Friday, January 31, 2020

This Month in the Garden: January 2020

Female American Cardinal in my Garden

The January garden wavered between breathtaking beauty when covered with snow and boring dullness when the snow thawed. Sadly, this winter there were more days of the latter. With a lack of blooms, backyard birds become the stars. While the red feathers of the male cardinal make it an obvious favorite, I also love the muted colors of the female. The cardinal reminds us that it is nearly time for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)  -- the male cardinal is the poster child of this year's GBBC.  Click HERE for all the information you will need to join in the fun of this important activity.

A male American cardinal at our heated water dish
An adorable female American Cardinal
When covered with snow the garden was beautiful
A more dull-looking scene when the snow was gone

In the picture above there is a large bird on the top branch of the weeping cherry tree. Can you see it? It is a red-shouldered hawk with it's eye on the koi pond.

Red shouldered hawk on the weeping cherry tree
Two hawks on the frozen pond

Duane said the hawks were ice fishing. Not funny. Fortunately, the koi are too deep in the bottom of the pond for the birds to reach them.

The pond today is frozen. The bubbler is providing aeration for the fish. No need for the heater yet.

We will need to do repair work on the pond in the spring: As you can see from the following picture, the water level is several inches down. We believe there is a leak around the skimmer, as the water does not fall below it. The repair job is at the top of our spring to-do list.

The pond in August 2019 with fallen water level.

Although there are no blooms now, there are some signs that spring will arrive eventually. Every January, I show similar pictures. Here's what I snapped today:

Golden mop false cypress adds needed color in winter
Top: crocus shoots. Bottom right: daffodil shoots. Bottom left: rhododendron buds

Last fall I planted a witch hazel with the hopes that it would bloom by now. There are some promising-looking buds but no blooms yet.

Witch hazel
Buds on Japanese andromeda Pieris japonica 'Mountain Fire.'
First buds on the hellebores

We had several days of rain this month. As a result the paddock is a sea of mud. The animals are glad to be outside, however. We put their hay in haypillows to slow down their fast eating. Actually, the mini horse can eat so fast it makes him sick. He is prone to foundering. The haypillows work well.

Top: Doodes the Nigerian dwarf goat. Bottom: Charm the mini horse and Billy Goat

No blooms outside, but some beauties indoors.

Colorful amaryllis on the dining-room table

Finally, some Eastern bluebirds visited my garden today. I've seen very few this winter, so their appearance was most welcome. And another reminder to participate in the GBBC next month.

Eastern Bluebirds

I'm joining Sarah at Down by the Sea for a January view through her garden gate in Dorset, England. And I look forward to hearing about your garden this first month of the new year.

Pamela x

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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Winter Gardening Projects

We are deep into winter with snow and ice outside and temperatures below freezing, but I have enough indoor gardening projects to keep me happy. What makes the activities more fun is that I get to share them with an amazing group of young and young-at-heart people from C.A.R.E.S. This social services program is for recent graduates and adults that have special needs. The goal is to enhance their independence and community participation. A small group, not always the same people, have been helping us in the garden and around the farm on a weekly basis during the growing season for many years.

Here are a few pictures of C.A.R.E.S folk in my gardens in the spring and summer of 2019:

Helping in the garden: trimming beets, planting herbs, filling buckets with mulch to spread around plants.
This year, we decided they should come twice a month during the winter. I'm having fun thinking up activities for them. Thus far they are forcing bulbs, growing herbs, and caring for houseplants.  It is far to cold to work outside, so we putter about the kitchen and dining room.

A messy array of seedlings and houseplants in the dining room
Herbs and amaryllis under a grow light

They sowed lettuce seeds in the mini greenhouse that I placed on a heat pad

Lettuce seedlings

Proudly watering their herbs

We forced paperwhites and amaryllis bulbs to bloom. We are learning together. Some paperwhite bulbs rotted because I didn't make the stones level. This resulted in higher water on one side of the dish. The bulbs that were high enough out of the water  grew and bloomed. A good lesson.

Paperwhites will grow and bloom with just pebbles or stones and water - unless the water level is too high, then they rot.
Half of the paperwhite bulbs bloomed
Paperwhite (Narcissus 'Ariel')

I placed some bulbs on top of glass bottles containing just water:

It is fun to watch the roots grow

The amaryllis were much more successful that the paperwhites. We planted them in potting mix.

The striped, furled petals of Amaryllis ('Popov' ) promising to burst into flower soon

At the end of each session, my wonderful helpers enjoy cookies and lemonade or hot chocolate. Next time they come I think we will make some simple feeders for the birds. I wrote about winter gardening activities in my January article for the Pocono Record newspaper. You can read it HERE.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, dear friends, how do you tend your gardening passion in winter? I welcome more ideas that I can share with my buddies from C.A.R.E.S.

Pamela x

Cookies and lemonade after working hard

PS. This posting was too late for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th, but it's not too late to follow the link to see what is blooming this month around the world. It is Carol's 13th year hosting at May Dreams Gardens. A big 'congratulations' and' thank you,' Carol, for every garden bloggers' favorite meme.

I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited!
 I look forward to visiting your blog in return.