Sunday, December 28

December Gardening Itch

What beautiful, warm days we've had this weekend! They've left me wishing that I could get out into the garden and do a little cleanup, get some dirt up under my fingernails for the last time in 2008, and generally sneak in a little garden therapy.

Today, I got home from work with a little bit of precious daylight left, so I put on my gloves (winter, not gardening!) and headed outside to finish up a few chores. First, I had some clearance bulbs to plant:

As I've mentioned, I like to take photos of the packages in situ as I'm planting my bulbs... so come spring I can look up last year's photos and know what to expect from the green tufts that emerge. I thought that I had finished up my planting very late last year... but looking back, I see that I beat this year's date by two weeks! YIKES am I late this year... :)

This blurry photo shows the Japanese gardening knife, or hori-hori, that I received at Christmas:

It has one smooth, sharp edge and one serrated edge, both tempered. It's great to use for inserting small bulbs of species tulips (above) and Dutch iris (below) into patches of small scale groundcovers.

(As you can see, anything brought into the garden must pass the strict sniff test of my Gardening Assistant. Once it is deemed to be not immediately edible--i.e., not a tomato, green bean, or strawberry--I am allowed to carry on with my business!)

I had a few other pressing jobs to do in the garden as well. While digging up a huge clump of deep-red-flowering gladiolus bulbs, I spied the little rosettes of new growth at the base of my 'Hab Gray' sedum:

I had neglected to keep my chocolate eupatorium deadheaded as well as I probably should have this fall... so I cut it back after documenting its beauty here:

I had plenty of free plants (thanks to my part-time job at a local garden center) to heel in also, including (3) 'Carolina Moonlight' baptisia, a few fancy heuchera and tiarella, some acanthus, 3 or 4 'Espresso' geraniums, many red sedums, and a couple of shrubs and climbers.

While walking back and forth to where they had been stashed for the past few weeks, I couldn't help but admire again the brigh orange pyracantha berries mixed in with Little Bluestem. I know that I've showed this before, that orange and pink (which I don't even like!) shouldn't mix, etc., but I just can't get enough of this little combination:

One other notable gardening thing: I am trying my best this year to make friends with daylilies. I still don't particularly want them in my garden, but I read something in one of the gardening magazines about unusual plants to force indoors, and daylilies were among them.

Frankly, anything is welcome in bloom indoors in the very early spring... even daylilies! So I picked up 'Bela Lugosi' (I would have bought him for his name only, but I also figured that he would have a lovely, dark coloring) as a freebie and have just now brought him inside to get him restarted. I'll let you know how my admittedly unscientific experiment with Bela goes as 2009 unfolds... Happy New Year, everyone!

Thursday, December 25

Merry Christmas Hike

It's Christmas Day, and as usual my job has kept me from being able to go "home" for the holidays. Coco and I have instituted our own little Christmas traditions, including a hike in the Metroparks... so off to the Rocky River Reservation we went.

Just a day or so ago, the ground was dusted with snow... but today the dried, sun-bleached flower and seedheads were some of the lightest colors around. The Rocky River itself was swollen with snow melt, so much so that the water stretched uncharacteristically from bank to bank:

On warmer walks, the dog often gets to splash in the river to cool herself down, and amuses me by snapping at the top of the water to take drinks. (Yes, I've gone into the water with her a few times--and at least one time was NOT of my own volition! lol.) For example, Coco usually ambles down this old ford (I think that's what it is, anyway) where fisherman can often be found, to take a drink and get her feet wet...

... but not today! It was a brisk 25 degrees, and as you can see by the roiling on the downstream side of the ford, the flooded river was very fast:

Since water fun was not to be on this hike, we took the time to sniff every log, stump, and leaf... and catalog a few of the more interesting ones in photo form. We saw delicate little fungus sprinkled across the north side of this rotting sapling:

We admired pretty twists of tree roots, with the sandy ground around them washed away to reveal their form:

We cringed at obvious clues that some people who visit the metroparks have no respect for nature:

We were tempted to take our gloves off and touch a few of the bigger, more substantial shelf fungus, which look like they would feel soft and velvety:

And we wondered what would result from a few of the interesting seedpods that were scattered atop the quilt of maple, oak, and other leaves on the forest floor:

Deeper in the woods, where the rain and sun do not penetrate well--and where foot traffic had mashed down the snow--a pathway of ice marked the usual route. Between the slippery surface, the increasing amounts of brush, and a huge fallen tree that blocked the path ahead, we decided to take our cue and turn around:

We were only walking for about an hour altogether--my gloves were a little inadequate, and without the river to quench her thirst, I didn't want to keep the dog out too long. But it was nice to continue a Christmas tradition. (And it made me feel better about how much food I ate later, when I joined a good friend for her family get-together, too!)

Hope that you all had a wonderful, very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21

Winter Sun-Standing (Solstice) 2008

There are two times each year that the earth "stands still" on its axis... but I have to confess that I barely notice the summer equinox. Late June days are spent in the garden--or playing volleyball in the sand, or listening to the crack of a turned length of maple or ash connecting with a leather-covered orb--and they seem to flow warmly into the heat of July without much notice.

The winter solstice, however, always catches my attention. It seems to be a time for introspection... for noticing the little details, whether they are of spiny desert plants tucked into a ledge, or the amount of care put into holiday treats, hospitality and decoration.

While we bundle up, Mother Nature lays bare her earth and takes down her leafy growing-season decor. In winter, we can often see patterns that we might otherwise miss, for the distraction of vibrantly blooming summer plants.

We think about the coming year, and mentally lay some new paths for ourselves, and vow again to keep things neat and orderly.

We sit for a while at the window and look out, and then turn our gaze inward again... and appreciate the rich textures, and colors, that the things and people with which we surround ourselves add to our experiences.

And we appreciate, too, even the smallest signs of fuzzy warmth... and the promise of new growth, and new opportunities to keep up our powers of observation in the rest of the new year. We vow not to let this next calendar flip so fast that it blurs the details of our life...

Happy winter solstice! And happy holidays--of all kinds and creeds--to all!

All photos in this post taken at the Cleveland Botanical Garden, December 2008.

Monday, December 15

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day: December 2008

I only have one bloom that's worthy of showing off on this last Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day of 2008. Without further ado, check out my amaryllis 'Sweet Lillian':

Now, regular readers of this blog might be saying, "Hmm. I thought that Kim didn't much care for pink?" And if you're thinking that, you are indeed correct! However, I bought this amaryllis bulb in November and potted it up for my grandmother... who likes "pretties" and who never lets me pay her for things like sewing alterations and door-draft stoppers. (You might remember my clandestine bulb-planting thank you to her from last fall.)

Unfortunately, I ran out the door in a hurry on Thanksgiving morning with a long drive ahead of me, having spent at least an hour or so longer in bed than I'd wanted. And of course, I forgot miss Lillian in my haste. So she's blooming away in my picture window.

A few other things are blooming today as well: the very pretty 'Ice Punch' poinsettia, abutilon megapotanicum, my Thanksgiving cactus (seen here) and an unknown variety of rosemary. Not a huge list... but not a bad list for December in Ohio!

To see what else is blooming around the world, visit Carol's roundup post at May Dreams Gardens. :)

Saturday, December 13

"And Now for Something Completely Different"

So gardening isn't really happening here right now. Not because I have nothing to do in the garden--au contraire, I have Dutch iris that still need to be planted, species tulips to get into the ground, and 4 or 5 flats of free perennials to get heeled in!--but because I have no time. My "real job" gets busy from December through March, and I've been going a thousand miles a minute.

A week ago, I did my last volunteer day for a while at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. They are all set up for Christmas there, and I couldn't resist taking some photos of the amazing gingerbread creations. These featured houses were all done by the same person, in fact... and seeing them made me happy that I hadn't bothered to try to submit a gingerbread house for the competition. First, a rather accurately slouchy Victorian:

And a gravity-defying, 5+ story rendition of St. Ignatius College:

A typical Kent (as in, near Kent State University) brick house:

Check out the detail on the Kent house, btw. There are mini candles in the windows, and the roof shingles are pieces of Wrigley's gum with notches cut out of the sides. And there are corbels under the window ledge:

Another of his houses, this one with Big Red gum shingles (I think) and a peppermint lawn:

Take a closer look at the ivy growing up the walls. They are those green sprinkles you can put on cupcakes--wonder how long this took him to do? And check out the cute little bucket of poinsettias by the door:

My favorite part of this house wasn't even the ivy or the poinsettias, though. It was the very imaginative use of Cap'n Crunch as the house siding! Check it out:

Of course, the rest of the botanical garden was decked out for Christmas, too. There were Christmas trees and a cityscape to match their chosen "City Windows" theme for the year. Even the long hallway was dressed up:

Not much in the traditional decor items could match the coolness of the gingerbread houses for me... but I did really like this particular botanically-inspired ornament:

I will definitely go back to volunteering once I can work a day off into the equation sometime in the next several weeks... I really need the decompression of working in the glasshouse, doing something with my hands, chatting with the fun people who work there, and borrowing books from their library! But for now, I need to get to bed. There's another 11-hour day on the horizon for me tomorrow, and the night isn't getting any longer. Goodnight. :)