Critters of the Worst Kind

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A few years ago Bill and I put in a perennial garden that included a stone stairway to nowhere.  The garden was on a bank and we had huge flat stones that we placed as stairs.  It was satisfying work and we placed a bench on the top step to sit and enjoy the view of the back forty with our morning coffee.

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Yesterday I noticed this.  

A friend of mine had just posted about the problem he was having with rabbits in his garden.  I had commented on how I have a lot of animals around my garden but they never get in it.  Apparently they have enough to eat everywhere else.

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This hole is huge.  I see these woodchucks daily in the back forty grazing on the grasses and I know where numerous holes are around the property but this one was a surprise.

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Now the problem is how to get rid of the buggers.  I don’t even know how many there are.  I actually don’t mind them being on the property I just don’t want them here.

I’m open to suggestions.

The Miracle of Seeds

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This morning I finally started some seeds for the garden.  People may be shaking their heads and thinking it’s late but I have to tell you nothing goes into the ground before the first week of June here.  You just never know.  I think I will be building a cold frame in the next week or so to give them a little more growing space and sun and ease the hardening off process.

I love planting seeds, they hold such promise.  I’m always amazed that for a couple of bucks you can get a little packet of seeds when planted and harvested could feed a hundred people.  That’s not to say that every seed I plant will produce to that extent, there are variables but there are also the memories of those years where the harvest was beyond belief.  Those I look forward too with a little trepidation.  One summer I canned enough beans to last until the next harvest eating them every single day.  I was really sick of canning beans.

Into the soil they go, in a few days their heads will be popping out of the soil, a couple of weeks and they’ll need new pots, more sun and more water.  A few months, if all goes well, things will be picked and served for every lunch and dinner.  Such freshness and flavor is something you will never find anywhere else and the personal satisfaction is something that can’t be beat.

 

Volunteers

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My circumstances haven’t allowed me to garden at the house in Enfield at all for almost 2 years.  It’s just one of those things I’ve had to let go (to some extent).  The gardens all need to be dug up, cleaned up, replanted – not unlike what happened in Rowe last year.

There is a perennial bed as you drive up our driveway into the back yard that is divided down the middle with a chain link fence.  More than a dozen years ago my elderly neighbor, Lucille, tended a perennial garden on the other side of the fence.  Her gardening style was very similar to mine and we would spend time almost every day working in our gardens and swapping war stories over the fence.  We each grew different things but in the summer our gardens melded together into a huge, beautiful space.

A couple of years into our shared garden experience Lucille passed away during the winter.  It was a sad time anticipating what spring would mean for a gardener whose other gardening half would be missing.  The space was so large I knew that I would just have to let it go.  Her daughter was not a gardener.  She appreciated the beauty of the garden but did not have the patience or the knowledge to maintain what was there.

That spring, about this time the weeds were running rampant on the other side of the fence but in my garden columbine was blossoming all over the place.  I’d never planted them, they’d volunteered.  Lucille’s had jumped the fence and decided it was where it wanted to be. We all know this happens in perennial beds, plants seem to move themselves around until they are comfortable where they are.

I was in Enfield this past Tuesday.  My perennial bed sort of looks like Lucille’s did the year after her death.  Overgrown, saplings of all sorts springing up everywhere.  I got out my lopping shears and cut them all down – knee-deep in familiar but overshadowed plants.  I piled high the remains of my clippings to be moved to our mulching space, such as it is, next to the barn.  I gathered the piles and walked to the mulch pile and was delighted to see Lucille’s columbine blossoming away on the edge of the pile.  It’s been over 12 years since Lucille saw her columbine.

I give a lot of things away from my garden, and have over many years.  I don’t remember who I’ve given things to.  It always seems like an act of desperation finding homes for things that are overgrown but I know to be beautiful.  I love the plants in some of my gardens because they remind me of the people I have received them from – today I realized there are people who probably think of me when things bloom.  How nice.

Digging in the Dirt

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Finally.  My sister commented the other day how she felt like she was coming out of a coma.  I understand.

Last evening I did a walk about checking for signs of life.  This the time of year when I’m anxious to see what made it through the winter.  As everyone knows this past one was particularly cold but we had a pretty good snow cover so I’m hoping that insulation helped everything survive.  It’s particularly concerning to me because I put in so many new gardens last summer.  The waiting has only just begun, some plants won’t show signs of life for weeks.

At the end of my walk I saw the leaves popping out of the canes on the raspberries.  My raspberry bed is in a sad state, overgrown with crabgrass (the bane of my existence).  I started to pull things out – dead or alive.  If it wasn’t a raspberry out it went.  Being a spur of the moment weeding event I didn’t have gloves with me.  The soil was the perfect texture – not too wet, not too dry and the perfect temperature.  It’s been 7 long months since I’ve had my hands in the dirt – seven months!  

There’s an article that my sister and I pass back and forth about digging in the dirt acting as an antidepressant.  I don’t think I needed a scientific study to tell me this.  All I needed was a long, cold, sleepless winter.  After just an hour of digging in the dirt I slept like a baby.  I’m addicted to dirt.

Minor Miracle

140908 Clivia Sprouts

These tiny little sprouts are the beginning of a few Clivia plants.  The miracle part is that I have been trying to get them to sprout since last March.

It started early last spring when the Clivia I have blossomed profusely.  I bought the plant from White Flower Farm about 10 years ago.  It was just a mere shoot that came in a pot in the mail.  It is now huge, completely pot bound and grows a new shoot about every other year.  It’s the most common variety with orange blossoms with a yellow throat.  I really thought this was the perfect plant – it really thrives on neglect as long as it likes the window it’s in.  This one is sitting in front of a window that faces northeast.

I decided to search for a new variety but found that an established plant was really cost prohibitive.  In my search I found seeds for different varieties on eBay.  They were only $6 plus shipping so I figured there wasn’t much to lose so I bought two different varieties.  The kicker – they come from China.

A month or more later I received two packages in the mail, each with 6 and 8 seeds respectively.  The seeds of the Clivia are really tiny little bulbs.  They are related to the Amaryllis, so unless they are dried to a brown little husk they are viable.   These were beautiful little bulbs and I figured I was golden.

I did a lot of research on the web about how to start them – there are issues with fungus, everything needs to be sterile, start in damp perlite, blah, blah, blah.  Yup, I did all that.  Soaked them in a solution of peroxide, planted them in a sterile medium, covered to prevent bad things from happening and to keep them moist.  I waited – and waited and waited.

After about a month I noticed there was some mold around the nubs on the end of the bulbs.  I soaked them, changed the medium, started over again.  This I did in April, May, June . . . what the heck?  The bulbs still looked viable and I decided that at this point I had nothing to lose so I filled a large pot with regular potting soil and planted them around the edge.  I hadn’t covered it and honestly neglected it as I do all of my houseplants when the gardens are in full force during the summer.  Last week I figured I’d better water it and give them another shot.  I didn’t even poke around to see if they were doing anything.

Yesterday I watered again and saw one little green shoot – woohoo!  Today there’s a second.  Apparently all that coddling that the websites professed I needed really lead me astray on this one.  The plants start out thriving on neglect right from the beginning.  Now this is my kind of houseplant!

The Body Can Take Only So Much

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Ever feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew?  That’s what I’m feeling today.  The photo above is of the stone patio on the southeast side of the house.  There is (was) a perennial garden that ran around the edge of it that has been there since the beginning of time, I swear.  It had irises, phlox, peonies, various herbs and enough daffodils to populate the sides of every road in town.

I have been thinking about digging up this garden for a few years now but every summer it has been just too hot to do it.  With all the other gardens I’ve dug so far this summer I figured I would tackle one last one.  The decision was made earlier in the year when only a few of the irises blossomed.  They were too crowded.  The daffodils were insane every year for decades but this year there weren’t quite many blossoms as I’m used to seeing and I took that as a sign as well.

Today was the perfect weather to spend outdoors doing anything.  Blue sky, breeze, cool.  I started digging at 8:30 and finished around 3:30.  Well, I stopped because I couldn’t dig anymore, my body wouldn’t let me.  I dug and divided oregano, three huge clumps of iris, three huge garden phlox, a sedum, a patch of chives about three feet in diameter, a small peony and hundreds of bulbs.  I must confess I divided the first phlox and planted six good size plants in the front garden but the other two I dug up went out to the compost heap except for a small piece that I gave to a neighbor.  Other things were moved to other gardens but the rest of it is in buckets waiting to go back into the ground.

I have a very large bucket full of bulbs, it weighs over 50 pounds and the digging is a little over half done.  Those daffodils started out as a forced pot of six in 1978 – a gift sent to my sister during a hospitalization.  My mother planted them in the spring and for the last 36 years they have been expanding exponentially.

The interesting thing about this garden is how it has gotten higher up on the wall as the years have gone by.  The lawn has gotten higher and the garden seems to have gone along for the ride.  In digging this side out I have been able to expose more of the wall of the patio.  I think this is due to mulching the grass where it’s cut over so many years.  It creeps up on you and always comes as a surprise to me when I start digging.

The plan is to finish digging the rest of it in the next day or two and plant everything that’s staying by the end of the week.  Fortunately most of the heavy digging is almost done, I have about a third of the garden to go but I have to tell you, the way my body feels right now getting back out there tomorrow morning is making me wish for rain.

The Volunteers

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I have a large mulch pile where I throw a lot of stuff over the course of the seasons.  I usually turn it over a number of times throughout the year with the tractor.  This year there were recognizable plants growing in the spring so I just left it.

There are now potatoes in blossom and the biggest squash plant I have ever grown.  I think it is actually a long pie pumpkin.  There were blossoms in profusion (and still are) earlier in the summer but no fruit.  Yesterday I took a closer look and there it was.  Looks like a giant zucchini but will ripen off of the vine to a wonderful, orange, thick skinned pumpkin.  An excellent keeper and awesome pie pumpkin.

Every year there are volunteers in my garden. This year there were potato plants which I expect since I don’t always get all of the potatoes when I dig them.  There are also a couple of tomatoes and sunflowers. It always amazes me that something grows, I till the plot multiple times before it’s planted each year.

It’s the mulch pile stuff that always fascinates me.  Things that are rotten and intentionally cast off grow and bloom into something more spectacular than is ever grown in the garden.  Maybe next year I’ll just toss my seeds over the bank and hope for the best, it certainly is working this year.

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A Burning Question

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This is driving me a little crazy. The little yellow things on the ground normally cover the nectar holes on this hummingbird feeder.  I have three feeders around my yard.  Every day something has pulled these things off and they are lying on the ground as shown.  The feeder is about 3 feet off of the ground.  Any ideas what might be doing this?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Garden Bounty

140805 Iris

My vegetable garden has been somewhat of a disappointment this year.  The tomatoes have blight, the cucumbers are slow, everything is 2 to 3 weeks behind because of the cool temperatures and copious amounts of rain we have had.  The things that are doing great are my perennials.

The cooler temperatures have allowed me to begin a long, long overdue garden rehab project.  Yes, new gardens are going in but one of the reasons for the new gardens is that there are so many things that need division in the old gardens.  I have to say that it has taken me by surprise.  One iris, planted about 5 years ago, yielded a garden full of new ones.

I’m never one to complain about free plants mind you but this is a little concerning to me when I look at what I have to divide.  I dug up three plants yesterday, an iris, a balloon flower and a Stella di Oro lily.  The iris yielded about 30 usable rhizomes, the balloon flower maybe three separate plants and the lily went from one larger clump to six good size plants.

The distressing part for me is the fact that I haven’t even begun to dig up the garden that needs to be redone.  I’m not one to throw plants over the bank but foresee that happening.  How many haphazard gardens are there from plants being pitched when the gardens are redone? (You gardeners out there know what I’m talking about).  I have two of those right here.  Daffodils come up all over the place now where they were thrown purposefully or accidentally over the years. Hostas, myrtle, daylilies, even Jack in the Pulpits.  I prefer to refer to those haphazard messes as reserves for the day when I need them.

Yesterday I gave away half of the iris to a friend that was here in the morning.  I didn’t give him a choice – I told him he could pitch them over his bank, I would never know.

This is how friendship gardens happen. Someone is dividing up their plants in order to have them be healthier and bloom better, they are overwhelmed with the number of unexpected plants they end up with, they force them onto their friends and family.  That gives me a whole new perspective on a couple of the gardens that I always thought of as “friendship” gardens.  Maybe all those special plants are really things that were being cast off and rescued by my mother, similar to things that have happened to me recently.

Regardless of how the plants have ended up in my garden I love most of them.  Even if some were cast off from another’s garden renovation I look upon them fondly.  Some of them have been here since 1968 when we moved here and my mother began gardening in earnest.  To identify certain specimens with certain people in an aspect that I love.

So as the garden renovation continues I will be giving away a lot of things and hope that some years from now someone will say,  “Oh I got that from Joanne in 2014 during the big dig”.  For that reason I’m careful what I give away and make sure it is weed free.  The last thing I want is someone cursing me out for some invasive species that I introduced to their garden.  Although at this point irises are feeling a little invasive.

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Birds, Bees and Butterflies

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This garden was one we put in about 3 years ago (time all melds together at this point – maybe it was four years, maybe two).  It is pretty spectacular this year.  All of the plants have matured and I put in a few annuals that Bill brought up.  The best part about this garden is its attraction to hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.

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If you are within sight of this garden you can see it is a hub of activity.

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I was thrilled to see honey bees on a lot of my flowering plants this year, it’s been a while.

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There is always something to watch.

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I originally planted this for the color it would give our view of the back forty. When I sit in the Adirondack chairs and look over this garden I realize I planted the perfect wildlife garden.  There’s a hummingbird feeder that I have to fill every few days and I have seen finches in and out of it all day long.

There are also a critters that I could do without – chipmunks, red squirrels and woodchucks.  Although, truth be told, I love watching them too. They don’t really bother anything, they do dig holes all over the place.  If and when they get into the vegetable garden I might have a change of heart but for now I’ll share this beautiful space with anyone that wants to visit.