Monday, April 21, 2014


A month or so back I brought a new houseplant home. When I went to water it I discovered that I got more than I bargained for.

Meet Walter.

At first I tried to ignore Walter, hoping he (actually s/he is a hermaphrodite but we don't have a good gender neutral term in the English language) wasn't still alive when he arrived.

No such luck. 

This week Walter came out of hibernation/ estivation and starting taking walk-abouts so I knew I had to do something. A logical thing to do would be crushing him.

I couldn't justify that to myself - why destroy him just because he ended up in a houseplant I bought?

But I know enough biology to know I can let him go, either. This isn't where he's from and even if he can survive in my garden (and eat my hostas, shudder!) he could bring diseases to the local wildlife.

So I sent The Husband down to the basement to haul out the old herpetarium. This is a set up I bought when a Cuban Tree Frog ended up at a local garden center and I took him in (he's long since passed away, rest in peace, Mack). Now it's clean, with a nice layer of composted leaf litter, a water bowl, a hide and some food. We'll see if I can get Walter to eat anything. Strangely enough there isn't a lot of information out there on how to care for garden snails in captivity... I'm having to use data from a UK site on keeping Giant African Land Snails (illegal in the US).

Every life counts, even invertebrates.

PS. Even if Walter doesn't make it this herpetarium is ideal for growing Pepperomias and other small humidity loving plants! bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Snake Porn Saturday

It's spring and the garter snakes are coming out of their winter hiding places. One of the first things they do in the spring is look for mates. Since they hibernate in groups this isn't too hard but when multiple males spy a receptive female they can form large groups called mating balls.

Here's one from my yard.

While you may not be able to tell from the photo there are at least three snakes and there is definitely mating going on between two of them. Strangely they weren't interested in moving to an area with better lighting....

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Foliage Follow Up April 2014

Ah, early spring. A really hard time to come up with foliage for the follow up. Last month I did house plants. This month I'm trying for outdoor plants.


 Chamaecyparis pisifera



Penstemon Husker Red


Sambucus Black Lace 

Stonecrop forgotus varietus

I keep telling myself "next month will be better." I hope the buds don't get killed off by this next cold spell and it does start to get better soon. I miss having leaves on the trees.

thanks to Pam at Digging for this meme.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day April 2014

April is indeed turning out to be better than March but I still don't have much blooming in the garden. No daffodils. No forsythia (but it looks like it will start soon. Unless the cold snap coming tomorrow sets it back. WHEN is spring going to really get here?).

But enough complaining about what we don't have. Let's try to celebrate what we DO have.

What would we do in the spring if it weren't for crocus? More importantly what else could the early emerging bees eat? They are so happy to see these flowers!

I love dwarf iris. Unfortunately so do the bunnies. Damn rabbits have eaten most of my dwarf iris before they've had a chance to bloom. I need my neighborhood coyotes to do a better job of pest control!

Heather. I bought this plant at a Big Box store last year. It's not a spectacular bloomer but at this time of the year I will take what I can get.

This is a NEW plant. My existing Hellebore is not yet in bloom and its blooms are tucked down in with the leaves. This one holds its flowers high above the foliage and the bees love it! One of the best ways to sell me on a plant is to see it covered in bees when I'm at the garden center. If garden centers were clever they would have a hive of domestic bees hidden in the back somewhere so that all of their plants would be covered with bees.

That might not work with most people.

Thank goodness for pansies! I did plant a few in the fall and they are still alive but not looking all that good. I had to buy new. I have four pots full of pansies, in purple (shown), butterscotch and yellow. I don't know why I didn't take pictures of the other colors. 

Snowdrops. I've had mixed luck with these. They are pretty little flowers when you look at them up close but they aren't forming large clumps so they aren't that spectacular in the garden.

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams for this meme!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Signs of Spring

Finally, I'm starting to see signs of spring. We might actually get to gardening season at some point this year!

The dwarf irises are in bloom.

And the perennials are starting to come out.

Annnnd the maple seeds are sprouting. Everywhere.

Annnnd the dogs are beginning to dig holes in the newly thawed earth [Hi, Piper, don't you look like trouble].

I guess that means I can [theoretically] plant that order from Bluestone Perennials that arrived TOO EARLY. [NO! I have to move some stuff first! and the stuff I have to move hasn't come up yet! Aghhhhhhh!]

On the good side of things the parka has been put away and the sandals have come out.

And the goldfinches have started to molt into their summer coats [I personally love the pied look].

Annnnnd... I don't think I need to say anything about this.

[I can't post a picture of Piper without including her oh-so-jealous brother, Jasper, also known as Mr. PAYATTENTIONTOME!!!!!]

Friday, April 4, 2014

Seed Starting Update

So I wrote the post about starting Tithonia seeds last weekend and scheduled it to post Friday afternoon. According to the seed package these guys should take between 7 and 14 days to emerge.

It's day 5.

Now to see if I can keep them going inside for the text 6 weeks or so and then successfully transplant them outside.

Time to start seeds

There are some plants I just can't find around here. Most of the time that's because they don't grow well but other times I'm not sure. 

File:Butterflies UFmuseum.jpg

Thanks to Ironman 11 and Wikimedia Commons for the above image

Like Tithonia rotundifolia (Mexican Sunflowers). These are large, orange blooming butterfly magnets. But I've never seen them for sale up here. So I'm finally breaking down and doing it. I'm going to try starting them from seed.

I haven't generally  had good luck with seeds but this time I'm using a technique I got from Mr. Subjunctive at PATSP. I'm starting with two "clamshells" that used to contain take out from one of my favorite local restaurants that I have SCRUBBED clean.

I'm using vermiculite in one and potting soil in the other, getting them wet and

adding seeds.

Then they perch on the bottom shelf of my plant shelves by a southwest facing window (shaded by a tree part of the day) and we'll wait and see what happens.

If all goes I'll be able to leave these containers alone for weeks, possibly until the seedlings start hitting the tops and the weather is nice enough to move them outside.

Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Finally April!

So at the beginning of March I started to get excited, because I knew that by the end of the month there would be signs of spring.

Well.... At least we don't have snow cover any more.

Let's try this again...

Yipee! It's APRIL! April is a great time of the year. It starts out dreary but I know that by the end of the month there will be signs of SPRING! and I'll be able to get out in the garden again! April is the month of HOPE.

Yeah, that sounded kind of forced to me, too.

I'm just really tired of winter. [just like every other New England gardener, I'm sure]

But there ARE some signs of spring in the garden.

I hope these crocus buds get to open later this week. I planted a LOT of crocus last fall because they bloom so early and by this time of the year I'm really, really craving flowers.

I hope these tulips don't get frozen out by another cold snap.

I hope this goldfinch gets to finish changing into his brilliant yellow summer coat so he can breed. [apologies for the picture quality - I took it though the kitchen window]

I hope I can remember what this plant is when it gets a bit bigger. And I hope the weather is good enough that I can cut out last years dead before this years growth gets too big.

April. I hope it is the month of change. I hope that by the end of the month we finally have spring.