Category Archives: Seasons

My Sister’s Columbine

my sister's columbine

my sister's columbine

One of the better aspects of gardening comes from sharing seeds and plants, especially when the plants bring to mind thoughts of a loved one far away.  This happens in my gardens every spring when my columbine bloom.  You see, they are not really my columbine … the seeds originated in my sister’s northern California gardens.  Now my sister’s columbine have firmly established themselves under my care.

columbine bed

columbine bed

Their main base is under a large oak tree where they share a shady, stone-walled bed with ivy, Japanese fern, a few violets and lily-of-the-valley, and a handful of early daffodils.  Each spring, the pale-pink blossoms of my sister’s columbine draw my attention away from the computer screen and toward their home outside my office window.  As the flowers sway in the breeze I’m reminded that as long as my sister and I share our love of gardening, we will never be far apart.

potted white penstemon flowers grace a gargoyle

potted white penstemon flowers grace a gargoyle

This year I dug up a few columbine volunteers for transplanting elsewhere.  But rather than moving them to a more permanent home right away, I potted a couple of plants to brighten our shady back door.  Digging up ‘extra’ perennials and using them as potted deck, patio, and porch plants – as in the photo above where potted white penstemon offset and soften a gargoyle statue – is an economical way to extend your garden dollar.  It not only helps to thin established perennials, but using them as potted plants brings aspects of the garden within closer view.  As long as you have used care to dig up the root ball, or in the case of columbine the long feeder root, and keep the pots watered, most perennials can easily be transplanted to an in-ground spot once the blossoms have passed.

I usually have numerous potted perennials – purple coneflower, penstemon, lamb’s ear, thyme, mint, and bee balm to name a few – laying in wait on my porch or deck.  Sometimes I’ll sink these wayward plants – pot and all – into the ground to temporarily fill in a newly planted area.  Other times I keep them in an inconspicuous spot until I pick their new home.  Often I share them with friends and neighbors.

columbine

columbine

I may share some of my potted sister’s columbine, or just tuck them into a new shady spot at the back of the house, but as long as they are in bloom I’ll keep them close, so every time I enter and exit my house I have my sister saying hello.

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Looking back

May certainly brings changeable weather to my part of the planet – last night, temperatures dropped to about 38 degrees, and I suspect many areas in north-western Connecticut had frost.

May 21, 2006 hail

May 21, 2006 hail

 

A recent look back through photos reminded me of May 21, 2006. We had some pretty severe thunderstorms in south central Connecticut.  The result was a coating of small hail that – albeit briefly – covered everything.

Fortunately, I had no permanent damage … just gardens beaten down a little, from which they quickly recovered.  But, looking back helps me appreciate the sunny, warm weather that finally – hopefully – seems to be taking hold, and also reminds me to appreciate the gifts we receive every day – from nature, our family, our friends, and our country.  A nice thought leading up to Memorial Day, a time for us to remember and reflect on those who gave their lives so we, as Americans, can enjoy our many gifts.

And, with this in mind … no one says it better than Ray.

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Battling Bittersweet

See these festive looking berries?

Photo by: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org

Photo by: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org

You’ll find these orange/red seeds, surrounded by their golden seed pods, in Thanksgiving table decorations, poking out of Halloween pumpkins, and entwined in seasonal wreaths hung on many New England front doors. To many people, bittersweet berries are a must-have autumn decoration.

Not to me … when fall hits and these berries gently hang from vines towering above now dead roadside trees, I imagine each little red seed as one soldier in an invasive army whose mission is to destroy, by strangulation, every nearby plant, bush, and tree.  To my ears, bittersweet berries scream “INVASIVE, INVASIVE, INVASIVE.”

Why post about this now, when spring birds sing happily as they flit around gathering building blocks for their nests, and winter’s chill is slowly succumbing to an ever strengthening sun?  This is the best time to effectively wage war on young, newly sprouted bittersweet vines.

In the fall, when berries are abundant, birds gobble bittersweet berries. As nature would have it, our feathered friends happily “deposit” these berries while roosting about in other trees and shrubs. The end result is an ever-spreading crop of bittersweet vines – if vines are left undetected and untouched.

Based on the number of young bittersweet vines I’ve pulled this year, the birds must have been very well fed last fall. Here’s one, still in the ground. The engaging green leaves in the center of the photo mask the monster within.

young bittersweet vine

young bittersweet vine

When you pull young bittersweet vines, preferably after a good soaking rain has softened the earth, you’ll know you have the devil vine by their tell-tale orange roots.

uprooted bittersweet vine and roots

uprooted bittersweet vine and roots

To make sure these do-no-gooders cannot root again, I burn them in our outdoor fire pit. I do not advise adding them to a compost pile.

Learn more about bittersweet and other invasives attacking Connecticut. Keep an eye out for invasive plants, and eradicate them when they are young to prevent their death-hold on your prized landscape.

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Falling out of the doldrums

How does a self-professed gardening nut crack the doldrums of still another bone-chilling, drizzly spring day?  First, by ignoring her long list of gardening to-dos and instead, taking notice of antics of two competing American robin pairs who have daily turf wars on and over the front lawn – one pair busily nest building in a rhododendron adjacent to the front porch and the other defending a longer-established nest in a side-yard mountain laurel.  The front lawn, situated between the two nests, serves as stage for daily red-breast to red-breast – who’s the better/stronger/bigger – male Olympics.  Meanwhile, the females busily collect any remaining strands of ornamental grass and fill their beaks with softer blades of brown lawn grass left over from heavy winter snows … flying back and forth, ground to nest, ignoring the territorial jousts that males only interrupt for worm-catching intermissions.

My doldrums further declined when I caught a brief glimpse of a Ruby-throated hummingbird – the first this season – slowing its fly-by only slightly, as it took stock of a hanging pot of pansies.

But when I headed outside – camera in hand, donning rain coat and my trusty pair of L. L. Bean water-proof slip-ons – the chilly, damp outside world opened its wonders … all I had to do was look.

Nearer the house, a patch of Lady’s Mantle collected raindrops in its leaves.

Lady's Mantle

Lady's Mantle

Newly opened blooms of white lilac caught the lens’ eye.

White lilac blossoms

White lilac blossoms

 Bright white Sweet Woodruff blossoms lit up the base of a red-twig dogwood.

Sweet Woodruff

Sweet Woodruff

In the nearby woods, the one and only, but highly prized Eastern Red Columbine (Aquilegia Canadensis) had opened … siting, protected, under a long-ago fallen tree, thereby avoiding the trampling hoofs of wandering deer and any unintentional human stomps.
Eastern Red Columbine

Eastern Red Columbine

 Ferns unfurled, reaching fronds skyward.

 

unfurling ferns

unfurling ferns

Tiny May-apple leaves emerged from moss blankets.

 

May-apple and moss

May-apple and moss

I didn’t intend to get caught up in the misty quiet of a wet late afternoon … I actually went outside to grab a few Alpine strawberry photos, but these will hold for a future post.  Today belonged to unanticipated pleasures.

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Filed under Creatures, Gardening, General, Seasons

Quick notes …

Gardening Oops – Damn-I-wish-I-hadn’t-done-that Day – GOOPs for short – May 1.  As previously explained, this Friday I’ll share one of my gardening gaffes and you can do the same, either in entirety in a comment or as a GOOPs teaser that links back to your own blog’s complete GOOPs post.  Maybe we can turn our own damn-I-wish-I-hadn’t-done-that GOOPs into each others’ PHEW-I’m-glad-I-didn’t-do-that!

 

The chance for frost exists Wednesday night in Connecticut – temperatures could fall into the 30’s over the entire state.  Cover any tender or just transplanted plants in outdoor exposed areas.  Use old sheets, upside down baskets, or other covers that will prevent frost from settling onto tender leaves, but won’t crush the plants.  Protect houseplants moved to outdoor locations for hardening off with either a cloth or bring them back inside for the night.

 

Remember Project BudBurst – my observations include dandelions’ first bloom which occurred on April 4, and the April 25 leaf out of my tulip tree.  I’ll continue to watch for tulip tree flowers, and for my other observations.

 

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Focus on flowers – Early spring narcissi

Is it possible to have too many narcissi?  From early through late spring, gardens brighten with the pure yellow, six to eight inch tall Tête-à-Têtes, or taller stands of yellow or white blossoms, or combinations of white and orange, white and pink, white and yellow, white and peach, white and red, white and green, yellow and orange, and so forth, in single or double flowers.  Some fill the air with sweet scent while others simply offer their cheery petals as their smile on the day.  After a long winter stretch with no flowers to cut from my gardens, I love to bring these blossoms close and indoors.

narcissi-edited

 

But rather than plop blooming bunches into a vase, I like to accompany them with newly sprouting branches of neighboring bushes to present a more natural looking bouquet, by adding, for example, nearly blooming high bush blueberry branches as in the photo below.

narcissis-and-blueberry-branches_edited

 

The last narcissus hurrah in my yard comes in late spring when my all time favorite Poet’s Daffodil (Narcissus poeticus recurvus) blooms.  Its pure white petals open around a small yellow cup fringed in orange-red and encircling a green throat.  The intoxicating scent of this late-bloomer is a perfect way for the season’s narcissi to bid farewell.

 

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Filed under Bulbs, Focus on Flowers, Gardening, Seasons

Send-off

So long winter …

birch-in-morning-4

 

Welcome spring …

03-2006-crocus-2

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