Bastard Rabbits!

[updated with photos, 5/2/09]
I was too mad to get the camera to provide you photographic evidence, but Believe me, RABBITS SUCK! Yesterday there were six pink tulips (returning gifts from the squirrels several years ago) just about to open. This evening they were all gone-- only a couple of crumpled pink petals lying on the ground remain. For a moment, I thought some person came into my backyard and stole them. But, no, just the flower heads were gone, the tall, headless stems remained.

They've also bitten several not-yet-open flower heads on my new Greigii Tulips IN HALF. The ones that have been spared are very pretty! And to top it off, I'm out of hot pepper spray. Crap.

At least I know I am not alone in my suffering.


Birds and gardens go together. This flock of cedar waxwings visited over the weekend. They were in the bushes and the neighbor's trees. Most visited my bird bath. This is only the third time I've ever seen waxwings.

If you're a fan of both birds and plants, you might be interested in Birds and Blooms, and magazine with reader generated content and a Web site.

Theodore Wirth Park gardens

We're lucky to have some very fine municipal parks in the Twin Cities. One of my favorites is the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. I took a hike through the park yesterday. Hepatica is blooming and the trout lillies are also blooming in sunnier locations. Even a few trillium are showing their little white faces. The bloodroot are beginning to drop their petals, so if you want to see them you better visit the park today.
The bog walk is just a fairly short distance from the wildflower garden although I usually chose to drive from one to the other. I saw a pair of wood ducks on the pond and heard the riotous noise of the spring peeper frogs. Yesterday was a severe weather warning testing day and I could easily hear them over the sirens.

This would be a good time to visit the Lake Harriet Rock Garden to see all the pasque flowers.

Garden Tasks on a Weekday?!?

I am annoyed with our lawn company... I asked them to clean up the lawn, but not to remove the leaf mulch from the garden beds. Of course I got home yesterday and they vacuumed up all the shredded leaves and mulch from two of the beds-- under the Ash tree and the one under the kitchen window. Luckily the workers must have realized their mistake as they did not clear off the main bed. They are going to give us some adjustment on our bill. Perhaps the one useful thing that resulted was I that I could see all of the Bouncing Bet that was growing under the mulch. I went out tonight and ripped up two giant fists full of the weeds and spread out a few wood chips and as much shredded leaves as the wind would let me get down. I'll try to get out Saturday afternoon, when there is supposed to be a break in the rain, and put another inch or so down.

On a happier note, there are a few more flowers making their debut. Today was the first day for magnolia flowers. Only about a third of the buds have opened.

I've not seen any Glory-of-the-Snow Chionodoxa yet. But some of the new Scilla Blue are finally coming up. I'm not sure what the larger leaves are. I did not plant any tulips in this bed. But the squirrels have been known to leave little gifts in random places.

All four of the Red Bells Pasque Flowers survived! I've not seen the flowers totally open yet, but they are a bit more red then this picture shows.

One disappointment, our Fiesta Forsythia only has flowers on a couple of branches for the second year. We planted it two seasons ago on the West side of the house. I had wondered a couple of weeks ago if the higher branches were looking really brown. They all have tiny leaf buds now, but there are only flowers on a couple of low branches. Are Forsythia like Magnolia and Azalea, forming flowers in the Fall that may not survive the Winter? Maybe the spot we have it in is not sheltered enough. Or maybe the spot is not sunny enough. (Try to ignore the Hydrangea branches on the right.)

Springing up

They aren't the showiest tulips, but these species tulips should naturalize. They were the first green to come up and the first green to be eaten by garden visitors. One day I hope to have a mass of them.

The checkered lilies are up. There's a hyacinth in the background that's not doing so well. The former owner of the property planted it.
I absolutely love daffodils. These are my earliest bloomers. I just wish they'd pick their heads up a little higher. A small bouquet will be presented to my mother today. I always associate daffy-down-dillies with her.

A little more colorful, but less prolific specimen. They are so worth the bother of planting in the fall.

I love wildflowers but my heavy clay soil doesn't support them very well. So I'm terribly proud that I have a bloodroot that's still giving it a go.
I found my hepatica! Poor baby. It's also not very happy in my soil. I amend it as much as possible with compost, but the clay and the damn silver maple roots are still a major challenge.
I love hanging clothes on the line about as much as I love gardening. The rows and the colors and the care are pretty similar. I just don't have to water the clothes after I put them in the garden.
Garden cat!

The Forecast Calls For...?

What happened, Mr. Weather Man?!? I thought we were going to finally see some rain in the Twin Cities! We were supposed to have rain off and on all weekend from Saturday night through Monday. I set my rain gauge back up, I readied my rain barrel... I was ready! We got drizzle at best. It is supposed to be cooler this week, so I can probably get away with not starting to water the garden. There's another chance of rain forecast for next weekend. We'll see.

Garden Clean Up, part two...

I had planned to wait until after the coming rain to start eradicating my Bouncing Bet, but this morning, I had the itch to do some damage. I decided not to go the Round-Up route-- I'll save that for the recurring rose bush. Instead, I used a more earth-friendly product, Bioganic Weed & Grass Killer. It works pretty well, but it took an entire bottle to cover everything. I've got another bottle ready for the other sprouts hiding in the fluffy mulch. The whole yard smelled of vinegar for the rest of the day, but that is better than the traditional commercial alternative. After just a few hours in the sun, check out the results in the before and after pictures below.

I didn't see as much difference after using it on the Quackgrass going wild along the chain-link fence shared with my neighbor to the South. The label says it works in 12 to 24 hours, so maybe there's still hope. (Do you get the idea I have nearly as many weeds as plants?) I also gave the struggling Tulips and Crocus another shot of Hot Pepper Wax, hoping to protect them from the hungry bunnies.

Later in the afternoon, I spent two more hours cutting down the rest of last year's remnants and thinning out the shredded leaf the mulch to uncover this year's early Spring growth. I decided to leave most of the leaf mulch out on the beds. I think I've uncovered the crowns of most plants and evened it out enough for it to stay in place. We'll see. In the end I was a good citizen and bundled up my yard waste and piled it next to the spare rain barrel. I hope the shelter of our giant White Pine will keep the bundles fairly dry until I figure out when the City will pick them up.

Further along, my Striped Squill and Pasque Flower became the second and third flowers to bloom. Lots of other things are putting up new growth: the Phlox, Sedum, Coreopsis, Alchemilla (Lady's Mantle), Salvia, Heuchera 'Palace Purple', Echinacea and even my I-ordered-a-Multi-Blue-but-that's-not-what-I-got Huldine Clematis! I have not seen as many of the nearly 1000 bulbs I planted in the Fall as I expected, but there is still lots of time. I think I found one bunch of Allium coming up, but the other bunch a few feet away has not. And a few new Asiatic Lilies may be coming up in the South bed, but I can't remember where I planted all of them.

Garden Clean Up, part one...

Since it is supposed to rain this weekend (finally), I figured I'd better get last season's Winter decorations cut down. I spent three hours cutting down Sedum, Coreopsis, tall Balloon Flower, Peony and grasses. I made it through about 2/3 of the areas that need tidying up. There's still a small area left in the main bed as well as bunch more Coreopsis, Sedum and Coneflower on the South side of the house. I should be able to get those done tomorrow before everything gets soaked (hopefully). The poor plants in the North bed tend to have to make due on their own. Although, I may go out and trim the old flower heads on the Hydrangea.



I also removed six Ash saplings using the dig-and-cut method suggested by someone on

[I said] Don't you find cutting the saplings just brings them back thicker later? I have one that is at the edge of one bed that I remember snipping with the pruners (just above ground) either early this year or sometime last and it now has TWO branches coming from the 1/2" (??) "stump". Darn!!!!

[garystpaul said] As far as the saplings are concerned, when I cut them a few inches below the soil line they don't for the most part return. But [if] I don't get them that way they do hang around and throw up a couple of new branches, yes (grrrr).

I hope I went far enough down... You can see the old, above the soil line cuts from earlier seasons that just sprouted new branches.

There are still another half-dozen saplings hiding out behind the Karl Foerster grass along the fence. And one old one growing smack in the middle of one of the Peonies. It was twice snipped above ground and now the "stump" has FOUR branches coming up! I have no idea how to get that one without really disturbing the Peony. I made end up letting the tree grow and leaf out this year and try to kill it with Round-Up. I love our giant Ash tree, but I do hate the it wants very badly to have babies.

The sad thing is, my poking around revealed my Ground Ivy problem is alive and well. Happily hiding below the protective layer of shredded leaves, its already winding its way between my other still dormant plants. I have Creeping Charlie in the lawn, with its pretty purple flowers, but the stuff in the garden beds has bigger leaves, can grow far beyond the suggested 2-3 inches high when it wants more light and I've never seen it flower. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but it definitely looks like this picture here.

I actually don't mind the Ground Ivy, or whatever, but its the Soapwart, aka Bouncing Bet, that I am growing to hate. When we first moved into the house, I thought it was pretty nice with its little white flowers, but now its just tall and messy. It spreads like crazy via runners AND a million seeds. I was a bit excited today to see lots of little green sprouts in the South bed-- I thought they might be Euphorbia that was finally spreading, but as I looked more closely, I am pretty sure it is Bouncing Bet. Oh well. Maybe I can try to Round-Up the little sprouts while they are still the only thing above the leaf mulch.

On a happier note, I righted my first rain barrel and scoped out a location for the second one. I'll have to get the hack-saw out to get it in place and find the right combo of pavers to raise it up. I'll do that eventually. For now, the one barrel is enough. Bring on the rain!

Blooming continues in the brown

Seeing splashes of color amidst all the brown of last season's dropped leaves is probably a pretty good metaphor for hope. I know that to keep a nice and neat garden, I should rake away all of last year's leaves. But my soil is in such need of organic material that I leave them. And I'm a bit on the lazy side. And I like how my ground looks more like the ground of a forest floor.

The squill is on its way to taking over my strawberry patch. But it's a very good companion. Its leaves are on their way out before the strawberries get very big.

The crocus were planted two years ago and are doing fine. I'm looking forward to them naturalizing the area. I'm not sure how quickly they will do this or if I'll need to divide them to help them along. The squill certainly needed no help.

A few years ago I purchased a potted weeping pussy willow for the house. I decided to give it a chance outside and it has done just fine, except for being chewed up by bunnies or ground hogs. This hear I got some hardware cloth around it and it seemed to be doing fine. I didn't see any pussy toes, however, until I pulled up on the stems. The blooms were all hiding under the fallen leaves. So maybe I should rake a bit next year.

I didn't expect to see the pulmonaria blooming already. But it was new for me last year. I'm certainly not going to complain.

Now where's my hepatica? At my former house, it was always the first to bloom--sometimes when there was still snow on the ground. Perhaps I just can't amend my heavy clay soil enough to make it happy.

The checkered lilies are about ready. And just for Karen, I'm posting a photo of my garden kitty.

First Bloom!

My first bloom appeared today, a Dutch Iris! I posted more progress pictures on Flickr.

Crocus Alert (with added cat flavor)

Crocus. Remember the other day when I said my Eyeliner Lilies were coming up? I lied. Those were apparently the Crocus (?) above. This garden bed is chock full of random bulbs from multiple years. Can't wait to see what all is in there!
Cat. Chopper Cat, get out of the photo frame!
Cat. Chopper Cat, stop chewing on the freshly sprouting flowers!

Six days later...

I posted a picture of the Crocus and Daffodils under the apple tree on Monday. Look how much they've grown in six days. I also noticed a couple of squill coming up in another area of the same bed. No sign of any of the 150 "perennial" tulips or 150 (new) daffodils I planted. Most of the daffodils are still hidden under several inches of leaf mulch. And I am assuming my tulips are slow in appearing as I planted them quite deep-- 10-12". I think next weekend I'll start thinning out the leaf mulch.

Garden Tasks for Today...

Today I planted 36* little purple and purple/white Pansies in our front window boxes. I also put the top layer on Mom's second raised veggie bed and re-hung the rain gauge! Hum, no rain forecast until Friday.

*Karen would say I over-planted.

Early Spring Inventory

Jacob's Ladder that I thought I had gotten rid of a few years ago. Xteen dug it up from my yard but apparently it really wanted to stay, and spread. I'm letting it "naturalize" in an area where it seems really happy...
Jacob's Ladder.

Sedum I got for free from a co-worker...

Hmmm, my garden map does not show there are tulips in this location (!). I think these are Monsella Tulips, planted fall 2007...
Monsella Tulips.
Eyeliner Lilies (asiatic), planted fall 2008...
Lily bulbs sprouting.

Garden Calendar for April

From the UMN Extension Yard and Garden News:

... There is still time to start seeds of fast growing warm season flower and vegetable species indoors for outdoor transplanting after danger of frost. These plants include: cosmos, marigolds, tomatoes, and zinnias. Cold hardy annuals can be direct seeded in the garden during April and include: calendula, sweet peas, peas, and larkspur. Cold hardy annual transplants we have started ourselves or purchased from the garden center can also be planted and include vegetables like cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.) and flowers like pansies, snapdragons, and stocks. ...

Always filled with interesting garden info, this month's Yard and Garden News also contains a story on Early Spring Lawn Care Tips, which seems to say it is still too early to be out cleaning up the lawn!

Hints of Spring...

I took a little walk around the yard today and while most everything is still covered with leaf mulch, a couple of spots are clear and showing signs of Spring! (Updated with better pictures.)

Pasque Flowers coming up. They've been in flower as early as April 15th, but usually around mid-May.

Crocus and a couple of daffodils just starting to emerge.

In addition to these, I noticed one Peony with eyes showing!