Monday, March 28, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: Spring Ephemerals I

Weather continues to be all over the map, and although it's not atypical for spring in the Midwest, it seems a bit more extreme than usual. Last yesterday afternoon into evening, we had a severe thunderstorm, with winds that hit 57 mph, and hail. Lots of hail.

Two-and-a-quarter inches of rain later, we had way more water than we needed. We didn't need ANY before the storm, but there were no tornadoes, so there's that. Small favors and all.

This is the first time in 10 years that the arbor has blown all the way over.
It was anchored in the ground with 2' metal rods on all four corners.

The hail doesn't look as big as it was when it first came down because
we had just had a lovely 74° day, so it melted fairly quickly.

Plants with larger foliage, like these tulips, didn't fare so well with the hail.

Calmer weather prevailed today, so I went out to see what flowers I could cut for my little window vase.  Fortunately, the smaller spring ephemerals proved to be tough.

These flowers are representative of what is in bloom right now, other than cornelian cherry, hellebores, and some larger daffodils. Just one species tulip bloomed last week, while all the other ones - species and hybrids - aren't even close. But the Dutch hyacinths and magnolias are just days from opening.

  • Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa luciliae)
  • Striped Squill (Puschkinia libanotica)
  • Miniature Daffodil (Narcissus 'Tete-a-Tete')
  • Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum)
  • Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum)
  • Foliage:  Hardy Cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolia)

The fused glass window vase was a purchase from one of the flower shows I went to several years ago. It's from Glass Pockets and attaches to the window with a wire loop that hangs from a suction cup.

The "In a Vase on Monday" meme is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. I generally don't cut the flowers from my garden, preferring to enjoy them in their natural setting. My lack of flower arranging skills bears witness to this, but every once in a while, I get a wild hair and grab my pruners.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

"At the Edge of the Orchard" by Tracy Chevalier: A Review
Goll Woods, near the setting for At the Edge
of the Orchard
, gives us a glimpse of what
the Great Black Swamp was like in the 1800s.
I live in the Great Black Swamp. I've lived here my entire life and am fascinated by the fact that people now actually inhabit this once inhospitable place. In the last 160 years, it has been developed into a place of rich farmland and is home to one of the largest wind energy sources in the region. The Goodenoughs in At the Edge of the Orchard wouldn't recognize the place.

1838 northwest Ohio's Great Black Swamp is the backdrop for Tracy Chevalier's newest novel, just released a week ago (March 15, 2016). She provides a vivid description of the tough life many had while trying to establish a home there, but James and Sadie Goodenough had more problems than just the muddy, mosquitoey swamp to contend with, and many of them were of their own making.

One way to claim ownership of land in the area was to establish an orchard on it, and these were the days when John Chapman (you may recognize him as Johnny Appleseed) traveled the area, selling apple seeds and saplings just for this purpose. Apples suited both James and Sadie just fine, but for different reasons - he liked eating them, while Sadie preferred to drink hers.

While the quarrels over apples might seem a slight thing upon which to base a novel, it's a brilliant impetus for how the rest of the story plays out. No spoilers here, but those apples created quite a legacy for themselves in the lives of the Goodenoughs and particularly for son Robert.

"You can run, but you can't hide" becomes the story in the end, and as I neared the final pages, I wondered how it would all wrap up. I've read quite a few books lately that left me unsatisfied somehow, when I closed them for the final time, but this isn't one of them.
Though I wouldn't put it in my Top Five Most Favorite Books, it has earned a well-deserved spot in my permanent personal library. Historical fiction fans won't be disappointed. This is my favorite genre when done well. Tracy Chevalier has done it in At the Edge of the Orchard.

The pace is perfect, the unique method of transitioning both time and place is effective and smooth, and the manner in which the characters' voices are portrayed helps us understand them and their story even more. Not many authors could accomplish this as superbly.

Tracy Chevalier is the author of eight historical novels, including The Last Runaway, Remarkable Creatures, and the international bestseller Girl With a Pearl Earring, which has sold over 5 million copies and been made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth. American by birth, British by geography, she lives in London with her husband and son and cat. Tracy is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and has honorary doctorates from her alma maters Oberlin College in Ohio and the University of East Anglia in England. Her website will tell you more about her and her books.

I received a complimentary copy of At the Edge of the Orchard from the publisher for the purposes of review. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

In Spring, the Wind Blows Hard

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: 
when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.

- Charles Dickens

Spring has been scrumptious so far. Each day I go to the garden to see what new blooms await my notice. I would have spent even more time doing that these last couple of days, were it not for the wind. Take yesterday, for instance.

Our high temperature was 63°, and when you're on this side of winter, that feels like summer. Except for that blasted wind. It makes both walking and driving a bit of a challenge, when you've got it blowing at a sustained 45 mph, with gusts to 55 mph.

It didn't calm down much by early evening either, but Romie and I still went out to see if the daffodils had opened. The day before, they were very nearly ready, so we weren't surprised to see few golden heads nodding - well, thrashing about, really - in the wind.

But we were surprised by what else we saw, just next to the daffodils...

A few years ago, bacterial wet wood disease began to kill our weeping willow - the central feature in Max's Garden.

We went online to seek information and advice for possibly saving the tree, but they didn't give much hope. They said it could take a couple of years before the willow would actually die and that's about what happened.

We planted the tree in 2005, when we dug out the grass to form what came to be known as Max's Garden. Max was a yellow cat - the most wonderful yellow cat in the world - that just sauntered in from the field, right through the garden like he owned the place. And soon he did, so it just seemed fitting to name the garden after him.

Our willow's first days in the newly-dug garden, in 2005.

Just three years later, in 2008, the willow tree had grown into its own, right
along with the garden surrounding it.

By 2015, there was nothing left alive on the willow, but I still enjoyed its presence.

I had made the decision to keep the dead tree in the garden because it was so beautifully shaped and it seemed pretty solid when we pushed on it.

But our assessment of it just a week ago was that it felt pretty solid then too. So much for that. Sometimes Mother Nature forces your hand.

Romie wants to get another weeping willow for that spot. I'm not so sure. I loved that willow and want something that will be a focal point in much the same way that the willow was, but I'm not sure another willow is a wise choice. It does have fast growth in its favor, though, because we're not getting any younger.

We're open to opinions and suggestions.

There's a hole in my garden . . .

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - March 2016

It's been some time since I've participated in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, started and hosted by Carol Michel of May Dreams Gardens. But with us having one of the earliest springs I can ever remember, with so many lovely things blooming in the garden already, I just had to share them this month.

Our Little Acre is situated in USDA Zone 5b, surrounded by 6a, here in Northwest Ohio. Why we're in this little cold pocket, I haven't a clue, but my gardening experience has taught me that we can't reliably grow plants that are rated for Zone 6a, even if those around us can.

Now, on with the show!

Crocus, with an early pollinator!


Crocus sieboldii 'Tricolor'

Crocus chrysanthus 'Prins Claus'

Crocus tommasinianus
'Ruby Giant'

Helleborus x hybridus 'Red Lady'

Helleborus x hybridus 'Red Lady'

Helleborus x hybridus 'Pippa's Purple'

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince'

Helleborus xericsmithii 'Winter's Bliss'

Reticulated iris
Iris reticulata 'Harmony'

Reticulated iris
Iris reticulata 'Spring Time'

Japanese Andromeda or Japanese Lily-of-the-Valley
Pieris japonica
'Passion Frost'

Winter Aconite
Eranthis hyemalis

Winter Aconite
Eranthis hyemalis

Cornelian cherry
Cornus mas
Cornelian cherry
Cornus mas

Crocus chrysanthus var. fuscotinctus

Galanthus nivalis
'Flore Pleno'

It will be just a few days before a few other things are also blooming, including the first daffodil...

Narcissus 'Jetfire'

 . . . and one of the lungworts . . .

Pulmonaria longifolia 'Raspberry Splash'

These unusually early warm days have caused plants to emerge so fast you could probably grab a chair and plop yourself down in it and watch them grow. We always long for these days, when winter has worn out its welcome, but now that they're here, we wish they'd slow down a bit. These joyous first days when spring begins to show color just zip by too fast.

The weather has taken a toll on the maple syrup season. Just when I was excited that it had started early, it came to a screeching halt over the weekend, as the maples broke bud. All the sap we collected was boiled over a two-day time period and yielded just a quart-and-a-half of syrup. That's far less than we got last year.

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