Early Crocuses

Spring is just around the corner. This year it seems like winter and spring have been taking turns in our neighborhood weekly. The temperature has gone from below freezing to close to 50F and back down again every week. Our tulips have started to push themselves above ground. I wish they wouldn’t do that. There is at least a month and a half of winter weather left and if Mother Nature remains angry at us, it may snow in April.

As unpredictable as the weather has been, there are spring flowers that wouldn’t mind a little cold and some snow on the ground. The Snowdrop is one. I have only a clump of them in the garden since they don’t have a great variety of colors, just white and green. The other is crocus. They come in many shades and colors. It’s a lovely site to see when growing en-mass in a variety of colors.

Mixed Crocuses on the lawn in early spring

To get a natural effect, I purchased around 200 mixed crocus bulbs and cast them on the lawn. Then I planted them wherever they landed. The second year, I added the expensive and larger flower types and over 100 more mixed bulbs. Too many? No. The first 200 I put in, maybe only half were able to evade squirrels and chipmunks. We could see a lot of pockmarks on the lawn from them digging up the bulbs. Even when the bulbs have already sprout little leaves and flowers, they still dug them up eating the bulb on the bottom. I made a mental note of any empty patches in spring so I can cast more bulbs in autumn.

What the critters missed provides a beautiful effect on our empty, brown lawn in early spring. They also provide an early food source for pollinators. Then they just disappear as the grass takes over.

Here are some colors you can find on the market:

Yellow with white under petal
Dark yellow with brown stripes
Dark purple
Purple with white trim
Lavender
White
White with purple stem
Lavender with purple stripes

They are easy to grow and each bulb will become a larger clump in just a few years, provided they are not eaten. They need no extra attention, we feed them at the same time we feed our lawn. We also leave our grass clippings on the lawn as mulch for crocus and grass.

To extend a growing season and add some color in autumn when most of the flowers are fading, plant fall crocus. This type will come up and flower in autumn for you and the pollinators to enjoy.

Spring At Last

Some Colors In The Garden

I see the spring light at the end of the tunnel, a little dim but still a cheerful light of hope.  Snow still covers the majority of the garden but in the bare specks there are colors.  Crocuses in the front yard bloomed nicely this year.  Last year they became deer food.  At least deer left the bulbs alone so they came up with a variety of colors.  We planted a lot of crocuses in the previous two autumns to provide early spring food for our honeybees.  Many of them became food for squirrels, chipmunks, deer and rabbits but the survivors continue to come up in spring before disappearing underground again.

This deep purple crocus was planted by a squirrel. It’s in the middle of the iris plot by the garage. I know I didn’t put it there.

Light purple crocus in the front yard

Pale yellow with beige coloration under the petals

Deep yellow with brown stripes under petals

White

Our back yard is still covered with snow but it’s melting fast with high daytime temperatures.  Some tulips and daffodils braved the cold pushing themselves up above it.

Daffodil pushing up through the snow

A clump of tulips I rescued years ago enjoying the cold spring

And, look at the busy girls.  Yes, we call them girls because the worker bees are all female and they’re like our children.  The weather is warm enough for them to go out foraging and most of them came back with baskets full of pollen.  They’ve also taken in water from the birdbaths.

The majority of honeybees that flew back in carried big loads of pollen. I’ll have to check on them this weekend to see if I have to give them more sugar or not. It’s still too cold to feed them syrup.

Spring is here after all.  Thank you Mother Nature for giving us a break from the Nor’easter in the last few weeks.

Growing Crocuses

Try To Get A Natural Effect

We have a few days off for Thanksgiving and have spent most of our time grinding up leaves for mulch, fixing the deer fence to make sure there is no breach and planting crocuses and tulips.  Autumn is the time to put in spring crocus bulbs.  We put a couple of hundred bulbs in a year ago and love the way our lawn looks in spring.  This autumn we put 400 more bulbs in. I don’t really like growing anything ‘bulb’ because most of the time they become squirrel and chipmunk food.  However, taking our honeybees into consideration, I want to provide natural, early spring food for them.  Crocus is one of the flowers that bloom very early and have plenty of pollen and nectar.   They are also quite pretty and come in variety of colors.  They will disappear underground by the time other flowers start to bloom.

Crocuses blooming on the lawn in early April.  Since we mixed the bulbs, the colors are random.

I run out of space to put a lot of bulbs in so our lawn is the only place.  In order to make them look natural, I bought mostly mixed color bulbs.  I also bought individual colors of the larger variety and mixed them with the smaller ones.  Cast them on the lawn then planted them wherever they landed.  Last spring they came up before the lawn grew, creating a lovely natural effect.  Multi colors of crocus bloomed randomly in early April.  Unfortunately we lost all our hives last winter so the native bees had a great time.

Here’s a selection of spring crocus..

Deep yellow with maroon veins underneath

Lovely white

Dark purple

Yellow with a white edge

Lavender with a touch of white

I’m missing a couple of colors, either the bulbs rotted or they became our furry friends food.  We can hardly wait to see what our lawn will look like next spring.

 

 

 

Earth Day

With Respect and Gratitude 

The Earth gives us sanctuary and sustains us in all things.  Aside from being a provider, she is also a designer, inventor and teacher among many other things. She is kind but can never be tamed.  That last is quite likely what saves us all from ourselves in the end.

Here’s some of the great beauty she gives us….

Crocus, after hiding below the surface of the earth for most of the year, tells me that spring is finally here

Primrose

Hellebore

Sand cherry blooms much earlier than other cherries in our garden, with a lovely honey fragrance

Columbine catching a rain drop

Thank you, Mother Earth

With Respect and gratitude

Spring Is Coming

And It Will Not Be a Good One

We came back from our vacation to a sharp drop in temperature.  Our friends told us that while we were gone the temperature had gone up to the 60°F for a couple of days and mostly hovered above 50°F for the rest of that period.  I can see the result of warm temperatures in our garden.  Roses, hydrangeas, tree peonies started to bud.  The silver maple in the front yard has blossomed.  The crocuses and snowdrops are blooming.

Many of over 200 crocuses we put randomly in the lawn last autumn have blossomed.
Many of the over 200 crocuses we put randomly in the lawn last autumn have blossomed.

Flowers open up with out bees to pollinate since the temperature was a little bit too cold for them to come out
We put crocus in as early food for bees but this spring the flowers opened up without the bees to pollinate since the temperature was a little bit too cold for them to come out

Then two days after we came back, the temperature dropped again, combined with a high wind that resulted in a wind chill below 0°F.  Last night the temperature was in a teens and today it is barely above freezing.  It’s de ja vu of last spring.  Plants started budding only to get frost burn.  We didn’t have any hydrangeas last year for this reason and the first round of roses looked awful.

Plenty of Snowdrops pushed themselves through mulch leaves
Plenty of Snowdrops pushed themselves through mulch leaves

Two bulbs of rescued tulip have become a healthy clump
Two bulbs of rescued tulip have become a healthy clump

Young leaves of Anise Hyssop stay close to the ground. Hopefully they won't get frost burn.
Young leaves of Anise Hyssop stay close to the ground. Hopefully they won’t get frost burn.

I don’t even know how the honeybees are.  They’ve been so quiet, no sign of dead bees in front of the hives.  We weren’t here when the temperature soared up to see if they were out cleansing.   They’ve been too quiet for my liking and I have no way of checking on them.  It’s either too cold or too windy to open the hives up for inspection.  To be on the safe side, I have ordered one more package of bees to be delivered in May.

Beehives, all wrapped up, amid snow when we left for vacation. Due to lack of storage, we left empty supers out in the garden, unwrapped.
Beehives, all wrapped up, amid snow when we left for vacation. Due to lack of storage, we left empty supers out in the garden, unwrapped.

Though it will not be a promising spring, I still look forward to it.  It’s time for me to start tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings and prep tropical plants in the basement for a warm and less seesaw temperature outside.  In a little bit over a month the seedlings should be able to set their roots in the garden and tropical plants will enjoy real sunlight.  And, hopefully, the hives will have survived another winter.

The First Day Of Spring

And The Flowers Agree

Today is the official first day of spring and feels like it too.  Spring flowers bloom, birds start clearing their territory and look for nesting spots.  Not much to describe; just happy that spring is finally here.

Crocus
Crocus

Helleborus came up earlier and got freeze burn
Helleborus came up earlier and got freeze burn

Helleborus /burgundy
Helleborus /burgundy

I have to lift the flower up to see the complexity of this one
I have to lift the flower up to see the complexity of this one

Rescued tulips also came up.
Rescued tulips also came up.

Late Autumn

Back to Blogging

It has been five months since I posted last.  Aside from busy with work and garden, my doctor advised me to spend less time in front of the computer.  Bursitis and pinched nerve have been giving me aches and pain in my shoulders and arms.  So after a long day of sitting in front of a computer at work, sitting in front of one at home is not recommended.  Surprisingly enough, doing garden chores helps to ease the discomfort and after some routine exercise I’m back.

Autumn is almost gone and we are ready for winter.  All the tropical plants are down in their basement winter camp and the beehives are wrapped up to keep the girls snug.  All the leaves are gone but there are some flowers left in our garden and the Saffron is one of them. We are growing Saffron (Crocus sativus) for the first time and they are blooming.

Sprouting up after a few weeks in the ground
Sprouting up after a few weeks in the ground

Unfurling flower
Unfurling flower

Blooming one after another
Blooming one after another

I’ve been collecting their threads (stigmas) almost daily and dry them on a paper towel for a couple of days before preserving them in the vial.  They have such a subtle scent.

Full bloom with three bright orange stigmas
Full bloom with three bright orange stigmas

Close up
Close up

I’m not sure I can leave them outside during winter.  Winter here can be brutally cold (down to -4F last winter).  They’re in pots now and I plan to put them in the garage once the temperature drops below the freezing point.  Hopefully they’ll grow back and bloom next autumn so I don’t have to pay a hefty amount for just a few threads.

Drying threads on paper towel
Drying threads on paper towel

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