Buds of Spring

IMG_1533-001Buds of Spring

Spring always comes in with a bang when it has to do with color. The bright advent bursts on the scene with yellow from daffodils and multiple colors from tulips and early flowering plums. Laying in wait (and it is a short wait) is the cornucopia of color that is in the background in the form of buds.

Looking out the window of our home, I decided to grab my camera to find some close ups of the buds of spring. This certainly is not an attempt to show everything that is coming into color, but more to advocate the experience of taking time to observe the multiple stages of beauty sometimes overlooked.

pineConifers have their own brand of ‘cool’ when it comes to new growth. Some conifers have “candles” that portray the new lifeGold Cone Juniper they have. These candles, fully developed, become the trees trunk and branches in the subsequent years. Junipers, like this Gold Cone Juniper, push new growth from the tips and the color is magnificent…as the name suggests.

Wisteria

‘Texas Purple’ Wisteria

Vine plants like grape and wisteria have a show of their own. The regiment of buds on a grape vine, when observed up close, is a miracle of its own. What looks to be a dead stick in dormancy proves to be quite alive with a show of Grapeleaves, tiny blooms, more vines and grapes. The Wisteria is chock full of buds. Some people have a difficult time getting their wisteria to produce flowers. Generally, it’s because they over water. Neither grapes or wisteria need much water here in the Northwest. Stressing a plant will most certainly produce seed…and the precursor to seed is the flower.

Hino Crimson Azalea

‘Hino Crimson’ Azalea

Rhododendron and Azaleas are coming into their own now as well. Both are bright and a welcome addition to the buds of spring line up. The cousin of the evergreen azalea is the Mollis and Exbury azaleas that are a few weeks away. Coming from a huge family of plants (Ericaceae), Evergreen Huckleberryboth Rhododendrons and Azaleas are some of the best splash in spring. Blueberries are a distant cousin of rhodies and azaleas, and too, have some pretty snazzy color and interest in early spring.

Summer Ice Daphne

‘Summer Ice’ Daphne

The Buds of Spring are everywhere and all you have to do is go out into your garden and borders to find some outstanding  hidden gems of your own. Take your camera along and document what you see. You won’t be disappointed.  Happy Gardening!

Spring Bulbs

Tulips at Wooden shoe Tulip FestivalSpring has Sprung and new life has begun. Everywhere you go the color is bright and bold. From Daffodils to Tulips and all bulbs in between, the color sings the song of Spring. We have about 10 varieties of Daffodils (Narcissus) n our borders and just down the lane is the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival going strong with acres of incredible color to enjoy.

When the flush of color is complete, other flowers make their way on the scene and theYellow Daffodil spring bulbs are forgotten…almost! After the flush of color comes the foliage stage and mostly…it’s a nuisance. The problem is, we must deal with the ugliness. First of all…deadhead the spent flowers so the plant sinks no energy into seed production, unless you want to try to grow some from seed.

Here’s the other deal…the energy (or spent foliage of Daffodilfood) the plant needs to manufacture next years bloom resides in the “leaves” of the plant. So the best scenario is to put up with the foliage until they turn yellowish / brownish and then cut them back to the ground. This will ensure next years crop.

A good time to fertilize is when you see the first sign of the Yellow Tulips for Spring Bulbsplant popping it’s head through the ground. Spring Bulbs offer so much joy in late winter and early spring. Take care of them and they’ll be the plant that keeps on giving.

The Problem of Weeds

As I began my annual time of spring weeding, I couldn’t help but to let my mind wander a bit. Of course, with weeding you can do that. In fact, you can go just about anywhere you want (in your mind) while pulling weeds.

The place I went to was the weeds themselves…I mean…what makes a weed a weed? After careful consideration, I came up with what I believe the definition should be….universally! O.K here it is: A weed is any plant that grows really well in any area, but you can’t make any money on it! Well…that just about sums up my thoughts on weeds.

On a more serious note, weeds are the bane of any gardener. They compete with your non-weed plants for nutrition and water, they are more prolific than rabbits and if not controlled, will take over your garden and borders. Now if you know someone who says they don’t mind weeding, please get their contact information and send it to me quickly. I have 2 1/2 acres I would like to introduce them to… (LOL).

bittercress

Bittercress

Poa annua

Annual ryegrass

Controlling weeds is serious business and as always, the first and most important step is prevention. If you have not spent anytime weeding yet this year, now is the time to do so. There are several weeds that are in bloom right now that you still have time to stop from spreading. Two of them are Poa annua (commonly called annual ryegrass) and Cardamine hirsuta (commonly called Bittercress).

The trick with these and other annual weeds is stopping them from blooming out and setting seed. The question quickly escalates to methodology…how to kill them? For me, even with acreage, I still prefer to hand weed my borders and hoe my garden. However…the older I get the more I need other alternatives if I get behind.

Hotspotter

Hotspotter

My newest and favorite weed killer is my 5 gallon propane tank with a torch (referred to as a Hotspotter). This is a very good alternative to herbicides and its effective…and fun. Works very well on bittercress and other annual weeds.

Poa annua requires more rigorous prevention methods. Please refer to “A Bit About Law Care” for the best possible solution to preventing annual ryegrass or other weeds from invading your lawn.

Lastly…weed a little every time you are outdoors. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure…even when it comes to weeds.

Happy Gardening!

Our Not so Usual Snowstorm

IMG_0967To be sure, our little bit of snow is nothing compared to the tough winter most of the country has endured, but for us North-westerners it was quite an ordeal. I am a kid at heart when it comes to snow. There is something about the soft quietness (without the wind of course) of a snowfall in the country.

I was particularly observant of the birds that were present during our short winter blast. Many of the normal visitors; Junco’s, Sparrows, Towhees, Chickadees, Red-winged Blackbirds, Starlings (#*@#!), a flock of Robins (unusual) and of course Annas Hummingbirds.

The Hummingbird feeder froze, so I hung a light beside it to keep it thawed so the littleIMG_0936 buggers could feed. As I was watching from the back porch, one of the little guys fell to the ground and couldn’t get up…so I rescued it and got it to fly back to it’s nest. My they are small.

It was a short lived snow, but it was beautiful…I loved watching the birds…and the snow fall.

How About That Cold Weather?

Already receiving questions about the affect of the cold weather on the Daffodils and TulipsDaffodils covered in snow that are making their way out of the ground. It also begs the question: “How about the perennials, berries, early blooming trees and other plants that are pushing now? Are my containers at risk?

Well…good news! Without getting too technical, plants are created to protect themselves when conditions dictate that they need to. Solutes, anti-freeze proteins and membrane lipids are adjusted in order to withstand desiccation and to avoid ice crystal formation within the cell structure. Pretty amazing, huh? Click Here for an in-depth explanation by  Roger S. Seymour.

The thing I worry about most when the real cold weather appears, is the health of my broken potexpensive containers…not the plants, but the containers themselves. If you have recently planted some winter annuals or other plants in a container and watered them, then there is a chance (depends on the length of depth of the cold spell) that the container could crack. I have had this happen once and learned my lesson. Some bubble wrap, or even cardboard, wrapped around the container is usually enough to protect the ceramic or clay pot from cracking.

Stay warm and Happy Gardening!

Social Media and Gardening… On My Soapbox

Social Media has changed everything it seems…including gardening. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter are the new kids on the block for information sources. Here at Simply Gardening we recognize the importance of keeping up with these new platforms and we try our best to do so. On the other hand, much of what we see is not worth the space it takes up. I sometimes cringe at the lack of credible content regarding the trendy fads that dot the pages of these giants.

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Shoe bag with plants in the pockets may be difficult to water.

We are in an age where the click of a button is a “like” and you instantly have a new “friend”. We somehow are validated by how many likes or friends we get, or how many followers we have…and when you stop and consider how long it takes to develop a real friendship, one can’t help but to question the collapse of real substance.

Learning to garden is also a life long process…the art is developed by persistent trial and 3fa5214b8b07b52344c3d19ec5239305error; of doing again and again. Volumes have been written on best practices relating to gardening and yet we trust a photo of a planted “pallet” or a “shoe bag” without a thought of how to maintain the health of the plant.

I’m not a prude when it comes to new ideas and whimsical trends, but if we are to assist future generations in the craft of gardening, then we should focus on teaching the fundamentals of sustainable garden practices. We need to cultivate a deep knowledge and understanding of the soil and its relationship to the plant.

We would do well to spend less time looking at pictures and more time with our hands in the soil.

 

Fruit Tree Dormant Spraying

Owning and tending fruit tress is one of my favorite activities in the Garden. The art of shaping a tree to the form you like, whether Scaffold, espalier, or umbrella shape is something you learn by doing. Understanding how pit and pome fruit produce is essential for good fruit production.

Late Elberta Peachs

Peaches at their best; local and tree ripe.

Dormant spraying your fruit trees is probably my least favorite thing to do, but certainly one of the most important tasks of all. As a rule of thumb, I use liquid copper on pit fruit; cherries, plums, peaches, apricots, etc. When it comes to pome fruit like apples and pears, I use lime sulpher. In addition to copper and lime sulpher, it is a good idea to also use spray oil.

These three ingredients will help retard the spread of certain disease on the respective plants. Prunus, the genus of most stone fruit, is susceptible to shot fungus, peach leaf curl, bacterial fungus and brown rot. Apples and pears are susceptible to powdery mildew and scab. Spray oil is to suffocate eggs and insects with sucking mouth parts.

Apple bloosom on Gravenstein apple tree.

Gravenstein apple blossom right after bud break.

Reading the label in the best place to find the mix ratios and the label is the law. It is a very good thing to get familiar with the label and how they read and then do what it says.

Timing is also important. Looking for a dry day with no wind is best. Using a sticker/spreader will be helpful if rain is in the forecast the next day. Spraying three times a year is ideal; once when the leaves fall, once in late January and once more right before bud break. Observation is the key to good timing.

If you have not done dormant spraying before, get in the habit. If you are going to have fruit trees, you might as well have the best fruit possible. Dormant spraying is one of the steps to fruit you can be proud of…and eat!

 

Dormant Spray for Roses

A rose is a rose is a rose…so they say…unless you have a bad case of black spot or mildew…then you might call them something different.

January is an excellent time to give your roses an application of dormant spray. Here are a few tips to make it simple…

• Clean up the leaves and cuttings from around the plant

• Time this event when the weather is forecast to be dry for a day or two

• Use liquid Copper or lime Sulpher as the active ingredientLime Sulpher Liquid Copper

• Follow the directions on the label for mixing instructions (the label is the law)

• Wet the rose bush completely

• Spray the ground around the plant for better results

Use dormant spray once in January and again before the new shoots begin to grow.

 

Trees For Small Front Yards

Unfortunately, front yards are in a trend of being smaller than they used to be. This can be a challenge when it comes to choosing the kind of tree(s) you want to use to build the bones of your plant-scaping.

There are some nice choices for the down-sized area, but take some time to consider additional elements that will help you with good decisions the first time around. Here is a checklist to help the thought process.

Purpose of the Tree: It is always helpful to determine what the purpose of the tree is. Will it

Reddish color of the Purple Ghost Japanese Maple

Purple Ghost Japanese Maple

be used for shade or just ornamental properties? Will it be used to produce fruit? How about a wind break? All of these uses are important to consider before your purchase is made.

Sun / Shade Exposure: Always measure how much sun reaches the trees you are planting; especially the summer sun. Tolerance to the sun is important as it relates to the plants health and flower production. It’s always best to investigate the suggested sun exposure and choose the plant best suited to the condition.  Continue reading

A Time To Prune

Coral Bark Maple

I remember a conversation with a fellow gardener a couple of years ago. This person had recently pruned one of her shrubs and the results were…leave it to say…not that good. I asked her why she pruned the plant and her response was “because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do”. It is a common answer.

Here are 5 reasons you should prune your plants:

Pest control

  • To enhance the quality of flowers, foliage, fruit, overall appearance
  • To develop or train a plant
  • Plant health
  • A form of art

 Keeping the enemy at bay

We constantly battle disease and insects in our gardens. One way to diminish them is by eliminating entry points into the plant. Disease and insects are opportunists…they will take the path of least resistance. Remove dead, dying and diseased branches to help reduce the areas where fungal disease or insects enter plants.

More flowers anyone?

A plant has the capacity to produce a multitude of flowers or fruit, but the more they

Pruned Apple Tree

Apple tree in full bloom.

produce, the smaller they are. Pruning can enhance the size and beauty of flowers or fruit by regulating the amount of wood that produces them.

Flowering shrubs usually bloom on last year’s new growth (like Rhododendrons) or this year’s new wood (like Crape Myrtle). Knowing this about your plants can prevent the common mistake of pruning at the wrong time and losing the bloom for that season. Continue reading