Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Greenhouse

I have been busy getting my supplies and prepping for seed-planting so that I will be ready when the time comes. For my outdoor seeds, which I start under row covers in the raised beds, I have my all-purpose fabric, my garden staples, and my seeds. For my indoor seeds, I replaced the lost hooks for my hanging lights, got my favorite germinating mix, and soon I’ll need to sterilize my seed flats*. But oh the dilemma, how to make room for my indoor seed flats in my greenhouse. It always requires some reorganization.

This is where my seed flats go. I line the top shelf of this wooden stand with the flats, and sometimes even the second shelf. 

This is the other side of the greenhouse. Some of the plants from the wooden shelves will have to go over here...somewhere...

The only way to get into the greenhouse is from inside the house – it is attached to the family room. There is a door that opens onto this landing, then stairs that go down into the greenhouse. This is the landing, which is home to some succulents, a scented geranium, and a small fern.

Not much is blooming in the greenhouse right now. This Cyclamen is showing off it’s bright magenta flowers, though.

I also have a Nematanthus nervosus (goldfish plant) with orange blooms right now, but didn’t get a good picture of it. Oh, and the Meyer Lemon is blooming, too, which smells heavenly. After many years of having the Meyer Lemon plant, I finally got a lemon last year. Yep, one single lemon after owning that plant for something like six years or more. I wonder if I will get one this year. 

* I highly recommend Gardener’s Supply Company’s APS seed flats along with their germinating mix. I never had much luck with starting seeds indoors until I started using these. They sell a good starter set on their website. 

Thinking of Spring

I refuse to believe it. That white stuff that is coming down outside can’t be snow. Just can’t be. Does this winter ever give up?

I have decided to pretend I don’t see it and am concentrating on spring. I have updated my blog with my spring-themed header and colors in hopes that will force spring to come our way. Molly is curled up on a fluffy blankie next to me and we are formulating garden plans, writing down tasks, mapping out the veggies for the raised beds...well, really I’m the one doing that and Molly is just napping.

This past weekend, I cleared out all the winter clutter out of the raised beds and added compost from my compost bin. Funny, I don’t think I have ever really talked about composting. Will have to do that sometime. My one compost bin really only produces enough “black gold” for my raised beds.

I took the time to walk around the yard to see what was happening. I wasn’t happy about these crispy brown bits I was seeing on several of the boxwood and my two Euonymus Green Spires. I have never seen this happen before. My best guess is that this is due to them being snow covered for so long, then the snow melting and the sun maybe “burning” some of the leaves...???? I cut out a lot of it and hope that helps. Here is what some of the boxwood looked like.

Here is what the Euonymus Green Spires looked like.

This one Skip Laurel that I planted last spring isn’t looking good either. I  hope it bounces back. The other Skip Laurel I had planted seems ok, though.

I was happy to see that these three boxwood plants in the “Secret Garden” area have bounced back. I have posted several pictures of these lately, when they were totally snow-covered and then when they looked almost completely flattened. They look as good as new now.

I don’t do a whole lot of cleaning out of the flower garden in the fall because I like to leave plenty for the birds to munch on in the winter, and also like to have some plants for winter interest. These dried coneflowers and sedum make for interesting textures in the garden. These will be gone by this coming weekend, though, when I clear out the flower garden and prep it for spring. I think I’ll cut some to bring inside.

Here is a close-up of the dried coneflowers. Pretty cool looking.

Signs of spring are slow coming this year due to the cold and snowy winter we have had. My Bridal Queen Hellebore is later budding out than usual, but it is finally showing signs of life.

Several daffodils have buds now. I can’t wait to see their happy, yellow faces. Nothing says spring like daffodils.

I am content to continue daydreaming with Molly about spring and live in denial about the snow outside. Snow? What snow? I don’t see any snow.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Living in a Construction Zone and a Tough Decision

We have been living in a construction zone since last fall. The gas/electric company is putting in new underground lines. All of the snow we had this winter stalled them, but things have been back in full swing the past month. We wake up to the sound of jackhammers and trucks beeping as they back up. Doesn’t make for a fun way to start each work day, as well as Saturday. One morning I couldn't figure out why my snooze alarm wasn’t working and well, it wasn’t my snooze alarm, it was the sound of the beeping trucks.

This is what it looks like outside our front door.

This is what it looks like down our street.

It’s like driving an obstacle course each morning just to get out of our neighborhood to work each weekday.

Some of the lines are going under the sidewalk. When I saw how far down they were digging under the sidewalk next to our biggest tree, I knew that tree was in trouble. Contrary to what most people think, the majority of a tree’s roots are within the first few inches of the ground. They dug down at least 6 feet, if not more.

One day there was a knock on the door and it was a man from the town’s Shade Tree Commission. I’m familiar with Shade Tree Commissions because I know someone who is on the commission for the town we used to live in. (When we moved, we only moved two blocks away, but we are in a different town now.) The man voiced his concern about the bigger of our two curbside trees and said that in his opinion, it would either die or fall due to the damage that the gas/electric company had done. Even though my knowledge of trees is extremely limited, I knew he was probably right. This silver maple was already much too large of a tree to have been planted here and had already outgrown its spot.

The Shade Tree Commission man also said that this smaller tree was possibly in danger, too, especially since it is already leaning towards the street, but might have a chance of survival.

He said that if we wanted one or both of the trees taken out, the gas/electric company would do it for free (although they probably would leave the sumps for us to take care of). I told him I understood the concern and wouldn’t want our trees falling on the power lines or houses across the street (because that would be the way they’d fall), but that I don’t like taking down trees unless I really have to and wanted to make sure I was making an informed decision. I told him I wanted to check with my friend who is on the neighboring town’s Shade Tree Commission and get back to him. The man was very understanding and seemed to appreciate the fact that I was concerned about the trees. He said that normally they like to replace any trees that are taken down with new trees, but that the township had an ordinance that they can’t plant any trees within 8 feet of the new gas and electric lines. Our front yard is barely 12 feet deep or so.

The bigger of the two trees is probably 50 years old, possibly more. It defines the landscape of our front yard. It provides a lot of shade and adds to the character of our house. It is the biggest tree within several blocks. This isn’t a decision that I take lightly.

Here is the tree in front of our house back in August of 2005, when we first bought the house. Look at that beautiful dappled shade. Our house was built in 1881 and it just seems appropriate that there would be a big tree in the yard.

This photo was taken the same day and shows the smaller tree on the other side of the driveway.

It is so hard for me to imagine our house without those two trees.

This is what it looks like now, at the very beginning of spring before the trees have leafed out.

My friend from the neighboring town’s Shade Tree Commission ended up giving me the same exact opinion as the other guy. Which I guess is a good thing. After debating this for two weeks, we have decided the bigger one has to come out, but we will give the smaller one a chance, since both men agreed that the smaller one might possibly survive. It is hard enough to say goodbye to one of the trees, I think losing two would be too much of a shock and feeling of lose. It breaks my heart to a million pieces to have that big tree taken out. It is a part of the history of this house and this street. It is young in tree years and I wish it could stand for another 50 years or more.

The previous owners had a painting commissioned of the house. We tried to buy it from them, but they wouldn’t part with it, so we took a picture of it. It is an idyllic painting that shows both trees.

That’s the way I prefer to picture this house and property. What will I do when I come home to find that tree gone one day? I have been trying to mentally prepare myself for the shock. I keep trying to visual the house without that tree in front of it. Without that lovely shade in the summer. Without all of the colorful leaves on the ground in the fall.

I tried to hug the tree the other day, but I couldn’t get my arms around it. I hope it knows how much we love it and will miss it.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Spring is Coming...Very Slowly...But Surely...

I think I speak for everyone in this area when I say that I cannot wait for spring this year. This winter has been like a bad joke, with snowstorm after snowstorm. Now that I have finally been able to see the ground, I have been looking for signs of spring. I took these photos last weekend, just before we were supposed to get another big snowstorm. They were predicting 10-14 inches of new snow, but then we only got about 3 inches. Hey, I’ll take 3 inches of snow over 10-14 any day.

The flower garden is thawing out. There is slightly less snow than this now. Usually next weekend is when I get outside to prune shrubs and start prepping the flower garden for spring.  It may still be too wet to do that. We shall see.

I really should have cut the roses back in the fall to avoid snow and wind damage, but never got around to it. Soon it will be time to prune them for spring.

The kitchen garden is thawing out, too. Again, I would normally start prepping these beds by next weekend. We shall see how things are at that point.

I had been really worried about this variety of boxwood that I have in the “secret garden” area. A few weeks ago I think I had posted a picture of them totally covered in snow. There is definitely some snow damage here. I am pretty worried about the one on the left in this picture.

This is another boxwood I was worried about that is right by the back door. I think it might be able to spring back once the snow melts.

Some of my three container boxwood plants by the back porch are still ice covered from it dripping off the roof of the screened-in back porch. I think they should be just fine, though, after this melts.

The boxwood by the garden gate, in front of the shed/workshop, were totally covered in snow at one point. They look honky-dory now! These are English Boxwood and they were some of the first things I had planted when we moved into this house, so they are well-established at this point.

This was one of the first flowers I discovered trying to push its way out of the cold, wet ground. You can almost hear it saying to itself, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...” as it tries to bud forth. Go on, little guy, you can do it!

The daffodils are also trying to bring us spring. These are in the front yard, by the porch.

More daffodils, this time by the greenhouse in the “secret garden” area. Some of these actually have buds on them. Can’t wait to see their happy, yellow faces.

Another daffodil trying to push its way out, in the little fairy garden. No fairies now. They are still hibernating.

I never thought much about moss until I started seeing different varieties in my yard. These are the mosses on the top of the cedar trashcan bin. Moss must be evergreen. I really want to start learning more about mosses now. I love the one with the bright red tips.

This photo is my “good-bye to winter” photo, because I really, really hope this is the last of the snow. One of my neighbors has a really tall pine tree and it drops pine cones on our roof. You never know where one might end up, it all depends on where it lands on the roof and which way it rolls. I always gather them up and use them in my winter greens displays on the front porch and on the fireplace mantle. Speaking of fires, I’m going to try to squeeze in one or two more before spring. Think I’ll do that tonight.

So good-bye winter, till next year. I can’t say I’ll miss you. Although the last time we had a brutal winter, it was followed by a brutally hot and dry summer. Let’s hope that’s not the case this year.