Wednesday, March 26

A Spring Surprise

The sun was shining when I got home from work this afternoon, and all but a few patches of snow were gone from both the front yard and the backyard. My garden assistant and I headed outside to cut back the hellebores (me) and sniff the ground (her) where the 3 mourning doves have been hanging out in the evenings.

(Nevermind that she took the direct route and tromped over what's left of the bleached blades of zebra grass, and mauled some 'Chocolate Chip' ajuga as well, to get there.)

In the first picture you see two of the mourning doves along with the aforementioned hellebores. I was really hoping to see some snowdrop or winter aconite foliage peaking through the ground, but instead all I saw was a big Mess. Yes, with a capital M. After I finished the hellebores I walked around the garden, admiring sprouts of chives and drumstick alliums and just generally taking note of what needed to be done on the next sunny warm day.

I was cutting down the old lemongrass, and remembering how pretty it looked mingling with cascading rosemary during October's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post, when I was shaken away from my memory by a flash of green.

There, at the top and bottom right edge of the plant... do you see them? Green tubes, reminiscent of stalks of lemongrass, coming up out of the ground:

Disbelief coursed through my body. Lemongrass is only hardy to, oh, zone 9 or 10, right? There's no way it could overwinter here in NE Ohio.

But then again... the rest of the blades were flattened over that right side where the green is coming up. And we had lots of snowcover throughout the winter. And it was very near to the warmth of rocks and cement driveway and the clay drainpipe that served as a planter for the rosemary.

Hmm. I felt around, and it seemed as though they were indeed attached to the plant crown. So I reached down and pinched a half inch of the greenery off of the lower shoot. After not nearly enough deliberation (yes, I realize how dumb this next action was) I popped the shoot in my mouth, expecting a burst of flavor... but definitely not the one I got!

My tongue soon began to burn, and it wasn't very long before I identified my newly sprouted plant: fresh garlic! A delicious surprise, but expecting lemongrass and finding hot, raw garlic flavor in your mouth is a bit like expecting milk and taking a sip of orange juice instead. My garden assistant soon came over to investigate the cause of my hysterical laughter--which is of course a source of concern for our canine friends--and I took the opportunity to round her up and head back into the house.

It's obvious that the mere mention of spring is going to my head these days.

Monday, March 24

Comparing Crowns of Thorns

On Sunday, Kylee (who blogs at Our Little Acre) posted pictures of her Crown of Thorns plant, euphorbia milii. Kylee was talking about the Crown of Thorns in light of Easter weekend, and she shared some info about its culture as a houseplant as well. Hers blooms a lovely pink-red, but that wasn't what caught my eye.

Scroll down to the second picture on her Green Thumb Sunday post and check out the thorn pattern on Kylee's Crown of Thorns! The thorns on hers are staggered in little groupings. They almost look like tufts of thorns. Now look at mine, in this picture. The thorns on mine are much more random, and seem not to be cozying up to their neighbors at all.

Anyone know why this might be?

Is it a difference between cultivars, or is it just a simple matter of genetic playfulness... like how my college roommate went white/gray at the age of 26, or how a little boy I used to babysit had one blue eye and the other hazel?

I know I sound like a toddler sometimes, with my constant chorus of "Why? Why? Why?" but these things really do make me curious. So any and all theories are welcome!

Oh, and while you experts are checking out my newly rehabbed Crown of Thorns, how about weighing in on these little red buds at the top. More leaves, or maybe... just maybe... the first flowers?

(I hope!)

Thursday, March 20

Maybe It Really IS the Start of Spring?

First thing this morning, a cheerful voice on the radio prounounced that today is, "At long last, the first day of spring!"

I couldn't help but roll my eyes as I thought grumpily that hearing her chirp the words wasn't enough to make them true. Had she not noticed the fresh new blanket of snow that snuck in overnight and added an inch of white to my entire neighborhood? I had to scrape my car this morning before driving to work, after all.

After spending most of the day inside my hermetically sealed (or so it feels sometimes) office, I headed back to my car.

Lost in thought about things that need to get done tomorrow, I was halfway home before I noticed that the world around me was brown and grey. The sunshine had melted away the snow!

When I pulled back into my driveway, I noticed that small areas of snow still remained around the base of the bergenia (above) and there were larger piles yet near the mouth of the driveway. But as I bent down to count the flower buds on my 'Ivory Prince' hellebores, I found a bonus:
Tulip foliage!

I nosed around the front garden some more, finding fat buds on the oakleaf hydrangea, new reddish foliage at the tips of the euphorbias, and lots of deadleafing needed on my heucheras and foxgloves.

Near the 'Peach Flambe' heuchera, I found a few extra surprises... lilttle tufts of green that I would assume were resurrected crocuses if I didn't know that they had all died off or been uprooted by the resident chipmunk last season. (Perhaps he missed a few after all?)

The backyard was not as thrilling as the front yard, however. The driveway garden bed is in the shadow of dense beach tree branches in the morning, and then is shaded by the neighbor's house this early in the spring. It's still sporting a blanket of snow... so there was no way to check whether my daffodils are coming up there or not.

The winter aconites, snowdrops and grape hyacinths are so far no-shows as well, but I was encouraged to see new yellow-edged foliage on the stolen variegated iris.

And then... I found this. A beautiful hellebore--one of the hardy 'Pine Knot Strain' plants that survived no less than 4 moves in the past three years! It's not fully open yet, but when I tipped its face up toward the light it made me smile. Maybe it really is the start of spring after all.

Sunday, March 16

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day: March

That lucky Carol. Apparently May Dreams Gardens is laughing up some flowers for her to enjoy. If any flowers are laughing out in my yard, I can't hear them--they're muffled by all of the snow that still remains!

But it is Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, and since Carol started the fun for all of us, I suppose that she's entitled to her spring symphony of garden giggling. As for me, I feel like I'm still mired in the depths of winter... but I'm trying to notice the little details of spring this year, and so I'm enjoying the fresh yellow-green new growth on my potted bay laurels.

I also gave all of my potted rosemary a good trim--the poor things were clambering over any other plants in their path, trying desperately to get just a little bit closer to the sunny South window. (Next year, I'm going to try to overwinter them all in the ground instead. I'm running out of room indoors!)

My Ides of March is not entirely bloomless, however. The abutilon megapotanicum that I replanted a month or so ago has rewarded me by flushing out a few dozen more blooms!

The blooms are very bright and cheery, but as you can see here against my hand they are also small, delicate things. En masse on the plant, they really light up the east window in my dining room--and although they are not as big and bright as some of the hybrid parlor maples, they are very handsome in a lovely quiet way.

I have come up with a few container schemes that involve planting this abutilon in my huge urn, probably with some kind of armature on which to grow and be trained. (It currently has a hoop setup in this pot, but has already been looped around it twice and is starting to make loop #3!)

I haven't quite come up with a planting idea for the urn that makes me think, "Yes! That's what I'm going to do this spring!" just yet. But with all of the snow still on the ground here... well, it's nice to still be working on planting plans, instead of having spring fever AND being anxious to start digging in the dirt to fulfill all of my grandiose plans! Right?

Saturday, March 8


Apparently "Buried" is what comes after "Encased." This beats last year's Easter storm hands down:

One of my infamous lions, the mailwoman's training gate, and a tiny sprig of Northern sea oats, chasmantium latifolium. The only other plant life that can be seen in my front yard is the top 2/3 of the Japanese maple--the snow is so deep that you can't see my mountain laurel, doublefile viburnum, bank of hollies, etc.

And in the midst of the biggest storm in recent memory, we get to "spring forward" timewise tonight. How ironic! :)

Wednesday, March 5


In the real dark night of the soul, it is always March 5th,
day after day...
(my apologies to F. Scott Fitzgerald)

These baptisia seedpods look much the way I feel right now mentally:
Encased, suspended, immobile.

But don't they look cool? Sights like these always make me thankful that I am not in a hurry to clean up my garden in the fall. If I did more than just the cleanup necessary for hygiene reasons (rose and tomato foliage, etc.) then this area of the garden would be a blank white void today. Instead, I get to enjoy iced branches and seedpods. And grasses.

Here is carex buchanii sporting a new winter 'do. Can't you just see plant hybridizers trying to come up with a grass that looks like it has dreadlocks ("Coolio" hair grass doesn't count, in spite of its name) for use in containers and modern gardens?

I admit, I'd be tempted to buy it.
I could never carry them off, but I think that dreads are beautiful on many people. Why not in the garden?

I'd been planning to give the Japanese maple (above) a judicious pruning in the spring. Maybe Ma Nature is getting a head start... if she is, I hope I agree with her aesthetics.

The ice on the neighbor's beech tree is thicker than the coating on my Japanese maple. I'm always fascinated by the thick buds on the beech... they have such presence that you notice them from afar. Like drop earrings worn against a bare neck, with your hair in an updo. Elegant drama.

Does anyone else see ice-coated branches and feel tempted to brush up against them just to see whether they shatter?

I never would do it, of course, but I'm always tempted. And I know that ice can be destructive but somehow I fail to feel dismayed when I see it in my yard.

Must be something about the way it turns everything around me into a crystalline wonderland, and sets shafts of sunlight ablaze with a million twinkles.

Ice can't be all bad if it brings some beauty into your world during what has felt like the. absolute. longest. winter. ever. Right?