Saturday, March 9, 2019

March is Flower Show Season

I welcomed flower show season with more enthusiasm than ever this year as my garden was under a blanket of snow and no signs of spring. How I needed the sight of daffodils and the scent of hyacinths. We spent time at the Philadelphia Flower Show, then we visited the Lehigh Valley Flower and Garden Show. I was not disappointed -- spring was there in abundance at both events. The Philadelphia Flower Show, the nation's largest and longest running, had a 1960's vibe with the theme of "Flower Power." As we walked into the show we were greeted by towering vine sculptures covered with flowers, plants, and stylized butterflies. Over it all, a hanging meadow comprised of colorful wildflowers was suspended from above. Nearly 8,000 flowers of more than 85 varieties adorned the entrance garden. The theme was the most fun I've experienced at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Periodically, the lights would dim, colorful strobe lights would swirl around, and sixties music would blare out. Visitors began to dance and sing along with icons like Donovan and his signature Mellow Yellow.

One of several Pop-Art inspired sculptures adorned with, and surrounded by, beautiful blooms.
There were beautiful floral creations around the base of each sculpture. Some were planted in color blocks like these lovely white blooms.
I noticed the Pop Art influence with the Ben-Day dots behind these stunning peonies. I love the clematis too.
The entrance displays incorporated an abundant variety of flowers. The alliums made me long for mine to be in bloom.
Left: Flowers atop columns and Ben-Day dotted 'leaves'.             Right: Stylized butterfly in the floating meadow.

A favorite display was the tribute to Woodstock; this year is its 50th anniversary. Those visitor who were around at the time of Woodstock remembered the mud; the designers of the display incorporated a path of mud through the center. Original photos of the event were displayed on the back of a barn.

A tribute to Woodstock. Note the mud in the top left picture.

Around the entrance garden were pods -- small stages -- where competitors for the FTD World Cup 2019 created their displays. It was a thrill to witness one of the world's most prestigious floral design competitions. Floral designers representing over 20 countries worked on their creations in full view of the Show attendees. Here are just three of them:

Left: Germany's display.  Top right: Hungary. Bottom right: USA

There was much more to see. My favorite water feature was in a display by Stoney Bank Nurseries. I loved their theme of 'Unplug and Play.' They suggested we 'unplug from the world wide web and connect with the great wide world.'

Unplug and Play -- such a beautiful garden to play in.

My second favorite water feature was by Delaware Valley Water Garden Society:

The title of this feature was 'A Feast For Your Senses.'

A few more highlights for me ...

Love that purple pitcher plant. Native plants were well represented in the Show.

Daffodils and tulips gave me my 'Spring Fix,'

Teapots on a balcony

Two of my teapots at home ...

Grape hyacinth (Muscari 'Blue Magic') and Daffodil (Narcissus 'Tete-a-tete').

I purchased the grape hyacinth and the daffodil at the Lehigh Valley Flower and Garden Show. 

Catkins and Witch Hazel provided more tastes of spring at the LV Flower Show
Snowdrops for sale at the Show

The Lehigh Valley Show is small but quite special. My favorite part this year was the 'She Shed' display. A local dealer donated a variety of sheds of all sizes; designers were invited to decorate them. There was a sewing room and a room with a bird theme. Some were furnished quite luxuriously.

I would have loved any one of the 'she sheds' in my garden.

I've shown you just a small portion of all we saw at the two events. They were welcome breaks from this nasty winter. Did you attend a flower show yet this year?

Pamela x

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Thursday, February 28, 2019

This Month in the Garden: February 2019

It was a challenge to get outside with my camera this month because I was crazy-busy preparing and presenting garden talks, visiting my grandchildren in Arizona, and meeting my writing deadlines. I overbooked myself; I hope March is a little quieter. On the few occasions that I managed to take a look around my garden, there seemed to be precious little to share with you. It is still very early, but usually there are some sign of spring; this time last year there were hellebore buds and daffodil shoots. If there are some today, they are hidden under snow and ice. The leaves of the brussel sprouts and broccoli in the coldframe are still very green although they aren't 'bearing fruit' -- just staying dormant. I'm anxious to see the final outcome of this experiment in the spring.

The picture I took this morning shows little change from the one I took a month ago, but the brassicas are surviving

After careful scrutiny, I found some brave crocuses pushing through the frozen ground in the pollinator garden.

February is really all about the birds with the Great Backyard Bird Count near the middle of the month.  I didn't seem to count as many birds as previous years, and no unusual ones, but it is always fun.  I saw my first two mockingbirds, but didn't get a good picture.

Clockwise from top left: house sparrow, female American cardinal, tufted titmouse, male cardinal.

My husband put out a new flag to welcome the birds:

With so much damaging weather, I have started making my to-do list for when the thaw finally arrives. In the kitchen garden some of the raised beds need attention. 

The freezing soil caused damage to the raised beds.

 The five miniature gardens look very sad, with dormant moss and sheets of ice. I should take the fairies and furniture indoors during the winter, but never do. I think this spring will be the year to empty them out of their containers and start over. I've made a note to mention it to my grandson helper, Jonathan, who made the sweet gardens originally. I'm acquiring some new accessories.

Another ice-storm battered the biotas. I hope they survive.

Grasses and evergreens provide a little interest in my February gardens -- the biotas not so much, but the yew and the weeping Norway spruce are thriving. Can't wait to start pruning and cutting down the grasses. 

Top left: yew.  Bottom left and right picture: weeping Norway spruce.

Weeping redbud 'Lavender Twist' has something to offer every season. I love the lichen on its branches. 

February 21st brought us another ice storm. So beautiful! The next few days saw strong winds. Many were without electricity, some for days. We were fortunate -- the generator fired up for a short time only.

View from the deck
View from our bedroom window.

My husband bought a cheery sign for the deck, courtesy of the thrift store ...

I am linking with Sarah's 'Through the Garden Gate' posting for February, Down by the Sea. I am so envious of her spring flowers. Something to look forward to here in the next two or three months.

Warm wishes to you my gardening friends -- whatever your season.
Pamela x

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Sunday, February 10, 2019

Don't Forget to Count the Birds

It is nearly time for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) when birdwatchers worldwide create a real-time snapshot of where birds are. You can take part in this valuable citizen-science project this year by joining 160,000 people counting birds at any time during February 15-18. I've been participating in this simple activity for several years now and find it very satisfying. It's easy to do: just tally the number and kinds of birds you see for 15 minutes or more on all or any of the days. Enter your results on the GBBC website. Click here for more information on how to get started. After the count you may explore the data collected. I watch the birds through the French doors in the garden room. A birdfeeder and heated water dish lure them into my view. We bought a new feeder this year, shaped like a rooster, with compartments for both a suet block and seeds.  The heated water dish is vital during our below-freezing winter temperatures.The pictures in this posting are of a few of the birds I've seen in the last few weeks. The first one at the top of the page is the tufted titmouse, a big favorite of mine. Some other favorites follow:

Red-bellied Woodpecker

American Goldfinch
Carolina Wren
Female Downy Woodpecker

Male Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Cardinal

The bird I like least is the European starling. I admire its glossy black feathers that have white spots in the winter and later take on a metalic sheen. I don't like its cruel looking yellow beak and it's bullying nature. The female starling may try to lay an egg in another bird's nest. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, all the starlings in North America descend from 100 set loose in New York's Central Park in the early 1890's.

European Starling

Your help is needed to make the GBBC successful. I hope you participate.

Pamela x

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Thursday, January 31, 2019

This Month in the Garden: January 2019

This month came in like a lamb and went out like a lion. No, it is not March yet, but the saying is relevant. January began cold but calm and with (almost) a promise of spring. It ended with a snow storm and the arrival of a Polar vortex, plunging temperatures to -4°F (-20°C) in my garden last night. The first week of the year I found daffodil shoots and other signs that the winter wouldn't last forever. Now it is a different story as you can see from this month in pictures:

Clear, cold days at the beginning of January were perfect for taking a walk around our farm fields.
 Froggy Pond froze over but there was color in my gardens from evergreen trees and shrubs.

Buds on rhododendron. Leaf rosettes on sedum growing in the crevice of a rock.

The tree stump --remaining from the silver maple tree that was felled a couple of years ago-- had an interesting fungus growing out of it.

Gnomes play on the tree stump where an interesting fungus grows

There was a dusting of snow earlier in the month.

Daffodil shoots made an appearance in early January -- photograph January 9.

I haven't peeked inside the cold frame since the Polar vortex arrived because now the kitchen garden is covered with ice. It is too treacherous for walking. When I last checked, about a week ago, the cabbages and Brussel sprouts where looking great.

In the middle of the month brassicas were surviving in the cold frame even with the intense cold.
Japanese andromeda Pieris japonica 'Mountain Fire' in the Woodland Walk

January 20 saw a dramatic ice storm. The garden was magical.

An ice storm brought a different beauty to the garden.
Ice glittered on every plant and shrub

Ice storms are beautiful but as you know they can be deadly in the garden. Two years ago we lost our last remaining white birch tree when the weight of the ice snapped its trunk. This time several shrubs were damaged including three biotas that were dashed to the ground. I think they will recover.

A slight warm-up enabled the biotas (Thuja orientalis) to begin making a recovery but they have a lot of brown leaves.

Then the snow storm arrived:

It was a steady snow for most of the day resulting in a total of four or five inches.
The Serenity Garden took on a new beauty.
Doodles, the Nigerian dwarf goat, ventures outside before and after the snowfall. Billy Goat will not
leave the barn when there is snow on the ground. He doesn't have a thick coat like Doodles.

As I said, the snowstorm was followed by a severe drop in temperature. Parts of the country, however, are experiencing much colder weather than here, so I'm trying not to complain too much. Hopefully, February should be a little warmer. The weather man says it will be all the way up to 20°F (-6°C) in my corner of the Poconos tomorrow.

This is the first of a series that I plan to publish at the end of each month to document my garden throughout the year.  Looking back at my photographs I find that some months I take more pictures than others. I take lots during the gardening season unless it becomes too hot and humid. I sometimes go weeks before getting out the camera. I love photography and shouldn't let the weather deter me. Knowing that I am planning this series should motive me to take more pictures. At the end of the year, I will have a more comprehensive record of the changes and challenges at Astolat. Maybe some of you would like to join me. Link to me and I would be glad to provide links to your postings of This Month in the Garden. The next one is due February 28.

(I now realize that Lee at A Guide To Northeastern Gardening has a monthly posting of the same name. Lee's is quite different, however, as she highlights a specific topic each month. I'll try to think of a different name for mine. Check Lee's December posting HERE.)

Stay safe in whatever weather conditions you are experiencing, dear gardening friends.

Pamela x

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