Tag Archive | spring flowers

Signs of Spring

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Although snow flurries visited us just a couple days ago, signs of spring are everywhere.  The crocuses opened their petals wide to the bit of sun we saw this morning.  The spring peepers, tiny frogs with big voices that live in our pond, have been getting louder every night for a week.  Yesterday I heard the first male grouse thumping out his mating call from deep in the woods.  Male woodcocks hold their nightly aerobatic shows in the skies above the orchards.

The snow has all melted except for tiny remnant patches in the shade where once tall drifts stood.  Today I set up the outdoor cage so our house cats can enjoy some safe time outside.  All three cats have ventured out the pet door to sit in the wind for a few minutes.

After nearly a week of dreary clouds and sporadic rain showers, the weather is finally changing.  Once the high winds die and the sun comes out, we might even see temperatures in the 60s, the weather people say. For sure that will bring the worst sign of spring:  the bugs–black flies and mosquitoes.  Until then, let’s enjoy the crocuses.

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A Tiny Spot of Spring

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This sanctuary in the south window is my tiny spot of spring.  The wind is howling today, gusting to 30 mph. The jet stream is a constant dull roar overhead.  This wind is what’s left of the winter storm named Neptune by the Weather Channel.  We were warned it would be a blizzard, but it went out to sea before reaching central Maine and we received only a few inches of snow.  But plenty of high winds.  The temperature was near 20 F at mid-day, a very chilly proposition with the wind chill.  The horses are huddled against the south side of the barn soaking up the sun and sheltering from the wind.

Although I can not escape the sound of the wind, the sunlight is strong now, warming the house in the morning and coaxing flowers from my plants.  I purchased a hyacinth last week that is still blooming nicely. The scent is heavenly.  My cyclamen has several pretty pink flowers and the miniature rose has graced me with three buds.  The peach-colored flowers have a strong scent and seem big for a miniature plant.  Last month I clipped the branches of the rose back and gave it fertilizer.  The new blossoms are my reward.  I’m trying very hard to see just the lovely flowers and not the four feet of snow piled outside the window.a2

Bearded Irises

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The irises are blooming, one of my favorite times!  We have bearded iris plantings in several areas of the yard.  The name bearded refers to the fuzzy, beard-like patch on the three main petals.

Most of our irises are two-toned purple with a wonderful grape-like scent.  a2These thrive in our gardens with very little care.  Every other year I have to divide the plants and find new spots for them so the beds don’t become too crowded.

Irises grow from a long rhizome at or just beneath the soil surface. In late summer, new rhizomes can be cut and removed, with the roots and a trimmed leaf fan attached, for replanting elsewhere.

a3With a little attention, such as occasional dividing, weeding, mulching and fertilizing, irises will reward the gardener with a multitude of large, fragrant blooms. They also make great cut flowers.  I gather the ones that bend over from rain and fill vases in the house.

Two years ago I planted a new variety called Hemstitched and the plants are blooming for the first time this year.  The flowers are very large, white laced with purple and with a heavy, grape fragrance.a5a4

A little later in the season, the Siberian irises will open. Siberian irises are not bearded, and resemble the wild blue flag iris.  We have plantings in purple and yellow. The yellow Siberian irises are particularly vigorous and need frequent dividing.

 

 

Star Magnolia

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So proud of my baby star magnolia!  This is its third year.  The first year it was one foot tall and gave me one lovely flower.  Last year it grew a foot and made three flowers.  This year it’s about three feet tall and has eight blooms.  So very pretty and the flowers smell lovely in the bright sun.

Magnolias are an ancient family of flowering shrub or tree.  Their leaves and blossoms are waxy.  The plants evolved before bees developed so it is theorized that beetles or other walking, chewing insects pollinated them, hence the plant needed to be tough to withstand damage.  In the photo above you can see the legs and feeler of a beetle on a petal.  The flower form is very old.  There are reports of fossil species from the magnolia family dating to nearly 130 million years ago.  The dinosaurs enjoyed the magnolia’s fragrant show.

Star magnolias are robust and can survive the northern chill that would destroy their southern relatives.  The flowers for the next season are formed during the summer and winter over in fuzzy little pods called bracts at the ends of the branches.  This past winter the temperatures briefly dipped to twenty below zero with no apparent ill effects to the plant.

The tree blooms before the leaves develop, so the form is an open framework covered with large, bright white flowers.  Each night the blooms close, much like a water lily.  In the full sun they open and emit a powerful, delicious scent that vaguely reminds me of white pond lilies.

I sure hope my little tree continues to thrive.  Many people in the area have star magnolias blooming on their lawns so I have every chance of success with mine.  We live in a colder-than-average microclimate here at the farm so I keep my fingers crossed every winter.
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Here are links to a couple interesting articles about magnolias:
http://ferrebeekeeper.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/flowering-magnolias/
http://www.adonline.id.au/plantevol/tour/angiosperms/

Transplanting Trees and First Daffodils

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The first daffodils opened their blooms today.  With all the cloudy, damp, chilly weather, the spring flowers have been a little slow.  The tips of some of the daffodil leaves turned brown from freezing. This occurred soon after the leaves emerged from the ground during a late cold snap and snow storm a couple weeks ago.

Spring is the best time to transplant most trees.  The plants get a full growing season to establish roots before cold weather hits.  So early in the year, the temperatures are pleasantly cool for strenuous work and there are no biting insects around.

I am working to plant a second stand of trees between our house and the busy road.  We have one hedge of blue spruces about 40 feet tall.  The lower branches are thinning out and don’t provide much privacy.  A second line of evergreens will fill in the lower part, providing us a shield from prying eyes and loud traffic.  Once the trees reach a good size, they will also help prevent vehicles from hitting our house if they leave the road.a3

Balsam fir is a good tree for privacy hedges.  A fast growing tree with spreading limbs thickly covered with needles, balsam provides quick coverage.  Lucky for us, we own many acres of trees and don’t have to buy balsams.  I merely hike out and dig up a few young fir trees.

Most of the balsams I transplant are being saved from certain death.  In our apple orchards, I am frequently unable to mow close to the tree trunks.  Saplings of many tree species establish there and have to be cut by hand.  To obtain great young balsams, I go out in the orchard and remove them roots and all from beneath the limbs of apple trees.a2

To me, the best jobs achieve more than one purpose and so it is with transplanting balsams for a privacy hedge.  The orchard is tended, young balsams get a chance at life and, if we’re lucky, one day soon we will have a nice thick stand of trees between us and the road.

The photo at left is of balsams springing up under our apple trees.   In the photo above, I have set out the transplanted balsams just beyond the state’s right-of-way along the road.  In the foreground are four baby balsams I’ve moved this year.  In the background are two taller balsams that I transplanted three years ago.  The growth is very rapid once the young trees have access to sunlight.  I do worry that some jerk will lop off their heads for Christmas trees.  Extra vigilance at the holidays is required.

Warm England

daffsI’m in England, visiting my mum.  She lives in Kent, the southern part of England where the temperatures are quite moderate and they hardly ever get frost or snow.  See how the daffodils are up and almost ready to bloom on Feb. 21!

Her azalea plant is in full bloom, very pretty.  azThe lawns are green, and some trees, mostly what look like cherries, are blooming.  Also the gorse is flowering, a pretty yellow bush. There are lots of birds singing and the sun is bright with temps getting into the fifties today.  A lovely break from three feet of snow and temps in the teens in Maine.

After a few days in the UK, Mum and I are flying down to Portugal, to the Algarve, the beautiful southern coast.  I hope to have some excellent shots of Portugal to blog about soon.rose

Here is the back lawn at my mum’s in Kent, with a small pyracantha bush covered in bunches of tiny berries the birds love.  I still am not accustomed to all the green after months of ice and snow.

Poor England has not escaped the ravages of winter.  Their suffering has come in the form of endless rain.  The flooding is evident in farm fields and I even saw a soccer field under water.  I am very fortunate to have the sun today!