Monday, January 28, 2008

Winter Chores

Chickweed is growing like, well, like weeds. Careful hand pulling without gloves reveals little poppies and larkspurs under there. I left chickweed that is growing around the red alternanthera by the far rock bed in hopes that it will protect the alternanthera roots until it resprouts.

I was looking at blog of someone over in Charleston and he has daylilies in gallon pots in a greenhouse. Why didn't I think of that? Next year, maybe.

A catalog came today from where I usually buy daffodils. They have lots of lilies. I could use some yellow lilies for the new bed that has yellow roses, daffodils and various yellow and blue annual seeds planted. In the best world, the daffodils will be followed by some annuals and other annuals will bloom with the roses. Maybe. There's blue spiderwort on the west end, self planted. Natives will save a garden in drought. I don't know about farther north, but spiderwort blooms like crazy through spring here. When it gets seedy looking, I cut it back to the ground. It comes back with fervor. Might be considered invasive by some, but it makes a good edge for the back sides of island beds, competing well with grass.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tallahasee Report

The day is dreary, dreary. It looks like snow, heavy clouds hanging low, except that it doesn't snow in 52 degree weather. We were in rain, parts of the trip.

Nothing spectacular blooming along the way except that I saw ONE small 'Dr. Merrill' magnolia stellata in full bloom -- my 'Leonard Messell has one open blossom so far -- and a surprise at the captitol. The Florida State Capitol building has red and white striped awnings and the plantings usually compliment the awnings. The red petunias have sulled and only white blossoms are showing. Across the street, the surprise is newly planted calendulas in full bloom! There's a large area on the corner that is protected and it is always a beauty spot.

My own calendulas are a ways from blooming, but they're healthy. Most of the other plantings I saw were violas surrounding snapdragons. The ones in front of Harbor Freight were a hodgepodge of violas and pansies that didn't match. The snaps needed deadheading, which I did not do for them but wanted to. In front of Applebee's was a right nice display of snaps and pansies, but I don't remember how they looked because DH asked the name of the restaurant and my mind wandered to the sign, away from the flowers. I am so easily distracted.

Sam's had huge displays of more perennials in boxes, summer bulbs and bareroot roses. I was able to contain my enthusiasm. They also had fresh pots of huge orchids. A better bargain would have been the fake orchids and other silks, lots of those, too. I guess they're out for Valentines Day.

Summary: It's too early for spectacular flowers. Another freeze expected tonight. The rain will move out ahead of the freeze.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Early Narcissus

I took this pic for Garden Bloom Day on the 15th and then didn't use it. Paperwhites have open blooms now. 'Erlicheer' have great fat buds with short stems at the other end of the uppper lawn. 'Hawera' and 'Sweetness' have popped wads of leaves out of the ground and others are peeking out too.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cold, Cold Greenhouse

Learned why the greenhouse was so cold when the outside temps reached 26 degrees: the ground fault receptacles went bad and there was no electricity past the fuse box. The little back-up electric heater did not come on. The pump did not circulate the water through the heat-sink barrels and the black hoses that collect heat from daytime sunlight.

When everything works as planned, the temperature will not drop to freezing. There is usually a ten-degree spread when outside temps are below freezing.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Thoughts of Summer in a Cold Greenhouse

A year ago, we assembled a kit greenhouse inside the farm shop out of the wind. Even when it blew off the trailer as it was hauled around to its site, it was quite an experience. I had no illusions that despite having electrical power, running water and a heat sink
that we could maintain a temperature that would sustain tropical plants in bloom except at a price we can ill afford for heating bills. This morning when we got up, the outside temperature was 26 and inside the greenhouse had fallen to freezing.

Once the sun came up, the outside temps have reached 35 and the greenhouse has zoomed to 45. I checked the plants and nothing looks harmed so far. One bright pink pentas still has a little blossom; the snapdragon and dianthus cuttings are perky as before. Even the big pots of night blooming cereus persist. I had sense enough not to start tender plants too early, but I did experiment with Iceland poppy seedlings. They grew, as have other poppies, violas, larkspurs and petunias in the cold outside.

Little labeled cups are lined up in trays to accept soil and seeds, soon. In the house, I sort through purchased envelopes of seeds and shake containers of saved seeds like castor bean and candlesticks, zinnias and tithonia -- summer seeds who need more heat than I can provide right now to cause them to sprout. Violas, snapdragons and other hardier plants will go in soon in anticipation of perhaps an earlier spring. They'll be safe in the cold greenhouse from frosts.

As the temperature rises outside, the greenhouse temperature will soar to perhaps 80 degrees. I can play in there as I played in playhouses of childhood, pretending that I'm in a tropical land, dreaming of the bright blossoms of summer as I shed layers of jackets and sweaters and scarves and dribble water on poppy seedlings and into pots of begonias.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Herb Garden Treasure

"Herb Gardening in Five Seasons" by Adelma Simmons was one of the goodies that I found at the Library book sale yesterday, for twenty cents. Published in 1964 and now removed from circulation, the information is as fresh as herbals of today.

The book is full of details on growing, harvesting and using herbs, as well as pronouncing their names and planning herb garden beds. I am doubtful of planting a 'butterfly' herb garden with a crescent shape filled with differnt dots of color and stones for the butterfly's head, however. My butterflies like great swaths of one flower or masses of a couple of plants.
Tiger Swallowtail on Agastache

I passed up a book of the same era on growing roses. It was full of hybrid teas and not much else. Rose styles are much changed in fifty years.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

By the time I recharged some batteries, it was almost dark. It made the photos dramatic:
Blooming Camellia, just starting with open blooms, but lots of buds for later:

Taiwan Cherry from two directions, west and east:

Snaky Benefits

Snakes go both directions in the food chain. Snakes eat rats, mice, insects, other snakes, toads, frogs, lizards. Who could fail to like a snake who eats rats and roaches? They are also important food sources for hawks and other predators.

Who could be angry with a snake who eats rats and roaches? My little friend the hognosed snake eats only toads. I'm not overly happy about him eating Pete, Delmar and George Clooney, but when they make messes on the carport, I'm not against sacrificing a few toads. The hognosed snake is one of my favs. He can puff up his jaws to look like a cobra and makes a hissing sound. He'll also fall over and play dead if he can't slither away when threatened.

There are beneficial snakes who dine on poisonous snakes -- they're welcome to all my poisonous snakes.

Among the things I learned was that you could shoo an unwanted snake out of the garden with a long rake or broom and a blast from a hose and they usually won't come back. The other thing was, If you need to catch one for some reason, you can sweep him into a garbage can lying on its side using a long broom and then turn the can upright.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Snakes Alive!

Only a couple days after the weather warmed again after sub-freezing temperatures, I saw a small rat snake on the end of the carport. He was pale and skinny, I guess cold weather does that?

My relationship with rat snakes started about five years ago after I bought a snake ID book and began to decide which would send me running and screaming and which might be friends in the garden. There was this huge rat snake who lived in a hollow tree near the end of the driveway. It met an untimely demise. I found it -- actually I smelled it -- dead under some boxwoods. I was mourning the death of my snake, walked by the hollow tree and out popped three little heads, two of whom are pictured here. The skinny little snake of a few days ago must be a second or third generation of that family.

Note: I am careful about snakes. The Florida Snake Expert said on the radio that while not all snakes are poisonous, all snakes are dangerous. You can be allergic to the saliva of a non-poisonous snake, just as you can be allergic to bee stings.

Florida Snake ID site

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Truth in Advertising

The bare-root roses I bought last week went into the ground today. It's been warm for a couple days. When I unwrapped the yellow 'Eclipse' one had a piece of green tagging material inside the paper wrapper and one had a piece of white tagging with 'Red Masterpiece' on it. The new foliage on both are virtually identical, so I wonder if I have two 'Eclipse' or two 'Red Masterpiece' or two of something entirely different, since the label that said 'Eclipse' was a piece of tape over a printed 'Yellow Rose.'

I won't even rant about 'Chicago Peace.' They're all in the ground, anyhow and heavily shrouded in pine straw mulch.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Survival of the Fittest

It's seventy degrees this afternoon. Daddy Mack always said when it's seventy degrees you can go without a coat. That was when Daddy Mack was nearly eighty and most folks were going without a coat at much lower temperatures. Seventy is balmy.

I made a short survey of some flower beds. There needs to be a way to cross those nasty weeds that survive the worst freezes with lovely flowers. There's a weed that I used to mistake for Nigella until it got to be an enormous nutrient and water sucking weed. I grubbed out as many as I saw. Bulbine was killed back, it will return. Poppies are springing up in lots of places. Four that I watched in a particular spot survived the freeze, in open ground, tiny plants. More larkspur is up.

Alyssum hid under leaves over where I planted pink hyacinth bulbs. They're sprouting under there. Last year's snapdragons have ratty stems and much new growth underneath, best left alone right now. The snaps cuttings I took are slow to root. Lots to do while the sun shines. Another winter spell will return soon.

Need to go out and do something about some fire ant mounds.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Healing Gardens

This month's Fine Gardening magazine has articles on healing gardens and on herb gardens. My personal view is that the whole garden in healing, in one way or another, as is the herb garden.

The particular feature on herbs showed a huge herb garden divided by country of origin of the plants. My little herb garden must be a 'cosmopolitan garden' because it features a hodge-podge of everything. The little calendula plants are sturdy underneath their light blanket of pine straw. What a fortuitious location I chose! They're much too thick in the spot where I spilled the seeds. Of all the garden chores, I find thinning the hardest. Not that it's work to do, but it's almost too much to bear to pull up a brave little plant from among his brothers.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Hard Freeze

Last night the temperature dropped to 22.6 degrees. The lantanas are toast today. Beautiful buds on bulbine fell over, frozen. Everything that had an open bloom is brown. What looks best: iberis, dianthus and the hardier evergreen daylilies.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

What Was I Thinking? Roses!

I promised myself that as soon as I saw roses this year, I would treat myself to as many roses as I thought I could plant.

We went to Tallahassee, FL today. Sams Club roses. Not a huge selection. I finally chose Eclipse because it was a yellow bush, couldn't remember any particulars I'd read. Then I put Chicago Peace in the buggy because I KNEW it was a sport of Peace and just maybe I would like it, too. These roses already have lush foliage from being in the store who knows how long, so they'll be in the house until tomorrow and in the greenhouse waiting for warmer days. It was hardly above freezing today, 36 degrees at 4pm.

Oh, and they came two to the box, so there are 4 to plant. I passed up Climbing and bush Queen Elizabeth. She's too easy to root to buy more. There was a white bush rose, I forget the name, may have been Pascali. There was Cl. Golden Showers. I don't have a trellis that really wants a climbing yellow rose, not today, anyway.

The beautiful red and white petunias in front of the capitol building were wrapped up in heavy mulch with only a rare blossom sticking out. One of the buildings across the street had yellow pansies, and bronzy pansies in more sheltered beds. Miss Billie always said to plant yellow violas. I can see why. If we hadn't passed really close to the bronzy pansies, they'd have looked as if the yellow ones had a blight, from a distance. A more sheltered narrow bed under an overhang had ornamental kale, huges ones.

One more thing, Sams also had boxed summer bulbs. It was hard to pass up a box with 40 bulbs, amaryllis and acidanthera. It didn't say how many of each. I figured 1 and 39 would not be a bargain. There was also a box of 'butterfly' glads, the little bright colored ones that look sort of like acidanthera, I forget the name. They sure put them out early, even for north Florida. Most of the boxes were caladiums. I learned the hard way that starting caladiums inside didn't put them far ahead of waiting to plant in the ground.7/2/2007

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Predictions for the Coming Months

There's an old saying that the first twelve days of January are indicative of the whole year's weather. If that be true, January, February and March will be cold, cold and we won't see much rain in the first six months of the year, if this week's predictions are correct.

NOAA predicts a low tonight of 23 degrees, 19 degrees on Wednesday night and 23 on Thursday night. What happened to Global warming? We don't usually have three freezing nights in a row. The wind is already picking up.

Last of 2007 flowers, photographed yesterday. The pink Gerbera daisy is a division of one that DH's sister who died in 1973 planted here some time before that. The white Gerbera is a seedling, self planted.