Spring fever

February 2010, a few days before the final snowstorm
Spot the daffodil!

We’ve had snow on the ground for almost every day in February. Just when we were starting to see a bit of ground, and even the odd daffodil greenery starting to push through, more snow hit. This is getting old.

But we know spring can’t be far away, and the last frost can’t be more than 2 1/2 months from now. Time to start the seed-growing operation!

We started last Sunday with a few types of basil plus a salad mix, also a few flowers. Some have germinated, and hopefully the rest aren’t far behind. We’ve already moved them under the lights.

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Looking for Reading Material

I’ve spent some time this month looking for interesting garden blogs–and preferably about gardens or ideas that could work in zone 6. I’m interested in what people are planting, how their gardens fare over the seasons and any tips about design (and design to me isn’t fancy outdoor living spaces).

I have to confess that I’ve had an easier time finding fun food sites. I guess that’s not surprising; look at WordPress’ categories cloud and the type is so much bigger for food than it is for garden (size measures frequency). One thing that irritates me is those that don’t make links open in a new window. If I mess up, let me know!

So please point me toward some blogs you like. In the meantime, these are some I’m starting to read:

Garden rant, written by several gardeners. Part of the ‘manifesto’: “We are in love with real, rambling, chaotic, dirty, bug-ridden gardens” and “bored with perfect magazine gardens.”

Miss Rumphius’ Rules, written by a landscape designer.

A Garden of Possibilities, from another landscape designer and “garden coach.” Nice photos and seems to have quite a few posts on individual plants.

Garden porn: the photo in the masthead is enough to get my attention. Lots of photos, just need to translate California plants to what works in New Jersey.

Winter Interest

All this snow we’ve been having has coincided with me opening up our book-sale copy of The Four-Season Landscape and starting to read from the front, rather than in some random spot. The author maintains that if you want a four-season garden, you need to start with planning for winter. That’s when your yard’s “bones” are most apparent–and, it seems, why you need shrubs. Yes, after many years, I am finally warming up to this idea, provided  the shrubs can’t pass for miniature trees.

To be fair, lots of things look great in fresh snow, even just a dusting. I am learning to notice the tree branches, and they do a great job of catching snow. So do grasses, for that matter. So maybe this week isn’t the best for forcing me to notice the shortfalls of the yard at this time of year.

The Brit says we aren’t doing too badly as it is. We  have lots of mature trees, and the view to the back clear to the river is great, even more so with snow. Think of how many yards you know that are wide open to the neighbor’s back yard. Way too many.

One hurdle I’ve had to overcome is “who cares?” I leave the house when it’s dark and get home when it’s dark, so how much will I benefit from ‘winter interest’? I need to think of it as keeping the yard from looking bare at the beginning of daylight savings time, when I should quickly come home to daylight and the daffodils haven’t taken over the front bed. That is one reason that we are thinking of moving the hypericum shrub, with its yellow flowers, from the edge of the iris bed and to the front of the yard.  It keeps its green leaves all winter, so it will be good to appreciate that more often.We’ll find something else to fill the hypericum’s spot.

I’ve also begun thinking that a couple of red-twig dogwoods, paired possibly with a yellow-twig dogwood would be a nice view from the dining room window, especially now that I’ve seen how a friend cuts her yellow-twig dogwood to the ground in the spring. (You get the color on new branches.)

Euonymus Colorata

Another idea is to add some interesting groundcover. One idea is Euonymus Colorata, a wintercreeper whose glossy green leaves deepen to reddish purple in late fall into winter. I’ve already thought of adding some flowers around the lone dwarf burning bush (backbone to a bed!), so perhaps wintercreeper could fit in there or around the Norwegian maple as an early test.

This Could Get Me to Buffalo

Playing around on the Internet, I came across this: a weekend-long garden walk in Buffalo at the end of July. (Be sure to click on the link in the bio on the right–this is one of those frustrating sites that doesn’t give different addresses for different pages.)

What a beautiful thought, especially in the dead of winter! There’s also a photo archive with hundreds of pictures. What’s so nice about many of these gardens is that they use common plants like Black-Eyed Susans and hostas. Click in randomly to get started, hit slideshow and enjoy shots of some beautiful homes.

I’m also intrigued because I seem to have gotten roped into helping with a self-guided tour in my town. Buffalo is an amazing example of what a project like this can turn into.

The combination of these events is motivating me to look out for other area tours. And, yes, to think about a trip to Buffalo. The Brit could see Niagara Falls, and I hear there’s good biking on the Canadian side.

New Year’s Resolutions

The Brit was listening to a gardening podcast on the train home from Manhattan tonight and had to chuckle over the New Year’s resolutions from a group on a Seattle gardening show.

1. Take better care of tools and don’t just toss them in the garage. (OK, tossing is what we — I — usually do, but this fall we did clean them and oil them with linseed oil, though we didn’t get as far as sharpening them.)

2. Quit hoarding a gazillion plastic garden pots and recycle them. Hmm.. we have a giant shopping bag full of some, plus others already in the basement for the grow light extravaganza. But can you just throw them in the recycling? Or will the Master Gardeners take them?

3. Use up the mulch that’s been on the driveway and under blue plastic tarp since …? Yes, we are guilty, too, although it’s top soil, not mulch, from May. (We managed to use the mulch up by fall.)

4. Plan where the plants are going before you buy. Mixed success with that concept in the past. We did lovely Excel sheets with circles showing where various plants from Green Mountain would go, and even kind of stuck to it when the plants arrived. But at the Master Gardeners’ plant sale, it’s more about restraint than actually knowing where things will go. Why else will I need to take time off from work after the sale?