Wednesday, March 31, 2010

They're On Their Way!

With the advent of spring and the blooming flowers and leafing trees, come the migratory birds. We've already seen the Killdeer and Red-winged Blackbirds. What's next?

I heard a song outside earlier today that was new for this season. It reminded me of the Baltimore Oriole song - strong and melodious - I could hear it even with all the windows closed. Robins can be loud like that, but it was louder than a robin.  I couldn't see it to identify it, but it got me thinking about the appearance of our summer songbirds.

Wouldn't it be nice if there were maps that tracked the progress of the migratories? A guide to let us know when to put our species specific feeders out? You know - for the hummingbirds and orioles. Say no more! There ARE such maps!

While searching for information about when to expect the orioles, I came upon this site: Journey North. Not only does it have a map for the orioles flight north, but also for hummingbirds, Monarch butterflies, Whooping cranes, singing frogs, as well as others.

 Click on graphic to enlarge

While it looks like it will be another month before I can realistically expect to see our orioles, I'm putting out the feeder anyway. They've been sighted in southern Ohio and southern Illinois.  It seems we are having an early spring, and as I learned on the site, another factor coming into play regarding migration is that  the birds appear as the trees are leafing out, due to increased insect activity.

I love the internet.

Monday, March 29, 2010

How Do You Like Them Apples?

As I'd mentioned before, we wanted to get new apple trees this spring. I ordered some from Miller Nurseries on the recommendation by Lisa at Get In the Garden. Lisa lives near the nursery and buys many things from them, so I took her at her word. The trees arrived on Friday.

We didn't have time to plant the trees the day they came, so on Friday evening, I put them in a bucket of water to soak the roots. We wanted to get them in the ground before the rain that was forecast for the next day.

The existing 'Red Delicious' tree will be taken down, due to its fungus rot and the fact that its apple production has been way down in recent years. It's been in the ground here for nearly 33 years, so it's pretty well lived its life expectancy.  The other apple tree was lost to rot earlier last year, so it was definitely time for new trees.

We'd had plenty of rain, so we knew the ground was going to be a bit muddy, but it was workable. 

 Romie had his trusty sidekick, Jack, there to help.

We followed the directions that were sent with the trees, digging the hole so that the graft was just above ground level and giving the roots four inches beyond their roots for wiggle room.  We mounded the soil in the middle, put the tree in the hole, spread the roots out, then started to backfill. 

 "Black Gold"

We mixed some of our luscious dark compost into the soil at the rate of one-third compost to two-thirds soil. We tamped down the soil to rid it of air pockets and watered them in.

I really wanted to plant some 'Honey Crisp' apple trees, since I discovered how truly delicious they are last fall, so we planted two of those. They need a pollinator so we chose 'Gala' for one of them, since we also like those.  We got an 'IdaRed' because I remember as a teenager that some orchard owners we knew were partial to those for eating.

Now that these are planted, all that's left is for us to take down the old apple tree. I hate to see it go, since it's been here as long as we have and it's really a nice looking tree. But we'll have four nice-looking trees in a few years with some delicious apples, too!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Name Dropping in the Garden

We add plants to our gardens for various reasons.  We think they're beautiful, they are the right height, the right color, they bloom at the right time.  But I add plants to my garden for yet another reason. Their name.

Last fall, I bought some daffodil bulbs only because of their name.  My husband's name is Roman, and he goes by Romie, just as his grandfather for whom he was named did.  The spelling is a little different - 'Romy' - but that's of no matter.

I bought a Japanese Maple last year at the Cincinnati Flower Show because it was called 'Harp Strings' and I used to play the harp.

Acer palmitum 'Koto-No-Ito' ('Harp Strings') in October 2009

And now, I've learned via Annie's Annuals Tweeter elayne, that there's a Dahlia named 'Kylie.' Again, the spelling is a bit different than mine (Kylee), but you know I have to have it anyway. It's part of the Munchkin Border Dahlia Series and so far, I've only found one source for it.

Dahlia 'Kylie'

Do you have any plants in your garden that you bought based solely on the name?

EDIT: To search for plants with a specific name, visit Dave's Garden, and use their search form. In the Cultivar field, type the name you wish to search for and it will bring up plants that contain that name.

Narcissus 'Romy' photo from Brent and Becky's Bulbs.

Dahlia 'Kylie' photo from Corralitos Gardens.

Friday, March 26, 2010

It Doesn't Take Much to Make Me Smile!

Even though we've just been through one of the most pleasant winters I can remember - no really frigid temperatures and just the right amount of snow - I'm always giddy with the prospect of spring.  I get even giddier when spring actually arrives!

At least once a day I make the rounds through my gardens to see what's up and what's blooming. It seems there's always something new every day that puts a smile on my face and makes me glad to be a gardener.

The Hellebores emerged from under the huge snow drift a few weeks ago. The weight of the snow had them smooshed flat, but I could see buds trying to make it as well as new baby seedlings coming up.

Helleborus x hybridus 'Red Lady'

Helleborus 'Silvermoon'

Some of the foliage was black and ugly, so I trimmed some of that away and in no time, the plants perked up and the flowers were on their way. I've only had the plants for a few years and they don't yet bloom as profusely as some hellebores I've seen, but they still hold me under their spell.

Iris reticulata 'Harmony' is one of my very favorite spring blooms...

The deep, deep purple of its velvety petals, along with the pattern of spots has me wanting to be a bee and crawl inside. Yes, that's what those intricate patterns are for - to attract and lead pollinators to the goods. They get started early in the season, too!

I love Crocus of all kinds, simply because they're one of the earliest spots of color to appear. I'm partial to the striped ones, but my favorites by far are Crocus sieberi subsp. sublimis 'Tricolor.'

Crocus sieberi subsp. sublimis 'Tricolor'

You can see how they acquired the 'Tricolor' part of their name, which is why they appeal to me, as well.  They're a bit smaller than the crocus most people are familiar with, but they sure make up for that in flashy color.

Another favorite is Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa forbesii).  They seem to glow, the color is so intense. I've got them in a couple of different locations.  
Chionodoxa forbesii

In a small town near us, a large drift of them covers the ground below a small wooded area. I love driving by it when they're in full bloom (now!).

I wonder how long ago the first bulbs were planted and how many. Mine have naturalized quite well in the short time I've had them, but that's a lot of "glory!"

The daffodils are budded, but haven't bloomed here yet, although I've seen some flowering in town. It's warmer there than it is out in the country where we are. I saw Forsythia blooming there more than a week ago too, but mine have yet to bloom.

While I'm still anxious for warmer weather to arrive, I hate to wish spring away. Each day brings a miracle of new life that I want to savor! And besides, there are plenty of spring chores to do before summer arrives.  Even raking the leaves out of the flower beds can be fun. I've found where the ladybugs live and there's all kinds of new growth going on under those leaves.

Lily enjoys my raking, too.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

WheelEasy LE - A Product Review

When I first saw the Allsop WheelEasy canvas wheelbarrow, I thought, "What a great idea!" Then I got the opportunity to test it and now I know it's a great idea.  There are so many things to like about this product:

  • It's lightweight - Seriously. Compared to regular heavy wheelbarrows or carts, the WheelEasy is incredibly easy to move.

  • It's tough - The canvas barrow is made of vinyl-coated denier nylon and can haul up to 150 pounds of stone, rocks, soil, or whatever you want to move.

  • It makes tasks easier - The way it lays down flat for loading is one of the best things about it.  At the back, it has a flap that opens up and you can rake leaves right into the barrow.  If you want to haul soil or mulch, you don't have to shovel it into a cart or wheelbarrow whose bed is a couple of feet off the ground. That saves your back.

  • Folds for storage - This is another big plus. It has a really small footprint because the canvas barrow folds as you bring the handles together and you can store it vertically.

Romie and I used our WheelEasy LE over the weekend, as we cleaned out the flower beds around Our Little Acre.  There were so many leaves left from last fall, so we raked them out and directly into the WheelEasy.  Leaves are rather fluffy, but because the WheelEasy lays flat on the ground, I could step on the leaves and compact them, allowing us to load more into it at a time.

The front wheel is pneumatic, making rolling the WheelEasy more smooth as you go over stone areas or the bumpy yard.  It's ergonomically designed, so pushing it is comfortable.  As we got it to the compost bin, because it's so lightweight, we just lifted it up and dumped the leaves right into the bin. Try doing that with a regular wheelbarrow!

All in all, we both really liked the WheelEasy LE.  There is a larger model, which has a hauling capability of up to 300 pounds.  Since we have an acre here, we could have used the larger one, but this smaller one will come in handy when working in the garden itself when we haul dirt and mulch in the next couple of months. The WheelEasy LE is ideal for working in urban gardens and those with limited space.

Because we like the WheelEasy LE so much, I've decided to carry it in my OpenSky store.  The suggested retail price of the is $84.99, but if you purchase it through my store, the price is $80.00.  Shipping is $5.99.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to pricing errors by a competitor (which they have been notified of), and through no fault of OpenSky, the earlier price of $53 is not valid.  However,  OpenSky has issued a discount code of EASY20, which will give you 20% off. Discount code is valid for one week only (through April 1, 2010).  Just enter the code at checkout!

The product or merchandise being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for testing and reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine, with no suggestions whatsoever by the manufacturer or distributor. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Catching Rain

Last Saturday, as part of a writing assignment for Indiana Gardener, Mom and I attended a workshop in Ft. Wayne where we learned about rain gardens and how they can help control runoff.

This was just one of a series of workshops the city is administering in response to their 2008 violation of the Clean Water Act. They were given the option of paying a fine, or to put that money into a program of educating the public about the importance of controlling runoff and encouraging them to build rain gardens.

In a city, runoff is a problem due to the absence of ground for rain to soak into.  Though storm sewers are incorporated into the infrastructure, it's many times not enough, as evidenced by areas of flooding in streets and parking lots as well as private residences. Pollutants in the air and on surfaces become incorporated into this runoff which then goes into the rivers.

We were given a manual which explains in detail what a rain garden is, why it's important, and how to make one. The morning was spent having this demonstrated to us by Annie Stoffel from Earth Source and  Aaron Hutton from Malcolm Pirnie.  During breaks, they answered questions from homeowners and helped them design their rain gardens.

Annie Stoffel, from Earth Source, explains how to create a rain garden.

The city of Fort Wayne provides incentives for those who create a rain garden. Homeowners have a choice of getting their plants at a 50% savings, up to $250, as long as they choose from a specified list, or they can choose to be paid $1 per square foot of rain garden up to $150.

Attending the workshops is generally limited to residents of the city of Ft. Wayne, but because I was there in a media capacity, I was allowed to attend.  I'm so glad.  I found it to be well thought out and incredibly interesting. I'm sure I'll make use of some of what I learned in my own garden.

Actually I already have.

A couple of springs ago, I finally got tired of the water laying in the path between the trellis and the neighbor's hedge. When it would fill up after a rain, it would overflow into the trellis garden and plants ended up floating. So I dug out the low area a little more, laid down a layer of stone and inlaid stepping stones.  What this did was create a deeper trough for the water to lay until the ground could absorb it, which prevented overflow into the garden.  The stones allowed us to walk through the area, even when it held water, which eventually soaked into the ground.

A rain garden serves much the same purpose, except that plants are used that thrive in wet conditions.  These plants use up a lot of the water, plus their roots aerate the soil, allowing it to absorb rain water better.

For more information on Ft. Wayne's Catching Rain program, visit their website at .

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"Indiana Gardener" Feature Writer

I suppose it's every writer's dream to be a published author one day, with "published" having several different meanings, depending on who you talk to.  In my mind, it used to mean that a writer got paid for their writing that made it in print.  But with blogging and e-zines and other digital venues, the definition has gotten a little fuzzy.

This blog, Our Little Acre, has been around since January 2007, when I started writing it as a means of journaling about my gardens and sharing what I did now that our girls no longer lived at home.  Little did I know what incredible opportunities blogging would send my way!

In January, I was contacted about the possibility of doing some freelance writing for a new gardening magazine.  It was to be called Indiana Gardener and even though I live in Ohio, I've spent a great deal of time in the Hoosier state.  I've worked in New Haven/Ft. Wayne for 33 years now and spent three years at Indiana University (IPFW) in Ft. Wayne before graduating with an Associate in Science in Dental Hygiene before that.  My garden is a mere 10 miles from the Indiana state line.

(I also like to remind my Indiana friends and co-workers that Ft. Wayne, New Haven, Auburn, and other eastern Indiana cities and towns were once officially part of Ohio, which became a state in 1803 and I've got a reproduction of the 1804 Ohio map to prove it!)

I agreed to do some writing for the magazine and now the long-awaited launch date is here! The premier issue of Indiana Gardener is on news stands now.  It has a distribution in nine northeast Indiana counties as well as Paulding County in Ohio. It can be found in Kroger, Scott's, and Meijer stores, as well as other locations, such as restaurants and convenience stores.

'Prinses Irene' tulips in my 2009 garden

This is my first paid writing job, which for me is a milestone.  I once said that I didn't enjoy writing. I loved editing ("You write it, I'll fix it.") and spent two years as an editor of an online and print magazine several years ago. I wrote an article or two for that magazine when asked, but  preferred wearing the editor's hat.

Now, I love to write. In fact, I have to write.  I'm much like those who are runners - they don't feel like their day is complete unless they've been running.  That's how it is for me with my writing.  If I didn't enjoy it so much, Our Little Acre would have ceased to exist a long time ago.

And now I've written something that someone was willing to put a price on. They like my photography, too.  I've got four articles in Indiana Gardener this month and five photographs, including the cover.  I'm a "published" author.  It's like they say, "Do what you love and the money will follow." While I don't earn enough from writing to give up my day job (nor would I want to, because I love that, too), this is still pretty sweet.

EDIT: This issue of Indiana Gardener is now viewable online in its entirety here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Master Gardener: Class III at the Toledo Zoo

When I heard our third class was to be held at the Toledo Zoo, I wondered if we were going to be learning about pet food, manure compost, or something else animal related. It turned out to be none of the above, but it was my favorite class of all, so far.

In the morning, we had class in the African Lodge, where Becky McCann gave us an information-packed session on plant pathology.  If you garden at all, you'll encounter some sort of problem with any number of your plants. Some problems are caused by you and some are not, but it's good to recognize them for what they are so you can take action to correct them. I sure recognized a few - powdery mildew, vascular wilt, rust, and blight.

We took a break at noon for lunch, which we always bring on our own.  The day was so wonderful - sunny and mid-60s - that we ate outside, in front of the conservatory.

The Ziems Conservatory was built in 1904 and while small, is beautiful and filled with some of the healthiest plants I've ever seen in such a setting. I remarked to our tour guide later that I was so surprised to not see even one insect. I'm sure they're there, but they sure don't seem to have a problem with any.  I noticed this throughout the greenhouse, too.

Brazilian Candles (Pavonia multiflora)


The afternoon class was about house plants and plant propagation...

...but before we learned about propagation, we were given a tour of the greenhouse facilities. 

Dale explained how they overwinter many of the plants used throughout the zoo property in the summer, as well as growing their own annuals, mainly by propagating them from cuttings.

 Seedlings are propagated in perlite.

They grow hundreds of Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) from cuttings taken from the previous year's plants. My favorite of all of them was 'Tilt-a-Whirl."

After the propagation demonstration, several of us received Watermelon Peperomia (Peperomia argyreia) leaves to take home to try and propagate a plant from them.  It's supposed to be one of the easiest to grow using the cut leaf method. I hope so, because I think it's a beautiful plant.

Peperomia argyreia on the right

We were also given a box of bone meal to use on our plants at home. While I've enjoyed all of our Master Gardener classes, I like this one best of all, so far.  I want to come back in the summer to see the gardens that are on the zoo grounds (herb, rose, formal, butterfly) when they're in full bloom.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bloom Week Continues!

Not only did more blooms appear for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Week, they did so within hours of my previous post.  It almost seems as if you could sit and catch them in the act of opening up.


Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa forbesii)

Splendor in the grass - Crocus tommasinianus

Iris reticulata 'Harmony'

Iris reticulata 'Spring Time'

This may be my very favorite crocus of all - Crocus siberii 'Tricolor'

I started to make a list of things that are either emerging from the ground (Fern leaf peony), showing signs of growth from their crowns (Agastache), or even leafing out (Hibiscus), but it would be easier to make a list of those things that aren't doing any of those things.

The talk about town is that of fear of freezing weather yet to come which could zap all the tender new  growth and blooms.  Of course that could happen, but we're due for an early spring. I'm choosing to think positively and enjoying every glorious degree that starts with a six and has another number after it.

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