Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The First 80 Degree Day of the Year

Today we experienced the first 80+ degree day of the year! We hit a high of 83 degrees and tomorrow is suppose to be even warmer. I am ready for Summer -bring it on!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Onion Planting and a Hail Storm

Today I worked in the kitchen garden. I started by filling two of my smaller grow bags with Nature's Best soil. Then I planted one grow bag with my "Camelot" shallot starts and the other grow bag with four starts of "Red Wing" red storage onions. After I finished planting the grow bags, I created a new long, raised bed for the other two varieties of onions plants that I had purchased. After I was done forming the raised bed I took a break and went inside. Within 1/2 an hour a dark cloud appeared and an huge hail storm rained down on the garden.

It hailed so long and hard that the ground turned white. I sat inside, frightened as to what was happening to my newly planted onions and shallots.

After the storm pasted I went outside to have look. As you can see, the grow bag is flooded and the little shallot starts are all knocked over. I am hoping that they are tough and will bounce back within a few days. It would be a heartbreak to loose them, after they were only set out one half hour earlier.

All of the flowerbeds around the house are covered in a blanket of white. These spring green echinacea leaves do look so pretty, holding the white hailstones. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Other Bleeding Hearts

We have two other varieties of bleeding hearts growing in our front flowerbed. The first is a native to our area; Dicentra Formosa "Pacific Bleeding Heart". This pretty native prefers moist, shaded areas like forests and stream banks. In the wild it reaches 20" in height but you can clearly see that ours is much larger.It is thriving with good soil and a little TLC.

Dicentra Formosa blooms from early Spring well into the Summer and it is just covered with pretty bunches of lilac colored hearts. The flowers have a light fragrance. As an added bonus, it also has very attractive, spring green, lobed leaves.

Our other bleeding heart is more traditional.

It is just now unfurling its long chains of red and white hearts.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Royal Raindrops Crab Apple

Our "Royal Raindrops" Crab Apple is in full bloom. Thankfully, it waited to open until the worst of our rainstorms passed this week.

The tree continues to have a "challenging" shape, caused by both its growth pattern and the trimming the deer continue to give its lower branches. I think this next Winter week need to have a skilled arborist come and prune the tree.

For now, we can just enjoy this explosion of color. It will be all over much too quickly.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day - The Evening Grosbeaks Return

Each year we anxiously await the return of the Evening Grosbeaks. Last year was a strange year. They arrived in February, stayed for a few weeks and then left. We never saw them the rest of the Summer. In a "typical" year they arrive sometime in April. We have been expecting them for the last week or two. Then, in the last week, we began hearing their familiar "churr" call in the neighboring forest. Each day their call seemed to be getting ever closer until today...when they finally arrived! Before I left for work I spotted a male sitting on one of my kitchen garden fence posts. And by the afternoon we had two couples darting back and forth to the bird feeders. Hopefully these four are the first of many more to come. Some years we have enjoyed the company of a few dozen. Either way, we are so pleased that they have returned. Happy Earth Day indeed!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Wild Apple Blossoms

Down at the bottom of the road, were the driveway makes a sharp turn to the left, an apple tree struggles to grow in the shade of the large firs. The tree is tall, spindly, and a heavy snowfall a few winters past has made its top point downwards. But even with all of these challenge, it still produces lovely blooms each Spring and a dozen or so deep scarlet apples each Fall. The will to survive.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Seed Starting

We had a nice Easter Sunday here today. The high hit 69 degrees and there wasn't much in the way of any wind, so it felt quite pleasant outside. After returning home from church I decided to start the first of my seeds. Each year I have grown one new variety of Winter Squash. This year I am trying  "Corazon de Chirique" from Baker Creek Seeds. This squash was found in Panama and needs a long growing season. Since I can't easily extend the end of my growing season I need to work on the front side. So, I am trying to get the seed started now and the plants into the ground by early May. This should get me 5+ months before the powdery mildew expoldes in October. I want to grow two plants so I started three peat pots, each plnated with a seed. I also planted 6 smaller peat pots with the sunflower "Gloriosa Polyheaded" from Seeds of Change. This seed is a few years old and Seeds of Change no longer offers this variety. My fingers are crossed that my plants germinate and mature so that I can save some seed this year. The weather forecast is calling for cooler temperatures and rain off on on this week. I have put the seed tray into the warm greenhouse and will keep a close watch on it.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Lamb's Tongue & Shooting Stars

Less than a mile down the road, our neighbor's front "yard" is a delight each Spring. The open, shady area comes alive with the blooms of Shooting Stars and Lamb's Tongues.

The purple multi-branched blooms of the shooting stars really stand out in the field of greens and cream.

Most of the yard is awash with Lambs Tongues. 

The blooms are at full maturity right now and will soon begin to fade.

Friday, April 18, 2014

New Wooden Gates

When I got home from work today I discovered that Dad had made me two new gates. The first gate is for the kitchen garden, replacing the sad old chair that kept out the cats and the deer. The second gate is for the west end flowerbed. Last year the deer wrecked havoc in that bed, eating all of my sunflower starts. Once the house painting gets completed, we can secure the gates a bit more. They look good, are easy to handle, and should keep out all of the pesky critters. Thanks Dad!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dwarf Bearded Iris

Our patch of dwarf bearded iris have started blooming. Each Spring they are some of the first plants in the flowerbed to bloom and then sadly, they are among the first plants to be finished for the year. With their bloom-time so brief, it is extra important to enjoy them while they are at their peak. Above, "Devoted".

Pictured above "Giggle Fit". We have the fewest of these plants. Below "Bourgeois", our most prolific dwarf iris.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dicentra Spectabilis 'Gold Heart'

One of the plants who's arrival always signals Spring in my mind is the bleeding heart.

In a dark corner of the front flowerbed, we have a single plant of Dicentra Spectabilis "Gold Heart". This bleeding heart has the most amazing lime green leaves that just glow. It completely lights up this difficult space and commands your attention. This year it has really outdone itself. The plant must be almost four feet wide and over three feet tall. 

Its red branches are just covered with hot pink and white hearts.

It is a bold color palate that might not be to everyone's taste, but I love it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Crab Apple Buds

The last time I really inspected the crab apple was over three weeks ago. The tree had just broken its Winter dormancy and was starting to unfurl its first red leaves. I was shocked to discover today that it is already covered in buds, precariously close to blooming.

After I got over my initial surprise, I was really pleased to see all of the buds. This tree seems to be following an "every-other-year" pattern. One year it will be absolutely covered in blooms and the next year it will hardly produce any blooms at all. It has followed this pattern ever since we planted it in 2009. I don't know if this is just a coincidence, due to weather and other factors, or a trait of this crab apple variety.

Either way I am so glad that this year we should have a wonderful display of hot pink blooms.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Kokopelli Daffodils

My clump of narcissus "Kokopelli" are in full bloom.

It has been three years since I planted the original 6 bulbs. Last year the bulbs sent up 37 stems. This year they more then doubled - I counted 83 stems!. Not all of these stems were full sized, with multiple tiers of blooms, but that is still an impressive number.

And the best part about "Kokopelli" is the scent. As soon as the sun comes out and the temperature warms just a bit, the air is filled with a heavy, perfumed aroma.