Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Frost, Indeed

As promised, we got the freeze. Around 6:30 a.m., it hit the low point of 26° and I was doubly glad we'd gone to the trouble of covering things. As I talked to people throughout the day, I heard mention of how driving through the neighborhoods early in the morning on the way to work was like driving around at Halloween - ghostly sheets everywhere.

I had actually forgotten to cover the lilac, but it came through unscathed. I didn't cover the Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), because I didn't think I needed to, but the tender new leaves showed the worst damage in our entire yard and gardens. That's okay though. It will bounce right back and make more leaves.

The daffodils and tulips were fine, as expected.

Hopefully, this is the last we'll see of below freezing temperatures, although our average last frost date is still three weeks away. It seems late for an average, but I'll assume those weather people know what they're talking about. This time.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Frost Comes On Little Cat Feet

My apologies to Carl Sandburg, but fog and frost can play tag with each other this time of year. I'd rather have fog. After several weeks of gorgeous spring weather, some of it even summer-like, now we're under a freeze warning for tonight. Just tonight. After that, we're supposed to be safe.

Last year, we got zapped with a late spring freeze that robbed us of many of the flowering shrubs' and trees' beautiful blossoms and in the case of the peach tree, we had its fruit taken from us, too. We said, "Oh well, there's always next year."

Flowering Crabapple

Now it's next year and while it's later in the spring and we've had such a pretty show of pink and white and magenta from all the flowering trees, there won't be any peaches this year either if we don't cover the tree. Its blooms are just now getting ready to open. The tree isn't large, so covering it with a sheet will protect it.

Flowering Crabapple (Malus 'Prairiefire')

Our new cut-leaf lilac (Syringa lanciniata) we got last year hasn't shown us its blooms yet and I can see they're started, so that will get covered as well. I'm anxious to see what it looks like, adorned in its lavender finery.

I don't have many annuals out yet, since our last average frost date is later in May, and the ones that are, are in containers, so those will spend the night in the garage. The noon news said the temperatures won't be low enough long enough to do much damage to the bulbs, so we'll take our chances with those. Almost all the hyacinths are finished blooming anyway, but we've got tulips and daffodils still going strong.

Bluestone Perennials "Pretty in Pink" collection, planted in October 2005.

The 'Sahohime' Japanese Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) promises to be a real show-stopper this spring. I counted 23 flower buds on it! They're not small flowers either, when they bloom. The peony itself isn't tall nor big around, so if all those flowers are in bloom at the same time, it will be a sight to behold. I'll take lots of photos of it and share them with you. It's wrapped in a garbage bag to protect it from the frost.

Our only azalea, planted last spring, has been slow to break dormancy, but it's now greening up and has flower buds on it. It too is covered for the night.

This past winter wasn't kind to some of our things. We've lost one Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus), in the middle of a row of four, so that will be replaced. The Sunset Foxglove (Digitalis obscura) didn't make it, nor did the Coreopsis 'Autumn Blush'. I knew that was an iffy one, but it was pretty healthy and I mulched it well.

The Cape Fuschia that I bought when plant shopping at Petitti's with Kim didn't make it either, but that's not a huge surprise, even though the employee we talked to thought it would be hardy for me. The Astrantia 'Hadspen Blood' that I also bought then didn't make it either, but the one I'd bought earlier in the spring last year did, and is actually growing amazingly fast.

What has really surprised me are two of the Echinaceas. 'Orange Meadowbrite', which I've had for a couple of years, and has always been vigorous and lovely, shows no signs of emerging from the ground. 'Harvest Moon,' which I've bought twice now, is an empty spot in the garden, too. Both of those are two of my favorite Echinaceas. *sniff*

And then there is the mystery of my Hardy Ground Orchid (Spiranthes cernua), a.k.a. Nodding Ladies Tresses. It had started to green up, as I showed in this post. But just a few days later, it was missing. The entire plant - roots and all - were gone! I still don't know what happened to it. I'm sure it was a critter of some sort, maybe a rabbit. I'd like to find another one to replace it, because I really liked that orchid, with its spiral of blooms.

I planted two Gaura lindheimeri last year and they performed beyond my wildest expectations. One plant would have been plenty for the spot. I had to keep cutting it back to keep it under control. That, of course, just made it bloom all the more and it was in a constant mass of blooms. It's supposed to be hardy here, and we even have a native Gaura at the edge of the field by our house, but for some reason, neither one of ours is alive now. I'll buy it again, though, and treat it as an annual I guess, because it really was airy and pretty all summer long.

The variegated Brunnera I bought last year didn't weather the winter, nor did Heuchera 'Marmalade', which I'd had for a couple of years. I lost four out of five lavenders, and I won't buy that anymore, because it really is too fussy for my garden.

As you can see, gardening is a "live and learn" kind of thing and there's a lot of it that isn't according to the book. If you've gardened very long at all, you know that just because the plant tag says it's hardy to zone 5, that doesn't mean it will survive in your garden. There are so many factors involved - soil, wind, precipitation, temperature extremes, etc.

If it's a plant that really should grow and thrive without much problem, or if it's something I really love, I'll try it again if it dies. But there are so many great plants out there that I can't afford to keep spending money on and experiencing disappointment with dying plants. It's actually probably a good thing that I can't grow everything in my garden, because I'd probably try.

As I write this at 11:00 p.m., the thermometer reads 34°. I was just outside, covering the other small NOID red tree peony that I'd forgotten to cover earlier, and it's chilly. The clouds have cleared away and the stars are shining brightly. The wind has died down, so the stage is set for that freeze to creep in. I hope I haven't forgotten to cover something...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Charming Gardeners and Notecards

Look what I found at Hallmark today . . .

One of my readers - I'm sorry I can't remember who - made a comment several months ago that they'd gotten some notecards at Hallmark with the Proust quote that I have under my blog title. Today, while looking for shoes to go with my dress for Jenna's upcoming wedding, I popped into the Hallmark store to see if I could find the cards. Woot!

I found the perfect shoes, too. On a Monday. I should have bought a lottery ticket.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Wild About Wildflowers

The woods here are bursting forth with flowery goodness and it's during this time that I love to just walk through and get up close and personal with the tiny treasures there. We're fortunate to have woods nearby so we can easily take a short walk to them.

Right now, you can find blooms on:

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Bloodroot is aptly named, because when you cut the root, it actually looks like it's bleeding. Besides being showy and beautiful, it's an interesting plant. It is the only species in its genus, Sanguineria. Also, its sap has been used to treat many things, one of which is Plantar's Wart. I've had one going on five years now and we've tried everything short of surgery, which no doctor that I've seen recommends. Maybe I should try this?

Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) - This one actually
shows up each spring in our garden.

Spring Cress (Cardamine bulbosa)

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) - these are everywhere.

Trout Lily (Erythronium albidum) - These are everywhere, too, but just a fraction of them in each colony will bloom. Young plants only have one leaf and are flowerless. It takes seven years for a seedling to grow a second leaf and bloom.

Sessile Trillium or Toadshade (Trillium sessile)
While they're common here, I've yet to see the
Giant White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) in real life.

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

Vinca or Periwinkle (Vinca minor) - Visit just about any
old cemetery in this part of Ohio and you'll find enough of
this growing to supply all the area nurseries with it.
It's a great groundcover, and while it can be invasive,
it's not that hard to remove the vines.

While I love my garden hybrids and many of the new hybrids, there's something charming and satisfying about strolling through the woods and witnessing nature's awakening in the spring with the blooming of the native wildflowers.

Friday, April 25, 2008

It's Time For the Master Gardeners' Plant Sale!

Last night, I helped Romie put together some shelving to use in the back of the mini-van for transporting oodles of plants. Mom had asked if I could drive to Columbus so she could help her fellow Master Gardeners pick up several large orders they'd placed for selling at their yearly plant sale being held at the Van Wert County Fairgrounds tomorrow. They're selling mostly herbs, but there will be some perennials, too.

We all left from the County Extension Office at 8:00 and after about an hour and a half, we arrived at Baker's Village, on the northwest side of Columbus. Mom and I had been there last year for the first time. It's a nice garden center and just like last time, I found a couple of things I couldn't live without. I purchased an ornamental strawberry, which I'd been looking for, as well as a healthy Lewisia. My two at home had made it through the winter, but barely, and one of those looks like it's on its last gasping breath.

From there, we traveled a little further north to A Proper Garden. What a fun place! The plants, trees, and shrubs were tempting, but the whole place was a big collection of eye candy. The first thing that caught my eye and had me drooling purring was the metal kitty bench. I need a bench for Max's Garden. We've got several cats. Why, it was as if the bench were made just for me!

No price was on the tag, but I've seen enough similar things to know that it was one of those things that "if you have to ask, you can't afford it." But that bench will live on for a very long time in my memory. Fabulous. Just fabulous.

There were bronze sculptures, home decorator items, garden tools, beautiful pottery, and gifts for gardeners. I found a deep purple Streptocarpus that I couldn't live without, as well as a Wolff orchid pot.

I could have spent much more time here, because there's just so much to see, but we still had to eat lunch and get to Millcreek Gardens to pick up the plants for tomorrow's sale. A Proper Garden will be on our list of stops the next time we travel to Columbus, though.

I love the mossy pottery, and A Proper Garden
has a very nice selection.

After lunch at Damon's, we drove a short distance to Millcreek Gardens, a wholesale nursery. Over the last several years, I've purchased plants from garden centers that were supplied by Millcreek. It was fun to see where some of my plant babies were born.

The first thing I noticed as we pulled into the parking lot were the rows of greenhouses and then the rows of young plants growing outside. Nothing fancy here, just the basic needs being provided for plants.

The orders were gone over, plant by plant, to make sure each plant was correct and accounted for. Some were not available at the time of the order, so substitutions were made with a similar item. The plants were of very nice size and quality and any that were smaller than their usual standard were pointed out and refusal to accept them was permitted.

We got the van loaded and the shelving system that Romie had rigged up worked beautifully, until about an hour later, when a car three cars ahead of us on US33 decided to stop suddenly for a left-hand turn. The cars behind him slammed on their brakes and I had to do the same. A loud noise and lots of potting soil in our laps later, we knew we had a huge problem.

We pulled off the road into a drive and assessed the damage. Coupled with the weight of all the plants and the quick stop, the pressed particle boards couldn't handle the stress and they broke on the corners where the legs were screwed in. That meant general collapse of the tiers of shelves, with the plants sandwiched in between. Oh dear.

Altha and Paula, two of the other Master Gardeners who had also made the trip down, saw us unloading plants as they drove by and stopped to help. We got everything out and rebuilt the shelving as best we could, although instead of having three levels, we now had two. Still, we were able to fit all the plants in and we were once again on our way.

In all that mess, can you believe that only ONE plant was ruined? A single Oriental lily 'Stargazer' had both flower stalks broken off, but it's a bulb and while it won't bloom this year, next year it will be business as usual. I wish I'd taken a picture of the mess, because it really did look like one of those car accidents that people walk away from and you wonder how.

We had to drive slower the rest of the way home, but we finally made it and got the plants unloaded and sorted. I got home around 7:00 and did a little planting before showering and relaxing for the night. All in all, it was a very good day, plant disasters aside.


EDIT: I have since found out that the Kitty Bench costs $2995 and was made by Akron, Ohio metal sculptor Don Drumm. A PBS video about him is on AOL Video/You Tube.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Cats' Begats

It's been awhile since I've talked about our cat children. They're all doing quite well, although the long-hairs are fighting hairballs and hair mats. We've tried to keep them brushed, but with the spring shedding in full swing, it's hard. Simon is scheduled for his yearly lion cut next week, and we've taken the scissors to Luna ourselves.

If you remember, Luna is the carefree one who is just here to hang out and have a good time. When he gets caught in the rain, he cleans himself dry and it's then that he looks his best. The rest of the time ... well ... rolling in the dirt is just more fun.

But this isn't about Simon or Luna or Baby or Sunny or Boo or Max or Jack or Jilly. It was four years ago when we rescued "The Babies" from the field down the road after someone dumped a whole barnful of cats. We didn't take all the cats we saw down there, just the five tiny kittens, who came to be known as Boo, Luna, Baby, Oreo and Augie.

We already had two cats - Simon and Jinx (bless his soul) - and that was enough. But we just couldn't bear to see those little furballs having to fend for themselves like that. We tried to find homes for them, but cats are more plentiful than those who want to own them, so the only one we were able to place was Augie, one of the two females in the litter. My co-worker Renee took Augie, which her kids promptly renamed "Cow." Kara and Adam later adopted Oreo.

As you might guess, Cow was a black and white kitten, like her siblings Luna, Baby and Oreo. Only Boo was different, being all black. Renee and her family wanted a female because they wanted a cat that would have its own litter of kittens.

Sometime the next year, Cow had her first litter and went on to have a couple more in the next two years. She had her final litter just five weeks ago, but only one kitten survived and she refused to nurse her. All of Cow's offspring found homes except for one, which Renee kept. "Cookie" looked very much like her mother, Cow, and just had her own litter about three weeks ago. The kitten that Cow refused to nurse? Cookie took her in as if she were her own.

Tonight after work, I went to Renee's house to visit Cow and Cookie and their kittens. I hadn't seen Cow since Renee adopted her, so I was pretty excited to see how our "baby" had turned out, now that she was all grown up.

As soon as I got out of the car, I saw her and recognized her straight away. She hadn't really changed all that much and she definitely looked like the cats at our house. She had that same aloof look on her face that Oreo is famous for, and her personality was similar. I picked her up and I felt like I was holding one of my own. She even had that same ultra-soft feel to her fur that Baby and Oreo have.

We walked into the garage to see Cookie, where she was laying down with six kittens vying for any free nipple. Her kittens were mostly calico and a couple were gray. We've not had any calicos at our house and I wanted one!

Cookie, nursing her own five kittens plus her own
half-sister that her mother, Cow, refused.

Regretfully, I left there without a kitten. They're only three weeks old, after all, and I think Renee said they're all spoken for anyway. It's just as well, but the whole idea of adopting one of the kittens and bringing it home to meet and live with its aunt and uncles is rather enticing!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

For The Beauty of The Earth

For the beauty of the earth,

For the glory of the skies,

For the love which from our birth,
Over and around us lies.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This, our hymn of grateful praise.

For the wonder of each hour,

Of the day and of the night;

Hill and vale and tree and flow'r,

. . .

Sun and moon
Stars of light,

Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This, our hymn of grateful praise.

by Folliott S. Pierpoint, 1864


In observance of Earth Day 2008.


(Yes, I know that was yesterday and I actually started this post
the day before that, and it has taken me two days
to convince Blogger to upload these pictures.)

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