Sunday, May 31, 2015

Birds, Bees, and Beautiful Blooms

Bee on Rhododendron

Let's take a critter-walk and see what creatures are enjoying my gardens today. The bee on the rhododendron has pollen all over its butt and feet -- a pollen-bum-ble bee perhaps. (So sorry for the bad pun.) I am thrilled with my beautiful rhododendron blooms following the dreadful winter damage the shrub endured. It looked so dead, with brown curling leaves, that I thought I would need to remove it, then it burst into bloom and surprised me. My friend, Karen, lost nine rhododendrons this winter to anthracnose, an airborne fungus, that seems to have affected many rhododendrons in her neighborhood. Karen says the harsh winter only exacerbated the extent of the damage. I checked the underside of the leaves of mine for the tell-tale brown spots and saw none, thank goodness. I probably should devise some sort of winter protection; my rhodie is an only child, so I don't want to lose it.

Surprising number of blooms on my winter-damaged Rhododendron 'Roseum Elegans'.

Not only bees, but butterflies also love the rhododendron flowers.

American Swallowtale Butterfly on Rhododendron.

Continuing our critter walk, there is a great deal of activity in and around the pond with vocal frogs, millions of tadpoles, and the koi enjoying the warmer water.

Yellow Iris Iris pseudacorus blooming in the pond.
This frog enjoys the waterfall
Mr. Bull Frog
All koi, except one, survived the harsh winter.

The May stars of the cottage garden, the beautiful Allium 'Globe Master', are a new addition: I planted the bulbs last fall. I was previously put off by its common name, ornamental onion, but now wish I had grown some sooner. The shape -- tall stems topped by rounded blooms -- is a nice contrast to my other plantings. With contrast in mind, I previously grew foxgloves for their their spiky form, but had little luck with that biannual. A great advantage to allium: the deer don't want onion breath, so avoid eating them!

Allium 'Globe Master' punctuates the Cottage Garden

 The birds are busy building nests. I love the morning chorus that increases in volume daily. We have been watching the purple martin house with interest, but again no purple martins took up residence.

The ten-year old purple martin house.

This year, a tree swallow claimed the attic condominium.

Tree swallow carries straw to build a nest.
Admiring the view from his new front door.

We are thrilled the phoebe returned to make a nest on one of the ledges H.H. nailed under the eaves of the tractor shed.

Eastern Phoebe

New visitors to the back yard feeder, purple finches, stop by frequently. Their musical warble is a welcome addition to the morning chorus. They love sunflower seeds, so I hope they enjoy the sunflowers I planted in the kitchen garden when they bloom.

Male purple finch.

A pair of robins nested on the pergola over the main entrance to our house last year. They returned and rebuilt the nest that the winter winds and snow had damaged. The female is sitting on a clutch of eggs. When we go in and out of the house, very close to the nest, she just closes her eyes. Maybe she thinks if she can't see us, we can't see her.

Recently, H.H. took down the suet cage and replaced it with a hummingbird feeder. Before he could remove it, a redbellied woodpecker finished off a remaining scrap of suet.

Of course, the squirrels are interested in the bird feeders. To distract them, H.H. placed a squirrel feeder on a tree some distance away.

Squirrels, for all their faults, are always amusing to watch. It's fun to see them going in and out of the new feeder.

Peanuts  keep the pesky squirrels away from the bird feeders.

Finally, on our critter walk let's check on my goat and miniature horse.

Billy Goat found a piece of corn to chew on.

Isn't the viburnum near the paddock beautiful with its lacy white blooms? And isn't Dude cute? He is waiting patiently to be led to the pasture where he can enjoy the new orchard grass growing there.

Blooming Vibernum and hungry Dude

I hope you enjoyed this short critter-walk. Many more creatures enjoy my spring garden including humming birds that returned this week plus several other varieties of birds and butterflies. Hopefully, I can share pictures of them soon. Now I must take care of Dude, and continue planting, composting, and completing the million-and-one tasks necessary at this busiest time of my gardening year.

Happy gardening, my friends!

Pamela x

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, May 2015

Sweet Shrub, Calycanthus in the shade garden.
And then the day came
when the risk to remain
tight in a bud was
more painful than the 
risk to bloom. 
-- Anais Nin

We can learn so much from tending a garden: I have learned to take risks in my life, to try something new however painful. The poet Mark Nepo, in The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have, gives numerous, inspiring examples from nature on 'how to stay vital and in love with this life.' A quiet walk through my garden soon after sunrise brings me into the present and sets the tone for my day. On this Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, come with me on that walk. Oh, and bring a sweater -- it's another cold morning.

Bordering the Stone Garden more lilac blossoms than usual shed their heady aroma. A canopy of shade provided by the tall maples tends to limit the number of lilac flowers. This year, however, not only the common purple is blooming but also the pale pink and the white one.

 The white and purple lilacs are in full bloom. The pale pink blossoms are nearly there,

I've lost the name of this white beauty.

In the Cottage Garden the crabapple tree, in full bloom, takes center stage. It is the star of my garden every May.

You can just make out the lilacs under the maple trees to the left of the crabapple.

Near the pond new growth, like fairy lights, adorn the miniature spruce.

Picea abies 'Pendula'

 Walking around the house to the front garden we find the first of the azaleas blooming bright red in the shade of the foundation planting.  The white one on the other side of the porch will be another week before its petals open.

Through the gate and into the shade garden we find more May blooms: brunnera, lamium, hellebore, Jacobs ladder, and lily of the valley. And, of course, lots of gorgeous foliage.

Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost,' pink lamium, and the faded flowers or helleborus 'Ivory Prince.'

The 'naked lady' statue is bathing in a foam of spirea 'Golden Mound.' Too early for blooms but beautiful chartreuse foliage.

I find blue flowers particularly gorgeous, and Jacob's ladder is no exception with its lavender blue cup-shaped blooms.

Jacob's-ladder or Greek valerian, polemonium caeruleum

Into the Woodland Walk now where lily-of-the-valley's clusters of fragrant white bells abound. Spreading by rhysomes, they make excellent ground cover for the Woodland Garden, but need too much space for the Cottage Garden. I have to remember they are very poisonous and keep them out of the nearby horse's pasture.

Lily of the valley, Convallaria majalis

Sweet woodruff carpets the Woodland Walk. One of my favorite spring flowers, it is another native plant that I am happy to own. A small clump was given to me by my friend, Pat, many years ago. It's exuberent behavior is easy to control by simply tugging unwanted plants out. They are easy to remove but I rarely want to do so. This often forgotten herb is a valuable addition to shady areas.

Sweet Woodruff, Galium odoratum

I hope you enjoyed this short walk through my mid-May garden. I am linking to Carol at May Dreams Gardens where she graciously hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th of each month. Now I'm going over to Carol's wonderful blog to see what is blooming in gardens all around the world.

Happy GBBD!

Pamela x

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Tulips, Violets, and Cherry Blossoms, Oh My!

 'Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her.'
William Wordsworth

May arrived and with it above normal temperatures. I have few true spring ephemarals in my garden, but many of today's blooms are equally fleeting, especially with these unusually high temperatures. The tulips are dying back already, but I was so happy to see them, as I thought the squirrels had removed the bulbs soon after planting. Those of you who told me my tulips would survive were so right!! You can read about the planting process and its related angst here. Before the first tulip buds appeared, I sprayed the plants with deer repellent. When I didn't renew it after a rain storm, the deer munched off several of them, so I have sprayed diligently since. I'm sure you agree it is worth the effort.

Tulips planted in the entry garden welcome visitors to our home.

The weeping cherry was so very pretty. By the time I photographed it, the blossoms were falling, so this picture doesn't really do it justice. This is its third year and the branches have filled out and some have reached the ground already. The tree was planted in honor/memory of my mother, who lived at Cherry Tree Court in England where we planted another cherry tree for her. I wasn't there to see it's blooms this year.

Snow fountain cherry Prunus x 'Snofozam'

Cherry Blossoms

We opened the pond, activated the water falls and installed a new spitter, since the 'goose boy' deteriated, springing leaks. As with all our garden tasks, we were late this year. The water is gradually clearing and the fish look healthy.

The new spitter -- appropriately a koi fish.

Years ago, I planted native violets in the cottage garden and of course they have spread. I love their deep blue color and welcome their proliferance (is this a word?)

Pale blue violets with primroses

When many other daffodils died back 'Tahiti' continued to strut its stuff!

Tahiti again. Isn't she lovely?

I am amazed at the giant foliage on the allium 'Globemaster' I planted last fall. This is the biggest and many think the best Allium yet. I can't wait to see its giant blooms. I planted the bulbs where other perennials will grow up and hide the foliage when it becomes ugly. Right now I think it's beautiful.

Allium in the foreground.

Many gardeners dislike vinca as a thug. I love its blue stars and forgive its aggressive behavior each spring. The vinca in my garden was planted by H.H.'s mother years before I appeared on the scene, and was a favorite of hers. She called it periwinkle; I would not dream of removing it.

Vinca appears in every crack and crevice.

I broke this year's resolution to blog weekly, or at least three times a month, blogging only twice in April. I can offer all sorts of excuses including being crazily busy with garden presentations and garden writing. (You can read my latest article published in our local newspaper here. This is the first in a series of monthly articles I am writing on 'Gardening in the Poconos.') We are continuing with home renovations: the inside is finished and the workmen are now outside replacing broken fences, painting, staining, and working on the roofs of the outbuildings. Added to this craziness, I had a flare up of my autoimmune disease, Crohn's, which sent me to the hospital for more tests this week and of course required doctor visits. I am trying not to let my health problems define me, but it is difficult. I too often see myself as 'sick' rather than healthy and I complain a lot more than I should. I am resolved to get out of this cycle. And that is enough of my pity party...

I've finished seed-starting with half a dozen flats of annuals making good progress: marigolds, zinnias, snapdragons, and various herbs. The pansies are puny but still alive, so I'll put them out soon. The rest should be ready for planting after the average last frost date, which is coming up fast, hurrah! In the kitchen garden, I direct sowed snow peas to grow over the pea tunnel, and I planted lettuce to grow underneath where it will be shaded.

Pea tunnel in place and snow peas and lettuce planted.

We have beautiful gardening weather here today; I must get outside. My heart goes out to those in other parts of our country experiencing tornadoes, floods, and even the first-named tropical storm so early in the year. I am truly blessed as I enjoy spring's fleeting loveliness. Whatever the season where you live, I hope you find peace and beauty in your garden today, my friends.

Pamela x

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