Saturday, February 28, 2009

Spring Thyme and Stones

Red creeping thyme leaves are beautifully red when the snow melts. Once things warm up and the sun shines on the plants, the leaves will turn back to a beautiful dark green. I can't be sure, but I really think this plant grew larger under the snow. I don't remember it's cascading down through the stones like this last fall.

This photograph was taken before the rain. It is raining pretty hard. I can hear geese flying overhead. Apparently they don't mind getting wet. Rain will take away the snow and more of the garden will begin to show. Of course the soil is way to wet to do anything, but with Ed's stone paths we can walk in the garden and inspect everything. Probably the glimpse will be brief because I know we haven't seen our last snow storm. I can remember a snowstorms in mid- May here. Still it's great to get a chance to look in on old plant friends and make plans . Finally February is finished for another year!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Spring's There Under The Snow!

The sun warmed things up nicely today, the temperature climbing into the high forties. Nearly all of the garden is still covered with snow, but I put on my boots and Ed and I walked the garden paths anyway. The snow is shrinking away, and you can see at the base of the Russian sage in the center of the garden square that buds are popping where they were covered with snow. This is a well timed reminder for me that snow is so good for perennial plants here.

Russian sage with it's gray foliage and lavender flowers is a favorite plant . It has the center spot in the garden square for that reason. All this new growth is very encouraging. With luck it will make a great centerpiece for the garden. It's off to great start!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Growing Between A Rock and A Hard Place

Except for the night time rabbit and deer frivolities , there is not much happening in the garden. Here the end of February can be like that. I have my seeds. The packets are all alphabetized, but it's too soon to plant. We would only plant onion seeds now, but we will be using purchased plants this year after last year's successful crop.

The sun is out and the weather is warming a bit. The north side of the house is dripping. I wandered around looking for something interesting to photograph. Over on the south facing hill there are many surface stones that have been in place for a long time. I find the plants that grow directly on stones without benefit of soil fascinating. The growth on this stone reminds me of a coral reef.

The flowery growth on this stone is very flat and lacy looking.

This stone at the base of an oak tree has similar growth. I have not made a study of plants the grow directly on rocks. That's a project for another winter. Thankfully there's not enough winter left for that this year!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Last Of The Copras

Preparing today's pumpkin soup for lunch did it. I used the last of the copra onions. Nothing remains of the braid but the string and dried stems. I'm surprised and pleased to have red onions store this long. With the copras gone, the red onions won't last now. I still have lots of potato onions and shallots. I'm so glad because it pains me terribly to have to buy onions in the store.

It's a sunny , blue sky day. With the new snow it's downright dazzling out there. Right now there are drips from the eaves on the south side of the house, but nothing yet on the north side. Perhaps this afternoon the temperature will creep above freezing and melt some more snow.

Ed just came in from outside. Soup's on!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Another Snowy Day

It's snowy and the temperature is in the teens today. Most of the snow fell yesterday. Ed plowed the driveway, again! The rabbit that seems to be living under our porch took off like a shot when I shoved the snow off his "roof" . His speed and the huge distance between the tracks he left in the snow was astounding!

Looking across the valley to the north it is windy, snowy and cold. The far hill on the other side of the valley is obscured by falling snow. We spent considerable time watching a hawk in the Norwegian spruce trees. Shielded from the north wind, the beautiful hawk sat in the tree puffed up with her white and tawny feathers blowing up like Marilyn Monroe's skirt. I watched through the binoculars until she flew away. The bird is in the picture if you can find it. Later in the day different hawk was sitting in the same spot. It must be a prime perch! It has the comfort of a stand of spruce trees for shelter with a wide angle and long distance view.

I checked last year, and it was March 7th before winter closed in on me, and I reverted to childhood putting a garlic clove in water to watch it grow. This year I didn't make it to the end of February, and it was a carrot that ended up in my kitchen window. Perhaps a clove of garlic will join it there.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Looking In On The Plant Infirmiry

Remember Rosemary? Having been exiled to the basement far away from my over watering ways, this plant is making a comeback.
No, I can't say that the plant looks fantastic now, but it looks like it might just live to go outside and be beautiful once again. Stefan's base is in the background here. Don't get your hopes up there.

"Little Miss Fussy" cyclamen is looking much better. Exile agrees with her as well. There's something not quite right with that flower bud, but the leaves look great.It bruises my ego slightly to be rejected this way, but if some of my plants want to do Greta Garbo , who am I to quibble?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Warm Enough For Walls

Things are warming up a bit in the middle of the day. Yesterday the first robin was spotted alongside the driveway. When I went outside around lunchtime I found Ed here at the base of the big cherry tree that stands alongside the driveway. This wall marks a corner of our property. The cherry tree actually belongs to the neighbors.

Some places still have a covering of snow. In other places stones are still frozen to the ground. The surface stones here were loose so Ed found a place to work and this was it. After cutting off a pasture rose, he put a few more stones on this wall. It was a wonderful start to another season of wall building.
A chipmunk chattered in loud protest when he picked up a stone uncovering a cache of cherry pits. Like any housewife undergoing renovations to the house, the chipmunk found the process , the upheaval and the workman annoying. In the end there will be more space added to her conveniently located home.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hummingbird Futures

Peeking through the snow is a basal rosette of Lobelia cardinalis, cardinal flower. It's a big favorite here. The hummingbirds love it, and its deep red flowers and delicate structure make it so spectacular. There was a time when we had great difficulty keeping this plant alive. Now Ed divides it when the clumps get crowded and it grows in lots of places throughout the garden. This plant looks great so far. It has been covered with snow up until now. If the weather stays moderate, or if we get more snow before any deep freeze that might happen, this plant should be gorgeous. That is not to say that a cold snap would kill the plant, but both the cardinal flower and I would be happier without one.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

It's 10:00 AM. Do You Know Where You Are?

Here in no particular order are openings in the garden wall. All three of these pictures have a lot in common. They all show that the critters are in and out of the garden on a regular basis. They all show the snow shrinking away from the stone walls. They all show shadows. They are all taken from outside the garden square looking in.

So what's different here? The shadows are very different. The amount of shrinkage of the snow pack from the stone walls is different. Finally the direction the I am facing to snap the pictures is different. The north opening in the garden wall is not shown. That is where the wide opening for the patio is. The other three directions are represented.

So Sherlock, which direction are you facing and why? I wouldn't want anyone to be lost in the garden!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Southern Exposure

The back of the gravel bank hill is steep and wooded. It faces south and receives sunlight flat on and full blast at this time of year. Gravel lies just below the surface here. Soil is thin so nothing grows in abundance. This princess pine peaks out above the leaf litter with no hint of snow or ice.

A clump of moss looks beautifully green amid the leaf litter and lichen covered stones. Although Ed took these pictures today while he was working outside, there is no clue that this is February. We can't actually say how long the snow has been gone from this south facing slope. It is not visible from the house and today was the first day that Ed happened over that way. Who knows how long these plants have been uncovered? How wonderful is is to see something so lovely and green at this time of year!

Today is a beautiful sunny day. It's still cold, but the warmth of the sun is growing stronger. A red tail hawk screeched from overhead, and we stopped to watch her soar upward into the blue sky on the rising air currents. It's so good to be able to play outside again, if only for a short time!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Just a Hint of Spring

Our three day February thaw turned out to be nearly perfect. Some of the winter's snow is on its way down the river to the Chesapeake Bay, but dire predictions of rain, flooding , ice jams and high winds turned out to be overblown. The garden is not really uncovered except in a few places where the snow was thin. On some south facing slopes there are places where the deer can find grass to eat .

The driveway is beautifully clear of ice. There are still a few little slick spots, but what a difference since Monday. This morning a thin layer of "sap snow" covers everything. A picture of a local farmer and his grandson hanging sap buckets is featured above the fold in the local paper. We should be entering that period of warmer days, and below freezing nights that are perfect for the local maple syrup producers. More snowstorms will come , no doubt. Sometimes March has some interesting surprises here. As far as the weather is concerned, I could not have wished for a better week!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Brown Grass and Mud... WooHoo!

Not every gardener can comprehend my excitement about getting to see brown grass and mud. It' s one of the great things about 4 season gardening. The change is always so thrilling.

What an incredible improvement from yesterday! Ed spent most of yesterday working on the driveway. First he spread dark sand so the the sun could heat it up to melt down into the ice. Once the ice was pitted he had a chance to break it up and push it to the side with his shovel or his tractor. Mother Nature was on his side this time.The warmer temperatures and Ed's persistence changed yesterday's glacier into this lovely broken- up ice and mud.

Just a couple more days of this and the driveway will be all ready for the next snow storm. Of course there will be more snow. It's only February. Still it's really nice to be able to drive down the hill instead of sliding.

I had a special surprise today. We stopped to pick up the mail and I thought I saw a bluebird sitting on the barbed wire fence. We came up the driveway and indeed there was a flock of male bluebirds making their first, but oh- so- very -welcome appearance here. Now that's what I call a harbinger of spring.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Luge Anyone?

Here we are at the top of the driveway. I'm feeling really happy to be back here. Yesterday we crossed this glacier to visit our daughter. We enjoyed our time together. It was a great trip with two bald eagle sightings along the west branch of the Delaware River , fantastic snow- frosted scenery, a magnificent sunset and glorious moonrise. When we arrived home the driveway had refrozen. Only our all wheel drive Subaru with electronic stability control and Ed's driving prowess got us to the top of the hill . We very nearly didn't make it at that. The wheels were spinning and we were lurching toward the snow banks on the curves. Plans for travel today have been canceled . Time will be spent spreading sand on the ice. Hopefully, this week of warm daytime temperatures will clear the ice even though it will refreeze every night.

In our younger Flexible Flier days it would have been a thrill to come careening around the curves ,
hurtling down the hill at breakneck speed,
and screeching to a stop at the bottom of the hill. Of course the curves are not banked and stopping at the bottom could be problematic, but it would be exciting! Getting back up the hill could be interesting too. The hill quite a bit steeper than it looks in these photos. The sand is going on, if you really want to luge, I hear the run at Lake Placid is open!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Signs of Spring

The driveway has been solid ice for a month, and no wonder. The electric bill told us that January was 11 degrees colder in 2009 than it was in 2008.

We have been watching the weather forecasts in breathless anticipation looking for readings above freezing. This week we got a break. At last today the water is beginning to run. It 's flowing down the driveway and spreading out on the snow changing its color. We need several days of this to actually make a difference. It would be great if it would stay warm overnight. When the temperature drops at night things refreeze and are more slippery than ever.

I like to look on this as sign of spring. We have seen a few. No woodchucks casting shadows mind you. We haven't seen hide nor hair of them. We did see a dead possum alongside the road. Of course it was that unmistakable aroma and the dead skunk in the middle of the road that clinched it. The deep sleepers are on the prowl. Spring must be just around the corner.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Just A Trim Please

No, it's not Cousin IT. This is one of my lemon grass plants. We are definitely having a bad hair day. No maybe it's more like a month. It's time for a trim! I talk to my plants sometimes, but they keep mum.. Wouldn't it be nice if this plant could say, " Just make it all one length, I'd like to be 14" tall this time." That not being the case I just get the shears and begin. I give a nice pep talk while I'm working with tales of spring , fresh air, sunshine and warm all day rains. Perhaps the pep talk is for me. After I'm finished cutting, I remove any dead plant material I notice and give my plant a nice drink.

Now isn't that better? Ooops I guess my trim is not so even. Still, I think I'll stop there. I can always take a little off the top later when I want a nice cup of lemon grass tea.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Too Much Temptation

I can't even count the total number of garden related catalogs sent in my mail. Today there were four. When this new catalog came it really caught my eye. Look at the title, "Roots and Rhizomes". What a great name for a nursery! Next I checked for their location, Wisconsin, in zone 4. Wow that's the same zone as me! The catalog suggests that they grow at least some of what they sell. Oh my, hardy chrysanthemums field grown in zone 4. Their Siberian iris collection is the largest I have seen. Angelica gigas is an old friend lost long ago. Purple single delphiniums bred for hardiness fairly jumped off the page. For two flower starved gardeners trapped in the house by ice and snow, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. We finished an order, and called it in today. They told me that their catalogs are gone. If you didn't get one, you'll have to look at it online.

I must tell you I have never heard of this place before, but I have high hopes and expectations . Anyway, I love to get a box of plants in April. It's part of the thrill of spring gardening.

Monday, February 2, 2009

One Day's Difference

The profile of these wall snow caps was isosceles trapezoids yesterday morning. Their upper base was only slightly shorter than the lower base. Then a rare thing happened. A strong sun filled the afternoon sky and the temperature climbed above freezing for the first time in weeks. Dark stones absorbed the sun's heat and there was snow melt. The temperature fell back below freezing by sunset and ice crystals formed. I can see an ocean wave crashing toward the beach in the snow's profile. It is February and I clearly need some time in the sun.

Here is a written summary of the past month's weather here. Snow cover was continuous for January 2009. Daytime temperature remained below freezing for thirty days last month. There were several snow storms. One storm included ice and freezing rain. The ice accumulation was insufficient to take out the electric power but the ice remains in place. Our driveway has varied from a rink smooth ice coating to slick ice covered thinly with snow. The snow cover protected the plants from the subzero temperatures. The long period of cold could make for an excellent maple sugar season.