Two weeks ago there was fragrance in the air. It was subtle yet distinct. Sweet but not cloying. Heady and beckoning. I walked into the garden to discover its source. Fragrance can be as elusive as a dream memory and it took just a few steps to realize that fragrance was coming from the corn patch. This sweet scent comes along for a few days each summer as the corn flowers mature and release their pollen. Corn flowers are much more subtle than phlox, dahlia or daylily flowers. Corn is a monoecious plant which means that there are both male and female flowers on the corn plant. The female flowers are aptly named 'silk' which is wrapped around the fertilized corn and peeled back when we shuck the corn. The male flowers are at the top of the cornstalk and are called 'tassels' and no male ever smelled sweeter than the pollen produced by these tassels. Tassels shed pollen for just a few days and once the pollen is shed it is viable for only a few minutes. When it lands on the silk below, it germinates within minutes. It is another miracle of Mother Nature. I am not a corn expert but as a gardener, I can appreciate the process. As I walked toward the corn patch I could hear the hum of the bees, honeybees. Happy, happy honeybees were busy with the corn tassels. They seemed to appreciate the sweet smell as much as I did. Perhaps even more since it is life giving for them. It seems that everyone can appreciate the line 'Stop and smell the roses' but how many of us can appreciate and actually stop to enjoy the smell of sweet corn in a field? I wish this for everyone, everywhere.
I missed Bloom Day in July due to challenging gardening conditions. Pests, drought, pests. No bother, the season moves along at its own pace. August has, so far, been a month of high humidity, heat and at least some rain. Welcome rain. Every plant looks better with moisture. Weeds included. The warmth brings out the butterflies and today's Bloom Day is sunny, dry and a bit more comfortable with humidity levels down from 90%. Deer do eat hydrangeas but they left me a few blooms on the H. paniculata 'Vanilla Strawberry' and H. paniculata 'Limelight'. Both have unique qualities. The Vanilla Strawberry has dark stems and is shown here with coneflower. The 'Limelight' is incredibly floriferous. The true blue of Ceratostigma is cool relief for these hot days and this butterfly finds it palatable as well. In August, it is usually the annuals which take center stage. Here, the dahlias are beginning to bloom. This one is 'Cafe au Lait' and it is quite popular. I find it adequate, preferring bright colors to its bland, cream tone. Portulaca provides a brilliant crown for 'Athena' who hangs on the garden gate. Cannas are also blooming and add a tropical look to this summer garden. There is more in bloom but tasks await. Thank you for visiting. A big thank you to Carol at May Dreams for hosting yet another Bloom Day. I hope to visit gardens around the country via her Bloom Day Blog list.
Bloom Day, this June, is serious business. It looks like spring in the garden with no leaves on the trees. June is usually the time of prolific blooms in my garden. This year is different. A plaque of gypsy moth caterpillars has descended upon this region and the only good news is frass. Frass is the correct term for insect excrement which is high in nitrogen. I have uttered the 'other' word for frass many times in the past few weeks, frass is falling fast. The oak leaves are gone, the maple leaves are being eaten now, the white pines are succumbing fast and everything in the garden is covered with crawling caterpillars. I will leave the caterpillar post for another time as this is Bloom Day. Forgive the pictures. They all include, yes, caterpillars. I am thankful for a few blooms.
Last Friday was a very warm day for late April. One of those unusual spring days which warms the ground more than most. I worked outside just a bit cleaning out garden beds all the while thinking that the ground underfoot was moving ever so slightly from those pushing roots. Roots of grass, perennials and shrubs. Roots pushing outward from their base in search of moisture and nutrients. All in readiness for a burst of shoots and top growth. Friday night a gentle rain fell. I could hear it in the background of my sleep. It had been dry for several days and I know that I let out an audible sigh of relief for the emerging spring plants. I could almost hear the plants echo that sigh. Saturday morning the garden was greener and more visibly alive than the previous day. The nubs of Solomon's Seal lengthened by inches overnight. Honestly, they did. The daffodils bent a bit with the moisture but the sturdy tulips just embraced the shower. The freedom lawn colored up and violets and ajuga burst into bloom. Yes, I have a ragged lawn which serves as a suitable ground cover for setting off the borders and allowing a bit of play. It also keeps the woods at bay. Lawn is an easy groundcover if you don't care about perfection. Dandelions are a cheery sight in the lawn as well and one can actually eat dandelion greens. I do admire the perfection of grass on a golf course but the freedom lawn works for me. I would rather spend time on the details of the borders. The little grape hyacinth 'Valerie Finnis' loves to party with the Heuchera 'Caramel'. Prunus x 'Hally Jolivette' is covered with blooms and this cherry is a must for any garden. It is a shrub but can be trained to either a standard or multi-stemmed tree. It will stay in bloom for 2-3 weeks depending on the daily temperatures. It also blooms well when it is quite a young shrub. I have had this one in the garden for over ten years and while it is listed as having a maximum height of 10', this one is well over ten feet tall. The long, sunny border is emerging. It needs weeding and a sharp edge to bring it into shape but the colors and textures can be appreciated even with a bit of disarray. I would so love to see a gentle rain a couple times per week. It doesn't hurt to make a wish.
Nine years ago I wrote my first blog post. Easter was late that year but spring was in full swing. Much has changed in nine years. The garden continues to evolve, the gardener's pace has slowed down a bit and the weather, never a sure thing here in New England, continues to challenge the spirit. Many perennials are emerging as are the leaves of some of the early flowering shrubs. The lilacs are well into green buds. The scene is set for a nice slow spring but, no. A good six to eight inches of snow arrived on Monday and Tuesday the low temperature was 15F. The snow cover served the perennials well providing inches of insulation but there is cold damage on the lilac leaves and flowers. The magnolia stellata was just beginning to open. Time will tell if the unopened buds will drop or unfurl. No matter, most plants will survive. Heavy rains arrived on Wednesday to wash all that snow away. We are back to April weather this morning. Garden cleanup can continue and the lawn continues to brighten to a rich shade of green. The first flowers of spring which include dandelions are again visible. Spring is such an active time in the garden for plants, wildlife, birds and the gardener. Gibbs, the new Job Supervisor in the form of a chocolate lab, is growing big and strong. He seems to have a bit of a penchant for digging which will have to be curbed a bit. At five months old, he has wrapped himself around our hearts even on those rainy days when he whines to go outside seemingly oblivious to the heavy rain. He has helped to once again establish the routine of walking around the garden each morning, coffee in hand. I check out the plants and he checks out all those scents on the ground. All is right with the world. Thank you for reading this blog. Many of you have been reading for nine years. Blogging has provided a outlet for sharing my garden with a big world. I plan to continue as the garden is ever changing.
The ornamental grasses are looking quite ragged by the time spring rolls around. Most people cut them down which is laborious unless you possess a weed whacker with a blade. I have several clumps of grass and these by the fish pond stand alone, away from any structures or other plants so my preferred method of maintenance is to burn them.
Burning reduces the grasses to black char very quickly. From start to finish might take a minute and a half or so. Wednesday is often 'pizza night' here with the neighbors and because burning grasses are such a spectacle it is a plus to have an audience when they are burned. This was Gibbs' first official Burning of the Grasses and he was on a leash since he is a bit ignorant at his young age of the power of fire.
Controlled burns were a part of my youth. The local farmers would burn the fields to sweeten the soil and rejuvenate the fields. That vivid green arising from blackened fields seemed almost miraculous to me when I was small.
These grasses provide a screen at the back of the fish pond and give a sense of enclosure as they mature.
If you burn your grasses it is important to take a bit of care and have a hose, a rake and some people on hand just in case. The fire is incredibly, impossibly hot and it is fast. I cannot imagine what a prairie fire must be like and I always have a renewed respect for firemen after experiencing the heat of the flames generated by the dry grasses.
Here is the grass garden behind the pond after the burn. Neat and tidy with minimal effort, a night of entertainment and the added benefit of sweet char.
It is Bloom Day and quite a different Bloom Day than one year ago. There was still quite a bit of snow on the ground last March but this year has seen temperatures in the 70's already. Today though it is cold and rainy as befits a 'normal' March day. Is there a 'normal' concerning weather any more? On to blooms. Last fall I planted more crocus and many of you know that my least favorite color is school bus yellow but school bus yellow is a 'fifty mile per hour' color or perhaps a '100 yard' color. It can be seen while driving that fast or from that far away so school bus yellow it is mixed with purple to soften the glare. Snowdrops are also blooming in the photo with the crocus. I am working are larger drifts and pools of them. They do have incredible fragrance and spread quite easily. They are best moved as the flowers fade or while 'in the green'. The little Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin' is a wedgwood blue beauty which has bloomed in this location for three years now. This is a tough color to see in the garden with leaves littering its base but up close it is soothing and sensational. The hellebores are sporting flowers and this one with the speckled face is an unknown cultivar. I have cut off the leaves at the base as they become quite ratty looking after snow, ice and cold has attacked them. The flowers show up a bit better as well. I know the foliage stays beautiful in climates a bit warmer than mine so perhaps pruning is not necessary for every garden. Gardening is so regional. Bloom Day this March seems much more promising than last year. Several gardens have been cleaned out already. As a New England gardener, I enjoy the down time of winter but an early spring is very welcome here. Many thanks to Carol of May Dreams blog for hosting Bloom Day. You can visit her blooms and many other gardens by clicking here.
I have been worried about the vernal pool in the back field. It often fills with water in the fall and stays full until mid-summer. Vernal pools provide habitat for frogs and salamanders and a few other creatures. Without the vernal pool some species would have to look elsewhere for breeding areas. This winter it was just a depression in the field after a very dry fall. It finally filled with water about a week ago after a hard, late winter rain. Crisis averted. I look forward to the sound of the spring peepers and finding a spotted salamander or two. The sounds of silence from this dry pool would have been quite sad. I know, you might call this depression in the back field a puddle when it fills with water but it really is an important part of this field ecosystem. You can read more about vernal pools here. Gibbs and I have been walking to the back field each morning. He can run off a bit of energy and I can take stock of the slow changes which happen as winter saunters into spring. I have noticed the lichens and moss on the fieldstone walls and some of those stones seem to defy gravity. The walls have been here for more than 100 years and the freeze/thaw action of winter and spring cause them to move and sometimes tumble. They served as boundaries and fencing for livestock as the fields were cleared many years ago. The EM mows the front field fairly often but the back field is mowed just in the fall to keep them clear. A bit closer to the house the gardens are showing green bits and pieces. The sedum is starting to emerge and the winter aconite's clear yellow blossoms seem to be providing food for someone. There are a few bite marks on these flower petals. Gibbs has not yet learned his place among the flowers as he promptly ate all the flowers off the few crocus blooming by the foundation.
He also likes to find a discarded pot and chew it thoroughly. But that face is so sweet that it is difficult to be mad at him for any length of time. I will have some extra picking up to do this spring. Picking up and training. Puppies are so entertaining and demanding. I was going to end this post here but Gibbs needed to go outside where it is a warm 57F.
News flash-the tommies are blooming in the lawn. That is cause for much celebration.
The are sure signs of spring in the garden after a heavy, warm rain washed away over six inches of snow last week and a warm weekend took hold. Usually, it is the snowdrops which bloom earliest but this year I spotted a dot of yellow under the Chinese Dogwood. Eranthis hymealis or winter aconite has unfurled. Yes, it is tiny but it is bright. I am hoping to see a carpet of these someday but right now there are just a dozen or so and they are coloring up a bit erratically. Still, I am happy to see this yellow. The crows are cawing and the wind has been busy drying up the mud and those are both more sure signs that spring is close at hand. The Helleborus foetidus, Stinking Hellebore, has been in flower for months although it has been snow covered. It doesn't mind at all. The flowers are a plus as this plant is deer proof (I don't say that lightly) and the foliage adds great texture to the borders. This is often the first green of spring. Late winter is the time of glowing emerald moss. It thrives on cool moisture here in my garden. It grows easily on the granite ledge outcroppings.The moss doesn't always grow exactly where I want it but here by the fish pond bench, it provides a soft carpet around the stones in the small patio. The days are noticeably longer and the bright sunsets have been accurate predictors of the delight of the next springlike day. I am not sure how many more we will have before winter asserts its cold presence once again.That presence will not last long once those first flower blooms have been spotted. Now, there is no stopping spring.
February is a tough month for blooms here in New England. Outside it is finally winter with a good snow cover which is appreciated since this weeks temperatures are in the negatives. Warmth is coming though and warm it is inside where there is plenty of foliage but not too many blooms. Meager is the word. I have two houseplants with very small blooms. They would be overlooked in the middle of June but in February they are welcome and noticed. Both are on rex begonia hybrids. This first is on a small plant, Begonia 'Stained Glass'. Really, the foliage is lovely and this one is from Logee's Greenhouses. You too can purchase one since Logee's is well know for their wonderful mail order plants. The next flower, forgive me, it is really just a bud, belongs to Begonia 'Palomar Prince'. You can see that full plant here. The foliage is cause enough to grow both of these plants. I find begonias easy to grow and they really help those of us who suffer from winter's 'Nature Deficit Disorder'. I find February the longest month. I know I am not alone but, thankfully, it is more than half over. The final bloom is really little Gibbs. He won't be little much longer as he is growing fast and is three and a half months old already. He has made himself at home and as I write this he is getting into mischief since my attention is not totally on him. With the temperatures in the single digits during the day neither of us venture too far outside. Later in the week a heat wave is promised. We both need a long walk. Happy Bloom Day to fellow bloggers and thank you to Carol of May Dreams for hosting. I look forward to seeing the outdoor blooms of warm climate bloggers as I visit those who have posted for this Bloom Day. Your blooms will sustain me. Thanks.