Monday, March 30, 2009

Spring is Finally Starting to Spring

I think Spring has finally Sprung. Or at least that's what my allergies are telling me. ;-) Actually, this year, due to the unusually cold winter, my allergies have only started about a week ago. Most years I am already suffering in February, and it goes until April. So hopefully it will be a shorter allergy season for me.

Today I went looking for some signs of Spring. Like this lone crocus (the only one not eaten by the squirrels I guess) poking through the decaying Gunnera leaf (as always, click the photo for a slightly larger image):
Lone crocus in Spring
This past winter hit so cold and so suddenly, that I didn't fold the Gunnera leaves back over the crown to protect it. So hopefully the snow insulated and protected it. We'll find out.

I love this mini daffodils, they are a cheery sign of Spring (the tiny red sprouts nearby are from the Geranium "Victor Reiter" (cranesbill):
Mini daffodils
This time of year, my metal frogs are visible behind the bare twisted vines of the climbing hydrangea. Wow, those little guys have held up to a number of years of weather now, and look as delightful as when I bought them many years ago, in a little shop in Gastown, Vancouver, BC. If I ever see them again (they had lizards to choose from also), I will buy some more.
Metal frogs in climbing hydrangea
The fairy house held up surprisingly well to the winter, it appear to be undamaged from the load of the snow and pelting of the rain this winter. So I must have done something right when I built it (click "fairies" on the left for postings on the construction of the fairy house, and clearing and planting of the fairy garden).
Fairy house in Spring
Although not particularly attractive to me, the flowers of the Petasites Frigidus has emerged. It will be followed by very attractive leaves. For more photos of this handsome plant, click "petasites frigidus" at the left, or click here (note also those same frogs in the climbing hydrangea).
Petasites Frigidus flower
Some of the fruit trees are visibly budding. Particularly the cherry trees, such as this Lapin (dark) cherry:
Lapin cherry buds
...and the Rainier (golden) cherry:
Rainier cherry buds
This is the time of year for major garden cleanup, and fortunately the past couple of weekends have cooperated with good weather. I have pulled and cut many bags and wheelbarrows full of last year's stalks and rotting leaves, to make way for the new plant growth. I keep thinking I'll take some "before and after" photos, but forget to take the "before" ones, or move too randomly from place to place, and can't decide what I'm going to tackle first. So here's one of my "after" photos, after I cleared a lot of tall grass and weeds around the base of some of my missouri currant (Ribes odoratum) bushes (the clumps of dead-looking grass to the left will soon be an attractive green and white striped ribbon grass).
Ribes odoratum spring cleanup
This part of my "hummingbird garden", with the Buddleia davidii (butterfly bush), Crocosmia, and red Monarda (growing all around the white stick), is substantially clearer, but still needs more cleanup. I have a nasty grass which has grown and tangled itself between the crocosmia shoots (that hairy mess in front of the buddleia), so one day I need to dig up the entire clump, sort it all out, and replant the crocosmia. I have a feeling it may not be this year. We'll see.
Buddleia, crocosmia and monarda in my hummingbird garden
All the best for Spring to everyone! Go out and enjoy the garden whenever you can.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Little Carnivores For My Little Sprouts

Since I'm not yet snapping many photos of my garden, which is just barely emerging after all the snow we've had this winter, I wanted to say a couple words of appreciation about the little plants which have kept me company on my windowsill all winter.

Last Spring, I was excited to attend my first plant sale at Van Dusen Gardens in Vancouver, BC. In fact, it was the first time I have actually been inside the gardens (not counting being in the restaurant at its edge). I had talked my mom and her friend Violet and my two kids into going. Although the weather was a bit drizzly that day, we carried our umbrellas, and enjoying the experience anyhow.

I picked up a few plants which were meaningful to me at the time. The most exciting was a Cardiocrinum Giganteum (Giant Himalayan Lily). I hear that it can take 5 to 10 years to flower, from seed. So hopefully the one I bought is already a few years into that. It didn't look too good by the end of the summer, so I'll be waiting anxiously for signs of life this year.

My kids are wonderful, the tolerated my shopping, and wanted to do some of their own. The ended up each picking a carnivorous plant : a sundew, and a venus flytrap. At the time, I tried to talk them out of their choices, they seemed too expensive (about $10 each), and I didn't think they would survive very long.

Well, I stand corrected. They have lasted very well, and the venus flytrap even bloomed a couple weeks ago. Here is the cheery white flower (click for a slightly bigger image):

The flower is not impressive in itself, but I'm impressed by how easy the plants have been to care for, and I'm not in ANY way an indoor plant person. (Seems contradictory at first, but for me the garden is my way to get out of the house and away from my household duties. An indoor plant, to me, is yet another thing to take care of, and I already have more than I can handle, thank you very much.) These little carnivores enjoy boggy conditions, so I try to keep the outer plastic cup part filled (which is a lot easier than noticing when the soil dries out, which I am NOT so good at noticing).

In the summer, we set them outside (in their pots) in the garden, and were amused by the many flies and pillbugs they trapped. For the winter, they have sat on my sunny kitchen windowsill, keeping me company. Poor things haven't caught anything in the house. We have screens on all our windows and doors, so rarely have any bugs inside.

I look forward to being able to set them back outside this summer (which seems a long way off, at this point), but also sure I'll also miss seeing them on the windowsill. If the kids want to each pick another plant for "themselves" this Spring, I'll be fine with that.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Stopping to Smell the Roses (or Look for Signs of Spring)

Do you remember the story of that fisherman who was already enjoying the "Good Life"? Well, most of the time I am too buried in my work and running the household, that I forget. But last week (between episodes of more snow!) I needed to drop off some registration forms for my kids (they're at a visual & performing arts day camp this week, since there is a Spring Break at school) at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts.

Normally, I would plan about 5 errands to run at the same time, and barely make it back in time for the kids to arrive from school. Often I don't even make it out the door, and then end up dragging the kids with me after they come home from school. But this time, I decided to try out a small sample of that fisherman's Good Life, and not only go drop those forms, but also plan to take a walk about the beautiful grounds of the Shadbolt Centre, which sits on the hillside above Deer Lake. I decided to phone up Andrea, my friend who also buries herself in her work, and convince her to join me.

So we dropped off the forms, and then took a walk about the park. It was wonderful. Blue skies, interesting conversation, and signs of Spring (okay, this year we had to look for them, but sure enough they were there!). I carried along my camera, but hadn't taken any photos (too deep in conversation, and nothing had caught my eye) so when we came near the end of our walk, and passed the climbing dome in the playground area, I suggested to Andrea that she climb up and I'd take her picture.

To my surprise (wow, she's a really good sport!) she didn't take too much convincing, and climbed up to the top of it. I love this photo of Andrea, she looks so naturally radiant. I love that clear blue sky in the background, too.

I am trying to remember to make the most of the moments I do have, to enjoy the outdoors, or spend some fun time with the kids. We played the Michaels Arts & Crafts store $5 game again tonight (although didn't really allow enough time, the store was closing before we were really finished). We play that "game" almost every time we go to Michaels. Each of the kids have $5 to spend on anything in the store. It just needs to add up to $5. Good thing there are lots of small items and activities which are $1 or $1.50. So they practice addition, learn the value of money, and have fun doing so, while I have some time to do some shopping and dreaming of my own.

Last time I went to Michaels, I saw a wonderful little Tikki Bar bird feeder which I had to have. I painted it on the weekend after I painted plaster fairies with the kids. I'll have to post some photos soon. Too tired tonight, it's after midnight already. Sigh!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Spring Cleanup - and More Snow!

Sunday afternoon was wonderful, calm and mostly blue skies. So I went outside to do some Spring garden cleanup.

First, I did one hour of cleanup in the front yard, so the kids could bicycle and skooter (hmmm, what is the verb? to skoot?) around the driveway. My usual cleanup rate is one large clear bag per hour, and sure enough, I filled my bag in one hour. At that point, the kids had retreated into the house again, so I happily went into the back yard, where the real gardening takes place.

Seven of my twelve fruit trees are planted within little circles cut into our upper lawn. In all but the last 2 we bought last year, I've edged the circles with flat river rock. A few of them are underplanted with daffodils and tulips, for a bit of colour in early Spring, when the trees themselves are just bare twigs.

I pulled the weeds that had popped up in the circles. Including a very annoying creeping/running grass, which is great in the lawn (which is where I think it originates), but is terrible to try to remove from the garden beds. Then I spread some fresh compost around each of the fruit trees. The few with bulbs poking through the soil, I topped with some bark mulch also.

I tried to take a few photos of my work, but after 3 shots, the memory in the digital camera (I was using my daughter's) was full. Anyhow, this is my Rainier Cherry, underplanted in small daffodils:

This is my Frost Peach which we just planted last spring. I have yet to edge or underplant it:

Same story with my Morello (sour) cherry:

The other trees I didn't get a chance to take photos of, are the Fuji Persimmon, the mystery Apple, Lapin (red) Cherry (underplanted in tulips and daffs), and Bartlett Pear (underplanted in tulips).

As I worked, the bright blue/white sky had gotten quite dark. I was already getting tired (after an additional 1 1/2 hr in the back yard) anyhow, so I was amused to see small flakes of snow coming down.

But then they kept coming. And coming. Here is a photo later in the afternoon, of the back yard (where all my work under the trees has been completely covered!):

And the front yard:

It sure was pretty, especially how it hung in the trees, making them white. But by this morning, when there was 3 inches of it to shovel, and neighbours struggling to get their cars up the hill, it left us all saying "Enough is enough!" We've had MORE than our fair share of snow this Winter. We are ready for Spring!

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