Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day & Snowfall

February 29th is a unique, quirky day. It happens only once every four years and I think, like Friday the 13th, has some special mojo about it - true or just imagined. Today's "leap day" certainly was memorable. We went to bed last night to rain and snow showers and awoke at 5:30 AM to lightning, a clap of thunder, and then a dumping of snow. Snowfall on what should have been the 1st of March is strange enough for our part of the world but then throw in snow thunder and it was a truly remarkable day.

Blackberry vines outlined with snow.

My sweet little clumps of "tete-a-tete" were struggling to remain upright under the weight of the snow. The bright yellow trumpets certainly did pop under the blanket of white.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Seed Packets Begin to Arrive

 Today, the first of the seeds that I ordered over the Internet last week arrived. The first envelop that I opened was from Abundant Life Seeds out of Cottage Grove, OR. They are owned by the same folks as Territorial Seeds but specialize in organic, bio-dynamic, sustainably grown seeds. I only ordered one packet from them but it was a variety I couldn't find anywhere else. Last year, the "Delicata" plants that I grew from seed languished and I ended up buying 2 seedlings at the farmer's market. They were "Bush Delicata" and I really appreciated their compact growing habit. They produced just as many fruit as my regular "Delicata" did but took up a great deal less space.

Winter Squash "Bush Delicata" - 80 days.This AAS winner has a tidy bush habit reaching 4-6 feet. The 1 1/2 pond oblong fruit have creamy white skin with green stripes and flecks.The flesh is smooth with a sweet nutty flavor. Tolerant of powdery mildew. Bred at Cornell University."

The other order that arrived came from Seeds of Change. They carry only 100% certified organic seed which I appreciate. Because of this, their seeds do cost a bit more but I think they are absolutely worth it. Seeds of Change also carries many unique varieties not available anywhere else. From them I ordered:

Shallot "Ed's Red Shallot" -  100 days. Used fresh like scallion sin France, while finished bulbs store through the winter. Beautiful red skin and interior. Each seed produces a 1-2" bulb with three lobes.

Onion "Parade Bunching" - 70-80 days. Very uniform variety with dark green foliage and little to no bulbing. Vigorous grower and a mild, pleasing onion flavor. 8-11" in length."

Marigold "Red Matamorph Marigold" 75-85 days. 2-3' tall. A stunning selection by Alan Kapular from the Double Pinwheel lineage. Deep red petals accentuated by burnt orange underpetals. As temperatures increase, petals become more orange and yellow striped, returning to red burgundy with the onset of cooler fall weather. Valuable contribution to a flower garden or as a complement to a vegetable garden, it forms a gorgeous, thick hedge attracting numerous insects and other wildlife."

Marigold "Frances' Choice" 70-80 days. 4-5' tall. A dramatic and incredibly prolific hedge type marigold makes an ideal garden companion and lovely long stemmed cut flower. Selected by Alan Kapuler in honor of Frances Hoffman, a great, yet unsung, horticulturist and champion of biodiversity.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Clean Slate

Today the weather was much improved over yesterday's. We actually had some lovely sunshine to enjoy for a good part of the day. I decided I had no excuse and attacked one of the outdoor projects on my "to-do" list. The front flowerbed was getting infected with bittercress weed so I grabbed my kneeling pad and hand claw and got to work. Just over two hours later I was done! There isn't too much planted in this bed yet as we don't have a deer fence in place. Right now we only have deer-proof plants in - hellebores and bulbs. With the weeds gone now, the spotlight can shine on the bloomers, few though they may be.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Snow, Sun-breaks, Hail, and Planting the Peas!

Today was certainly an interesting weather day. It started snowing in the early morning hours. The snow actually stuck and accumulated a bit, but then began to melt as the sun broke out around 9:30 AM. All morning and early afternoon dark clouds kept rolling through the area, bringing another round of snow showers. During one of the sun-breaks, I decided it was time to get my pea plants in the ground.

Last Monday, at the monthly Avid Gardeners meeting, Alice Doyle of Log House Plants brought a wonderful selection of Pea plants for sale. Since the meeting was held on Presidents Day, the traditional day to plant peas in our area, Alice was selling the Peas for just $1.00 each. How could I walk away from that deal? There were many varieties to choose from but I went with a new-to-me one - "Blauschokker Purple Pod".  The tag describes it as " an open-pollinated, shelling variety. Beautiful ornamental edible. Red & violet flowers are followed by dark violet 3" pods with sweet, tasty brown-grey peas. Use peas fresh or dried in soups & casseroles. 80-90 days from transplant." Doesn't that sound interesting?!

Each 3" pot had 5 healthy plants. I set in the ground one of my bean towers from Gardener's Supply Company. On each of three sides I planted 5 of the young pea plants. The wind was gusting off and on, and the poor plants kept getting pushed to the ground. Fortunately peas are hardy and it won't be too long before their tendrils will have wrapped around the tower for the first time. Then they will be off and running.

After I planted the peas I pulled back the remay cover on my garlic bed. The garlic is looking good. The growth pattern on the hardneck variety "Chesnook Red " pictured above, is certainly different than the softneck variety "Nootka Red", pictured below.

After getting the peas planted I turned my attention to the front flower bed. It is slowly getting overtaken by young bitter-cress plants. I know from experience that if I don't get them pulled soon, the mature plants will fling seeds all over the bed. And then I will have the same situation next year. I had been weeding for 1/2 hour or so when the sky darkened and the roof started making popping sounds - hail! I ducked under the eves of the roof and watched the hail pour down.

When the storm had passed, my poor little snowdrop cluster that I had just plated earlier in the day was surrounded by hailstones. Fortunately, snowdrops are one of the many tough, spring bloomers and they showed no signs of damage. A quick walk back to the kitchen garden revealed that my peas were just fine too. Who know what the rest of the day will bring! Gardening in February isn't for sissies!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The First Daffodil of the Year

The first daffodils of the year have now opened. The "Early Sensation" planted down by the big bird-feeder are always our first variety to bloom each year. It is interesting to note that this variety was open by February 6th last year.

They are a "typical" daffodil with their bright yellow large trumpet. But I think that is just what we need at this time of year. A shocking splash of color against the sea of green and brown. We will now enjoy daffodils blooming for the next month and a half, but none are more anticipated than the first to open each year.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Great Backyard Bird Count 2012

Female Hairy Woodpecker

The Great Backyard Bird Count kicked-off this year on Thursday, February 17th  and runs through Monday February 20th. The GBBC is a joint project between the Cornell Lab of Ornithology & Audubon that asks amateur volunteers to count the birds that they can identify. Participants count birds anywhere for as little or as long as they wish during the four-day period. They tally the highest number of birds of each species seen together at any one time. To report their counts, they fill out an online checklist at the Great Backyard Bird Count website. The results of the long weekend give a snapshot picture of Winter bird populations all over the US, Canada & Puerto Rico.

For the past two years I have joined my sister and counted the birds during the weekend.

This year we had both a male & a female Anna's hummingbird at our feeder.

Down by my garden, the chickadees and nuthatches thrive near the edge of the forest.

We have large flocks of Mourning Doves on our property. Today's final tally included:
  • 9 California Quail
  • 2 Turkey Vultures
  • 40 Mourning Doves
  • 2 Anna's Hummingbirds
  • 2 Northern Flickers
  • 8 Steller's Jay
  • 1 Western Scrub Jay
  • 10 Black Capped Chickadee
  • 1 Red Breasted Nuthatch
  • 1 European Starling
  • 3 Spotted Towhee
  • 10 House Finch
  • 4 Pine Siskin
  • 10 Dark Eyed Junco
  • 2 Golden Crowned Sparrow
  • 1 White Crowned Sparrow

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Hellebore Open House

This morning, right after breakfast we headed out to Northwest Garden Nursery for their annual Hellebore Open House. This fun event is our yearly chance to buy some amazing hellebore plants that have been hybridized and raised by nursery owners Ernie & Marietta O'Byrne and tour their amazing display gardens. The O'Byrnes are famous world-wide for the work they have done with Hellebores. Besides the traditional single bloom, the O'Byrnes have created plants with double blooms, unique flowers colors and upward-facing blooms. No matter how many plants you might already have in your garden, you will always find one or two new hellebores that will tempt you to take them home.

How about this double, chartreuse bloom tipped in maroon?

This was another new color combination to me - cream and chartreuse green.

One of my favorites are the double, white petals flecked with burgundy.

After we made our purchases and took them to the car we began walking the display gardens. The skies immediately turned dark and it began to pour rain. The temperature plummeted and then the hail began! After about ten minutes of some very soggy garden viewing we gave up and returned to the car. There's always next year!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


One of my joyful discoveries this last weekend was the emergence of the snowdrops! So far, four of the clumps that we transplanted from our old house have started to push up. They are so very tiny at this point and are dwarfed by the grass, moss, and leaf debris that they are growing up through. But there is no mistaking those fat, white flower buds no matter how small they might be.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Color in February

While the Febuary landscape is still mostly a plate of browns and soft greens, there is some color to be found. Our hellbores have started to bloom.The first two plants in the front flower bed have begun to open in the last few days. One is a double in soft pink and the other a single in dark purple. We will enjoy their blooms for the next few weeks and the pollinators will have a great source of food.

We also have a new witch hazel that has begun to open. Its first long yellow "petals' have just begun to unfurl out of the small brown buds. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Daffodil Update

The daffodils have really been putting on a lot of growth the last few weeks. Many varieties are now up that hadn't pushed through the soil line even a week ago. And those that were already up are growing profusely. As you can see in the above picture, the Early Sensation" daffodils now are showing color in their buds. It won't be too long before they are blooming. It is interesting to note that as warm and mild as we feel like this year has been, the "Early Sensations" were in full bloom last year on February 6th.

I was excited to see nine of the twelve "Las Vegas" daffodil bulbs that I planted last fall have now come up. The bulbs looked healthy when I planted them but you always worry a bit.

The "Tete-a-tete" narcissus in the mudroom bed have now produced their bloom stalks.

And the "Kokopelli" narcissus that we planted January 8th have just pushed up through the soil line. I am glad to see them doing well since we were so late getting them planted. It will be fun this year to have some new varieties to watch and see bloom for the first time.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Winter Market - Abundance in February

The Winter session of the Lane County Farmer's Market kicked off the first Saturday in February. This year management decided to hold the Market every Saturday, instead of every other Saturday. I am pleased to report it appears that customers are supporting this change. There were 10-12 stalls at today's market. Most were selling Winter vegetables but there was also a bakery present, a vendor specializing in grains and flour, and a prepared food vendor.  

As you can tell from the Winter Green Farm sign, there was truly an abundance of vegetables available. So often Winter is viewed as a "bleak" time, with little or no food choices. This chalk board tells a different story.

While locally available winter food is dominated by the dark green Brassica family, these carrots added a a wonderful punch of color to the mix.

Grateful Harvest Farm had 5 different varieties of Apples available as well as Asian Pears.

Pictured above are 3 dried ears of "Dakota Black" popcorn. This stand was selling the bagged dried corn and also popping the corn and selling freshly popped heirloom corn. We sampled some and it was delicious so a bag of dried corn came home with us.

The real stars of the season are the greens - Kale, Chard, Mustard Greens, and Cabbages galore!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Few Seed Purchases - Let the New Gardening Year Begin!

Sunday I took a quick trip into town to Down to Earth. The purpose of my visit was to pick up some liquid Kelp fertilizer. Did I stop with just that purchase? Of course not! I was immediately drawn over to the beautiful seed racks. As the hand drawn sign above the cash-wrap area said "Seeds are Here! Yippee!".

Down to Earth carries a terrific variety of seed from  many, many different seed companies. I am especially pleased that they have sold and supported the Seed Savers Exchange for the past few years. And they also carry a large display of Renee's Garden. Renee's garden does not print a catalog so you can only order on-line and at Retail locations. As I have stated in many past posts, Renee's Garden seeds is one of my very favorites companies so it's terrific that Down to Earth carries such a large selection for me to admire - and buy!

So, what fell into my basket you ask...

Sunflower "Ring of Fire" - See Savers Exchange -Dark Centered blooms are 4-5" across with petals that gradually fade from a dark red base to golden yellow tips.Branching habit with long side stems, one of the best varieties for cut flowers. Plants grow 5-6' tall. 60 Days

Scallions " Delicious Duo" - Renee's Garden - A unique blend of tender crisp "Green Feast" & "Red Robin" scallions with straight stalks and juicy flesh. Perfect to Spring plant and harvest well into Summer. Pull them as needed to eat fresh for weeks. 65 Days

Spinach - "Charger F1" - Seeds of Change - Hardy annual 6-10" plant. This hybrid variety produces an upright fast growing baby leaf spinach with smooth, medium green, oval leaves that are resistant to mildew. 40 Days

Radish - "Cherry Belle" - Territorial Seed Company -A tasty, round, brilliant red radish with crisp white flesh. Tolerant of poor soils, retains tenderness, resists pithiness. 1949 All America Selection Winner. 22 Days

Hollyhock -"Halo Apricot" - Territorial Seed Company - Perennial. Rich coral petals and striking wine centers.Plants reach 6-8 feet tall. Flower spikes reach a towering 6-8 feet tall, reliably blooming the first year from seed, and showing their color from summer through fall

So there you have it! The first purchases of the year, but certainly not the last!