Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hellebore Update

One of the first plants to bloom for us each year are the hellebores. Last year, at Northwest Garden Nursery's annual hellebore open house, we purchased 5 plants. They seem to have settled in just fine. Last month, as the new growth started pushing upward, we trimmed off all of last year's leaves. Now the new stems are starting to produce fairly mature buds and the colors are developing. I would think in 2-3 weeks we should have a bed full of lovely hellebore in full bloom.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New USDA Zone Map Unveiled

Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)  released the new version of its Plant Hardiness Zone Map (PHZM), updating this useful tool for gardeners for the first time since 1990 with greater accuracy and detail. The new map was jointly developed by USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Oregon State University's (OSU) PRISM Climate Group and is available online at

Plant hardiness zone designations represent the average annual extreme minimum temperatures at a given location during a particular time period. They do not reflect the coldest it has ever been or ever will be at a specific location, but simply the average lowest winter temperature for the location over a specified time. Low temperature during the winter is a crucial factor in the survival of plants at specific locations. It allows us to catalog shop or go to the nurseries and find with some accuracy what plants will survive in our gardens and which ones will not.

For the first time the map is "Internet friendly". There is a terrific feature where you can plug in your zip code and it will automatically give you your zone and the average minimum temperature range. My garden is now in Zone 8B with a low temperature range of 15-20 F. Many gardeners will find that they are now gardening in an area one half-zone warmer than before.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Snow - Day #2

As promised, we received a fresh batch of snow last night. I would say maybe a fresh inch fell onto already frozen roads and ground. It gave everything an extra sparkle as the sun came up in the 24 degree dawn.

This poor fellow - or gal - was roosting on the front porch railing and didn't even move when I came outside. It must be awfully cold for the hummingbirds that live here year around but we quickly put out the feeder so they had something to eat for energy. We bring the feeders in every night so they don't freeze.

The forecast today calls for warming temperatures. The snow should all melt but a new storm and freezing weather is headed in for tonight. Round #3!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Finally..a little Winter Snowfall!

 After being teased about the possibility of some snowfall, we awoke to a light dusting this morning. It had snowed overnight just enough to cover everything in a blanket of white. Then the temperature rose and most everything melted by noon - sigh. But then around 3:00 it started to snow again and the world was once again white and serene. The people seem to be much happier about this change in the weather than the cats do! Poor Parvati spent the late afternoon sitting in an upstairs window glaring at the outside world.

With the temperature dropping again tonight, there is a promise of more snow overnight and tomorrow. Finally Winter has come to the Northwest!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Another Beautiful Ending

While this Winter's unseasonable warm and dry weather has many of us worried about the snow pack and Summer water shortages, it does have one amazing bonus - Spectacular Sunsets! Night after night at dusk we have been treated to a glorious show in the Western sky instead of gray skies and early darkness. Tonight's sunset might have been the prettiest yet.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Very Productive Sunday

I awoke to yet another sunny day! While this dry mild weather is terrific for getting outdoor chores done, it is certainly confusing to both the plants and the animals. Case in point, look in this tree! Turkey Vultures! We last saw our venue of turkey vultures this Fall as they congregated and left for the big trip down south. Now suddenly today, we have six circling in our sky. I guess the question is, have they come back a few months early or did they never leave? Either way it certainly is strange having them flying high in our January sky.

The first task on my "to-do" list today was planting the various bulbs that we purchased back in October at the Hardy Pant Group meeting. Our speaker that night was Steve Vinisky, owner of Cherry Creek Daffodils. After giving a great talk Steve held court at a sales table where he offer choice bulbs for sale. Of course, we couldn't resist! We ended up buying:
  • 1 bulb of "Snipe" a solid white Cyclamineus Daffodil
  • 6 bulbs of "Kokopelli" a yellow Jonquilla Daffodil , floriferous with a light fragrance
  • 1 bulb of "Sabrosa" a yellow Jonquilla Daffodil, small fragrant pale yellow blossoms
  • 4 bulbs of "Rolf Fiedler" Ipheion Peregrinans, a star flower with striking blue blooms
Fortunately, as Fall was slipping away, we put our purchases in the bottom of the refrigerator. When I took them out today the bulbs seemed just fine. With the exception on "Snipe" all of the bulbs had small green shoots. Pictured above, a sprouting bulb of "Kokopelli". They were more than ready to be planted!

Her are the 4 small bulbs of "Rolf Fielder" . Their size and shape reminded me of grape hyacinth bulbs. I got everything planted and marked with a stake so now we can sit back and - fingers crossed - enjoy the show this Spring.

My second project of the day was attacking my kitchen garden. This past Fall I got everything cleaned up with the exception of the seven tomato plants and the two Morning Glory towers. I also planted a row of garlic in October. All late Fall and early Winter, someone/something has been digging in the kitchen garden, leaving small holes behind. By best guess is it's the chipmunks. Regardless, they have exposed some of my garlic bulbs so today I added soil to the raised row and made sure everything was properly covered with dirt. Then I covered the whole row with a tunnel covered in Remay. This should give the garlic row some added protection from both the weather and the critters.

I was truly surprised to see that almost my entire row of garlic-all three varieties- have already sprouted! Since this is my first attempt at growing my own garlic I don't know if this is normal or not. Perhaps this mild weather is playing games with the garlic too! It certainly made my clean-up task much more pleasant. After a couple hours of hard work, the kitchen garden bed was bare, ready for the 2012 garden.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Sunny Saturday in January

When I awoke this morning, sunshine was streaming through my windows and the sky was already a bright, clear blue. It was definitely a day to get outside and tackle those projects still left on my "do-to" list from the Fall. First up was the clearing of blackberry vines, grass, and other assorted "pucker-brush" from the area pictured above. We hadn't mowed this section for a couple of years so it was getting a bit overgrown. And most importantly, we had planted some free yellow daffodil bulbs - King Alfreds ? - there. Because we were ignoring them, they were thriving and we could hardly see them this last Spring underneath all of the assorted vegetation. Two hours later, after much labor with a string trimmer, lawn mower, and small tractor, we finished! Much better and now we will be able to enjoy the daffodils this coming March.

After finishing our project I walked down by the big bird feeder to check on the "Early Sensation" daffodils. Jackpot! Just last weekend I looked here and nothing had poked up through the earth yet. One week later, with the help of mild temperatures, they are now 2" high. These, our earliest blooming daffodils, should start blooming by the end of the month. A little taste of Spring.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! We begin today with a fresh start and all things seem possible. I am not too much for making New Year's resolutions, either in the garden or my personal life. They seem destine to be broken. I prefer to set goals. If they are met, that's wonderful - but if you only make some progress toward them, you're still ahead. So my goals in the garden for the New Year:
  1. Keep trying new things, whether it's new varieties or growing techniques
  2. Don't plant so much that the day-to-day upkeep stops me from having fun
While I am enjoying these first dark days of Winter inside- reading, relaxing and generally hibernating - Mother Nature has been hard at work. On my New Year's walk today, I discovered the beautiful red witch hazel in full bloom in the front flower bed.

I also noticed that all of the Hellebore plants have begun to send up this year's flower stalks. It's time to cut down last years' leaves!

And lastly, in the mudroom bed, I  found the "tete-a-tete" daffodils that I divided last July 21st. They are about 2" high now and both new circles appear to be coming up well. It might be only January 1st but the new gardening year has begun!