GBFD: March 2015

Christina at My Hesperides Garden hosts Garden Bloggers Foliage Day each month. I missed it yesterday, but better late than never:

daff buds

My snowdrops and crocus finished their show a week or two ago, but the daffodils will take their place very soon. We bought our house at the end of March, many years ago, and I remember the day we closed on the house we drove by, and the front garden was full of waving yellow blossoms.

nettles and comfrey

Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) and comfrey (Symphytum officinale) grow in a half-barrel in my garden, providing an enduring source of fertilizer.

The fertilizer barrel woke up last week as well. For two years now, I’ve grown stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) and comfrey (Symphytum officinale) in a half whiskey barrel to produce homegrown liquid fertilizer. Concocting this homebrew is not for the weak of stomach: It reeks. But the nettles provide a terrific source of nitrogen, and the comfrey provides nitrogen, potassium, calcium and phosphorus, which helps promote root growth and blooming/fruiting. My garden plants love it, and the tea feeds the soil.

Red stems and budding green leaves of Salix 'Hakura-Nishiki.'

Red stems and budding green leaves of Salix ‘Hakura-Nishiki.’

And my willows are leafing out. I’m new to growing willows but love the fact that I can whack them back in early spring and they’ll produce lots of lush growth each year. I’m not whacking them this year; I only planted them last fall, so I plan to give them a season to get settled in. I have, however, cut a few twigs to make willow water, which promotes rooting in cuttings. I’ll talk about that in a separate post.

I hope you northern-hemisphere types are enjoying spring wherever you are.


Grow Write Guild #3: A change that does me good

The Grow Write Guild’s third assignment is to describe the garden at present; stop, observe, and enjoy.

My garden is presently divided into rooms. Some are fairly well-kept, some are being refurbished, and alas, there are some on which the door had better be kept shut.

But everywhere I look, the scene is lush with fresh shades of green: lime, olive, emerald, forest, apple, bronze, blue. In a single week the garden has transformed. A week ago, I could stand at my back door and see perfectly clearly the Carrot Lady‘s house. Continue reading

Pollen season

I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but here in central North Carolina, it’s pollen season.

We skipped from winter to summer last week, and now that the oak leaves are filling out, pollen strings are everywhere. Even in my header.

Every morning I come out of the house to find a very fine layer of pollen on everything.

pollen car

Sedum ‘Postman’s Pride’ has a sickly greenish tinge.

pollen sedum

Venturing outside means becoming a pollen sponge. Any exposed surface, whether hands, hair, or clothing, collects the stuff and tracks it indoors. Walking through the garden, my feet turn yellow. I understand that people everywhere cope with pollen. My question is: Is it common, elsewhere in the world, to have visibility reduced because the pollen is so thick? I looked out the window the other day and could actually see clouds of it, raining down.

Rain fell briefly overnight. We get very excited about rain this time of year, because it washes everything clean, if only for a few minutes.

Pollen washing off my neighbor’s driveway.

Thomas Leo Ogren wrote a fantastic book called Allergy-Free Gardening: The Revolutionary Guide to Healthy Landscaping in which he argues that the landscaping and horticulture industries (and by extension, the gardening public) have contributed to an increase in allergy problems in recent years by promoting and overplanting male varieties of plants, which don’t have messy fruits but do produce copious amounts of pollen. Ogren conducted an astonishing amount of research on the pollen-producing habits of a wide variety of plants: the duration of pollen release; the shape of the flowers; the shape, stickiness, and weight of the pollen granules themselves. All his research culminated in his developing a scale called OPALS (Ogren Plant Allergy Scale), that ranks plants by their likelihood of triggering an allergic reaction in an individual.

Ogren also discusses the value of “right plant, right place,” in reducing the need for insecticides and herbicides, many of which can trigger allergies. The book is a fascinating read and one that can help individual gardeners tailor their own environments to ameliorate their symptoms. For myself, I learned to try to select female varieties of trees and shrubs when possible. I’ve decided what OPALS ranking I can live with in my own garden, and picked up some cultural practices than can limit my exposure to certain high-pollen producers. A bonus for those who select shrubs and perennials for their low OPALS values: Many of them, not coincidentally, are attractive to bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.

Here is a link to Ogren’s website and further information about reducing allergy problems via smart gardening practices.


First daffodils

My first daffodils of the season bloomed Monday.

first daffs

I love my hellebores, but I have been ready for a bit of variety for a few weeks now. I do not know what variety these are. If anyone out there can tell me, I’d love to know.

I must have hundreds of daffodils. They came with the house ten years ago and have naturalized well. I have divided them, intentionally and accidentally, and I still have some bulbs sitting around awaiting a new home. Alas, I don’t know which of the bulbs are which.

As they bloom, I am trying to make note of where similar ones are sited, so that after they finish blooming I can dig them up and group them together for a more effective display. Life may well get in the way of this goal, but there’s always next year. What fun would life be if we didn’t have projects to keep us going?

daff closeup

Perhaps I am peculiar, but I like the way this one hangs its head a bit. I imagine it trying to summon the strength to face our appalling swings in weather with grace.

In other news, I sent off four more soil samples, for the blue-and-yellow garden (soon to be a rain garden, I hope; more on that later), the Lonicera fragrantissima bed, the blue slope, and the scree garden. The lab says they are delivering reports five weeks from when they receive the samples. Perhaps my first batch will be ready soon.

Still waiting to see if the aconites show up late to the party.

And my witch hazel is finally beginning to blossom. The buds have been hanging around for ages, but they’re finally opening up. I think this plant would be better sited elsewhere, perhaps closer to the house. I have some ideas cooking. I always have ideas cooking.