Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Blues

Is there such a thing as too many little blue flowers? One spring, I saw a bed of mixed blue bulbs at Brookside Gardens and thought I could duplicate it.The 50 million Muscari are descendants of the dozen or so bulbs I planted 20 years ago.

Muscari armeniacum
The 70 million Scilla sibirica are descendants of the 100 or so bulbs I planted. I knew I wanted a lot of Scillas. The hillside by the Knoll at Iowa State was covered with these when I was a student there.

Scilla sibirica
Chionodoxa sardensis might be my new favorite, however. It wasn't part of the original blue bulb bed, but purchased a couple of years ago when I was trying to identify other Chionodoxa .

Chionodoxa sardensis
The other Chionodoxa is below. It comes up in the woods every year, and migrated there from my original blue bulb bed. If only I had kept better records.

Chionodoxa ?
Not all my little blue flowers are bulbs, but I really must find a better spot to plant the Veronica 'Georgia Blue'. You can hardly see it among the Scillas.

Veronica Georgia Blue
I like the violets...

...but their cousins are showier.

I think pansies/violas should have faces.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Narcissus and Warm Weather

The spring bulbs flowered all in a hurry from the warm weather we had early this week (81 degrees on Tuesday). I ran out today to take some pictures while they still look good. The guys at think we'll have colder than average weather by the end of next week, however.

Anyhow, this is how some of my mid-season narcissus look today. It sure seems like they're early. Yes, I have a lot of pink ones. No, I don't know their names. Well not many anyway.

I've had all these for a long time, bought from many different sources. Below is a newer one whose name I do know, and I'm not sure what I think of it. It's called 'Lemon Glow'. I only bought a few because they were relatively expensive. The color is nice (more yellow than it looks here), but the flowers are huge, gargantuan, almost a caricature. Maybe I should move them to the back of the lot?

Update 7:13PM: The American Daffodil society has a database (with pictures) online - I think my topmost picture is 'Pink Charm'.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Gardener's Year

Executive Summary

This is my very favorite gardening book of all time. I am hopelessly prejudiced.

This is not a how-to book. If that's what you want, put it down right now. If instead, you like books about the human element in gardening, prepare to be delighted at recognizing yourself in Čapek's garden musings.

The Longer Version

It's all here - winter restlessness, fretting about the weather, the joy of spring, buying too many plants, the folly of the lawn, leaving your garden (gasp) to the care of others, the lure of garden catalogs. And all written in a slightly quaint (translated from Czech) early 20th century manner, when so many writers expressed themselves with grace and style.

I've had this book for years and reread many times the parts I particularly admired, but I read it through again before writing this. The bits I remembered were the ones that made me feel as if the author had been watching me, but I had forgotten about some of the more humorous parts: plant communities of railway stations, sectarian violence among cactus fanciers, revisionist history of dahlias.

The writing conjures up so many visions, it needs no illustrations, but Josef Čapek's Thurber-esque line drawings are perfectly in tune. I especially like the redesigned gardener, and the flowery aroma of manure.

Karel Čapek was best known as a science fiction writer - maybe he got his best ideas for fiction while puttering in the garden. He certainly seems to have spent a great deal of observant time there. What a pity he didn't get the eleven hundred years of life he calculated every gardener needs in order to really know gardening.

I mentioned that I've had this book for many years. It came to me via Garden Design magazine, when they used to publish excerpts from garden books they thought should be more well-known. I read from The Gardener's Year - I think the part about the blessed rain - and had to track down the book. I used to pester my non-gardening husband, reading aloud to him from this book, but then I discovered blogging. It's only for fear of becoming monotonous that I haven't quoted more from it.

Thanks, Carol, once again, for hosting the Garden Bloggers' Book Club.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Domain Name Transfer: Day 14

The domain name transfer problems have been resolved, and to be fair, some of it was my fault (but not all!). However, the policy at the current registrar is to wait for the grace period (5 days) to expire after receiving a valid request for a transfer. So could be back up and running as soon as this weekend, but more probably early next week.

Monday, March 26, 2007

First Wildflowers in CeVA

I think it always happens when you're not looking.

DH and I finally got around to pulling up the silt barrier around our little stream, when I looked down and saw some tiny pale blue flowers - bluets! First wildflower of the spring at our country house! I wanted to stop all work and get the camera, but I stayed at the task and took these pictures the next day. These were right down in the stream bed, but not submerged. There were only a few, and this tiny flower just happened to be the best picture, but not the best plant.

I've been watching some shrubs in the woods since last fall, hoping they might turn out to be blueberries. I think I'm correct that they're Vacciniums, but I haven't determined which species yet. They're scattered throughout the woods, but probably most numerous close to the stream. Some of the plants are tall, by which I mean over my head, say 6 feet. The flower buds were just starting to break a week ago, and yesterday a few flowers were open. There are some low-growing ones as well, which I believe are a different Vaccinium species, but those are still dormant.

There were some sedge-y things blooming next to the bluets, but not at all photogenic.

Still no fiddleheads. I know there are plenty of ferns, so I'll look again next weekend.

It was very birdy there this weekend too, but I didn't spend much time with the binoculars. The best bird of the weekend for me was seen on Sunday morning - a pileated woodpecker lazily working at the top of a dead tree. And I think the phoebes are very interested in using our house as a nesting spot. The previous weekend, I saw one checking out the ceiling fan on the front porch. This last weekend while I was sitting on the front porch a pair started to fly towards the porch and veered off when they saw me. A short time later something was rustling around in the gutters.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


First of the Season, seen and heard yesterday in northern Virginia:
  • first dandelion flower in my yard
  • first butterfly - a cabbage white, naturally
  • first song of the Eastern Phoebe

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Gardener's Block

Did you ever look at an empty spot in your garden and think "I have no idea what I want to do here"? I think this must be something like writer's block. Our house has been under renovation, inside and out, for what seems like a very long time now. The garden was all but neglected last summer as I tried to stay out of the way. Last week our deck was finally completed, and now I'm looking at a big patch of mud that needs plants (or something) on it.

You know how a zebra is a horse designed by committee? This deck is a lot like that. I created a design, of which I drew a rough sketch and turned it over to the carpenter. He interepreted it in terms of what he wanted to build; it was close enough so I let it go. Then the county made some changes during the building permit process. The permit was issued and the carpenter began to build, but the dimensions were much larger than what I had described to him. Too late at that point. Soon after that, he was no longer working for us (long story). Five months later, we found someone who would finish the job. He glanced at the plans and finished it to suit his idea of how it ought to be. And it's fine, really, but rather different than the idea I started with.

But this enormous slab of wood in the middle of the backyard truly is a block. It changed everything. Not just from the removal of plants that were in the way, but the whole shape of the garden is different. The traffic patterns are changed. The angle of viewing is changed. The upslope at the edge of the woods is gone in the middle, with the deck coming directly to meet the higher ground. The little holly tree that used to be down the steps, across the yard, and at the edge of the woods now looks like it's going to come in the house and join us for dinner. I just can't wrap my mind around these changes yet...

Domain Name Transfer: Day 9

Still no progress on the transfer of I think I know what the problem is, but it would be nice to have the current registrar tell me instead of leaving my inquiry unanswered. If I'm correct, it will be the end of next week before is up and running again. Or worst case, maybe another 2 months.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Profile Image

I've been meaning to add an image to my profile. No way am I putting up a real picture of me, but I looked something like this about 30 years ago (minus the laptop).

Image created by Portrait Illustration Maker.

Domain Name Transfer: Day 8

Last Wednesday (March 14), I finally got fed up with Yahoo Web Hosting bouncing legitimate emails to me, while managing to deliver 30-50 spam emails every day. Soooo, I signed up with another web hosting provider and began to transfer the domain name. Today, Day 8 of the process, is homeless and I don't have a blog.

But it's spring - I need a blog! This is the temporary home of TangledBranches:Cultivated until the domain name mess gets sorted out.