March madness is here!
March is a time of mad cutting down and tidying up in the garden. I leave everything up during the winter for the birds. The Ruby-Crowned Kinglet loves the Buddleias and the other birds love everything else for cover.
March madness has not just infected the gardener and the basketball community. It seems every creature has been affected. We have 3 full-time resident deer, a mother and two youngsters that are nearly a year old, that I see all of the time. The other night the deer were playing, the mother and one of the fawns running around the round pen in one of the pastures. The horses looked entertained. The horses almost always spot wildlife before I do. Usually they watch the deer, the resident Gray Fox, and the raptors. Being prey animals they have excellent long distance and motion vision.
We are being graced by the presence of a pair of Cooper's Hawks that are passing through. I've seen one of them after songbirds in earnest on a couple of occasions. Earlier this winter we were host to a pair of Marsh Hawks. I saw them performing an out-of-season courtship dance in December or January. It was extraordinary, and easy to see why they are in the kite family. It's too bad I didn't have a video camera on me. The grace and beauty of their flight was awe-inpiring. The way they dipped up and down looked lighter than air.
The Red-Shouldered Hawks are nesting in the woods beside the old house site and the Pileateds are drumming. The butterflies are out too. The other day I saw a Zebra Swallowtail, unusual for here, puddling beside one of the water troughs.
Yesterday I cut back the Panicum by the neighbors fence, while the bees buzzed around madly. The garden was full of hectic bees, as the big bed and the bed beside the neighbor's fence are currently rolling pastures of Lamium and Henbit and the Redbud is open. Bees really, really love Lamium and Redbud flowers.
Everything from big Bumblebees and Carpenter bees to tiny Honeybees and native bees. You have to admit she's cute. Look at those legs!
You can see how tiny this bee is, in comparison to the size of the Lamium flowers and leaves.
In addition to Lamium, there's a lot of purple violets in the big bed, and daffodils.
That's just a third of the big bed though, and I need daffodils all over it. So I'm in the process of dividing some crowded clumps and spreading them around. I have Blue Violets that are seeding everywhere, just as I want, but I also want something that's midway in height to the violets and daffs. I need blue, pink and purple-flowering bulbs and plants that voles won't eat. Hyacinths, tulips, and crocus unfortunately are out, as are Reticulated Iris, as only 1 of 25 came back and bloomed this year. Jacob's Ladder, Spring Starflower, Scilla, Grape Hyacinth, Blue Toadflax, Drummond's Onion and Spanish Bluebells are on my list. Jacob's Ladder and Spanish Bluebells I already have, just need to divide.
In a post a year or 2 ago I said that I would like J's L even better if the color was just.. more. After seeing it today next to the bright yellow daffodis, with the light shining through the sheer light blue petals making the pale color dance, I would say don't change a thing. It's perfect.
Spanish Bluebells are a bit late for this purpose but look enough like English Bluebells they make me feel like I'm in England. I saw 'Rolf Fiedler', a beautiful blue cultivar of Starflower, at the Arobetum the other day. Muscari azureum and Muscari latifolium really caught my eye at the Arb too. I may try to add more Georgia Speedwell, although the best time to move that would have been last month. Currently Ga. Speedwell is blooming in lovely blue-violet pools in the bed next to the house.
I need more interest than at higher than knee-high level in the big bed for the month of March as well. I have one big Winter Honeysuckle and several young ones from cuttings but I need something with color ~ a pink-flowering shrub or tree to bloom when the daffs are out. The Prunus mume was still blooming when the earliest daffs were blooming (and a lovely combination it was, bright butter yellow and dark purplish fushcia rose), but I need something for the bulk of March. No Quince bushes, unless I can find one that's close to a clear rose pink. I am not a fan of the usual bright coral pink. 'Apple Blossom' is a possibility, especially since it's an old one. The Lilacs I described in the previous post and Daphne genkwa . Lilac Daphne is fragrant and looks just like a beautiful large-flowered Lilac and blooms at the same time as the early Lilacs. I plan to add more Eastern Rebuds around the garden so that they won't obscure the views to the pasture but can be seen with the daffodils.
This morning I put some of the daffs in beside the sidewalk since the Bearded Iris didn't work out. Our indoor cat Penny decided to come outside and keep me company. She alternately watched from the porch and the sidewalk, looking like the queen of all she surveyed. At 17 years she is as beautiful as ever, but quite creaky in her back and hips. Who knows, she may be older than 17; the vet thought she was about a year old when I found her ~ or perhaps I should say when she found me ~ literally starving in a park in Pennsylvania. Outside, she looks very improbable: a black-and-white cotton candy puff of a cat, who looks like she ought to be wearing a pink ribbon and a big EAT ME sign around her neck. Usually she just goes out onto the back porch and I don't let her out unless I'm home. She does love the warm spring sunshine.
Here are more plants for the wish list that I saw at the JC Raulston Arboretum:
Camellia 'White Perfection' ~ actually, this Camellia goes beyond perfection. A lot of people were standing before it as at a shrine.
Veitch's WinterHazel (Corylopsis sinensis) was covered in melted butter yellow flowers. Beautiful and unusual-looking.
Normally I'm not a fan of yellow or charteuse foliage, but the foliage of Spiraea thunbergii 'Ogon' and Golden Mockorange (Philadelphus coronarius 'Aureus') were the most vivid eye-catching spring green. Dirr however says that the foliage of Golden Mockorange turns yellow-green to green in summer and is a real "lemon'. The one in the Arb is in part shade and default green wouldn't be bad.
Zhejiang Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia limii) has the vivid chesnut-and-cream colored bark as Japanese Crape Myrtle (the species used in creating the mildew-resistant National Arboretum hybrids), but without the large size. In his 5th edition Manual Dirr criticizes it harshly for its form, but it's a graceful little tree at the Arb.
Bitchiu Viburnum has beautiful and fragrant flowers similar to Koreanspice Viburnum.
Magnolia 'Lois' is a gorgeous butter yellow Magnolia.
A cherry I have coveted for a while, Green-Flowering Cherry (Prunus 'Yukon') does not have the dainty swirls of pink or white blossoms of 'Okame' or the Yoshina Cherry, but relatively large pale green clusters of bell-shaped flowers and wonderful silvery bark. It's a large cherry like the Weeping Cherry.
Happy Spring, everyone!