along. So to make myself useful I decided to plant herbs in the hellstrip by the back door at her parking space.
What's a hellstrip you ask? Coined by garden writer and designer Lauren Springer Ogden, the term refers that long, narrow seemingly unplantable space between sidewalks and streets, along garages, in parking lots. However hellstrips can be landscaped to take advantage of the location, whether they are hot and exposed or dank and shady; they're great for grasses (as long as they don't obstruct vision), xeriscaping, succulents, tough perennials and in this case heat-loving herbs.
Hannah moved some of her potted patio plants from Savannah but then came the polar vortex. It seemed like a good idea to do an in-ground herb planting for all of her culinary creations. Now she has new herbs; lavender, two types of thyme, rosemary, pineapple sage, spearmint, Greek oregano and Italian parsley. And a little bit of mama-love to brighten up that dreary spot by her back door.
It's a straightforward planting, almost boring at the moment, but with lots of room for herbs to spread and mature, as well space for a few annual flowers. Yet it was not without a little excitement. She had told me about seeing a small dead snake in that bed. And sure enough when I was gingerly cleaning out the leaves and debris, a small, slender, shiny thing appeared. After a leap backwards and some choice words, I managed to take a photo. Yes, it was only 5 inches long but hey, I don't do snakes. Don't bother to tell me about their benefits, I'm aware, but as I said I don't do snakes.
My daughter came home from work to find my gardening gear strewn around the parking space, abandoned, like a scene from ancient Pompeii. I was safely inside instagramming and googling Alabama snakes, hoping the little critter was an only child, better yet an orphan.
The beauty of crowdsourcing becomes evident when you can post a picture and minutes later get opinions and answers to your most urgent questions. These wise people saw something I didn't. Tiny little legs and toes. It was a skink. As it turns out skinks are helpful and cute creatures that eat troublesome bugs in the garden while not being the least bit creepy about it. And once I knew it wasn't a snake I resumed planting without a care and left plenty of old leaves for skink habitat.
For every BIG botanical garden, be it the Huntington, Longwood, Chanticleer or Biltmore and more, there are hundreds of local, lesser known gardens. They may be smaller, but their efforts just as worthy. These gardens still need weeding and watering by hard-working volunteers.
While visiting my in-laws in Spring Hill, Florida, they took me to see the Nature Coast Botanical Garden. We were walking off the delicious fish tacos from BeckyJacks Food Shack down the road in Weeki Wachee, home of the live mermaid shows.
Tucked away in a residential area off the main road, it is a charming collection of themed gardens; rain forest, bromeliad beds, cactus garden, butterfly garden, fantasy garden, tea garden, you get the idea. It's an ambitious undertaking, delightfully designed under the arms of spreading live oaks.
And there's a nursery too!
While I'm on the road, enjoys these photos from the Nature Coast Botanical Garden...and help identify these tropical beauties I don't encounter up north.
Consider volunteering or supporting your local botanical garden!
My husband occasionally plants trees as part of his job. All over the world. Is he an international arborist? No, he's an engineer by trade, a corporate VP who is often present at new facility openings, when trees are planted to help dedicate the building.
Back in November when I was learning about the future trends and issues of horticulture at a symposium in frigid Minnesota, he was planting a tree in India. One of the topics at the symposium was "plant blindness". The speaker joked that one type of plant blindness happened when her husband let one of her houseplants die while she was out of town. She asked him about the dead plant when she returned and he asked "which one?"
Naturally when my husband told me about the dedication tree he planted in India, I asked, "what kind?"
"Uh, a nice tree", he responded. I sighed, "Oh no, plant blindness" and preceded to tell him about this horrible affliction suffered by so many. He said, "Wait a minute, it was a palm tree." Good save, dear. In fact, he then told me about the strings of colorful chrysanthemums that decorated the hallways of the new building for the ceremony. Bonus points.
However, an alarming number of people cannot identify even the most common plants that populate their communities. Move beyond roses and daisies and most people cannot name the plants they encounter during their day-to-day migrations between work, school, shopping, etc.
Sad, but true that for so many, plants are just the background screen to their lives; green blobs that form background noise, wallpaper, whatever you want to call it. Why is this?
Modern man doesn't have to rely upon correctly identifying berries, before he eats them from a plastic container, to avoid being poisoned anymore. We are removed from the multitude of plant-based decisions and processes that used to confront our ancestors.
When I walk the streets of Savannah, my southern home away from home, I feel guilty if I see a plant I don't recognize. But not everyone feels this strongly about plant identification. I get it, people are busy.
While kids can name animals from a young age, they fail, or we fail them at plants. Why is this? People tend to be "zoo-centric", granting animals more importance than plants. After all animals roar and sing, pounce, swim and fly, plants by comparison, just sit there.
Children's literature is weighted heavily toward animals. For every "Jack and the Beanstalk" there are a hundred more Curious George and Hungry Caterpillar-like stories. Peter Rabbit's foray into Farmer McGregor's garden, Miss Rumphius scattering her lupine seeds, and the wily critters of "Tops and Bottoms" can hardly compete.
When grandparents are more likely to take their grand-kids on a Disney cruise than simply take them along to pick beans in the garden, another link to the natural world is lost. How can plant blindness be prevented?
--Take kids to parks, zoos (many label their plants) and botanical gardens and learn five new plants every time.
--Encourage kids to research and identify plants in their own backyards, a botanical scavenger hunt.
--Plant a veggie garden and grow your own food, it's awesome the first time a kid pulls a potato from the dirt. It's also awesome the next time too.
It is said we can't care about something if we can't name it. Plants shade us, nourish us, clothe us and provide fascinating beauty. The least we can do is learn their name.
I've grown accustomed to camellias in winter. Knowing I can count on these beautiful blossoms waiting on me when I arrive in Savannah motivates me through the first part of winter.
But cold happens. Unusual cold.
There are a few shrubs in bloom here and there as I navigate the lanes and squares, but very few with flowers untouched by the freezing temperatures that passed through here during the Polar Vortex. Some seemed singed by the frosty temps, others are simply brown, with the buds "frozen" in time, unlikely to bloom.
And so I wonder how the famous camellia trail at the Coastal Georgia Gardens emerged. I will have to trek out there and take stock of the damage. Not as protected as these urban flowers, by something of a heat island with sheltering buildings and warm pavements, I fear they fared worse.
As I wander familiar paths through the historic district I see palms and ferns dead or dying, devoid of green leaves. Crispy and brittle they rattle in the chilly breeze that even now marks this extra cold winter throughout the country.
I was especially sad to to see this pot of crinums on my street, normally a wonder every year to behold, burgeoning from an almost-invisible vessel underneath the massive foliage. I wonder if it will manage a comeback as the season warms? I'll be keeping tabs on it, looking for signs of life, until I leave in a month.
Still, today was warm and I noticed a magnolia starting to bloom in the graveyard across the street, so all is hopefully not lost in these early days of a new year.
Gardening on Mars? Apparently Minnesota shared record low temps the same as average highs for the red planet this week. All those zone 5 trees pushing the limits in my new garden? Well, it will certainly be an interesting spring waiting and watching to see if any survive this Arctic weather.
There's always a lot of talk every year about planting for winter interest. That's the concept of making sure your garden has strong shapes, bold silhouettes and intriguing textures so that a variety of winter preciptation can dust, dollop and delineate those same features.
If you live in milder to somewhat chilly areas, that's all well and good. If you live in England, well, as they say, "Bob's your uncle". No one does winter interest like jolly ole England; dramatic hoarfrosts, powder-sugar (they would call it icing sugar though) snows and frozen dewdrops. But up in the snowy north in North America, mention winter interest and you'll be met with a "hrrrumph!"
Winter interest is mostly a myth in Minnesota.
What winter interest we have is more late fall interest. After that, the snow piles on and our gardens disappear for four or five months. Tall trees and evergreens do what they can. Houses, walls and garden structures can be counted on more than plantings for sporting snow in a stylish way.
This year we did get one of those pretty whipped cream snows early on and then the extreme cold preserved the effect, netting us more winter interest than usual. But it's still short-lived in the long run.
My interest in winter usually expires around January 1. As I've done for the past few years, I'm heading south to Savannah, GA for awhile. So be prepared for the usual pictures of palm trees, camellias, cemeteries and whatnot. Probably heavy on the whatnot.
Meanwhile I'll share a few attempts at "winter interest" in photos from my newly planted, new house gardens. They aren't much but it's a start. Stay warm out there!
Here I am again on Home Depot's Stretch Gardening Blog! Lynn Coulter, the head honcho of Home Depot garden blogging happened to see this charming photo of my old greenhouse decked out with lights in the snow and thought it was a great topic for this week's Garden Club posting.
She asked me to share my experience, with what I called a lovely, although short-lived, luxury...a greenhouse. And as the snowflakes fall here in Minnesota, forget the sugar plums, I am remembering those visions of lemon blossoms and scented geraniums. Here's the link.
Here's another tip to stretch the season: Visit local botanical gardens and zoos with glasshouses or conservatories during the winter, it's guaranteed to chase away the winter blues for a little while.