Saturday, April 30, 2011

Water Plants

Yellow Flag Iris pseudacorus
This week we opened the fishpond. It was still covered with the protective net, the water was very murky, the plants were in a crate at the bottom, and the waterfall was not hooked up. We were late starting-up the pond for the spring, due to the crazy weather, especially heavy rainfall. The best time to do this task is between St. Patrick's Day and Easter, and with a late Easter, we were really behind schedule. The same garden-center pond-experts who helped us prepare the pond for winter (read Winterizing the Fish Pond ) took the steps required for springtime start-up: They pumped out a third of the bad water, replaced it with fresh water, and added liquid bacteria and salt. They hooked up the pump and filter and started up the waterfall. They used the 'bubbler' (that oxygenated the pond during the winter) for a fountain at the edge of the pond, with the 'boy holding a goose'. I was very happy with the result:

For me, the best part was adding some new water plants. I chose just half-a-dozen perennials to start with, and we will add water lilies and water hyacinth after the last frost date.
Here is a list of my new aquatic plants:
Iris (see lead picture above
The iris grows from 18 inches to 2 feet tall. It is a prolific bloomer from early spring to midsummer.

Varigated Pennnywort Hydrocotyle sibthorpiodes
Pennywort grows 4 to 6, inches, forming flat lily-like leaves. It is a surface creeper.

Parrots Feather Myriophyllum aquaticum
Parrots Feather is a floating aquatic oxygenating pond plant. Each plant will cover 3 to 4 feet of the surface.

Floating Heart Nymphoides pelta
Yellow floating heart is a perennial, waterlily-like plant that carpets the water surface with long-stalked heart-shaped leaves.

Annacharis Elodea canadensis
Annacharis is an oxygenator plant that competes with algae. It acts as a filter in the pond. It was tied to a rock and placed in the bottom of the pond.

Blue Sedge Carex glaucescens
Blue sedge is a typical sedge plant with triangular blades that have a blue tint. It grows 12 to 18 inches high.
Chi-chi Ruellia
Chi-chi has a trumpet-like flower and prolific blooms from late spring to summer. It is multi-stemmed and grows 18 inches high.

Variegated Sweet Flag Acorus calamus
Sweet flag is a grass-like plant that grows 12 to 16 inches high. It has a sweet odor when cut.

Of the small number of plants that we over-wintered in the crate at the bottom of the bond, only the two blue sedges seem to have survived. When they were pulled up, we were fascinated to see that they had been used by toads to anchor their eggs. This shows the importance of aquatic plants -- not only do they oxygenate, provide food and protection for the fish, but are used to anchor eggs.

Strings of toads' eggs attached to a blue sedge water plant.
We saw and heard numerous frogs and toads in the pond all week. It seems we will get many more, as there are lots of eggs. It is easy to tell toads' eggs from frogs' eggs. Toads' eggs look like long strings of black beads, held together with clear jelly. I look forward to seeing the tadpoles. I hope the toads eat the slugs in my vegetable garden! Incidentally, the koi fish are becoming a little more active, but they still hide for most of the day.

My thanks to Ryan and Rocco for their hard work with the pond ...

... and a special thanks to Ryan for giving me the descriptions of the water plants.

Spring has sprung in several parts of my garden. The blue of the grape hyacinths in the shade garden is stunning! Many of the daffodils are past their peak, but this morning I photographed one of the double daffodils - gorgeous! I planted pansies and Johnny-jump-ups in the window boxes. A vary large rabbit visits often and I need to spray a deterrent, but we are still having frequent rain showers. I was delighted to see the humming birds on the feeders. I put the feeders out on Monday and the first hummer was there on Tuesday. You can see these spring joys in the collage below.

In addition, the catbirds are back. I saw one on Monday collecting hair from my mini horse to line its nest. And H.H. saw a bat last night flying around the pond -- searching for insects.

How I love the spring! I have started my early-morning routine of walking through my gardens, coffee cup in hand, looking for newly arrived blooms and shoots, and planning the days work out there. This morning, I startled some deer in the lower field.

Look closely; there are two deer in the picture.
It was a week of good events and bad. The devastation caused by the tornadoes in Alabama and across the south is unimaginable. I am relieved that Chris, The Redneck Rosarian, is safe. We pray for those who have lost loved ones and homes.

The good news was the royal wedding. I got up at 4:45 am and I loved every minute of it! I think the best review is by Crystal Coast Gardener. Kyna is so very witty. Do read her post about William and Kate.

Have a safe and happy week, dear gardening friends!
Pamela x

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day Phenology Event

Earth Day dawned bitter cold, with below-freezing temperatures, in my corner of the Pocono Mountains. I braved the cold to take a few photographs for a special event sponsored by the Eastern Pennsylvania Phenology Project. I posted about this citizen science project here, and the group has just launched a website with more information. They are promoting a special "blitz" on phenology during the week of Earth Day, with the goal of getting people from lots of groups to send in information about what they see in their backyards this week. This is the first of what they hope will be an annual event. They have already noted significant differences between the arrival times of spring from south to north, differences that are really dramatic. In Bethlehem, PA, some 25 miles south of here, for over a week the cherry blossoms have been out, the magnolias burst open last weekend, the forsythias are past peak, and azaleas are in bloom. None of this is happening here.

Here are some observations in my garden, as my contribution to the Earth Day Week phenology event:


H.H. has now completed cleaning-out all his bird houses. The collage at the head of this post shows some of them. Incidentally, this is my very first collage. If I had the time, I would make some changes, but all-in-all I am quite proud of it. I thank Diana of Elephant's Eye for encouraging me to try this. Diana produces wonderful collages displaying the blooms in her beautiful garden in South Africa.

The Carolina wrens are nesting. I first saw them collecting building materials for their nest on April 7, and subsequently, was able to take some pictures from the garden-room window. I am sorry the quality is rather poor from such a large distance using my little point-and-shoot camera in low light.

Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus

There are no signs of swallows or humming birds. H.H. readied the purple martin house, but I know it is early for them as last year they built their nest in May.

Purple Martin Progne subis (May, 2010)
We were hoping to sight an Eastern phoebe by now, but no luck. H.H. placed ledges under the eaves of the barn and the tractor shed to hold their cup-shaped nests. They have nested there for the past three years. I think they like my garden because there is plenty of hair from my miniature horse for them to line their nests.

Can you see the wooden ledge over the tractor shed window?
Yesterday, two mourning doves paid us a visit -- they are so beautiful. I don't know where they are nesting. Mourning doves build a flimsy platform nest of twigs that often falls apart in a storm. With the strong winds we have been experiencing lately, I wish them good luck!
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
I think this is the female because she lacks the iridescent neck feathers.
 On Sunday, I spotted the first American goldfinch with its dull-olive, winter feathers changed to their summer yellow!
Amerian Goldfinch Carduelis tristis
 As well as hearing a lot more birdsong in my garden, I am happy to hear the tapping of woodpeckers as they search for insects.
Male Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus

While there are no leaves on the maple trees, the forsythia bloomed yesterday. Hurray! And below are some other new spring blooms in my garden today:

Forsythia (viewed from Bluebell Creek)

Brunnera Macrophylia 'Jack Frost'
I love the leaves of Brunnera. This plant will grow very large during the summer.
Japanese Spurge Pachysandra
Barren strawberry Waldsteinia fragariodes
Daffodil Narcissus spp.
Daffodil Narcissus spp.
This primrose is blooming later than the ones I showed in my last post. I love this color.
Primula Hybrid Primrose
I found this volunteer in one of the hosta beds. It is not one of my English bluebells ...

Volunteer bluebell of unknown species.
To my delight, I found a flower bud on one of the lilacs near my mailbox.
Lilac Syringa vulgaris
The farmer who takes care of our fields planted corn this week. All the farmers in northeast PA are very distressed by the extremely wet weather we have been experiencing this spring. I do hope his corn seeds survive!


This week I pruned the roses, first removing the mulch that protected them through the winter. Under the mulch, I found a very sleepy frog. I don't think he had emerged from his winter sleep, yet. There is a very LOUD one, however, singing in the pond every night. No pictures as yet.


I spotted a dragonfly skimming across the fishpond this week -- he would not stop and pose for a photograph -- but I have not seen any bees or butterflies. My camera is ready for when they appear!

I am really enjoying contributing to the Eastern Pennsylvania Phenology Project! Don't forget to check out their blog here. What did you spot in your garden this Earth Day Week? 

Wishing you a very Happy Easter, dear gardening friends.
Pamela x  

One of the many bluebird houses at our farm.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Old Friends and New on April GBBD

Pulmonaria Lungwort
I welcome with joy this Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, because at last I have some blooms in my garden. A few old friends made an appearance this week, plus some new ones that I planted last year. The pulmonary, like all my flowers, is very late. There are many of them in the Woodland Walk, given to me by a dear friend from her garden. Gifted-plants are the best, I think. Some small clumps of lungwort, with a few blooms, are peeping through the pine needles. Little else is happening in the Woodland Walk, where the deer seem to have ravished the mountain laurel, and much that I planted last spring including hellebores. The new hellebores at the entrance to the woodland garden have survived, and 'Ivory Prince' in the shade garden has truly come into its own.

Helleborus (I don't know the species)

Helleborus (I showed the red buds in my last posting)

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince'
 My old friends, the daffodils are glorious! They multiply every year.
Narcissus spp.

This daffodil bed is much admired by passers-by.
 I am hopeful that the new daffodil bulbs I planted last fall in the cottage-garden border, will eventually spread. 
One of the new ones -- don't know the species -- it came in a mixed bag.

The deer, or maybe a rabbit, ate most of the crocuses that I planted under the crabapple tree. I'm sad to tell you they ate the white one, the header in my previous post, before it could open its petals. I'm not sure if these crocuses will come back next spring, as the leaves are chewed down to the ground. Only a few remain ...
This crocus bloomed even though its leaves were chewed off.
My old friends, the primroses, are just beginning their spring show in the cottage garden. I believe every English cottage garden needs primroses:
Primula Hybrid Primrose
Primula Hybrid Primrose
I found the first tiny flower on the vinca, which my mother-in-law - who planted it - always called periwinkle.

Vinca minor Periwinkle
Finally, not blooms but lush growth on the sedums I planted around the pond. I chose green-leaved plants and dark-red ones. I don't know what the flowers will be like.

Sedum Stonecrop

Sedum Stonecrop
But what is this, under one of the maple trees? ...
One bloom that isn't late ... the first dandelion!
My thanks to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for hosting this wonderful meme, Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. She invites everyone to join in the fun, so why don't you head over to her blog and see what is blooming, today, in gardens all over the world.

To my old friends and new, both blooms and bloggers, I wish a happy springtime - or whatever season it is in your little corner. Have a great weekend!

Pamela x

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