Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

March 2010

Like most gardeners, I love it when I see the first flowers of spring. All you southerners and westerners get to see pansies and other cool season bloomers all  winter. Not so, us northerners. It’s a special event with the first ones come along. Usually, it’s the crocuses, or perhaps the hellebores. I had both this year at about the same time. It was remarkable to me that these plants had obviously been growing beneath the snow. Within a few days of the drifts melting off, these things were already in bloom. The pansises were only a few days behind. A few years  ago,  I had some blooming in January. Scared everybody to death over global warming. Regardless of what the long term climate is doing, this year proves that Mother Nature is as unpredictable as ever. First blooms — March 13. I’m glad you’re here, and better late than never.  Next year, a little earlier, okay?!





Citrus need special care after a freeze.

Citrus need special care after a freeze.

Sometimes I forget what a narrow view most of us have of gardening. Gardeners are for the most part focused on our own little patch of ground, and we sometimes lose sight of the fact that the gardening world is as big as the globe itself. So here’s today’s roundup from England to Canada, the Pacific Northwest to Florida and Louisiana.

Take a stroll through the garden of the founder of the English Gardening School.

Dieticians north of the border are encouraging Canadians to celebrate food from field to table.

Bad economic times spur many people to grow their own fruits and veggies.

It’s time to start weeding and planting in the UK, or so says the Guardian. Maybe I’m glad we’ve headed off weeding for a while with a late blast of winter.

Houma Today reminds gardeners down South to take proper steps to protect citrus trees after recent freezing cold.

The Spokesman-Review reminds us that the gardener needs TLC to get in shape for spring just as much as the garden.

The Rutland Herald asks: Gardens sprout bouquets and salads, but can they also seed inner peace?

And finally, for all of you who think that we never give Florida gardening a second thought, the Miami Herald tells Zone 10 gardeners “things are different here.”

Contrary to what many folks believe to be a sign of spring’s arrival, reports of the robin red-breasts annual return have been greatly exaggerated. Although American Robins are migratory, more than a few populations or groups often stay year-round in one location, even here in Central Iowa. That’s because they switch diets in fall, turning from earthworms to berries and other fruits. And where there is fruit that remains all winter (think mountain ash berries and crabapples), robins will stick around to feast on the rich food source.

full bird image

And while we’re debunking myths about our beloved red-breasts (actually it’s more of a cinnamon-brown), let’s address the issue of how robins locate worms. While the cocked-head posture of a robin seeking food does resemble a “listening” pose, they are actually using their good eyesight to look for worms or their castings in the grass. Unlike owls or hawks, the robin’s eyes are positioned to the side of its head, not in the front. When the robin cocks its head to the side, it is actually looking down. Experiments have ruled out the possibilities that robins feel vibrations that worms make or that robins hear worms moving. Just wanted to get that off my unshaved chest.

IMGP1726Ladies and Gents, introducing ‘Rainbow’ Leucothoe. Also known as drooping Leucothoe, drooping fetterbush, or just plain “that pretty plant over there.”

The photo to the left was taken last fall, before the Leucothoe was buried under snow for 3 or 4 months. The photo below was taken yesterday. Not much difference, other than camera lighting!

IMGP1876‘Rainbow’ Leucothoe is a shade-tolerant shrub for moist conditions (although mine is doing fine in a bed of normal moisture). It’s also said to be deer-resistant. I don’t have deer, but I do have plenty of rabbits, and they didn’t touch this plant. It’s normally a green and white variegated plant, but it assumes this pretty burgundy color in fall and keeps assuming right till spring.

It’s hardy from Zones 5-9, and grows 3 to 5 feet tall with a drooping habit. That’s why I planted mine at the top of a stone wall, so it can hang down. For more on this plant (and to see what it looks like in summer), click here.

Spring unleashes the inner puppy in gardeners. With boundless joy, we can’t wait to get down on all fours and dig in the dirt as soon as the ground thaws. Thanks to a new German Shepherd pup in my house, our first signs of Spring this year were muddy paw prints on the living room carpet.

Apollo is all ears when I tell him Spring has arrived.

Apollo is all ears when I tell him Spring has arrived.

With house-training little Apollo as my main motivator, I spent a lot of time outdoors this past month examining every square foot of our property, several times each day. Nose to the ground, Apollo follows scent trails of rabbits and deer while I inspect the tree and shrub damage those hungry critters have caused.

Yesterday, I discovered a pair of cheerful yellow winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) blooming in my woodland garden. Nearby, a clump of jonquil (Narcissus hybrids) sprouts were muscling their way through the leaf litter. Fortunately, the rabbits and deer find these tender morsels distasteful.

Before too long, I’ll be digging in the garden. I hope Apollo doesn’t get any ideas.

Winter aconite is one of the earliest flowers to bloom in spring.

Winter aconite is one of Spring's earliest blooms.

Fingerlike narcissus sprouts punch through a fallen oak leaf.

Finger-like narcissus sprouts break through a fallen oak leaf.

The snow finally melted off enough to let me back into my garden and do some cleaning up. It’s always interesting when you get back out into the yard for the first time in spring, and see what mayhem occurred during the previous months. It can be kind of disgusting, actually. Rabbit droppings galore, dead birds, trash that blew into your flowerbeds. I noticed one thing this year that I haven’t seen before. I found a couple of nests (I guess) with piles of what used to be my prized lily bulbs.  I could plainly see where some critter had dug down to get at the bulbs, then removed the bulb scales to these piles. Rabbits are my biggest pest problem, but I dont’ think this was a rabbit. We had lots of snow this year, and I think something else (a vole, maybe?) was at work underneath the drifts. Hopefully this will stop now that the snow is gone!lily rodent

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