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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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Garden Railway

Our top field is still blanketed in snow

Winter may have taken its last gasp in the Poconos, but spring has NOT yet sprung in my garden. Looking at garden blogs around the world today, I see irises, hellebores, tulip trees, crocuses, more hellebores, daffodils, columbines, and even roses (the roses are in New Zealand.) For a taste of spring, check out these and all the wonderful gardens on Carol's blog where she hosts Garden Blogger's Bloom Day on the 15th of every month. The snow has started to thaw here, but no blooms, just a (thinner) blanket of white. I'm sorry Carol, but I will be posting about a trip we took in warmer times, as I dream of the promise of spring coming to my yard.

My grandson, Jonathan, whom you have met several time on this blog, loves miniature trains. We took him to Longwood Gardens, near Philadelphia, PA, to see their garden railway, last year. He was there for the trains; I was there for the plantings.

See the hot pepper bottom right?

It may not be edible, but the ornamental hot pepper certainly warms up this space. An interesting annual for garden and planters.

Ornamental Hot Pepper Capsicum annum

A mix of textures near the waterfall in the garden railway

There were lots of grasses. I wished I had a 'map' of the plantings, or that there was more labeling. If a plant is not growing in my garden, I often have trouble with its identification.

 Beautiful blooms ...

Goldenrod Solidago 'Fireworks'

... and of course there were the trains, which Jon absolutely loved.

A pretty coleus at the edge of the track
They used a variety of screening, including this bamboo fence.

Jon and H.H. were reluctant to say 'goodbye' to the trains, but there is so much more to see at Longwood. We went into the greenhouses, sat by the pond, enjoyed the many fountains, and finally my favorite, visited the new meadow garden.

Rosa 'Maria' (my daughter's name is Maria)
The enormous lily pads are amazing
The main fountain area
I was eager to see the new Meadow Garden at Longwood.  This ecologically sensitive landscape offers more than three miles of walking and hiking with accessible boardwalks and interesting bridges. There are open fields, lush wetlands, and diverse habitats for flora and fauna. Other highlights include a Pollinator Overlook, eastern deciduous woodlands where the Lenni-Lenape lived, and the Webb farm with nineteenth century cow pastures.
The new Meadow Garden

“A garden, to be a work of art, must have the soul of the native landscape in it.”
-- Jens Jensen, Landscape Architect

 I resolve to return this year to spend a whole day in the meadow.

 Before we left Longwood Gardens, we lingered at my favorite spot which is so peaceful and serene....

A favorite spot if mine.

Thank you, Carol, for hosting Garden Blogger's Bloom Day; again I offer my apologies for deviating from the rules. Carol says you can have flowers every month of the year. I agree: if not in my garden, then in my memories.

Happy Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.
Pamela x

One of the many beautiful trees ...
... with interesting bark ...
... and fruit.

     Japanese Flowering Dogwood, Cornus kousa

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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Winter's Last Gasp

I awoke this morning to the sun rising over another snow-covered day. The weather man says there will be a gradual increase in temperatures; he says that today marks winter's last gasp. I hope he is right. And I'm glad he said 'a gradual increase' because our clay soil can better absorb slow-melting snow. I took some photographs through an upstairs window, then ventured outside to take a few more. These are the first winter pictures of my garden; I thought I should record the event before the snow eventually melts, as it surely must.

I haven't entered the potting shed for some time ... too much snow and ice.

H.H. kept the pond from freezing over by adding a pond heater and bubbler. Through his efforts, we trust the fish survived the record-breaking low temperatures. 

The pond drew flocks of birds all winter. Mourning doves visited every day. 
(I apologize for the blurry bird pictures, but I desperately need to clean my windows.)

Mourning doves enjoying the pond
One of several visiting American robins
Is this a Northern Mockingbird?

Birds are not the only creatures visiting the pond as we can see by the tracks in the snow. I didn't cut back the grass in the fall, because I thought it would add winter interest. Unfortunately, it looked messy all season. And it blocks my view of the miniature pine that I love. A lesson learned.

Animal tracks all around the scruffy-looking grass.
The weeping redbud adds wonderful interest in the snow.
The grass near the Woodland Walk is much better behaved.
Deep snow makes it impossible to cross the bridge into the Woodland Walk.

I measure the amount of snow by the bench that sits against the pasture fence. The legs are approximately 12 inches high. Today, the snow covered the seat. The yellow triangular sign on the fence says "Hummingbird Crossing." There are none yet, but I heard the ruby throated hummingbird has started its long journey back from Mexico. Such hopeful news as we near the end of this long, long winter!

 Although the garden is hidden by snow, I see many problems I need to solve. In the shade garden, the naked lady shattered when a skunk knocked her off her pedestal. She was the focal point of this area and we have to decide on a replacement.

The 'naked lady' will be sorely missed,
The picket fence at the front of the house is rotting and needs replacing.

You can see the other side of the fence on the left of the house.  The pickets are in really bad shape, but the posts are still good.

As I admire our new 'coconut' mat, I see the front porch needs staining. I know this applies to the back porch and the deck, also. My 'must-do' list is getting longer.

Looking into the stone garden, I see another problem. We need to disguise/hide the new generator. We are thrilled to have a whole-house generator that 'kicks in' whenever the power goes out. However, it is so UGLY.  I thought it would be more hidden by the lilacs, but even before the leaves fell, it was exposed.

Nothing to be seen in the stone garden except the generator.
 Evergreen plantings? Fencing? We need to put something around the generator.

Feeling extremely cold in spite of the sunshine, today, I was glad to be back inside. Before uploading my pictures, I took one more photograph (through the garden room window) of a dear, female bluebird.

The weather man says spring will arrive soon, dear friends who are living in an area of winter snow. I believe the weather man. He has to be right this time.

Pamela x

Hanging at my front door, I have a different picture slate for each season.

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