A Little Cabin Fever

For a couple days it was warm and I quickly started a little cleanup and poked around feverishly to find every single sprouting snowdrop, but that was short-lived, and now it’s back to winter again and I’m just chomping at the bit.  The indoor winter garden has helped somewhat, and it’s probably a good idea to start off there with a few more hopeful signs of life such as my precious little primrose (Primula obconica), who is still going strong after nearly three months in flower.  Rather than this primrose becoming a one hit wonder, it’s produced two more flower stalks and the first one is still opening up new blooms.  It’s a beauty, but I may have forgotten to mention one of its common names…. poison primrose.  The name stems from the rash which sensitive skins may develop after contact with its foliage.  I find the scent of the foliage a bit yucky, but as far as rashes go it seems I’ve escaped any sensitivity issues.  That wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination though, since a quick poll around here would probably place me on the ‘insensitive’ end of the scale anyway.

primula obconica

Primula obconica from American Primrose Society seed, indoors under the workshop growlights.

I won’t bore you with every flower in bloom under the shoplights, but the geraniums must be sensing the slightly warmer temperatures and as a result are putting on more growth and sending up more flowers.  I’ll bore you with one photo, the lovely Pelargonium ‘Crystal Palace Salmon’, a healthy variegated geranium which doesn’t exactly look too salmony in the photo.

pelargonium crystal palace salmon

Pelargonium ‘Crystal Palace Salmon’, a flower which would make any geranium loving grandmother proud.

Obviously I’m getting into trouble with all this forced indoor time.  I’ve started several flats of seeds, started more and more succulent cuttings, and maybe feel that start-even-more-seeds compulsion creeping into the back of my head.  For budgeting purposes I’ll admit I ordered 40 packets of unnecessary seeds from the NARGS surplus seed round.  That set me back $14 so I’m quite all right confessing to that charge.

NARGS seed exchange

More seeds from the NARGS seed exchange.  Observant readers will add this to the 25 I had already ordered.

I’m trying all kinds of seeds again from generic annuals to obscure cacti to full sized forest trees.  There’s no question I don’t have a place in mind for nearly all of them but when has that ever been a concern?  I’m planting lotus seeds and am quite aware I have no pond to grow them in, but we’ll see what happens.  They have a long way to go before I need to worry about any space issues.

lotus seed

I wasn’t sure if I had sanded through the seed coat of these lotus seeds, so decided to crack one open for a look.  Who would have thought there would be a whole tiny lotus plant folded up inside! -and who would have thought the friggin seed coat (dark outer layer) would be so thick…

Nearly all the seed pots get a thin layer of chicken grit over the top and then go outside on the sidewalk to experience a little winter chill.  When things get warm enough they’ll sprout right up… and then need to deal with finding homes for everything.

poppy seedlings

The latest spell of warm weather has encouraged a few of the hardiest seeds to sprout.  Here are a few six packs of Opium poppies coming along.  they should be just fine as long as things don’t freeze up too solid.  The sheet of Reemay fabric protects them from the worst of the weather.

Back in February I thought we’d have plenty of time to post cheerful photos of spring beauty as it gently sprung into action and each flower followed the next, but then it snowed… and snowed… again…. and again….

snowdrops and winter aconite

Flashback to February with snowdrops and winter aconite opening up for the first of the warmer weather.

It’s still snowing.  Next week looks promising, but things have all got to thaw out again, and the earliest risers have to work out all their crushed stems and snow flattened flowers.  Hopefully by the time that happens there’s still enough energy left in them to put on a show.

snowdrops and winter aconite

More snowdrops, the green tipped ‘Viridapice’ and short ‘Dodo Norton’.

In the meantime I’ll stay inside and try to avoid driving everyone nuts with the amount of time I spend staring out windows and brushing aside snow looking for survivors.

sprouting lotus

I just assumed I had killed the cracked open lotus seed, but four days later it’s actually starting to grow!

At least the bird feeder is entertaining.  I was ready to call it a year and send the birds on their way, but then snow returned, covered everything up, and I got that guilty feeling.  Once I topped the feeders off the regular crew was quite happy, but they had to make a little room for the returning grackles, starlings, and red-winged blackbirds.  They’re a noisy bunch but fortunately filming through the glass spares you from most of their metallic squawks.

Hopefully the farmers out there aren’t too upset with me encouraging these blackbird pests, but I’ve always considered them just as much a sign of spring as robins and the first crocus.  Well actually the return of turkey vultures is also something I consider ‘springy’, but most people are far less entertained by the return of huge carrion-feeding birds which follow the thawing roadkill north…

May your week be enjoyable and carrion-free, and hopefully warmer and less-snowy than here 🙂

$14 for 40 packets of surplus NARGS seed exchange seed

$332 total so far for the 2018 gardening year.

Fluttering into September

Keeping a monthly summary of what kind of butterflies are flying in and out of the garden is a good idea, and Cathy over at Words and Herbs already does just that.  Each month she documents a summary of the regulars, the newcomers, and the rare surprises.  This month I tried, and although neither my patience nor my camera skills match hers it’s still nice to give it a try!

monarch on buddleia

I would bet the Monarch butterfly is North America’s favorite. Here it is catching the last of the white buddleia.

The one butterfly which swarmed this year were the skippers.  There were dozens flitting around the front garden, and although they may not be the flashiest they do seem to have a character all their own.

skipper butterfly on verbena

Skipper butterfly (I have no idea which kind) sipping nectar in the verbena patch.

I like to think my garden is relatively butterfly friendly with plenty of nectar plants and plenty of host plants to raise caterpillars on, but the whole idea of gardening with butterflies in mind always struck me as going against every other plant growing principle.  Butterflies are one of the freeloaders of the insect world.  If they weren’t so pretty and entertaining I’m sure most gardeners would focus on getting rid of them rather than putting out the welcome mat.  As youngsters they chew up your plants, and then as adults steal nectar away from the more industrious bees.  Bees at least spread pollen around, but most butterflies (less so moths) have delicate legs and strawlike mouths that just don’t pick up or transfer pollen well.  They fill their bellies up with nectar but the flower still has to sit and wait for a better pollinator to come along.

pair of butterflies

A table for two. I watched this skipper cozying up to quite a few single butterflies. No luck though, as each bloom went dry he left the nectar bar alone.

Freeloaders or not, butterflies are welcome here.  Actually with all the bees and wasps and birds in my garden it’s amazing any make it to adulthood to begin with.  Birds and wasps are always looking for a tasty caterpillar morsel to bring home… although I believe these blue dauber wasps are spider hunters.

giant swallowtail on buddleia

Blue dauber wasps, I think these are one of those creepy predators which immobilize their spider prey, pack them away in a tube with a little wasp egg, and then when the egg hatches the paralyzed spiders are nibbled up alive… yikes.

Butterfly cannot live by nectar alone, and while walking in a local state park I came across these cabbage whites “puddling”.  The damp spot where the butterflies were drinking was suspiciously downhill from the restrooms and their aging plumbing, and I suspect this seepage was rich in the salts and minerals that are otherwise missing from a nectar diet.  Not to paint the butterflies in too gross a light, but rotting fruit and urine are two yummies for a nice puddling party.  To each his own I say.

butterflies puddling

Cabbage White butterflies “puddling” at a damp spot, drinking in salts and minerals.

Also seen at the state park was this one.

butterfly on joe pye weed

Maybe an Aphrodite Fritillary(?) on joe pye weed? This one was also at the park although I’ve seen them in my garden too.

Everyone knows the Monarch, but the swallowtails are my favorites.  In the spring there were a few black swallowtails on the fennel, but the real fancy pants is the yellow Tiger Swallowtail.  This one seems to have run into one too many bird beaks.

tiger swallowtail

I don’t know how long they live, but this tiger swallowtail looks a little worn and ragged. Hopefully he found some energy in the verbena blossoms.

A not-quite-as-yellow as a normal Tiger Swallowtail turned out to actually be a Giant Swallowtail and I was quite pleased.  On the first visit I didn’t get the camera, but when he was back the next day I gave it a go.

giant swallowtail

A Giant Swallowtail, not much different than the Tiger when the wings are up.

If only the breeze would have calmed, maybe I could have had a clear shot, but as it was he kept on fluttering to keep his balance.  I wanted to get a shot of the darker backside to the wings.

giant swallowtail butterfly

This Giant Swallowtail wasn’t much larger than the Tiger, but in much better shape. Too bad he wouldn’t sit still for his closeup.

So there it is, an August summary of some of the fluttering butter which has been passing through.  Wish the shots could have been clearer but I’m just grateful I was able to get the ones I did!  Hope you enjoyed.

The garden formerly known as tropical

There’s a spot in my yard (actually most of it inches over into my Mother in Law’s yard) where I like to indulge in a little of the tropics.  Last year it was full of cannas, sweet potatoes, and other warm weather friends, but this year it seems to have lost some of that bold tropical flair.  As usual it’s my own fault, and as usual it’s a long story, so I’ll try to keep it short.  It all begins in April when mulch was purchased for next door, and a willing volunteer was needed to spread it.  I foolishly agreed, but the deal was to add a couple tons of topsoil (I said I needed it to fill in along a sidewalk).  “I’ll spread all your mulch if you buy me even more stuff which needs spreading”.  Let me just say I run a hard bargain.

new flower bed

Look at that three inch drop from the sidewalk into the tropical bed. Clearly an ankle twisting lawsuit in the making!

So the mulch was spread, perennials divided, shrubs trimmed, weeds pulled…. the deal kept getting better and better it seems, but then it came down to the heap of topsoil sitting in the driveway.  I used a few wheelbarrows to raise the soil along the walk and was still left with plenty.  Finally my plan was coming together hah hah hah.  I’m pretty sure I mentioned I might use the topsoil to expand the bed a bit, so that’s what I went ahead and did 🙂

digging a new perennial bed

Line the edge with a hose, cut in and dig out the edge, smother the grass with about two inches of topsoil… wow did I hate mowing this sloped little patch of sickly grass!

No one said a word about the tripled in size, very empty bed.  I think people around here may be a little wary about asking questions for fear I will plant up a field of dandelions or something.  Some people have said I’m stubborn and criticism may tend to encourage me even more.  I like to think of it as proving a point 😉

fresh soil in flower bed

A huge empty garden bed in May. What could possibly make a gardener happier (other than a few loads of compost mixed in)?

The last bits of mulch made the bed a little more suburban-friendly and a few paver scraps thrown down along the center made an acceptable shortcut for the kids.  Then on to the real fun!  Canna and dahlia roots were lugged out and planted, and that was well enough, but then trouble started brewing.  A box filled with a dozen or so rooted chrysanthemum cuttings showed up at the door.  I can check on them constantly if they’re right along the edge of the new bed, so that’s where they went.  Don’t ask me why I needed a box of chrysanthemums, February is a tough month.

new flower bed

Somehow random perennials invaded the tropical border, that and chrysanthemums….

Then of course I tried to make the front yard more respectable by not having sunflowers all throughout the foundation plantings.  Out they came and into the new bed they went.  I have a serious problem in trying to show any kind of resolve against sunflower seedlings, they’re all summer and sunshine and it seems borderline criminal to pull them as weeds.

peony "do Tell"

Peony “Do Tell” can’t seriously expect to be the only plant using this spot of sun all year. The sunflowers should take over by July and the peony will just hang out in their shade until next year…. that’s the theory at least.

Things still look awfully barren but until the heat of summer hits it’s all kind of just biding its time.  Looking over from my yard you can see the bit of slope which made me hate mowing this spot.  Plus I’m not all that crazy about lawn to begin with *yawn* ….. it’s only really good for walking around on while checking the plants out!

side view

Year two of “I should give the table another coat of pain” -June 10th

My grass just doesn’t have the strength to come up through the soil (southerners may have a different experience), and even without soil improvement the new plants are still doing well as they feed off the decaying lawn underneath.  A month later and things are looking better.  The cannas still give a tropical look, but all the sunflowers are giving more of a neglected-agriculture vibe!

cannas, grasses, and sunflowers

July 13th, about a month later and the cannas are up, the sunflowers are growing, and I still keep looking at the bare dirt wishing for some compost or mulch to cover it up with.

As the sunflowers come into bloom they’re pretty and cheerful… but they’re not the tropics.

sunflower bed

It looks lush and green, so I should be happy. Also it’s not the color disaster I grew here last year, another reason to be pleased!

Besides it being a non-tropical border, a few other problems are coming to light.  The first is that some of the chrysanthemums relentlessly insist on setting buds and blooming for summer instead of fall.  I think I failed to pinch them back enough when planting them out in the spring, but I just don’t have the heart to do it now.

mums blooming too early

Chrysanthemums blooming in July, hopefully they’ll be on the correct schedule next year…. but they’ll need dividing by then, so I have no idea where to put them all!

To me a more insidious problem is the sunflower blooms.  When the first flower opened I cringed.  They’re completely pollen free, and because of that they don’t offer much to pollinators, and even worse they don’t set seed as well as the normal types.  I thought for sure since they were selfsown from last year’s plants that they should be normal functioning sunflowers but that’s not the case.  These all appear to carry the pollen-free gene, a gene which I’m sure came from the birdfeed seed.  I’m not big on all the seed conspiracies, but this looks like a genetic insurance policy that keeps farmers coming back to the seed supplier each year, and keeps them from replanting their own crop.  Good for a seed seller but not so good for me and all my now genetically tainted sunflowers.

pollen free sunflower with bee

Not much here for the bees.

Luckily there’s a small patch of sunflowers out front which still grow normally.  Once these started blooming I noticed a few seeds starting to form in the other patch (I guess a little pollen goes a long way throughout the garden!).  I need to make sure I get my seedlings from this area next year.

wild sunflower

This sunflower looks like it’s full of tasty seeds, not full of empty husks like over in the other patch.

The sunflowers look pretty enough, but all I see are the black soulless eyes of the walking dead…. ok maybe not that bad, but they lack the busy bees and bugs that usually do laps around the big open pollen filled flowers.  The goldfinches have also been very insulting as they touch down to check on the seed supply and come up empty.  Hopefully pollen from the front yard will work it’s way back here to at least make the birds happy.  Just in case, I planted a patch of heirloom sunflowers in the now completely dug up daffodil patch.  They’ll be late, but they’ll have pollen, and I think they’ll still make it before frost.

selfsown sunflowers

Sunflowers coming on strong.

I’m still holding out for a few tropical effects.  One castor bean seed came up and is now taking off, and “tropicanna” canna is looking healthy.  Also if I have nothing better to do this week, a few coleus and sweet potato cuttings can fill in one or two of the still empty spots, and maybe by late August ‘tropicalismo’ will revisit this bed once again.

castor bean with tropicanna canna

Castor bean “carmencita” and a few over-fed “Tropicana” cannas. The cannas seem to get much brighter colors when grown on the lean side, or with just a little 10-10-10 fertilizer. This batch has a lot of green in them due to higher nitrogen, probably from some miracle grow.

I don’t know if they say tropical to everyone, but dahlias never fail to bring brightness.  This peachy pink with yellow cactus flower makes me think of some overdone tropical drink.  Yummy!

pink and yellow cactus dahlia

Unknown dahlia which I keep saving from year to year. This spring I tried to show some restraint with them since last season planting a dozen or so might have been overkill 🙂

One plant I still need to plant out more of is verbena bonariensis.  In almost all my other beds it can be counted on to show up and make a play for taking over any open spot, here in the new soil it hasn’t had a chance to seed in yet.  Any transplants made this time of year will shrug off the shock of moving quickly and should be blooming up a purple storm in no time at all so I better get moving.

arundo donax "gold chain"

The grassy tropicalish leaves of arundo donax “gold chain” make a great mix with the sunflowers and verbena. I might have to plant this combo on purpose next year to make sure it happens again!

The tall old fashioned red leaved cannas always make me happy.  They’re super easy to overwinter, never look ratty, and always grow as fast as the fertilizer and water will take them.  The small reddish blooms which come later in the season aren’t much to talk about, but the hummingbirds love them.

red russian canna

Maybe canna “red Russian”? We call them Polish cannas after the old Polish woman who years ago gave the first ones to a friend of mine.

So that’s the latest from the ex-tropical bed.   It may still heat up as the season progresses, but for now it’s decidedly temperate and might remain so for a while.  No amaranthus or salvia seedlings showed, and this spring was a bust as far as all the seeds I started, so many of the brightest colors from last year are hushed.  For now I’ll have to keep satisfied with my little bit of the tropics in containers.

tropicals in containers

A couple real tropicals planted in containers where I can best keep an eye on them.

Not to go on any longer than I already have, but those weak little pots of tropicalismo surrounded by weeds and dead grass aren’t just a bad planter arrangement.  To me they’re the accent on a new gavel terrace backed by a low stone wall.  Maybe a fire pit.  I think one of the reasons my garden looks the way it does is because I have a bit too much vision, but we’ll see.  I do tend to work backwards and always find the plants first…. who cares if the seating area is still a little “in development”?

Love hurts

My prickly eryngiums are finally blooming, and to be honest I was a little disappointed by how underwhelming they were.  They gave me the longest wait ever, recently started to color up, and are finally looking cool.  Pollinators of all kinds love them, and these black and white wasps in particular swarm the plants from sunup to sundown.

pollinators on eryngium

The eryngium is very popular with the pollinators small and large.

They’re not as poky as you might think (although falling into a bed of lettuce would be the wiser choice), the more painful thing these plants offer is a nice wasp bite.  Most of the seedlings are a pale silvery color, but a few patches are showing an attractive blue tint.

eryngium

A few of the eryngium plants are showing off a nice blue tint. I like them, but will be on the lookout for too many seedlings.

Being a lover of all plants which walk the border between spiny farmyard weed and interesting garden plant, I of course love these, but my disappointment comes from the expectation that these would be the famous “Miss Willmott’s Ghost”.  Miss Ellen Willmott was a fascinating gardener, and the strain of eryngium that bears her name should be a stouter plant with wider silvery bracts.  Mine are thinner and tall enough to risk flopping.

small flowered eryngium

These plants are biennials and although they’ll need replacing each year you shouldn’t complain about a plant that blooms itself to death.

While I was struggling to get a decent picture I came to the conclusion this is a real photographer’s plant, with it’s airy blooms, subtle coloring, and busy bug guests. A real photographer could do wonders with it!

I’m sure I’ll get the real ghost someday, but in the meantime there’s no shortage of spiny, dangerous plants in the flowerbeds.  Ptilostemon diacantha is another biennial thistle which I’m totally in love with.  This one’s a real killer though with sharp spines that don’t give up tennis balls easily.

ptilostemon diacantha

Ptilostemon diacantha with nicely lined leaves and spines that feel as sharp as they look.

Sure the spines keep you on your toes, but there are plenty of other thorns out there in the garden.  Can you say rosebush?  Find me a rose grower who never sat down with a box of bandages after wrestling with a wayward climber and I’ll show you a gardener who has a checkbook healthy enough to hire out all the crappy jobs 😉

rose livin' easy

Gratuitous rose photo from earlier in the month. It’s “Livin’ Easy” and I never see blackspot or fungus on it. If it weren’t for the “Knockout” tidal wave sweeping the country I’m sure this would be a much more popular rose…. even with all those nasty sharp thorns 🙂

Here’s my newest little baby.  I finally had success with the cirsium japonicum “white frosted” seeds which I’ve been trying each winter.  They’re everything I love in a plant, variegated foliage, mild spine-age, bold colored thistle blooms (I hope)….. it’s even a perennial (hopefully not an invasive one).  There will surely be plenty of gushingly over the top praise put onto this little plant in the future!

cirsium japonicum white frosted

One of the cutest baby pictures ever of cirsium japonicum “white frosted”.  I hope it grows up to be just as attractive an adult.

The wild bull thistles are blooming around the fringes of the garden and I’ll spare you from those photos.  Weeding will be a gloved affair, but can I just say the pollinators love them and the goldfinches will be thrilled?  Have a great end of the week 🙂

Innocent until proven guilty

Last week the usual garden inspection turned up a massacre in the broccoli patch.  My luck had run out and the rabbits had finally found the tender lettuce and cole crops… just when they were finally settling in.  All the tender lush growth from the cool, damp weather has been nipped back, and I’m left with these leafless stalks.

deer damage on broccoli

The day before yesterday would have been the perfect time to fence off the vegetable garden….

What a setback!  Of course it’s my own fault since even with the local stray cats, rabbits are still in and out of the garden, but I like to think the bunnies won’t take advantage of me and a nibble here and there is no big deal….. so I didn’t bother with a fence.  That of course changed, and the fence is up again.

fence for vegetables

A little chicken wire to keep the bunnies out. Rabbits around here tend to be lazy, so a weak fence or even a few brushy twigs will keep them off my delicious ‘Matina Sweet’ lettuce.

Something was different though.  The onslaught of damage was pretty severe for a stray rabbit finding a tender bit of broccoli, and the lettuce and cauliflower were also sampled.  That’s a lot of nibbling for one or two rabbits on one or two nights.  I began to wonder if a groundhog had returned….. a little plant leveling, bulldozing, little garden pig, who eats everything in sight…. but no, the damage wasn’t that bad.

I found my answer the next morning.  Two young bucks were on the other side of the fence plotting their return.  I knew they were around -three weeks ago a doe bounded over the fence while the kids and I were playing back there- but now I know they’re moving in.  Deer are something I don’t want.  Where are all the hunters when you need them?

deer and the vegetable garden

Barbarians at the gate

Figures they would go straight for the broccoli and lettuce, they’re two of the only vegetables I actually eat.  Why couldn’t they start with the chard?

bright lights swiss chard

Rumor has it vegetables make for healthy eating. I like to think of these unpicked and uneaten ‘bright lights’ swiss chard as being good food for the soul.

We’re not exactly country around here, but we do have our share of wildlife drama.  Snakes and toads come and go, bugs abound, and all kinds of birds stop by to eat and drink and sometimes set up house.  I finally found the tiny field sparrow nest (or at least I think that’s what they are) in the small blue spruce by the sandbox.  Two chicks have hatched and it amuses me that they spring to life begging for food the second I tap the nest.

field sparrow nest

I’m not a good nest finder, and the only reason I found this one (after three tries -and the spruce is barely three feet around!) is that I noticed a female cowbird staking out the bush.  Cowbirds will sneak in and remove an egg from an unguarded nest and replace it with one of their own, and this is what they did here.  When I found the nest there were two white speckled eggs alongside the three blue speckled.  I may or may not have removed the cowbird eggs.

cowbird egg

Cowbirds are a native species and as such are protected under the Migratory Bird Act, so tampering with their eggs would be illegal…. but I also may at times roll through stop signs and push the speed limit, so I’m not sure where this puts me on the spectrum of criminal activity.  All I’ll add is that cowbird chicks will usually outgrow their nestmates and end up displacing them, so I’m glad these parents won’t be stuffing food into a chick which grows to be twice their size.

Another thing which borders on illegal is the number of weeds and out of control plantings in this wanna-be iris border.  It’s almost criminal how the campanula took over and the daisies moved in…. not to mention the clover.

iris with campanula and daisies

Still on the to-do list is the iris bed. I think it needs a complete overhaul to get rid of the beautiful purple campanula glomerata which has taken over. The only legitimate planting here is the yellow variegated iris which is still just barely hanging on.

The iris bed is just one of many yet-to-be-done projects.  I’m still getting the last of the seedling out from under the glow lights in the garage, and the overwintered geraniums are still sitting outside the garage, making quite the colorful accent on the driveway 🙂

overwintered geraniums and vegetable seedlings

All in due time they say, but I suspect due time might have passed along with the summer solstice.  Instead of humming along, the garden is still taking form.  Someday I hope to have things together but I suspect I just might not be that kind of gardener.  It would help if a simple planting up of the deck pots didn’t turn into a table refinishing, light fixture replacing, porch chair repainting, trim rebuilding… .kind of project, but such is life!

Enjoy the first days of summer 🙂

Like bees on cherry

I have a love/hate relationship going on with the weeping cherry near the garage. For all of seven days in early spring(less if it’s warm) it puts on its floral show, and when it does I hate the dirty white color.  The tree is filled with dead twigs which need removing, it frequently needs pruning, and its trunk harbors a colony of carpenter ants(just waiting to stage an assault on the house).  The few redeeming qualities of the tree are what have kept it off the woodpile.  The wintertime structure of the weeping branches appeals to me, and early bulbs seem to like growing in its dank, rooty, shade, but most of all for the few days when it’s in flower insects far and wide swarm to what must be the first nectar buffet open in the neighborhood.

mixed daffodils

The daffodils are coming on, but they just don’t pull in the pollinators like the cherry tree does.

Here’s my first attempt to get a video of the blossom orgy.  If you risk clicking, it’s about a one minute phone video I took and although there are many reasons why I do not expect it to garner more than 15 views tops, I hope someone out there likes the buzzing (turn up the volume) and the fluttering.

I did try to get a few still shots of bees, but that realm of photography is still way beyond me.  If bugs are your thing I highly recommend giving Donna a visit at Garden Walk, Garden Talk.  Now there’s someone who knows her way around a macro lens.

Do I detect a thaw?

Longer days and stronger sunshine doesn’t necessarily mean it’s springtime.  Warmer weather and a lack of snowstorms means spring to me, and since we’re 0-2 on that front, this weekend’s forecast of almost normal weather gives me some hope that the snow may eventually melt.  My fingers are crossed that the receding snow will reveal healthy snowdrop sprouts, and in the front bed along the foundation this might be true.  This bunch has come along since the last time it was uncovered (Jan 13th), but it’s still far behind last year’s bloom date of Jan 31st.  Still it amazes me that even under feet of snow and temperatures down to 0F (-18C) they continue to grow, disregarding the frozen soil and surrounding ice.snowdrops and snow

Indoors is a different story.  The forced snowdrops are at their peak, and I regret giving them the cold shoulder in my last post.forced galanthus

There’s plenty of variation in bloom shape, plant height, and color and pattern of the green markings inside.  I’m quite pleased all over again and it makes me even more excited the ones outside might someday open!forced galanthus elwesii

A better gardener would keep track of their favorites, and carefully plant them out for observation…. but I’m just fine with big patches of anonymous white.  If there are a few real special ones I can separate them out, but we’ll see what happens once they have a chance to grow outside in the real garden.  The pale drops are nice, but the dark green markings such as this one also look interesting once open. snowdrops forced indoors

This one has such a stumpy, stout stem (but small bloom) that it really contrasts with the daintier one to the lower right of this photo.strong stem on galanthus

Having potted up all 200 of my bulbs for growing indoors, there are pots all over.  I might have gone a bit overboard since usually the windowsills are reserved for post-bloom hangout until things warm up enough to go outside.snowdrops on windowsill

I’ve been pollinating away, so hopefully there will be a few snowdrop seeds to start this summer.  My fingers are crossed since it looks like the sprouts I had coming along with so much promise in January all died during the last couple arctic blasts.

There’s a different kind of hope though.  Birds are singing in the sunshine in a way not heard since last spring, and this little guy was spotted rooting around under the feeder.  He’s not a mouse or vole, but a little half-blind shrew.  I’ve never seen one out (alive) but this guy let me take his close-up from about 12 inches away while he burrowed around in the seed hulls looking for bugs and whatnot.  He’s an interesting guy, one of only a few poisonous mammals (their saliva is toxic enough to kill a similar sized animal), and their hyperactive lifestyle has them eating nearly their entire weight in food each day.  They’re also a little stinky, which we discovered last fall when an opening in the foundation let a couple into the basement. shrew at feeder

Stay out by the feeder is all I have to say… that and have a great weekend!