I don't have a good track record with tulips. I can't tell you how many tulip bulbs I have planted over the years –doubles, species, parrot, Darwin hybrids, tall ones, short ones – you name it, they just about all vanish. The deer love them and the buds would often get eaten before they opened. If that didn't happen, the squirrels, voles, moles, or rabbits either dug up or ate the bulbs before they could grow. My red and yellow tulips are the lone survivors. They aren't fancy, but boy do I love to see their faces every spring. They are tough characters that have somehow defied all odds.
OMG! Ange went outside one morning to find just about all of my chick and hens beheaded. Many others were pulled out and scattered around the lawn and the driveway. This is a first as they have never been bothered once in the last 20 years! It's a heads–up for us; we now have one additional area that needs to be sprayed regularly with Liquid Fence… oh dear/deer!
The second photo shows the chick and hens in happier days.
The days are getting longer, the birds are singing when I wake up in the morning and afternoon temperatures are nearing 60°. Spring is on the way. It's time to start thinking about what I will need to start gardening again. Here are a few things I like to have ready-to-go:
Let the fun begin!
Pictured above – 'August Wedding' in front with 'Bela Lugosi' in the background
With spring right around the corner, I am already looking forward to seeing this beautiful mini iris. My friend Sally gave me a division of 'Captured Spirit' from her garden about ten years ago. What a joy this delicate ruffled iris has been! It has reliably bloomed and happily multiplied year after year. Captured Spirit bridges the bloom gap between my daffodils and tall bearded irises.
Captured Spirit is a standard dwarf bearded (SDB) iris hybridized by Hooker Nichols (in Texas) and registered in 1980 as an early bloomer. Registered height for this variety is 13 inches, but mine rarely grows taller than six or seven inches. This may simply be the difference between growing in Texas as opposed to growing in Wisconsin.
If you make sure Captured Spirit gets six to eight hours of sun, has average, well-drained soil and some water it will reward you every spring. It is cold hardy to US Zone 3 (-40 °F to -35).
Ange planted our Northern Catalpa tree almost 30 years ago when it was a sapling, measuring only about 12" tall. Today it towers over 40 feet tall! Other than occasionally watering the tree when first planted, we have basically ignored it. As you can see, the tree has thrived. A Midwest native first cultivated in 1754, the wood of the Northern Catalpa was originally used for fence posts and railroad ties due to the tree's fast growth rate and resistance to rot.
The tree is useful as a shade tree in dry, hard-to-plant sites. Fragrant flowers appear in spring and last into early summer. The sweet scent is heavenly and envelops our entire backyard. Pollinators, including hummingbirds and bees, visit the flowers of the Northern Catalpa. The fruit is a long bean-shaped pod, 8 to 20 inches long. In the city the huge banana-like seed pods can become a messy, slippery, litter problem on sidewalks or on parked cars. In the country it's a non-problem; we never even notice the pod litter. All we see is a pretty tree.
'Eramosa Skies' is the most unusual colored iris I grow. It's difficult to capture the beautiful light blue-sapphire shade in photos. Visitors to my garden always comment on its unique color. This award-winning Standard Dwarf Bearded (SDB) iris was hybridized by Chuck Chapman (1996) in Ontario, Canada. So with Canadian genetics this iris grows like gangbusters in western Wisconsin. You'd never know this large clump was divided last fall!
My friend Sally gave me a division of Eramosa Skies from her garden about five years ago. It's an awesome border plant that grows up to 13 inches tall. It typically begins to bloom at the end of April or first week in May, depending on the weather. Dwarf bearded irises bridge the bloom gap in my garden between the daffodils and tall bearded irises.
In case you wondered, Eramosa is a township in Wellington County, in midwestern Ontario, Canada. Hence the name 'Eramosa Skies.'
This April I have really enjoyed my deep purple hyacinths. Their fragrance is amazing! Most of them grew about eight inches tall and four inches wide. These hyacinths were originally part of a large plant pot I received filled with a variety of bulbs, including daffodils, tulips, and scilla siberica. This was a perfect gift that truly kept on giving, as I continue to enjoy these bulbs every spring -- and I received them over 20 years ago! I wish I knew what variety the hyacinth is, but oh well.
Introduced in Europe during the 16th century, hyacinths are easy-to-grow spring bulbs that are still popular today (US hardiness zones 4-8). They like six to eight hours of sun each day and soil that drains well. After the bulbs have bloomed, be sure to cut off the flower stalks (not the leaves) to encourage the plants to store energy in their bulbs. Every fall and spring I sprinkle bulb booster fertilizer granules over my bulbs and gently work the granules into the soil. Rain will disperse the fertilizer. Hyacinths are best planted in early fall, about four inches deep and six to eight weeks before the first frost.
Hyacinth bulbs contain oxalic acid, which can cause a skin reaction in some people. If you are sensitive, wear gloves when handling the bulbs. Oxalic acid is also toxic when eaten, so keep your pets away from the bulbs. All kinds of rodents will chew on hyacinth bulbs. An easy organic method to deter them is to interplant hyacinths with daffodils, which rodents tend to avoid.
Hyacinth info from www.thespruce.com
Photos by Jade Anderson
Spring has officially arrived, even though on some days it sure doesn't feel like it. As an indoor alternative, I am celebrating spring with a low-maintenance succulent garden. It certainly brightens up my kitchen on cloudy or rainy days.
I added a bit of whimsy to my indoor garden in the form of an upcycled sterling silver spoon that is hand-stamped with the words "Kindness Matters." I purchased my spoon online from Etsy. There are a variety of different sayings and vendors available. You can even customize the words on your spoon with some artisans.
Care of Succulents:
Succulents are easy-care houseplants. They need about six hours of sun each day, Succulents will lean towards the sun, so rotating them often will help them stand up straight. Leaning may be a sign that they need a sunnier spot. When potting, use cactus soil or mix potting soil with sand, pumice, or perlite. Over-watering can kill your succulents, so make sure you let the soil dry in between watering. Water no more than once every week while the plants are actively growing during the spring and summer. Water the soil directly until water runs out of the drainage holes of the pot.
Pulmonarias/Lungworts are among the first perennials to bloom in my garden every spring. The flowers are certainly pretty, but pulmonarias are most prized for the beautiful mounded foliage that remains attractive all season long. I always cut old foliage in July for a burst of new growth. Pulmonarias tolerate morning sun, but need afternoon shade to avoid leaf scorching. They are perfect companion plants for astilbes, hostas, and other shade-loving plants. Pollinators like them as well. Another positive (for me, anyway) is that the deer hate the fuzzy foliage and leave the plants alone.
Pulmonarias are good front-of the-border plants as they only grow about 12" tall. Plant them 20-22" apart as they happily mound up with time. They are hardy little characters that thrive in Zones 3-7 and do just fine in normal or clay soil.
I grow three Pulmonaria varieties -- 'Raspberry Splash' (spotted foliage with magenta and purple flowers), 'Silver Streamers' (silver/white foliage with pink flowers that turn blue), and 'Cevennensis' (thinner foliage with blotched leaves and midnight blue flowers).
Usually I whine about the herds of deer that roam around our home, but for some odd reason this year the rabbits have been the problem--digging holes, destroying our lawn and just about every petunia in sight, like they're on steroids! They don't eat the flowers, but they rip the plants out of the ground and tear apart the root balls. So much for the two batches of Wave Petunias we bought.
We have been regularly spraying all of our plants with Liquid Fence. Any other year, the Liquid Fence always did the trick--the rabbits never even looked twice at my petunias. But not this year... so we doubled down and came up with a solution. Here's the recipe Ange experimented with, and so far it seems to be working. The rabbits have not bothered our latest batch of Waves, the new patches of seeded dirt are coming up, plus there are fewer rabbits lurking in our yard.
1/8 cup Crystal Hot Sauce
1 Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper
1 Tablespoon Powered Onion
Enough hot water to fill up a 1 quart sprayer
Boil the above mixture on the stove until the cayenne pepper dissolves, but make sure you strain it with a cotton cloth to remove the remaining cayenne pepper particles, otherwise it will clog up the sprayer. And remember, be especially vigilant with your applications.
In spring 2019 this dainty, 12" tall fringed tulip arrived unannounced in my garden. The odd thing is that I have absolutely no idea where it came from. However it got here, I love it and it's staying! Note the neat white eyes in the first photo. This is also my latest tulip that bloomed through May 12.
Also known as Crispa Tulips, fringed tulips have lacy petals and crystalline-like fringes. Some have fringes in the same color as the petals, but others have contrasting fringes. They come in a wide variety of colors and sizes. Like regular tulips, it’s easy to grow fringed tulips. Plant the bulbs in autumn, in well-draining soil that gets full sunlight and add a bit of bulb booster. That's it!
You can read more about fringed tulips at Gardening Know How:
Lucky me! I had some help getting my gardens in order this spring. Our nephew, Neil, had some time available during Wisconsin's shelter-at-home days. He took care of our mulching, weeding, and annual planting, for which we were very grateful. He's very detail-oriented and did a most awesome job. Plus it's always nice to see him! :)
(When we regularly resume spraying deer deterrent, the protective tomato cages will be removed.)
Now that we've had that first 60 degree day, spring is on the horizon. Before spring officially arrives there are some outside jobs you can take care of in the meantime.
Pictured: Pansies that will often bloom in the snow
2019 has been a particularly brutal year for Spring Sickness with my daylilies. Every year I get maybe one or two plants that exhibit Spring Sickness, but this year I bet I have between 15-20. I have added five photos of different plants affected by Spring Sickness. I don't panic when I see this because in most cases I can simply remove the affected foliage and as the weather warms up the daylilies continue to grow and bloom completely normal.
The exact cause of Spring Sickness remains a mystery, and it appears in daylilies throughout zones 3-9 in the United States. Typically the entire daylily clump is not affected -- usually it's only a couple of fans. There is not a definitive answer for why this happens. A fungus of some kind is suspected, but as of yet it's unproven. It is also worth noting that daylilies are randomly affected. Just because a cultivar has Spring Sickness one year this does not mean it will be affected next year, or ever again for that matter.
To read more about this phenomenon: http://web.ncf.ca/ah748/qanda.html
The dwarf bearded irises are in full bloom! It's always exciting to see big bursts of color in May. Dwarf irises are a wonderful addition to any garden because they fill the bloom gap between the daffodils and tall bearded irises. I grow about ten different varieties of minis. Today I'm showcasing one named "Jazzamatazz" that came to me from my friend Sally's garden. It has a fragrance that is reminiscent of chocolate. If this showy perennial has one fault, it's that it multiplies too fast!
Jazzamatazz was hybridized by Heidi Blyth in 1986 down under in Pearcedale, Victoria, Australia, but it also grows in the U.S. Zones 3 to Zone 8b. It is very hardy here in Wisconsin. Jazzamatazz is happy in full sun to part shade. Mine is in an east-facing location. This iris is registered as growing up to 15" tall, but mine rarely gets taller than about 10." In my yard Jazzamatazz reliably blooms in mid-May every year.
While weeding I discovered four bunnies in a nest next to one of my daylilies. (In the second photo the fourth bunny is hard to see. His head is sticking out on the left, underneath his siblings.) These babies have been growing faster than weeds! I have checked on them every day for a little over a week and each day they grow remarkably larger. At first I could barely see them nestled inside their nest covered up with their mom's fur and some old grass, but now they are so big and wiggling all over that they no longer have cover. We have had some heavy rain and I worried that their nest would get soggy and they would get wet and cold. Ange came to the rescue; he put a little table above their nest so the rain wouldn't beat on them. We made sure there was ample room under the table so their mom could get to them easily in the morning and evening. And honestly, I'm not even sure why I'm so worried about these tiny stinkers -- in no time they will be roaming around my yard devouring all my flowers.
Look what appeared on my desk at work last week! After the recent ice, snow and 30 degree weather, this hyacinth was such a pleasant surprise. It assured me that spring is really on the way.
Hyacinth 'Pink Pearl' won the Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society. The blooms are so waxy and perfect, plus the fragrance is amazing! Pink Pearl grows 10-12 inches tall in full sun and is hardy in Zones 2-10. Best of all, hyacinths are easy to grow in well-drained locations, plus they are deer and rabbit resistant. (Sorry Easter Bunny!)
On a dreary, 'fake-spring' afternoon I spent some time on my laptop going through photos from last summer. I deleted images I no longer wanted and re-arranged my keepers. I came across photos of this Asiatic lily that I just had to share. 'Suncrest' is such a beautiful lily. It is a hardy grower that I'm confident *anyone* could successfully grow. It grows approximately 3-4 feet tall and thrives in Zones 4 to 9. (I live in Zone 4.) It grows so robustly that I transplanted mine to partial shade to slow it down a bit! What I really like about this lily are the different looks that it presents. The buds are green with a touch of rose. When they first bloom, the flowers look lime-y green with burgundy speckles over a yellow base. As the bloom ages it morphs into a pale yellow color, as you can see in the third photo. At peak bloom it often looks like the plant grows two different color blooms simultaneously.
Suncrest is a Longiflorum-Asiatic (L.A.) Hybrid Lily. L.A. lilies are hybridized for better performance, bigger blooms, and a vase-life that is the longest of any lily. For those with allergies, they are virtually scentless. I purchased my Suncrest at the Saturday State Street Markets in Madison many years ago. As annoying and awkward as it was carrying this lily around in its pot, while trying to maneuver around tons of people at the markets (without whacking them in the head with my plant), it was totally worth it. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
(And yes, the calendar says that it's spring, but I consider it 'fake-spring' until I can actually get outside.)
I saw my first robin last Friday! In fact I saw an entire flock of about 25 robins sitting in a tree by our front yard. Despite the three-plus feet of snow remaining after a week of rain and freezing rain, this gives me hope that warmer weather is just around the corner.
Still, I can't help but worry about these little robins and wondered how they manage in the 30 degree temperatures. Apparently, if food is abundant, robins can thrive in surprisingly cold temperatures if there is not too much snow. In the north, ornamental fruit tees can sustain robins during the cold weather (crabapples, hollies, and mountain ash) in both urban and suburban areas.
We put out some dried cranberries and raisins for them, but unfortunately, the mice got to them before the birds. Robins also like dried blueberries, apple slices, fresh grapes, meal worms, and suet pellets. And for the robin spa experience, they especially enjoy a heated bird bath. Hang in there robins!
Here is what my backyard in western Wisconsin looked like on April 3rd. Our official total was seven inches of snow. This is precisely why I restrain myself from cleaning up dead garden foliage too early in the spring. Final frost dates in Zone 4a can be anywhere between April 30th to May 15th, depending on the trending weather. I typically delay my garden cleanup until late April. I like to wait until the shriveled up foliage can be easily lifted off the plants without any resistance at all; then the spring rainfall doesn't leave the dead leaves in a big soggy blob on top of the new growth.
This morning, at 13 degrees, it feels as though the nice weather will never come. Snow is in the forecast for this afternoon, tonight and tomorrow. As pretty as snow can be, enough already!
if it's about
my backyard and garden, I LOVE to talk about it!