Starting with the garden…spring is a glorious time for bulbs. They all have their charms, but if I had to choose a favorite, it would be ‘Tête-à-Tête’ daffodil. Its short, sturdy stems keep the flowers upright even in wet and windy weather, and it multiplies freely without needing frequent dividing. ‘February Gold’ is a close second.In the “I don’t remember planting this” category is this daffodil in the courtyard. I’m sure I’d have noticed the interesting coloring on this one before. I wish I knew which one it is. The 8-inch layer of sleet we had last month was very hard on the early-rising hellebores. Those that were already in bloom at the time were bent over or completely flattened and pretty much a loss for the year. Fortunately, most of the plants managed to get through that without damage and are now in full glory. Here are a few unnamed hybrids. The next two count as cheating, because they are temporary combinations I made when I was unloading some new acquisitions from a recent plant-shopping trip. I think I will end up using them in the same way in the ground, though. Here’s a real combination that caught my eye this week. (It’s obviously not ideal that the bee balm has infiltrated the iris, but I will deal with that later.) A couple other foliage favorites are looking quite nice now too. Mid-April is also a wonderful time of year for a walk in the woods. Spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) is abundant around here, often forming large patches in grassy areas. Another wildflower that tends to grow in sizeable colonies is pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta). Yet another wildling that likes to grow in groups is ramps (Allium tricoccum). Though I’m careful to take only a small harvest, I still feel guilty about bothering the patch in our woods, so I’m hoping to get some established in my garden. To that end, I collected some seeds in October of 2015, mixed them with moist vermiculite, put them in a small zip-sealed plastic bag. They sat on my kitchen counter for 3 months, then in the refrigerator for 3 months. There was no action, so the bag ended up sitting on my potting bench in the basement for about a year. I found it when I was tidying the bench a few weeks ago, and hooray: The seeds were starting to germinate! They’ve been potted up for about 3 weeks now.
Besides hovering over pots of seedlings, I’ve been working on some garden projects. The first was giving some love to the “no-mow” grass paths I sowed back in April 2015. They lived up to their name last year: I didn’t do a thing to them after June, since it was so dry and they pretty much stopped growing. They looked rough through the winter, so I decided it was worth putting some time into a vigorous going-over with a dethatching rake and the reel mower to get rid of some of the dead stuff.It didn’t look much better right after but is starting to green up nicely this week. Back in 2011, I made a little cutting garden area next to the vegetable garden. It was pretty cute back then. But this is the dismal state it’s in now: still functional from a planting standpoint, but it has become more of a holding area, and the paths are a mess because I needed the pavers for the greenhouse floor. I already have the materials on hand to bring new life to the area and hope to be able to show it off by the next Bloom Day. There should be some other big changes by then as well. I’ll give one photo as a clue. Those of you who visit regularly may notice that there’s something different about this view. And now for the miscellaneous stuff I wanted to mention…
Be a Monarch WatcherThe good folks at Monarch Watch are looking for volunteers who are willing to observe and record the presence and activity levels of monarchs in their garden this year. If you’d like to learn more about this important project, you can read all about it on their blog at New Monarch Watch Citizen Scientist Project.
For the Birds
It’s a little late in the season to mention this, but…if you haven’t yet disposed of your vine prunings this spring, considering making them into a nesting ball for your birds. I find the vines from wild or cultivated grapes are easiest to work with for the frame of the ball, though kiwi vines can work too. Start by cutting a piece about 4 feet long. Bend it gently with your hand, working it into a ring about 6 inches across. Continue to wrap the rest of the vine around the ring so it holds together. You’ll need a total of three rings.Fit two of the rings together at a 90-degree angle. Then slip the third ring down over the other two to form the “equator” of the globe. This part can be a bit tricky but be gentle and patient with the rings and they’ll eventually fit together snugly. Before finishing the outside of the globe, I like to weave some thin wild or garden honeysuckle vine through each of the points where the rings connect. Or, if the grapevine rings have some tendrils in the right places, you can curl those tendrils around the joints. To finish the globe, use more honeysuckle or thin grapevine to weave randomly around the sides. I usually use pieces about 9 inches long for this. The more often you can work these vine pieces into the frame rings as you go around, and the more effort you put into weaving them over and under other pieces, the sturdier your ball will be. It’s not a serious engineering project, though; it’s supposed to be rustic, so don’t fuss about making it look perfect. To use the globe as a nesting ball, leave some gaps in the covering so you can stuff in nesting material. I’m partial to alpaca fiber, of course, but you can also use wool or other animal fiber, bits of yarn or fabric, or even dried grasses.
If you’d prefer to use the globe as a garden ornament instead, you may want to make the outside weaving a bit more dense, or just leave it with gaps.Sitting on the ground, the globe may last about a year; as a nesting ball, it’ll likely last 2 or 3 years.
For More Inspiration
My excuse for taking a break from blogging this past winter–for my first stint as Editor-in-Chief (i.e. primary writer and photographer) for a magazine–has finally become reality. Perennial Garden Ideas is a single-issue magazine packed with ideas on versatile plants and design ideas. My regular readers may notice that quite a few Hayefield photos are included too! You can find it in the special-interest section at most places that sell a variety of magazines, or order it online at Perennial Garden Ideas 2017.
If you’ve made it to this point, I have to ask: What are you doing inside reading this post? Take off that heavy winter wear and get outside to enjoy the start of the growing season!If your weather isn’t conducive to being outdoors at the moment, then enjoy some virtual garden touring by checking out the other participants in this month’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day at Carol’s May Dreams Gardens.