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Archive for the ‘garden’ Category

Shelter

I keep my outdoor garden clogs on the front porch. They’ve been there all winter with little use. I bought some fertilizer the other day and grabbed my shoes to scoot them over to make room for the 3.5 pound box.

I actually plopped the box down right on top of it. I thought it was a snail. I quickly retrieved the box only to discover it was a little frog.

These typically bright green “tree frogs” – Pseudacris regilla — now called Pacific Chorus Frog abound at this time of year. I love their song which reassures me that they have survived.

This little critter apparently survived my squashing and has remained in the arch between the two shoes ever since. I’ve put out water. I have no idea of its sex or behavior. Usually, I find them in between tiny structural crevices around the house — from whence they shrink or dart upon discovery.

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Almost

It’s almost spring! Buds are beginning to break, flies and bees are rousing from their long sleep. There’s a quickening in the air while fragrant chimneys still burn.

Here’s my Ribes Sanguineum just coming on. I’d pruned it hard late last fall, so it’s a little tardy.

The Cherry Akebono on the other hand is several weeks early.

I love these Osmantus Delavayi for their heavenly fragrance!

I see flowering plum and magnolias in full bloom out along the roadsides.

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Yes, it’s been darn cold at night – in the low 20’s. The air’s been so dry that there’s barely any hoarfrost on the ground. But my birdbath had a solid sheet of ice on it.

With the clear skies there’s been lots of sunshine. I feel as if my fellow citizens and I are drunk on light! The neighborhood is abuzz with outdoor activity. I thought I’d take a few shots of the trees while they were still bare.

Here’s my Chinese Elm — always reminds me of a dancer.

With this El Nino winter, the cherry tree is studded with buds.

The little daffodils I bought last weekend are charming in the morning light.

I’ve been out gardening the last few afternoons. American Goldfinch have returned. Tonight I even saw a Townsend’s Warbler — stunning! (here’s a web photo)

Birds don’t lie. Spring’s a coming!

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Out and Afield

We’ve been having spectacular pre-spring weather! I’m catching up on my vitamin D with all this sunshine. Morning temps have dropped to the mid-20’s.

The Master Gardeners do a monthly field trip to wholesale nurseries. We drove south of Portland to the Willsonville / Aurora area — a hot bed of specialty agriculture (tulips, roses, iris — you name it — it’s grown here).

Our first stop was the Little Prince nursery that specializes in ground covers. Seeing vast spreads of the same plant created a lush impression.

We were lead through the greenhouses where the growing and tending processes were explained to us.

The greenhouses themselves presented intriguing patterns.

The cacti were lovely in their intricacy and perfection of form.

We drove south to Hubbard where we toured a specialty wholesale conifer nursery. Both nurseries ship primarily to New York!

Now this is a lot of pots … and the shed was filled to the ceiling with even more!

The skies may have been blue, but the ground was still soggy.

These Alberta Spruce are trimmed into spirals once they’re six feet.

We dined at Luis’ Tacqueria in Woodburn — the best Mexican food I’ve had since my return from Baja. Excellent!! After lunch we had a shopping spree at GardenWorld in Hubbard. Wee-haw!

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My $60 tulip …

I bought several dozen tulips last fall. All but a few were planted in the ground. This is all I have to show for my efforts.

My neighbor has dozens of naturalized tulips. I thought they were a safe bet. But no, the squirrels just thought I’d buried their food.

Then there’s my Sarcococca (sar-ko-KOAK-ka) plant – touted for its “intense” even “piercingly sweet” fragrance. I was advised to plant it near an entry way as the fragrance would overwhelm a 100 foot area.

I must not have the “confusa” cultivar (but rather the “ruscifolia“). For the 2nd year running I can barely detect any fragrance (if at all).

On the other hand, my witchhazel (Hemamelis “Arnold Promise”) is blooming and nicely scented. I still have to put my nose in it, but it has a delicate powdery fragrance — very distinctive and “bewitching”.

The crocus are budding up and the primulas are developing.

Another casualty has been the lovely pink camellia by my front door. It’s been full of plump buds since last summer. But those over-ripe buds proved to be no match for a hard freeze in early December when the temps dropped to 10 degrees at night.

My camellia now has a skirt of plump brown dead buds. So much for best laid plans. As Robert Burns avowed, they “gang oft astray”.

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Winter cover

Last year I tried to plant a cover crop of  Fava Beans … to abysmal failure. I later learned in the Master Gardener program that they’re not suitable to our winters. This year I used a pre-packaged mix of clover, vetch and cereal rye.

Mid-September is the optimal time to broadcast a cover crop. I squeaked mine in the first week of October. Within 2 weeks there was widespread sprouting.

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The weeds are still there but the cover crop is now a good 6 inches high. Maybe they’ll choke out some of the weeds.

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Little Bittercress has come up with a vengeance. Did you know that weed seeds found in Egyptian mummies still sprouted? (!!!) There’s no winning. If you’ve got bare soil … you’ve got weeds!

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The Miracle of Leaves

Okay, maybe worms are something only a mother can love. But we all love leaves. They make AWESOME compost — especially when they’re shredded first. For one thing shredding reduces the volume some 12 – 20 fold.

When finished, this compost pile measured 4’x4’x3′ — representing leaves from six trees. The original volume was that of a large  SUV. (It’s only 2/3 full at the time of this photo.)
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The above photo was taken after the first day’s work. When I went to add another batch a few days later … this pile was already steaming! It’s important to give compost piles a lot of air. When I forked through this pile steam came up. I could feel the heat on my hand. It’s MAGIC!!!

If shredded leaf compost is used with passion, the garden becomes a place of deep and powerful emotions.

I couldn’t agree more. It just feels so right to make use of this bounty from nature to further nourish the health of my garden.

First,  I collected leaves (and a neighbor’s) for several weeks and piled them on a large tarp in the garage. We were having drippy weather and I wanted to keep the leaves relatively dry. That pile was about the size of a car and 3 feet high (and that was only about half the leaves used … and there are still LOTS more leaves out there).

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I bought the shredder off of Craig’s List last year for $200. It’s been a workhorse. It handled wet leaves just fine.
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I just barely had the strength to start the darn motor. The other problem is that the shredded leaves are blasted out of the shoot. I don’t use a bag. I just lay out tarps to catch most of the leaves. Eventually they pile up on each other. I drag the tarps to the compost pile and rake up the rest. It’s definitely messy.

But oh, that compost is so sweet! I learned in my Master Gardening class that leaves have the 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio that’s optimal for composting. A hot pile in 2 days is proof enough for me!

*Note: yes, I’d love to have a homemade wood bin. I’m a little chicken when it comes to carpentry. In the mean time,  I’m getting by with plastic webbing (?) and stakes. I cover it with a tarp and weigh it down with hunks of wood. On the up side, it’s portable.

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