Monday, April 13, 2015

List Making and First Blooms

 I am a born planner. When faced with a task, I make a list of what items I need in order to accomplish it, and a list of steps to take. This trait served me well in my 'former lives' as a school teacher, K-8 librarian and eventually school administrator. But when I retired to indulge my gardening passion, I just wanted to do it and figure out how as I went along. I soon realized this visceral and visual approach was not enough to accomplish my goals. I needed to write down my plan, give myself a timeline, and yes, make lists. At the beginning of each gardening year, therefore, I walk around my garden with paper and pencil and start making a master list. The finished list can look very daunting, but it is amazing how much I check off by the end of the year.

Today's master list includes a lot of hardscaping tasks, because none were accomplished last year due to my health problems and time spent in England with my mother's passing. It includes painting outbuildings, staining porches, and replacing broken fencing. Some are jobs H.H. and I wont necessarily do ourselves, so I write down who I need to employ and determine a timeline. My goal this year is to get the garden spiffed up before the end of June when we are open for a county tour. The weather has been awful, so we haven't accomplished much yet. This weekend we installed the new statue in the shade garden. You may remember a skunk knocked over, and shattered, the 'naked lady,' as my grandson's called her. I hope we made the new one a little more secure.

Allegrain's 'Bather,' our new 'naked lady,'

Picking up downed branches from all over the property, tidying the beds, and applying a 4 inch layer of compost to each of them, feature high on the softscaping list. This is a list of the real gardening. We made a start with cutting back those grasses and perennials that I allowed to stand all winter for interest and for the birds. I started some pruning, too.  I am not making any new gardens this year, because H.H. threatened divorce if I do, but I am renovating the Woodland Walk by adding lots more shade garden plants: brunnera, foxgloves, Adromeda, primroses, coralberry shrub, waxbells, and more hellebores. I am so.o.o looking forward to plant shopping

As I work in the garden this week I am disappointed to see that this extremely late spring means few blooms: only crocuses, two snowdrops, one hellebore, and this morning I found just a couple of daffodils open to the morning sun. I looked back at photographs taken in 'Aprils Past' and found very different springtimes, so I am including some of those pictures. But first, here are today's blooms. It is the season of Firsts:

First crocuses, 2015

First hellebore, 2015

First daffodil, 2015

First snowdrop, 2015

For my first blooms I am linking with Carol at May Dreams Gardens where she hosts Garden Blogger's Bloom Day on the 15th of each month.

Back to list making: There are online resources to enhance your experience, such as Scribbles or Work Flowy. Personally, I am happy with a pencil and the back of an envelope, but I do like to type up my final checklists and print them out.

April 7, 2010

An article in Psychology Today explains how 'Making Lists Can Quell Anxiety and Breed Creativity.'
Of the six benefits cited, my favorite is
Combat avoidance. Taking abstract to concrete sets the stage for commitment and action. Especially if you add self-imposed deadlines. Carrie Barron

April 14, 2011

I agree with Branson that it is important to 'find a list method that works for you.' Click here for Richard Branson's top 10 tips for making lists. Doodles, bullet-points, charts what suits you best?' And I agree with Sidney Eddison, in her wonderful book, Gardening for a Lifetime, that prioritizing is essential.

April 7, 2010
March 15, 2012
April 9, 2014
April 7, 2010
April 9, 2014

At the beginning of each week I pick tasks from the master list and make my weekly list. This is a more detailed to-do list of jobs both large and small that I hope to accomplish that week. Each day I pick some of those tasks and, depending on the weather, I check off as many as I can. If I have little time that day, I pick something small, like staking a peony. I keep the daily list short to fit in with all my other obligations. I love the feeling of satisfaction as I tick off a box.

Like my garden, my seed starting was late this year. I set up the seed starting station, but didn't keep to my planned schedule. I blogged about my kitchen garden's beginnings here. I have learned that while list making is a great organizing tool, I cannot beat myself up if I don't meet my goals. I have found, however, I am more likely to reach my goals with lists than without.

Seed Starting Station takes over one end of the dining room.

List making has a long history and was practiced by many historical figures including Benjamin Franklin.
'The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible… And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists…'        Umberto Eco
Do you make gardening lists? If not, I strongly suggest you give it a try.

Happy Gardening,
Pamela x

The goldfinches have their yellow feathers. It IS spring!

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Monday, March 30, 2015

In a Vase on Monday

One of the many joys of garden blogging is linking with gardeners all around the world to see what is growing in their yards each week of the year. This is especially gratifying during those months when nothing is blooming here. One of my favorite memes, 'In a Vase on Monday,'  cheers me on those bloom-barren days. 'In a Vase on Monday' is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. My recent, enjoyable exploration of Cathy's wonderful blog revealed that she lives in a part of England near where I was raised. Needless to say, I am now a follower. Now, for the first time this year, I have something blooming to place in a vase: the branches I forced last week. This posting, therefor, is my initial participation in Cathy's meme.

To learn how I forced the branches you can read last week's posting here. I forced forsythia, crabapple, bridal veil spirea, and mock orange. The forsythia is blooming, the other branches have fattening buds. I added pussy willow boughs that I bought from Shoprite.

White hoary frost on Ground crunches beneath my feet Forsythia blooms

Read more at:
White hoary frost on Ground crunches beneath my feet Forsythia blooms

Read more at:
Fattening buds on the crabapple.
Green buds on the spirea and mock orange.
Pussy willow's furry catkin.

The vase I used is a new acquisition from Home Goods. We were looking for accessories for our bathroom renovations when we came across this beauty. I purchased a matching dinner plate to complete the look.

Flowering Bulbs Update

The bulbs I showed in my last posting, tulips, hyacinth, violets and daffodils, are now in full bloom...

I wish you could smell the wonderful perfume of the hyacinth.

I deadheaded the daffodils and await  new buds to open. I made a vignette atop the jelly cabinet in the kitchen. Lots of pretty English china in that spot.

I placed tulips on each bathroom vanity, as an excuse to show off the renovations now they are completed.

Peach-colored tulips in the downstairs bathroom.
Red tulips on the new Victorian vanity in the master bathroom.
If you have two pennies,
spend one on a loaf
and one on a flower.

The bread will give you life,
the flower a reason for living.

Chinese proverb

Going back to my vase of forced branches: I probably wont participate in the meme every week, but I will be sure to visit Cathy's blog regularly to check out her arrangements and concoctions from bloggers around the world. Wont you join me?

What are you placing in a vase today?
Pamela x

Pussy willows and vase gifted to me by my friend Karen some years ago.

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Celebrating the Arrival of Spring

Spring arrived on the 20th, and not a minute too soon. To celebrate, I indulged in my first-day-of spring traditions: forcing branches and buying pots of spring flowers. I decided to force some branches first, as there was a snow storm forecast for later that morning. I saw that the old snow had melted enough for me to reach the forsythia, inaccessible for weeks, at the edge of the Woodland Walk. I thought I should get out there before the route was again blocked by the white stuff. On the way, I was thrilled to find the first snowdrop, peeping through leaf debris in the shade garden. Yes, spring has arrived in my garden!

"And the Spring arose in the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
Rose from the dreams of it's wintry rest. 
The snowdrop and then the violet,
Arose from the ground with warm rain wet."
-- Shelley

I gathered branches of forsythia, crabapple, bridal-veil spirea and mock orange. I prefer to do this on the day I prune my shrubs and trees, but it was too cold for me this week with temperatures still below freezing. I would have preferred milder temperatures for today's job because when it's mild, branches and buds are more pliable and better transition from cold outdoors to warm indoors. But, despite the cold, I didn't want to break with tradition.

I added floral preservative to a bucket of warm water and set it on one side. I filled a sink with hot water (but not hot enough to scald my hands) then, holding the stems underwater, I recut each branch at at a sever angle a couple of inches above the original cut. Hot water is important because it contains the least amount of oxygen which can block water from being taken up, preventing hydration. After recutting the branches, I placed them in the prepared bucket of water and put them in a cool place. I will change the water and add new preservative each week. As the buds start to swell and burst into bloom, I will arrange the branches in vases.

The forsythia needs pruning, but it was too cold for me!
I placed the recut branches in warm water containing floral preservative.

I finished the task just as the promised snow started to fall. We left immediately for the store to look for flowering bulbs.

Snowing again

But first, we stopped at Tractor Supply to visit with the baby chickens and ducklings. Their arrival is a sure sign of spring. I couldn't get good pictures with my phone, but you all know how cute the fluffy little chics are. I'm still trying to persuade H.H. to let me keep a couple of hens and a rooster. This is a farm after all.

We went to two stores for flowering bulbs. The first one, Weiss, had beautiful tulips. They were  in full bloom and very spring-like. I though, however, they wouldn't last long, so we tried Shoprite. All their flowers, except the miniature daffodils had buds. I bought a red tulip and a yellow one, a hyacinth, a violet, and the miniature daffs. Then I spotted a dear little shamrock that would look lovely in one of my miniature gardens, so I bought that, too -- well it is still March. Oh, and some pussy willow to put with the branches I forced.

Happy with my purchases, we headed home. By this time, a couple of inches of snow had fallen and the roads were treacherous. I was so glad H.H. was driving. We couldn't make it up the mountain road, so he had to back down and take another route. We arrived home safely!

The mountain road leading to our farm was snow-covered and slippery.

I watered all my purchases and lovingly placed them on the dining room table where I hope they will bring joy for several weeks, at least until I have plants (more than one snowdrop) blooming in my garden. 

Tulips, miniature daffodils, violets, shamrock, and hyacinth bring spring into the dining room.

Mini daffodils in an antique teapot; shamrocks in the sugar bowl.
Daffodil Narcissus 'Tete-a-Tete'
Irish Shamrock Trifolium dubium
Tulip, Tulipa

I placed the violet under a cloche that H.H. found at the Salvation Army Thrift Store. He paid $3 or $4 for it. Great find, eh?

Violets under the cloche.

I watered my houseplants, too, and couldn't resist photographing the fabulous buds on my zee zee plant.

Beautiful spring buds on the zee zee plant.

I am linking with Donna at Garden's Eye View for her Seasonal Celebrations meme. (Click on the colored words to read other gardeners' celebrations.) I agree with Donna with my whole heart when she says, 

"As I don’t want to hurry up life, I have decided to embrace each moment of each day in each season….even if it means I have to wait another month for spring to arrive in my garden." 

I am too old to 'wish my life away' now. And in spite of the snow, I enjoyed my first day of spring.

How do you celebrate the arrival of spring and all it's promises?

Pamela x

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