Friday, April 29, 2016

Cloudy, Cool, Spring

Today was cloudy and cool --low 50s. Perfect gardening weather, especially since I needed to transplant a peony. Spring isn't really the best time, but (in the current vernacular) I just can't even when fall rolls around.  By that time I'm tired of gardening, plus school has started. So, today it was. I started the morning with a stop at Farm & Fleet, to get a few bags of compost, and then dug the new hole for the peony, adding some compost and loosening up the soil.

This peony was in the far garden-- what I used to call the "birch garden", because the garden sprung up around two little birch trees Rob and I planted about 16 years ago. But only one remains, and it really needs to go as well, as it's pretty dead on the top, so it's not the best name anymore. Anyway, the peony wasn't thriving. It always comes up in the spring, but with just a few stalks, and maybe one flower. I have another peony back there that is doing just fine. Before we bought the house there was a tree there, and I've wondered if the peony that's been doing poorly was planted on top of some roots that haven't decayed yet, and it just isn't getting what it needs from the soil. It's a lovely single-petal variety, pink with a beautiful golden center that bees can get lost in. I'm hoping it will eventually recover from the move and do a bit better in this new location.

Since I wanted to disturb the plant as little as possible, I used the shovel to loosen it all around, then scooped it and a huge clump of roots and dirt up and out. Not planning very well, though, I then had to carry that shovel full of heavy peony plant all the way to the front garden. My right knee is going to swell up tomorrow --it always does when I do any digging and carrying.

I also managed to dig up a clump of crowded Strawberry Candy daylilies and separate them out into about 12 individual fans, and then I had to find places to put them all. I have another clump that will have to be moved too, but I'll save that one for another day. It's funny to think that those two clumps started out as one fan --it was the first hybrid daylily I purchased, many years ago. They do so well in this area that I now have about 15 different named varieties --I always just buy one plant, because they multiply fairly quickly, and they aren't cheap.

After that I decided it was time to fill the bird feeders and get a few photos.  This clump of tulips is new this year, along with the grape hyacinths. I really like these together.
We lost about half of this redbud tree the summer we had such a drought. I let it come back from the base, and then cut out the dead branches. Even though it won't have the most elegant form, I'm glad we didn't lose it entirely. Behind it is a really old lilac grove --it could use rejuvenating, but I think we'll leave that for the next owners of this property :-)
My quince liked the spring this year --it is full of blossoms.
And the Korean spicebush! Such a heavenly scent. Foxglove rosettes are next to it, along with the purple-flowered plant with the light leaves (I can't remember what that is, and I just planted it last spring!).
This Jack Frost Brunnera always reminds me of Forget-me-not. I tried to seed some forget-me-not when we first moved out here, but it didn't take. I'll have to try again some time soon.
The little bit of yellow in the upper part of this last photo, which is under the spicebush, is barrenwort. I really love this plant, but I have trouble getting low enough to get photos of it's little yellow blossoms. It blooms early, and then later the leaves come out.

I am so pleased with how the front garden is looking this spring. Rob built these stone walls several years ago, and it's taken some time to fill in --it still needs things in spots, but the bulbs added in last fall are doing a nice job for spring.

You have to just ignore the fact that the porch needs a paint job. Some day we'll get around to that --for now we just try to distract everyone with pretty gardens :-)

Sunday, April 24, 2016


Another page in my art journal. I quite like this, although there are parts I'm not happy with --like that bottom organic shape.
Other than art, it's just grading and gardening here. Two more weeks till classes end, then finals and summer break :-)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Garden

As usual, we have gone from zero to 60, weather-wise. The last two days were 70+, and I'm sure in a week we'll need the A/C on :-)
Glory of the Snow --this has happily self-seeded itself all over my gardens. I love it!
Last Thursday I managed to do a minimalist job cleaning up a garden bed that's too far from the house for my older self. I try to keep it relatively weeded, but I'm really just letting certain things take over (milkweed; spiderwort has gone wild self-seeding; and last fall I allowed the garlic chives to go to seed). The soil is sandy, the rabbits are rabid, and it's too far to drag the hose.

Species columbine --I've helped this seed all over the edges of our woods for the hummingbirds.
Closer to the house, a few years ago Rob created a couple of raised beds outside the kitchen, on the west side of the house. I've grown tomatoes in one of them, and Emma had planted strawberries in the other. Last summer the tomatoes were joined by basil and cilantro, which I'll do again (the cilantro self-seeded and I already have a crop of seedlings).

Last year I began to remove the strawberries from the second bed, and added in some daylilies, a nice garden ornament, and some annual seeds. In the fall I removed the remaining strawberry plants. So far this spring I've planted butterfly weed (a yellow and an orange, just the rhizomes) and a dwarf bee balm. I was debating about where to put the purple coneflower seedling, and for now I've stuck it in there too. In a few years I'll probably be able to divide it and transplant it, since I think it will eventually be too big for the bed. I'd really like to attract butterflies to that bed, since I can see it while standing at the kitchen sink.

A clump of daffodils I planted 4 or 5 years ago in that bed that's too far away, doing nicely (with some self-seeded glory of the snow).
I had cleome growing there last summer, and I let it seed itself. I also was lucky enough to get my hands on some cleome seeds from our local arboretum (Klehm Arboritum) when I toured it with a group of friendly gardeners on a very hot day last August. I added most of those seeds in the fall as well. I'm keeping one third of the garden for various annuals --my friend Amy (one of many I've never met IRL) has gifted me lots of seeds from her beautiful NJ garden, and I can't wait to see how they do.

Virginia bluebell and some of the daffodils planted last fall.
I still have beds on the north side of the house that need spring cleaning but they are just beginning to see some direct sunlight. I have hyacinth blooming in the far garden, but in the north-side bed they are only just emerging.
These are getting quite old, and the species daylilies here are overtaking them.
As you can tell, these photos have nothing to do with this actual post :-) They are just what's blooming right now. I also made up a batch of sugar water for the hummingbird feeders this afternoon. I might put that feeder up soon :-)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Catching Up

I was getting photos off of my phone and on to my computer when I ran across a few I meant to share here.

I think I encountered this truck on my drive home from Ann Arbor, back in February. It made me laugh.

Over Emma's spring break a few weeks ago we had a few days of decent weather, and she and a couple of friends got creative.

We're probably going to totally regret letting them do this, but Rob has such great memories of building forts in the woods behind his house that he couldn't resist helping them out with some materials languishing in our barn. That city sign was actually part of a doghouse that was on the property when we bought it --we didn't have a dog, so Rob dismantled it.They even dragged an old broken down swing bench in there so they wouldn't have to sit on the wet ground. High style :-)

They built themselves a little fire pit from old bricks, and dragged over stumps for seats.
One of them modified her stump into a kind of Game of Thrones style throne, made of branches rather than swords :-)
That evening they roasted hot dogs and marshmallows over their own fire pit. They had a blast :-)

After spring break it was back to the real world. Emma has been experiencing her first AP class, and for reasons related to how the AP system requires the class to teach to the test, it will also be her last AP class. She wasn't sure she wanted to take the AP exam (many colleges don't even accept it for credit anymore), but the review made up her mind for her. In the photo below, on the left is the textbook she's been reading all semester. On the right is the "review" book that her teacher told them to read before the AP exam. Ridiculous. It's basically reading a second textbook to get ready to take a test. She learned a lot in this class because she has a good teacher, but these classes are nothing like college classes --instead of the critical thinking we try to stress in college, they are a semester of memorizing tiny details and regurgitating them on multiple-choice tests.  Even the essay portion of the exams is graded based on how many tiny details you include, rather than whether you understood some over-arching principle.
And just because I'm sure you're all waiting to hear this particular detail . . . yes, there is still some art going on here. I'm figuring out how to create some texture with stencils, and also reacquainting myself with some of the zentangle patterns I'd learned but haven't used for a while.
I've also been wandering the garden --I even got two new plants delivered and planted, but I'll save that stuff for a later post.

Friday, April 8, 2016


This has been sitting in our living room for a few days:
It's hard to see, but this is both sides of a rotating compost barrel. The bottom box has the stand, with all the various pieces to get it to rotate.

We do a lot of composting. Even more now that we're using BA, because I'm cooking more and using more veggies.

Many years ago, Rob built a set of compost bins --three bins, made of of wood (no bottoms).  The idea is that you fill one bin and then "turn" it by transferring it to the second bin. Once it hits the third bin, it's ready to use. Unfortunately, we have so many mature trees on our property that tree roots grow up into the finished compost, making it impossible to actually use.  Since we make the effort to trot the compost pail out even in the dead of winter, I'd really like to be able to use the stuff eventually. So, we invested --and it is an investment. These things don't come cheap!

After we unpacked it, we thought about moving it out to the garage until we have time to figure out how to put it together. But then we looked at each other, sighed, and agreed that leaving it in the middle of the living room would make sure we'd get it set up more quickly :-)