Saturday, February 28, 2009

Saga of the Pussy Willow

Memorial Day 2007 we came home to find our old, 30 foot tall pussy willow (Salix discolor) lying in the yard. The event wasn’t totally unexpected. The huge tree had been ailing for years. Nevertheless, loss of an old shade tree was sad.

As we cleaned up the fallen branches, scored the stump and chopped the trunk into liftable pieces, we became resigned to the fact that our shade garden was now a full sun garden.

Later that summer we noticed growth at one end of the stump. (New growth at top of picture.)
Last year the pussy willow reached 10 feet.
And … this year it blooms – a happy ending.


(Information on the Pussy Willow from Westborough Community Land Trust in Massachusetts.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Carol at May Dreams Gardens is making me a nervous. On February 12 she posted an All Points Bulletin (APB) to search for her missing crocus.

My crocuses were also missing. I tried not to worry. Carol is zone 5. I am zone 6. So I told myself the crocuses in Carol’s garden were probably hiding out from the cold. Surely mine would appear any minute.

I looked through my photos from last spring. In the pictures, crocus began to bloom by March 14. (Picture here from 3/26/07.) Surely mine would appear any minute.

Finally this week, the tiny spiked leaves are barely visible in their bed. (Click on the picture to enlarge and you may be able to see tiny crocuses relative to a maple helicopter seed pod.)

If the frigid weather continues and the crocuses take it on the lam, I’ll be searching again - APB and all. And surely mine will appear any minute.

Carol, I hope the APB works!

(Crocus information from around the world and through the centuries available from Oxford Journal of Experimental Biology.)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Home Show

Although there’s a cold wind howling outside, we must be close to spring. Home shows are popping up faster than dandelions in April. It’s a good time to get out of the wind and check out local home products and services.

Master Gardeners will be available at the Eastern PA Spring Home Show in Ag Hall at the Allentown Fair Grounds February 27 through March 1. (Click on the link for more information and directions.)

Gardening for all ages, gardening in small spaces, gardening with children and gardening without breaking your back will be part of the display. Master Gardeners will be available to answer questions. Informational fact sheets may help with problems you had last year or point you in a new direction this year.

If you’re interested in growing a pot of tomatoes, a garden full of produce or improving your landscape with some new plants, stop by and talk to a Master Gardener.

Spring is only 27 days away.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rain Garden - Part 2

(Picture Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research, New Zealand)

Is it worth the effort to put in a rain garden?

According to Rutgers Research & Extension Fact Sheet, one rain garden in New Jersey receiving run off from 1,000 square feet could treat about 25,000 gallons of water per year. I think that alone makes rain gardens worth considering. If you multiply by any number of rain gardens, it adds up fast.

How difficult is it?

After checking for underground utilities (“PA One Call” dial 811) and figuring the size garden, the rest is manual labor. Detailed instructions are available from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources/University of Wisconsin Extension.
If you can convince a few friends to lend a hand, your only costs may be for mulch and plants (and perhaps a few cases of beer). Maintenance includes watering the first year, weeding and adding mulch when necessary. As the garden fills in, the need for weeding should be reduced. Pruning and trimming will take a little time in spring and fall. If all goes well, maintenance should take less time than mowing the area.

All proponents recommend using native plants. Most native plants grow well in the wet/dry conditions of the rain garden. Also an attractive mix of native plants is more likely to be pest and disease resistant. Natives can also provide habitats for beneficial insects, food for birds and butterflies and add biodiversity in the landscape. You can contact your local extension service for a list of natives for your area suited to rain gardens.

Recent rapid growth in the Lehigh Valley has caused basements and roads to flood. I can’t imagine how it is affecting our streams.
Rain gardens are being installed as a solution around the world. Google "rain gardens parking lots” for an extensive list.

Whether or not you think a rain garden is for you, encourage municipalities to promote rain gardens in new construction to lessen the impact of urban development.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - February 2009

The pink hyacinth is the only plant in bloom in my Bethlehem indoor/outdoor garden. See January 31 post for details of my method and madness.

The snowdrops are almost there. I imagine it will be a few days before masses of little white flowers carpet the front garden.

I saw buds on the Lenten Rose on my stroll on the garden paths this week. The Heath and Japonica are beginning to show some color.

The anticipation is euphoric!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Rain Garden

Several weeks ago I attended a Master Gardener presentation on rain gardens. Rain Gardens seem like a good way to help control stormwater runoff. Stormwater runoff carries with it fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria from pet waste, eroded soil, road salt, grass clippings and litter. The runoff ends up in streams and lakes. A rain garden can be as simple or as complex as you have the energy and resources to invest.

If you want to read a scary story about pollution of the Chesapeake Bay read the US Geological Survey about pollution and what is being done about it.

One of the top three causes for pollution of the bay is water runoff from urban areas.

Rain Garden Network lists the benefits of a rain garden.

“Basically, rain gardens are an inexpensive, simple to implement and environmentally sound solution to urban stormwater runoff. A Rain Garden will:

Filter runoff pollution
Recharge local groundwater
Conserve water
Improve water quality
Protect rivers and streams
Remove standing water in your yard
Reduce mosquito breeding
Increase beneficial insects that eliminate pest insects
Reduce potential of home flooding
Create habitat for birds & butterflies
Survive drought seasons
Reduce garden maintenance
Enhance sidewalk appeal
Increase garden enjoyment”

I’ll continue with more information on rain gardens in my next post.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Scented Garden

You may have noticed that the three plants in the last “NEED” post are scented plants.

I have been working on a scented garden for six or seven years. The garden is about 10 feet wide by 35 feet long. The Daphne and Casablanca Lily will add their aroma to that garden. (The tuberose will perfume our deck.)
(Picture May 2006)
I’ve noticed that a lot of flowers in this garden are white. I like the white theme. It’s very restful. I don’t know if this is botanically correct but it seems to me that there are more fragrant white flowers than any other color. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

White blooms:

Sweet woodruff with the tiny white flowers serves as groundcover

White Lilacs bloom in May

Garden Phlox David tall white beauty adds to the summer aroma.

On a summer evening, Nicotiana Fragrant Cloud sends a slight perfume to only the most discerning noses.

The twinkling flowers of Sweet Autumn Clematis lightly scent the air in fall.

Sweet alyssum gives off a heavenly fragrance all summer long.

Other colors: In early spring hyacinths bloom. In April Sweet Shrub’s heady aroma fills this garden and beyond. Summer scent of Lavender Grosso brushes against strollers on the path.

Daphne will add some bones to the garden and add to the spring fragrance. Casablanca Lily will enhance the late summer perfume.
I can’t wait to sit in this garden with a cup of coffee and inhale.

(Note: Bat white-nose syndrome has been found in Pennsylvania caves. See February 27, 2008 post.)


Saturday, February 07, 2009

Plants I really NEED for 2009

Notice I didn’t say “want”.

I’ve been thinking about these plants for several years. I have more plants that I would like to have but these three have moved into the “really must have” category.


Casablanca lily

Daphne (Daphne burkwoodii)

I’m ready to shop!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Planning for Vegetables

Have you started planning for spring? I picked up a bunch of seed packs last weekend. Everything except sweet peppers will be planted directly in the garden or in containers.

I haven’t started plants from seeds indoors for years. When we moved into this house many years ago, I found growing from seed didn’t work as well as it did in the old house. I soon realized it was more efficient to buy plants. Well, I’m going to give it another try. I’ll start small with just sweet peppers and see how it goes. I’ll use grow lights. Hopefully, I’ve gained enough gardening knowledge and experience to be successful this year.

Here are the seeds I picked up.

Vegetable Seeds

Oregano (organic) Sweet Basil Ocimum basilicum
Basil - Mammoth
Carrot - Royal Chantenay
Parsley – Forest Green
Lettuce – Salad Bowl
Lettuce – Oakleaf
Lettuce – Prizehead
Lettuce – Black Seeded Simpson
Radish – Early Scarlet Globe
Pepper – Early Sunsation (yellow sweet pepper)

Flower Seeds

Zinnia – Cupidon
Zinnia – Giant Flowered Mix
Sunflower – Chianti Hybrid

I’m going to plant the herbs and some lettuce in the fish boxes I picked up last November. My next step is finding places for the other vegetables in the flower garden. Yes, that’s right. I plan to put vegetables amid the flowers. We’ll see how that works.