Saturday, March 6, 2010

It's Time To...

Along with sunshine and a bit of warmth, spring brings a lot of responsibility for those of us who love the garden! In zone 7 the first of March means an end to sitting in the chair thinking about how much we hate winter. (If you are in a colder zone [2-6] , you will need to do these things, but later in the year. I think it's 2-4 weeks later per zone. If you live in zone 8, you should have already started in February, and if you live in zones 9-10, you never stopped working in your garden and you grow different plants!)
Zone 7 is the pink zone. I'm in the light pink part - 7a - so I am 5-10 degrees on average cooler than dark pink - 7b. The greens - zone 6 - are 10 -20 degrees cooler than the pinks, an so on. The other things one has to consider are type of soil and PH. Central Virginia is highly acid and has heavy clay soil. If you move to the coast of Virginia, where the soil is sandy and they have more ocean warming, you are in zone 8.

It's time to get moving and start doing! So, here's a short list of things you need to start working on this month:

  • Cut back the liriope. Doesn't matter what variety of Monkey Grass you have, it needs to be cut back. The easiest way is to drag out your lawn mover, set it at three inches and just mow the liriope. The goal is to cut off the old growth to allow the new growth to come up and not be all choked in last year's leaves. It will start growing by the middle of the month, so you need to do this soon. If you wait until later, you may end up with the new grown all being cut straight across the ends. Not a tragedy, but it will look a little hinky.

  • Finish your fall clean-up. You know you didn't finish! We got snow early and then rain, rain, rain, so everyone has more clean-up to do. I still need to cut back the dead growth from last summer on many perennials - some of the Shasta daisies, sedum, and asters for sure. And, some cleaning up in the xeri-garden.

  • Plant cold weather veggies. Technically, around here one should plant the peas by George Washington's birthday - now nearly two weeks ago. I have dug the bed and bought the seeds, so today will plant them. The next step will be to put up something to support them as they grown up, and a fence to keep out the rabbits. Other cold weather veggies you might want to consider are spinach, any of the "kole" family - broccoli, Brussels sprouts - or other leafy greens.
  • Prune your shrubs. Most of your deciduous shrubs will start leafing out by the end of the month, or by mid-April - so now is the time to do whatever light pruning you need to do. Never, never, never take off more than one-third of the plant! Never! But if you need to shape up plants it's easy to do now while you can see the structure. If you have branches that grow into the plant instead of outward, you want to remove them as close the the branch as possible. This will provide air and light into the center of the shrub and promote more growth and a healthier plant. For plants that grow from canes (Nandinas, for example) you want to keep them from looking too leggy, so cut one-third of the canes back to the ground, one-third about a foot shorter than you want the top of the plant to be and one-third in between these two. As the plant fills out this summer you will get growth at all three levels and end up with a fuller plant. Evergreen shrubs - boxwood or arborvitae - only need to be selectively trimmed for "wild hairs" or lightly sheared. Flowering shrubs should not be trimmed until after they have bloomed.
  • Start planning your spring and summer projects. You have probably been doing some of this over the winter as you looked at catalogs. Your plans might change based on what winter damage you have gotten. At the moment, I don't have but one small project. Am really waiting to see how bad the damage is from the standing water. Be sure to make a list. You know it won't get done if you don't write it down.

The important thing about March is not to do too much. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the "need to do's" that we forget to really enjoy the first stirrings of life in the garden. March is the time to enjoy the rebirth that happens every day!

After weeks hidden under snow
and ice the hellebores have gone
crazy with blooms.

Friday, March 5, 2010

What Was She Thinking?

You know. There are just some things that require few words.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The First Hints of Spring

Finally some progress! the first little peeks of spring showed up this week. This is a clump of Stokesia laevis 'Mary Gregory' that won't bloom until June, but suddenly it's come up and appears to be growing well.

In the xeri-garden I was surprised to find the first basal growth of the sedum "Brilliant" coming up. I had not expect that for at least four to six more weeks. The rest of the bed looks awful, but there certainly is hope.

Tucked away in odd spaces all over the yard are little bulbs coming up. These are mini-daffodils next to the drive way. Mitchell gave me the original corms at least 15 years ago. He gave me a membership in the nearby botanical gardens and they came with the membership. We moved them from our old house and they are always the first thing to bloom in our yard. It will still be weeks, but at least I know they survived the monsoon rains, heavier than usual snow, and all the standing water. It gives me hope for other things surviving.

A sure harbinger of spring is this dogwood tree. We transplanted it two years ago and this will be the first time it has bloomed. A poor photo, but you can see the little buds that are ready to go... soon.

But best of all, the hellebores have finally bloomed. In a normal winter, they start blooming in mid-December and last until June. This year we got our first heavy snow on December 18th. It weighed them down - smashed, actually! In January they were pancake flat and no buds or blooms visible. Suddenly this week here they are!

In another two or three weeks much will change. I can hardly wait!

First Blogaversary!

A year ago, I awoke to one of those Currier & Ives mornings - eight inches of pristine snow filling the landscape and the quiet that comes from unplowed roads and canceled schools. It was the inspiration I needed to write my first blog.

I had been following Ms. Carolyn Bender for quite a while and a few of the blogs that she was reading, but just didn't know how to start. I had grandiose ideas of writing fine essays and literate criticism, but it didn't work out that way. I wanted to look at things from the viewpoint of one who is close to retiring and how the issues of the day affect me, but somehow that never happened. In August I got frustrated with what I saw as "me, me, me" and quit writing for a while. I didn't stop reading tho. By then I had found many good blogs, written by interesting people - all but one of whom are women. I had come to love the daily/weekly peeks into their lives; to see what they were doing; what they were thinking; what was going well; what was going poorly. I had come to care about these strong and interesting women and their lives. And I realized that my writing about my feelings was as authentic as their writing about theirs. Don't need to write essays or criticism - altho I am sure that would be ok, too.

So thanks to Ms. Bender, and Charlene, and PinkFairyGran, and Marie, and Allyson, and Savvy Working Girl and Elizabeth and all the rest of you who have responded, commented, given me ideas, given me encouragement, and just come and visited from time to time. And, thanks, too, for the awards. You know if you gave me one, and you know I have not passed them along. I haven't felt like I read enough different blogs and don't want to re-name the talented folks you have already named.

You have helped to create a monster and I'm going to enjoy another year sitting on the Garden Bench.

In a complete advertisement... I'm still writing my other blog - ItsMyGardenVa - about gardening in Central Virginia. If you happen to have an interest in that.... come visit. Spring is getting ready to spring and I actually know something about that!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Olympics - One Last Thing

You didn't think I could leave the Olympics entirely without a comment on the fashions of the fans, did you? While there were more hockey fans with interesting clothing than in the other sports, I believe that is because they have more experience. How's this for a visual?

I have always wanted to be a redhead, but think that the Afro has been done before - and better - so perhaps these fellows would have benefited from a bit of styling.

One would think that anyone who planned a trip to Vancouver in February would plan on weather-appropriate attire. Clearly the folks at the Olympics had thought about it, but who wants to wear a poncho that was purchased at 1,000 for $2.00?

I very much like this hat. Can't really tell if it suits his face shape or not, since it appears to be a bit large and sits a bit too low, but it was a good choice for a sunny day in the Pacific Northwest.

Better hair than the 'fros above. The long straight look is also a bit yesterday, but I like the shade a lot. The white version makes him look old and would be improved with some "dark lights". Do you find that term as odd as I do? But it's what my hairdresser says...

I particularly like the glasses, altho am not sure that they actually saw anything.

More glasses, and I like these better. The horizontal "lines" certainly allow her to see, and I like the red in the center - over the nose.

This guy has done it all - great glasses (beware! Sallie Jessie Raphael may come after those) and good hair - not as big as the first fro, so more now, instead of "then". He is also wearing THE fashion accessory of the games - the maple leaf mittens. Apparently these sold out almost immediately and are in much demand. If you come by a pair, let me know...

Canadian fans were not alone in their fervor. When I see this face I keep wondering, "doesn't it itch?" And if one scratches it... how does one not mix the colors. I have visions of a pink face on one side and purple on the other. You gotta give him points for this.

And without a doubt, the best "outfit" of all. I think a little waxing would have improved the overall effect, but have you ever seen plumber pants in the front? And, I wonder why it's blue and green and not red and white? I keep hoping his mother doesn't see this photo, but he does win the "Most Impressive Fan Fashion" award.

And, that's the final word on the 2010 Olympics.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Olympics - Final Day

Like all good things, the Olympics have come to an end (and I'll have to return to regular TV tomorrow), but what a good ride it has been. Today there were only two events and neither is really my cup of team, but a little interesting anyway.

First the 50 M cross country ski event - that's 30 miles on skis with 40+ of your best friends. At the beginning it looked like the start of a bike race, and they hung in together most of the way. I didn't actually watch much of it, but it was pretty to see with all the colors. Wonder why so many wore white, tho. Except for their bibs they disappear into the landscape. Maybe it's so they can sneak up on the competition...

The big draw of the day, tho, was the gold medal ice hockey game between the US and Canada. Unless you have lived under a mushroom for the past two weeks you know that this was the one that Canada really wanted and they got it. It was hard to root for the US with all those anxious Canadians packing the stadium and that sea of red jerseys. And their win meant one more rousing rendition of "Oh, Canada".

I wonder if there is some way we can talk them into trading national anthems with us? or maybe Virginia could secede from the US and become a part of Canada? We need to do something to get that anthem - it's too good!

One thing we all need to remember, tho, is that virtually all the hockey players are NFL players, so the good quality of the game shouldn't have been surprising.

Closing Ceremonies: Now comes the final opportunity for everyone to struct some stuff and enjoy one last happy moment. They have given out the white capes again so they can use the audience as part of the scenery. In case you missed the opening event, they had a problem with the cauldron not coming up the right way - one leg of it never came up. Tonight they made fun of themselves by having a mime repairman come out and supervise the raising of that leg of the cauldron before the event began. It's nice to see a country that's able to laugh at itself.

Now comes the entertainment. Apparently it's our opportunity to see some more of "our" stars who are actually Canadian. So a snowboarding drill team, Ben Hepner, a Russian choir, Neil Young (sans Cosby, Nash, and Stills), and moose ears for all. A handover of flags, national anthems sung, a bit of pageantry and a lot of photos taken. Now it's time to reveal those Canadian stars: Captain Kirk, Katherine O'Hara (it's hard to do stand-up comedy in front of 60,000), Michale J. Fox, and Michael Buble. And, it's dancing Mounties and hockey players; giant inflatable beavers and moose, and dancing canoes - a bit like Rocky and Bullwinkle on steroids! Somehow, it's like being inside a giant snow globe.

One last fashion report: The US team has shown up in their Ralph Lauren outfits. They've (the sweaters) gotten a lot of flack for the huge Lauren logo on the front. It does look pretty commercial, but overall I like the look, and especially the berets. It's a kind of marriage of Noel Coward and Russian Cossack.

The Canadians are more informal in their sweaters - complete with a moose head on the front - but their hats are way too much.

Today I'm saving my snarky remarks for the "award ceremony jackets" the US athletes have been wearing. For the first few days I couldn't figure out why sometimes they looked good, and sometimes they looked awful. This photo tells it all.

The fabric is some sort of "ombre" that fades from a dark gray/navy shade to nearly white. And to make it worse, they have not done a good job of matching back to front - pattern-wise - so from the side they are a mess. The second man from the left looks pretty good, with more dark color that anything else. But the guy on the right has a big white ring around his... well, his buttocks, and the guy on the left has a big white ring around his chest. Neither is flattering. The sleeves look like they were playing in Clorox somehow. This is the four-man bobsled team, so they are a bit beefier than most of the athletes, but it didn't work for anyone. Would have been so much better to have gone with the dark color all over.