Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Word4Wednesday: Tracery

Donna of Garden Walk Garden Talk beautifully describes 'Tracery in the Landscape' in her Word4Wednesday meme today.  She illustrates the word with stunning photographs which I can not begin to emulate. Here is my simple response to Donna's challenge, just one of the plants in my garden: Physalis alkekengi Chinese lantern.

My first Chinese lantern was given to me by my Master Gardener friend, Karen. It is a herbaceous perennial plant that I grow for my grandchildren. They love the bright orange papery coverings over its fall fruit that truly resemble real Chinese lanterns.

 Recently I was clearing the flower beds--early because of the mild weather--and found this lantern with its beautiful tracery. The papery husk has skeletonized, and its orange fruit is still visible. I guess it survived because of the winter that wasn't, and because it was protected from birds by dried grasses.

What plants in your garden illustrate tracery in the landscape?  Do visit Donna's blog for lots of ideas. You will love her photographs!

I hope you are enjoying spring in your garden!
Pamela x

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Black Walnut: My Third Signature Plant

The trees at the end of the driveway are walnut trees.
We have a grove of walnut trees, Juglans nigra, at the end of our driveway, behind the tractor shed and the barn. (That's the tractor shed on the right with the window boxes). We call the walnut grove, The Dell. We have several other walnut trees scattered around the property, including an ancient one on the east side of the house near the kitchen garden, and some younger ones in the Woodland Walk. I have a love/hate relationship with our walnut trees: I love their majestic form; I hate that certain plants wont grow under them.

These large-sized trees, native to Pennsylvania, have an impressive presence in our garden. I love the dark brown to gray-black bark with its narrow ridges. The wood is very valuable for quality furniture, for veneer, gun stocks and musical instruments. The wide, flat leaves are compound, alternate, and dark yellow-green above.

Our walnut trees provide a lush-green backdrop to the cottage garden in summer.
In the hot Pennsylvania summers, the shade of the walnut trees is very welcome to my miniature horse, Dude. Some think that the leaves of the walnut tree are toxic to horses, but the toxicity lies in the roots, and Dude has never had a bad reaction to the tree's proximity. The roots of Black Walnut  produce a substance known as juglone (5-hydroxy-alphanapthaquinone). Many plants such as tomato, potato, blackberry, blueberry, azalea, mountain laurel, rhododendron, red pine and apple may be injured or killed within one to two months of growth within the root zone of these trees.

The walnut tree on the east lawn is a shady place for Dude (and deer) to graze.
I plant all my vegetables in raised beds, so they will not be contaminated by juglone. I constantly have to think carefully before planting anything near a walnut tree. This can be very frustrating. But I do think its advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Grandchildren love swinging in the shade of The Dell.

H.H. made a swing from an old tractor seat and hung it from a branch of a walnut tree.
In autumn walnut trees are among the first to lose their leaves.
Our walnut trees have different faces depending on the season. I love all their faces.

In the winter, the black bark against the white snow is dramatic. (The snowstorm below occurred almost a year ago today. It is more like early summer here, now.)

Pretty in white. The Dell in March last year.

All the best sunrises occur behind the old walnut tree.

There was a bumper crop of nuts last year.
The nuts are encased in a green, leathery coat. The black shells inside are difficult to break. Our neighbor, Karl, would put them in a burlap bag and drive over them with his pickup truck. We don't usually attempt to get at the nuts, but offer them to anyone who wants to go to the trouble. H.H. finds another use for them. He practices his golf swing with an old golf club, aiming the nuts into the top field.

Walnuts in their green cases. They make good golf balls.

I am linking to Diana at Elephant's Eye for her 'Dozen for Diana' meme. My first signature plant was the English bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, and my second was Echinacea purpurea, purple cone flower. Do visit Diana's wonderful garden in South Africa and join in the fun.

It's the first day of spring, today! We've had spring-like weather for so long that the day did not make me as excited as usual. There are daffodils blooming everywhere and we heard peepers today. I am enjoying making an early start in the garden.

Happy Spring!
Pamela x

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Friday, March 16, 2012

March Madness: GBBD

That come before the swallow dares, and take
The winds of March with beauty.
-  William Shakespeare  

Of  course, Shakespeare was an Englishman, so for him March was the time to find English daffodils in full bloom. Not like the daffodils of the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. They don't show their sunny, yellow faces until April. Until this year, that is! It seems we are enjoying some March madness as temperatures soar and blooms respond. I am not complaining ...

"A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King
-  Emily Dickenson

I'm outside with hoe in hand, tidying the flower beds, and preparing the vegetable garden for the spring sowing, stopping only to marvel at the beauty of daffodils, crocuses and hellebores, blooming at least two weeks early.

My favorite hellebore: Helleborus 'Ivory Prince'
Helleborus sp.

But it's the crocuses that steal the show: cream, yellow, purple, white. They are in every corner of the garden, many in places not planted ...

Crocuses unexpectedly found in the walnut dell.

Crocuses  under the crabapple tree.
Even more surprising ...

Pulmonaria Lungwort
Lamium Dead Nettle
Pachysandra Spurge
At the edge of the pond, still covered by a protective netting, ...

... I see a very sleepy bulfrog has awoken from his winter slumber.

Carol at May Dreams Garden in Indiana asks today, "Is spring arriving early for you, too?" Many bloggers across the country answer 'yes'.

It seems March came in like a lamb and is going out like a lamb. March Madness.

Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!

Pamela x

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spring Forward

Allentown Flower and Garden Show 2012
For most Americans, daylight saving time began at 2 a.m. this morning when most states sprang forward an hour. Time will fall back to standard time again on Sunday, November 4, 2012 when daylight saving time ends. The federal government doesn't require U.S. states or territories to observe daylight saving time, so some residents didn't need to change their clocks this weekend.  It was Benjamin Franklyn, of 'early to bed, early to rise' fame, who started the spring forward movement. If your are already sleep deprived, it doesn't help to lose an hour. I usually get enough sleep, but it will take me at least five days to recover from the lost hour. On the other side, this is one more sign that spring will arrive and SOON -- officially in two and a half weeks!

Another sign of spring is the spate of garden and flower shows blooming across the country. The biggest one in my corner of the world being the Philadelphia Flower Show. I was not able to go there this year, unfortunately, but for the first time I attended the Allentown Garden Show which is nearer to home, smaller, less crowded, and therefore less tiring. I enjoyed it so much, and  being accompanied by good friends added to the fun.

Entering the show at Allentown's Agricultural Hall, the first display was a water feature that included three candle-like fountains. The backdrop of forsythia and the border of lettuces added to the feeling of springtime.

There were several other water features. My favorite was the waterfall over rocks. (I marvel how these displays were put together in three days, and were taken down so soon after.)

A favorite spring flower on show was the hellebore. There was not a large variety on display, but enough to add spring excitement.

One display that greatly impressed me, put together by a high school horticulture class, showed some wonderful topiary animals, including this frog ...

            ... and the three little pigs, looking so cute tiptoeing among the tulips.

One of the joys of garden shows is gleaning ideas to implement in your own garden. I fell in love with this weeping hemlock tree and decided it would be perfect next to our pond. It is six feet tall, and it's weeping stature would provide the necessary shade we have been looking for. It is not known to shed a lot of leaves (important over a pond). There are some possible problems such as botrytis (gray mold), and woolly adelgid, so care is needed. It would, however, provide the necessary winter interest that I feel my garden lacks. I took the supplier's card, and look forward to visiting his nursery soon.

Tsuga canadensis 'Pendula' Weeping hemlock
On our way home we visited a garden center -- one that is open year-round -- and H.H. bought me a pot of daffodils ...

                                                                                       ... and a peace plant.

Spathiphyllum, The peace lily
I made a little vignette on the tea-cart in the sunny, dining-room window. (The cart has leaves I can pull out, so I did this on one side and added a bit of lace.) On the bottom shelf of the tea cart I have my paperweight collection.

Central spadix of peace lily
At the flower show I spotted that wonderful harbinger of spring, the pussy willow. There were bunches of stems for sale and later I regretted not buying some.  But my friend, Karen, brought me some from her garden and I displayed them in the white vase she gave me last year. Knowing these were grown less than 15 miles south of here, I feel spring has really arrived. Thank you, Karen.

Salix caprea Pussy Willow

A further boost to my spring feeling occurred when I saw the first robin in my garden last week. Actually, I know that the American robin stays around all winter, but this was the first one I saw.

I was happy to see the mourning doves, and to hear them 'billing and cooing.' A spring 'Welcome to you', dear friends.

Spring is in the air! My hellebores are nearly open and there is one daffodil in full bloom (so I'll have something to post for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day later this week.) Today, the temperature here in the mountains is expected to be near 60 degrees. I am going to take three soil samples (from the shade garden, the cottage garden and the kitchen garden). H.H. will drop them off at the Extension Office for analysis, so I can be sure to add the correct ammendments. Oh, I do love playing in the dirt!

Happy Gardening!
Pamela x

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