Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In Like A Lion, Out Like a March Hare

March came in like a lion and, during these last days of the month, looks to be going out nothing similar to a lamb but, for me here at Blooming Hill, more like a wild March Hare!  That old folklore saying of "in like a lion, out like a lamb," (or even vice-verse,) really holds no truth to it but it does, however, illustrate the ever-changing weather pattens of this first month of spring when the weather can start out icy-cold, turn into a gentle sunny day and end up a stormy night, complete with every kind of precipitation Mother Nature can throw at us.  Forget fall's frost on the pumpkin business...let's talk spring's snow on the violas!

So, where does the "wild March Hare" fit into all of this, you ask? Well, if you live here at Blooming Hill, the "wild March Hare" is actually something more like a couple of "mad hatters" working frantically at building the garden shop (we now have "wayside stand status" from The Loudoun County Department of Building and Zoning--YEA!),edging garden beds, painting projects, laying pea gravel and mulch, transplanting small seedlings and cuttings, which have now become large seedlings and cuttings, into larger pots and getting them ready for spring selling, putting the finishing touches on wreaths and other garden crafts and ringing my hands over when to get my own seeds and plants planted, given this stubborn cold weather around here.  Wait a minute!  I think I hear a violin playing a sad song, softly, somewhere in the background.

Anyway, it is exciting, not to mention a little bit crazy, if nothing else, around here. So, once again, our neighbor, Joe McKenna, came over to help a little and then stayed to help a lot, which was, let's say, a really big help.

Peter and I put the cupola up on the roof during the middle of the week one day after work and it's shiny, copper roof just glistened in the twilight shadows, adding a finishing touch to this building that still seems to have a long way to go.  It's a good thing Peter seems to be in his element and looking as if he is glowing as well.  Never seeming daunted by the task at hand, he has checked one more thing off of his garden shop "to-do" list. 

Meanwhile, I personally shoveled about 1000 pounds of pea gravel into lavander beds and stone paths just to freshen up the place.  The funny thing is that I didn't feel very fresh myself after that chore was completed. Actually, I did feel a certain sense of satisfaction having done this task all by myself. Of course, no one had time to take my picture so you will just have to take my word on this.

By Sunday evening, our new little garden shop was looking pretty darn good. Even the project manager, Tucker, seemed quite happy with the place and left his sniff of approval. It looks as though we are still on target for the April 30th opening which is a good thing for a couple of "wild March Hares" turned "mad hatters" (a.k.a Peter and me.) Appropriate names for us since our grand opening will feature an informal Creme Tea, that day--you can read about it in my sidebar--by Two Broads and A Brit Tea Service.  Maybe we'll even have an Alice or two stop by for tea as well, we'll see...  

So, here I am sitting in the side doorway of our shop with two walls completed and even a back door in place.  When I was young, my father and brother built a small A-Frame cottage up in Wisconsin and my mother had the uncanny talent of swooping in at the end of each leg of the project, grab a tool and stand front and center of the cottage in only the style and finesse my mother could create. She would then demand to have her picture taken as though she had done all of the work by herself...very tongue in cheek of course!   (Mirror, mirror on the wall, I am my mother after all!)   I think the violin music has stopped for the time being and I'm seeing a small light down the rabbit hole as well as a busy April ahead showering  lots building projects and gardening activities here at Blooming Hill in order to ready the shop for the end of the month opening.. Make sure to  by on April 30th!  We can't wait to greet you and show you our newest addition coming soon to Blooming Hill.

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Happy Place!

Even though meteorological spring arrived on the first day of March, the official first day of Spring, the Equinox,  arrived yesterday on the coattails of March's winds as a precursor to some much needed rain here at Blooming Hill.  Not exactly fashionably late, rather, exactly on time, by spring standards, and the plants, herbs and flowers in my greenhouse could not be happier.  I opened the door to feel the warm, moist air billow out as it has on these sunny March mornings and stood there silently, listening to the collective sigh of relief from all of the greenery as cool spring air enveloped the small, crowded space.  Although a bit overflowing and cramped as the warm weather approaches, the greenhouse is still one of my most favorite places to spend time, idly enjoying the scent of growing things enhanced by the pinks, yellows, reds and oranges of  blooms peeking out of the textured shades of green.

Although the dainty daffodil was the first to show off it's pretty face, outside and taunt my greenhouse plants to come out and play, the scented geraniums and pot geraniums seem to refuse to wait any longer and, in their impatience, are among the first to bloom for spring in my greenhouse.  Although they boast how they love cool days and evenings, they are too fragile to withstand anything near freezing.  So, I hate to tell them it will be a few more weeks before I can set them free in the garden but I know they will wait, counting the days.  Their blossoms are delicate and vibrant all at the same time and, as I clip them back, their intoxicating scents of lemon, rose, coconut and mint intermingle with the more pungent, earthy scents claimed by the myrtles, bays and rosemary's.

Cuttings of annual lavenders like Wild French, Spanish and Goodwin Creek Grey are filling out beautifully and reaching upwards sending out soft wands of purple and chartreuse. They will go out into the gardens very soon since they can withstand a light frost.  The spring air will only encourage them to grow and bloom more.  Meanwhile, one of the happiest and most beautiful of my greenhouse bloomers is the sweet little clivia with the big-girl blossoms .  It sits most of the year, unnoticed with it's leathery long tongue like greenery, but as soon as spring hints of it's presence in the greenhouse, the clivia is usually the first to show up for the party.

Most of the small, new lavenders, rosemarys and scented geraniums are ready now for sale.  To me, it is a little like sending children off to their first day of school after summer vacation.  A little trepidation along with excitement and promise surrounds these fragrant babies as they prepare to make their way out into the world and on to a new adventure.

As tradition calls for, I planted sweat peas out in the garden on March 15th and also in small six-packs, just to make doubly sure, while smaller cuttings of geraniums line up dutifully, some about to bloom, even at this size. Nasturtiums in biodegradable pots won't wait much longer, either.   Patience, everyone!  It's almost time to go outside and play. 

Meanwhile, outside with the daffodils, princess-like pansies have been set free, fluttering and swaying to the rhythm of the March breeziness.  I found myself, this past week, more than once, standing at Southern States and taking in their rainbow of colors while trying desperately to limit myself to blue and lavender hues--my favorites, indeed!.  It's times like this when I have an idea of how hard it is for shopaholics and addicts.  A little girl also wandered over and showed me her favorite color of pansy.  They were cabernet-colored with stripes of pale pink swirling to the ends of each petal.   I have to admit, I almost succombed to them as well but, I was able to contain myself and stay with my first color choice of blues to lavender hues, if not quantity-wise, at least color-wise.  I've tried growing these in years past but found they take a very long time and a lot of space.  Two things an impatient grower like myself has precious little of , given everything else I dabble in.  Besides it's so much fun to go and peruse the plethora of pansies offered up by larger nurseries.

Primrose plants that I planted last fall appeared in all of their gaiety as well, just outside of the greenhouse.  Note to self--plant more primrose for next year!   And, the boxwoods throughout the property are flaunting their tiny blooms as well.  After all, boxwood is beautiful, too!  Even the cherry trees are seriously thinking about stealing the show from everyone and taking what they deem to be their rightful place, which is front and center in the springtime garden.  More on them, later!

The first signs of spring have certainly burst forth, inside and out of the greenhouse.  They promise that only the best is yet to come.  And, speaking of yet to come, Peter found his own rhythm this weekend and finished the ceder-shake roof on the garden shop.  I can't tell if the smile on his face is one of satisfaction of a job well-done or just to be done with a long and arduous  task--period!

And, while still not allowed near the garden shop structure or the ladders that surround it, I did finish pruning and trimming the 500-plus lavender bushes just beginning to break and  then turned my attention to edging their beds so they will look pretty and coiffed come their own bloom-time farther afield.  Although, it is very hard for me to imagine lavender not being pretty, no matter what their state.  On April 30th, we will open up our property for public garden tours which will coincide with the "PHilomnt garden PHair" that day, just a hop, skip and a jump down the Snickersville Turnpike at the Philomont General Store and Community Center there. If you have time stop by between 10am and 5 pm that day.

In the meantime, I'll go into the greenhouse whenever I need a "mini respite" and enjoy the peaceful quiet of green things growing in celebration of spring.  Maybe I should make room for a chair in there.  Yeah, right, even if I found some room, who has time to sit?...Spring is beginning to emerge all over the place and I'm most happy about that.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Respect the Ides of March!

Here it is, almost the middle of the month and I sense the Ides of March is fast-approaching.  The first of the daffodils are blooming, reminding me to pay respect and show regard for Mother Nature.  And, the wind is blowing as it only it can during March.  The garden shop is well under way.  So, this past Friday, I stopped to help Peter raise a board to the roof, climbed the ladder with it in one hand, rested it where I was told to, touched another piece of wood holding everything in place and a board popped out and landed squarely on the bridge of my nose. With that one swift action, a lot of blood ensued and a hefty headache developed as well and, Voila!...I was banned from helping with the construction of the garden shop, at least temporarily.  I now have a new found respect for roofers and their craft. 

Having chalked up adventures in roof-building to my resume,  I moved on to non-other-than garden power tools.  What else could I do after such an unplanned but clever move.  I gathered my weapons of choice in preparation to conquer the lavender beds by trimming, pruning and clearing leaves and winter debris.  Not exactly "easy peezy lemon squeezy" but it had to be done and the chief gardener is still working on the cedar shake roof--easily, next weekend will be devoted to that as well.  I resigned myself to renewing my bonds with the hedge trimmer and even had to pull out the heavy guns in the form of the leaf blower as fallen leaves and old pine needles from last fall are no less heavy now than back then.

Not to worry, though, my old and faithful friend, the garden cart, did most of the heavy lifting but after a-half dozen or so trips to the burn pile, my back was also reminding me to show respect for what I was doing and regard Mother Nature as a worthy boss. The 19th century author, life-long gardener and friend to Mark Twain, Charles Dudley Warner once said, " What a gardener needs is a cast iron back with a hinge in it." So true!

I broke my leaf rake and had to replace it.  Not only that, the hand trimmers also broke which caused my hands to smack into each other and I just got plain sick and tired of that real fast. I found another one at the store labeled 3 times better!  Well, if that wasn't a sign from God that those trimmers were meant for me than I don't know what ever could be.    Maybe that is why daffodils bloom so early in the spring as their meaning in flower language means respect or regard, in my case for yard work in general.  The daffodil's simple beauty does require that you should take time to stop and at least gaze upon their natural loveliness and be thankful for the blessings that nature offers right outside your doorstep.

And, of course, those darn devil deer, now perpetual dinner guests in my yard, edge closer and closer in hopes that I'm making an appetizer as a precursor to their evening meal.  Tucker, on the other hand thought they came to play and tried to make friends.  However, birds of different feathers don't flock together and the devil deer are just not interested, nor are they afraid of Tucker.  So my yard, for now currently is the dinner table for a herd of about two dozen deer.   Fortunately, for me, lavender is not one of their favorites, however deer have been known to eat whatever is available when there is enough snow on the ground.  Spring offers up lots of emerging clover which the devil deer love as well as tulip greenery...note to self...buy Liquid Fence tomorrow!

In the midst of this crazy weekend, we took the time to travel down to Longwood University to see Kevin play Club Baseball with his Mary Washington teammates.  I can't resist posting a picture of a bunch of handsome young men all smiling at me--or was it that I told them to smile at the camera--I can't remember.   Beautiful weather and lot's of sun topped off the day to help this Club Baseball team play not one, not two, but three great games, all in a row...Phew!

Anyway, the weekend is just about over and daylight savings is now in full swing.  That means more time to work in the garden and on the garden shop, when I'm allowed near that again, that is.  Oh well, there are plenty of other things to do in the meantime and a lot more garden tools to use.  Sunday evening finally and Peter just walked in, exhausted and sunburned, but in one piece, thankfully, from a long day of roofing and announced that he, too, has found a new respect for the roofing profession.  Yep--respect the Ides of March, for it cometh!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lego Mania

Although March may have come in pretty much like a lamb this past week, meteorologic-ally speaking and activity-wise, here at Blooming Hill, March vaguely resembled that of a lion. That is, a lion who likes to build Legos. Even the Philomont Community Center seemed inspired to get into the Lego-building action happening around this tiny hamlet in the foothills of the Blue Ridge...must be something in the rain water...

The week was filled with floor building, and setting the wall studs in place in order to raise the roof beams by this past weekend. Like I've said before, never a dull moment and at least the weather held. And, it always helps to keep the instructions handy, too. The wide plank floor was so pretty that it only seemed fitting to take off your shoes before walking on it. It does my heart good to know that I've trained them so well.

By the weekend, March was in full swing here at Blooming Hill and I can't believe I missed most of the action but I did hear enough war stories to keep my imagination running wild. While I was busy at the "Spring Bling" Craft Show in Leesburg, Virginia, Peter and company (aka the "Lego-building lions") were busy swinging from ridge poles, hanging from rafters and balancing beams in pursuit of raising the roof supports on the studio/showroom--which I'm now renaming the Garden Shop--before Kevin headed back to school and the heavy rains arrived, all scheduled for Sunday.

Again, our good friends and neighbors, the McKenna's, arrived like the calvery to help save the day and complete this leg of our building adventure.  I wish I had pictures to show you but Peter said they were in such a groove that no one stopped to take any.  So, just like me, you will have to use your imagination to see them all working steadily and with purpose to fit the Lego pieces together.  By the time I came home on Saturday evening, my soon-to-be little garden shop was looking something like, well--a soon-to-be little garden shop with the hatches all buttoned down to help keep out the rain.

By Sunday morning, the rain had arrived and the son had left for college, once again...sigh.  However, there's no time for feeling sad because the warmer weather from this past week has begun to nudge the gardens out of their winter doldrums.  While making a few experimental lavender cuttings, I noticed the bushes are beginning to break which means I'm already behind schedule in pruning and preparing them for spring.  Also, hyacinths, daffodils, iris and even tulips are beginning to peak through the soil so beds need clearing of winter debris and prepped for mulching as well.  So much to do...so much to do! 

The rain over the weekend reminds me that it's not too early to also spread some much needed grass seed in bare and thinning spots and, it's always a good time to try and at least make a good attempt at getting ahead of the weeds.  Aside from all of this, hopefully "Lego-Mania" will continue and the actual roof will begin to go on the garden shop next weekend, weather permitting.  So much to do...so much to do...talk to you soon...so much to do!