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Posts Tagged ‘winter gardening’

A Countrywoman’s Year by Rosemary Verey

I read this in early December and am finally getting around to sharing my favorite bits. One of my regrets is that I out off for too long writing about the winter reading of Nella Last, several years ago, and of Marion Cran. I must stay caught up.

a collection of her newspaper columns

This is one of those books arranged by months, a style of gardening book that I like very much.

Her thoughts on winter (and reading weather):

I welcome winter as a time when I can slightly change my way of life, stay indoors more, read, and give way to a lethargy that I do not have in summer. …”A sad tale’s best for winter”, wrote Shakespeare. I believe he meant this to fit the winter mood of the reader.

(Miss Willmott’s Ghost, supposedly so easy to grow and yet I have been trying to grow it for years to no avail. Maybe next year I will succeed as I have a few young plants on the go.)

Rosemary’s close observation of “nut tree” catkins in a hedge in February put me in mind of the excellent macro photos of catkins and tiny flowers on the Tootlepedal blog.

We all know the golden tassels of the male flowers covered with pollen, but less conspicuous are the clusters of small red female blossoms, now open and ready to receive pollen from the catkins. They are small but you may see bunch of bright crimson pistils enclosed within green bracts. When they are fertilised, an odd thing happens, unique I believe in our garden happenings. The flower is growing on last year’s wood but as soon as it is fertilised it starts growing away from the old wood and forms behind itself a thin twig, four or five inches long, at the end of which it ripens into a nut. As it travels, it carries with it the bract in which the flower was formed and this becomes the cup in which the nuts will lie. The leafy cup has given its name to the tree: Corylus from the Greek meaning a cup or helmet. ……the old British name was Haasel—haesle is a cap or hat and the Haesel-nutu is the hatted nut.

She concludes that close observation with a thought that stands on its own:

Whatever the weather, there will always be some phenomenon of nature to pause beside and admire, to learn from and tuck into one’s memory.

Months later, as autumn arrives:

Now the shortest days are upon us and darkness descends soon after four o’ clock. I can come in from the garden to the welcome of a warm fire and the prospect of a long peaceful evening with all those books which have been accumulating on my table.

Here is my table of books to read….

It includes obscure books that I’ve purchased and many gift books that I long to read. I usually prioritize library books because they have due dates. I hope being half retired will enable me to catch up.

I suddenly envy Rosemary’s freedom from the temptation all social media back in those days. Once upon a time though, I would have written out these passages in my commonplace book and been able to share them with only a few people.

Because it fits so perfectly here, I am adding this from the biography of Verey that I read right after this (which will be the subject of the post).


On getting up shockingly early:

But suppose you stay up till two AM reading, doesn’t that add years to your waking life, too?


On dogs:


On peaceful coexistence:

Or give up on growing hostas, like I did.

I loved every bit of this wonderful little book. I got it via interlibrary loan.

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I relished almost a week of rainy weather during the second half of January.  On the nicer days, I had to go out and garden.  I just can’t sit in and read all day on a nice day, much as I would like it.  In my 20s and early 30s, I was quite capable of staying in no matter what the weather…until the fateful year, round about 1988, when I became obsessed with gardening.

Friday, 16 January 2015

The big gardening excitement today was that MaryBeth came over with some sizeable peony starts.

peonies from Debbie

peonies from Debbie

Peonies are terribly expensive to purchase, so I was pleased indeed.

We had a good visit and then walked around the garden so that I could pickaxe out some starts of Darmera peltata for her.

Allan's photo

Allan’s photo; Smokey is walking behind me and so is MaryBeth.

handing off the Darmera to MaryBeth

handing off the Darmera to MaryBeth

DSC00445

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The weather cooperated for reading, as these photos from inside the house show.

view to the south

view to the south

patio water gardens (and the last of the paperwhites, done)

patio water gardens (and the last of the paperwhites, done)

just the weather I wanted to see

just the weather I wanted to see

bogsy woods telephoto

bogsy woods telephoto

Monday, 19 January 2015

All of these gardening days are actually half days, as we are still firmly on night owl staycation time.  Weather forced me out on the 19th to weed here and there in a scattered way.  And I got the peony starts planted.

hellebore in the front garden

hellebore in the front garden

west side, some curly teucrium piled to give to Debbie for plant sale

west side, some curly teucrium piled to give to Debbie for plant sale

west side, some crocuses in bloom

west side, some crocuses in bloom

spot of sunshine (and I like the way the soil looks)

spot of sunshine (and I like the way the soil looks so rich and crumbly)

Clematis 'Freckles' has been blooming for week after winter week.

Clematis ‘Freckles’ has been blooming for week after winter week.

I should order one of those Clematis for Klipsan Beach Cottages and for the Anchorage for some midwinter joy.  I am pretty sure I got it from Bluestone Perennials, but a search shows they don’t carry it, so maybe I got it at Joy Creek Nursery in Scappoose, Oregon.  They do, indeed, list assorted Clematis cirrhosa in their catalog (and I would like to acquire more cultivars for the winter blooms).

buttery ranunculus

buttery ranunculus

Often while I am gardening at home, I see the Life Flight helicopter go by, and it gives a moment of sadness as I know that it is a scary emergency for someone.

It is going from the hospital in Ilwaco to a larger city hospital inland.

It is going from the hospital in Ilwaco to a larger city hospital inland.

My young Garrya has winter tassels.  I’d be thrilled were it not for the sad fact that the leaves are all spotted and ugly. I wonder if I should pick them off?

sad looking leaves

sad looking leaves

I have too many weeds to pull to fuss with picking leaves off of the garrya.

I have too many weeds to pull to fuss with picking leaves off of the garrya.

I had piled some fairly dry wood into the fire pit and had a strong urge to have the first campfire of the season…

It looked enticing....

It looked enticing….

until I realized there was standing water in the lawn all around it.

until I realized there was standing water in the lawn all around it.

still too wet

still too wet

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

I went out with no firm project in mind and then suddenly decided that I would dig an edge outside our west fence all down the Nora side, to make weeding easier.

beginning the afternoon project

beginning the afternoon project, with Smokey in attendance

a half-mooned edge

a half-mooned edge

This is only about one third of the wood that I picked from Nora’s back lawn and brought in for our campfire stash.

storm fall of alder branches

storm fall of alder branches

Meanwhile, on an outing to town, Allan found that some tiny crocus are blooming in the Ilwaco planters.

Allan's photo: By the Ilwaco Pharmacy

Allan’s photo: By the Ilwaco Pharmacy

Allan's photo; we hope passersby are noticing and enjoying.

Allan’s photo; we hope passersby are noticing and enjoying.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

I had an audience of noisy crows while I weeded.

I had an audience of noisy crows while I weeded.

I tried out the panorama feature in my new-ish iPhone.

I tried out the panorama feature in my new-ish iPhone.

As I worked in the shady southeast corner of the garden, by the gate that goes to the gear shed next door, I found that the sword ferns are already started to unfurl.  This seems early to me.

There will be a lot of sword fern trimming when we go back to work.

Early unfurling. There will be a lot of sword fern trimming when we go back to work.

Allan gave the lawn its first mowing of the year.

Allan gave the lawn its first mowing of the year.

Hellebore buds in foreground

Hellebore buds in foreground

freshly mowed

freshly mowed, and a barrow of weeds

fragrant winter Lonicera (honeysuckle) in bloom...The hummingbirds were feasting from this.

fragrant winter Lonicera (honeysuckle) in bloom…The hummingbirds were feasting from this.

As dusk came, we were able to get a campfire starts and had our first hot dog roast of the season with the help of some of the dryer wood that I had stashed in the dry storage behind the garage.  The evening felt balmy and the chorus of frogs was loud beyond the bogsy woods.

fire

Thursday, 22 January 2015

I continued weeding along the east fence and next to the bogsy wood.

moss in the bogsy wood

moss in the bogsy wood, and some shells that Sheila once brought me from Mexico.

This area was the focus of my attention.

This area was the focus of my attention.

Onyx from next door kept me company for awhile.

Onyx from next door kept me company for awhile.

Onyx

Onyx

contorted filbert at the end of the center bed

contorted filbert at the end of the center bed

Sunday, 25 January 2015

a sunny day

a sunny day

a rare sighting of Calvin in the garden

a rare sighting of Calvin in the garden

I have found a spot for the two heavy blue wooden chairs, where they will not have to be moved when the lawn gets mowed.  We will use all light, inelegant plastic chairs back by the fire circle (and I won’t have to worry about them getting smashed by falling branches during windstorms).

a most satisfactory idea

a most satisfactory idea

Mary in the garden

Mary in the garden

Calvin and Smokey

Calvin and Smokey

cal

I’m pleased to see Calvin getting braver.

Calvin and the brothers, Smokey and Frosty, are ten, and mother Mary is possibly as old as thirteen.

Sunday was actually hot, in the low 60s.  I turned out a compost bin and further tidied up the debris pile next to Nora’s driveway.

compost

compost bin, before. It is supposed to spin, but doesn’t.

Now that we are no longer collecting compost from the local coffee shop, I have extra bins so I also dragged two of the plastic bins up and placed them right behind the house for composting yard waste (thus decreasing the size of the debris pile).

The job of digging out that non-rototing deep bin plumb wore me out.  Allan came home from his outing and helped me finish, thank goodness (thank Allan, actually).

Aftereward, I went back to the bogsy wood to cool off by looking at water.

still water in the bogsy woods

still water in the bogsy woods

inside the south fence, from the bridge

inside the south fence, from the bridge

I had been wanting since autumn of 2010 to have a bench outside the south fence, by the meander line.  Finally, I had one to spare: the bench that used to provide a sit spot where the blue chairs are now.

mission accomplished at long last!

mission accomplished at long last!

I sat out here very content while the sun went down and because I was quiet, the frogs started chirping…although not in the big pool right in front of me.

the seasonal pool at the meander line

the seasonal pool at the meander line

 

If i hadn't pulled some grass last fall, that pool would be like this area to my left.

If i hadn’t pulled some grass last fall, that pool would be like this area to my left.  (Better for frogs to have some wild areas.)

Mary joined me.

Mary joined me.

She approved of the new bench.

She approved of the new sit spot.

m

 

mary

evening willows and water

evening willows and water

looking west

looking west

looking east

looking east

I could just see, beyond the green gear shed, the roof of the community college annex where I had planned to sign up for a water colour class.  I think it was starting tomorrow and I had simply not mustered up the energy to take it.  I treasure my evenings so much that I did not want to give any up, and I did not feel up to the conversational aspects of taking a class.  I have to admit that the Waterlogue phone app has satisfied some of my need to see how scenes would look as a watercolour.

"painted" with one click.  I know it is cheating!

“painted” with one click. I know it is cheating!

Looking straight south...

Looking straight south…telephoto

I feel I am sitting a bit below the street by the port buildings.  Where I sit used to be waterfront; everything to the south was built on fill in the 1950s.

setting sun over Cape Disappointment from my new sit spot

setting sun over Cape Disappointment from my new sit spot

It would have been the perfect evening for a fire, but we had a party to attend at the Sou’wester Lodge instead (see tomorrow’s post for that).

Monday, 26 January 2015

Still working in the back corner.  This used to be Mount Sod, where the grass dug up from the front garden ended up.  When we began the garden in November 2010, we dug up the front lawn so that I could plant bulbs right away.  The back beds I made with soil piled on newspaper right over the sod.  I planted potatoes in pockets of soil in Mount Sod and they worked very well at cleaning the pile and turning it into good dirt.  But now I want it completely de-spudified so I can plant shrubs and trees.  It turns out to be quite hard to get rid of every last potato.

questing for potatoes

questing for potatoes

I am moving some of the spuds to the debris pile behind the garage, and I’m trying something I read about: planting some of them in cardboard boxes.

Allan gave me some boxes from his shed.

Allan gave me some boxes from his shed.

Planted with Yukon Gold and red fingerling potatoes

Planted with Yukon Gold and red fingerling potatoes

The boxes, with soil in them,  will get buried by debris, and maybe they will make it easier to harvest potatoes at the end of the season.  I might try the same thing with some squash plants, and the foliage can cover the debris pile for the summer.  My eventual plan is to put a cute little garden shed here to provide privacy between the two houses.

a hellebore to enjoy while digging for spuds

a hellebore to enjoy while digging for spuds

On the 26th, I had some reading weather (at last!).  On the 28th, I swanned about with Nancy, and on the 29th we worked.  When we got home from the workday, I heard an ominous dripping sound from under my bathroom floor.  Worse yet, I remembered I had heard it in the wee hours of the night before and thought it was merely the sound of drizzle.  Allan crawled under the house and found this:

29 January: a sad sight indeed

29 January: a sad sight indeed

It was hot water, too.  We had early baths and then turned the water off till the next morning.  The next day, we got a notice from the city that they thought we had a leak somewhere.  That was kind of them, and is also an ominous hint that our bill may be high.  (I hope they  had JUST read our meter!)

Friday, 30 January 2015

To the rescue!

To the rescue!

The plumbing situation had us up very early.  (Allan got a call-back from Taft at 7 AM).  Neither of us had a whole lot of energy as a result.  The air felt rather chilly till I actually got going on a task.

I puttered around with weeding

I puttered around with weeding.

I set myself some small tasks that would give satisfaction.

the weedy base of a rose

the weedy base of a rose

That is a very mean rose, and yet is sentimental to me as it’s a white rambler that I started from a cutting from Maxine’s garden.  Maxine, Jo’s mom, was my first gardening client on the peninsula.

I trimmed the lower branches in order to access the weedy grass.

very satisfying

very satisfying

Allan tied down some branches from the Paul's Himalayan Musk rambling rose.

Allan tied down some branches from the Paul’s Himalayan Musk rambling rose.

Mary enjoyed the sun.

Mary enjoyed the sun.

the contorted filbert

looking north through the contorted filbert

hellebore admiration

hellebore admiration

Smokey and Frosty get a visit from Onyx

Smokey and Frosty get a visit from Onyx

We decided to have a fire.  It took the bellows to get it going.

bellows

I had just been reading an enjoyable psychology book called The Upside of Your Dark Side.  One thing it said was that sometimes we want something more than we actually like it when we get it.  Tonight’s fire was sort of like that, as the temperature had dropped and it was not entirely pleasant to sit out.

campfire

fire

We did enjoy toasting and eating spicey cajun sausages.

dogs

I have Googled what we can toast on a fork that is healthier for summer campfires as we cannot live on a diet of roasted hot dogs.  (Bell peppers and apple slices are one suggestion.)

Moon over the gear shed.

Moon over the gear shed.

I liked the glow in the window of the gate-door.

I liked the glow in the window of the gate-door.

We did not linger outside after our campfire dinner.  I was hoping for rain on Saturday as a large stack of books had been accumulating during all this gardening weather.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Still no rain!  I worked on a blog entry about January outings for awhile but could not stay indoors.  I did not have a big plan so just started some weeding in the front garden.

before

before

The carex (Ice Dancer?) all along the edge looks tatty, so I chopped it hard with hedge shears.

The carex (Ice Dancer?) all along the edge looks tatty, so I chopped it hard with hedge shears.

Early crocuses have nicely clumped up.  I have gotten NO snowdrops so far in my own garden, and I find that disturbing.

Early crocuses have nicely clumped up. I have gotten NO snowdrops so far in my own garden, and I find that disturbing.

I was inspired to radically thin my clump of Rubus lineatus.   I’d planted it with a casual feeling that it would die in winters anyway, as it had died in winter every time I planted it in my former garden.  However, it has thrived and it is spreading vigorously.

That tall...um..Rubus something?? that I wanted for a long time and now have might be a bit vigourous.

From summertime: “That tall…um..Rubus something?? that I wanted for a long time and now have might be a bit vigourous.”

Rubus linneatus...amazing leaves.  Also had it, and it died, and I just bought it again....a familiar theme.

In my former garden: “Rubus linneatus…amazing leaves. Also had it, and it died, and I just bought it again….a familiar theme.”

The new leaves have a pretty little white feathery effect, provided by silvery-white undersides, when they start to emerge.  I don’t have a good photo of that.  Wikipedia commons does:

800px-Rubus_lineatus

So in the winter, I could see how it was spreading into other things, including my very special new tree (protected by bamboo).

The bamboo protects my variegated Davidia.

The bamboo to the right protects my variegated Davidia.

All the stems of the Rubus came up with a good yank except for this one, on the edge of a hellebore, that needed some hard shoveling.

All the stems of the Rubus came up with a good yank except for this one, on the edge of a hellebore, that needed some hard shoveling.

The Rubus is now strictly editing.  (In the foreground is a bamboo pole for a lily support).

The Rubus is now strictly editing. (In the foreground is a bamboo pole for a lily support).

Got lots of rooted clumps with sprouts at the base.  Planted some in the bogsy woods...to regret later?  and saved some for Debbie to collect for the plant sale, if she wants them.

Got lots of rooted clumps with sprouts at the base. Planted some in the bogsy woods…to regret later? and saved some for Debbie to collect for the plant sale, if she wants them.

end of day; Allan had kindly dug out some running clumps of the carex (also saved for Debbie).

end of day; Allan had kindly dug out some running clumps of the carex (also saved for Debbie).

a young witchhazel just coming into bloom by the front gate

a young witchhazel just coming into bloom by the front gate

My BIG plan for January had been to get a load of maybe five yards of mulch delivered to build up the edges of some of the garden beds.  I delayed too long, and now rain (reading time!) is predicted.  (Surely on Sunday!)  A load of soil blocked our garage access and needs to be moves as quickly as possible.  I think I will just get one yard at time at the end of work days since my BIG plan did not come to fruition.

To close the month, we went to a musical performance at the Sou’wester.  (See tomorrow’s post.)  I have extended staycation for at least one more week.

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2012 was not the year to be able to start Staycation in early December.  Bulb hell lasted extra long because the bulbs were shipped late, thus sorted late and planted later than usual.  We extricated ourselves from work, with a couple of winter work projects still undone and postponed till February, by mid-December.

On lovely winter afternoons after heavy frost had melted, I expanded many of the garden beds, increasing the width of the side beds and the length of two of the three big flower beds.   The before and during photos are gone, as are the heavy frost from my window photos, in the horrid (but not unexpected, so I should have backed up those January photos) computer crash of late January.  If I ever insert them here, you’ll know some wonderful techie person retrieved them for me.

winter project "after": expanded east and middle bed to the south

winter project “after”: expanded east and middle bed to the south

middle bed lengthened

middle bed lengthened

I expanded the beds along the front of the bogsy woods.  My main idea was to make for less mowing.  My old garden had no lawn, and while I love the green paths (which would be just moss if I had my way), the mowing takes a long time.  Tom Hornbuckle got me so obsessed with the look of a nice short lawn that late last summer, I started to follow his example and mow every three days.  There is no way I can keep that up with such a large grass area, so some more lawn had to go, while still leaving a big enough area for the fire circle.

east side of bogsy wood shade bed expaned

east side of bogsy wood shade bed expanded

west side of bogsy wood shade bed expanded

west side of bogsy wood shade bed expanded

The above was a clean debris pile for the autumn, so here I just gave soil thrown over some of the debris with a planting area in front.  I moved hydrangeas into it a bit later.

Along the west side fence, I made the bed wider and longer and also widened the west side of the flower bed along the green path.

to the left: 1-23-12; to the right: 2-1-13

to the left: 1-23-12; to the right: 2-1-13

The lawn path is narrower but still comfortable for two people.

garden widened on both sides

garden widened on both sides

The purple paint has held up well on the old camellia bush.

The purple paint has held up well on the old camellia bush.

Meanwhile, the old boxes in which glass had been delivered to Long Beach City Works, and which had served as raised bed veg planters:

winter 2011

January 2011

got moved and Allan lined them with pond liner, built a shelf around them and turned them into a water feature.

1 Feb 2012

1 Feb 2012

This had actually been my first thought for the boxes, inspired by these at Cistus Nursery on Sauvie Island:

Cistus water boxes

Cistus water boxes

I like the way that their two boxes are a little bit staggered, but that did not work out in our small patio space.

Where our boxes had been, I had expanded the bed in fall and used it to pile clean yard waste from jobs, and now finished it as an herb bed, as theoretically the deer will not eat them.

new bed (with some old pumpkins)

new bed (with some old pumpkins)

On the left you can see the big pile of sod from expanded beds; we are gradually feeding it into the garbage can every week, as I have nowhere that I want to make a new sod pile for breaking down.

Now the area by the garden boat, where the herbs used to be, is empty and available for edible crops that need protection from deer.

empty space by garden boat

empty space by garden boat

I still have a vague idea of getting more into edible gardening and being on the Edible Garden Tour.   As I had said to my touring companion after visiting one of the gardens on that tour, “I’m two raised planters away from qualifying for this tour.”  But my problem is that I keep filling every empty spot up with ornamentals. And my other big problem is that most of the edible crops I do manage to grow, I rarely get around to eating because I am too busy to harvest.   I WOULD like to show that an edible garden can be combined with an ornamental one….and that an edible garden can be quirky and artistic which was something that was, in my opinion, really missing from the edible tour.

All of the garden bed expansions were finished with Soil Energy and Cow Fiber.

I kept planning to get Soil Energy in December and postponing it, so did not get the seven yard pile delivered from Peninsula Landscape Supply till January 21st.

Soil Energy delivery, 21 January

Soil Energy delivery, 21 January

You can see, above, the handy new divided truck that they have for deliveries to two different things at once, say a load of river rock and a load of of mulch.  (You can also see who got a new collage-making app.)

Allan went to Seattle for his brother’s wedding and during the five days he was gone, I got the whole eight yards moved to all the new areas of the garden.

Seven yards never looks very big when delivered.

Seven yards never looks very big when delivered.

Allan returned with a photo of a lovely planting at the King Street Train Station.  (He had a fun train ride to Leavenworth.)

interlude: a planting in Seattle

interlude: a planting in Seattle

On the evening January 26th, I got four yards of washed dairy manure (cow fiber) delivered from The Planter Box.

early evening delivery of cow fiber

early evening delivery of cow fiber

A week of rain ensued and the pile just sat, blocking our entrance to the garage.  We could not go back to work till I got it moved because it made it too difficult to load our tools into the car!

Rain filled the ditches in the bogsy woods.

Rain filled the ditches in the bogsy woods.

water under the bridge

water under the bridge

rainwater in the bogsy wood swale

rainwater in the bogsy wood swale

and in the big ditch between us and the Port parking lots.

and in the big ditch between us and the Port parking lots.

When the rain broke, I got busy mulching.  I had enough for the front yard garden beds and the east and west big flower beds in the back yard.

front bed between our driveway and Nora's driveway

front bed between our driveway and Nora’s driveway

front garden mulched

front garden mulched, 3 February…with track in lawn from much wheelbarrowing

east flower bed, back garden

east flower bed, back garden

It looks so lovely mulched with cow fiber!

window view

window view, 3 February

the west bed, 3 February

the west bed, 4 February

When I ran out of steam, Allan helped me move the last yard.  Then we had some more rain and thus a further excuse to not return to work till February 10th.  Our staycation had lasted six weeks.  (I figured out once that considering how much we work, a six week break ends up being two weeks less per year than people who have a five day a week job with weekends, holidays, and a two week vacation.)  I found it hard to believe that in a mere eight weeks off over the time between Nov 2010 and February 2012, I had created the whole garden AND Allan and I had made the patio and other gravel areas.  I must have had a much bigger head of energy during that winter.

Next, back to work, and the flowers of early February.

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