Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Breathing Room

Walking by the greenhouse, this past Saturday, while finishing up the last little bit of pruning lavender, I could have sworn I heard a collective groan sounding something like, "We want out! If daffodils are free, so are we!" from inside. So, I opened the door only to find a not exactly group of happy campers, while steamy humidity, having nowhere else to go, spilled out into the sunny March air. The greenhouse, a.k.a. my happy place, was a mass of green exploding out of their pots while tufts of colored blossoms were opening like umbrellas in a rainstorm.

Picture the jungle straight out of Jumanji and the man eating vine that almost gobbled up Robin Williams in the movie. The situation that seemed under control only a few days before, now seemed out of control and close to riot conditions.

It's only the middle of March, a day when I should've been planting sweet pea seeds, cutting back tree branches, raking up left over leaves and just starting on the lavender pruning process (here is where I groan).  But, instead I dropped everything to rescue rosemary's, myrtles, bays and and annual lavenders from almost certain claustrophobia.  What is happening to my happy place?  I know it's early to start the outdoor holding beds, but what else could I do? Everybody needed some breathing room and the greenhouse was way past providing that.

Of course, who wouldn't want out of a cramped, hot greenhouse when there is a "bloomin party" going on all over the place outside.  Cherry blossoms, hyacinths, forsythia, saucer and star magnolias and daffodils are all dressed in their frilliest of frocks.  Even azaleas, red buds and tulips, typically late, are rushing to dress up for the party outside and, who woke up the dogwoods???!!!  My neighbors flock of guinea hens also got wind of all of the excitement and flew their coop, choosing the dangerous road to dance in while one of the lady guinneas came a calling at my back door for morning tea in the springtime garden...how very neighborly of her.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh, yes, back to the greenhouse--I took 28 potted plants with their roots poking through the drain holes like big toes breaking through old socks out of the greenhouse, trimmed their roots and repotted them with fresh soil before transferring them into their new location, outside in the holding bed of the parterre garden.  I told each one not to get too comfortable since I'm sure Mother Nature is not quite finished tricking us with her fickle feminine ways, this year. Even though the Spring Equinox has arrived, our official frost free date around here is not until Mother's Day weekend and almost every one of these pots may be making a return  trip back into the greenhouse should she threaten with a long running cold snap after this long running warm up.  And, for as many plants as I took out of the greenhouse, I have many, many more that are staying put until I'm absolutely sure the warm weather takes up permanent residence.  I'm on to you, Mother Nature...been there, done that!

Meanwhile, Peter finished up in the new raised bed garden out behind the garage.  He filled the six-foot by six-foot raised beds with fresh dirt, manure and leaf compost.  They are so new and clean and right now it's nice to just to gaze upon them and lazily dream away the possibilities of color and texture in a quaint cottage garden that will add to the scenery here at Blooming Hill.  More growing space...more breathing room in the gardens...more breathing room!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New Garden Coming Along

Fashionable garden wear...bright blue sneakers, green sweatpants, brown winter jacket topped off with an orange knit cap.  I think the crew foreman (lower right in the picture) approves!
Chapter Two of "Let's Build a New Raised Bed Garden on the Property, Just Because..."  went smoothly this past weekend here at Blooming Hill, thanks in part, to sunny, cooperative weather that left no excuse for staying in bed.  It was time to get up and  dig, dig, DIG!  Even though we could use some of that rain that keeps passing us by for any and all points north, south, east and west, the ground is nice and soft thanks to the mild temperatures this month.  Of course, the sun is beating down and the ground can only hold on to moisture for only so long, even during these wonderful spring days.   Nevertheless, the prodigal son was up and working on his last spring break day, alongside Peter, making for quick, but not so easy garden work.

As you can see, the raised forms were assembled from pretreated wood and the center diamond was cut out while the back bordering bed along the garage wall was taking shape throughout the morning. After lunch, pea gravel was being shoveled into place.  Lovely wide spaces between the six foot by six foot raised beds will provide room for plenty of "garden gawkers" to lollygag and enjoy the rows of lavender to the left as well as the fountain garden to the right.  I think this will be an especially nice place to sit a spell in the morning and evening before and after the heat from midday.  This garden is reminiscent of the herb garden on the other side of the house that is attached to the greenhouse and parterre making a nice balance all the way around the house perimeter.

Meanwhile, I was inside baking (Pennsylvania Dutch) crumb pie for the prodigal son to take back to school with him.  Just a little bribery to help move this college student along when it comes to garden work before hitting the road.  Some of you may know a variation of this recipe as "Shoo-fly Pie." It's a mixture of sugar, butter, flour and molasses and then a little more sugar, flour, butter and molasses thrown in for good measure and is just one more of those ethereal Rinek recipes you have to marry into the family in order to acquire it's true, culinary secrets  (see Nana Mitchell's Christmas Cakes).  And, if you have any concerns about your elevated cholesterol, you may want to steer clear of this but it is certainly tasty and most certainly sticks to your ribs and way easier to make than Nana Mitchell's Christmas Cakes!

Of course, there is always time for a little break, even if the foreman of the crew is watching every move one makes.  It has been said "in order to be a gardener, one must have a cast iron back with built in hinges."  However, it is spring break, for heaven's sake...cut him a break!

All in all, the new raised bed garden now is in place. Next week, the six-foot by six-foot squares will be dug out and composted manure and fresh, rich soil will be put in for planting.  Even though it looks as if it will be a sun-dappled garden under the nearby trees stretching their branches in this early spring sun, by May, this garden becomes a full sun garden through the summer.  In any case it will be lovely.

What?!...It's break time again?!  Just because there are three crumb pies doesn't mean there are three breaks so it was back to trimming and pruning the lavender bushes.  No rest for the weary around here and even the crew foreman had to be reminded of that.  We will miss you, Kevin, but when you come home again, the garden will be planted and the lavender blooming and you can enjoy, along with us, the fruits of your labor.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What's Going On?

It's March and already the garden "to-do's" are piling up all over the place.  We finally got the pussy willow harvested this past weekend and while the prodigal son returned home for a week of spring break, I guess he is taking that "break" word literally having succumbed to some kind of wicked flu-like virus.  And, Peter, well where is Peter anyway?  Ahhh yes!  I see him out there...Skulking around behind the garage.  No time for skulking...keep working.  We open for business in a month and the clock is ticking!

Most people sneak out behind the garage or wood shed or whatever you may have in your yard and smoke a cigarette or two in between chores.  Of course, that would be most people.  My husband, on the other hand, snuck out behind the garage to layout yet another garden!   Does he not realize that I can see him out there and that I know what he is doing?!  And, while the thought of another garden to attract honey bees and hummingbirds and to while away the day in enjoying the herbs and flowers is certainly a lovely idea, I sit here at the window gazing out at scores of untrimmed lavender plants and a milieu of existing garden beds that need mulching while tree branches and tall grasses need cutting back as well...heavy sigh.

Yet, as I survey what his vision is for this space that will play off of long narrow beds of purple, violet lavenders and the circular stone path surrounding a serene fountain that already compliments day lillies, bee balm and dogwoods, I can begin to see it as a place of enchantment and simple natural pleasure combined, just as I see all of the other gardens here at Blooming Hill.  It will be another place to enjoy a rich profusion of greens and delicate but colorful flowers instead of a plain backside of a clapboard building.  Certainly not a place to sneak around after the garden is fully installed, although the devil deer way out there seem quite intrigued with what is going on behind the garage as they smack their lips and envision, I'm sure, a new salad bar being so thoughtfully created just for them.  Keep working, Peter and work fast while you're at it!

There isn't any spare time for frisbee-playing, either!  Another day perhaps, and even though the back of the garage is calling, daylight is burning.  Surely, Peter and the prodigal son can fit in a few more things like mulching and pruning and anything else I can think of as we march through March garden chores.  Good thing they don't smoke cigarettes...Absolutely no time for that!