Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Still Weirded Out

Oh, I'll be ok...I'm just feeling a bit like I fell down a rabbit hole (Alice in Wonderland has nothing on me) by this very early spring and nearly non-existent past winter.

Carl and I have been running in circles already, fretting about all the stuff that needs doing.  But then we catch our breath just a little and remember it's only March and not May.  There might just be enough time to get some pressing stuff done in time for this coming gardening season's activities.

Two weekends ago, Joel was home and helped us put up the greenhouse. Since I'm always complainin' there's so much work to do, why don't we leave it up all the time?  Well, because it's not the most attractive structure in the entire world, that's why and because it's in the driveway for all to see.  We used to put it behind the garage, but that was in the days before my wash-lines were moved to the same spot.  (I know how silly that sounds--- wash-lines?? but hey, I have no dryer, once again, by choice, so cut me some slack, ha.)  The greenhouse is typically in place from mid-March until the first week in June and then it is all packed up and put back in the shed. 

We do have 98 acres here and I suppose we could find a spot for the structure to sit permanently, but then there would be the need for running hoses and electricity all over creation, so, for now, we'll just settle for a nomadic greenhouse. My flower seeds arrived on Monday, so I'll write about my adventures in the greenhouse soon.

This past weekend Carl and I were on our own.  Carl has gone back to work on the stone walls down in the Formal Garden since the frost is out of the ground now and it's rather dry down there.  I went and fetched the tractor from my mother's shed and hauled up rocks for him on pallets from the Back Eight until he took over because he 'knew what rocks he wanted'.   He's very picky, but I'm not complaining.  (Much.)

In the picture below, here we are in the Formal Garden--on either side of the six crab apple trees  planted down there are two calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' grass clumps.  You can just see them starting to green up.  I adore good ol' Karl Foerster for his well-behaved presence in the garden.  There's a total of 24 clumps this size down in this garden, all from one original plant purchased years ago and it's time to split them again. 

We were running around wondering where we could use them to their best advantage but haven't thought of anything just yet so maybe they will be spending another year in their current home.  We were on a garden tour years ago and the gardeners used a row of ornamental grasses in the middle of their lawn (much like our River Bed of annuals) and it was stunning.  If we're going to do something with them, it would be best to move and divide the clumps now before they grow a lot more.  We never thought we'd have to worry about March being too late in the season, though!

One thing that surprised both of us was the fact we lost some trees this past winter.  Of all things, four Dwarf Alberta Spruces and so far, two Mugho Pines....both of which are hardy to at least -25 or more. 

We were completely stumped by why we lost these two trees which are over ten years old.  There is no wind in this area and they have never winter-burned due to the sheltered location.   Just beyond these two dead trees are three more healthy specimens and then we have six more of them down by the dome itself which were planted about fifteen years ago...

I know Dwarf Alberta Spruces are not everyone's cup of tea due to their being so common and their problems with red spider mites and tendency to winter burn, but they were cheap when we planted them and they do make a statement when they're having a good year.  It's just a shame to lose them after growing them from a 6" tall tree.  These by the dome are over 6' tall now.

In this picture, you can see that the Dwarf Alberta Spruce survived the winter just fine, but the Mugho Pines are dead and dying. 

I had some dwarf Albertas planted at my mother's house and hers have died also.  Every needle is brown.  I wonder if it's because of the warm winter we had.  Is it possible the trees never really went dormant and then when the ground did freeze, they died due to lack of moisture?  I guess it's just one of those mysteries we'll never know the answer to.  It's just weird to lose trees rated to Zone 3 and below when we had such a mild winter.

Another casualty to the shrub list was this poor Bird's Nest Spruce.  There is a teeny, tiny bit of green left right in the middle, but I don't have high hopes for this poor shrub, either.  Strange, isn't it?  Who would think a winter could be too warm?

 Some of the newer shrubs we planted last summer have come through with flying colors.  I cannot for the life of me remember the name of this has yellow and green leaves, but it was one I had my doubts about.  When I think of it, I'll let you know (ah, advancing age!).....but I was amazed to see it had pulled through.  At least, as long as we don't go way below zero again after it has completely leafed out!

We have some weddings coming again this summer with a ceremony being planned here, so we have to get the Formal Garden done for certain.

Despite the warm winter, the floor in the Dome has heaved up again with the frost, so we have to fix it.  Carl was staring at the job on Sunday when I snapped this picture.  He was not amused.  We'll have to pull up all the pavers and re-level the floor out again.  It's not a difficult job, really, just time-consuming and one more thing on the List. 

Over the winter, I let the sedums and grasses stand for Winter Interest, but now winter is done and gone and the sedums are growing like crazy, so I finally got my act together on Sunday and cleaned out the Escarpment Bed.  Carl went out and brought up some pine needle mulch from the Back Eight, so we have one bed done.  (In March?  I'm telling you, this is bizarre.)

Ann stopped in on Sunday to see if she could lend us a hand or two.  As always, of course we found something for her to do.  Actually, she suggested it......would it be alright with us if she skimmed the Quarry Pond? 

Would it be alright???  Ah, yes, it would be Fantastic!!  The pond was in need of drastic help.

Soon Ann was seated in a kayak and using one of our canoes as a 'bucket, she was scooping up the winter's debris of floating leaves and other gunk.  This job took her a few hours; we're so Fortunate to have her help.

When Ann was done, we had a sparkly pond surface. 

We ended the night with a bonfire of all the debris I had collected during the day.
The temperature dropped very quickly on Sunday night; we were working in our shirtsleeves all day but by early evening, out came the winter coats.   The dried ornamental grasses burn rapidly and make a good fire starter for damp campfire wood.

I'm still amazed at how many flowers are open in March.  This is truly a record.  I almost hate to see them so soon since it means they'll be gone before I know it.

I guess all we can do is enjoy what we have, right?

Carpe Diem.


Junebug said...

I'm so enjoying what you have!!! And I'm adding nice weather to the list. We are on the way to setting a record for the wettest March in history. Can you tell I am sick of rain!!! All I can do is make mud pies in my yard, ugh! Some day I am coming to visit that beautiful yard of yours, on my bucket list!! Enjoy you Spring weather and have fun moving more rocks!

Alison said...

It's so wonderful to see the beauty restarting in your garden again, so early in the season! I don't know for certain, but I bet your theory about why your shrubs died is correct. Although we have mostly mild winters here, sometimes plants rated for harsher climates don't survive, because of our winter wet, or because they don't go completely dormant, and then an unexpected week of freezing temps hits them.

myomyohi said...


It's always sad when you lose an established tree or shrub. You half expect it with new plantings, but not plants you've had around awhile, and after such a mild winter.

All winter I've been thinking of what needs done outside once it warms up.... if only there were 4 of me that were twice as ambitious and stronger too.

You guys have so much I don't know how you keep up with it.


Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

Karen, I have found when I have less snow I have more pant damage..happened this year too...we had warm weather and now we are bracing for our second bad freeze...too many early blooms flowered in a quick blaze of glory with the heat and now the later bulbs are dropping in the freeze...oh well...glad to be back visiting...I have been absent for too the winding wall!

africanaussie said...

I remember those photos of you almost obliterated by the snow flying off the snowblower and that was a mild one? I love all your spring flowers, and you certainly seem to be in for a busy time. Did I miss the final photo of your tiffany lamp? I will go and search for it right now.

Carol said...

Yes it is a strange year indeed! My daffodils are almost gone already and the tulips are in bloom.
Like you I have been feeling rushed and behind and then I too remind myself it's only March.
Today I burned off half of my vegetable garden and will do the other half on Friday. I had let it go to weeds last summer during the heat wave :o(

Indie said...

Wow, you guys have been busy! That's too bad about the trees. The heat has been stressing out some of my plants here as well..

El Gaucho said...

Sorry to hear of the shrub loss, that is a mystery. And it's so impressive to see you and Carl already in the full swing of Spring/Summer work mode. Hopefully it will be a warm and glorious summer.

HolleyGarden said...

I've heard some other people complain that after two very cold winters, this warm winter is what caused their shrubs to die! Very odd indeed. So sorry. I hadn't thought about having to skim using a kayak! I think that would be fun! It's so beautiful there. Every time I see your garden, I'm amazed all over again. Happy spring. I, too, have been feeling like it's May and have to remind myself it's only March. It's been in the mid-80's here!

Jennifer said...

Hi Karen, I have had mixed success with my Alberta Spruce. They seem to fall victim to winter damage and can end up looking bedraggled. I have never had the misfortune to loose one of my dwarf nest spruces. Too bad about yours and the loss of the mugho pines.Cleaning up the pond would have been a bit of work. How nice to have someone willing to help. said...

Such beauty all around! And the kayak suited the purpose perfectly along with the canoe for a dumpstation! I'm sure that was a fun way to get some work completed.

In no time, everything will be blooming and alive with color!


Debbie@Debbie-Dabble and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...

I can not even imagine the amount of work that you must have to do to keep all of your grounds looking so beautiful!!
I can't even imagine having 89 acres of land compared to my little postage stamp of a back yard!!
It is hard to think that it is still only March. I have my front porch cleaned off and we put our mulch down in our front flower bed already when we don't really do that until May!!I guess I could be happy that I am ahead of the game this year!!

I am playing catch up...


Shyrlene said...

Karen - you have gotten the 'jump' on Spring, and it is really impressive with how much work you have gotten accomplished already. (The weeding and composting I've done so far is a fraction of that!)

Beth said...

The quarry pond is so very beautiful! Have a wonderful weekend, Karen.
Blessings, Beth
p.s. I hope Ron and I can come up next summer (2013) to see it all in person.

Shirley said...

Your garden looks terrific, making me even more anxious for spring! Alfalfa already in Wisconsin! Surely that is a record! Poor little spruce. They truly suffer from the sun and wind in winter.