Finding a good source of compost at the local landfill has eliminated the need to try to manufacture compost at home. But it hasn’t eliminated the need to throw out our vegetative wastes. Last Summer the Apple Tree fell down on our simple compost bin made out of leftover timbers (treated with whatever nasty stuff they used back then). We took this as a subtle reminder from the universe that we should build a better compost bin. As is often the case, life gets in the way and for 9 months now we’ve been tossing the vegetative garbage into a little used portion of the orchard. It doesn’t lead directly to compost because the animals mostly make off with it first. Beth has been urging that we should have a real compost bin again. We’ve thought about a whole range of possibilities including the plastic roller barrels (expensive and small capacity), cinder block and chicken wire (ugly), and just a heap (my favorite). We had both seen references to using wooden pallets but we didn’t have any idea where you could get them. As it turns out, once you start looking you see pallets everywhere. Beth called the local tile company which had delivered ceramic tile for us last year on a pallet and asked if they had three they could spare to make a compost bin. A trip over there netted 3 good ones and two somewhat damaged. Then when I went to the landfill for mulch I remembered seeing a sign saying pallets only next to one area. I asked and they were quite happy to have me haul 3 away. I took some odd pieces for repairing the damaged ones as well. We’ve found more available in the back of Lowes where they are happy to have them hauled away.
Once you have the wooden pallets it’s pretty easy to screw them together with an electric drill and deck screws. The gaps between the boards provide the necessary ventilation and the height is 3 to 3 1/2 feet so it’s all pretty much what one would desire. It may not last forever, but the price is right and it recycles items that have become a landfill problem.
At this season we are surrounded by many bulbs which, like Tulips, have there origin in Turkey. I couldn’t help salivating at a botanically oriented trip to Turkey taking place next month with Ketzel Levine, former NPR garden spokesperson. We spoke to Holly Chase this week and the tour of Turkey’s natural and historical splendors sounds fascinating. Especially with an expert enthusiast like, Ketzel Levine. There are apparently still a couple of spots open as of this AM.
We’ve had a series of four warm days and cold nights, bringing the Magnolia into bloom and then burning the flower tips at night. But it’s supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow which put me into pressure mode to get a lot of planting done this week. The Seneca Hills order arrived last weekend so I planted out 3 Molly the Witch seedlings (Paeonia mlokosewitschii), 3 Primula sieboldii, and 3 Lathyrus Vernus (thanks to a recommendation from A Way to Garden. Based on the size we will be a long time in arriving at a Molly the Witch flower…
I also planted out the two Ninebark shrubs that go by the new Garage bed that covers up the Woodchuck holes and the unsightly blackberries and wild roses.
And today I planted an Moorpark Apricot, three Cherries (Blackgold, Lapins, and Montmorency), a Champion White Peach, and a Royal Filbert to fill-in and rebuild some of the orchard. I also added a grapevine (Golden Muscat) and a Brown Turkey Fig because Henry Mitchell once again in my evening readings said everyone should have a fig and vine. I then tilled two 50′ rows in the garden and planted peas, lettuce, and spinach, leaving some space for succesion planting. And then as one last task before the rain I moved two more Wood Poppies to the forest, along with more Monarda and also a clump of Spiderwort. Tonight I’m tired…
In between I’ve been enjoying some of the fruits of prior years of labor. The daffodils are starting to come in number.
But I have to say that I am becoming very fond of a couple of clumps of small daffodils (Little Gem) that appear in the woods about this time of year. They are very delightful to encounter on a walk through the woods.
And as one last item to share here is one of the Hellebores that was planted last year, a seedling of Betty Rancor.
Yesterday I went to the local landfill for a couple of more loads of the double grind mulch that they produce. It’s really cheap for a fine product — $8.50 gets a cubic yard (or the equivalent of 13-14 of those bags that Home Depot and Lowes sell). While I was there I noticed that they now also sell compost for the same price. This is really good looking stuff so I brought some home just in case I had need of this beautiful stuff that gardens are made of…
They have really done an excellent job in producing this material. Here is a picture with my pocketknife for scale.
Now all we need is someone to spread a little top layer on all the garden beds…
I also couldn’t help reflecting on how beautiful and exotic many of the plants look as the emerge from the earth.
I made my first trip to a real local nursery yesterday and, in addition to checking out the various trees and shrubs that they have in stock, came home with two Pieris japonica that simply jumped in my cart. I had never seen any with such a startling pink color to the flowers. Now to pick a place for them (this is how garden design happens at our place :))
Spring is happening in all it’s gorgeous profusion at the moment. It’s giving me a chance to see what I planted last year and have already forgotten. I note that when planting Crocus the individual flowers are always beautiful.
However (in a note to self) when putting swath of crocus in the lawns it looks a lot better when you stick to one variety for the swath rather than the easter egg effect that I have succeed in planting before when I put in a mixture.
Also despite my thoughts that the Winter Aconite that I planted last Fall had totally failed, they just have been slower in appearing than the bunch that have been naturalizing here for quite some time. They also have a more reddish tinge to the leaf and stalk. Is this just a 30 year evolution in the Winter Aconite that are sold nowadays?
Also the Anemone blanda are making their appearance.
And I see that even the crabapples are beginning to bud out.
Ok, so I’m late. My excuse is that we got home from vacation yesterday and I did more looking than writing. In ten days many things had sprouted in our absence. But fortunately, although there was one short warm spell, the weather has been seasonal and many things have waited for our return. I’m just going to hit the highlights in this post although it took me over an hour to walk around and talk to all the flowers yesterday. Anyway here are the plants that are blooming in Frederick, Maryland right now…
This is one of the red-tipped Pieris but I don’t remember which.
Daphne has outstanding fragrance as well, who could ask for more.
Not sure anymore which Helebore this one is — it just concentrates on looking good.
I ordered ten of these Primulas when we returned from England last year and I was expecting a yellow flower. We’ll see what the others turn out like (not that the white one is ugly …)
Ok, so there is no flower in the picture, just a promise of flowers to come, but I couldn’t resist sharing the picture.
A little dwarf Iris rewards the visitor who is willing to get on bended knee.
Thirty years of spreading from one corm…
There are many Daffodils on the way, but this batch in the woods leads them all.
Our last day in Arizona we made a pilgrimage to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum about an hour east of Phoenix. As you might expect for this region of the country their emphasis is on desert plants of the world.
Not only did we get to visit this outstanding arboretum for the first time but we arrived in the midst of their annual plant sale. So the first thing we did was sort through a marvelous assortment of nursery plants — and came away with a Pomegranate ‘Wonderful’ and a Silver Spurge (Euphorbia rigida).
We encountered a number of plants that we were not familiar with. Right at the beginning was the Mescal Bean Tree. Think of a better behaved Wisteria with an equally delightful fragrance.
We were also lucky in that a volunteer (Cass Blodgett) from the Arizona Native Plants Society was leading a tour of the gardens with an emphasis on wildflowers. The nominal one hour tour lasted about two and a half hours and was loaded with fascinating insights into these plants and their various adaptions to the harsh climate — Thanks Cass! As we were walking through the gardens you could see this one large telephone pole sized tree that turns out to be the Boojum (the name is taken from Lewis Caroll’s ‘Hunting of the Snark’).
This was a marvelous specimen with flowering parts at the top. It grows an average of only 4 inches per year.
One of the characteristic plants at the BTA is the Fiddleneck (Amsinckia intermedia). A close-up illustrates the name given to this relative of the Forget-me-not. It fills the stony fields.
Also very common were the Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma puchellum), a member of the Lily or Allium family, depending upon your classifying authority. They, are, regardless of classification and despite the unfortunate name, a charming little bulb with purple flowers.
Penstemon are to be found abundantly in the park (it is a state park as well as an arboretum), but the most striking were the Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) that project right out of rocky cliffs with their brilliant red colored flowers.
Of course there were plenty of cactus such as this Red-spined Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus gracilis)
And it was hard to ignore the Yuccas
But the plant that really captured our interest was the Hopbush (Dodoneae viscosa). This plant, which ranges from small bush to small tree, has the look of Hellebores grown up into shrubs. We liked them — a lot! There is a nice write-up on the Hopbush by Arthur Jacobson.
Of course I would be totally remiss if I did not mention the Hummingbirds. They have a lot of birds in the arboretum but everyone gets captivated by the Hummingbirds at the feeders and on the flowers with the butterflies.
So in the end let me make a strong recommedation to anyone who has the opportunity to stop in at the BTA. They have a very dedicated group of volunteers that helps them overcome the limitations of a state park system’s budget in these difficult economic times. And the springtime wildflowers are not to be missed. Here is a video link to the wildflowers in April of 2005. We had a wonderful time…
We managed some marvelous sunny days in Sedona but it was a little bit early for the full wildflower show. In several days of walking about the hills and canyons near Sedona we did uncover a few choice specimens that are worth sharing. In particular the trail to Bell Rock late one evening yielded a Fringed Gromwell (Lithospermum incisum) — at least that’s my ID. There are other Stoneseeds in Arizona, but this one is noted for the fringes on the petals. It’s a particularly pretty little flower whose detail I didn’t fully appreciate until I magnified the picture on the computer.
Further along on our sunset walk we found a small purple flower that looks to me to be some kind of Rock Cress, but the colors are different than most that I found online. Jonathan subsequently identified it as Torrey’s Milkvetch (Astragalus calycosus)
Yesterday we took a hike up Boyden Canyon that took us through a long avenue of Pointleaf Manzanitas (Arctostaphylos pungens) with beautiful blueberry-like flowers. It made me wonder about growing Manzanitas in the East. I’ve never seen it but then again you never know until you try. Certainly their bark makes them worth having independent of these lovely and plentiful flowers.
As we got further up into the Pines we saw Stellar’s Jays, a common bird of western forests. I always find their electric blue coloring worthy of a picture.
There were many plants that looked like they were on the verge of flowering including some kind of lilies, anemones, Grape Holly, and a very pretty foliaged plant that I have finally concluded must be out of the Parsnip family. I would be interested if anyone recognizes it. My first thought was Dicentra, but now I think not. I saw lots of these in the Pine woods.