Sunday, March 6, 2016

Nature's Awakening: 2016 State of the Garden

Fickle February was a month that could even test the notorious duality of a Gemini spirit such as mine. The cold, gray and snowy days had me wishing for warmth and sunshine, but as the weather would flip to spring-like conditions, literally, in under 24 hours, I'd find myself conflicted. While wanting to get outside, I was feeling a little stressed that winter's hibernation might be coming to an early end. It's March now and, ready or not, nature's 2016 awakening is imminently upon us here in my Zone 7a region and garden.
Sitting at my desk inside the house one snowy February day, I spotted the male bluebird (pictured above) right outside my window, on the balcony post. I've never had the pleasure of hosting these beautiful birds in my landscape, but when the female and male landed together moments later, I thought perhaps they were scouting nearby real estate. What a lovely way to start the 2016 gardening season it would be if the bluebirds took up residence in my yard! Regardless, it's a sign of spring coming.

A walk through the neighborhood the last week of February showed more signs of spring coming.
Fighting Canadian geese from taking up residence on our riverbanks is a year-round, non-stop effort, but early spring is when they start pairing off for mating, so we are especially diligent this time of year. Sightings of robins collectively foraging in open, grassy areas, seeing evidence of crepe murder remains, and spotting crocuses popping up (even if alongside snow piles) are all signs that spring is in the not-too-distant future.

A walk through the garden on a mild day the last weekend of February prompted observation of the overall health of plants. I took pictures as part of my journaling, and made a mental list of things to tend to prior to emerging signs of new growth. As a matter of fact, I even took advantage of that mild day to knock out a few menial tasks on that list. I changed my garden flag from hearts to shamrocks.
I cleaned out a pottery birdhouse and hung it among my screen of nandina plants just inside the landscape fence which separates my neighbor's property next door.
One year a chickadee nested in the pottery birdhouse, a delightful surprise.
I also cut back my clematis vine on its tripod trellis in the NW corner of the property.
Among the scraggly vines on the trellis, there was a small nest - empty and droopy from winter snowmelt. It became collateral damage in my cleanup effort.
There will be plenty more of those messy type of nests, with wrens and sparrows seemingly being the most indiscriminate in choosing where they nest and, consequently, are some of the worst of nest builders. We have plenty of both species in our area. Wrens will even have several 'false starts' to building, as the female selects the one which will be completed.

My statuary has been a mainstay in my garden since its start, and after Valentine's Day I de-robed my book-reading boy, Augustine. He seems to have grown a bit of lichen on his curls over the years, which makes him more endearing to me. He was my only statue purchased new, in 2007.
My four seasons are doing okay, weathering well through the years.
My poor little cherub under the weeping cedar atlas tree seems to have lost an arm over time. If you look closely at the photo below, she's reclining to the right, on the ground, beside the weeping atlas. A closer view shows the deterioration of her right arm.
That's okay. She'll blend right in with the Bunny van Gogh, which I rescued last year.
Signs of growth were already apparent in the garden by late February. Sedum (Autumn Joy) beneath the birdfeeder, Love-in-a-Mist throughout the southernmost ground area, and the iris patch are all showing signs of green emerging above the mulch.
Pansies and daffodils planted last fall persevered through winter, including the Snowmageddon of 2016, but the daffs sprung up prematurely in December, confused with the warmer temps. I'm hoping they will burst in full color later this month. The pansies are great for show in fall, and then rebound again in spring.
The majority of my landscape maintenance is completed each fall, but tree trimming is addressed in late winter. This year, we will be having one large tree on our river property, a boxelder, removed.
In the photo above, it's the multi-limb tree leaning toward the street pavement. We I have spent the last several years trying to spare its inevitable fate, convincing my husband to put more money into it than it's probably worth.
We've more than once had the tree trimmed and even cabled from one limb to another, in attempts to strengthen its stature. Mother Nature has had her way with the tree, most notably during the 2012 derecho summer storm. Woodpeckers and squirrels have had their way with the tree, too. The photo below shows a couple of squirrels, scampering about (L), and sitting (R) just above a couple of the many ports of entry in and out its limbs. Boxelder bugs become a nuisance each year also. It's time.
My hesitation in taking the boxelder tree down, unfounded or not, is in exposing yet more of the surrounding trees, namely, the huge sassafras that stands on the riverbank nearest to the boxelder, to fierce winds with nothing else to block them. Time will tell.

One last update for my so-called state of the garden is in the lemon plant propagation experiment I started in winter 2015. It was a diversion from the boredom of winter, but it's turned out to be a pretty good test of time and patience, one year later.
The very top of the above collage shows the germination of seeds I extracted from my daily consumption of lemons. They sprouted into seedlings, which eventually grew from peat pots to small containers, before being transplanted last fall into one large container. The bottom right frame shows how they look now. No fruit; in fact, none is expected, but the plant is satisfying to look at, if only to confirm my green thumb is not yet showing signs of turning black.

Ready or not, spring is upon us. I'll admit I'm not ready for the workload in the landscape just yet this year, a first for me. Therein lies my own fickle feelings toward the cold weather months of hibernation and warm weather desire to get outside more. For the record, I'd choose spring any day over winter. Maybe I'll just hire a gardener. Nah. Maybe I'll just cut back on the plants I choose to nurture in the landscape this year. Or, maybe I'll change my fickle mind and get out there like I always do.

What about you? Are you chomping at the bit to get out and get your hands dirty with garden and DIY projects, and/or flea markets and yard sales? Or, do you need an excuse like winter to allow yourself down time to hibernate?

Thanks for your visit and comments - I enjoy them all. If you want to see my garden in years past, just go to the drop down menu bar at the top of my blog, under Home & Garden - My Landscape Garden, and you'll find many other posts on the subject. It's a favorite topic. Even when I'm being fickle.
Rita C. at Panoply

Just a reminder: don't forget the Traveling Totes giveaway that's going on! Be sure to leave a comment before March 15th, 2016 on that post of March 1, 2016 to have a chance to win the Mac-Kenzie Childs Courtly Check enamel pots and sticky note pad pictured below.