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When is Spring?

The weather was so good this weekend, sunny and warm, not too hot. Many lawns were mowed. The SC Botanical Garden had a big plant sale, and gardeners all around worked to get their new plants into the ground before Monday’s predicted rain – a good soaking after planting is perfect. Unfortunately, by late Monday the weather report changed to prediction of possible freeze Tuesday night after the clouds moved out. So Tuesday evening had people out in jackets trying to cover and protect tender new plants.

I know this is not the worst weather, as friends farther north are still getting snow, but the timing on this was bad. It is the normal last frost date for this region, and after 80 degree temperatures, a lot of people decided that was unlikely. Hopefully the rain helped protect a lot, as I see frost on open areas that dried in the wind, and none on slightly protected areas that look wetter. My car sitting in the open, did get a coating.

Frosted car on April 16

Frosted car on April 16 

We have been enjoying the dogwood and redbud blooming this week. Only few late daffodils are still blooming, irises are showing up all around. Hostas are sprouting lots of leaves and filling in beautifully. Phlox is still giving bright patches to yards. Hillsides of trees are so pretty and lacy now, with a variety of chartreuse and greens just coming out on the bare branches, with the white dogwood peeping through. After a good rain the cars are all so shiny, now I guess we are back to thick matte coating of green from pollen, and more antihistamine.

Spring Prep in the Garden

Resident Gardener checking in here. I have some idea of blogging about my efforts to start a plant nursery and using it as a garden journal.

Blooming now: daffs, hyacinth,  hellebores, pussy willow, forsythia and winter jasmine. Day lilies and iris are 2-4 inches high, the new Chestnut tree has swelling buds. I wonder how long before it is mature enough to bloom?

With spring almost on the horizon, I am getting excited and starting to make progress. In the past week I have:

washed 50-odd pots, all 1 quart size or less

potted up 16 baby hellebores

have 8 hellebores divided for planting

gleaned multiple types of hydrangea, spirea, montauk daisies, pussy willow, curly willow and a wealth of other cuttings from a generous friend. These all need to be sectioned, treated with rooting compound and potted up – dozens and dozens and dozens worth. Last year I started about 150 pots of hydrangeas.

determined that I needed a sand bed, to be used for starting multitudes of cuttings at once, the potting up process being very labor intensive as described above. We have a large sand  pile left over from DonnaW’s dome build which will need to be relocated.

had a mature pecan tree taken out, to use that area for nursery stock. ARRGGHH, I still am having difficulty with the fact that I caused the death of a mature tree. To soften the blow, I found a wood artist  (http://www.fullmoonartists.com/wc.html)  who was excited to get the wood and – better yet – pay for having the tree taken down. As part of our agreement I get a finished piece of his work. The tree will live on in beauty, so that helps my guilt somewhat. I donated the mid-sized 4-6 inch thick pieces to a neighbor who does serious smoking for BBQ, and am hoping to get some product to sample.

purchased a cubic yard of potting soil from a local farm for the first time. This was educational. It has been windy and raining a good bit, so I specifically asked for dry mix. Guess what happens when a front loader dumps a cubic yard of dirt into your pickup bed? The entirety of the wet truck and especially all of the glass you’d like to be able to see out of, looks like it has been involved in some serious off-roading. I just *thought* I had had a working truck before!

This second weekend in March is promised to be partly cloudy, zero percent chance of rain with temps near 70.  I have so much to do including a bizillion pots yet to be washed, new flower beds to finish prepping, all the cuttings to process and  a multitude of chopped leaves to be spread as mulch.

A word on the chopped leaves source – the lady who had grown up in this house dropped by a couple of years back. Joan brought Polaroid pictures from the 1950s of the house and property; it was awesome to visit with her. I was amazed to see how much the trees had grown in just 60 years.  Joan’s mother was a big time gardener. Joan has given me iris and daylilies that her mother originally grew on this property – life does come full circle.

Joan and I were chatting one day, and I discovered to my horror that she had been hauling bags of yard clippings and shredded leaves to the dump for years! They now come to Soul’s Ease and greatly aid in soil improvement, much less weed control.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

After receiving 4 inches of rain in 36 hours, we had a beautiful clear afternoon on Wednesday, then temperatures dropped to mid 20s last night. I woke to find crystal flowers growing all around my dome, where the soil is loosened and there is a little grass sprouted in places. I even went outside in the cold to get pictures, it won’t last long, but is beautiful. The tips have a little red dirt, but the water pushed through the ground surface as it froze and is pretty white shafts of ice. I just had to share this unusual sight. (Click on the picture to enlarge).

ice crystals

ice crystals

closeup

closeup

 

 

Fall or Winter

It’s nice to be at home in Seneca again. I stayed in Roanoke for 2 1/2 weeks, with the crew to work on the house. I got to see a few friends, but stayed close for questions. I just couldn’t get into the area of the basement to sort and toss stuff, but will do so next trip. Looking at the landscape here, I feel like I’ve been gone a lot longer. There are so many leaves down, and we’ve had a couple of rainy and windy days which keep bringing them down. It just feels chilly.

rainy fall day with most of the leaves down

rainy fall day with most of the leaves down

I brought back some extra vinyl flooring that was used in the kitchen, and I like the colors for the dome. It has gray like the walls, a warm yellow shade, and red like the clay that will be tracked inside. Since the stain and sealant have not worked out, I need to do something else. Once we can move all the furniture outside, I think putting down vinyl will be the best choice. I will be talking to someone in the flooring department before making a final decision, of course.

Sharon has put down landscape timbers and added gypsum to the soil in the area where we plan to plant blueberry bushes. We have discussed using a sort of hoop house frame to put up a barrier against birds raiding the ripening berries – we don’t want to share. It will be in a central location, hopefully easy to pick. Blueberries usually are. We are planning to have a freezer full, after a few years growth. Articles we’ve read recommend snipping off buds the first year, to give the plants healthier start. Discipline. Besides, the plants are rather small at planting.

bed for blueberry planting

bed for blueberry planting

We may be delaying fruit trees, cannot decide the best location. We have to be careful not to plant too close to the next construction site. Between sufficient sunlight, compacted soil, equipment for construction and the septic system, which cannot be too near tree roots or edible plants, we are hesitant to plant. I think Sharon is going to plant a small section of strawberries, but I only want them in raised beds. Vining fruit like cantaloupe, on the other hand, I will likely plant next spring.

Bad weather – has been really cold last couple of nights, but warmer last night with more cloud cover and rain. I see 2.5 inches in the gauge since yesterday. At least the ice has stayed at higher elevations. It is still not weather in which I want to be out and about – it is so good to be retired and not required to get out in the nasty weather. I do miss my attached garage in Virginia, but not the weather they are having now, wintry mix and high winds.

Plantings

One plant (shrub) that I had not noticed before moving here to South Carolina is a Confederate Rose. And this year with all the rain we’ve had, they have been blooming extremely well. (Until this weekend’s cold spell, anyway.) Very pretty, blooms look like roses, opening in white, then changing color to light pink and eventually to deep pink. I am in a slightly different climate now, out of the mountains. Supposedly from zone 7B to 7A, but I did grow a camellia in Roanoke in a sheltered location. It just won’t grow as large as it will in SC. A friend nearby has some long-established camellias which were so tall and beautiful this spring.

confederate rose from last year's cutting

confederate rose from last year’s cutting

We are planning to plant ornamental grass, relatively short, not like pampas grass, along the driveway in the meadow. It will give us something to catch gravel that works loose, and might help with the water runoff from the higher tier of the yard. We also suspect that a drainage pipe for gray water is running to one part that we called The Swamp last winter. With the excess rain, one area was a mud pit. I’m not sure what we’ll do, but we will be watching it. Sharon wants to fix some bad plumbing in her basement, plus rearrange some bathroom fixtures (prior to a major remodel), so we may check into the drainage then.

We have been deciding on some shrubs for the lawn around the cottage. Sharon has some forsythia starts for me, and I want a couple of hydrangea and some maiden grass. I want to plant shrubs at the ends of the septic drainage bed, to let us know where to avoid when driving, planting trees or edibles, and when we build another house which will need a septic drainage bed. I have such a beautiful oakleaf hydrangea in Roanoke, from which I hope to be able to bring cuttings for Sharon to work her magic, like she did with blue hydrangea.

oakleaf hydrangea in front yard of house in Roanoke

oakleaf hydrangea in front yard of house in Roanoke

Opening New Space

A little more completed in Seneca – another load of stone arrived for the parking and turn-around, plus a thin layer on the stone already in the driveway to the dome. We won’t order it again after a rainy day. We had 1 1/4 inches of rain and the crushed stone did not flow out of the dump truck very well. We were glad we’d already arranged to have more work with the Bobcat. Ronnie smoothed out the stone beautifully. We are most pleased with this man’s work – he listens, does what we ask and adds the perfect aesthetic touch, whether it is smoothing dirt, or piling felled trees in a pile out-of-the-way.

improved driveway

improved driveway

We had a good deal of the next section of meadow cleared, via Bobcat instead of bush-hog, to get all the small trees out. Sharon can keep this cleared when spring brings new growth. The clearing work uncovered a foundation which was a barn. Lots of good topsoil around that. Originally the whole piece of property was cleared, but over the years the weeds have been allowed to grow. We don’t plan to clear everything, will keep a bit privacy between neighbors, but it is exciting to see what the cleared areas look like. It feels large.

view of cleared meadow from NE edge of driveway

view of cleared meadow from NE edge of driveway

You can see from the curve of the driveway, where I stood to take the picture, way back behind the trees. The front edge of trees is over 100 feet away. There are a couple of bare strips where the old brush was burned, plus the bare dirt beside the driveway where more was cleared.

view of meadow from front patio

view of meadow from front patio

From my patio, there is a pile of topsoil for my keyhole garden. Beyond that is another angle on the newly cleared area, with a new brush pile over 8 feet tall. A couple of months to dry and we’ll have quite a bonfire.

The build crew plans to be out next week to start painting the dome. They’ve had some problems with a couple of recent jobs, and I think my whole house build seems like it was worry-free in comparison. I hope Mother Nature will cooperate this time and give us enough rain-free days to finish. Then I can really work on getting the stone border around the dome, sow grass seed, and start preparations of the soil for landscape plants. I will also set up the frame for my keyhole garden, close to the front patio, so I can easily dump vegetable waste into the compost center. I have a lot of paper for shredding, some good topsoil, cardboard, all will go into the bed of the garden, and should be ready for plants or seeds next spring. We are looking at catalogs now. One plan is to plant a relatively short ornamental grass along the downhill side of the driveway, to attempt to keep the stone out of the yard – safer for mowing.

This and That

We have had a few days without rain, the first couple were most comfortable and had us sitting on the screened porch, enjoying birds, butterflies, and the dogs who are currently temporary or permanent residents with Sharon. It has now heated up and gotten a little more humid, so I guess we’re closer to more rain again. It is sprinkling as I write this, but shouldn’t last.

butterfly1

We’ve had so few butterflies this summer, but now that it is nearing the end, a lot more are now showing up, maybe just born this year? The butterfly garden in the center of the drive does a nice job attracting them. It also is popular with the hummingbird. So far, I’ve only seen a female, who likes both the feeder and the red salvia. There have finally been a goldfinch pair to find the feeder. At her last house, Sharon had a small flock, and this is the first to show up here. Still in the bright yellow summer plumage, cheering the place up.

butterfly2

It will be a while before the cottage is painted, as my foreman injured his back on a roofing job he’s been doing. It will be a few more weeks before he’s ready to get the crew over to tackle that. It should work out with good timing after I’m back from my family vacation/reunion.

I’ve been keeping myself busy with checking out beading websites with various demos. I decided to go ahead with some wirework I have been wanting to try. I have some thin copper wire and started to crochet it with beads. It worked up fast and I am quite pleased with the result. I am also trying some work with coiled wire – a neat little tool called a Coiling Gizmo makes it very fast and evenly spaced. I like the look it gives, although getting enough beads on the wire prior to coiling is tiresome. I even have a bead spinner to make it faster, but it is boring, but, it also results in a very pretty coiled beaded bead. I got a basic how-to booklet on chain maille. I am not sure if this will suit my interest, but want to give it a try. It has many variations with added embellishments.

After tasting some excellent scones from a restaurant in Greenville, I decided to try baking some myself. Although my mother’s parents both came to this country from Scotland, she never made them. She was an excellent baker and we have enjoyed other traditional Scottish baked goods, so I don’t know why she did not make them. Of course, I started searching the Web for recipes and tips, and find they are extremely similar to drop biscuits in this country, but usually slightly sweet. Living in the South, I definitely have made biscuits, but I prefer yeast biscuits. The variations of things that can be added to scones are amazing. We are experimenting with different ingredients and taste combinations – with a half batch on Sunday afternoon when we watch a movie. After a couple of tries with sweet fruit, this week will be cheddar and bacon bits for a savory taste. I don’t think we can miss with these. I expect to be making these for my family soon, too.