Then Along Came Snow

February was warm and toasty. The magnolia bloomed early. The crocuses were up. Leaves were starting to bud. Other plant sprouts started to poke their way out of the ground. I planted a few patches of lettuce because everything looked so nice and because regular precipitation was forecast. Maybe a little of that precipitation was supposed to be snow, but they always say that and it never happens.

Then the forecast got more foreboding. A freeze warning. Snow.

I prepped my bird feeders for the cold weather by adding the seed squirrel I’d gotten around Christmas. I was going to hang it inside my squirrel cage and watch the squirrels be thwarted in their attempt to eat it. But it didn’t fit inside the feeder, so I had to wire it in place and watch the squirrels have their way with it. It was a little disturbing to watch its eyes buggy over being cannibalized butt first.

Because the freeze warning lasted several days, I also cut and brought in all the daffodils that were blooming. I thought of my mom as I did it. When I had my senior art show in college, she brought me a huge bouquet of daffodils that she’d cut from her garden. She said she’d cut them because it was going to freeze at home. They were a special gift.

And then the snow came and it was beautiful. Nothing perks up the drab end of winter like snow covering the early flowers. Many of the magnolia petals had fallen to the ground, which made interesting pink undertones for the snow. The magic was all gone by afternoon.

And the deep freeze hit. It was rough on the plants. What was left of the magnolia blooms turned brown on the tree, but my crocuses persevered. I gave up on the little patches of lettuce seed that I’d started back when it was warm, but then last weekend I noticed a small spot of tiny green leaves: the year’s first seeds were up.

Fields of Green

I’m about to be overrun with garden produce! Yes, this produce will be measured by the cup-full and not the bushel, but who’s counting when you can’t eat it fast enough.

Here’s my little lettuce field.

the field

I love all the variations of green and all the variations in flavor. Can you identify the produce? Match the following photos with the plants:

A. Tatsoi

B. Salad Mix

C. Carrots

D. Cilantro

E. Asian Greens Mix

F. Mache

G. Arugula

H. Beets

 

1. 

P1400245

2.

P1400328

 

3.

P1400277

4.

P1400375

5.

P1400309

6.

P1400265

7.

P1400306

8.

P1400324

 

Answers…

 

1 G, 2 B, 3 F, 4 E, 5 C, 6 A, 7 H, 8 D

Tulip Time

My garden is coming alive and the impressive blooms keep coming.

The real show stoppers are the tulips. I got a wide variety of new bulbs last fall, so this is the first time I’ve gotten to see their blooms. It’s been exciting. First came miniature red ones called “Lilliput” that surprised me with how small they really were. Then some red and yellow ones with thin, pointy blooms.

And finally the showy parrot tulips called “Professor Rontgen” that were my indulgence. They’re like swirling flames and perfectly match the glass garden art behind them. I couldn’t have planned it better if I tried! They’re so warm and brilliantly colored that they just make me smile.

Along with the tulips, the tiarella, daffodils, epimedium, and fritillaries are blooming and the heuchera leaves are new and brightly colored. The hostas are emerging in tight curls that are bright, new, and green. Even the dandelions and violets scattered through the lawn are brilliant and new.

My friends have wondered if I’ve planted anything new yet. I’ve got my greens planted in the raised bed in the middle of my back yard and everything is coming up. Arugula was up first, followed by Asian greens, then the salad mixes, then beets and carrots, and finally mache and cilantro. I like the varied patches of green that they already make and look forward to the variations becoming even more pronounced.

They’d be doing even better if the squirrels would quit rooting around in the bed looking for their hidden acorns. This year I remembered that I had some really old cayenne powder in my garden shed, so I’ve been sprinkling it liberally in hopes of discouraging the squirrels. I’ve told myself that it’s working. Mostly.

arugula

patches of green

lettuce mix

And finally, I went looking for wildflowers last weekend, and I found some nice ones: anemone, Dutchman’s breeches, spring beauty, trillium, May apple, trout lily, violets, ferns, and more.

They always make me happy, too.

Pause: Changing Seasons

The last of my garden’s produce is slowly ripening, but the leaves have yet to fall from the trees, so the pace of gardening in my back yard has slowed.

full garden in October

The food items in my garden include a few tomatoes, drying cow peas and lima beans, basil, and some okra.

final tomatoes

I tried planting some lettuce, but it hasn’t been too quick to grow, so I’m not sure if I’ll have one last salad or not. At least it makes a nice setting for my little gnome!

gnome farmer

The vines are growing like there’s no tomorrow (and with frost starting to appear in the forecast, maybe they know what’s coming). The cow peas, cypress vine, tomatoes, and morning glories are a mass of green.

cow pea, morning glory mass

cypress vine

nasturtium

I finally cleaned the dirt off my garlic that’s been drying inside for a while. There were four varieties, and I sampled them before using plenty in this year’s big batch of pesto.

Garlic notes to self: All varieties tasted good, but the German Red purple-stripe hardneck was super hot and spicy raw. It formed nice sized bulbs, though, along with the other hardneck, which was a porcelain type. The silverskin softneck formed small bulbs and small cloves, though it was also in the shadiest part of the garden. All will make tasty food this winter.

garlic 2015

In other news, my cat turned 18! For his birthday, we got out the heated cat bed. He still enjoys viewing the back yard every morning, though he’s back to being angry with John and I for turning down the thermostat outdoors.

Shamoo!

I have also acquired another great piece of art for my garden. It came from the Funk in the City art sale on Haynie’s Corner. I’m still looking for the perfect place to put it in my garden. By the way, here’s a tip: you can’t casually walk around with a life-sized, concrete arm. People tend to notice and comment! They also tend to smile.

new arm

And speaking of art, I haven’t gotten a chance to write about my big, summer-long painting project. I’d been looking around my garden for a place to add more art, and I realized that my mind was always looking past the large, gray metal fence on one side of the yard. It wasn’t anything in particular to look at–just a backdrop.

So I started thinking. I pondered colors and decided the base should be yellow. It took me all summer, but by mid-August it was finally all yellow.

yellow wall

In that time, I had several different plans for what to paint over the yellow, but I’m not sure if it really needs anything. Many of my Facebook friends agreed with that, as well. Especially when the tree’s shadows fall on the wall, it seems as if it doesn’t need much more.

wall with shadows

I decided that perhaps subtle was the way to go, so I got three different shades of yellow to use to mimic the tree’s shadows. The initial painting still seemed too bold…

shadows with shadows

painted shadows

So I toned it down with a wash of the base color over the top. I’m not sure what I think about it now, so I’m letting it be for a while. We’ll see what I think when painting temperatures return in the spring.

lighter

Welcome to the AMAZING WALL OF SCENT

It’s a wonderful time of year for my garden. The honeysuckle that forms a green fence around the garden is in full bloom and the scent is amazing. It’s a massive, enchanting scent. I’ll miss it when the blossoms are over.

honeysuckle wall

new honeysuckle bloom

yellowed honeysuckle bloom

The honeysuckle in the front looks stunning, but doesn’t smell at all. Luckily for it, the scent in the back often is strong enough to make its way up front, giving the illusion of scented flowers.

these blooms do not smell

close up

I’ve had the pleasure of hosting a couple groups of friends in my garden in the last week. It’s always fun to get to show it off in person, and I’m grateful for their interest and for the fact that they humor me and all my plant talk. Several people were interested to see my garden but weren’t able to come in person, so here’s a virtual garden tour.

Looking East

looking east

Looking West

looking west

Looking North

looking north

The Vegetable Garden

vegetables

The New Garden

just starting out

And here’s a new garden space that I just planted. It looks pretty sparse, but the plants should all spread. I’m interested to see how it develops and which plants will thrive. Since it’s in an exposed area at the front of the house, I was concerned that the neighbors would give me a hard time for spending time and money on silly plants, but everyone I talked to was nice, interested in what I was doing, and adding their own two cents. So, it was a great get-to-know-your-neighbor event.

One of my big accomplishments for the year is getting a black iris bloom. My friend and neighbor Alan has a nice little patch of them in his garden. I transferred one of them to my garden 5-6 years ago, but no bloom. So I transferred a second one in case the first had died, but no bloom. But finally this year…

black iris

In other news of the extraordinary, early one morning I awoke to birds’ alarm calls and looked outside to see a hawk perched on the alley streetlight while holding a dying dove. It was pretty interesting. The hawk sat there for a while before flying away.

P1240041

And an interesting bird skull I discovered while mulching the new garden in the front…

bird skull

And a sampling of other photos from around my garden (remember, click any one for a slide show with captions):

 

 

The Next Phase of Spring

This year, the magnolia bloomed for Easter. It is always such a treat to smell the flowers as I walk up the front steps and to see the grand tree covered in happy blossoms. Unfortunately, the blooms are considerably muted this year because so many were damaged by the cold and never opened. Still, the ones that remain are gorgeous.

Magnolia 2015

Other signs of the quickening spring are appearing everywhere in the garden (click on any image below for a slide show of larger photos):

  • The grape hyacinth blooming (I always loved my grandma’s grape hyacinths: the teeny tiny, knobby blooms and the fragrance!),
  • unexpected little blue blossoms,
  • the Japanese painted fern emerging from the ground like a cluster of cramped bird claws,
  • hops (reminding me of my family in Germany) that’s quickly ascending its support,
  • tiny lettuces,
  • tiny blackberry leaves greening the formerly bare branches,
  • asparagus shoots–the garden’s first edible produce,
  • multi-colored and multi-textured leaves emerging from the ground,
  • a healthy patch of wild ginger and Solomon’s seal unfurling skyward,
  • and violets that fill my yard and refuse to give way.

Here’s an overview of my garden now:

P1220425

For Easter, we had beautiful weather in Evansville. I had the afternoon to myself, so I decided to ride my 1968 Schwinn Hollywood Red Line bicycle along the Evansville riverfront and down the Pigeon Creek Greenway Passage. It was the perfect day for it. Photos below are: the pedestrian bridge along Ohio Street, the Fligeltaub scrap yard, the flooded Ohio River, and the tulips at the Pagoda.

 

 

Shifting Toward Winter

I love the way that green tomatoes when frozen on the vine transform into translucent orbs. My tomato plants were loaded with them after our recent hard freeze.

P1180890

Despite the cold temperatures, I managed to keep several green, leafy vegetables alive. This week I harvested the last things I’m likely to get out of my garden for the year: mesclun, tatsoi, and cilantro. I used a “spring soup” recipe to cook them up. Poetically, I probably used the same recipe to cook up the very first things from my garden this past spring. It’s a wonderfully adaptable recipe that makes a creamy sausage, potato, and vegetable soup, and it comes from one of my favorite cookbooks: Simply in Season.

kohlrabi

garden view November 2014

supper

With these greens harvested, I know my garden will shift more and more into a color palette of browns and greys as we move into the darkest part of the year. Still, I remember that there is beauty to be found in the muted colors of winter.

black cherry

And in clearing leaves from under the magnolia tree, I decided that the art bundle that I’d secured to the tree in March, 2013 had eroded to the point that I couldn’t re-hang it. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it next, but the pieces of it have weathered beautifully.

Art Bundle 1