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 Colors

Getting Vibrant Again

Spring is finally here or should I say summer is finally here.  The temperature was over 90°F for a couple of days which broke the record.  I’m not complaining after months of snow and freezing temperature.  The plants in our garden are not complaining either.  They’re pushing out shoots and buds all over the garden.  Dragging on as winter did, spring is still giving us a very promising new life especially after the recent rain.

After we successfully fended off the deer for the last two years, and relocated the last rabbit last year, we decided to grow tulips in the garden again.  I’ve been planting tulip bulbs I rescued for years but only a few of them survive the animal raiding parties.  But as I didn’t spend a penny on them, it didn’t feel very wasteful.  Last autumn, I picked tulip bulbs from the catalogs for the first time and they’re looking good so far.   Hopefully these beautiful flowers will come back up next spring.

Mixed color tulips accompany our ‘Pollinator Habitat’ sign.  By early summer this area will be filled with variety of flowers especially the ones that have plenty of pollen and nectar

We cannot be certified a ‘Wildlife Habitat’ since we’ve fenced off most of the four-legged locals around here: deer, rabbit, woodchuck, raccoon, skunk, fox and coyote.  We would’ve welcomed fox and coyote but once the deer net went up, that was it.  Access to the garden is limited to birds, insects and small rodents.  Any gardeners who have a problem with deer, I would recommend a deer net.  It’s the only thing that works.  I no longer have to spray a mixture of garlic and rotten eggs in the garden or use other methods only to find that they aren’t effective.  The fact is there aren’t any plants that the deer will not eat.

Anyway, we have colors and the scent of perfume in our garden again after a long wait.

Primrose after rain

Bleeding heart is another indicator of the Hummingbirds arrival

Hellebore is one of the flowers I grow as an early spring food source for bees

Common blue violet, a beautiful weed soaked in rain

It’s nice to see colors again.  It’s even nicer to see not just our honeybees but many local bees getting busy looking for pollen and nectar.

 

 

 

Spring

It’s ‘Officially’ Here

Today is ‘officially’ the first day of spring.  That’s what it says on the calendar but in reality our garden is still snowed in.  The temperature is hovering a little bit above 30°F and there will be more snow coming down tonight and continuing until Wednesday night. We expect a foot of wet snow accumulation added to what we already have on the ground.  That’s why I say ‘officially the first day of spring on the calendar‘ only.

Plants in the little plot right next to the house have started to come up.  Daffodils and irises the previous owner planted next to the garage are sprouting leaves.  The Siberian garlic are braving themselves in the cold next to melting snow and will be buried again tonight.  But they are Siberian, they should be fine.  Rocambole garlic that I’ve been growing for many years are still staying comfortable underground.

Daffodil & Iris
I’ve been trying to dig this clump of daffodil out from the corner many times but what’s left underground keeps coming up every spring.  It’s always the first to come up since it’s so close to the warm house.

Siberian garlic
Siberian garlic started up in late February but was covered with snow, now the snow has melted away and they still look healthy.

Inside the house is another story.  Amaryllis ‘Red Lion’ that one of my colleagues gave me many years ago welcomed spring with its bright red flowers.  Still one more set of flowers from this bulb is just about to bloom.  I moved them up from the basement as soon as the flower buds came up.

Amaryllis-Red Lion
Amaryllis ‘Red Lion’ bloom with deep velvet red, four huge flowers on one stem. One more stem coming up on the left.

Hibiscus ‘The Path’ also senses the warmth of spring and welcomes it with a bright yellow flower.  I found that the color is paler than when the plant is outside but it’s still beautiful and cheerful as all hibiscus are.  I left it in the basement though, since it’s too big to be in the bay window with the other plants.

Hibiscus-The Path
‘The Path’ hibiscus always blooms through summer, providing that it is well-fed. This one probably sensed the spring warmth and is itching to get outside so it flowered really early, probably as a hint.  The red color in the middle is much deeper when it is outside.

But, …darn, We’re still waiting for reality spring.

Spring Has Sprung

…With A Cold Shoulder

I took the day off from work yesterday and the weather was on my side.  Still plenty of snow on the ground but the temperature had soared to nearly 60°F.  The honeybees should have been out and about now with a temperature this high, but alas, none to be seen.  So I decided to inspect one hive.  Intrinsically I knew I had to face my fear somehow.  It’s better to know early than not know at all.  I suspected they may have died of starvation since the weather has been inconsistent.  That forces the bees to consume their stored food faster leaving them with nothing inside and nothing for them to forage outside.  But I wasn’t expecting what I saw.  There were no bees in the hive.  None at all.

I ended up opening all the hives.  My worst fear had come true.  There were only a few dead bees in each hive which was otherwise empty.  There were plenty of capped and uncapped honey frames in each hive but no live occupants.

First sadness hit, then depression, then self-doubt….what did I do wrong?  I’ve been taking a mite count throughout the season and it’s been very low.  We provided clean water.  We provided food, with the supporting evidence of plenty left over in each hive. The only thing I did not do was treat them with chemicals.  But I have never treated them from the start.  They were fine and happy for many years, from one generation to the next, living their lives naturally.

I’m still sad and depressed but giving up is not in my nature.  I will clean up the empty hives on my next day off and have them readied for new occupants.  New honeybee packages are coming in next month and I hope we will work well together like their long gone relatives.

But there was a bright part of the day…I finally dug my way to the igloo, my cold frame.  What was left in there were carrots, Mustard greens, a few Pac choi too.  The lettuce I had sown in January had come up, barely reaching half an inch.

The path I had to dig to get to the cold frame

Pulled some fresh carrots from inside the cold frame. Small but tasty.

I pulled weeds out, watered the soil a little and sowed a few more seeds: Mizuna, Mustard greens, Radish, Arugula, Chinese broccoli, and more lettuce.  They should start to sprout in a week and within a couple more weeks I can have my first salad of the season.

Sowed some seeds after pulling carrots and clearing some dead vegetables

Our resident Eastern Bluebirds are also looking for a nest box in our yard and haven’t given up despite harassment from the House sparrow.

A pair of Eastern Bluebirds enjoy their meal and keep their eyes on their prospect home

As the Buddhists say, ‘all is impermanence.’  There will be more honeybees.  The garden is still there and this year’s seedlings are all sprouting high in the house and itching to get their feet in the ground outside.  I really can’t complain.

 

It’s Spring….sort of

With Snow On The Ground

We were so happy a couple of weeks ago when Spring officially arrived and the weather acted accordingly.  I even started tomato and chili pepper seedlings in the hope that we may have a longer growing season.  But we were fooled.

We woke up to three inches of snow on the ground this morning.  If it was just snow, it wouldn’t be that bad.  The strong wind, over 30 mph, makes it feel much colder.  Many young leaves got wind burn; the lucky one were buried under the snow.   My face felt numb after only a few minutes outside.  I managed to take some photos before my fingers started to ache and retreated back inside.

Some lucky Daffodils and Iris that are close to the house are still standing
Some lucky Daffodils and Iris that are close to the house are still standing

Half of the Bleeding heart was buried
Half of the Bleeding heart was buried

This Bleeding heart will freeze tonight when the temperature drops below the freezing point
This Bleeding heart will freeze tonight when the temperature drops below the freezing point

Hyacinth
Hyacinth

Frozen grapes, anyone?
Frozen grapes, anyone?

Or a cup of shaved ice? (Just add flavoring)
Or a cup of shaved ice? (Just add flavoring)

I didn’t have a chance to check in the cold frame.  Actually, I didn’t want to open it because the wind would make it much harder to close.  Snow also helps insulate it so opening it will not do the vegetables inside any good.  However the garlic is outside, half covered in snow.

Garlic half buried in snow, but they will survive.
Garlic half buried in snow, but they will survive.

I’ll bring this up later, but I did make a mad dash out to the bee hives to wrap the girls up in warmer covers.

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