Friday, April 22, 2011

Fish Out of Water

Monday was our annual "Clean the Pond Day". It's one of those things that responsible pond owners need to do - well, if you have two tiny, enclosed ponds as we do - and that we put off as long as possible. Then when it's done you say, "not so bad after all!" I hope the fish feel the same way, since they experience a bit more trauma than we do.

Before, the pond at the end of the winter looks like it's hiding the creature from the black lagoon - dark water obscuring the darker depths and hiding not only the fish, but untold gook from delaying leaves, food and what-not. Above is the fish pond, which is the cleaner of the two ponds, since it has no fish "waste" or decaying food in it - only vegetation.

The fish are understandably not anxious to be caught and moved for this process, so there is no choice except to start draining the pond and to catch them as they are trapped in less water. A quick scoop and they are transferred to holding ponds. Ok, big plastic tubs.

Then we wash down the sides and vacuum out the bottom, scooping up as much gunk as possible. That goes on the compost pile. You do use fish "emulsion" don't you? The drained water goes to the best perennials - this year the peonies got a big share. And, I pull out the water lilies to cut them back and re-pot for the new season.

They look like land-based tubers and you cut them back the same way - simply cut off the old part that no longer has viable roots and re-pot the newer part. Both tubers already had a large number of sprouts and some leaves that were nearly 10 inches long.

Safely back in the bottom of the pond, fed and refilled with gravel and lava rock the lilies are ready for another year, and all that's left is to fill the pond, treat the water and return the fish. Start to finish - two hours on a lovely, sunny, warm afternoon. No one got wet, except the fish and now the pond sparkles in the sunlight and the fish have remembered that they get fed at the cocktail hour. They are waiting for me every evening.

This is the day that I am annually amazed that we can maintain the lilies and the fish thru the winter. We lose a few fish every winter, but in our fourth year there are still two from the first five we bought - Whitie and Goldie, in case you were wondering. I named the first five, but none of the rest. Since they have common parents there is now a strong family resemblance.

If you're in the area, come have a glass of wine and help me feed them on afternoon!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chapter Two

Spring turned another page today as the weather has finally stayed warm for several days. It was a lovely morning with the ground littered with confetti from the fruit trees, redbuds and dogwood. I'm sorry to see them gone already. They never seem to stay long enough, but this year it seems like the dogwood bloomed last week and the leaves started coming in this week - perhaps not really true, but that's how it seems.

Other things follow, tho, as is the pattern. The azaleas are opening by the hour with waves of pinks, lilacs and reds all around the yard and the neighborhood. Aguga is everywhere. The native honeysuckle is gorgeous and all the perennials are growing well.

Over the weekend I made time to plant both bulbs and seeds. If I am lucky (and treat them right) I will have rain lilies, pineapple lilies and [please, please, please!] ranunculus later this summer. Jane at SmallButCharming convinced me that ranunculus will grow in our zone 7 area, so we both jumped in and ordered some. I got a mixture of pastels, picotees, and a "rainbow mix". Somehow this is a plant that I had totally missed until a couple of years ago. I have actually planted them a couple of time in pots and not had any success with sprouting them, but never had particularly good directions either. I have fallen madly in love with them and must have some ... if I can.

In the seed department I planted larkspur (hyacinth-flowered, if that matters), royal blue forget-me-nots, and poppies - Shirley single blend and both Mission Bells and Tropical Sunset California poppies. I've been a dedicated grower of perennials until this year, using some bedding plants for a splash of instant color here and there. This year I want to seriously increase my cutting garden - and cut more of what I grow! - so I have dived in and planted several new things.... like seeds!

The viburnum is lovely, but its blooms look more like lace cap hydrangeas than some other viburnums I see. I think - from photos - that it is Viburnum plicatum tomentosum. It has no fragrance at all, and not the pretty flowers of 'Carlisii'. It has a very distinctive shape with very straight branches that come from the base and not so many from the trunk. It's a lovely specimen plant and provides the visual break that I wanted, so it's good. Would be even better if I had kept the label.

Another new addition today was this tiny iris-like white flower. I am not sure they are a true iris, because they grow from a very different rhizome-like structure. But they prefer dry shade and you know how hard it is to find things that will even grown in dry shade, much less prefer it! They were a pass-along gift from one of my Wise Women, so I particularly treasure them.
Sat on the deck for a few minutes just before dark, savoring the peace and calm of the garden and wishing I had made time during the day to get out there. The fish were active in the pond and all the greens were saturated with color in the evening shade. Bits of color are popping out all over as the first blossoms of the next wave begin to open. Soon it will be peonies and iris.

What more could a girl want?