Thursday, March 22, 2012

Please, Can We Just Slow Down a Little??

Dear Spring,

I am happy that you were not only on schedule this week but actually arrived early, unlike some years when snow or ice created delays for you.  I've appreciated all these warm, sunny days that you've given us the past few weeks.  But please, please, could we just slow down a little??

Less than a week I ago I was proudly showing off the crocuses and the first daffodils on my Bloom Day post, and now suddenly they've been joined by a whole row of the later ruffled doubles, 'Replete.'

Overnight, it seems, the garden has burst into bloom.  I'd like these hyacinths to stay around for awhile so I can enjoy their delightful fragrance as well as their blooms.

I'm loving the blue, blue skies and the budding of the redbud trees. But please, can we just keep these purple blooms around for awhile??  They just appeared, yet already I'm seeing the first tiny heart-shaped leaves emerging.  Yes, those leaves are pretty, but it's the purple shimmer of the redbud in early spring that I love most of all. Usually, redbuds are the first trees to bloom here, but this year they're competing for attention with all kinds of flowering trees, especially gorgeous magnolias in full bloom

I naively thought I would have the whole month of March and maybe part of April to get spring clean-up chores done in the garden.  Yet I barely raked away the thick layer of leaves on the shade garden in time for Mr. 'Jack Frost' Brunnera to put out some blooms.

Unfortunately, I wasn't so lucky with the clematis 'Nelly Moser.'  I usually prune her in early spring, but as you can see, she's already put out so much growth and even a few buds that pruning her now will have to be done very, very carefully.   Hmmm, either Sophie is playing the Easter bunny with her tennis ball . . . or more likely, Mr. P. thought this would be a safe place to hide it while picking up the yard before mowing.  And yes, Hubby has already had to mow the yard!

Different varieties of Muscari were planted last fall in order to achieve the vision of a pleasing range of hues.  A few purple ones are already up, but apparently the others didn't get the early wake-up call.

Everything is moving at breakneck speed, and I'm having trouble keeping up with it all. I go out to the garden to work and get distracted by new blooms everywhere I look.   Ipheion 'Wisley Blue'--starflowers--are low-growing, so it's easy to overlook them if you don't take time to look closely.

I feel like a kid in a toy store, flitting from one flower to another, trying to see everything at once and enjoy it all before it fades away.  The very first tulips are blooming, to my surprise.  Are these 'Fur Elise,' planted in the fall of 2010?  Or did I plant a new variety of tulip here last fall?

If they are 'Fur Elise,' they look different than I remember them--actually, much prettier than last year's bloomers.   I should go check my notes, but no time now . . .

. . . there are more tulips waiting in the wings. I'm afraid the record-setting temperatures we've been experiencing will mean the tulips will fade much more quickly than they should. 

Even the flowering quince is blooming--and it never, ever blooms until May, 
sometimes not till early June.  It's all very strange indeed.

The first bumblebee sighting today on the quince was a delight, to be sure.  I know that he is enjoying this warmth and will stay around for the rest of the season, but that is not true of the spring bloomers.  Dear Spring, I'm trying very hard to live "in the moment" and enjoy each and every precious gift you give us.  But it's hard to do that when it's all rushing past in such a hurry.  Please, could you just slow down a little??

Friday, March 16, 2012

March Bloom Day: An Early Spring

According to the calendar, the first day of spring isn't until next Tuesday, but you could have fooled me.  We have had record-setting temperatures this past week, and the garden is bursting forth with blooms and all kinds of new growth, just in time for this month's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

Flowers and gardeners are not the only creatures feeling the stirrings of spring.  Even a lone hoverfly was out last week enjoying some early blooms and frolicking in the pollen.

Checking through past years' records, I did have a few tiny crocus blooms opening last year.  But this year the crocuses have been in bloom since early February, which also sets a new record in my garden.

I noticed in my past March Bloom Day posts that three years ago I was wondering what had happened to all the crocuses I had planted, because only a few had appeared.  I'm not sure if the crocuses blooming now are from that mystery year or from later plantings, but they seem to be multiplying everywhere.

 I'm glad because although each tiny little bloom is such a welcome sight, especially after a long winter, they look so much better in groups.

It's also early for daffodils in my zone 5b garden. On Monday I took a few photos of the buds, but by Tuesday, they had opened up completely.

In the coming weeks there will be other varieties of daffodils coming into bloom, small tazetta blooms and ruffled doubles in different hues, but the first unnamed yellow stalwarts are always the most appreciated, for they signal the true beginning of spring for me.

Spring bulbs are slower to emerge in the shade garden, but the hellebores are capturing all attention right now.  Taking a picture of the white blooms requires some contortion and playing with the camera, as most of them are the downward facing variety.

A few years ago, I purchased a collection of five plants in different colors but all the same species from a mail order company.  I'm no expert on hellebores, so I don't understand why the white ones look like this . . .

. . . while the purple ones look like this. 

The upright blooms of what I think is 'Red Lady' are definitely easier to see and photograph!

Cleaning up the flowerbeds this week has revealed more budding growth and a bonus surprise--the first primrose bloom.

Hydrangeas are budding early, too. After seeing these on the macrophyllas one day, I've been checking all the other hydrangeas and new shrubs nearly every day for buds.  I've had my fingers crossed about a few plants that didn't do so well last year, so any sign of new growth brings a sigh of relief from me.

This morning I noticed one of the flowering crabapples is beginning to leaf out as is the lilac.  Looking at the garden shows that it will soon be time for the parade of tulips.  Yes, spring has definitely arrived early this year!

I hope you are enjoying some early blooms in your garden as well.  For a look at other signs of spring, check out the list of participants at Carol's May Dreams Gardens.  And yes, I know I'm late to the monthly meeting, but I spent the day yesterday at the Indianapolis Flower and Patio Show.  More to come on that later ...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Awards and Celebrations

I do believe that spring has arrived!  We have been experiencing a mini-heat wave this week, and I've finally gotten some time to work in the garden, although today was the first day that the March winds haven't been at full force.  These warm, sunny days are a reminder that I'd better get a move on and finish all those leftover winter projects soon before garden season gets into full swing.

Sophie's windswept look

I have managed to clean up two flowerbeds, and get a good start on a few of the others. Daffodils are budding and other bulbs are emerging, and I thought it would be nice if when they bloom, they would actually be visible to everyone instead of hiding behind coneflower stems and seedheads.

It's hard to appreciate these little crocuses when the view is obstructed.

Ahhh, much better. Now it just has to contend with tulip foliage:)

 I think the bulbs appreciated, too, not having to fight their way through a thick layer of oak and sycamore leaves as well--just where is that sycamore tree whose leaves always land in my garden anyway??  I also started my first indoor seeds today: they're resting comfortably on a heat mat, and once they sprout, others will be started and get a little babying before being put under the grow lights.  As tempting as it is to start seeds earlier, I've learned the hard way that mid-late March is soon enough.

First Hellebore blooms--more were hiding under the leaves.
Another project to complete today is this post.  Some time ago, Beth at Plant Postings awarded me the Versatile Blogger Award, and I feel badly that it has taken me this long to properly thank her and acknowledge this award. The rules of the award ask you to post the award and to include a link back to the blogger who gave it to you.  I've gotten to know Beth only in the past year, and I enjoy her beautiful photography and her polished prose; not only that, she's a fellow Midwesterner--thanks so much, Beth, for thinking of me.

The third rule of the award to list seven random things about yourself.  I feel as though I've shared much about myself in the past few years, but in case you're a new reader, here are a few personal details about myself:

1. I often refer to my husband as Mr. P, which stands for Mr. Procrastinator.  However, in all fairness, I have to call myself Mrs. Procrastinator.  That is why it has taken me over a month and a half to write this post and respond to this award:)

2. I'm an incurable clock-watcher and "to-do" list maker.  I thought I'd cured myself when I retired, but I still find myself being ruled by the clock far too often.  As an example, if I have an appointment or meeting in two hours, I'll think "there's not enough time to vacuum and do laundry; I might as well as sit and read blogs for awhile":) 

3. I'm addicted to shows like "American Idol," "The Voice," and "The X-Factor," which means I waste far too much time in front of the tube in the evening.  But I can't stand most reality television shows--no "Real Housewives of Wherever" watching here.  Now if they produced a show like "Real Gardeners" of Illinois, Tennessee, North Carolina, anywhere at that would intrigue me.

4. I'm not an early riser--I enjoy watching a pretty sunrise, but not if it comes before 7 AM.

5.  I grew up on a farm; my dad was the third generation to raise corn and soybeans on the land first cultivated by my great-great and great-grandfathers.  My mother tended a small flower garden and a huge vegetable garden every year.  In other words, I grew up in an environment that was all about growing things.  I have no idea why it took nearly 50 years for the gardening gene to kick in for me.

6. I'm becoming overwhelmed with keeping up with social media sites. I enjoy blogging and wish I could spend more time here; I like to get on Facebook occasionally to keep up with family and friends; and I recently joined Pinterest after my daughter introduced me to it.  But I don't own a Smart Phone or a laptop, and I can't justify sitting here at my desktop computer for hours and hours just to keep up with them all.  As I see people everywhere (sometimes in my own home!) with their eyes glued to a tiny screen, I have this eerie feeling of being in a Ray Bradbury story where no one looks each other in the eye anymore to communicate.  Ah well, that's a rant for another day...

7. Finally, I'm a proud mother of four grown children and grandmother to six beautiful grandchildren.  That's not a new revelation to anyone who has read this blog for awhile, but of all the roles I've played, this is always the most important one in my life.

The fourth and final rule of this award to pass it on to several other people.  But, as much as I am usually a rule-follower, I just can't do this.  I know that some people prefer not to accept such awards, and I respect their wishes.  As for the rest, I simply can't choose a few of the many blogs I read over others--you all are worthy of an award in my book! 

Bloggers are so good about sharing, too.
On a related note, I realized while writing this that this past Saturday, March 10, was the fourth anniversary of my very first blog entry.  Who would have thought four years ago that I would still be writing here . . . and that some people would actually read it:)  I've learned so much about gardening from fellow garden bloggers, and I've enjoyed the personal stories and anecdotes of other bloggers.   I want to thank all of you for sharing your experiences and often encouraging me; your friendship has meant so much to me.  And I'm looking forward to meeting some of you in May in Asheville at the Garden Bloggers' Fling!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Arizona

Everyone I know seems to have gone on a vacation lately.  One good friend spent a week in Florida, while another friend, my Tai Chi/lunch buddy, spent last week lounging on the beach in the Bahamas.  And Daughter and her husband just came back from a week in paradise, i.e., Hawaii.  As for me, a couple of trips to the grocery store were the highlights of my week:)

Yes, I admit to being just a wee bit jealous.  Usually I get to travel somewhere between the end of January and mid-March, but not this year. Mr. P and I had tentatively planned to visit Daughter and Son-in-Law this March as we often do, taking in some Cubs' spring training games and soaking up some Arizona sun.  But it was not meant to be.  Just before Christmas, Daughter received a promotion and was being transferred. By mid-January they had packed their belongings and headed--with the two granddogs in the car--to Houston, Texas. Since the move, Daughter has been so busy settling in and traveling for her new job that a visit from us just didn't make sense this spring.

Looking back, I am so glad now that I made the decision to visit Daughter and Son-in-law back in November.  It gave me a  chance to spend some time with them, especially since I hadn't seen them since their wedding reception last June, and to meet my new granddog Eddie.

That's Ed trailing behind his big brother Bear after a hike through Papago Park on the southern edge of Phoenix.  Ed is a much livelier pug compared to the late Odie, who was more laid-back.   Both Ed and Bear have lived all their lives in Arizona, so they're used to the heat, but I'm not sure how they will adjust to Houston's much more humid climate.

A trip to Arizona is never complete, of course, without a visit to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Having toured the garden on every visit to Daughter over the past four years, it's become a familiar place to me--I know where to find the Butterfly Pavilion, the Wildflower Trail, and, of course, the gift shop without any guidance.  I remember my first trip here: the desert flora seemed like alien life forms to me.  But my tours of the DBG have helped me to understand much more about the environment of the Sonoran Desert and to recognize many of the plants.

Thanks to the DBG, I can now distinguish between the iconic Saguaro . . .

. . .  and the equally huge Cardon cactus.

Nor do I need a tag to identify the lovely Baja Fairy Duster, which always seems to be in bloom no matter the time of year I visit.

Still, there is always something new to be learned; this time I was on a mission to find the name of some plants growing in Daughter's backyard.  It didn't take me long to find several specimens of the plant, an Ocotillo, a cactus indigenous to the Sonoran desert and commonly seen from California to western Texas. It's a deciduous cactus, so it wasn't particularly attractive during this November visit, but later research informed me that in spring it produces beautiful red blooms that are especially attractive to hummingbirds.

Plant specimens may be the main attraction at the Desert Botanical Garden, but they're not the only interesting things to see. I knew something was up when I walked in the entrance and saw this huge praying mantis standing guard. The Garden often hosts art exhibits, particularly sculptures on display throughout the garden.  My favorite from the past was "The Nature of Glass," an exhibit during the winter of  '08-09 which featured the works of  Dale Chihuly,  which you can read about here, if you wish.

This time the Garden was hosting the exhibit "Big Bugs," a collection of larger than life insects crafted from all natural materials. 

This lady beetle, for example, was made primarily from bent willow with black walnut used for its head and spots.  A mere 150 pounds, it wasn't quite as imposing as the mantis in the earlier photo which was 17 feet tall and weighed in at 1,200 pounds!

One of my favorite areas to visit within the garden is the Butterfly Pavilion.  Usually, it doesn't open until March, but I was lucky this time--a guide informed me that the Pavilion would be open because a shipment of Monarchs had just arrived.  The butterflies are flown in from a supplier in Florida, encased in waxed-paper-like envelopes kept at a cool temperature.  I arrived just in time to be handed a paper envelope, along with other eager participants.  We opened the envelopes carefully . . .

Once the butterflies felt the warm air, they revived and made their escape!

It was truly a breathtaking sight to see dozens of them flying about.

Eventually, they found plenty of bright blossoms to provide some nourishment after their long trip.

Cacti, art, butterflies--the Desert Botanical Garden is the perfect place to spend a delightful morning in Phoenix.  Little did I know at the time that this might very well have been my last visit there, so I'm glad I had the chance to see it again.  I'll miss visiting Arizona every year, but I'm sure Houston, Texas must have some interesting gardens as well--I'm already looking forward to discovering new places to see next fall!