Summer Too Soon

It’s been hot. Hot enough to have had the air conditioning on for well over a week. In the 90’s hot. Humid hot. And we’re only mid May!

It seems to be hard on my plants. They were in the tender, young stages of spring and hadn’t really hardened to the heat. Still, the garden moves along. This weekend was the magical, fairy garden stage when the honeysuckle is in bloom and the greens everywhere are varied and vibrant. But more on that later! With so much blooming, there’s a lot of catching up to do!

Way back in the middle of April, the later spring bulbs were blooming. That included the last few daffodils and my fancy tulips as well as a few more fritillaria, some less fancy red tulips, and wildflowers like trillium, wild ginger, and wild geranium. At the same time, the many varieties of fern were stretching out of the ground and unfurling.

I also had a fun little bird spotting. I looked out of the back door mid April and thought I saw a butterfly. It was so bright and it was flitting around the ground. Then I realized it was a Kentucky warbler. It was a little ahead of the rest of the migrating crowd, and extremely unusual for me to see in my yard. It must have been very tired, because it stuck around near the ground in my back yard for a few hours. It was great to get such a good look at it, and I was very glad to have all indoor cats so I didn’t have to fear that one of them would eat it.

As the bulbs and wildflowers faded, the time for the azaleas and irises arrived. The ferns developed further, and the redbud blossoms fell and were replaced by tiny heart leaves. Finally, it was the alums’ time to bloom. I love their lavender constellations of star-shaped flowers.

My lettuce finally took off. April was unusually cold, so it took a little while for my salad greens to decide that it was a good time to grow. In previous years, the squirrels have dug huge chunks out of my lettuce as they searched for their hidden food caches.

“Not this year!” I thought to myself. This year I put bird net over the greens to discourage the squirrels’ digging, but then the lettuce had a growth spurt and I couldn’t get the net off. I’ve decided it’s an idea worth fine-tuning, though. The squirrels were successfully deterred even though I had a couple salads that included plastic netting.

A batch of bluebells came with my garden when I started it more than 9 years ago. They originally were located in the area I turned into my vegetable garden and have proven difficult to eradicate. I pulled them and pulled them, and still they came back. I chucked them into the yard area under the magnolia, and they didn’t die. They don’t really get enough light, they don’t always bloom, and just get overgrown, so they haven’t particularly endeared themselves to me.

But this spring something happened to make me like them much more. A hummingbird happened through my yard. I saw him, and I apologized to him as I usually do for not having any spring food out.

I’ve attempted in the past to put a feeder out, but I just can’t keep up with the maintenance, even as much as I like hummingbirds. Making more syrup, changing it out every few days, cleaning the feeder. I just can’t do it.

So, I’m glad to have plants around that can do the hummingbird feeding better than I ever could.

The beginning of May brought the annual Master Gardeners’ Plant Sale. I don’t need any more plants, but I love going so much that I went anyway. It’s a huge room full of interesting plant colors and textures. This year there was a special preview sale and I made sure to go at the very start of that to get first pick, like usual.

The next day, I drove to one of the local plant nurseries. I have fond memories as a kid of riding 45 minutes in the car to get to my mom’s favorite greenhouse. My sister and I would spend quite a while looking through all the greenhouses. We’d pull our shopping wagon behind us and fill it with some plants for our gardens. Mom spent even longer picking out her plants for the year.

This year at the greenhouse I got a bunch of succulents and annuals for several planters around my garden.

By this point, things were really starting to shape up in my garden.

Finally it was time for the peonies, baptisia, and the honeysuckle to bloom. I love the way the honeysuckle buds contort into such interesting shapes, particularly the honeysuckle variety on my front fence. Unfortunately, that plant tends to be plagued by aphids. On a few lucky years, the plant is almost finished blooming before the bugs appear. But not this year. See if you can spot the photo below that includes the aphids.

The baptisia is on the east side of the house, so it was beautifully backlit in the morning sun when I went out to get the paper with Perry. He didn’t really appreciate it, but did love to watch the starlings.

Meanwhile the cats are their usual selves. The Ladies are as lovely as ever. They continue to enjoy sitting at their window and looking out on the back yard. They love to watch all the goings on but have zero desire to actually go outside. They enjoy each others’ company. I love the exchange I caught below in which Morgaine seems annoyed by her mother’s public kisses.

And Morgaine continues to show her love of burrowing into things. Here she is burrowing into a bunch of receipts that I laid out on the bed for her and burrowing into the bed upstairs. She’s everyone’s sweet girlfriend.

Meanwhile Perry is still…Perry. He has made some improvements but is still difficult and bity. He also continues to be a goofball. While the weather has been nice I’ve been trying to take him out for walks more often. It was nice during lilac season. I could smell my neighbor’s lilac tree and Perry could nibble on my neighbor’s grass. He’s playful and goofy, and John and I think he enjoys being an indoor cat.

 

 

 

A Frosty Start to 2018

2018 started out with an icy cold blast that wouldn’t stop. On the coldest night my thermometer hit -1. That cold stuck around for over two weeks, but we thankfully had a warm home to be in. The furnace created an impressive stalagmite under the exhaust pipe. I thought it was interesting to see all the differently shaped furnace stalagmites around the neighborhood.

After a brief break from the frigid cold (one day the high was in the 60’s) we got a nice little snowstorm with 4″ – 5″ of photogenic snow. Frigid temperatures have returned with it, so the snow will be sticking around for a few more days. It looks festive, but our cars are completely stuck.

I’m sure the cats don’t know how good they have it. They’ve been spending a lot of time by the heat vents and on their heated cat beds. In between they have play time and Perry does his all-important laundry inspection. They’ve also thoroughly loved watching the throngs of birds at the feeders trying to survive the cold. I’d failed to stock up on the safflower seeds that the cardinals and other bigger birds eat, so I made an emergency run to Rural King today so I wouldn’t run out. The cats were very happy that their “stories” went uninterrupted.

Last week I got a window bird feeder for the Ladies. The birds finally found it yesterday, and Lady Ygraine quickly found the birds. They haven’t been back since she lunged at the window, but she’s eagerly awaiting their return. The sales woman at Wild Birds Unlimited assured me that she has a the same feeder and a cat and eventually the birds learn that the cats won’t get them. I hope so!

Here’s a slideshow of the first two weeks of 2018. Click on any photo for a larger image and a description.

The Usual Drama

Hard to believe, but my garden has been around for about 8 years now! Every spring it unfolds itself in such a beautiful way. By now I know what to expect and the beauty to look for, but its predictability doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

The daffodils have only now stopped blooming. I was inspired by a friend to get a couple new varieties every year and in no time I’ll have a wide array blooming throughout the spring. Already it’s a successful strategy.

I loved my dramatic orange tulips last year, so I ordered more for this year. Again, they were fantastic. This year, I noticed the beauty as they changed. First they were green buds with a hint of orange around the edges. Then they were oranger buds whose tight petals held interesting shapes. Next came brilliant blooms that looked great with the curvy green leaves of the hostas, and finally the fading blooms fell open but continued their color variety.

Every year it is also amazing to see the ferns appear from the ground as small knots that slowly unpack themselves and expand into the form they will keep throughout the summer and into the fall. It’s another process that carries a different beauty in each of its stages.

And there are many other things emerging, growing, changing, expanding, and blooming.

And the hostas are slowly reaching toward their final height. They are reminding me that summer is just around the corner despite the continuing spring blooms from the bulbs I’ve planted. Looking at their leaves, I think of July when they dominate my shade garden.

And for good measure, here are some photos of the cats. They’re wonderful ladies.

With the nice spring weather, I’ve been thinking of Shamoo and how much he enjoyed spending mornings sitting on a chair at the open back door while I read the paper. So far this spring we’ve had several days that he would have thought were perfect.

I still like to have the door open, and Ygraine in particular has been drawn to it. I tried putting a chair in front of it to boost her up like Shamoo, and though she looked at it with interest she seemed to repeat to herself, “No! I must not get up on the furniture. I must not get up on the furniture.”

Last weekend, the bird sounds were too much for her and she launched herself at the screen door, first climbing up it and then bouncing off of it. She seemed to know that this was bad kitty behavior, but I could also see that she couldn’t help herself.

I got the chair and put her on it.

She jumped down in horror: “I must not get on the furniture!”

I picked her up again and held her there. I tried to point her toward the screen window, but she turned to try to leave.

I patted her and told her she would enjoy looking outside from the chair and that I knew it was what she really wanted.

Still she fought me.

Then she saw a little bird motion behind her and she turned to the door and was entranced. It’s been her happy morning spot ever since.

Moving Ever Onward while Staying in One Place

Every year it is the truth: April through June are kind to my garden. The colors are never brighter. The leaves never fresher or fuller. Plants bloom one after another. Everything is new and energetic.

The last of the daffodils have finally faded, their dying greenery now covered by the expanding mounds of hostas, heucheras, and tiarellas. There are wonderful little vignettes happening across my garden–wonderful color and textural combinations.

There’s the section of orange and yellow heucheras mixed with white hostas and pink tiarella flower spikes. It’s the section of my garden that was included in the book The Perennial Matchmaker by garden blogger Nancy Ondra (Yay! It was super cool to have one of my photos included in a gardening book! With a photo credit!).

Then there’s the woodland vignette of Solomon’s seal, sweet woodruff, wild ginger, and astrilbe at the base of the maple tree. And the cluster of iris, astrilbe, coral bells, tiarella, and alums only halfway through its blooms.

Mix in some heart-shaped redbud leaves, blazing azaleas, dewdrops, and awesome garden markers by the kids at Patchwork, and I’m a happy gardener.

We almost got through the month of April without a tornado warning, but then last week a severe storm hit. A tornado touched down in the north part of Evansville and there were 60 mile an hour winds all around. It was too much for the frontmost of our two apple trees. I came home from work to find its branches very definitely in the wrong place.

crunch

We called the tree removal people right away and they were out to take care of it a day and a half later. Since the tree was resting on our house, they brought a truck with a crane on it so they could lift straight up. It was very interesting watching them work.

Here’s the before photo of the side yard as they assessed the situation:

Before

And then the guy way up in the tree connecting straps to use for lifting:

guy in tree

And then before my eyes, the entire tree being hoisted over my house. It was a very impressive sight:

the whole tree

I asked them to cut down the second apple tree, as well. In the time we’ve lived here, the second tree’s apples have never been large and it was equally old, so it was a good time to remove it. Maybe now that we won’t have heaps of apples on the ground our house will be less attractive to raccoons and other critters. Maybe.

Here’s the final piece of trunk being readied to be lifted away:

the final piece

And the empty space left behind:

empty

There are plenty of new possibilities here now. It’s sunny, so I’m hoping to build a raised bed to expand my vegetable gardening space. I had the tree guys leave stumps so I can transform them into garden art. Happily, the house seems to be OK.

I’ll miss these trees. They were yellow transparent apples. Their shade was wonderful, and I’d discovered years ago that that they were the secret to making deliciously tart, green applesauce that was just like mom used to make. Luckily, a few years ago I discovered a local source for applesauce apples.

They were old trees, planted almost 40 years ago in an effort by the early folks involved at Patchwork Central to be modern day Johnny Appleseeds. Trying to bring healthy, local food to the residents of inner-city Evansville, everyone planted fruit trees and berries in their yards. These trees thrived where apricots and blueberries failed.

Calvin and Nelia, previous residents of our house who are two of the founders of Patchwork and the trees’ planters, had this tribute to the trees: “They produced lots of apples! We would pick as many as we could & then take bags of them up & down the street asking our neighbors to ‘adopt’ some apples. We made lots & lots of applesauce, fried apples & other inspired concoctions. I still remember the sound of the overly ripe fruit crashing down for the too high top branches with a great ‘splash’. The bees loved the squishy, sweet nectar of these rotten apples! We give thanks for the faithful produce of these determined trees.”

Here’s a photo from Calvin and Nelia that shows the trees just after they were planted:

young apple trees

In the last 2-3 years, the trees have been too tall for me to pick any apples, so I just let the apples fall to the ground. They were so fragile that they would turn brown and shatter with the smallest impact, so the ones that fell never tempted me. I thought they had a horrible, sour flavor when raw, anyway. It always astounded me that many, many people passing by would stop and pick one up to eat. From time to time, I’d hear the clink of the gate latch dropping as someone quietly let themself into the yard to get a particularly large and (relatively) unblemished apple.

So the apple trees really have provided local fruit to hundreds of neighbors for decades. They were a wonderful thing.

Odds and Ends to Start the Year

I figured I’d better post my accumulated photos before I accumulated too many more! There’s no real theme in my garden for the start of 2016. The year started with some days still warm enough for Shamoo to enjoy the view from the back door. The old man still enjoys the sun and outdoor smells.

Shamoo starts 2016

nosie

I was also out and about in the neighborhood and saw that there was a new piece of art by the “Mystery Artist” in Haynie’s Corner. I’d heard rumors that the artist was working on some giant bells in his back yard and had been interested to see what they would be like. I spotted them on New Year’s:

Take it all in

And more of the details. There’s a whole lot to take in. Try to spot Bob. I really want him.

And more ACTUAL art in the Arts District: one of our neighbors sculpted this piece from a dead tree trunk that was located in his side yard. It’s the same guy with the giant dragonfly and sculpted cats in front of his house. One day it was a 30′ tall tree stump. Then next day it was this:

tree man

And then last weekend it snowed:

Happy Garden of Rainbow Unicorn Dreams

This time of year is perfect. My garden looks beautiful, in part because everything in it is so fresh and new and excited to be alive. I bought several new plants at the annual Master Gardener Plant Sale a few weeks ago (held, funnily enough, on World Naked Gardening Day (no one was naked)) and I shoehorned them into my stuffed perennial bed so it’s an even bigger and fuller mass of colors and textures. The whole garden is a chartreuse land of rainbows and unicorns, and I’ve been spending all my spare minutes in it.

There are no death zones where plants have decided that I pushed them a little too far and they really don’t like where they’ve been planted. The raccoons haven’t held a kegger in the middle of the perennial bed. Nothing is deflated in the summer heat. No bug or slug infestation has wrecked the place. No single plant has decided to crowd out its neighbors until they die. The neighbor hasn’t lobbed bottle rockets into the yard. The next door landlord hasn’t killed my honeysuckle with Round-Up just because he blames the world for his shortcomings.

It’s a paradise that will fall soon enough. I’m just trying to enjoy it while it lasts.

Early May Garden 2015

bits of color

The plants have all emerged from the ground and most are nearing their full size. You can click through the slide show below to see what’s going on in more detail. See if you can spot my cat surveying his domain!

 

Five Years in the Garden

Five years ago I started my garden. It’s grown beyond my wildest dreams.

In 2009:

Perennials in 2009

In 2014:

Perennials in 2014

In 2009:

Vegetables in 2009

In 2014:

Vegetables in 2014

To celebrate all that new growth, here are some images of this spring’s plants emerging (click on any one for a slide show):

I’m discovering that I went a little crazy planting lettuces and greens in my new raised bed. I was too excited by all the new possibilities that the extra space would afford me and now it’s ALL ready at the same time. John and I are doing our best to eat it before it expires!

We’ve done a lot of salads, John’s making green smoothies for breakfast and lunch, and I’ve got a great soup recipe that can incorporate giant fistfuls of all of these greens. We keep harvesting it by the bowlful and laughing because afterward you can’t see the spot where any is missing.

It all tastes so good. The list of what’s growing is:

  • Vates collards from Seed Savers Exchange
  • Cilantro from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
  • Apollo Arugula from Seed Savers
  • Rocky Top Lettuce Mix from Baker Creek
  • Salad Blend Siamese Dragon Stir-Fry Mix from Baker Creek
  • Tatsoi from Baker Creek
  • Shanghai Green Choy from Baker Creek

look at all the greens!