Tag Archives: Winter

I’m Waiting Patiently…

When my oldest daughter was about two years old, she would stand, waiting for us to take her on an adventure, tap her toe, and say, “I’m waiting patiently.”  That’s how I feel about Spring these days.  Winter, such as it has been, has been mostly warmer than usual, but coldest of all the last few weeks, with several episodes of spitting snow.  Low temps the last week or so have been at or below freezing.

Several other gardeners have mentioned bulbs blooming much earlier than usual, but I think Spring for me will be only a couple of weeks early.  The snowdrops came up last week, two or three weeks earlier than usual and are holding very well, perhaps because the weather has been so cool.

Snowdrops, 14 February 2012

Daffodil Buds, 14 February 2012

The daffodils are stretching up their buds ever so slo-o-w-ly, with not a hint of color yet.  As cold as the nights are, I don’t blame them for huddling under the ground.

I have had time for an absolute flurry of seed planting.  My winter sown milk jug count is up to 53 jugs, although three are from last year and may be hopeless cases and four contain recently pricked out babies from last year.  This year for winter sowing, I focused mostly on seeds that definitely need a cold period to germinate or hardy annuals that I want to plant out as soon as I reasonably can.

Winter Sown Milk Jugs, 14 February 2012

I consciously tried to use less seed after I realized that I have NEVER looked at a pot of seedlings and thought, “Gee, I should have sown that seed more densely.”  I sprayed water sparingly rather than submerging because last years jugs stayed far wetter than needed.

I spent an hour or so yesterday pricking out the year old, half inch tall wintergreen seedlings (Gaultheria procumbens ‘Very Berry’.)  I didn’t anticipate this much success; there are between 75 and 100 seedlings spread out among four milk jug or pretzel containers.  The other tiny babies are Ramonda myconii, a hardy African violet relative.

Winter Sown Wintergreen after Transplanting, 12 February 2012

I’ll keep them in their milk jug greenhouses until they’re big enough to set out, perhaps Fall 2012, perhaps later.  I’ll also have to provide some protection for the wintergreen, since SOMEONE has devoured my current wintergreen plant for the second year in a row.

I also planted pepper seeds and tomatoes for containers to plant out in early to mid May, along with a flat of greens to plant out in early March.  Hopefully the Chief of Implementation and I can work out lights for the seedlings before they become seedlings!  Since I was making a mess anyway, I potted up Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) and Peppermint Geranium (Pelargonium tomentosum) cuttings that have been slowly rooting for a couple of months.  Those are two of my favorite scented plants, and I’m willing to baby them through winter indoors to enjoy big happy plants each summer.  Everyone is installed on the new plant shelf assembled by the Chief of Implementation.

Plant Shelf, Dining Room, 12 February 2012

When the Nun’s Orchid finishes blooming, I’ll section and pot up the bloom stems hoping to make more babies.

May all your gardens be fruitful, and may today in particular be filled with love!




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Battling the Ninja Squirrels

In the beginning, there was a thistle sock for the finches,

Thistle Sock Feeder, 17 March 2010

Goldfinch on Thistle Sock, 17 April 2010

and sunflower seed for the cardinals and chickadees and nuthatches and their friends,

Cardinal, 18 March 2010

and suet for the woodpeckers, all hung on a double hook on the deck.

Woodpecker, 14 February 2011

Shepherd's Crook with Bird Feeders, 10 April 2010

View of Deck, 6 May 2010

And the hungry birds came and ate, through bright spring and summer and damp and dreary winter and autumn.  The birds were happy and well fed and grateful,

Goldfinch waiting for a turn, 16 March 2010

Titmouse waiting for a turn, 19 May 2011

Finch, 6 August 2010

especially when it snowed.

Dark Eyed Junco, 28 January 2011

Dark Eyed Junco, 28 January 2011

Carolina Wren, 28 January 2011

The Gardener, her Chief of Implementation and their offspring admired the birds and filled the feeders and took many pictures.  But the suet disappeared faster than it could be replaced and so did the sunflower seeds, for there was a snake in the garden.

Snake, 5 June 2011

The snake wasn’t any problem, at all, but it’s a great picture.  There was a figurative snake — SOMEONE who gobbled up sunflower seeds and suet, someone with fur and not feathers or scales.

Thieving Squirrel, 4 April 2010

Thieving Squirrel, 4 April 2010

Exhausted Squirrel, 6 August 2010

(I think that squirrel is exhausted from stealing seeds all summer long.)  So the Gardener in the Woods plotted to foil the thieves.  She added hot pepper flakes to the sunflower seeds, but the thieves were undeterred.

She bought hot pepper suet, and won her first battle.

She bought a squirrel proof feeder and the thieves tore at until the seed flowed out like water.

She bought a squirrel baffle, but the squirrels weren’t.

She bought a squirrel feeder, and the squirrels ate that along with the sunflowers and suet.

While the squirrels were on the deck during the second year of battle, they discovered the tomato plants in window boxes on the deck and ate all the tomatoes too, so the Gardener in the Woods had no fresh, home grown tomatoes in 2011.

This wasn’t all the trouble in the paradise that is the Garden in the Woods.  There was someone else, someone who thought birds were delicious.

Semper, Helping the Pansies Grow, 18 April 2011

So the Gardener in the Woods conceived a grand device after consulting her wizard, who is called Internet Research.


For those of you who are laughing, this is a MUCH BETTER picture than the original sketch.  The original sketch and explanation were, fortunately, understandable to the Chief of Implementation.  His comment was, “I think you’ll see Ninja Squirrels executing bird seed missions.”

So the Gardener in the Woods batted her eyelashes, and the Chief of Implementation climbed ladders and drilled holes and screwed in hooks and bought confusing hardware, and looked strong and muscular and handsome doing it all.  There were several revisions to the design of the grand marvelous device.  First the Gardener realized the number of bottles between feeders needed to be two for esthetic reasons.  Then the Gardener realized the plan did not take into consideration the logistics of refilling feeders 20 or 30 feet above the ground.  After extensive revision, the final device was thus:


And the Gardener rested from her labors.

Photo credits for all wildlife pictures go to my daughter who posts at http://cricketwerks.tumblr.com/


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Whose woods these are…

This weekend’s weather wasn’t quite this snowy.  But you get the idea, and I stayed inside the warm house instead of venturing out into the cold with a camera.

Back (North) Edge of the Driveway, 5 Dec 2009

The Garden in the Woods isn’t just mine.  I share it with an entire menagerie.  Many of them are asking when I’m going to restock on sunflower seeds and fill the feeders.  The furry, tame ones are mostly staying inside the house.

Dahlia looking out the window onto the Deck, 5 Dec 2009

I hope everyone is warm and dry tonight!

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Nun’s Orchid (Phaius tankervilliae)

It’s winter outside, and nothing is blooming since the deer devoured the flowers on the Mahonia ‘Winter Sun’ last month. I’m counting the days (months, years) until those plants are taller than the deer!  Narcissus foliage is peeping up, earlier than usual after the warm winter we’ve had, but those flowers are still a long way off.

Thankfully, there’s consolation inside the house.  My faithful Nun’s Orchid (Phaius tankervilliae) started blooming around the first of the year.  Unlike the orchids I buy in weak moments, plan to coax into blooming, and never quite manage to master, this big beautiful houseplant reblooms every year.  I bought it from a local nursery three years ago, and have been blessed with more flowers every single year.  Here are a couple of pictures from last year when the blooming was at its peak.

Nun's Orchid in Bloom, 5 Feb 2011

Blooming Nun's Orchid, Plant Habit, 5 Feb 2011

Remember this plant is a baby relatively speaking.  It will just keep getting bigger and better.

Here’s a closeup of this year’s bloom scapes:

Nun's Orchid, 20 Jan 2012

Gorgeous aren’t they?  As you can see from the picture, there are more flowers at the top of the scape waiting to open up.  This puppy blooms for a month or two during the coldest time of the year.

I had this plant in a south window during 2010-2011 cold weather, but it seems just as happy in a west window this year.  It likes to be fertilized a couple of times a year, but has done okay without it so far.  I repotted it in September after summering it outdoors, but the leaves were pretty beat up after a summer outside, so I think it will spend next summer inside.

The only problem I see with this plant is that it’s fairly expensive and hard to find.  I paid about $40 for mine, three years ago, and it’s grown, but not a ton.  I suspect it takes several years to grow a blooming size plant.  It’s also most interesting in January and February when most people aren’t thinking about gardening. Stoke’s Tropicals (http://stokestropicals.plants.com) does carry it.  Logee’s (http://www.logees.com) carries several varieties even showier than the species shown here.

Propagation is by seed, division or rooting bloom stems after bloom season is over.  I have a very small baby plant started from a bloom stem last season and plan to try again this year, probably with the stem cuttings in an enclosure to avoid over and under watering, both of which happened last summer.  I suspect it will be a few years before any of the babies are blooming size though.

There are hybrid and selected varieties with even showier flowers available occasionally.  Last spring, the Logee’s catalog included a few.  I think it’s worth a little trouble and expense for this beauty because she’s such a reliable bloomer at such a gloomy time of year.


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Armchair Gardening

Winter has definitely arrived.  A few nights have dipped into the high teens; a few days have topped out around freezing.  There’s just not much to do outside right now.  Oddly, this is one of my favorite times of the year for gardening.  It’s all still in my head, and it’s BEAUTIFUL.  As the year goes on, I deal with real plants, and they’re taller or shorter than they were in my head.  They bloom earlier or later than I planned and the combination that was amazing on paper doesn’t happen at all in real life.  Worst of all, the beautiful picture in the catalog and the spindly dying twig in my garden share no resemblance at all.  I’m a gardener though, so hope springs eternal…

This time of year, I’m neck deep in planning next year’s garden: sorting through seeds, scribbled notes, garden catalogs and gardening books while I jot new notes, sketch out plans, and review lessons learned and previous successes.  I’ve spent the last couple of weeks pulling together scattered notes, documents and spreadsheets to put together an organized Garden Journal.  As I complete each “chapter”, I’m posting it online.  To see progress so far, click on the new Garden Journal link at the top of every page.  It will probably take a couple of years to finish, but the work in progress isn’t too bad.

Of course, all the planning leads right to execution.  I’ve already placed several seed catalog orders, with a few more planned.  Pinetree Seeds (https://www.superseeds.com) is my first stop for gardening every year.  The prices are reasonable, the selection is great, always including a few fun odds and ends, and their catalog includes the bonus of a book section with fun bargains.  My next stop is Select Seeds (http://www.selectseeds.com).  They’re a little more expensive, but extremely fun.  They specialize in old fashioned flowers full of fragrance and style, many of which reseed.  This year, I’ve also ordered from Plant World Seeds (http://www.plant-world-seeds.com) a company in Britain which offers many unusual seeds not available elsewhere.  Shipping is quite reasonable, especially considering it’s international.  Finally, a friend pointed me to the Sample Seed Shop (http://sampleseeds.com) where I found some great bargains including an heirloom strain of garlic.  It will take two years to grow from bulbils, but the fruit trees will enjoy the protection while it’s growing.

After last year’s fruit planting extravaganza, I’m focusing on the new vegetable garden this year.  It’s been years since I had a full vegetable garden, and the new planned garden is more than twice the size of my old vegetable garden.  I’ve also been reading up on permaculture and sustainable gardening and farming, so that’s impacted my garden planning this year.  Check out the vegetable garden plan in chapter 22 of the Garden Journal.  (Link to the Garden Journal is at the top of the page, remember?)

It’s also prime season for Winter Sowing.  After two short sessions, here’s a list of what I’ve winter sown so far:

Latin Name Common Name
Meconopsis cambrica ‘Muriel Brown’ Welsh Poppy ‘Muriel Brown’
Meconopsis cambrica floro pleno aurantiaca Welsh Poppy, Double Golden
Roscoea cautleyoides
Roscoea scillifolia (alpina) pink
Primula auricula ‘Viennese Waltz’
Primula japonica ‘Miller’s Crimson’
Liatris spicata Gayfeather
Eupatorium maculatum purpureum Joe Pye Weed
Ligularia dentata ‘Othello’
Lysimachia punctata
Eryngium giganteum Miss Wilmott’s Ghost
Leycesteria formosa aurea ‘Gold Leaf’
Helleborus lividus
Allium sativum ‘Niawanda Park’ Garlic ‘Niawanda Park’
Amsonia tabernaemontana
Adlumia fungosa Alleghany Vine
Aquilegia flabellata var pumila kurilensis ‘Rosea’ Columbine
Aquilegia sp Mixed Double Columbine
Aristolochia fimbriata Native Dutchman’s Pipevine
Primula beesiana
Vernonia fasciculata Ironweed

At the top of the page is a snapshot of my small herd of winter sown milk jugs.  For more information on winter sowing, check out http://www.wintersown.org/

Happy Armchair gardening to all!

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