Tuesday, March 31, 2009

And The World Thinks Go

"April prepares her green traffic light and the world thinks Go."
- Christopher Morley, John Mistletoe

"April hath put a spirit of youth in everything."
- William Shakespeare

April is a promise that May is bound to keep, and we know it."
- Hal Borland

"Hark, I hear a robin calling!
List, the wind is from the south!
And the orchard-bloom is falling
Sweet as kisses on the mouth.

In the dreamy vale of beeches
Fair and faint is woven mist,
And the river's orient reaches
Are the palest amethyst.

Every limpid brook is singing
Of the lure of April days;
Every piney glen is ringing
With the maddest roundelays.

Come and let us seek together
Springtime lore of daffodils,
Giving to the golden weather
Greeting on the sun-warm hills."
- Lucy Maud Montgomery, Spring Song

Oh, and April is National Poetry Month, to boot.
Enjoy! Happy April, everyone! Fuchsia photo by JulenaJo.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Day Awaits

I'm giving myself--and you, friends--a pick-me-up nosegay. The fickle spring weather has brought me a little low. Last week was sunny and fairly mild, but today the temperature outside is dropping. Early morning sunshine has disappeared under a ragged layer of cloud that holds promise of raindrops and maybe even a few flakes of snow.

It's tempting to give in to a full-blown sulk, but before crawling back into bed and pulling the blankets over my head, I think I'll do something creative. I have a tatting work-in-progress. Art supplies beckon. I've two or three books at hand that I could delve into, including: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese and Laughter on the Stairs, the Beverley Nichols sequel to Merry Hall, which I wrote about on March 12.

As I peruse these options, the day doesn't seem quite so lost. Instead, it looks more like a gift. Of course, as I wrote this I sipped a large, energizing cup of coffee. I must be off. The remainder of the day awaits! Nosegay clipart from Dover.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Golden Wings

I don't remember when I first met the lovely rose, Golden Wings, but I do remember doing a double-take and saying, "Wow!" A large shrub or low climber covered with 5-inch, single blossoms of pale yellow, Golden Wings makes a beautiful statement in the garden. Each blossom is sweetly fragrant and sports a silky knot of stamens in its heart. Hardy in zones 4-9 and easy to grow, with attractive, medium green foliage, Golden Wings might be just what you need in your garden--especially if you want a bold shot of soft yellow there--and in your floral bouquets.

Golden Wings may be trained attractively up a trellis or sprawled over a fence, as I first saw it, but in my own garden I grew it openly as a shrub, allowing it ample room to gracefully spread to its full 4- to 6-foot height and equal width. The sunny yellow flowers complemented all the pinks and reds in my garden. Blue or purple flowers would be electric beside it.

Although Golden Wings received the America Rose Society Gold Medal in 1958, and the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit in 1993, an online search provided few links to nurseries supplying it. I did find it at www.davidaustinroses.com. A quick tour of the David Austin online catalog is dizzying, with each offering more gorgeous than the last. Check it out! Golden Wings photo by JulenaJo.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pussy Willow

A friend gave us a bouquet of pussy willow branches. The soft catkins really do look and feel like soft kitten toes. I don't have one of these trees in our yard, so I'm hoping they take root. As members of the willow family, they should do so quite easily.
This is a lovely sign of spring and it reminds me of first grade. A classmate brought in huge bundles of branches -- enough for every child in the class to take a few home. Mom put them in a vase. When my little sister saw them she was delighted. "What ARE they?" We told her, "Pussy willow." And then, wickedly, we both told her that kittens would grow from each fuzzy bud. As her excitement grew, so did our guilt. We had to fess up rather quickly. I'll never forget her mournful, "So kittens WON'T grow from them?" When we apologized and said no, there would be no kittens, she quickly lost interest in the pussy willows and in us. Amazing how much indignation she could muster up at that tender age. I smile, remembering.
Happy Spring! Pussy Willow photos by JulenaJo.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Unsolved Mystery

Speaking of the mysterious squill of two posts ago reminded me of another mystery that occurred in my garden. Years ago an acquaintance asked me if I would like to have some of her barnyard roses. She did not know what kind they were as they came with the property when they bought it. All she knew was they were the most beautiful white roses she'd ever seen. They were spring blooming only, she said, but they had an exquisite fragrance. I went to her house and was delighted to see the most gorgeous white roses--very large and blowsy. She was right: the fragrance was divine. I happily accepted her kind offer, and she dug up a nice clump of them for me.
I planted them in my rose garden among the pedigreed and named heirloom roses and the David Austins, and I looked forward to seeing them bloom the following spring. And bloom they did, with fragrant abandon. However, they were not white at all, but a sensuous clear pink. I was delighted as I prefer pink roses to white, generally.
When I told my benefactor that the roses were pink at my house, she looked baffled and said, "No, they are pure white." I believe she thought I'd lost my mind. It's an unsolved mystery. The only hypothesis I have is that the soil in my yard somehow affected the flowers, perhaps much in the way soil pH affects the color of hydrangeas. The mysteries of gardening are all part of the appeal, for me. Who knows what surprises the Garden of 2009 will bring? I can't wait to find out! Pink Bud photo by JulenaJo.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Think Green

I'm thinking spring-green thoughts this week in honor of St. Patrick's Day, March 17. The vintage postcard above caught my eye because it has roses, of course. Its verse is more St. Valentine than St. Pat, but I like it anyway. Hope your week is a green one!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Solitary Squill

I have in my garden a solitary squill. That's not the name of it. It's Scilla siberica by name. I mean there is only one. I originally obtained it from an elderly neighbor, Alice, who lived in a farmhouse half a mile down the road. The clump of squill never had a chance to proliferate in my garden before the Great Relandscaping Disaster of 2002, and after, a solitary squill would show up in the new lawn every spring, but eventually it petered out.
Two years ago, however, I noticed a few blades of "grass" growing where I had the dog run. As the grass hadn't really broken dormancy, I investigated more closely, and decided it was a bulb of some sort. I moved the dog so she wouldn't crush it and kept close tabs on it. When the clump finally bloomed, I was thrilled to see it was a solitary squill. How did it get from under the locust trees in front of the old house, where I originally planted it, to the side of the old barn, where the dogs run? I had no idea. Rodents, maybe? Seed? It is a mystery.
Before the plant could die off into oblivion, I transplanted it into my flower bed. It bloomed last spring, weakly, but it's coming up strong this year. I'm so happy! The photo above doesn't quite capture the true shade of electric blue of it. I hope it spreads wildly.
I saw a grassy field of them blooming at St. Charles Seminary near the cemetery and it seemed such an appropriate final resting place for saints. Fragrant, sighing conifers above, and a heavenly blue carpet of scilla below--very serene and peaceful. I'm sure there's scilla in heaven, and I could have a bit of heaven on earth in my garden if I could just get this solitary squill to be fruitful and multiply. I'll let you know how it goes. Scilla Siberica photo by John Crellin.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Merry Hall

Here in northwest Ohio, capricious March weather will afford at least a few weeks more before yard and garden work begins in earnest. I'm spending the time reading about gardens, and there is no more delightful garden writer to read than Englishman Beverley Nichols (1898-1983). I first discovered him years ago when I spied his Down the Garden Path (1932) on the library gardening shelves. The book told about Nichols' first garden. His love and delight in flowers is infectious--what he wrote about winter-blooming flowers, in particular, thrilled me. However, it's the razor-sharp wit that keeps the pages turning. He's a blend of Gertrude Jekyll and Oscar Wilde, if you can imagine that. Now I'm reading yet another Nichols treasure, Merry Hall, the first in a trilogy.

Originally published in 1951, Merry Hall describes the author's purchase and renovation of a derelict house and garden in post-war England. The sure way Nichols expresses his opinions on all things horticultural and human is delightful and informative. Nichols' account of the home buying process is blisteringly funny--especially hilarious is the description of his friend who rattles his keys with condemnation every step of the way. I laughed aloud at the antics of his gardener, the indomitable Oldfield, who turns a blind eye to anything and anyone meeting his disapproval. And who hasn't known a "Miss Emily," whose warm letter of welcome to the neighborhood reveals a shockingly bold attempt to manipulate. His telling of an offending hedge, and the champagne-soaked plan to eradicate it had me howling. I'll tell you one thing: I won't be drinking and gardening any time soon. I will be reading the rest of Nichols' garden books, however. Timber Press has reissued many of them recently. Check out the following website: www.beverleynichols.com.

Then hie thee to a library! Nichols books await!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Frog-Song in the Air

On the way home from work today I spied a lawn scattered throughout with purple crocus blossoms. A boy about 12-years-old had abandoned his bicycle on the sidewalk and was picking a few of them. He'd obviously been stopped on his ride to wherever he was going by the amazing sight of that beautiful lawn. The expression on his face was one of wonderment--quickly followed by a look of guilt when he saw me watching him. I had to flash a smile his way. I thought it was cute that he couldn't resist them, and I hoped the homeowner wouldn't be too angry.

I also saw buzzards (Cathartes aura) circling in the sky over the south side of town. It gave my heart a lift to see them--it's another sure sign of spring's return. As if that weren't enough, the spring peepers aka tree frogs (Pseudacris crucifer, see photo, above) were singing from the vernal pond in the woods behind our house when I arrived home. I know they'll be silenced in chilly days and nights ahead yet, but we are really on the last leg of our race to spring.

The bulbs are continuing to show green tips in my flower bed. I walk out and look at least once a day, marveling. It's amazing how they appear out of the cold, dank mud--you'd think nothing could thrive there. Although the new shoots seem to grow quickly, it will be weeks before anything actually blooms. I don't care. After months of silent cold we have bird- and frog-song in the air and a hint of green on the gently warming earth.

I have a lot of garden clean-up and pruning to do. Perhaps I'll tackle some of it tomorrow as I have taken a vacation day. Although it will be chilly, I think there will be a break in the rain, and I'm rarin' to go! Spring Peeper photo from the United States Geological Survey, an agency of the U. S. Dept. of the Interior.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cheeky Checker

I believe this little fellow is the white checkered skipper. All I know is he gave me a good chase around the garden last summer as I attempted a photo. I felt the entire time that he was laughing gaily at me. This was suggested by the jaunty angle of his wing, the cheeky way he darted off every time I drew near. He's tiny, and not very colorful, being mostly gray and white, but the bold checkering of his wing is attractive. He must have been drunk on lavender nectar when he finally relaxed enough to let me snap his portrait.

Off-the-cuff observations of the day: many of the migratory field birds are back. I've seen kildeer and assorted varieties of blackbirds. I've not yet heard red-winged blackbirds or the spring peepers call from the woods, but yesterday temperatures soared, so it won't be long. Today is cooler, and it's raining. It's funny how quickly we went from single digits to an unnaturally warm 75 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm glad it is more seasonal today. I noticed a few of the bulbs I planted last fall are breaking the soil. I'd forgotten where I put them so it is exciting to note where the green tips are showing up. I am not a planter of "drifts," much as I love to see flowers blooming so, because I hate to disturb what I already have in my garden in order to dig them in. Instead, I tucked a few things in here and there in hopes that they'd naturalize. This year's odd daffodil or muscari will be the lovely cluster in a few years. Sadly, I also see tender young dandelion leaves sprouting in the flower bed, along with other perennial weeds. And so, another season is about to begin. Checker Butterfly photo by JulenaJo.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

And God Said, "Let's Color!"

What I know about orchids you could put on the head of a pin. I've stated in the past that I am not much of an indoor gardener--these lovelies do not live with me. They were on display at Ft. Wayne. Aren't the fantastic form, colors and markings on these beauties incredible? I can't help but believe in God when I look at these. Yes, I have science training. I know about Big Bang and "evolutionary development necessary for procreation of the species." It all makes remarkable sense. But. LOOK! This is starstuff, wonderfully made, and in my heart I just know that after He made it, God took out Divine Magic Markers and colored on it. Orchid photos by JulenaJo.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Ft. Wayne Flowers

Everything from flats of colorful coleus to arrangements of exotic and unusual orchids were on display this weekend at the coliseum in Ft. Wayne this weekend. Gourdo and I took it all in, dreaming of what will happen here once the weather warms up.
We both bought seeds. Gourdo bought--you guessed it--gourd seeds. I'm wondering if he'll resurrect "Gourdhenge" this spring? It was a pergola-like structure covered with gourd vines. Quite impressive!
I bought flower seeds. Nothing too unusual: cosmos, larkspur, zinnias, etc. for the cutting garden I hope to install. I snapped up as many different kinds of sunflower seeds as I could.
There were lots of hydrangeas on display at the show. All of them were brilliant blue. I overheard people commenting about how their hydrangeas always turn pink. I think it's a challenge in this neck of the woods to grow them blue. It requires acid soil and ours just isn't. No matter how much I've tried to amend the soil with acidifiers, it never seems to turn them the brilliant blue of pot-grown hydrangeas. I think pH is easier to control in potted plants. Also, in order to give hydrangeas the sheltered location they crave this far north, I end up putting them near the concrete foundation of the house, and that in iteself affects the pH, in my opinion. I'd rather enjoy them as pink flowers and turn to other plants for spots of blue in my garden.
If the displays I saw are any indication of what will be popular in landscaping trends this year, I'd say colorful foliage plants like coleus will be big. Weeping trees are popular, and every kind of tree seems to be weeping lately. Using exotics as annuals is something I noticed. It seems as though every nursery carried a selection of exotics. There were lots of succulents, including varieties that I'd drooled over in gardening books and magazines. I refrained from buying any live plant material because I didn't want to play nursemaid to them for the two more months of cold weather that we have ahead of us.
Gourdo gathered flyers from a number of nurseries. We plan to take a spring road trip in May and check them out. It should be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to it already. Flower photos by JulenaJo.