February 28, 2011

Early Bulbs

The calender seems to think that Spring does not start until March 20th this year, but the bulbs in the garden think differently. Although it has been a snowy winter, the temperatures have stayed a higher then normal, especially in the last few weeks. The warm sunny weather seems to have shaken the bulbs from their winter slumber and are poking their heads up throughout the garden.

Crocus tommasinianus 'Claret'
The Dutch Crocus are always the first spring blooms in our garden. We planted a small meadow of these tiny bulbs at the back of our property between the gnarled roots of a mature Tulip Tree. The past few days colorful cupped flowers were pushed above the grass-like foliage in a show of color that can be seen glowing from our porch, over 100 feet away.

Crocus tommasinianus 'Ruby Giant'

Crocus vernus 'Jeanne d'Arc'
Allium giganteum
Other old favorites are showing themselves as well. I forget how fast spring arrives once the warm weather begins. What was only a nub pushing through the soil is now, like in the case of our Allium, opening to greet the sun and expanded to almost a foot tall. The Narcissus, a mid-season blooming variety that was here when we bought the house, was just budded yesterday when I took this picture, but it is now almost open. 

Its hard to deny the signs of Spring are everywhere. We are even having our first thunderstorm in months. This time of year I can't wait to get home every day and stroll around the garden to see how much things have grown. Even the sight of buds uncurling gets be excited for the months ahead. After the long days of winter, the garden is waking up.

"Look at us, said the violets blooming at her feet, all last winter we slept in the seeming death but at the right time God awakened us, and here we are to comfort you."  ~Edward Payson Rod

February 20, 2011

Surviving Veggies

Although by June I'm cursing the heat in Raleigh, I do love our mild winters. So mild, in fact, that we can grow some herbs and veggies year round! Besides gardening, cooking is another one of my passions, and I love where the two intersect.

We inherited this raised bed on the side of our house from the previous owners, an elderly couple who also loved to garden. Since this is a South facing exposure, they used it to grow annuals. We found it was more useful for us as our herb and vegetable garden. 

The trellis is one of Brian's projects, originally designed for Grapes, it now is used for growing Hops. I think it is a great way to make a bare wall interesting!

Besides our veggies, we do have a few perennials in the foreground. Some gorgeous Irises that one of Brian's co-workers brought to work 3 years ago have multiplied and will burst into a deep purple bloom in May. And we have a Yarrow stuck in there somewhere, a great "biocontrol" plant which attracts beneficial insects to the garden.

There is also a patch of 'Quinault' strawberries, which I guess is a fruit not veggie, but its perennial nature makes it a great transition plant to the perennials at this end. We got these strawberry plants late last year and only got a couple berries in the fall, but I'll let you know how they do this spring, as they are supposed to be a great all-season variety.

Brussels Sprouts
Lettuce Mix
This winter we chose some basic veggies that we could start from seed: spinach, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, and cilantro. The lettuce, a Mesclun Mix, was the stand out performer, and lasted through the snow beautifully. However, as you can see, no Brussels Sprouts to harvest yet, maybe with the warmer weather they will continue to grow... I'm not holding my breath. I wish things would have turned out better with them, but we got things in the ground a little too late. That seems to be the problem with Raleigh weather, our tomatoes last until October, making us not want to till the garden until late in the season, but in doing that we miss the best window for winter plantings!

Italian Parsley
 I also have been doing a little experimenting with which herbs will survive the winter in Raleigh. I know Cilantro will tough through, and have grown in for a few years now. This year I decided to let the Parsley go and see how it would handle the cold. I was amazed at its resilience! I could cut some sprigs, which looked wilted in the cold, and as soon as I put them in water in the warm kitchen they perked right back up and were great for cooking! Chives were another experiment, although I knew they were perennial bulbs. The foliage died down in late December, but since having these warm spells has sent up luscious new growth that I should be able to harvest in a few weeks!

Viola 'Marley'

And lastly, I had to show just a little color! I figured I'd include this one in the veggie post since the flowers are edible. This 'Marley' Viola toughed it out all winter in its pot and just put out a new flush of delicate violet flowers. I normally tend to go for Pansies over the smaller Viola's for winter color, but I couldn't pass up this little gem!

February 15, 2011

Signs of Spring

This past week we had our first late winter/spring blooms appear! Spring is my favorite time of year in Raleigh, and these 70 degree temperatures have been making me itch to get out in the garden.

The Mahonia was the first to show signs of color. With a couple more weeks of warm weather, it will be in full bloom and fragrant with a sweet scent that makes this one of Brian's favorite plants. I love its great scent and hardiness also, but always remember that it is invasive in our area when I'm pulling Mahonia sprouts in the fall.

The Winter Jasmine blooming made me the most excited about spring. It always seems to be the first thing to bloom when we get these late-winter warm spells.

The Daphne has been showing its bright pink buds for over a month. They look like they are about to pop open! This is another great fragrant shrub and was our first addition to our garden, as we received it as a housewarming present from a friend.

Other happenings in the garden this week include:
  • The first Crocus flower to appear, I wish I had written down the name of this variety 
  • Signs of early Tulips pushing through the mulch
  • The beautiful black winter color of 'Heart-Attack' Dianthus, which will soon fade to a deep green with new spring growth, and flush with blood-red flowers in April.


This Blog is created to share our gardening experiences and advice.

I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, 
for going out, I found, was really going in.  ~John Muir