Saturday, March 26, 2011

In like a lion, out like a wet, grumpy lion

 First rainbow of 2011

March in the Pacific North West—well, the trees love it. And if they're happy, then I'm happy. So far this season I've measured over 13 more inches of rain than we got by the end of March last year. Pretty wet. But at least we're finally getting some sunbreaks when the temperature is over 45º and I'm getting outside to get a few things done. Been working in my veggie garden, and today I planted a brand new Darrow blueberry I just bought. A terrible thing happened to my Bluecrop plants—all 5 of them—when I went out to look at their flower buds early this month, I noticed they didn't have any! I'm thinking that the big freeze we had right before Thanksgiving killed their buds right as they were forming. Only one Bluecrop has two flower buds, on a really low branch that is semi-sheltered in the branches of the blueberry next to it. My other two blueberries, a Legacy and a Darrow, both set a nice crop of buds. The Darrows are particularly fun because they're quite large, so I bought another one this morning. Lesson: don't put all your eggs in one kind of berry bush—diversify!

Dig a hole, find a rock

Typically, there was a nice big rock right where I wanted to plant it, but at least this rock was loose and came out easily. Isn't that lovely soil? Nice wet, brown clay. Mmmmm.

Last summer I was visiting a friend who lives nearby and on her back deck she had a beautiful big round bowl right at elbow height on a simple wrought iron stand, overflowing with leaf lettuces just ready to pick. I really wanted one just like hers, but pricing wrought iron stands turned out to be pretty discouraging. And forget about finding a big, good-looking shallow bowl like hers. Still haven't seen one like it. But this winter while Goodwill hunting I did find a very strange but fairly tall and sturdy vinyl-covered steel stand and a low rectangular purple plastic tub that actually fit it—sort of—so now I have a lettuce tub on my patio!

The latest style: Shabby Cheap

I filled and planted it yesterday in between showers, and laid the fir branchlets over the top as disguise. If you were a hungry finch, would you be able to tell there's tasty lettuce seed sitting right there for the taking?

 On my way down to the veggie garden this morning I found what my neighbor calls a "widowmaker" right next to one of my heavily traveled paths.

A sign from above

This one's only a little over an inch thick, but it got driven in pretty good into the dirt. This is why I don't work outside when the wind's blowing more than a medium breeze. You never know when or where one of these air-to-ground missiles is going to launch itself.

Lots of great plants are showing up in the nurseries now, and I've been out there getting my share. Got some great deals on heucheras, including my favorite Amethyst Mist. The plants are starting to pile up on my patio now.

The waiting room

Got a nice Choisya Sundance that will look really great with the Amethyst Mist, Tiramisu heucheras and more hellebores. The soil is warm enough to plant now at 42º, all I'm waiting for now is for it to be a bit less soggy (too much to ask?) and the air to be a bit warmer. There's no sign of 60º yet, not up here in the toes of the foothills of the Cascades. The weatherman said last week that we'll usually see it around April 11th, and that's only a couple weeks away.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Hellebore Heaven—at last!

I love hellebores! I'm so hungry for flowers this time of year, and here they show up with their great colors and keep blooming till the next garden players are ready to take over the performance. When a late afternoon sunbeam backlit this young, dark red beauty, I grabbed my camera and ran outside to get a picture. In the shade it looks like dark mahogany, but when the sun hit it, it really looked this red. Ahhhhh.

Both the red and this pink are unnamed seedlings. I think it will be many years before I have enough hellebores. Tough, evergreen, drought tolerant, need only a little bit of sun, love bare clay devoid of humus, bloom for weeks and weeks—and some make babies for you!