29 April 2008

a new sprout!

I think it’s Solomon’s seal, courtesy of Viola Valley Wildflowers! With all the rainy cool weather we’re having, I’m willing to bet that some of the other roots and tubers I ordered last fall will wake up. Can’t wait for the weekend!

greedy me

More plants, please!
  • “Blanc Double de Coubert,” a rugosa rose I read about in that NYT article about weekend gardeners. Seems like one I should have for the slope.
  • Potentilla fruticosa “Katherine Dykes,” is still on my list. I can’t find a local source for it. I e-mailed a few nurseries in the area tonight, but I may end up mail-ordering it soon.
  • Sambucus “Black Lace” (I typed “Sambuca” and then realized that was the name of the Italian liqueur; whoops!)
  • Hemerocallis flava, lemon lily
Okay, that’s it for the moment. I’ll think of more, no doubt.

roses fed 26 April

Need to note here that I fed the roses in the chicken coop on Saturday morning, 26 April. The three David Austin roses made it through the winter, no problem. No sign of any growth on the Joseph’s Coat yet. Hope he survived!

dahlia progress

My diligence is paying off. The past two days have been chilly and wet, so I’ve kept the potted-up dahlias inside. Tonight I was curious to determine what—if anything—is happening beneath the two inches of slightly moist soil covering the tubers. So after some exploratory pokes and scrapes with my index finger, I discovered that all five tubers have the beginnings of sprouts. Hooray!

I might water them tomorrow morning, and then again I might not. The tubers feel nice and plump; no signs that they’re drying out at all.

This is exciting.

27 April 2008

an old daffodil

Over on Musings of a Kentucky Gardener, fellow blotanist Historiana wrote a lyrical post about rescuing old plants in general and, in particular, a primitive daffodil she found along a back-road fencerow about ten years ago. Now it’s growing in her garden. Here’s a link to the post: Primitive Daffodil Mystery.

The flowers of this daffodil are a twisted, ruffled mass of greenish-yellow petals; the buds look more like amaryllis or chive than daffodil because they’re jammed full of petals. I was fascinated by the pictures she posted and, of course, began to plot how to get my hands on some crazy-looking, old daffodils of my own. Hmmm, perhaps Historiana would send me some, or B and I could do a little investigative work of our own in Kentucky.

Fast forward to Saturday morning: Our friend Betty rang me up on the telephone and told me that I had to come over and see her daffodils: They were truly shining in the sun. So, after I finished planting and watering in nine blue spruce seedlings (I saved one for Alan in the city), I washed my hands, hustled Dale into the car, and drove over to Betty’s house.

While Dale sniffed and rolled on the greening grass, Betty and I toured her garden, coffee cups in hand, and let the sight of her thousands of daffodils wash over us. One daffodil is a miracle, I think, and a garden full of them is heaven.

We discussed how B loves a later-blooming variety that sends up clusters of very fragrant creamy double flowers. And my particular favorite is the pheasant’s eye daffodil, Narcissus poeticus var. recurvus, also a late-bloomer. Each blossom has a beautiful fringe-y red rim around the small corona that is perfect in the way a baby’s fingernails are: It’s hard to fathom something that small being that well formed.

Then Betty showed me a beautiful, old, multi-petaled daffodil that her father rescued from the dooryard of an old abandoned farm many years ago. It looks to me like the slightly-less-insane, northern cousin of Historiana’s find. Beautiful, eh? I whooped when I saw it.

Is this a named variety, or could it be—as Historiana wonders—a mutation of a common daffodil from long ago? And who originally planted it in Washington County, New York, and where did they acquire the bulbs in the years before White Flower Farm and Brent and Becky’s Bulbs? Whatever the answer, the sight of these flowers must have given a lot of pleasure to a farm family tired of winter and ready for warm sun and green grass.

25 April 2008

2008 bare-root seedling program

Went to the Saratoga County Fairgrounds this morning to pick up the seedlings I ordered a few weeks back: 10 red osier dogwood, 10 common lilacs, and 10 blue spruce. The red osier dogwood I planted this afternoon on the l&s slope. (Also on the slope I moved some Rosa rugosa so that it now forms a cohesive drift, and I divided and transplanted a bunch of Rudbeckia “Goldsturm,” which is settling in next to the catmint I planted last fall. Finally, I cleared out a place for the three Microbiota decussata, who are finally in residence.)

The lilacs I will plant in the lilac thicket, and I’m putting the spruce seedlings on the hill near the balsam firs we planted two years ago.

I’ll be busy tomorrow morning!

daylily bed: further plans

The daylilies look as if they’re settling in nicely. However, I still have to edge the side of the bed nearest the driveway. I’m also going to mulch the whole thing in order to keep the weeds down while the plants fill in.

I’m considering extending the bed a bit toward the top so that I can plant the dahlias there, too. That particular spot gets lots of sun, so I think they’d be happy there for the summer.

The daylilies in this bed are not Hemerocallis fulva (ditch lilies), although we do have a large stand of them on the edge of the woods behind the house. Those old orange ones are my favorites. They are so plain and strong. Along Route 30 on the way into Salem is a white house that has an old sugar maple in the yard. In front of the sugar maple is a perfect circle of orange daylilies. In midsummer it’s a beautiful sight. It’s beautiful now, too, as the daylily foliage fills out the circle.

Another old variety of daylily I’d like to have in our garden is lemon lily. Its Latin name is Hemerocallis flava (or H. lilioasphodelus). It’s so called because of its color, of course, but also because of its scent—tart and lemony. It’s apparently a very early bloomer, and it has grasslike foliage. The yellow of its blooms is clear, with no hint of orange. Sounds amazing.

The daylilies in the redug daylily bed are all sorts of varieties; different sizes, different colors, and they don’t all bloom at the same time, which is nice. Truth to tell, I’m not fond of a lot of the hybrid daylilies available these days, because many of them look sort of Frankensteinish to me—bizarre undaylily-like colors and enormous, splayed-out blossoms. Fortunately, the varieties in the bed are pretty standard in terms of flower shape, and the colors are pleasing, at least to my eye.

the rhuchard is up! the rhuchard is up!

Ha ha! (Actually, it’s plain old rhubarb, but because I just uncovered it, it looks a little funny.)

plants and tubers: arrived, fussed over, planted

The Bluestone Perennials order arrived on Tuesday, and I planted it today. I’d been following the order’s progress from Ohio on the UPS site, and rushed home from work on Tuesday evening so I could either meet the UPS man at my door or search him out in the neighborhood. You’d think I was 12 and anticipating the delivery of the Sea Monkeys I ordered from the back page of my Richie Rich comic book.

Alan and I found a UPS truck on Bleecker Street in front of the Ralph Lauren store, so we hung around there for a bit waiting for the driver to return from making his delivery. Alan saw a dress in the window of the store—a very colorful, flowery long dress—and ventured a guess as to its cost: He thought $4,000. I said I couldn’t believe it would be that much, so I went into the store, found the dress, grabbed a handful of it to see what it was made of (some kind of foamy material) and asked the clerk nearby how much? When he told me, I let my handful of dress go and went skedaddling outside to tell Alan: $7,000. You could buy a lot of plants for $7,000, that’s for sure.

The UPS guy eventually showed up, and I asked him whether he made the deliveries on my street. He said no, so Alan and I jogged back to West 11th, and caught my UPS man as he was leaving the building. Phew! So I’m the proud owner of three Microbiota decussata, a Buddleia davidii “Empire Blue,” and a Philadelphus innocence x. lemoinei. Alan was pleased to receive his three Gaillardia “Oranges & Lemons.”

I watered my plants, set them out on the fire escape to harden off, and then brought them north last night to plant today.

Also on Tuesday evening I potted up the five dahlia tubers I ordered from Old House Gardens. My plan is to set them out on the fire escape each morning and then bring ’em in each night so they don’t get too cold. I put about two inches of soil in the bottom of each pot, placed the tuber, and then covered it with two more inches of soil. On Tuesday night I spritzed each pot with a spray bottle, because I didn’t want the tubers to get too wet and rot, but I think I may have been erring on the side of caution: By Wednesday evening, the soil in the pots was bone dry. So on Thursday morning I sprinkled each pot with about a half cup of water; not enough to run out the bottom of the pot, but enough to moisten the soil. B is taking care of the pots while I’m up here. I’ll be relieved when I see the first shoots.

20 April 2008

before, during, after

Still a bit more to do (that is, edge the right side of the bed), but a huge difference, and now these daylilies have some room to stretch their toes.


You’re welcome! (see let us OUT)

19 April 2008

first daffodils

It felt like summer today. The crocuses looked exhausted, as if they’d stayed at the party too long, but the first daffodils were soaking up the sun and smiling at everyone. They are so welcome.

daylily bed: almost a full check

Much accomplished today. B cleared more of “the bowl,” that is, the area behind the stone wall above the slope. It looks wonderful and neat. He says he has more work to do on the north end, but you could fool me. It’s gorgeous. You go, B!

For my part, I toiled on the weedy, old daylily bed. All are dug and cleaned off and in the garage for the evening. What looked to me like a half-a-day job turned into the whole day, with more to do tomorrow. Rather than give all of the daylilies away, we’ve decided to widen the bed, plant large clumps, mulch them to death to try to keep down the grass and what I think is wild madder (Galium molugo), and then see what happens. I’ll still have plenty to give to my friend Gina at work.

Here’s a “before” shot (click on the picture to make it larger). Pretty bad, eh? We think the bed was put in over an old stone wall somehow, so there are lots of rocks, as well as some timbers to edge the bed that have gradually rotted away. It has been almost impossible to weed it, because the grass and weeds have gotten entwined in the daylilies.

Once I began working, I realized how strong these daylilies are, and I had to admire them for dealing with the weeds for so long with almost no help from us. Each clump didn’t look very big at first, but after five hours of digging and separating them from the weeds, I filled 17 grocery bags full. If the bed were wider, and we were to get rid of the rocks and timbers that make weeding so difficult, this might be a very pretty garden.

Here’s an “after” shot of sorts. I say “of sorts” because I still have to widen and edge the bed and then replant everything. I hope I can accomplish this tomorrow. If I don’t get to planting them all then, I’ll just lug the grocery bags to the basement, sprinkle the roots with a little water, and hope for the best until next weekend.

Strong little daylilies!

18 April 2008

on the docket for the weekend

The two major projects for the weekend:
  • Move daylilies/daffodils from weedy old bed beside the driveway; daylilies to pots for Gina at work, daffodils to front of stone wall above slope.
  • Weed rhubarb/asparagus bed and divide rhubarb.
The weather is supposed to be superb, so there's no reason why I can't get up nice and early tomorrow morning and get started. If I could get these two big things accomplished, I'd be very happy indeed.

17 April 2008

fairy lilies planted

Received my complete order from Old House Gardens today at the office. A coworker called me from reception to tell me she had stopped by our mailboxes on her way out to lunch. “Looks like someone sent you some bulbs!” The tubers are plump and healthy looking. My wee little Boone gladiolus must be planted this weekend (the directions say to plant as soon as possible and that it’s tolerant of light frost, so I think it will be all right in the country).

Taking a lesson from the guinea hen flower massacre last fall (I received bulbs but wasn’t able to plant them until a week or so later) I followed directions and planted the sweet little fairy lily bulbs this evening. They’re in residence on the fire escape. Might take them up to the country, but most likely will grow them here for a while so I can keep a close eye on them.

I understand that I can start the dahlia tubers in pots now and then set them into the garden after danger of frost. However, because I need things spelled out for me to the last letter, I wrote the Old House Gardens crew to get a few more particulars—their excellent and comprehensive instructions notwithstanding—such as how deep a pot do the tubers need, and should I follow the directions OHG outlines for planting them outside (i.e., set the tubers six inches deep, cover them with two to three inches of soil, and add soil as they sprout) when I’m starting them in pots? I really, really don’t want to kill these because I really, really want to see some dahlias in the garden this summer.

But, how nice that the fairy lilies are planted!

And now an orange cat is butting my leg with his head, so I’ll turn my attention to him.

green things noticed 12 april 2008

A little bulb action noticed over the past weekend:
  • Siberian squill up but not blooming yet in peony bed.
  • Grape hyacinths up, too, but not blooming yet in herb bed.
  • New colony of snow drops inadvertently moved with Goldsturm rudbeckia from front of house to perennial bed are blooming prettily. More snow drops discovered up at stone wall near ditch lilies; have never noticed them before. Snow drops originally planted in front of house beginning to fill in a bit. Would be nice to get more, though. More more more.
  • Guinea hen flower looks like it will not be making an appearance. The bulbs looked and felt dried out when I planted them last fall. Better luck this fall (maybe buy bulbs from Old House Gardens; they’re dipped in paraffin to prevent them from shriveling too much)?
  • Where’s the Allium moly? I planted more last fall down under the ancient maple, but I’m not seeing them yet.
  • Numerous daffodils growing; some near stone wall sending up buds. Perhaps they’ll be blooming by Saturday, 19 April.
  • Hyacinths sending up leaves; blossom buds visible.
Other sights to see:
  • Nubs of peony sprouts visible.
  • All Siberian iris showing green. This was a worry to me all winter, because I did a number on them last fall. Pried them out of the ground with a crowbar and divided and replanted probably only a fifth of what had been growing there. Now they have lots of room to settle in and maybe start blooming heavily again.
  • Lifted and separated two of the three Elijah blue fescue into four plants apiece. Replanted them throughout peony bed.
  • No sign yet that roses have survived, either the Joseph’s coat or the David Austin.
  • Moved Oriental poppy sprout from old location in middle to back of perennial bed; seems to be leftover from my moving them all last fall; tenacious little buggers.
  • Buds on young larch tree!
  • Really must label all plants in perennial bed; seeing sprigs and sprouts of things I can’t identify yet. However, I do recognize the following: boltonia up, September ruby asters up, baptisia making an appearance, green wizard rudbeckia up, shasta daisies up, numerous hollyhocks up, perennial flax up, blue-eyed grass showing signs of life, lamb’s ear up, dianthus seems to have made it through the winter, catmint sending up tiny leaves, yarrows in peony bed all waking, lupines leafing out, rosettes of sedum leaves.
  • Tidied up the perovskia, rue, miscanthus, cotinus, cut back gaura (not my favorite plant; bought under pressure from pushy sales clerk at Clear Brook Farm).
  • Is this black cohosh I see in the lilac thicket? Hope so!
  • Where are my Virginia bluebells? Where are my royal ferns? Where’s the Solomon’s seal?

15 April 2008

I love Bluestone Perennials

On Saturday evening, I bit the bullet and put in an order at Bluestone Perennials. Two days later (yesterday), I received an e-mail message alerting me to the imminent arrival of my plants. Talk about fast! The FAQ page on the Bluestone Web site says this about how they ship orders:
How long will it take to receive my order?
We normally give you a two week window in which to expect your plants. If spring has arrived to your area and we are currently shipping to your area, you will receive your order within 10 days of ordering. If it is late in the spring, we are usually shipping the next day, avoiding weekend layovers. Also see the question below about requesting specific shipping times. Call our office with any questions.

I’ve ordered plants from Bluestone on numerous occasions over the past years and have been pleased every single time.

Here’s the list:
  • 3 Microbiota decussata
  • 3 Gaillardia “Oranges & Lemons”
  • 1 Buddleia davidii “Empire Blue”
  • 1 Philadelphus innocence x. lemoinei
We’ve been meaning to find something to replace the PeeGee hydrangea that was girdled by voles last winter. Mock-orange is a great old-fashioned bush with wonderfully smelly flowers. This particular variety has leaves that are mottled with gold. I think it will look beautiful at the corner of the house on the end of the perennial bed.

The butterfly bush will go in the back of the perennial border and next to a window so that the fragrance of its blooms can waft its way into the house. I haven’t attempted to grow butterfly bush before because all the varieties I’ve seen are considered hardy to Zone 5 only, and up until this spring we’ve been Zone 4. No more. All the USDA charts indicate that we’re Zone 5 now. Hmmm . . . an observation on at least one benefit of global warming would be inappropriate, I guess.

The blanket flower is a variety we saw in a display garden at a nursery in Vermont last spring. For some reason, the owners weren’t offering it for sale (maybe they wanted to keep it for themselves? Selfish!), so we’ve been looking for it elsewhere ever since. Actually, Alan—who feeds our cats when we’re away and who has an amazing garden on the roof of his apartment building—loved the plant even more than we did, so I ordered the three plants for him. I might be tempted to order another bunch for us. It’s a beautiful soft orange and yellow.

The Russian cypress is one piece of the solution to the l&s slope puzzle.

I am full of hope!

(All photos from the Bluestone Perennials Web site)

my favorite rake

No joke. This is the best rake. It has terrific flexibility—which makes it easy on whatever it’s raking—and the tines are slightly rounded, either by design or by wear, so they don’t scratch too much. In the halcyon days of my lawnboy youth, I used one just like this to rake leaves for my favorite client, Mr. Robinson.

I have other rakes that I use and like, but when I saw this one at an antique store I knew I had to have it. It was a dollar, and I had to replace the handle almost immediately. Whenever I use it, I’m sixteen years old again.

dale and the daffs

No flowers yet, but we’re getting close. Maybe by next weekend. We’ve planted only about 150 daffodil bulbs over the past few years. The previous owners, God bless them, obviously loved daffodils, because they are everywhere. Do daffodils ever need to be divided? This is something I must investigate.

And what a handsome dog, eh? When I took his picture he had his eye on a squirrel up in the woods. The next moment he was over the wall and in pursuit. I love the way his ears are cocked; he looks like Anne Boleyn. Or is that a stretch?

14 April 2008

for joan

Here’s a blossom from the scented geranium who’s itching to get outside in the photograph below. I don’t know why she’s so anxious to, because she looks pretty fantastic to me, protected indoors as she is currently. She seems to bloom the most when it’s cool and sunny, this time of year.

I love these blossoms because they’re rather demure. Well, demure for geraniums and in comparison to those of her neighbor, she of the fire-engine red, all-out huge, look-at-ME flowers.

I love them both.

But here: A nice, gentle blossom.

09 April 2008

a few odds and ends

  • Good article from The New York Times on the plight of the weekend gardener: “When a garden is a weekend affair.” Nothing really new here, but still interesting to read that Scott Canning, the director of horticulture at Wave Hill, is dealing with some of the same sorts of issues B and I are. Maybe we’ll invest in some backpacker’s headlamps so we can weed after dark. Heh.
  • Wonderful post from The Occasional Gardener (a fellow blotanist) on the walled rose garden at Sissinghurst. From his description I can almost smell the concentrated perfume inside those walls. I would love to see it someday.
  • Lovely photograph (far down on this post) of a homemade twig tower in Jenny Stockton’s Austin garden that Pam of Digging posted from the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling in Austin this past weekend. B and I think we’ll make two of these for B’s vegetable garden this spring. We certainly have enough raw materials!

08 April 2008

slope on the brain

On Saturday afternoon I began raking out the part of the slope that I want to plant this year. It’s about 25 feet long, 7 feet deep on the left (the steepest part), and 3 feet deep on the right. Here’s a photograph of it. The area to be planted is outlined with orange trail marker tape. It looks like a very large geometry lesson.

To the left is the Rosa rugosa, which is beginning to fill in and to the left of that is Helianthus “Lemon Queen” and some blackberry bushes. These are all tall, so I want something tallish on the left margin. Maybe the red osier dogwood I just ordered?

I would love to get my hands on maybe three Potentilla fruticosa “Katherine Dykes” for the next drift. It’s a little shorter than the dogwood will be. Then I’d like to have maybe three Microbiota decussata, which turn bronzish in the winter and will feather nicely along.

So. Strong verticals and bright winter interest with the red osier dogwood; a graceful, sweeping shape and yellow flowers throughout the summer with the shrubby cinquefoil; and then low feathery greenness with the Russian cypress that will transition into the catmint I planted last fall over on the right.

This all feels a little overwhelming. I’m fearful that I’m going to take out the grass so I can plant the new stuff and the whole slope will collapse, or that I’ll hate how it all looks when I’m done shelling out the bucks for the cinquefoil and cypress, or, or, or.

But as Alan says, if I don’t like it, I can change it and try something else.

But, actually, anything is going to be better than a weedy slope, right? Right? Right.

I’ll call around to some nurseries to find out whether they have “Katherine Dykes.” I can’t find it online anyplace except Nature Hills Nursery. Does anyone in the blogosphere know anything about this place?

The Russian cypress I can order from Bluestone Perennials. Small plants, but good prices and very good quality, I’ve found.

Forward march.

seedlings and transplants ordered

Yesterday I submitted my order to the Saratoga County Soil & Water Conservation District Spring 2008 Bare-root Seedling Program:
  • 10 red osier dogwood
  • 10 common lilac
  • 10 blue spruce
The red osier dogwood I will plant along the top of the remaining unplanted l&s slope; the lilacs B and I will plant in the lilac thicket, which needs some new blood; and the blue spruce we’ll plant on the hill near the barn (to the left of the barn in the “barn through the seasons” series).

I love this program. Two years ago we ordered balsam fir transplants and Rosa rugosa seedlings, all of which seem to be doing pretty well.

07 April 2008

a few more items checked off

  • Before dinner on Saturday night, I was able to replace all the sod scrrrraped up by the plow guy this winter. Check.
  • Moved most of the gravel plowed onto the lawn back onto the driveway. Check.
  • Tidied up the herb garden; will tidy the perennial garden next weekend. Half check.
On Sunday, after church, B and I worked on the slope a bit. He raked and generally cleaned up the lawn above the slope up to the stone wall, and I raked out the portion of the slope that we’ll be planting this spring. With some advice from bullthistle over at the Propagating Perennials blog, I’ve decided to try to get my hands on some Potentilla fruticosa “Katherine Dykes.” He says it has a very pleasing shape and that, in fact, it is his favorite flowering deciduous shrub. That’s a nice recommendation! Here’s the post on it: Potentilla fruticosa “Katherine Dykes” or “K. Dykes”: Shrubby cinquefoil.

05 April 2008

darn voles!

bradford pear blossoms in nyc

I noticed on Friday that the Bradford pear trees all along West 11th Street are about ready to open. This seems early to me, but I may be wrong. I think I remember that they were close to blooming by Easter last year (8 April), but weren’t. So, not so early after all, I guess; maybe just a few days.

spring to dos

Today is the first day I’ve wanted to be outside. So, naturally, in walking around and looking at things I’ve found lots of things to be done. Herewith the beginning of the list for this spring:
  1. Clean up the leavings from the road crew that took down one of the ancient maples this winter.
  2. Move all the gravel that the plow guy plowed off the driveway back onto the driveway.
  3. Smooth out the lawn gouged up by same plow guy (will probably require carting in some topsoil from elsewhere).
  4. Clean up gardens (cut down old plant skeletons; re-edge; clean up old hosta foliage).
  5. Clear out tall grass, thistles, and raspberries from around the barn so that we can walk all the way around it this summer without getting stuck in brambles.
B and I have determined that we will focus our attention on “the bowl” of the backyard this year, that is, the area directly around the entrance to the house (which in this part of the country is the back door) so that visitors don’t feel like they’re driving up to the Clampett’s. The bowl includes the long and steep slope, the herb garden, the perennial garden, and the lilac thicket. All but the slope are looking pretty good. If we can get the slope looking nicer, then everything else will look exponentially nicer.

Accomplished today: no. 1 on the list. Things already look better. Before dinner I may work on no. 3 a bit.

Happy spring!

03 April 2008

daffodils with a definite attitude

There are times during the year when we get tired of making the trek back and forth between New York City and Washington County. It’s true. In the middle of winter, we leave the city in darkness and return in darkness, and it’s dark, dark, dark the whole weekend long. So dark that nothing seems more appealing than settling in for a long nap every afternoon.

Actually, that doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

But now . . . now is the glory time to make the trek between two growing zones (Zone 6/7 in NYC and Zone 5 in Washington County). We actually get to have two springs. When crocuses are just beginning to poke their noses into the air upstate, the daffodils are blooming in the city. So instead of three weeks of daffodils we get six: three here and three at the house.

Speaking of which, on my way to the subway this morning I passed a fenced-off, private garden near St. Vincent’s Hospital and noticed a tremendous number of daffodils in bloom. All sunny yellow, all nodding in the breeze, like Wordsworth’s (only I wasn’t wandering lonely as a cloud, and these daffodils were fluttering and dancing next to a subway grate).

Maybe that explains why they looked, well, a little standoffish or sulky, or maybe they were just waking up. They didn’t give me the time of day, though, that’s for sure. No smiles for the camera. Wouldn’t wave hello. Well, you be the judge. Here they are (when you get where you’re going, make sure you enlarge the picture with a click on it).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I wander’d lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the Milky Way,

They stretch’d in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

—William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

02 April 2008

hummingbird moth

One late afternoon last August I was out in the garden and heard a soft buzzing over by the phlox. Following my ears, I came across a fat little flying thing making its way from bloom to bloom. It wasn’t a hummingbird, and it wasn’t a bumblebee, and it wasn’t paying any attention at all to me, so I followed it around for a few minutes.

In the normal course of events when I see something pretty or unusual I don’t have my camera with me. But this thing was obviously going to be hanging around for a while (we have a lot of phlox), so I tiptoed out of the garden and into the house, grabbed my camera, called my sister (who told me she thought it sounded like I was observing a hummingbird moth), had a drink of water, and then went back to the phlox, where I took a bunch of somewhat blurry photos.

What a curious moth! It’s also called a hawkmoth or sphinx moth, and it’s in the family Sphingidae (fun word; I can’t stop saying it to myself). I think I was looking at a white-lined sphinx. Hope we’ll be seeing more of them this summer. I’ve read they love flowers we have lots of, like monarda, phlox, and Verbena bonariensis.

If you want more information on hummingbird moths, click over to www.hummingbirdmoth.com/. You’ll land on a laugh-out-loud entertaining Flash presentation (if you don’t have Flash capability, you can skip it and go into the site where you’ll find lots of cool photos and other information). Seems like the person who created it had the same initial reaction to the hummingbird moth that I did.

Want to know whether you have hummingbird moths in your neck of the woods? Click on “Map Search” and look for “Sphinx Moths, Hawkmoths (Sphingidae)” at www.butterfliesandmoths.org/.

01 April 2008

april (garden bloggers' muse day)

One misty, moisty morning,
when cloudy was the weather,
there I met an old man
all clothed in leather.

All clothed in leather,
with a cap under his chin.
How do you do?
And how do you do?
And how do you do again?

—Nursery rhyme

For a little more information on this cool idea, see
Garden Bloggers’ Muse Day over at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago

planting catmint on the l&s slope

B took this photo of me planting the 12 Nepeta “Walker’s Low” I bought for $12 late last September. Bargain! They were incredibly rootbound, but I wrestled the roots apart, dug compost into the planting holes, and then mulched the whole shebang when I was finished planting. I’m looking forward to seeing whether all 12 made it through the winter, and whether they’ll like their new home this year.

The day I planted them was beautiful, as you can see.