Saturday, March 31, 2018

Late winter/early spring

We lost Prissy on the 13th. She had just turned 20 years old and she went as peacefully as possible. It's very painful anyway. We still have her brother Tommy and he looks bright and purrs all the time, but he has cardiovascular problems and arthritis.

I don't feel up to looking through her pictures, but I wanted to mention her because she was such a big part of my life and often kept me company while I worked in the garden and always cuddled with me on the couch. I love her and miss her so much.


For a brief moment I thought I had a name for Eva's daffodils when a commenter posted that they look like 'Sir Watkin' (which they do), and then I looked at the height listed for SW. It's over 2 feet tall. Not surprisingly it is also known as the giant daffodil. I'm having trouble even imagining a daffodil that tall. lol It would be nice to have a name, but so many daffodils have been introduced over the years that I don't even know where to start.


Eva herself may not have known the name of these daffodils because most of her plants were passalongs.

Spring looked as though it was going to arrive really early this year after some really warm weather in February, then temperatures cooled off again and the rate of spring moderated to something more reasonable. Still, I doubt I will get the garden cleaned up in time and that's OK. The garden will have shortcomings that I touched on in the last two posts and I have work to do to get the garden where I want it.

I may replace the Japanese beautyberries in these pictures. They look nice in the fall, but they don't fit in with the rest of the bed. They're still leafless while everyone else is going full whack. One winter the bluebirds went crazy over the fruit but that was 9 years ago. I think because there are so many fruiting shrubs in my garden they just don't seem to be interested in them anymore.

Eva's daffodils finished up about three weeks ago after blooming a month early but the other daffodils - 'Quail', 'Trevithivan', 'Sweet Love' and 'Thalia' started at the usual time and are in full bloom now.

I always wanted blue violets in my garden. I had to introduce them as they do not grow wild here.

Three other species of violets grow wild on the farm: marsh violets, early blue violets (which are not at all early), and a tiny white violet that's either white bog violet or primrose leaves violet. I've tried the first two in the garden and I couldn't make them happy. Marsh violets demand constant moisture. Early blue violets, like their cousins birdsfoot violets, need open space. I transplanted a single bunch of the white violets into the front garden so I'll see this year how they do. Blue violets, on the other hand, can form a carpet when they're happy, although the numbers I get can vary a lot from year to year. They've been blooming for over a month now.

It seems that this redbud and red maple have been blooming forever too, and the orchid purple and soft orange make a striking combination. In fact the red maple is blooming it's heart out so much that I'm wondering if this is its last hurrah. As you can see it's splitting down the middle. Funny enough there is one redbud up top that's blooming at the same time as this one, while two others on either side are just starting to open now.

The American holly by one of the horse pastures had a lot of fruit this year.
It grows by a big ditch that originates south of the big bed, runs by the old house site, then turns and runs parallel to the horse pasture before continuing on to the neighbor's farm. There's a whole maze of these mini waterways going to the creek that borders our property. The holly's roots were undermined by all of the rain we got with Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and it fell over. But it survived, and several leaders have grown up. It was much more beautiful as a conical tree with a single leader but in a year with decent rainfall it fruits as heavily as ever. Most years in late winter flocks of robins and cedar waxwings descend upon it and strip its fruit. I happened to be down there cleaning up the bed by the gate when a flock of cedar waxwings were feeding. They were being a bit skittish but I got a few pictures.
I see and hear cedar waxwings often, well into the month of May. I usually see them as silhouettes though, flying from the tops of trees that are over 60' high. Ironically until last week the closest looks I'd gotten of cedar waxwings the past couple of years was at the grocery store when a bunch were feeding on the pear trees in the parking lot. No, Bradford pears are in fact not sterile. Bradford pears cannot breed with each other, but they can breed with other pear trees. I can attest to this as seedlings are now popping up all over my farm.

I think these birds are so gorgeous, with their black masks and ultra sleek feathers.

Showing the red wingtips for which they are named.

Of course, mockingbirds love the fruit too, and one of the resident mockingbirds spends most of the winter lording over it.

I finally got a couple of pictures of a pileated woodpecker! I see them often, as they like to feed in the tulip poplar stand above the house (where these pictures were taken), and in summer I frequently see them flying back and forth across their large territories.

You can just barely make out the red "moustache", indicating this is a male.

He felt comfortable enough to do a bit of preening. The horses were probably still in the paddock behind the house. Wildlife isn't nearly as alarmed if I am near the horses.

I know a lot of birds will be happy if I am slow to get the garden cleared up. There are throngs of song sparrows and white-throated sparrows here each winter and they love the cover.

Song sparrow. He or she looks adorable.

The red-shouldered hawks are nesting near the house again. This past week one of them surprised me the other day by landing on something (cotton rat?) about 15 feet away from me while I was working in the garden. The hawk looked a little surprised too. I think he or she was so focused on the prey that they didn't notice me.

Monday, March 5, 2018


Spring arrived here over a week ago. I'm not ready, but Mother Nature
doesn't care! The first set of daffodils (early mid season) are in full bloom.

I spent a lot of time the last 2 springs dividing daffodil bulbs after they finished blooming. I knew that afterward the bulbs would take a few years to increase back up to big blooming clumps, but I wanted to spread the bulbs from Gene's grandmother's garden all over the big perennial bed and around the house. (Her name was Eva and I have many no ID plants from her garden named after her now.) I can't buy more because I don't know what they are. They are strong bloomers, increase well, and are very reliable. They are those early spring yellow daffodils that are my absolute favorite kind.

A wild serviceberry in the background.

There's still a lot of room for more daffodils around the house, so I added around 300 daffodil bulbs over the last couple of weeks. I wait until the foliage from the daffodils in the ground comes up in January and February before adding more.

  • 50 'Carlton', a yellow large cup variety that was introduced in 1927. Brent and Becky's Bulbs writes in their catalog that it is "one of the best perennializers especially in the South" and has a "vanilla like fragrance".

  • 100 'Sweet Love', an ivory jonquil with butter yellow cups, "incredibly, sweetly fragrant" according to Brent and Becky, developed by B and B, "very vigorous with multiple bloomstalks with multiple flowers; mid-spring".

  • 50 'Avalanche' sweetly fragrant tazetta, snow white petals with a lemon yellow cup; many flowers (another name for it is 'Seventeen Sisters'), registered in 1955. Bloomslooms early-mid spring

  • 50 'Silver Chimes' a white Triandrus with tazetta ancestry, a strong grower and late bloomer. According to Scott Ogden, author of Garden Bulbs for the South, it's "one of the best daffodils for heavy clay soils, one of the tried-and-true Southern daffodils". Sweetly fragrant with white petals and a pale yellow cup.

  • 25 'Petrel', a white Triandrus that B and B describes has having "exceptional fragrance; wins lots of ribbons in shows", and a mid-late spring bloom time.

  • 5 'Bridal Crown', a double, described by B and B as white and saffron, with a heavenly fragrance, 3-6 flowers per stem, early-mid spring.

  • 5 'Erlicheer', a double, yellow and white, sweet fragrance, several flowers per stem, early-mid spring.

  • 5 'Ginter's Gem' a glowing yellow Triandrus developed by B and B, very floriferous, increases well.

  • It always amazes me how many daffodils I'm going to need. Those 300 bulbs were just enough to fill in next to the front sidewalk and the bed along the east side of the house. I ordered 'Avalanche', 'Silver Chimes' and 'Sweet Love' from Van Engelen, because the quality and prices are outstanding. The rest came from Bent and Becky's Bulbs . They have a great selection and have developed several daffodils themselves. I first read about them in Passalong Plants.

    I planted some hyacinth bulbs as well. Gene's grandmother grew some old blue Roman hyacinths, which unfortunately were lost when the voles in my garden ate them. This fall I'm going to order some from Old House Gardens. I went ahead and got 'Pink Festival' and Blue Festival' from Brent and Becky's, which they describe as the next best thing to the old Roman hyacinths. I put them in bottomless pots with gravel on top. If that doesn't keep the voles out (and it very well may not), I'll just put the Roman hyacinths in pots.

    Planting the bulbs went very quickly (made especially easy in the sandy soil near the house), so I think I will order twice as many bulbs over the next couple of years, and that might be enough to fill in the beds around the house. I want a mass of yellow daffodils just when things are just starting up in the spring. So I plan to order more 'Carlton', as well as 'Saint Keverne' and 'Delibes'. All are large cup daffodils and bloom early. B & B describe 'Saint Keverne' as a great perennial daffodil everwyhere, even in the South. It's a yellow self. They describe 'Delibes' as "a terrific perennializer and an old standby". It has bright yellow petals and a yellow orange cup with a vivid orange rim. For the wetter parts of the garden I plan to plant early jonquils. Jonquils are fine in soggy conditions. I read that in Garden Bulbs for the South by Scott Ogden. I'm annoyed that I have not been able to find a match for the beautiful delightfully fragrant jonquil that we found growing in a field at Howell Woods . I have tried Campernelles, but have found them to put out a lot more foliage than flowers, and I don't think the fragrance is as good as the Howell Woods jonquil. So I'd like to try 'Derringer', an early mid season lemon yellow jonquil with a golden orange cup.

    Once I have enough early mid season daffs for a good display I will likely still order some more, as there are so many I want to try to grow. Just in the jonquil class alone there are several I want to try, and there is still loads of room in the big perennial bed below the house for daffodils. Extra early daffs like ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ would be nice.

    Narcissus pseudonarcissus, also known as Lent lilies. The earliest daffodil I currently have.
    Very graceful and beautiful but not quite as long lasting or resilient to heat as the ones from
    Eva's garden.My double Lent lilies (also from Eva's garden) bloom later and are quite sturdy.

    Like a lot of gardeners I imagine I am obsessed with daffodils for a couple of months each spring. How about you (if you can grow daffodil where you live)?

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