Saturday, January 29, 2011

Winter Interest

There's been a discussion over on Garden Rant about winter interest.  Commenters have divided into two camps, the North and South.  Fortunately we're all too civilized to start another Civil War.  So I thought I would show some of you Southern Gardeners how winter interest is done up here in New England.

I'm interested in how much snow it takes before a roof collapses.

I'm interested in whether the top of the snow will become hard and my dogs will discover that they can jump over the fence.

I'm interested in whether my garage rosemary will survive to spring (Reminder:  it's time to water that plant!).

I'm interested if anyone will hit me while I'm backing blindly out of our driveway since I can't see around the snow banks on either side of the drive.  I find the same interest at a lot of intersections.

More conventionally here are some ornamental grasses.  You can see that I didn't cut them back in the fall.

And I didn't cut back my perennials.  The Liatris 'Kobold' is still standing strong.

I planted several nice evergreen shrubs near the foundation for winter interest.  I'm sure youc an figure out what they are without me labeling them!

On a not-as-snarky note here are some shrub dogwoods (Cornus hessyii 'Garden Glow').  They do actually stick up from the snow and look nice against all the white when I look out the kitchen windows to the bird feeders.

Please be kind to us poor Northern Gardeners and don't remind us that is some places Winter Interest means looking at the hardscaping and evergreens in the garden! 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Being an Expert

Another day of snow.  Yipee (heavy sarcasm).  I was supposed to pick up a key to my new office today.  The snow means I'll be scrambling on Monday to get my office key before I have to get to classes.  I'm excited about my new office [yes, we will get to plants eventually, be patient].  All of the spaces in the building where I'll be teaching, and where all of the other members of my department have offices, are taken.  There's construction on campus so it's a temporary problem but it means I'll be in another building.  In order to get to my office after classes I'll have to go down one flight of stairs, across to the neighboring building and up three flights of stairs.   Can you say LEGS... OF... STEEL!!!!!  [The Husband is a leg man so I'm sure he'll be happy about this.]

Most importantly I will be the ONLY biologist in the building.  And we all know what that means [what?  you don't?  well good thing I'm here to explain it!] - every person with a biology question will find their way to my office at some point. [I actually hope this happens, I LOVE educating people.  Being a professor is the natural adult form of the child know-it-all.  The pupae stage, ie graduate school, is quite painful but you get to come out of that and be, well, an adult know-it-all].

How can I be an expert on all things biology?  I can't.  But I have a diverse background and, most importantly, I know how to find good sources, interpret their information and translate it into non-science English.  I can read the papers, I know several experts to ask questions (hello, Mr. Subjunctive!) and I can recognize woo.  That's all you need.  Well, that and internet access and a library.  Which I will have in my new job.  Yipee!

OK, OK, here's the plant stuff I promised you.  A picture of my Cuban Oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus).  It's got pretty leaves and a nice scent but it gets a little leggy in the winter.  Come spring I'll take new cuttings, pot them up, move them outside and when they've taken root the parent plant goes into the compost bin.  I am a cruel plant mistress.  They should be glad I don't whip them to stimulate windy conditions that cause more compact growth!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Houseplant Bloggers Bloom Day

UPDATE:  I'm quite surprised at people mentioning problems getting Rosemary to bloom.  Maybe you're not checking it at the right time.  Rosemary is a winter bloomer in warm climates.  In my previous zone 7 garden it would be blooming outside during the winter.  In some places you CAN have outside blooms year round. 

It's that time again - Garden Houseplant Bloggers Bloom Day.  This month being brought to you by 19 inches of snow on the ground, I can't wait till spring brand Hot Chocolate.

First up, not a plant typically thought of as a blooming houseplant - Pepperomia obtusifolia.  I'm not sure of a common name for this one.  This particular plant has been with me longer than The Husband.  If you count the fact that every few years I start a cutting because the parent plant has gotten too big and gangly.

Next a more typical blooming houseplant. - Anthurium sp (again I don't know the common name - it seems like each web site that talks about these has their own common name for them!  That is why I prefer the Latin names).  I can't take credit for these blooms - it's relatively new.

This is another common blooming houseplant - the Jewel Orchid, Haemaria discolor.  I bought it for the leaves (not shown) but have been pleasantly surprised by the long lasting bloom.

Here's a surprise.  Rosemary.  In the house.  Blooming.  Ok, so it had started blooming outside before I brought it inside for the winter and these are the straggler blooms but still!  Rosemary is not hardy up here so I have two pots I bring indoors for the winter.  One is inside the house.  The other in the garage where it can go dormant (I only water it about once a month out there).  Both are thriving AND we have access to fresh rosemary for cooking all winter.  I'm just worried these plants are getting too large for their pots....

Lastly a few "Annuals" - houseplants that I buy just for the winter blooming and then compost in the spring.




It's nice to have bright flowers when the world outside is cold and white (or gray).

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams for this meme!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snowmaggedon 2011

The Queen Bee asked me to post some pictures today.  We're in the midst of a blizzard here on The Edge.  So I decided to head out and photograph the gardens.

Here lie the remains of an Aster 'October Skies' (Symphyotrichum oblongifolis).  Looks like there might me a small sheltered area for some birds.

Here's one of my Buddleia.

And how about these Pieris japonica (Andromeda)?  I am planning to remove these this year because they grow too large for the spot.  Today looks like a good day to peruse the garden catalogs and think about replacement plants.

I'm also hoping to get this tree removed this year.  I have conflicting feelings about it.  It's a nice tree but it is leaning, the roots are probably invading our water and sewer lines and look at that crotch - poor structure.  It will come down one day.  If I have it taken down at least it won't take out the power lines when it falls.

The birds are crowding around the feeders.  I had to go and knock the snow off of one of them.

The Juncos and Sparrows really like the Christmas tree.  We put it near the feeder for just such usage.  Come spring I'll hack it into bits and put some in the compost and some in the brush pile.

The other big hit on a day like this is the heated bird bath.  The Mourning Doves in particular like to sit on the edge and warm their feet.

To give you an idea of how strong the snow is blowing here's a picture of a neighbors house.  That big white thing in the front yard is a Florida Dogwood.  Really.  I'm serious. This house is diagonally across the street (and we don't have huge lots here).  Not a good day to be on the roads.  The plows are trying hard to keep up but the visibility is, well, you can see the visibility.

I think I'll garden INDOORS today.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New, new, new

It's a New Year.  I'm starting a New Job.  Well, ok, so I'm going from part time to full time at the college where I teach but it does mean a New Office.  Well, ok, a desk in an office.  But it's still a New Space for me.  And we all know what that means.

New Plants!

I'm not sure yet what I'm going to take it to work.  It's not a great location, not near a window, so whatever I bring in will have to thrive (or at least limp along) in artificial lighting.  The air will be dry.  I have no idea what the temperature range will be.

I could just bring in a series of annuals like Cyclamen.  Bring them in, let them bloom for a while, then replace them.

Spider plants are always popular but they just look so much better with good lighting.  Then again I have two pots of them by the kitchen sink that need homes so free plants and placement for plants that are currently being nibbled on by cats WHO AREN'T ALLOWED ON THE COUNTERS DAMMIT!

Maybe something in the philodendron family.  But I'm not sure I want something vining.  It might drape all over the shelving and get tangled up in the textbooks.

Regardless of what I decide, studies have shown that people are less stressed and more productive if they can see greenery.  Who am I to argue? [usually the first in line but this time the theory supports my desire to have at least one office plant]

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Predictions for 2011

I decided to leave nothing to chance this year so I spent the midnight hour gazing into my (heated) bird bath.  I have converted my visions into predictions for 2011.

1.  The weather will be either too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry.  It may be a combination of the aforementioned conditions.  It will be windy here at The  Edge.

2.  I will buy a plant, get home, look it up on the Internet and discover that it is completely inappropriate for my garden.  This could be because of bad labeling (inaccurate tag), bad advice from the garden center staff or no information about the plant what so ever.  

        2b.  I will attempt to grow the plant anyway, rather than take it back and complain.

3.  I will promise my houseplants that I will pay better attention to them during the summer months.  I will break this promise, watering the houseplants only when they are desperate and repotting them during the winter when I can't work in the outside garden.

4.  I will fail to produce regular blog posts.  Instead they will be sporadic and poorly edited.

5.  I will plan more work in the garden than I have time, money and muscles to accomplish.

6.  This summer will be characterized by sore muscles and dirt under the fingernails for myself AND for all my readers.

7.  The Queen Bee will get bored with her new retirement.

8.  Global Climate Change will continue.  Politicians will argue about it but not do anything about it.

9.  Entomologists will discuss the declining number of bees.  Some will swear pesticides are affecting bees.  Some will swear pesticides do not affect bees.  No consensus will be reached.

         9b.  I will continue to believe that pesticides are bad for the environment and bad for our health and will continue to shun them in the garden.
         9c.  I will get on my soapbox about this topic at least once, knowing that I am too passionate to argue rationally but trying to do it anyway.  I will be frustrated with my lack of success in converting the world to my viewpoint.

10.  The last one is kind of confusing.  Something about a Dragon, an Eagle and a Bear.  I think I must have fallen asleep at this point.  Either that or I was channeling Nostradamus again.  His visions were always vague and, well, weird.

Stay tuned to see how many of my predictions come true!