A Few Words

We are wrapping up our fourth week here since entering quarantine and the garden is still surprisingly unkempt and disorganized.  The gardener likes to suggest it’s because he’s busy double timing as a common core math teacher to a 6th grader, and in spite of holding a minor in Mathematics it’s a daily struggle, but it’s also been pointed out that the gardener spends a lot of time “thinking”, and often that thinking is interpreted as “just sitting around”.  Obviously sitting around does not get jobs done.


Chiondoxa continues to spread.  These are all clones off a bulb moved years ago, and seem to be waiting for a partner to set seed, but each time weeds are pulled or the gardener thinks the spot is empty and tries to plant something else there, a few bulbs get moved a little further.

The gardener has been thinking the weather has been great, and the gardener has been thinking the sky is bluer than normal, and the gardener has been thinking it’s nice to have time to sit in the springtime sun without some desperate need to get just one spring chore done before dark.  But the gardener has also been wondering if there have always been so many snakes in the yard.

garden snake garter

One of the garden’s garter snakes reading a snowdrop label.  It’s ‘Three Ships’ Mrs Snake.

I do like the snakes.  One chilly morning I came across three little balls of snake out in the morning sun and I was surprised.  A good surprise though, not the EeeAhhhugh Oh! surprise you get when one of these slithery serpents zips away from your reaching hand or approaching step.  I think there’s something primordial in our natural fear of snakes, and I don’t entirely trust a person who just shrugs them off.  Pick them up, fine, handle them, fine, you can think your way through that, but when one zips across your path you better jump a little.

raised beds potager

The raised beds are coming together in the potager.   It’s going to be very neat I suspect.  I hope I don’t miss the late summer mayhem of overgrowth and decay, but who’s to say that won’t happen anyway.

It’s been taking forever it seems to get the raised beds built.  There are a number of plants to move or pot up, but I really do blame the gardener.  Not to dwell on the snakes, but work was called off entirely the other day when rustling in the boxwood hedge turned out to be an inappropriately writhing ball of snake procreation…. with an embarrassingly plural number of participants… it was watched for longer than it should have been, but it was interesting to see and of course if that’s what they need to do amongst the daffodils then lets just call off work for the afternoon to give them some privacy.

daffodil glaston

The cool days and cooler nights are bringing out the richest colors in many of the narcissus clumps.  Here’s the daffodil ‘Glaston’, looking luscious and tropical with its fruity cup colors.

So rather than work hard, the gardener looks at daffodils.

daffodil beersheba

Daffodil ‘Beersheba’, a pre 1923 daffodil (according to Daffseek) and nearly 100 years later, still a wonderful thing to have flowering.

Honestly the daffodils here have been tortured by poor drainage and neglect recently, and the show is not nearly as impressive as in other years, but the fewer words on that the better.  What does warrant a few more words are the corydalis.  They’ve enjoyed the cool weather as well and still look great.  Mostly.  Rabbits gave most if the ones in back a haircut, so….

corydalis solida

Corydalis solida, some named.  The pink in front is the highly acclaimed ‘Gunite’, while the darker red in back is ‘Milda’.

I do like poking through all the corydalis seedlings.  Some are great and plenty are nice, and there’s not that pressure you get with snowdrops to pick out and consider naming every next great thing.  I guess corydalis don’t offer the same wild diversity that snowdrops hold 😉

corydalis solida vanessa

Even with all the nice seedlings, I’m still willing to try a few new named ones here and there.  This new one was described as having exquisite “sky-blue lips and white spurs”… and I suppose that’s possible.

Of course why stop at a good thing?  If you can killed expensive named forms, why not try knocking off a few harder to find species?  These next two prefer summer-dry, Russian steppe/rocky woodland type environs.  The gardener isn’t sure if he should be insulted that the garden contains these types of planting areas, or pleased that the garden has made these happy for a third year, but in any case each spring could easily be their last.

corydalis schanginii ssp. ainae

Corydalis schanginii ssp. ainae growing well in the same conditions that favorTaraxacum officinale.  Apparently much of my garden is well suited to Taraxacum officinale.

Many gardeners crave blue corydalis.  I’ve discovered a knack for killing blue corydalis.  It’s kind of silly knack considering how easy blue scilla are, and hyacinths, and grape hyacinths, but if you know a perfectly perfect flower also comes in various blue shades, of course you need that color, and this gardener is no different.

corydalis fumariifolia

The first blue corydalis to last more than a spring or two (and not look completely miserable while doing it) Corydalis fumariifolia might even be expanding its reach.  I could use another clone.  Maybe seeds could happen with cross pollination…

Lets get back to easier things.  A few words for the front border as daffodil season hits its stride.

spring bulbs

Perhaps spring flowers can distract the neighbors from a shoddy cleanup and an un-edged and un-weeded front border.  Seriously, what does that gardener even do around here?

As I think on it (there he goes again not really doing anything measurable), the gardener spends way too much time on nonsense.  To mention a few words on the front border we could say ‘hyacinths and daffodils are easy and they look great’, but there goes the gardener again poking around and making things complicated.  Amongst all the daffodil color he’s most excited to see a few purple leaved moneyplants (Lunaria annua ‘Rosemary Verey’) finally showing a good amount of purple.  It was hard yanking the all green seedlings which used to rule, but over the years they are finally as purple as the strain should be.

Lunaria annua ‘Rosemary Verey’

Those are not weeds, they’re the much anticipated purple leaves of Lunaria annua ‘Rosemary Verey’.

I’ll leave you with even fewer words.  Hellebores are up.


A nice picotee yellow seedling.

Another year without a late freeze and they’re all looking good.


‘Golden Lotus’ and ‘Peppermint Ice’ with a mess of less showy things.

Hope this post finds you well.  Snow squalls are keeping the gardener inside today so rather than clean the bathrooms he’s blogging, but in spite of that he still gets fed three times a day.  Not bad.

23 comments on “A Few Words

  1. March Picker says:

    I think that’s more than a few words, but all were thoroughly enjoyed by me! I guess we’ve reached the point of isolation when we talk about ourselves in third person?? Your new beds are promising. Keep up the good work and the deep thoughts.

    • bittster says:

      Yes, you could say I’m talking to myself or thinking out loud, but either way it seems more acceptable in third person. Plus I’ve doubled the work staff that way!
      Tulip season approaches and I’m looking forward to your deck pots. I’ve got a few pots of ‘Spryng Break’ potted up in your honor!

  2. Interesting. That blue corydalis has leaves that remind me of Virginia bluebells. They don’t look like Corydalis solida leaves.

    • bittster says:

      They are awfully plump for corydalis leaves. Maybe as they multiply to form a large clump they will look more ‘normal’ but so far I haven’t grown them long enough to say.

  3. Dorothy Swift says:

    Keep up the good work! I enjoy your posts.

  4. Pauline says:

    I too have just finished my 4th week of isolation and haven’t started talking to myself yet, I talk to my robin who hops round my feet as I’m gardening, I talk to my flowers and I talk to my trees. Thank goodness we have had wonderful weather so that I can be out working in the garden each day, we are so lucky to have gardens to work in. Your garden is looking beautiful with all its beautiful bulbs, enjoy and keep safe.

    • bittster says:

      I’m glad you’re holding up well, and even happier to hear that the weather has given you a few breaks in order to dry out!
      I already had a few harsh words this morning, but they were to the bunnies and even though I was the only one in the room I still don’t consider it to be talking to myself. How could I not say anything when there are four rabbits out there racing around the yard, and jumping in and out of the new raised beds!!

  5. Chloris says:

    Everything looks wonderful but snakes? What sort, are they dangerous? I love corydalis and the delightful way they spread themselves about. That yellow one is a beauty.. The blue ones never last, I don’t think the knack of killing them is particular to you. I had one called ‘Spinners’ which lasted for about 4 years but that was the longest I ever kept one. Your veggie boxes are coming on well, good luck with filling them. Happy Easter Frank.

    • bittster says:

      I saw your path. I was a bit embarrassed for the slow progress on my own project when I saw how nice that’s turned out, very nice!
      The snakes are harmless unless you pick them up, then they give off an awful smell, but one or two of them have ruled me out as a threat and don’t even bother ‘stinking up’ any more. They barely slither off when I walk by which is good for my heart since there’s much less of a jump that way.
      I also have a blue Corydalis turtschaninovii which hasn’t died yet. For four years it looks like it wants to, but so far each spring it just keeps dragging itself up out of the earth.

  6. Cathy says:

    Love that yellow Corydalis! I have had no luck with the blue ones, but will definitely have to source one of these. They should do well here… 😉 All in all your garden is putting on a great show of spring colour. Enjoy the Easter weekend and hope the weather warms up a bit for you.

    • bittster says:

      I hope it’s not just luck which has kept the species corydalis hanging on. If they multiply a little I may feel better, but for now I’ll just take what I can get. It’s not easy for us Steppe gardeners lol
      Have a great Easter!

  7. Lynn G says:

    No photos came through. It appears there are captions.

    I enjoy your blog. Lynn

    Sent from my iPhone


    • bittster says:

      Sorry the pictures didn’t come through, and I have no idea why. Restarting or reloading is about as far as I get with computer issues! Thanks for the comment and have a wonderful Easter.

  8. Eliza Waters says:

    I can relate to your laziness, Frank. Now that we have almost no outside demands on our time, it is logical to think we would take that extra time to tend our gardens. Instead, I feel lethargic, make excuses, and put off the work to another day– what’s the rush, after all? Let’s just claim we are being in the Zen moment, yes? 😉
    I love the mix of daffs in your front border and all the corydalis and chionodoxa. So pretty! I have lots of small bulbs that have spread throughout the lawn and gardens over the years. Surprises, like hidden Easter eggs. I need some corydalis to add to the scene. 🙂
    Hope your Easter is enjoyable and the E.Bunny leaves plenty of goodies. Chocolate is a balm during tough times. 😉

    • bittster says:

      Science says that an object at rest stays at rest, and lately I have become an object at rest! Zen moment sounds much more validating though. I just finished a zen moment on the porch with some coffee, now I’m planning on a zen moment wandering the garden in my PJs with a second cup. Perhaps I should switch to my daytime PJs first so the neighbors don’t talk 😉
      When the little bulbs spread that’s the best, it’s the reward for letting things go a little!
      A happy Easter to you as well. This year the bunny was a little short on the usual chocolates but there were some other things to make up for it. We just finished smashing easter m&ms so that they can be used as a breakfast icecream topping. It’s a struggle but we’re getting by 🙂

  9. Your garden is so colorful! Such joy to see. Your raised bed project looks like it is coming right along. Obviously the rabbits approve. We are having freezing temps already in April with more to come. We haven’t had this kind of weather in April in a long time. Didn’t realize how spoiled I was to the warmer weather until now. The nursery has opened as usual but I dare not go get anything. Both the frost or the Virus is an afront to April. Your Chionodoxa is so pretty, love all the blues in the garden but I don’t have many. My Bluebells died out. I think some lily of the valley ambushed it. I know you will have a great Easter. Children do add a lot to the holidays. Even the bunnies don’t seem so aggravating this time of year. Cheers.

    • bittster says:

      You do get spoiled by the warm weather, don’t you? But then when it went up into the 60’s I almost broke a sweat and that wasn’t in the plans either so another halt to the work occurred 😉
      When it gets warmer I reeeealllly sit around so a few cold spells aren’t the worst.
      So your bluebells also died out? I have two left but it looks like they’re both going to flower so I’m hoping for seeds. Of course they’re supposed to be close to weedy the way they seed around, but not here, not yet…
      The kids are oddly excited about Easter this year. I think they almost miss school. They were both coloring eggs Friday and up early today, and the 13 year old seemed slightly disappointed there were no hidden eggs for him to find.
      Have a great one!

  10. Jason Kay says:

    I just planted my first three Blue Corydalis I ordered online from Burpee. I suppose they may not be long for this world. Fervently do I hope that my Chionodoxa multiply like yours have! Wouldn’t mind having a few garter snakes around here, might help with the mice and chipmunks.

    • bittster says:

      Good luck with the chiondoxa. They seem to like a nice mulch of compost here and there and a little tossing around as things are dug and replanted. As far as the snakes go, I think mine have all tried to escape the construction next door in the industrial park. I hope there’s enough here to keep them healthy long term.

  11. I would love to live in your neighborhood and walk by that border in every season. And those swaths of Hellebores. It all looks yummy to me. We are finding it hard to do any sort of hard work. I’m afraid we have lots more time to get anything done in than one would like to think about. Only grocery shopping and zoom events are on the schedule. We are having about 5 days of overnight lows below freezing. Erythroniums and Frits in bud and this gardener is hoping she gets to see the flowers this year. Just ordered about 6 varieties of Corydalis from Odyssey Bulbs. And not just “onesies” as Margaret Roach likes to say. So I liked seeing yours. Today is more or less one month since we started staying home. I’m alternating between garden books and mysteries with no more news than necessary. Made chocolate chip cookies for the first time in at least 20 years as my COVID-19 cooking moment. Glad to see and hear that things are good at your house. Though I am not sure about the snakes.

    • bittster says:

      You would be surprised by how few people are interested in the front border. Many like to point out how much work it must be, here and there people have said it looks nice, but overall I think they’re a little disturbed by the lack of lawn. I did mow and edge the grass though, so maybe that will settle people down, but there are still a few dandelions so…
      Don’t the days fly by!? I seem to turn around and it’s time for dinner, and I should probably set a more fixed schedule, but I do like staying in PJs for nearly the entire day and feel like I’m getting away with something when I do it 😉
      Good for you on the corydalis! I was looking, but nothing yet other than an order of Old House Gardens tulips. Your corydalis should give years of enjoyment… my tulips? Maybe two years if I’m lucky, but I really wanted to try them!!
      Hope things held up to the freezes. Here we had some damage, but much less than in the past and much less than people south of here, where growth was more advanced.

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