Sunday, March 14, 2010

I can just picture it

Now is the time to plan, plant and dream of all the garden will hold in coming months. Anticipation builds as you think about plucking the first pea pod off the vine or tugging a sweet carrot from the earth. I have to wait longer for those treats since I did zilch for winter gardening, but I can just picture how the vegetable garden will look later this year. The picture got a bit clearer today after a couple hours cleaning out the little bed and planting a handful of vegetables.
Now, I do have a few things that overwintered. Unfortunately I've lost the tag for this plant and don't recall what it's called. I was thinking kohl rabi. Any guesses or expert identification?
Here's the current winter view as you round the house to the south. In the foreground is our outdoor feline TJ, a skittish but lovey fellow who keeps both me and the neighbors company while we garden. Note the nearby coffee bags which are hopefully keeping down weeds in an area I want to use for squash. I'll try going vertical, building a sturdy trellis for the vines to climb. I plan to plant Jerusalem Artichoke around that hideous green compost bin. They'll be a first for me and hide the unsightly beast.
On to the veggie bed, which is nothing fancy but serves its purpose. It felt good to get out there today for a little late winter cleaning so I could finally get some planting done. In this half I've tucked peas I bought from the nursery. I have plenty of seeds but just couldn't help myself from grabbing a pack of sprouts. I also planted Chard 'Bright Lights' and radishes 'Champion.' Later when temperatures increase a bit more I'll put in Lemon Cucumber and Bush Beans, along with Zinnia 'Envy.'
Here I've put Lettuce 'Gourmet Blend,' carrots, beets, spinach, arugula, and 'Walla Walla' onions. I also tucked Sweet Peas in the corner where they can clamber up the fence.
Onions overwintered after scoring them at a SAGBUTT gathering last year.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

From a distance ...

Oh my how the weather has turned on us! The winter chill lingered well into the morning and a dreary drizzle has yet to do anything less or more. It's days like these when I wish I had more of a stockpile of bright sunny photos to share. Alas, I took a lazy way out today and shot photos from my front window. And behold, there are some plants out there providing a bit of spark beneath these gray skies!
A glimpse of what I believe to be a Flowering Pear tree, captured between the fork of our apple tree. I'm not sure about the "pear" and am only going on details given to me by an arborist. Regardless, it's one of two lovely trees we have in our parking strip. It seems it's only just coming into full bloom and already is dropping its petals in cascading drifts. Soon it will be nothing but leaves to provide us with some much appreciated shade during the summer months.
 A pale Daffodil has opened in the front yard, with several more ready to follow. These sprung up later than the more traditional sunshine yellow variety but are already well ahead in their bloom. They'll soon fade and eventually be replaced by the Iris in the foreground, along with some nearby Daisies. All of these encircle a very small Red Elderberry I planted last year.
Another bright spot, although somewhat tattered, are the primroses that never really disappeared during our rather mild winter. I've realized these are little troopers in the garden that just keep giving as long as you continue cutting back the spent foliage and flowers.
The apple is so close to budding out. I don't recall, is it too late to have this pruned? There are seemingly hundreds of suckers reaching for the sky. I hate to have to leave them and risk another bad "crop" or inviting those pesky tent caterpillars!
Weeping flowering cherry. This is the first tree we planted at our home and it has continued to please season after season. Its coppery bark peels off during the winter, then it puts on a lovely display of pink blooms come spring, reminding me of a girlie Cousin It.
Hmmm, a Forsythia planted last year and that I'm not sure is going to make it. We'll see how it makes the spring and summer months. I'm sure it will need some more supplemental watering. I do hope it survives as I love the bright glow these tree/shrubs provide in the dark of winter.

Mexican Feather Grass catching the wind on this blustery day. I'll need to get out there soon and give it a good combing with a rake. I learned these are one grass that don't always respond well to hair cut. This is also what has volunteered nearby in the crushed gravel path. I kind of like it but believe the husband wants to keep it clear. So anyone interested just let me know. I've already promised some "babies" to Catherine at A Gardener in Progress, but there should be plenty more.
Sedum 'Angelina' filling a pot on our front steps. This low growing ground cover is bright and durable. You can practically pluck a piece and toss it on the ground, only to see it established and happily growing weeks later. I've added it in some of the corners around our deck and between the pavers. I figure even if the dogs shred it, it will still come back!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Surprises around any corner

I had been regretting not getting any veggie seeds started until winter reared it's frigid head again, leaving a heavy frost on the kale and kohlrabi that has overwintered in the garden. We even saw a bit of snow and hail on Monday, although nothing stuck. Now the earth is too sodden to work, so I will focus on planning the garden and await any further surprises.
 
While freezing temperatures weren't a welcome surprise, I did find some bright spots while on an outing with the little guy at Gas Works Park. The park has a great view of downtown and Lake Union, as well as lots of open space for little ones to run. And as I followed my little guy around on his random explorations, we came across a sweet little raised bed that featured one of my garden favorites: Hellebores. Not sure what kind this was, but it really glowed against a gray cloudy sky.
  
This was what I first saw as we rounded the corner. Another large Hellebore, and could that be a Peony, already well on its way. My Peony is just emerging from the ground, with stems only about two inches tall.
  
Another Hellebore brightening the area. Perhaps this is 'Ivory Prince.'
 
The bed had some barren spots but I'll definitely return to see what surprises it holds later in the season.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Color my world ...

I never really have been drawn to Pansies, but these little troopers have me reconsidering. My little guy potted them last year in one of my Little Sprouts classes and they made it through this year's mild winter just fine. I really enjoy the vibrant blue set off by the cheerful yellow centers.
Blue Hyacinth sprouting up among the Carex on our back deck. It gives off a gentle aroma that sends me off on my day and greets me when I come home.
 
The first tulip bud emerging in the catwalk border in the back garden. If I recall, this is 'Flair,' which when it first emerges reminds me of those yellowy-orange popsicles
  
Columbine has reseeded freely around the back yard. It's a great filler, and this one in particular stands about three feet, adding some height to the perennial garden. Right now it remains in its green state, but it will send up mostly sturdy stems topped with pink petticoat like flowers that last for quite some time.
Astilbe is also just greenery right now, but it will eventually sprout billowy plumes of creamy flowers. I've another variety that isn't nearly as far along but has more crimson leaves and flowers.
Another Hyacinth potted near the back door. I like how this one catches early morning rays of sunshine. Last year I forced Hyacinths indoors and wish I'd repeated it this season. I guess there was no need since everything has come early this year.

Sweet little lantern bells of native Kinnikinick. I've spread this hardy ground cover throughout both the front and back gardens and in shade and sun. It seems to do best with a bit of shade but thrives in either condition. I haven't spotted any berries on any of the plants but it's supposed to get them fall and winter.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Come take a walk with me ...

Sometimes we get so focused on something that we forget the broader picture. Unfortunately when I step back in my garden, I'm still not entirely happy with what I see. But we are our toughest critics, right? Anyway, I thought I'd give a little tour of what I'm looking at as I spend most of my garden time in the backyard's upper garden.
My dilemma (at least one of them) starts just about here, as we stand on the lower deck and look west into the backyard. That raised bed holds Skimmia, Japanese Willow, Red Flowering Currant, Nandina, and a soon to be replaced dead Pieris. The big guy built the back fence and deck a couple years ago. It's a sweet little spot that I hope to eventually turn into a semi-secret sanctuary for reading or taking a nap. I just need to get all the plantings right. Of course, are our gardens ever really complete?
The raised bed is otherwise filled with Daylilies, Columbine, Anemone, Kinnickinnick and Lavendar. If you look closely, you may also spot the footprint stepping stones we bought from a roadside rock place during a roadtrip through Montana. I keep meaning to take a mold of them to make more. They're one of the few quirky garden art items I've had the courage to add. But the kiddos love them, and I do too!
OK, you don't have to look so closely for those feet here. But this is a snippet of the bed that I think is coming along nicely. I just added the Red Currant this week, and hope it will flower well. It's a bareroot purchase from Swanson's Nursery and I noticed it's behind other currants in our area. I'm trying to decide what flowers would go well around it, in that small patch of earth you see. Any tips?
Clearly an early evening shot of the south facing "native border" I'm working on. As you can see it's rather leggy right now but should improve as the Redtwig Dogwood leafs out. There's also a Snowberry shrub I'm hoping makes it, but I've only seen a few leaves so far and am a bit suspect. This border really needs some more oompf, though. It's an acidic area that gets the brunt of morning and midafternoon sun.
The White Flowering Currant I've shared in previous posts really enjoys all the sun it gets in the border. I'm considering adding the Daphne Odora seen in the pot but have read mixed suggestions on whether it's a shade lover or sun goddess.
PLANT HELP! Here's that poor Spirea that is really limping along. So do you think I should wait for it to flower then give it a hard prune?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Warming up to white

Don't you love to see a plan come to fruition, or at least appear to be on it's way? While cleaning up the back garden I took notice of a variety of white flowers in bloom or about to open right now. This is a big deal for me as I had set a goal, but didn't realize I was accomplishing it, to add more white or light colored plants to the backyard. It's the part of the garden we look out on most often, thanks to a picture window at the back of the house where we spend most of our time. I'd also hoped to have a bit more plants that we could enjoy at dusk while outside later in the summer. Mind you, what's on parade now are mostly late winter or early spring bloomers. But I was happy to see them nonetheless as I puttered back and forth, planting yet another Red Flowering Currant and hefting around compost.
White Bleeding Heart is filling in a corner of the catwalk bed. I was playing with Picasa's photo editor so all of these shots have been "warmified."
Ribes sanquineum, or White Flowering Currant. Nearly all the individual flowers have opened to form little snowballs along the stems.
A cloudy Hyacinth perfuming the area near the steps on the upper deck. My little guy enjoys burying his face in these flowers.
 
Pachysandra terminalis is flowering again, more than a year after most of it was uprooted during the backyard renovation. This shade loving groundcover is planted under my Skimmia, so it gets a respite from late afternoon sun.
Not the prettiest of photos, but this Anemone is definitely on the verge of opening. Too bad I dirtied it up during my compost spree. Grace, this is the plant I was thinking of for under your Magnolia. Please refer to previous "Anemone" post for a much more flattering photo!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

There you are

I'm happy to say my energy level has increased to the point where I've been getting out in the garden to do some much needed cleanup and editing. No doubt the lovely weather we've enjoyed has helped spawn this burst of hard labor! Unfortunately I haven't had camera in hand since I do much of the chores while the boy sleeps, and if I start taking photos nothing else would get done. Still, I managed to capture a few shots of some blooming plants in the garden. A couple of natives and a first-time bloomer for me.
Indian Plum is still blooming after a couple weeks, although I think it is on its way out. I read on Rainy Side Gardeners that the flowers are an early source of nectar for bees, but I haven't seen too much activity yet (although I've seen plenty of bees already!) Female plants will put on berries following flowering, but a male needs to be nearby for pollination. I'm not sure which I have, but I didn't see berries on this plant last year. It would be nice to add a couple more of each around the garden so I would increase the odds of fruit.
Azara microphylla has FINALLY put on the little pom-pom flowers known for their vanilla or chocolate scent. I've had this evergreen tree for about five years, when it was only about 12 inches tall. It really took off though when I planted it on the south side of our home but in the shade of a fence. When I first notice the flowers, I thought perhaps the leaves were yellowing. Makes me wonder if I'd made this mistake in the past! I really enjoy this plant for its glossy leaves and airy habit. It makes a great border screen without feeling like a wall. It supposedly responds well to pruning if it gets too leggy, but I haven't gone there yet.
White Flowering Currant (ribes sanguineum 'White Icicle') is another early bloomer in my garden, in this case along the north fence in what I've deemed the native border. It gets the brunt of the morning and afternoon sun, which it seems to enjoy once established. The plant can grow to about eight feet but mine took some early abuse from my Lab/Chow mix that enjoys resting near, sometimes on, the shrub. Despite this treatment, it continues to thrive and appears to be making a vertical climb this year.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

SAGBUTT Slacker

I had meant for March to be my chance to kick it in gear and get back to regular posting. Clearly that plan fell apart as the days shone bright and I had a chance to not only go plant shopping but actually get some things planted! I often wonder if I'm the only one who takes days to get new plants in the ground? Alas, rather than show the awfully dreary offerings from my garden, I'll catch people up on our SAGBUTT gathering last month at the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture.

Mostly it was time for everyone to catch up ourselves. But there was also talk of having garden work parties at one another's homes. This would be a great opportunity to share our gardens in person, as well as maybe get some free labor! The group also like the idea of inviting some of our local experts/celebrities to come give presentations. Gardeners are a curious lot, and when you throw blogging in the mix, there's always something to be learned. Some ideas included a photography shop (hint hint David Perry) and perhaps talks on container gardening (any takers?) We'll have to delve deeper into this.

As always, people brought things from their gardens to share. I have squat right now, so I just brought homemade chocolate chip cookies. But I scored a couple Oriental Poppies and a Black Lace Elderberry from Pill Bug's Point of View, and another 'Sugar Pie' pumpkin from Petunia's Garden. Molly from Life on Tiger Mountain brought currant cuttings as well as her wealth of all things gardening. And Karen of Greenwalks did all the planning and brought tasty food for us to much on, including adorable squirrel cookies. Very fitting for a gathering of gardeners. She also volunteers at the center and was able to get us a tour of the library, which is a fabulous source for all things gardening, from children's books to garden art. I went home with my limit of three books and plan to return soon for more!

It was decided we'll try for another gathering on March 28 at Bellevue Botanical Garden. I'll have more details in coming days, but for now I'll just send you off with a tour of some the happenings in the garden at CUH.
A lovely place to rest and enjoy your surroundings.
Winter Hazel 'Buttercup'
Stubby Tulips (some of Karen's faves)
Winter Daphne. I'm happy to say I now have one of these. I bought it, I didn't lift it from the garden!
A cheery swath of daffodils to welcome us into March.



I was in Hellebore heaven, can you tell?