April 5th, 2013 by Kristin Green
Daffodil Days start tomorrow and I’m thrilled to report that some daffodils (and a few other spring ephemerals) have arrived early for the festivities. And thousands more are on their way… Every hour from now on that the sun shines a few more will open to brighten the woods and paths. Gail and I still predict that their peak will be closer to next weekend than this but in the meantime, red-winged blackbirds are calling, there’s a blue haze of Siberian squill and periwinkle in the Bosquet, skunk cabbage are out down by the water garden, and Spring is really starting to look spring-like all over the property. (You know what I mean.)
This week we and our volunteers worked more to tidy up in the Display Garden (which from here on in I will refer to as the Idea Garden because this is where we try new plants, combinations, philosophies and hope that visitors will be inspired to take our best ideas home). We spent the coldest, windiest day in the sunny greenhouse potting on last fall’s cuttings, transplanting seedlings, and starting more seeds. (Tomatoes, basil, amaranth and celosia mean summer is coming!) And yesterday we pruned the Rose Garden roses (hard – now’s the time) and almost finished preparing the climbers for their outrageous June show. (Our hands look like we caught the pox or tangled with tigers.) So we’re officially ready for the season to keep going the way it’s going. Slow and steady. Our cat-scratched fingers are crossed that we won’t see snow again until maybe December… and we’re perfectly willing to wait until June for any 80° days.
What’s your latest spring update? Please send along a link if you’ve written about it and/or taken pictures.
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?