Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A bloomin' sort of Tuesday

The barbecue container is in full Spring bloom, showing off all the hyacinth that were haphazardly placed years ago. We've also already been enjoying the chives, mostly on baked potatoes. Meanwhile, the pot clearly needs a cleanup as I can see grass well on its way out. Later this year I hope to transplant some of the cilantro, basil and thyme I'm growing from seed indoors. I may just switch out the pot entirely as this is one of those plastic tubs that is falling apart.

Redtwig Dogwood is leafing out, not quite blooms but its a pop of color desperately needed this time of year. I'm thinking I need to make a trip to a nursery because I'm sadly lacking in the bloom department. I think I'm been focusing too much on fall and winter interest plants. Now I'm lacking some Spring beauty!

Lots of tulips to come, however. I counted five in this little pot purchased from a box store several years ago. I've never gotten around to moving the plants into the bed. It's probably for the best as these are always free of slug tags.

These should be the daffodils I and the little guy planted in October. They're really behind the others around the garden but at least it looks like they will bloom, hopefully in April as promised by the planting instructions.

Crocus offer a last glimpse of blooms gone by. These are the last of their kind blooming along the catwalk. I'm amazed anything in this narrow bed has survived as it is our Chow-Lab, Winston's favorite spot to sit and gaze back at the house. Of all places to plunk his big ol' butt and he chooses to squeeze in right on top of my bulbs! Ah the joys of gardening with animals.
For more of what's blooming in other garden blogs, visit MsGreen"thumb"Jean and other Bloomin' Tuesday participants.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunny Sunday

Seattle was sun kissed this afternoon. It was the kind of day where you eagerly opened the windows, allowing a wash of Spring breezes to cleanse away winter air hanging inside your home. Outside it was wonderful to do even just the mandatory cleaning up of the garden. I trimmed heaths, yanked grasses that fell victim to our snows and continued plucking stray lawn that always creeps into the beds. All the while, daffodils stood nearby with their cheerful blots of color announcing warm days are here to stay.

Variegated wallflower planted in the parking strip finally received a good haircut. Typically it should be pruned to about six inches after flowering in late spring. This was a cut-and-see method because it had become really gangly. At least I'll have this volunteer to carry on. Actually, these evergreen plants apparently will reseed, although mine have shown little proof of that until now. I'm glad reseeding didn't compromise the leaf color, as I've noticed on new shoots from the parent plant.

Heuchera was divided and spread throughout the garden. I'd mentioned before that it was lifting out of the ground and just needed to be pulled apart. It was that simple and just like that I have about seven more Coral Bells in the beds.
Cleanup also uncovered a Ladybug beetle in the leaf layer left overwinter. I let this one go on its merry way, knowing it's capable of devouring thousands of aphids that find their way to my roses and broccoli each year. I'm not diligent with the soap and water, so I need all the help I can get.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sunless Saturday

The birds were chirping furiously this morning, lending false hope of a gloriously sunny day. Instead we've had a steady drizzle that has quashed any chance of sneaking out to the garden before a late brunch and dinner plans snatch away the rest of the afternoon.

I was resigned to snapping some photos from within the confines of the home. All the hyacinth are blooming, now, including those in the pot nearest the back door. You catch subtle wafts of their perfume when coming and going.

The Japanese Maple 'Emperor I' on the deck is starting to bud, but today I felt the raindrops collecting on its slender limbs were more appealing. This tree has been moved many times and continues to thrive, regardless of its treatment. I have another maple of the Laceleaf variety that isn't doing as well, thanks to the dogs.

Karen at Greenwalks advised I double check the pollination requirements on beans as they may usually need a little help (bees or a patient gardener). Since they're inside for now that would leave me to do the delicate work. However, a quick Internet search turned up the International Seed Saving Institute, which has a handy page for beginning seed savers.

Beans are one of the five vegetables that have the best chance at successful seed saving, according to the site. The others are lettuce, peas, peppers and tomatoes. Beans specifically "produce seed the same season as planted and are mostly self-pollinating, minimizing the need to be mindful of preventing cross-pollination." Check that task off the list. Thanks for the tip though, Karen. I would have never known about the easy seeds!

I think we'll soon have some color in the narrow bed along the catwalk. The tulip and daffodil buds are getting really fat. These were planted last fall and I'm anxious to see exactly what they look like.

Friday, March 27, 2009

It's Spring, and I missed my anniversary

It seems in my muddled state of illness, I missed my one-year anniversary in the realm of garden blogs. Technically it was Monday, but I'd had it in my head that it was the 28th. Maybe that's when I joined Blotanical, a very handy site comprised of garden blogs around the world. Looking back at my first post, which was just a video, I can see the daffodils were well on their way already. This proves we're a bit behind ourselves this season.

Perhaps my garden knew I had missed the special occasion, and so chose to wait until I could fully enjoy a token of its appreciation. That long awaited and much documented daffodil has opened to reveal a soft buttery bloom. Out front the daffodils aren't quite as open as they were last year. There's also a few more trees in the landscape, small tree, but trees. It will be nice to have a reference point from now on. It's often enjoyable to check back and see what did or didn't work. Looking at this day last year, I can already tell the parking strip clearly needs more attention. I had just finished sprucing that area up. But looking at it now, I haven't done much to help it out. Hmmm, maybe Karen at Greenwalks can offer a few suggestions?

In another corner of the garden, the potted tulips are starting to develop buds. These are ahead of the tulip bulbs I planted last year, which right now are just leaves. This reminds me that the annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is coming up. I see a road trip in the family's future.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Seeds & Sidework

Leave it to me to get sick just as the days are becoming more dependably pleasant. I'd gotten out a couple days ago to direct seed a few more vegetables and do a bit of cleanup along the north side of the house. By that evening, though, I felt the telltale tickle of a sore throat. Two days later I think I'm on the upswing, but I'm totally bummed to have missed what seem to have been very pleasant days. Thanks to all the well-wishers, though.
My last tromp through the yard turned up a promising start to the peony I moved a couple years ago. Now that we have the new gate up I hope this poor thing will actually have a chance this year. Usually the dogs have had access to it, and it unfortunately would end up trampled after serving as a mattress for a certain Chow-Lab.
Since the little guy was taking one of those lovely three-hour naps, I also had time to get more seeds in the ground. I'm sticking with the square-foot gardening method that I had such success with last year. More production in a small area. The bed I was working in this day is about 4' by 8' and was already hosting peas, spinach and lettuce.  The spinach is perking up after being transplanted from inside. I have a few more seedlings still in the house, but just in case I direct sowed more. 
I marked off one foot plots using old trumpet vine twigs. You can get fancy and build a grid but I've never gotten around to doing that. Each plot is dedicated to one plant.  I double checked what was likely safe to plant during an earlier reference check with The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide by Seattle Tilth. So, with my roughly-sketched diagram in gloved hand, I got to sowing:
Arugula - Rocket
Beets - Chioggia
Broccoli - Green Sprouting Calabrese
Cabbage - Savoy?
Carrots - Coreless, Half Long, Rainbow Blend
Chard - Bright Lights
Lettuce - Gourmet Blend, Red Sails
Spinach - Tyee Hybrid

Now, about that side work. This is a term I picked up as a waitress in high school. You know, all the stuff no one wants to do but it needs to be done so everything runs smoothly. On this particular day it included spreading a fresh layer of mulch along the paths. Unfortunately, I ran out of steam halfway through the task. It will be the first thing I resume once I get back in the garden. Another little addition is this short (literally two pavers) path bridging into the neighbor's yard. I'm hoping it will be a landing strip for the mail carrier that sometimes tromps through to shorten the route.

Ahh, bluebells. These things are like rabbits. I'm forever yanking them out of areas where they're threatening to take over plants I actually want! This batch was uprooted from when I erected the bean teepee several weeks ago. It had been tossed in a corner by the fence and doesn't seem any worse off. Definitely a weed ...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

OK, let's do this!

It's a cool 45 degrees out there and I'm hoping the rain holds off long enough for the little guy to nap and me to direct sow more seeds. While my tomatoes, cucumbers and beans will remain inside a bit longer, I've read or been told it should be safe to start carrots, beets, arugula and even some annuals outside. Just to be sure, they'll all have a home under the cloche until Mother Nature is a bit more forthcoming with her warmth. 
Speaking of the indoor seedlings, the bush beans are developing small violet buds. I'd thought these were going to be more leaves but clearly this is something different. I'm pleased to see this given I lost all my runner beans to impatience.

Outside, there's a few more signs of life. The highlight is of course the Corsican hellebore that dear Catherine at A Gardener in Progress gifted me. Look how many fat buds are on this thing! She clearly has a well cared for garden, so if you haven't visited get over there and check it out.

Hovering above the Corsican is a Camellia bush. I sheared this into a ball, a spousal request that I gave into over the holidays. It was likely not the best time but I did spot this large bud developing on one side. It may be the only one this season so I'll cherish it.

Yet another mystery plant in my parking strip. I have no idea what this is and whether I planted it. It remained just bare twigs over winter and now it's leafing out. Right now it's all of maybe 18 inches.  Any guesses what it may be?

Internal struggles continue on whether to prune my 'Gold flame' Spirea. The suggestion is to do so in early spring, but is it too early yet? This one has been in the parking strip for several years and is looking rather leggy. It's not terribly large, maybe a foot high and wide. It's always so difficult to shear a plant back once it starts coloring up. Any suggestions?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

It's a good thing progress is currently slow in the garden because I've had little time to be out there enjoying any of it. I sneaked out for a few minutes today while finishing up an article, though. There's a hot pink hyacinth jazzing up the area around the Pieris. It's next to the more unsightly, dirty pink flower that I'm still not too sure about. I'll need to look closer but inside there looks to be a spot of blue, too.

Flowering currant is gradually opening it's blooms. I'm watching this shrub closely because it's in a direct dog path, which means it could lose a limb at any moment.

More House Finches are swooping around the yard lately. This one was picking off these little berry-like fruit from a neighbor's tree that overhangs into our yard. They usually spend their time here or across the lawn in the stand of Arborvitae.

Birds also have finally warmed up to the bird feeders I added to the back yard last month. The trick is getting out the door to snap a clear photo before they flit away. Usually I have to settle on a through the window shot, like this one. I thought this visitor may be another House Finch but the band of color at the neck is a bit more orange. Back to the Web I go.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

SAGBUTT strikes again

The second meetup of SAGBUTT (Seattle Area Garden Bloggers United To Talk) went splendidly. Thanks again to Paula of Petunia's Garden for heading up this day and to Molly at Life on Tiger Mountain for reserving the room at Bellevue Regional Library.
There's nothing better than a gathering of garden minds. We had a few new faces this time, including Catherine at A Gardener in Progress, Bob from Bobsgarden.com and Curmudgeon of the WeedWhackinWenches. And of course special guest Matron from Down on the Allotment, visiting from the UK.

Topics ranged from the randomness of growing zones, I think I'm 8, to how to keep cats and other critters out of your garden beds. Matron mentioned using tubes of fake fur, which sometimes will keep birds out and may deter cats. I think my dogs would snatch it up thinking it's a toy but it's well worth a try in other areas of the garden.
Gardeners are such a helpful bunch. I jotted down tons more tips on why my beets went kaput (damping off,) how to make a full-spectrum grow light on the cheap and why calesthenics are good for your tomatoes because it strengthens the stalks. Guess all that caressing is a good thing.
Then came the really fun part of swapping booty. In addition to seeds and great tips, plants, cuttings, seedlings, divisions ... you name it we shared it.  I came home with pumpkin seeds, coffee grounds and aloe plants from Paula, tomatoes and brussel sprout seedlings from Molly and even a sweet little Pesticide Free Zone sign brought by Karen at Greenwalks
The signs are from the Washington Toxics Coalition. Karen explained all we have to do is sign a pledge basically agreeing to use the least toxic means of lawn and garden maintenance (done) and talk to at least three people about pesticide-free yard care (always doing that). There's also a followup questionarre about six months from now, but nothing too painful.
Meanwhile, Catherine brought several hellebores, including a lovely Corsican she'd set aside for me to add to my hellebore garden. I hope we have dry skies tomorrow so I can get it in the ground. It really is beautiful and will be a nice bright addition to the bed.
I'd say this SAGBUTT thing is turning into quite the success. Next month's gathering is tentatively set for April 18, Earth Day. WeedWhackinWenches are leading the charge on that one so keep watch for all the details over at their blog. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Promise of petals

A slice of sunshine caught my eye today. Closer inspection brought a smile to this gardener's face when realizing the daffodils are promising to open and spread their cheerful glow. It's been a slow week in the garden, despite some pleasant weather. I just haven't been able to get out there and yet things seem to be going so slow. I know before I realize it I'll wonder where the time has gone and will be worrying over not being able to catch up. A fretful gardener am I.

Potted hyacinth is blooming, this one under the Coral Bark Maple. I'm really not keen on this particular color. It's almost a dirty pink, and it pales next to the shocking blue varieties sharing the pot. This is obviously part of the mixed bag I bought last season because the colors run the spectrum. I can't wait to see what color will burst forth next.

Golden Hinoki Cypress lights up some of the darker areas of the garden with it's highlighted tips. I've got two of these in the front beds. They're small right now, about two feet, but can reach up to 40 feet. That detail I overlooked when planting one plant beneath a power line running to the house. I'll need to do a little editing, perhaps early spring or in the fall.

A quick peek under the cloche shows the peas are doing well. They're out there with some lettuce and spinach that have seen better days but is at least still alive. This weekend I need to build the trellis that will support these vines. I'm also going to try training some of my squash up the structure. Experts say it can be done with proper support. Why not go for it?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wait and see

This season will be remembered as the wait and see year. I'm not sure how many of the plants will fare considering everything that has been moved, replaced or dumped on by what seems to be an unusually frigid winter. Some flowers like the daffodils are taking longer than those I've spotted on other blogs ... or even around the neighborhood. These are well established so I'm guessing they're just slow out of the gate.

Last month I divided a Shasta daisy that was a mass of roots and grass. I've spread the individual plants throughout the front beds, hoping they'll take root and fill in many of the gaps out there. This is one of my favorite flowers and it will be much appreciated if it holds steady.

Pachysandra was uprooted during the backyard renovation. It seems to be maintaining, but I'm not sure if it's thriving. This can be an overused plant but I like its large glossy evergreen leaves. The flowers aren't anything spectacular, but it's in a dog-accessible area so the pooches wouldn't be marring any beauty queens.

Hebe 'Mrs. Windsor' displays a bit of her old self after suffering quite a blow this winter. Like most of my larger leafed Hebe, this one is showing severe stress and "burn" I guess. That spot of burgundy flesh gives me hope, however, that this may just make it after all.

The latest addition to my garden is Indian Plum, thanks to King County's Native Plant Salvage Program. Its already leafing out, which is promising. The female plants will berry, but I've read you need a male nearby. Anyone out there know if this is in fact true? And if so, does it need to be a live-in or can it just be some acquaintance down the street?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Could it finally be Spring?

Crocus blooms spread wide to soak up the sun. They're hanging on just as winter has done, much to the chagrin of many a gardener. These sweet flowers have gotten me through the last month, when it seemed like nothing was willing to shed a little light on a dark and dreary garden. They've also managed to keep their tops while most of the crocus at the front of the house have been decapitated during the night by some heartless beast (slugs?).

Looks like the Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape) is busily developing blooms under a cloak of spiky purplish foliage. This West Coast native is often found along city streets and around trees in parking lots because it's rather hardy even when exposed to the heat of summer. It really thrives in shade, however, and produces berries that are tart but apparently make a tasty jam. 

Thanks to many helpful garden bloggers, I now know it's sarcococca under the rhododendron by our front step. This bit of information allowed me to add another plant to the garden. I can't resist it's evergreen habit and lovely scented blooms. I've placed it near the path leading to the backyard so I'll get to enjoy it during my many, many trips back and forth.

Another perfumed plant is Pieris japonica, or 'Andromeda,' just starting to fill out with its creamy cascading flowers. We moved this large evergreen shrub away from the foundation of our house during the backyard renovation. Now it's by the stairs to the upper deck.  It's new location will provide for better viewing from the back of the house. It's especially delightful when new pinkish bronze foliage forms as the flowers fade. A word of caution, the leaves and flowers are toxic if ingested.

Hyacinth is starting to open a bit and add to the aromas around the garden. The blue hyacinth is in a pot on the deck, and it's just ahead of several I planted beneath the Pieris. I'm not quite sure about the color of the latter flower, perhaps it will be a pale orange like sherbet. Right now I'm not digging it.

Hens and chicks are nestled in a nearby pot. These were pinched several years ago from a rock wall along a city street. Yes, I know there's some debate about whether this behavior is a gardening no-no. I haven't helped myself since this plant, though!