Tuesday, April 30, 2019

This Month in the Garden: April 2019

April arrived with the blossoms of the weeping cherry; it departed as the dwarf redbud tree came into bloom. A pretty month full of the miracle of new life. As I strolled through my gardens each morning, every day was one of discovery. I love spring so much.

Snow fountain cherry Prunus x 'Snofozam' on April 1.
Weeping redbud 'Lavender Twist' today. Cercis Canadensis, the Eastern redbud, is native to this area.

Although April was very wet ('April showers' were abundant), the sun didn't always make an appearance, and the temperatures were sometimes cool, I think most of my spring plants emerged no later than last year.  As always, it was the month for hellebores, daffodils, forsythia, and fleeting, ephemeral beauties such as bloodroot.

The hellebores have spread through the Woodland Walk.
Every one of my gardens has daffodils. My favorite today is the precious 'Tete-a-Tete' (shown in the middle on the right.)
The Daffodil Walk provides a happy greeting to our visitors. This year, when the plants die back, I must separate them.
Mr. Robin made his appearance early in the month; all the birdhouses are occupied now -- mainly with sparrows.
Bloodroot Sanguinaria canadensis in the Serenity Garden
Top: Fritillaria meleagris; bottom: budbreak on the crabapple tree.
Japanese andromeda Pieris japonica 'Mountain Fire.'

Because of the rainy weather and some annoying health issues, I am way behind with my spring gardening chores. Usually, by now we have cleaned out all the beds and spread compost on them. Ironically my article for the local newspaper and for Penn State Extension's Home Gardening Newsletter this month was called 'Preparing Your Garden for Summer. You can read it HERE. I give ten essential spring tasks. Please do as I say, not as I do. The Serenity Garden, however, is ready for compost, the cottage garden is partly ready, and the Kitchen Garden not at all ready.

Top: the Serenity Garden is ready for compost. Bottom left: Jacob's Ladder Polemonium yezoense 'Purple Rain'

Usually, we wait until we have completed the composting before putting out the garden ornaments and art, but I couldn't resist displaying the adorable birdbath that our friend, Nancy, gave us. Nancy is moving to a new home without a garden; she donated a few lovely articles. This is my favorite.
The main Cottage Garden bed with cute, concrete birdbath.

 Nancy also gave me some nice planters including one I placed in the Horseshoe Garden.

My garden helper, Jonathan, and I prepared the Horseshoe Garden for compost.
A tidied-out foundation bed.
The Cottage Garden, with primroses and violets in bloom. It was ready, but weeds keep appearing. Must compost soon.

In previous posts I mentioned that some shrubs were damaged by the weather this winter. I'm sorry to say that I lost a biota. We will remove both from the small rosebed and plant a couple of native shrubs that I hope will better survive the Pocono winters.

One of the biotas (Thuja orientalis) is dead. The other has a lot of dead branches.

You notice there are no pictures of the Kitchen Garden, nor Abundance. That's because I didn't prepare them yet. As I said, the weather wasn't conducive to gardening this month; neither was my health.

It rained and rained.

I did, however, organize my potting shed. You can't see them in this picture, but I have seedlings under grow lights on the potting bench.

My sanctuary is ready for me to relax at the end of the day with a glass of wine and a vintage gardening book.

For more April gardens visit Sarah's wonderful blog, Down by the Sea. Hard to believe that May arrives tomorrow. How was your April?

Pamela x

Pansy Viola x wittrockiana

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Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Changing Look of Seed Packets

Has anyone noticed how different some seed packets appear these days?  They are actual works of art.

We expect a lot from that little seed packet: the plant description including its common and scientific names, its height at maturity, how many days to harvest or bloom, and its habit, such as climbing or upright. We expect it to tell us when and where to grow the plant and planting directions. A picture, of course, is a MUST showing the plant at its best in flower or at harvest time and identifying the type and color of the flower, fruit, or vegetable. In addition to all these requirements of the humble seed packet, now we can also contemplate its role as a beautiful expression of creative skill.

Seed companies traditionally have used photographs or simple paintings on their seed packets
Annie's Heirloom Seeds may be the simplest - with all the sowing information on the front of the packet.

I don't purchase from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange as they are especially suited to the Southeast; my garden is in the Northeast, as most of you know. I do enjoy their seed packets, however. And just take a look at the details in the cover design of their catalog:

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalog
Southern Exposure Seed Packets

Botanical Interests, located in Ohio, redesigned their packets in 2018 with updated information and more vibrant art. Incidentally, I've been tempted to join their affiliates program, providing a link on my blog to their website. Every time a reader would make a purchase from my link, I would receive 15% commission. I have never monetized my blog and would be interested to hear the opinions of other bloggers. Please let me know your experience or thoughts, dear blogger friends.

Botanical Interests seed packets with updated artwork
Botanical Interests Seed Collections


The seed packets of Hudson Valley Seed Company (HVSD) are in a class of their own. The company was founded by Ken Green in 2004 in a public library. (He inspired more than 400 seed libraries in the country.) Nowadays, HVSD claim to produce 'one-of-a-kind seed packets for one-of-a-kind gardens.' At the Philadelphia Flower Show last month, HVSD had an exhibit of their 'Seed Pack Art.' They say their newest collection tells '12 colorful new seed stories told by 12 new artists.' The artists include a coloring book artist, woodblock print maker, botanical illustrator, and encaustic painter. Here is a taste of the art work they displayed at the Flower Show:

I am full of admiration for the artwork on these seed packets.

Before purchasing seeds for 2019, I made a plan of this year's kitchen and cut flower gardens as I always do. I decided not to try any new varieties for 2019, but would stick with the 'tried and true.' Thus, I'm embarrassed to say (having written this article) that I ignored all those beautiful new seed packets and purchased from Annie's again.

As always, I checked last year's plan and rotated my crops.
I organized my seed packets (by date of sowing) in the old wooden tray. I set up a seed-starting station in the dining room
I also have seeds started under lights in the potting shed. These are zinnias for the cutting garden.

Those beautiful seed packets with their original artwork are begging the discerning gardener to buy them. I'm sure that next year I will succumb. What about you? Have you been tempted by beautiful seed-packet art?

Happy gardening,
Pamela x

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