April 2nd, 2013 by Kristin Green
I hate to miss anything. Especially spring. And some years it feels like it just flies by before I can catch it. I think that’s why I almost prefer early spring to any other season of the year. It’s all about potential. There’s still a chance I’ll catch the season as it comes and enjoy it to its very fullest.
Everyone keeps asking, “When are the daffodils going to bloom?” Soon enough is what I want to say (their swan necks are bent into position). But isn’t it lovely that they’re taking their time? (I think their actually on time!) I find it much easier to appreciate (and find) the tiniest and prettiest now than when the whole trumpet section starts blaring (not that I’m not blown away by that). And it’s easier to notice the other beauties like the multicolored foliage emerging on the false spiraea (Sorbaria sorbifolia ‘Sem’), butterbur (Petasites japonicus) in full bloom, buds swelling on the Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), the burgundy leaves spiking native honeysuckle vines, and dawn viburnum (Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’) still blooming away.
One of our volunteers this morning also pointed out the stark beauty of our gardens, freshly tidied, almost empty looking but chock full of potential. She’s totally right – they’re gorgeous, though it’s harder to tell from a photo. If you can squint though you can almost see a long glorious and colorful season ahead…
Chilly weather this week should help to hold this thought. But as soon as we get another warm run of days like we had last weekend everything will begin to rush madly further into spring. If you’re trying to plan a trip around the daffodils’ peak, I would say come sometime around mid-April. But if you’re like me and hate to miss anything, including the gorgeousness of not-quite-there-yet, come now. And then come often.
March 29th, 2013 by Kristin Green
Gail and I have talked about using biological controls (getting “good bugs” to eat the “bad bugs” that eat the plants) in the greenhouse but aside from trying to not crash through spider webs on our watering and grooming rounds, and occasionally overwintering praying mantis egg cases in hopes of an early spring hatch, we’ve never tried it. Until now. Our good friend Crystal Brinson dropped off 3 bags of lady bugs this week and already the greenhouse seems tidier. And livelier. According to the package, our ladybugs (Hypodamia convergens) can each eat up to 5000 aphids and then lay eggs that hatch into alligator look-alike larvae that will eat their way to adulthood. Already our releaselings are looking … busy … and should be laying eggs near aphid infestations though I haven’t spotted any just yet.
The same day the ladybugs were released Gail noticed evidence of nature’s own IPM: brand new clusters of baby common or European garden spiders (Araneus diadematus). They look much too tiny to tackle any full grown flying aphids but they’re already busy stringing webs and no doubt a flash mob (the barest vibration scatters them into action) could make quick work of any prey bigger than they are. I’m thrilled to have two such excellent reasons to hold off spraying insecticidal soap on our aphid and whitefly infested plants.
Have you ever released ladybugs in the garden? Do you have any overwintering in your house? (Crystal says, no worries if you do. They’ll find their way out again the same way they came in.) Any chance they keep your houseplants aphid free?
March 26th, 2013 by Kristin Green
I’m always a little nervous to tidy away winter’s protective cover especially while the forecasts yo-yo between mild days and frigid snowy nights. But we’re opening officially for the season next week so it must be time to push ahead and welcome spring. Despite a certain chill in the air, it feels really good to get started and the timing is actually perfect. Especially for cutting back plants like lily turf (Liriope muscari) and epimedium that are just starting to sprout. (I think epimedium’s new growth might be almost as cute as tiny baby toes. Cuter?) I’m making a mental note that if I wait much longer to take care of that task in my own garden I run the risk of nipping that new growth as it stretches skyward. Yesterday’s cut back was also necessary to reveal Blithewold’s first batch of daffodils blooming under waves of old lily turf foliage and seedheads. It was an eye test to cut the that back without decapitating those precious daffs – we certainly couldn’t have used hedge shears – and we’re determined this year – for sure this time – to move those daffodils elsewhere just as soon as they’re finished blooming. (The best time to move daffs is right after they bloom and before they disappear for the summer. Exactly when every other garden task needs doing as spring speeds towards summer…)
We also cleaned up as many of the clumps of lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) that we could reach and that alone would have made the gardens look like spring is on its way. There’s something oppressive or maybe just excessively winter-ish about those brown matted leaves… I’m thrilled to see them go!
The gardens are still too wet to step into so we’ve been tidying mostly just from the edges so far (the Red Team was in today to start on the pollinator, cutting and North Gardens) and we’ll work our way in week by week. Our plan, to keep from compacting the soil this year, is to walk the plank — to put down boards to distribute our weight. That’s what they do at Christopher Lloyd’s Great Dixter in England and word is, their soil is as fluffy as a cloud. We want that! Have you tried that method? Do you use strategically placed stepping stones or do you just try to wait for the soil to dry out before stepping in to tidy up? Have you started clearing winter out of your garden? — Have you finished?
March 22nd, 2013 by Kristin Green
I have to keep reminding myself that this is normal. It might be unusual to be getting quite so much snow, but otherwise March is really behaving as March should. — Unlike last year when there were days in the 70s and 80s and the daffodils were peaking this very minute. That wasn’t normal. And I don’t wish it was. But it’s hard not to compare this year unfavorably to last. It feels for all the world that spring is late. It’s not. In fact, this year the daffodils might just peak during Daffodil Days, right on schedule. (Fingers crossed.)
Meanwhile, there’s nothing like the greenhouse on a sunny day to cheer me up and keep me on track. This week we had one good sunny morning (between snow showers) and a few volunteers came in to help us start more seeds and groom plants. It’s amazing how even washing leaves doesn’t feel like an odious chore when you’re starved for sun and warmth. And this morning Gail and I (mostly Gail) taught a behind the scenes in the greenhouse/propagation class. It was so lovely in here we went way over our time and it didn’t seem like anyone minded. I know I sound like a broken record but I have to say it over and over like a mantra: If you are feeling as demoralized by the weather as I have been feeling, take advantage of the sun days, even if they’re chilly – especially then – and come on over. The greenhouse door — the south entrance — is unlocked. (It sticks so give it a good bump with your hip to open it.)
Have you taken advantage of any chilly sun days to visit a greenhouse? Are you, by any chance, spending time in your own?
March 19th, 2013 by Kristin Green
I was only away from Blithewold for a week (and not very far away either — on staycation at home) but it’s amazing how much happened here in that time. Spring happened. Almost. The start of it anyhow. At least inside the greenhouse. The propagation house is chock-a-block full of seed trays — it’s hard to believe we can make more room but Dick, vegetable gardener extraordinaire, was in today to sow some more. And like a clown car, we stuffed four more trays (of eggplants and peppers) on the benches. The sweet peas are all up — and uneaten by mice. Such a pretty sight! The whole greenhouse in fact, is gorgeous. The scent of the Ponderosa lemon in full bloom is enough to knock me over. And our jasmine, which is only about a third open yet, is so strong it’s almost too much. But I’ll take it, breathing deeply, especially since I’ve been away from it. I realize now that I’ve been taking the greenhouse’s early spring totally for granted and even on a raw day like today, it’s kind of heaven in there. (If you’re nearby, please visit. Especially if you’re feeling as demoralized by the weather as I am.)
Outside, since we have another layer of slushy snow on the ground and are being pelted with freezing rain, it’s hard to believe that spring’s official start is only a day away. But there are more signs showing than there were a week ago, mostly in the bed just outside the Rose Garden’s moongate. I took these pictures yesterday… Click on any of the pictures for a bigger view or hover over for the caption.
With weather like today’s, we can be sure that spring – meaning the daffodils – won’t be extra early like they were last year. Probably right on time. We hope. (Did I hear more snow for next week? Say it isn’t so!) We’re opening for the season, snow or shine, on April 2 this year. And then Daffodils Days start up, whether still budded or blooming, on Saturday, April 6. Is March blooming in your garden? How about inside?