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Garden journal - all of 2006

 

February 11, 2006. This is by far the longest I've gone between journal entries. Thing is, I've really not been outside much. But the inside activity is going strong, with three shoplights now called into action for a variety of perennials seedlings - and many dozens of other varieties awaiting germination in their baggies.
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February 12, 2006. We're so used to oversensationalized weather reports that we didn't give much credence to the snow predictions - so it was a bit of a surprise to wake up to new heavy white blanket. After a snowless and warm January, it was about time for some winter action.
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March 20, 2006. We had some warm days earlier in winter, but recently it's been cold and windy. So the early bulbs - crocus and rock iris - are past their peak, but other flowers haven't quite caught up with the arrival of spring yet. This draba here is a nice exception - it blooms very dependably in late winter. Two other cabbage relatives, mountain rockcress and purple rockcress, are also tentatively joining the show.
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March 26, 2006. Ah, the garden's made progress since last week. More green, and just a few more blossoms. Such as this Cornelian cherry, blooming on its intricately patterned bare wood. It's a good thing we grow it in our front lane, or we might miss its show, so early in spring.
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March 30, 2006. Every year we wait for it impatiently, and it still takes us by surprise - the first star magnolia to open. Pure white, voluptuous, and surrounded by plenty of its bud sisters. The show will be over soon - so we'd better pay attention while it lasts.
In the past few days, I've started to pot up plants for the sale, which will be early this year, in late April. Not sure how that's going to work out, because so many plants will just be barely waking up by then. But what struck me right now is how dry everything is - we've been having a stealth drought, with none of the spring rains that usually keep the ground moist at least through April. Even though it will look silly, I plan to set up a sprinkler tomorrow...
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April 02, 2006. A glorious spring day. We still need rain, but who's complaining when it's sunny and downright pleasant outside? My back hurts from potting up dozens of plants for the sale, but I'm not about to fuss about it. Still not a whole lot of flower action - but the peach (pictured) and apricot trees are in full blossom, the Bradford pear is thinking about it, and the first of the pulsatillas is showing off its lustrous blooms. Surveying the landscape, it looks like I'll be doing a lot of replanting and restocking this year - the winter, while not at all harsh in terms of temperatures, has not been kind to many plants. I guess I've been in need of a fresh start in a few areas anyway.
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April 11, 2006. For the first time since planting this currant in our back-yard orchard, it's blooming - so I'm looking forward to its fruit. I don't know what variety it is, though - it came to us as red currant (Ribes rubrum), but doesn't resemble photos I've found of that species. I'll figure it out one of these days...
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come hither...
April 16, 2006. Sometimes, just walking through the garden, a plant you've known for a while presents a slightly different side - often only when you look more closely than usual. So it was with this Korean burnet, whose newly unfurling leaves had an almost carnivorous quality to them.
In other news: the weekend was warm and sunny once again (we still need rain!), so that most of the potting-up for the sale next weekend is done. The garage has been rearranged into a sale area - but the plants won't move in until later this week.
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April 19, 2006. Meet Mr Fish! A Christmas present from Amy, we first let him dangle from the Japanese maple near our patio - even though he's not Japanese, it seemed to fit. But when I noticed that the wind was banging the ornament into the tree and badly damaging the bark, I had no choice but to relocate it. It's much less likely to damage the hulking empress tree in our back yard island. All in all, a worthy addition to our garden's animal art ensemble.
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April 22, 2006. When the weatherman correctly predicted the end of the previously unbeaten streak of sunny Rob's Plant Sale events, I worried that fellow gardeners might not come out in the rain. And when, shortly after 6am, I discovered that chilly rain does not make a good companion to packing tape (which I was trying to use to put up direction signs around the neighborhood), I doubted my sanity in pressing through with the sale. But I'm happy to report that gardeners are a hardy bunch, and were undeterred by the wet chill. As the before-and-after photos at my Plant Sale page show, the stock of plants was rather depleted by early afternoon. Thank you to everybody who braved the weather - good luck with your new green companions!
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April 26, 2006. For years, I'd been eyeing up tree peonies in magazines. Several times, I'd tried to grow them from seed - with no luck whatsoever. Since I hardly ever purchase plants by mail order, and I had never seen them offered for sale locally, our garden was still without this Asian marvel. Imagine my surprise to see them for sale at our localest of local plant venues - the farmer's market down the road! A friendly customer at my plant sale last Saturday alerted me to the opportunity, and sure enough, they still had some when I swung by yesterday - so of course I bought one. Although they are supposed to bloom in May-June, these had already done their thing (forced indoors, no doubt), so I'll have to wait till next year to see the blooms. But I'm already enjoying the oddly lobed leaves and the funky gnarled trunk.
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May 03, 2006. What? I blinked, and it's lilac season. Ours are getting bigger by the year!
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just a small portion of the nursery area
May 04, 2006. Earlier than ever, this year's seedlings have found their way into our orchard holding area. After growing on for a year, they'll be ready to go out into the garden at large; extras will be on display on the sale tables for my seventh annual plant sale, which next year will probably be sometime in early May.
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May 17, 2006. Returned from a couple weeks' vacation yesterday, to a garden swelled by a good supply of much-needed rain in our absence (the best kind of rain, along with overnight slow drenches). I found many new plants in bloom, including some that hadn't previously charmed me - such as the wild red columbine pictured here. But mostly, the garden had just grown phenomenally lush (our friendly neighbor mowed our lawn twice - thanks Tony!)
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May 20, 2006. Whacking back the weeds in our Lane garden, I looked up, and realized that, in my efforts to tidy up, I hadn't actually noticed the cascade of colorful flowers right in front of me - Helenium hoopesii, painted daisy and Siberian iris providing the primary colors, augmented by a lavender haze of catmint sprawling across the walkway. Our garden's appearance is seldom "neat", but there are nearly always flowers to be found among the slightly out of control plantings. And when things go just right, they combine into a pretty picture like the one here!
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June 03, 2006. Several weeks of increasingly hot and sunny weather had started to take its toll on the prima donnas of the garden, while spurring on the more robust and established plants to lush growth and blooms. And sure enough, right on cue, a big thunderstorm passes through right as the peonies reach their height of bloom. Happens every year. This year, I hadn't even gotten around to any staking or tying, so they did a massive flop. But it's simply divine to walk through the garden right now. The best part: even the deepest-rooted weeds come up with their entire taproot when tugged just the right way. For a dirt gardener, that's an instant high.
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June 04, 2006. Yesterday I engaged in combat with the neighbors' privet hedge. The hedge is useful in providing a backdrop to the long narrow bed along our driveway, but has the unfortunate tendency to quickly grow into the very space of that flower border. At least a couple times a year, I hack it back into its allotted space, giving the flowers breathing room and access to sunlight. The picture here shows the spoils of battle with just a part of the hedge. The chipper/shredder will be thankful.
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June 24, 2006. It's summer! And sure enough, the first sunflowers are flaming away. Never mind that the real sun hasn't shown itself much today, only making occasional appearances between thunderstorms - the plants sure know it is. Early summer, the last growth spurt before the dog days suppress all enthusiasm for further accomplishments. The plants that know this best are the weeds - I could spend just about the whole time weeding, just to barely keep up with the thistles, dandelions, purslane, and assorted other fast-growers. Since my gardening time is limited, we'll have to live with some weediness. Luckily, there's no garden tour scheduled for this year...
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June 26, 2006. For a plant collector geek, I get a surprising amount of satisfaction out of observing the simple plants in our vegetable garden. Take these red onions, which we neglected to harvest last year - they reward us now with pom-poms that have just as much grace as the drumstick alliums sprucing up our ornamental garden areas. They're just not as pink.
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July 01, 2006. There's good news and bad news on the garden critter front - both uncovered during a delightful early-morning stroll through the still-cool garden, wet from days of drenching rain and summer dew. First the good news: froglets! We've had frogs in our pond for many years - but never have we seen evidence of procreation. Then all of a sudden, this morning - four littluns sunning themselves on the lily pads. Somehow the spawn must have escaped our voracious fish this year. Will we have a croak chorus next year?
Unfortunately, the other critter news quickly depressed my mood - the first Japanese beetle sighting of the year. I found the first one and dispensed of it, hopeful of containing this year's infestation - only to find that the pussy willow was literally crawling with the disgusting creatures and their excrement. Benny helped me squish a bucketful, but I'm afraid that such feeble measures will barely dent their onslaught...
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July 04, 2006. Two and a half years of robsplants.com, and today I created the one-thousandth entry in my plant database! You won't find one thousand plant portraits on this site - some entries are for plants that never lived past seedling stage, others are for weeds - but the plant variety here just keeps increasing. Entry 1000 was for Solanum pyracanthos, one of those eggplant relatives that looks cool by virtue of having spines all over. A curiosity, for sure.
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These youngsters didn't leave much of their host plants standing
August 26, 2006. My, has it been almost two months? Let's call it the mid-summer slump. We started summer with extreme wet (enough to cause severe flooding in the area) and then, much stealthier, the weather turned very dry, with an intervening heat wave. So now I can walk through the garden and point at dead plants: that one succumbed to root rot - too much water; and that one died of thirst. But dead plants isn't the first thing that would strike you about our late-August garden - the untidily lush growth in many areas jumps out much more. My fault, of course: the usual confluence of heat and humidity in the daytime, mosquitoes at dawn and dusk, make the outside less enticing right now.
But that's not to say there hasn't been much to enjoy - we had a good year for butterflies, especially monarchs. I give credit to the tropical milkweed we planted in the cutting garden. The photo shown here was taken a few weeks ago; by now the next generation is emerging as pristine adults, ever so gracefully gliding and swooping through our garden. Good luck in your south-bound adventure!
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September 28, 2006. Yikes! What's happening to our back yard?

to be continued...
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I'm blocking the view of the waterfall - sorry!
October 12, 2006. The past few weeks have been taken up by an ambitious project - taken on not by myself but by professionals who actually (claim to) know what they're doing: a large, naturally filtered pond with waterfall. We won't get the full effect until sometime next year, when the bog filter plantings take off and we work more garden plants into the overall area - but we're already enjoying the results. My father wouldn't miss the project, so he flew all the way over from the Netherlands to witness its completion. Okay, maybe the grandkids had something to do with it as well... You can read more about the project on my new big pond page.
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October 21, 2006. Yesterday and today's project: getting a pallet full of flat rock (the local variety is called "Colonial stone") and using it to make a walkway around part of the new pond. The pondbuilders had left us with a bed of pebbles all around the pond, to hide the edges of the liner. But we didn't think the pebble beach look fit very well into the rest of our garden scheme, and preferred a different material to define the border between the pond proper and the areas beyond (which will be mostly lawn, at least for now). We used the same variety of rock in our side garden and in the lane, so it was a natural choice for the job.
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October 29, 2006. Winter is approaching, and with it our resident rabbits' tendency to gnaw down young shrubs and trees to mere nubs. While the attacked plants usually survive, they are set back quite a bit by this merciless treatment, so we try to take protective measures. This year, we have quite a number of newly planted woody specimens, planted along our new pond. So I'm taking advantage of some leftover coated chickenwire from a fencing project to create cage cylinders, which we stake down over plants to protect. The one in the picture is a small-leaved Japanese maple - a slow grower, so any rabbit damage causes quite a setback.
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Bright sunlit leaves of Amsonia illustris
November 12, 2006. It's certifiably fall, even though we had a most pleasant Indian summer for a few days last week - most trees are bare by now (even our young-suburban yard is finally starting to accumulate significant amounts of autumn leaves), and few flowers remain. I like the relaxed feel to the garden right now - and funny enough, it actually spurs me into action. Last week, I completed a page about amsonia I've been wanting to put together for a while, and yesterday I took inventory of the plants surviving in our orchard holding zone - important for when time comes to pot them up in time for the spring plant sale.
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November 18, 2006. The plants in the pond and bog have been closing up shop for the cold season in recent weeks - all but the string algae, who are taking advantage of the influx of nutrients from falling leaves, and this one persistent marsh marigold, looking fresh as can be amid its fading friends.
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November 25, 2006. Much as we enjoy the sound of the water rushing down the waterfall and the twinkle of the underwater lights, we've turned the pump and lights off for the winter. The river of rocks looks forlorn, but the other pump, moving water from the main pond into the bog filter, is still running, so there's still some water movement. The water is crystal clear, which makes it real easy to see all the string algae swaying about.
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December 05, 2006. I'd seen them before, in magazine articles and web pages, but today, I could marvel at them before my own eyes: frost flowers, ice castles, or whatever you prefer to call them. We had a good freeze last night (down to about 20F), with cold persisting into the sunny morning. Result: thin bands of ice extruded from the stems of an overwintering perennial (in this case, hardy spurflower) curve and curl around, to form intricate structures. Just to make a case for strolling through the garden, even when the flowers have departed.
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Last modified: February 11, 2006
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