Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March Madness

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 Kinglets
love the Buddleias and the other birds love everything else for food and 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. Being prey animals horses 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 a 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-inspiring. 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 pileated woodpeckers 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 honeybees and tiny native bees. Here's a little bumblebee. 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. Only 1 of 25 of the iris came back and bloomed this year. Jacob's Ladder, spring starflower, Scilla, grape hyacinth, blue toadflax, Drummond's onion and Spanish bluebells are all possibilities. 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 Jacob's Ladder even better if the color was just.. more. After seeing it today next to the bright yellow daffodils, with the light shining through the sheer light blue petals making the 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 Arboretum 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 want bigger plants to provide interest during 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 blooming. The Prunus mume was still blooming when the earliest daffs were blooming (and a lovely combination it was, bright butter yellow and dark purplish fuchsia pink), 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. The bright coral pink doesn't really fit into my garden. I like 'Apple Blossom'. I might try 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 Redbuds 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 just goes to default green during the summer.

Zhejiang Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia limii) has the vivid chestnut-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 Yoshino 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!


  1. Isn't it wonderful when the natural world wakes up and goes a little wild! We're still quiescently brown, but spring will come, someday. I'm not a spirea person, but that 'Ogon' is really a great plant, and easily pruned to keep it the size you want. Love the captures of the blues, birds and bees :)

  2. How wonderful to observe deer playing. I don't think I've ever seen that. Everything is waking up so fast this year.

  3. I'll echo Gardening Asylum's comments: all is still brown here (we are within 12 miles of each other). But your emerging spring photos and your day outside make me hopeful up here!

    I also love the Ogon spirea. I put one in last year and it's gorgeous. Your plant list is so interesting... especially that green(?) flowering cherry!

  4. You are lucky to have so many creatures in your garden. Your picture of the bird is wonderful - do you have telephoto? It was great to see the daffodils and speedwell blooming in your garden, such bounty! Do the deer eat your roses?:)

  5. I love your photos! Your beautiful garden is a magnet for many creatures, who enjoy it as much as you do. What joy to see the deer playing! I have a friend who recently lost a large portion of her garden to deer, so I think it may be a mixed blessing. Have you had problems with them?

  6. Ah, that first flush of the garden is such a great time to scan the territory and decide where changes need to be be made. I think that is one of the most fun parts. Enjoy! :)

  7. The bees have been really busy here, too. The garden seems to be on fast forward with something new blooming or new green shoots showing every day. The birds are beginning to nest. I believe I could spend all day just watching!

  8. Laurrie I saw the Yukon Cherry bloom one year and the flowers really are pale green. The effect is very nice.

    Masha I used a 55-30 lens for the R-C Kinglet shot.

    Deer have nibbled on the roses in winter before, but they have left them alone in spring. We are surrounded by hunters and hundreds of acres of undeveloped bottomland. Even so, the deer have bothered the garden less than I thought they would. It's a good thing because the last couple of years the Japanese Beetles have eaten the flowers all summer!

  9. You are one busy lady dividing all those daffodils. They look fabulous. I like the blues too!

  10. Bees are always a welcome sight aren't they. Beautiful images of your gardens and it is a busy time in the gardens.

  11. What a wonderful story of your wildlife adventures Sweetbay! I love your description of the hawks and deer that the horses were entertained by. Lovely blooms overflowing in your garden. What a difference from our winter landscape. Stellar Ruby-crowned Kinglet shots!! You even got the bit of ruby crown showing. I just love the upside down portrait! Great post! Happy Spring to you!

  12. Spring is certainly beautiful in your part of the world. I'm always impressed by people who have such keen observation. I wish I were better at that. I'm referring to the mating dance of the Cooper's hawks.~~Dee

  13. Your post is jammed full of so many things, I almost forgot about the cute little Kinglet at the top. I haven't seen mine lately, but the woods are so vast.
    Love the blue of the Speedwell. Beautiful shots.
    I received a Jacob's Ladder as a bonus plant from an order. Am really looking forward to it blooming. Never had one before.

    I am quickly becoming a fan of a yellow bloomed magnolia, will have to check out the one you mentioned.

  14. Sweetbay, The blue of Georgia Speedwell is always a wonderful sight~and each spring I think, why haven't I added this everywhere. I was also much taken with Ogon and when a local nursery had it for sale I grabbed one. The flowers were lovely and the bees were happy for the early bloom. The photos of the Ruby Crowned Kinglet are incredible~What a cutie pie critter. gail

  15. 'March Madness' has another meaning for me, too, especially now that my Illini have been defeated in the tournament. I felt a little of this madness last week when the weather was so warm, and I was trying to cram as many garden chores as possible into the few hours I had. The birds have been busy, too; I've seen them collecting bits of grass and fluff, so it must be nest-making time as well.

    Love the photo of the kinglet upside down! And your mass planting of daffodils is like a beautiful spring painting, Sweet Bay.

  16. Your photos of Georgia Blue are lovely. I do not know why more people don't grow this wonderful perennial.

  17. Happy Spring to you.

    I have two seventeen year old cats. They're hanging in there and seem to act like kittens with the current spring weather.

    I've got lots of false nettle and violets over here too. You're right, bees love them. Hope you get everything on your wishlist, you'll need a truck to get it all back.

  18. Happy spring to you as well. I was looking through the previous post and thinking to myself that it has been such a long winter that I have forgotten just how beautiful plain old green is. Everything looks so lush in your photos from April.
    I know many gardeners hate deer, but I would love to see a mother and her two fawns playing in my garden. Deer with their long slender legs always seems so graceful and light on their feet.
    I love the description of your 17 year old cat. I am sure she is well loved.

  19. Your pictures are spectacular ... oh, the blue of the Speedwell! I used to grow that but it never looked anything like yours!

  20. You sure have a lot of wildlife activity happening around you ~ I totally see why ~ your garden is such a haven. The photos of the Kinglet are wonderful. I've been trying to do some spring clean up as well but not accomplishing nearly as much as it sounds like you have.

  21. Great photos of the birds and bees and spring flowers!
    One of our horses is the wildlife spotter on our rides. He sees deer and elk long before anyone else notices.


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