Spring Arrives, but Where Will It Go?

Spring is firmly upon us now. A bright greenness seems to hover over my garden as the new, tender growth unfolds. It’s the same cycle that has passed over my garden for years now: the first shoots, early bulbs blooming, the hints that things are alive beneath the soil, then quick growth skyward. You can see the progression of things in the slide show below. Remarkably, these photos were taken over the course of only one week–from 3/31 to 4/7. There is a lot of growth there. If you flip through the photos, you will find captions.

The plants are growing happy and energetic as usual, but I still see so much uncertainty when I look at them. I met with the EPA subcontractor several weeks ago, and it didn’t go well. Now the contractor is supposed to be meeting with me to go over my concerns, but I haven’t heard anything for weeks. I still hope that things will work out better, but it’s incredibly stressful.

It seems appropriate that this is the first year that I’ve lived in this house that the magnolia blooms were destroyed by cold during their early stages. Instead of the usual exuberant explosion of color, there were only scattered blossoms. It matches my mood.

I’m not planning to buy plants or seeds. It makes me sad. But then a new catalog arrived in the mail and there was a little hope. It was the catalog for next year’s spring bulbs to be planted this fall. That is something I can hope for.

The nice weather has meant that Perry gets to go out for walks on most days. We usually spend a half hour just wandering around our yard and our neighbor’s yard. It’s his daily attitude adjustment time, and the fresh air seems to help with his bitey-ness and aggression.

Yesterday evening, John and I were out walking Perry and a couple kids who live further down the block were riding their bikes on the sidewalk. They were about 5- or 6-years-old, so, young enough to notice and comment on weird stuff going on. One boy looked through the fence at us and said, “Look at that do…CAT!”

Later he rode his bike past while John kept Perry out of the way. The kid looked at Perry and reassured him, “It’s OK, kitty.” It was very sweet. We felt it necessary to tell the kid at that point that he couldn’t pet Perry because Perry bites. He seemed oddly to have already figured that out.

Meanwhile, the Ladies are fluffy and fantastic. They do not need daily attitude adjustment time in order to be good. They are always perfection!

The Temperature Roller Coaster

The end of January through the beginning of February has included a little bit of everything weather-wise. We’ve had snow accumulations, ice, ice and snow, frigid temperatures, and sunny days in the 60’s!

All of this has led to interesting arrangements of snow and ice to observe on the ground. Below is a gallery of photos I took on January 20 during a walk from my back yard to Patchwork Central and back. It includes the brick-edged streets in between both places. If you click on a photo, you’ll get a description of what you are looking at. Perhaps I should have taken a few pictures that show the bigger picture, but things were much, much prettier and more interesting when I could crop out the surroundings.

John and I had contemplated going somewhere for the long Martin Luther King weekend, but with the bad weather predicted we decided to stay home and enjoy quiet time there. On one of the cold days, we fixed ourselves some fancy cinnamon French toast with bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup and bacon. It was fantastic.

Then last week we had dangerously cold temperatures with some snow. That was followed by a morning of freezing rain. It was not fun weather, but I took some additional photos in the brick alley behind Patchwork and in Patchwork’s garden. With the wild swings in temperature, there is a ring of daffodils that have begun to emerge.

Through all this, my orchids have provided bright cheer indoors. Several of them always bloom at this time of year.

Meanwhile: the cats. Last week we celebrated two years since we brought the Ladies home from the Humane Society. They continue to be lovely. Morgaine is a champion napper, always finding new configurations to sleep in. She also loves to burrow under the covers on our beds so she can nap there. Ygraine remains regal. Perry remains a troublemaker, but he’s very compelling, too, and continues to work very hard to be a better cat. I used an online app to make him a trading card for the Puppy Bowl, which is held in conjunction with the Super Bowl.

Part of Perry’s problem continues to be McBalls, the stray male cat outdoors. McBalls seems to taunt Perry by doing things like sitting on the porch railing a few inches (and a pane of glass) from Perry’s face and then ignoring Perry banging on the window behind him. Perry gets upset, then lashes out at his human friends if we happen to be nearby. McBalls can sit there for a half hour, so it doesn’t stop quickly. The nickname we’ve given him is a little crass, but it summarizes his unfortunate life. I need to get him neutered, but he’s really skittish so I know it will be traumatic.

Last week, the Ladies were super interested in something going on next door. I looked and saw McBalls grooming himself in a pile of leaves on our neighbor’s roof. He’s quite the tomcat.

 

Garlic, Beans, & Cats, Oh My!

A couple weeks ago marked the biggest switchover my garden sees every year. It was time for the garlic to come out and the beans to go in. The garlic harvest was good. I always get a small garden sampler from one organic garlic supplier or another. This year it was four varieties from Southern Exposure Seed Catalog. Their garlic has always done well for me.

Since I have such limited garden space, swapping garlic for beans is one thing I have discovered to maximize what I have planted. Ideally, I could plant the beans sooner, but it’s workable putting them in now after the garlic gives up its spot in the garden.

I’ve found lima beans do well for me, so I plant several varieties of them. This year I also added one variety of pole bean and some Native American beans that a friend gave me. I love the beauty of their varied colors and shapes.

Names of each variety of garlic and bean are noted in the following slide show:

Meanwhile, as promised, the cats. They’re all doing well. The Ladies are delightful and floofy. They are sweet and can get pretty much anything they want because of it. There have even been some summer days that were cool enough for the Ladies to sit in the back door and watch the birdies and whatever else is going on. And I’ve kept the bird feeders stocked for additional entertainment from their cat tree.

Perry continues to get marginally better, but he still has a long way to go. He’s funny and interesting and smart. It’s just too bad that his primary language is bites. We continue to work with him, even though it can be frustrating and disappointing.

Here he is showing off his clicker training skills:

And finally, some photos from the alley. Alleys are always very interesting places. In back of our house is a wounded stand of junk trees. One is a dreaded Tree of Heaven that is constantly invading my garden with its suckers. The others are relatively weak varieties of maple. They’ve grown forgotten for years and are quietly consuming the urban detritus around them. Their contortions are beautiful.

A Round of Robins Eating

We’ve seen them before but from inside the building. There’s one day every winter when we look out the main office window and comment, “Wow. There are a bunch of robins out there. The holly berries must be ready to eat.” It’s impressive, with robins filling the trees and bumping into the windows. I thought I’d truly appreciated the spectacle, but last week I experienced it from the center of a robin tornado. It was pretty intense.

I was walking back to work after lunch when I realized that the holly tree in front of Patchwork was flapping and fluttering. It looked like a monster. It was full of hundreds of robins and hundreds more were waiting in the trees. They’d dive in, flap their way to some berries, and then they would explode out again whenever a car drove by or they were otherwise startled. I wouldn’t say I was afraid of birds, but it was creepy getting close to the tree.

Holly berries have to go through a series of freezes and thaws before birds can eat them, and apparently they were finally ready to eat. Just prior to that, they’d made really lovely photos in the snow! As the birds ate, holly leaves fell all over the ground. Eventually there was a thick blanket of them that other birds picked through to make sure no valuable nutrition was left behind. When the birds were gone, so were all the berries.

Another Not-So-Famous Garden in my Neighborhood

Walking around my neighborhood, it’s fun to get glimpses of interesting gardens that other people have created in their back yards. There will be a sunflower here, a rose there, and a tomato plant over there. Actually, there are some fantastic gardens hidden here and there near downtown Evansville.

One such garden belongs to Dee. She works at Patchwork and has lived in this neighborhood for a very long time. I saw a small part of her garden earlier this summer and wanted to see more of it so I stopped by last week with my camera.

Dee’s back yard is a lot like mine in that the Victorian family that built her house paved the entire thing. As a result, Dee has narrow raised beds along the edges of the property that are densely packed with vignettes of plants and art.

I love Dee’s quirky combinations of figurines and garden art. I envy some of the weirder pieces in her collection. Some spots in her yard are elegant and then there are the places where her fantastic sense of humor shines.

Here’s a tour:

Magnolia Magnificence

Spring is starting to take hold of Evansville. The crocuses have bloomed and faded…

Then came the hellebores and daffodils with more of the later daffodil varieties and the tulips still on the way…

The sedums are perking up and getting extra color…

The Chinese ginger is putting out its alien blooms before the leaves begin to regrow…

P1380277 (2)

I’ve started the first of my garden produce for the year…

P1380991 (2)

P1380625 (2)

The honeysuckle that the city sprayed with herbicide last summer is showing signs of hope and regrowth…

P1380765 (2)

P1380773 (2)

There are other interesting things to see around my yard and the neighborhood as spring comes upon us…

But the real star lately has been the magnolia tree. It’s been in bloom for almost two weeks now and it’s been gorgeous. I’ve enjoyed the changing light and the changing sky behind it as the tree goes from buds to full bloom…

If You Don’t Like the Weather in Indiana…

…wait 15 minutes and it will change.

Here are a few photos from around my yard and my neighborhood from the past two weeks. They include a couple snowfalls, neighborhood art in the snow, the orchid explosion in my kitchen window, skiing to work, the cat enjoying a nice day at the back door, and the first crocuses of the year.