Garden

Crocus

(photo by Deborah Blowers)

And all the woods are alive with the murmur and sound of Spring,

And the rose-bud breaks into pink on the climbing briar,

And the crocus bed is a quivering fire,

Girdled round with the belt of an amethyst ring.

Oscar Wilde

One of the first flowers to bloom in the new year is the crocus. The blooming crocus signals the ending of winter and the ushering in of Spring.  What a welcome sight these cheery blossoms are!

The cheery, determined crocus will even bloom through the late winter snows, bringing much needed color to the departing winter.

Crocus symbolizes cheerfulness.

Growing Crocus

  • Crocus, from the ‘Iridaceae’ family, are perennial, growing from corms or bulblets.
  • Crocus, being perennial, will come back year after year, much to our enjoyment
  • Crocus grow from zone 3-8.  They need cold to bloom
  • Crocus bloom in late winter to early spring, in February through March
  • Crocus like well-drained, loose soil.  The corms will rot if grown in water logged areas
  • There are the early, or snow crocus and the later, giant crocus.  Both can be planted for a longer bloom period
  • There is also an ‘autumn crocus’, that is actually in the lily family, blooming in the fall.  They are quite stunning to see
  • There are the Saffron crocus where we get the saffron spice from
  • Crocus grow best in partial to full sun, liking 6 + hours of sunlight a day to do best.  Since they bloom so early, they can be planted under trees; they will bloom before the trees leaf out
  • Crocus are low growing, from 2-4 inches and are great at the front of a flower border
  • Crocus are perfect in the perennial bed, rock garden or mixed borders.
  • Crocus colors are blue, purple, lavender, pink, orange, yellow, and white
  • Crocus are fragrant and a wonderful early food source for honeybees
  • Crocus require minimal care and will naturalize wherever they are planted
  • Crocus are rarely bothered by deer, rabbits and squirrels
  • To plant crocus, first work some compost into the soil, then plant the corms 3-4 inches deep with the pointy end up.  They should be planted in the fall while the ground still can be worked, any time from 6-8 weeks before the first hard frost right up to frost.  Water in well. This usually is September to November in my zone 6
  • Since crocus are such dainty flowers, it works best to plant them in groups or clusters of at least 10, with the corms a few inches apart.
  • Crocus can be planted right into the lawn area for a wonderful spring display.  The first mowing is usually after the bloom time.
  • Crocus do appreciate water when needed and regular fertilizer and mulch
  • Once crocus are done blooming, let the grass like foliage die back naturally.  The leaves will send food to the corms for next years blooms. Then the crocus will disappear for the year to greet you again in the early spring
  • Crocus can be dug and divided after blooming.  A great way to increase your plantings or to share with others
  • Crocus can also be successfully grown in containers

The Story of My Crocus

This narrow bed along our carport is where I had my crocus planted, along with other summer blooming perennials and annuals . I wanted to see the blossoms every time I walked by in the spring.  They really did cheer my heart after the winter, and I looked so forward to them. 

Last summer was a big project of making a cement parking area on the area to the left of the bed.  There originally was a sidewalk here, but the whole yard area was put into cement.  I dug as many of the perennials as possible before the big equipment arrived and began digging the dirt up.  Since the crocus were dormant at the time, I forgot about them and didn’t dig them.  The mess you see in the photo below is the weeding that I did last fall.  After the cement was poured, and the bed was backfilled, all these weeds came up.  I thought I had lost all the crocus as the dirt was all moved around.  

The dirt that was excavated out for the cement pad was all piled into the yard.  This is the dirt that will be used to fill the new raised vegetable garden beds that will be built this spring.  We have lived with this unsightly pile of dirt all year, but the soil here is too nice and I couldn’t bear to have it hauled off, since I would be needing it this year.  (My poor husband-what he has to endure with a wife that loves to garden!  I make him walk around regularly with me to see what is coming up-he could care less!)

Just a few crocus came back up in the flowerbed and I felt sad that most were gone.

This is not a good photo, but the yellow in the photo below is my crocus!  Apparently, most of the crocus corms were dug and dumped on the dirt pile together.  I was surprised to see them blooming this spring.  They will be dug and re-planted back in the same bed soon.  Shows you how hardy these little dainty plants are!  What a nice spring surprise!


Praying for Ukraine

 

Cooking · Garden

Growing Chives

There are a number of herbs and vegetables that are perennial, meaning that they will return year after year to give you a harvest.  One of my favorite perennial herbs, or one of my favorite herbs in general, is chives.

 

There are 2 types of chives, the common chive (Allium schoenoprasum) and garlic chives (Allium tuberosum).  The common chives have a mild onion flavor and the garlic chives have a garlic flavor.

Pictured above is the common chive, the one that I have grown for years.  This clump has moved with me to our current location and it has been divided and shared many times.

Both the leaves and flowers of chives are edible.

The most commonly used part of the chive plant is the leaves.  The leaves are hollow and grass like and are best used fresh.

The flowers are also edible and can be cut and used fresh while they are in season.  They are usually used in salads and as a garnish.

How to Grow Chives

  • Chives grow from small bulblets
  • Chives are one of the first of the herbs that are ready in the spring
  • Chives are milder than onions, and are members of the onion family
  • Chives grow well in any zone from 3-9. They are very cold hardy
  • Chives grow best in full sun
  • Chives like well-drained rich soil that has been amended with compost
  • Plant clumps of chives 6 inches apart
  • Chives can be divided every three years and re-planted out after the last spring frost
  • Water regularly, keep weeded and mulch
  • Can be grown in containers and can be moved indoors for all year use
  • Require minimal care, and I consider them well behaved.  Some of my reading says that the flowers heads, if left, can cause them to spread but I have not found it so.  If you have a problem with too much self seeding, just make sure the flower heads are cut off before they go to seed.
  • Will flower from late May till June.  Flowers can be used fresh or dried in cooking, or as an ornamental or cut flower
  • To harvest, just grab a handful or how ever much you need, and cut them off at the base.  If using the flower heads, just cut off as needed
  • Chives can be used in salads, dips, egg dishes, in potato salad, on pizza or as a topping.

My favorite way to use chives-freshly chopped over a baked potato with butter and sour cream.

What a lovely, delicious welcome to Spring!

Do you grow chives?

Praying for Ukraine

 

Faith · Garden · My Town

In Praise of Snow

Beautiful snow, so pure and white,

Dancing through the air you go.

Falling so gently, softly and light

From th’ clouds above to the earth below.

 

Beautiful snow, so pure and white,

Th’ crowning beauty of winter cold;

Falling both by day and by night,

Falling on mountain-top and wold.

 

Beautiful snow, so pure and white,

Falling gently on vale and dell;

Cov’ring the cottage of the poor,

And the mansion of the rich as well.

 

Beautiful snow, so pure and white,

Falling on things both high and low,

Hiding the fallen leaves out of sight,

While o’er the brown tree you thickly blow.

 

Beautiful snow, so pure and white,

Oh, how I love to see you fall.

Oh, I am certain, yes, I am sure,

Nothing’s as pretty as snow at all.

 

Lord! make my heart as pure and white

As the snow when it falls from above.

Fill me with Thy truth and light

And sweet beautiful faith and love. 

Effie Waller Smith

 

A poor photo, I know, due to the angle of the sun, but icicles on the roof of the house.  My roses are just below and they are entombed in ice also.  Hopefully, they make it through this winter.

There are benefits of snow for the garden.

  • Snow acts as an excellent insulator.  Shovel the snow onto your growing bed to give them a nice blanket of protection.
  • Snow protects from harsh, drying winds that can damage plants.
  • Snow can protect from the heaving up of plants due to the freezing and thawing cycle.  It is best to have the ground stay frozen until spring.
  • Snow provides moisture to perennial plants and bulbs as they are waking up for the spring.
  • Snow, as it melts, provides nitrogen that is essential to plant growth.
  • If you have designed a garden for winter interest, snow provides beauty as it covers everything.

As we are ending the month of January, we are leaving the season of Deep Winter.  As we enter the month of February, we are entering the season of Late Winter, and the seasonal temperatures should be steadily rising all across the nation, which they will continue to do till mid July.  There will still be snow and ice and cold to contend with, but-

Winter brings the

the cold of February,

But remember,

It is only temporary.

I do love a good snow fall!

Following are some photos of my town after the last storm.

 

And a photo of the Redbank Creek with the resident geese and ducks.

And lastly, a big shout out to the state and local snow crews that work so hard to keep our roads clear.

They had quite the big clean-up job after this last snow storm.  And another one is on the way….

Thanks guys!

You Lord, are forgiving and good,

abounding in love to all

who call to you.  

Psalm 86:5

Garden

The Winter Garden


Yes, January is the time for dreaming about this years garden.  With the cold and snow of my mid-Atlantic growing area, there is not much that can be done outside.  But there are things you can be doing to get ready for the dream garden in your head.

 

raised beds in snow
My garden in winter

Now is the time to begin planning for this years garden.  

If you have kept a garden journal or took photos of your last years garden, you can refer to them when planning for this year.  Now is the time to evaluate what worked and what didn’t; things you would like to do different, or something to change, or to try new.  You can evaluate the design and structure of the garden.  The location of the garden, the walkways and structures, anything that needs worked on or changed.  

This is a wonderful time of slowness when you can peruse magazines, garden books, and the internet for garden ideas for this year.  It is still a little early to begin starting seeds for our area, but that time will be here soon enough.

 

(A job waiting for me as soon as workable, that didn’t get completed last fall!)

Some photos of the big snow storm of recent…..one of the biggest snowfalls that I can remember in a number of years.

It has snowed most every day for over a week now.

Temperature have been below 0 many nights.  Too cold for me!

It took us a couple of days to dig out and clear the walkways and drive.

Things to do in January

  • Plan this years garden
  • Peruse seed catalogs
  • Start this years garden journal, noting things that you would like to try new or change
  • Inventory your old seeds
  • Decide what and how much you would like to plant this year
  • Gather items needed for seed starting and get things set up
  • Prune as needed
  • Learn new things
  • Start seeds of slow germinating plants and some cool season plants
  • Shovel snow on to your growing beds
  • Get ideas from books and the computer
  • Keep up with houseplant care and overwintered plants
  • Keep wildlife animal feeding and watering stations filled
  • Clean and organize your garden shed or storage area
  • Clean and sharpen your garden tools

Are you getting anxious to get back to gardening again?

Here’s to a wonderful, bountiful garden of your dreams!

 

 

 

 


Garden

March Garden Chores-The First Week of March

raised beds in snow
My garden in winter

It was one of those March days

when the sun shines hot

and the wind blows cold:

When it is summer in the light,

and winter in the shade.

Charles Dickens

Ahhh, March…such a mercurial month, but in reality, it is the true beginning of the gardening year.

The warm days tease me to take a walk-about around the gardens to see what is happening, if anything.  And, yes! things are happening already in the garden-tulips and hyacinths popping their heads up, the sedums showing green, unfurling from amongst the leaf mulch, and the fall planted garlic showing in their row.  Others, such as the asparagus and rhubarb, are still asleep, though I look hard for some visible life.  Soon, soon….

We are ,(in my 5-6 gardening zone) 11 to 12 weeks before the average last frost.  

There are things to be done in preparation for the new gardening year, soon to begin in earnest.  While it is still too early to do much outside in the garden, there is much to be done indoors to be well prepared for the soon coming Spring.

The cold winter months are wonderful for perusing the seed catalogs that arrive just after Christmas.  Oh, the dreams of beautiful, weed free gardens….

 

Things to do This Week in the Garden

  • Plan the garden.  Sketch out what will be planted where.  Refer to last years garden journal.
  • Start this years garden journal.
  • Survey your yard-are there any areas that need an update or to be changed?  Make plans now to do this. 
  • Visit a local Spring flower and garden show…..you will be inspired!
  • Check for any garden structures that need attention or replacing.  It is so much easier to replace a trellis now, rather than when it is full of vines!
  • Inventory your past years seeds.
  • Peruse the seed catalogs, and place your seed orders.
  • Plan out your planting schedule for your climate zone.  
  • Purchase and/or prepare the seed starting supplies.
  • Set up a seed starting area.
  • Test your soil if you choose.  (I do not.)
  • Clean out bird nest boxes.  Do it sooner rather than later, as birds do not like to be disturbed once they start nesting.  The birds are already chirping!
  • Clear away the mulch in the beds of early blooming flowers.
  • Do not rush the removal of mulch and cleaning up just yet.
  • Cut back grasses.
  • Finish up the late winter pruning of roses, grapevines, fruit trees, brambles and late summer flowering shrubs.
  • Many pruned branches can be brought indoors and forced for early indoor bloom.
  • As the daylight is getting longer, houseplants will begin putting out new growth.  Give them a ‘shower’, trim back foliage as needed and begin fertilizing.
  • Check on winter stored plants and vegetables.  Care for as needed.
  • Clean the garden tools.
  • Seeds of cool season crops can be started indoors now-celery, leeks, lettuce, onions.
  • If you have a cold frame, you can plant cold hardy seeds, such as radish and spinach and peas.

March-the month of Promise.

Happy gardening!

A joyful heart is good medicine.

Proverbs 17:22

Garden

Fridays Flower-Hyacinth

Spring Hyacinths

spring hyacinths

Hyacinth-one of the early spring blooming flowers.

What a welcome the blooming hyacinths are, for their rich color and wonderful fragrance!

Hyacinths are very easy to grow, requiring very little care, but so rewarding after a long, cold winter.  They are the essence of the fragrance of spring, blooming about the same time as daffodils and tulips, March to April.

Hyacinths grow from large bulbs that should be planted in the fall, usually in September to October, any time after the first light frost but before the ground freezes they can be planted.

Bulbs can be purchased at your favorite big box store or ordered from seed or nursery catalogs.

Hyacinths are hardy from zones 4-8.

They do best in full sun but will still flower in partial shade.

Hyacinths come in a wide range of colors from white, peach, apricot, salmon, blue shades, yellow, pink, red to purple and lavender.

Hyacinths grow to 6-12 inches tall, with a dense flower spike surrounded by strap like leaves.

The bulbs should be planted 4-6 inches deep with the pointed end up and 4-6 inches apart.

They like rich loose soil that is well drained, and only need water when dry.

Hyacinths do not multiply and spread like daffodils.  One bulb per flower-the bigger the bulb the better.

Hyacinths tend to decline over the years-some people treat them as annuals and replant new bulbs every fall, but if left alone they will bloom for many years, just not as pretty and lush as the first year. The faded flowers should be cut back as soon as they begins to turn brown, and the leaves left to grow.  The leaves will store energy for next years bloom.  When the leaves brown off they can be cut back or gently pulled off.  Some compost or fertilizer is appreciated at this time.

Hyacinths are best at the front of flower borders.  Emerging perennials will hide the dying foliage.  They are lovely lining a walkway where their fragrance can be enjoyed.

Hyacinths make good cut flowers and have a long vase life.  They can also be planted in containers, or forced for indoor winter/spring blooming.

One warning-the bulbs are poisonous-they contain oxalic acid, so use care while planting and around children and pets.

I am enjoying the beautiful colors and fragrance of my hyacinths this spring.  In the photo above is one of the beds that I made at our new house.  The stone wall on the right was already here-I made this flower bed, bordered by my signature stacked stone borders from stones that I have gathered over the years. Seems like every time I was digging I ran into stones-I decided to put them use as border stones.  Now I look for stones everywhere, and have been known to stop the car and grab stones from along the side of the road.  No stone is safe around me if it is the right shape and size!   Also the stepping stones were brought from our last house and reused as a walkway between the stone patio and stairs to the deck.

The garden here is a work in progress, and I am enjoying the progress of it!

 

Poem by Gerald Green


HYACINTHS PERFUME

I lingered to enjoy the moment,
ending the eleven-month intermission,
as the sweet aroma reached me
from the garden behind the house.

The hyacinth had returned
without fanfare or recognition
by bulbs not yet broken forth,
or buds pregnant with the glory of spring.

I followed the unforgettable scent
to its humble position beside the hellebore,
and admired my early spring friend
before me in perfect health.

With one whiff, everything changed.
Last year’s faded images of spring renewed,
and the value of life increased
in a moment. In a breath.




Garden

Winter Surprise

February…what a teaser!

We have struggled and endured the stunningly cold polar vortex that assaulted us for a number of days in late January and early February….then February decided to give us a taste of spring with warm breezes and sunshine.  We are now back to cold and blowing snow.

While walking to the house with my head tucked from the cold wind, and not paying much attention, I glanced down and couldn’t believe what I saw…the little violas that had reseeded along the sidewalk were blooming!  Such an unexpected surprise!  February is teasing us again!  But spring will be here soon.

The flowers of late winter and early spring 

occupy places in our hearts

well out of proportion to their size.

Gertrude Wister

*

Philippians 4:4

Rejoice in the Lord always;

again I will say, rejoice!

 

Garden

Brrr! Bring them inside!

Bringing Plants In

“The Autumn Winds They Do Blow Cold…”

It is the time of year to bring in any tender plants that you want to overwinter.

You can preserve plants from year to year and also enjoy the tropical greenery inside.  It is nice to have something green growing when all is dead and buried under snow outside.

Inspect the plants and pots for pests and insects before bringing them in.  The plants may need pruned back some, or re potted.

Make sure you have the right spot for them-they need bright light out of direct sunlight.

The air inside is dryer, and of course much warmer, and the plants need a higher humidity-mist them occasionally or set on pebble filled trays.

I find that it is easier to take care of them if they are grouped together.

Keep them well watered.  They should be lightly fertilized about once a month, especially after the daylight begins to lengthen in the early spring and they begin growing again.

What is going on here garden wise….

The only vegetable garden I was able to muster this summer here at our new home was this…

A few tomato plants and a few zucchini squash along the block wall by the carport.  They grew fine and I enjoyed the precious few tomatoes and summer squash.  The summer season ended all too soon and I am left wondering where the summer went.

The temperatures have dipped into the 30’s at night these last few weeks and reduced my small garden to this…

Good by summer!

One of the most frost sensitive plants are my impatiens-they put on such a beautiful display in the shady areas of the garden-overnight they turned into this.

I do have a few houseplants that I overwinter every year, bringing them inside before the frost damages them.  After spending the summer outside, they are all growing very lush and full.

One is the Christmas Cactus.  It is really a Thanksgiving Cactus, as soon as I bring it into the warm house, it begins setting its blossoms and should be in full bloom in a few weeks.  It is a very forgiving plant and survives just fine outside in the summer and also does well inside during the winter.

I love ferns, and try to keep this one from year to year-it is a challenge as it does not like the dry heat of the house. By the time late spring arrives, it is barely surviving.  It recovered nicely this summer, but I am expecting it to suffer in the house again this winter.

I was given a few pink sorrel plants years ago -these were from the person’s grandmother, and could I keep them alive?-and have overwintered them successfully for a number of years.  They are considered perennials, but are not hardy in our area.  They overwinter in the house fine, but do make quite a mess, as they grow, flower, die off again and again.

The last plant that I plan to overwinter is this mixed hanging basket.  It grew ferociously during the summer, hanging down about 4 feet, but it is very frost sensitive and suffered some killing damage already as I didn’t bring it in soon enough.  I will cut it back severely, and see if it recovers.

It is the time of year to begin tucking everything in for the winter….are you ready?

Do you overwinter any plants?

Are you successful?

*

Proverbs 24:5

A wise man is strong;

yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength.

 

 

 

Garden

Flower of the Week-Johnny Jump Up

Johnny Jump Up

What a name!  But the flower does its name justice.  Such a cute name and such a cute flower.  Such a happy smiley face of a flower.

When we moved to this new house last fall, I found lots of these Johnny Jump Ups all over, in the lawn and in beds.  I tried transplanting some of them from the lawn into beds where I wanted them.  Most of the transplants did not live over the winter, but this spring, there were plenty more to move where I wanted them.  I had never grown violas before and I am loving them.

So, here is the scoop on Johnny Jump Ups…

Violas, known as Johnny Jump Ups, are a popular, easy and fun to grow flower. They are also known as wild pansy, which they are related to, (the size of the flower being the difference) and as heart’s ease.

Violas come in the cheery colors of deep purple, mauve, and yellow.

They love the full sun, and will also do well in partial shade.

Violas can be planted in the summer or fall, by scattering the seeds on the ground and then barely covering them. Keep watered.

They like average garden soil, but some compost never hurts anything.

They will germinate in about 10 days.

Violas are long blooming, blooming from spring till the fall if they are kept deadheaded.  When the plant becomes worn out, cut it back to about 3-4 inches for a re-bloom.

Violas are low growing, about 3-10 inches tall and are good for the front of flower borders.

Violas can be self seeders, as the ones I have are.  If they are not deadheaded, the seeds will scatter as they will.  Just dig a good size clump and move them where wanted.

They like to be kept well watered and weeded.

Violas are not bothered by disease or pests and are frost tolerant.

Violas are edible-they can be used as a garnish to decorate cakes and pastries, added to salads, and frozen in cubes to float in summer drinks.

I am enjoying my happy face Johnny Jump Ups.

Do you grow violas?

*

Colossians 1:10

That you may live a life worthy of the Lord

and may please him in every way;

bearing fruit in every good work,

growing in the knowledge of God.

 

 

Garden

Flower of the Week-Daffodil

Daffodil

 

Daffodowndilly Crown

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,

She wore her greenest gown,

She turned to the south wind

And curtsied up and down.

She turned to the sunlight

And shook her yellow head,

And whispered to her neighbor,

“Winter is dead.”

A.A. Milne

 

We are enjoying the cheery spring greetings of the yellow daffodils right now.  Such a common flower, but such a welcome sunny sight as we begin the march of the blooming flowers. Daffodils are one of the first splashes of color in the spring. What a welcome sight they are!

Daffodils can be enjoyed outside in the garden as well as inside in the vase.

Daffodils are a popular flower that multiply quickly.  Daffodils include narcissi and jonquils and they come in a variety of sunny colors, the usual yellow, along with white, cream, orange,  pink and multi-colored.  There are literally hundreds of varieties of daffodils, including different styles with trumpet, doubles, split cup and miniature sizes good for the rock garden and front of flower borders.

Growing Daffodils

Daffodils are spring blooming flowers that grow from bulbs. They are a very reliable and easy to grow flower.

The flower bulbs must be planted in the mid to late fall while the ground can still be worked.  You can find many varieties of the bulbs in the local stores in the fall, or harder-to-find varieties can be ordered from mail order nurseries in the summer.

Daffodils are winter hardy in zones 3-8.

Daffodils do well in full sun as well as part shade.

Bulbs should be planted 4-6 inches deep with the pointy end up and about 3 inches apart.

Daffodils will grow just about anywhere, but do prefer well-drained soil.

Daffodils should be kept well watered;  this is not usually a problem during the spring season.

Daffodils can be planted in among perennial flowers and will be done blooming by the time the perennials flower.

They should be planted in informal grouping to look more natural.  One idea for informal planting is to throw the bulbs out, and plant where ever they land. They will naturalize and multiply nicely.

A variety of daffodils can be planted for a longer bloom time in the spring, and they look lovely inter-planted with other spring blooming bulbs.

Daffodils also do well planted in containers.

Daffodils make wonderful cut flowers, but they do secrete a fluid that is irritating to the skin and that will inhibit other cut flowers  If daffs will be used in a mixed flower arrangement, the stems should be soaked in their own water for 24 hours, then rinsed off before adding to the other flowers.

 

Care of daffodils after bloom time

When daffodils are finished blooming, the flower stems can be removed, but the green foliage should be left to die off on its own.  This foliage builds the food storage reserves that the bulbs need to keep growing nice and healthy from year to year. When all of the foliage has turned brown, it can then be cut off at ground level, or it can usually just be pulled off with a little tug.  I have heard of gardeners braiding the foliage for a tidy look as it dies off.

A nice mulch of compost will be appreciated and act as fertilizer for the bulbs.

Daffodils can be lifted and divided every 4-5 years or so.

It looks like spring has finally arrived here in south-western Pennsylvania-the days are warming, the sun is shining much of the time, the perennials are popping up, the trees are starting to bud, the grass is greening-Oh, what a glorious time it is for the gardener, especially after this long winter.  I have been interested, and am looking to see what is coming up in the gardens of our new home-and it doesn’t look like much.  Mostly evergreen shrubs, I suppose a very easy landscape for the elderly couple who previously owned this house.  Everything looks neat and tidy.

There are no daffodils here-most of these flower photos are from our former home in Cottage Hill.  I did get 1 flower bed planted to spring blooming bulbs last fall, it is blooming right now and looking very pretty and ‘springy’.  I will share pictures next week.  Next fall there will be many spring-blooming bulbs planted, including many daffodils!

Are you enjoying your Spring?

*

Psalm 34:19 (TLB)

“The good man does not escape all troubles-

he has them too.

But the Lord helps him in each and every one.”