Tuesday, March 31, 2020

This Month in the Garden: March 2020

March came in a little bit lion-like with gusty winds and cold; it went out like a lamb. We had a couple of snow showers early in the month, then cold nights, a few milder days, and rain.  I began my daily walks around the garden to see what is blooming. The snowdrops lasted well into the month, followed by my pretty crocuses -- I showed pictures of them in my last posting HERE. Hellebores and daffodils are strutting their stuff. The daffodils are a full two weeks earlier than last year. Daylilies, allium, peonies, and bluebells are all displaying their first green shoots. There are buds on the lilacs. Violets and forget-me-nots are leafing out. When I step out on the deck at sunrise, I am greeted by birdsong -- not the full dawn chorus, but a joyful start to the day. Spring is in the air.

Today, is rainy with temperatures in the 40s, so grab an umbrella and let's take a stroll around my end-of-March garden:

One of my favorites: Snow crocus (Crocus chrysanthus)
The deer were busy and ate all but this little crocus bloom in the Pollinator Garden.
The Daffodil Walk's blooms are very early this year.
It rained a great deal this month, but I am I glad to say the rain garden is working well. It collected water, preventing it from flowing into the perennial bed next to the Kitchen Garden.
Rhubarb in the Kitchen Garden. The beds are too wet for planting yet; they are a sea of mud.
Hellebore, daffodil, and vinca.
Two of the hellebore beds in the Woodland Walk loaded with flowers. The shrub next to St Francis is Japanese andromeda (Pieris japonica 'Mountain Fire').
Hellebore (Helleborus sp.) along the Woodland Walk trail. One of the few not trampled or chewed by the deer there.
Lungwort (Pulmonaria)
I get outside as often as I can to continue the cleanup. Still a lot to do. Also, Duane and I take a walk around our fields for exercise when the weather allows.
The weeping Norway spruce (Picea abies 'Pendula') grew beautifully shaggy this year. It reminds me of my mini horse, Dude, taking a drink. Dude's coat grew very shaggy through each winter. I miss him so.

While it's too wet to plant outside, or even prepare the Kitchen Garden for sowing/planting, I compensate with my indoor garden: we have been harvesting the lettuce in the AeroGarden, I started some kale to transplant into the coldframe, and I forced some forsythia branches.

The AeroGarden is very productive
Seed starting has begun. This is kale on a heat mat in the kitchen. I'll place the seeds under a grow light when they germinate.
A little bit of spring on the dining room table.

Backyard birds are busy. A pair of Northern cardinals spend most of each day on the porch. At dawn the male sits on the back of the garden swing before joining his wife who scratches in the foundation bed. They love the perches that Duane placed near the feeder and water dish.

Daily routine
Top: Male Norther Cardinal  Bottom: his pretty wife

Duane and Dave finished constructing the animal shelter in the paddock. I didn't think we needed one as the animals have a dry stall in the barn. But the boys love it.

Billy Goat and youngster Doodles wait in the sun for breakfast.
Charm and Doodles -- always looking for warm, sunny spots.

Did you spot the owl decoy on the paddock fence? It is facing the pond and, so far, keeping the hawks from preying on the fish. Unfortunately, it's also keeping the little birds away. I used to love to watch them splashing in the water.

I'm linking with Sarah at Down By the Sea for her monthly retrospect, 'Through the Garden Gate.' 

Adapting to the new normal, life in the time of coronavirus, is very challenging for everyone. Staying at home, however, doesn't mean staying indoors; gardeners find solace in their gardens. Please, dear friends, care for each other, stay healthy, and enjoy your gardens.

Pamela x

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Monday, March 16, 2020

Planning My 2020 Kitchen Garden on Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

The crocuses are in bloom. They are early this year, as expected during a time of global warming. We are experiencing an exceptionally mild March in the Pocono Mountains -- the pond didn't freeze over and we didn't have snow so far this month, but a lot of rain. I see fat buds on the daffodils already and some hellebore blooms are open. Spring, due to arrive later this week, seems to be here already. I have, however, been extraordinarily late ordering seeds. If I have an excuse it is that I was preparing for a heavy speaking schedule. My talks have now been cancelled due to the corona virus. Also (with my advanced age) I am forced to stay home as I practice social distancing. So I have worked on my seed order at last. Of course, I was browsing the catalogs all winter, so had a good idea what to order. For my modest size garden I choose the vegetables that Duane and I like most, adding a new variety or two. I didn't make up my mind which company to use, though, until the last minute.

Seed Catalog Season -- One of my favorite seasons of the year

I feel it's best to choose a seed company located in the Northeast; they provide varieties adapted to our area. Some of the companies I have uses with good results: Burpee, Johnny's Select Seeds, and The Cook's Garden. I've also used Annie's Heirloom Seeds although Michigan is a Midwest state; I love the idea of heirloom seeds. This year, I decided to purchase from Hudson Valley Seed Company from New York state.  At this taxing time, I am looking for every way possible to de-stress; studies show that one way of doing that is to look at art. Hudson Valley's seed packets are true works of art. I wrote a blog posting about the changing look of seed packets HERE. Many companies' seed packets have become beautiful expressions of creative skill. Hudson Valley Seed Company is in a class of it's own.

Hudson Valley Seed Company's seed packets. They are true works of art

I splurged, buying art packs that cost a little more than regular packets. I can't wait for them to arrive. I made my 2020 Kitchen Garden plan.

In the meantime, I have several 'growing' projects going on indoors. As well as the herbs planted by my friends from C.A.R.E.S. (a social services program for recent graduates and adults that have special needs) we now have an AeroGarden with heirloom lettuces. An AeroGarden is a hydroponic indoor garden; the C.A.R.E.S. folk helped me put it together. They are also helping me repot the houseplants. Unfortunately, their Monday visits are curtailed due to the virus, so I'll need to finish that task alone. 

Some of the projects I've been working on with my friends from C.A.R.E.S.
C.A.R.E.S. people setting up the hydroponic indoor garden.
The heirloom lettuces in the hydroponic indoor garden are sprouting already.
Love my new pot for the snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata)

 Outdoors, as well as crocuses and hellebores, I spotted some vinca blooms (Periwinkle, Vinca minor). The snowdrops in the Serenity garden seem to be lasting longer than other years. As I sit in my favorite chair in the garden room, I enjoy the birds and admire the snowdrops in my immediate view. I am linking with Carol at May Dreams Gardens for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. I apologize for being a day late. Carol has crocus and hellebore, too.

View from my favorite chair - can you see the clump of snowdrops?

Black-capped Chicadee

My last garden talk until the crisis is over was for the University Women's Garden Club at State College, PA. I showed them how I created an English-style cottage garden; I described the photoshoot that took place there last year for Country Gardens magazine. The club photographer took the picture below. My garden will be featured in the Summer 2020 edition, that should hit the newsstands May 1.

I am holding Country Gardens Magazine Spring 2020 edition -- My garden is featured in the Summer edition, coming soon.

As the pandemic causes anxiety all around the world, remember that gardening is the perfect anecdote to stress.

Stay healthy,
Pamela x

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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Flower Show

A small part of the Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) exhibit showing the blues of sky and sea.

This year's Philadelphia Flower Show with its Riviera Holiday theme is a feast for the senses with lavender, culinary herbs, and lemons; with design elements of a tranquil blue-green palette that evoke sea and sky; and with the warm, terracotta colors of Mediterranean houses. This is my most-liked show for several years. My photographs cannot begin to do it justice.

I've put together a few photos of my favorite exhibits for you to scroll through, beginning with the picture above of one of the many 'blue' vignettes by the American Institute of Floral Designers. The centerpiece of the entry garden is a 60 years old olive tree from Visalia, California. The focal point of the show is Princess Grace of Monaco's rose garden.

Olive Tree Olea Europaea 'Manzanillo' -- 60 years old
Lavender everywhere. Here is Jagged Lavender Lavandula Buchi
Warm, terracotta colored textured walls and Mediterranean-style pots
Arbor with the famous Sfusati lemons

The Embassy of Monaco in Washington, DC pays tribute to Princess Grace (Kelly) who was from Philadelphia. Their exhibit reveals Princess Grace's passion for flowers. She created the Garden Club of Monaco and, interestingly, returned to Philadelphia in 1976 as a flower show judge. In today's show, her wedding dress is surrounded by rose arrangements that depict her beloved rose garden in Monaco. Princess Grace co-authored a book called, My Book of Flowers -- I didn't know that. Fascinating excerpts from the book are displayed among the roses. Do read the one I've included below -- you will learn something new about her.

The Princess Grace Rose Garden with replica of her wedding dress
The Princess Grace Rose Garden
Many quotes from Princess Grace's garden book are included in the display

A hillside of terraced houses is depicted by brightly colored panels, each covered with flowers, in a display by Shaffer Designs of Philadelphia. Italy's ancient fishermen painted their homes in bold and pastel colors to easily spot them as they returned from sea. Again, my photographs fail to do justice to this clever exhibit, with each 'house' suspended from above, accurately giving the feel of houses built upon a steep hillside. My grandson, Jon, was keen to point out the many orchids (his favorite flower) used here.

Le Strade delle Cinque Terre: The Streets of Five Lands displays a hillside of terraced houses

I adore Robertson's seaside courtyard that exactly exemplifies a beautiful and serene Riviera escape.  This is my favorite exhibit in the whole show.

Seaside Courtyard Escape by Robertson's Flowers and Events
The courtyard escape utilizes natural textures of terracotta and wrought iron                  

Another striking display (though not my favorite) is of a poolside villa. Large, arched windows in the garden wall frame views over the bay and the flashing lights of the Cannes firework festival. Cleverly done.

Lumiere de Jardin (J. Downend Landscaping)

 Love these garden rooms:

Garden Bedroom
Three sides of an exhibit that shows inside and outside garden rooms

My favorite interior room:

The Bohemian Room

We stood in line to see the miniature settings. It was well worth the wait. Jon was particularly interested as he makes and maintains the miniature gardens at my home. These at the Show are a little different in scale, with one inch equaling one foot.  Each entry must use at least eight live plants.  I photographed every one and would love to show all of them to you, but just chose two. The first, 'Punting on the Thames' from the children's book, TheWind in the Willows, took the blue ribbon. My favorite was made by the daughter and son-in-law of my dear friend, Jenny Rose. Their Cotswold scene took second place. It is remarkable that most of the items in each miniature setting are completely made by hand.

Punting on the Thames
Carefree Cotswolds: An English Escape

There are some new events, including pop-up learning centers. We enjoyed a demonstration of making a miniature garden while waiting in line.

One of the new judging categories is a colorful display of decorated carts. 

One of several flower barrows. This one has a free library at the handle end.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has produced its flower show for 191 years. It is the nation's largest and longest-running horticultural event. The show covers 33 acres of the Philadelphia Convention Center.  In addition, there is a large plant competition in the Horticourt, there is a 'hub' with exhibits from colleges, schools, horticultural societies, and the like. There are places where you can make crafts, enjoy live butterflies, eat lunch, and taste wine. There are hundreds of vendors. And there is more. I've included a small portion of the show here. I hope you enjoyed it.

Now I am ready for spring!

Happy Gardening,
Pamela x

Mediterranean Ocean Waves
Interesting use for a bird bath

A Pop-up Learning Center

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