Thursday, January 28, 2010

A budding garden

Signs of life can be spotted around the garden, mostly in the form of fat leaf or flower buds. I can't help but anticipate all that Spring will have to offer in the form of lush plants full of flowers. It's nice to just walk around the garden and enjoy the changes of this budding garden.

The lone Hellebore in our unfinished woodland garden is full of fat buds. I think this is "Ivory Prince" but can anyone tell for sure just by seeing the buds? I would appreciate any suggestions.

Bright green leaf buds are opening on the unidentified hydrangea. It had a rather sad showing last year after being moved. It may be in too shady of a spot now but I'm going to give it one more season.

A brave primrose has sprung up from the blanket of leaves along the front path.

Flowering Currant 'White Icicle' has several leaves unfurling along its branches. Somehow my plant has cascading branches that I'm not so sure I like. I was hoping for the more traditional characteristic of height about 5 feet to 8 feet.

Astilbe is already shooting up from the earth. I'm not sure if this is early, although it seems the case.

Redtwig Dogwood has lots of leaf buds along the rusty red stems. I'll give these a light pruning in Spring, March or April, to encourage new growth that will have even brighter stems.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The wonders of winter weeding

A few dry days followed by bouts of sunshine had me out in the garden doing some much needed weeding. I continue to battle the grass that has infiltrated the front beds, and I fear the only solution will be removing the plants and digging out much of the soil. That area makes me appreciate so much more the beds where there are only a handful of weeds needing only a firm tug to eradicate them. Still, weeding of any kind provides you a closer look at your garden and reveals the slightest of changes, which leads to the greatest excitement for eager gardeners.

Oakleaf Hydrangea clings to a few winterized leaves. I'm of another lazy gardener moment because this is still in the nursery pot it came in. But that's partly because I'm not sure where I should place it ... uhhh, another no-no I guess. Plan before you buy. But how many of us really do that? Especially when presented with a lovely plant that you have coveted for so long.

The first of my tulips are pushing up through the soil. I managed to spread a fresh layer of compost in the bulb border and hope this will give the plants here an extra boost going into Spring.

Daylily leaves are already a couple inches tall. These are practically no-fail perennials of which I will for sure add more to my garden. They're also pretty easy to divide, usually best done in late summer so they still have a bit of time to reestablish before chilly temperatures return.

Deeply cut Anemone foliage which last year I mistook for a weed and nearly tossed in the compost pile. It bloomed in April, much to my delight and I'm unsure if it ever completely died back. We had a mild winter, meaning no snow, and I'm curious to see if blooms come earlier this year.

An inky blue pansy the little guy potted up in my Little Sprouts class last year. It's been outside up near the house all winter and is probably farther along than some in the garden.

Latest tools in my gardening collection: a hori-hori from the dear husband and a canvas tool box thingy I scored in my family's white elephant gift exchange. I love the hori-hori because it's so versatile, serving as a knife, shovel or ruler. It's especially nice for cutting out particularly nasty weeds. Perfect!

For anyone interested in seeing exactly what I'm up against with the grass, here ya' go. To the left front of the Cherry tree you can just make out the foliage of my poppies. I must get this grass under control before they and the Lupine really start growing. Otherwise it gets rather tricky to get in there and yank it out. Grrrr ...

Monday, January 25, 2010

What have we here?

Searching for more winter interest in the garden can sometimes be quite the chore. My list of must-haves is already quite long but clearly needs a section devoted to plants that shine this time of year. However, I haven't entirely given up up on my little garden. And because of that it will surprise me with a bit of color, not necessarily in flowering form.

The tall bearded Iris has started it's regrowth. This eventually becomes quite the wall of deep purple flowers that literally are stacked atop themselves. Anyone who comments on them is promised a bag full of the tubers if I ever get around to digging some up. I've promised some to Molly since she sent me off with some Siberian Iris from her gardens.

These came with the house so I don't have the varietal name. But it really is quite a lovely flower, although I've never detected any scent, which apparently is common in Iris "Jane Phillips." My Iris are usually in full bloom by mid-May, and then they start developing really cool seed pods that I only notice in the past couple seasons thanks to my lazy gardening technique of not getting around to trimming up the dying foliage.

Catkins of Contorted Filbert are happily hanging out. I'd wanted this plant for a couple years and finally got one last year. It's been a welcome addition to the front garden.

A golden cypress brightening the front bed.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Retreat to Tiger Mountain

My garden is still suffering under the winter blues, rather browns, so when Molly from Life on Tiger Mountain suggested I come out for a visit I jumped at the opportunity. Free of husband and child, I was giddy with anticipation at seeing Molly and her 5-acre spread again. There are few things so pleasing to a gardener as gathering with other gardeners.

Molly's monster Japanese Willow is absolutely stunning in all it's winter beauty. My miniature version of this plant just doesn't compare.

My Hellebore obsession wouldn't let me ignore the double flowering variety Molly has in her shrub border near the house.

The lady herself taking black currant cuttings to share with her visitor. Me! The key to propagating this shrub, she says, is to just shove a cutting in the ground. I think she has more knack than me but we'll see how it goes.

Help Molly! I don't recall the name of this tree. I only know that I always admire it. UPDATE: Molly confirms this is a Sumac. Have added it to my "must have if I can only find room" plant list.

"The pink contractor's tape is in full bloom," Molly quipped as we neared her developing hedge row running along the property closest to the main road. This is how she tracks what she wants to keep, as well as reminds her dear husband what he isn't to remove or mow over. I love this idea and know I need some of that tape around our garden!

The ladies and their gentleman were chatting up a storm as Molly collected the day's eggs. How wonderful to have fresh eggs at your disposal. I'm still trying to wear down my dear husband so I may have one, even better two!

I left Tiger Mountain loaded with fresh eggs and bay leaf, black currant, black pussy willow and variegated hydrangea cuttings. But I most enjoyed wonderful conversation with my host as well as soaking up all her gardening knowledge. Thanks for a much needed garden retreat Molly! Hope to see you at the February gathering of SAGBUTT.

Friday, January 22, 2010

It doesn't take much

It doesn't take much happening in the garden to stir excitement in a gardener. In my case, I'll take anything new that happens to be sprouting or blooming, with the exception of weeds of course. Unfortunately the garden seems especially naked right now since my plant purchases were few and far between last year. It gets more and more difficult to escape to a nursery when there's 2-year-old keeping you busy. But a slow stroll through the garden today turned up a few surprises and some expected standbys.

A tender leaf unfurls from the unworldly looking crown of a Rhubarb plant. You can just make out the crimson red stalk that I hope will end up in a tasty desert or more this season. My mom sent me the recipe for a rhubarb cake that I'll be sure to share if I can harvest enough for the recipe. I planted this cool season crop last year, and according to Victory Seeds, the second year is a better time to harvest.

Everyone is talking about their daffodils coming up so I figured I should see what mine are doing. Not much, but they're trying. I bought about 50 bulbs last fall but had another lazy gardener moment and never got around to planting them. Maybe this spring ... I really should make a list of chores.

Hellebore is a wonderful standby in my garden. I've almost uncovered all the plants from beneath a blanket of leaves haphazardly raked aside during the winter. This particular plant is my oldest Hellebore, about five years old. It's right next to the stairs leading to our front door, protection that I think gives it a bit more protection. So much so that I'm not sure it ever stopped blooming this year!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

There's promise here

I can be a rather lazy winter gardener, opting to stay inside with garden books and magazines instead of doing that tedious side work - raking leaves and pulling any stray weeds - that I know would make spring preparation so much easier. It is for that reason that a late winter stroll through the garden stirs a mix of anticipation and loathing. Although I spy early crocus or the beginnings of Hyacinth bulbs that will eventually perfume the air with their sweet scent, it's all that promise that highlights the drab ravages of winter that have dominated the garden for several months. Now is when I must dig deep, sometimes literally, and find the signs of life the garden still holds.

Brussels sprouts overwintered and have become quite monstrous. I'm embarrassed to admit I haven't been very diligent (again, lazy winter gardener) in harvesting these miniature leafy buds. They're a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as folic acid.

Sedum 'Autumn Joy' is already crowning. These tiny florettes heave up around dry stalks of the previous year's growth. By leaving the plant through the winter, I maintain a bit of sculptural beauty in the garden and again escape some of my duties. I'll likely remove the dried sticks in a couple weeks, or when they're just too raggedy to look at anymore.

The vegetable garden has a few more tasty winter treats that I have overlooked. I believe the plant on the left is mustard, but don't hold me to it. These greens are planted among a cover crop mix of field peas, crimson and dutch clover, rye and common vetch. There's also some garlic 'Crystal White' plunked in this bed. of

Japanese Cedar turns a rusty color in the winter, which at first had me in a panic that I had killed it. It's normally a bluish green evergreen that supposedly is a fast grower. I haven't seen signs of a growth spurt as of yet.

The naked truth of winter gardening. And this was AFTER I cleaned up this bulb bed. Here is where I must turn to summer photos to remind me of all this little spot has to offer!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Old friends back to visit

A couple hours of cleanup yesterday meant I could enjoy a bit more of the little the garden has to offer today under some rather murky skies. Pale lavender crocus have thrust their way through the earth to brighten the dappled shadows beneath the naked Japanese willow.
The Indian Plum looks like it may make a decent showing this year after I brought it home more than a year ago after volunteering with King County's Native Plant Salvage program. This deciduous shrub is only about  three feet right now, but should eventually reach roughly 15 feet. I'm hoping for some spring flowers to bloom this year. And we'll have to see if it puts on fruit, which will tell me this is of the female variety.
Corsican Hellebore in the woodland garden. This lovely has survived trampling by my dogs, thanks perhaps to strategic placement of some stumps salvaged from a friends yard.

Some berries linger on the female Skimmia placed near the back gate, just as you walk down steps into the backyard. I'm surprised these managed to make a full-scale assault by my little guy and several of the children who attended my Little Sprouts classes. They made a fun game of plucking the fruit and launching it into the grass. Let's hope this plant doesn't easily sprouts.

The first glowing bloom of Witch Hazel 'Diane.' It's right on time with it's late winter bloom, but I still don't detect any aroma as some have noted. Still, it's enough just to have a bright spot in the garden as the days waffle between gay and gloomy.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hello 2010, please be kind ...

You know you've been gone too long from the blog world when you have to sign into your own site! Today's unexpected burst of sunshine prompted me not only to get out in the garden, but to post a little something to ease myself back into the blogosphere.
So today, finally, I timidly say hello to 2010. It is with a hope that this year it will be kind to our family, as the last was full of too much loss and heartache. While the emotional wounds are still tender, I again find myself turning to my garden for solace and healing.
Slipping on my gloves and feeling the familiar weight of my sturdy pruners, I went to work cleaning a small section of the garden beds. The task was rejuvenating, not only for a mushy, mucky garden, but for this grief-stricken gardener.
No photos were taken today, as the camera has been absent from my garden for more than three months. While much of gardening and garden blogging is about what we can all share, today it was simply an opportunity to clear the mind and cleanse the soul. There will be time to seek out early signs of spring or spots of color against a muted backdrop. I just wanted to recapture that sense of normalcy and peace I feel when so close to nature.
And as I begrudgingly hung up my gloves and replaced the pruners, I gave silent thanks for a lovely day spent in my garden. I say, "Hello 2010. Please be kind."