[Little Sunflower Family in the Rain]


Kathy's Garden Journal
...and Musings

13 February 2000 - It's been busy here as always but I never realize what is actually getting done! The past few weeks have seen a lot of soapmaking taking place. There are about 15 batches curing on the dining table and another 5 in the back room. More are to come. I'm thinking that if I make enough this month, it will free up more time in March for working in the yard as weather permits. We'll see. I don't want things to go undone because of soapmaking pursuits! The taxes are yet to be done for this year and filling out the form for the soap business will be a new experience. Even though my activities are rather small, they still require all proper forms and figures to be at hand. I had a bit of panic with the business software I'm using when I couldn't print out a report for any months in the year 2000. Turns out, I just need to go to the menu and establish a file for the new fiscal year... Voila! This help came via a participant on the soapmaking forum. Thank goodness there are folks out there who know what they're doing! My first thought was Y2K non-compliance... any other year and I might have figured out the problem better!

By the way... for those kind souls out there who have expressed concern over my shoulder problems, I want you to know that I'm doing much better. I still have to take care when out of shape and doing certain repetitive motions, but for the most part got through last year in good shape. I hope this spring will be even better and that I'll GET MORE DONE!

Our weather has been a little chilly, but actually making stabs at spring-like conditions. I took a walk with the video camera today and captured the latest late winter blooming things in the garden. Was rather surprised by a couple. Certainly, some of the hybrid primroses near the deck have jumped ahead of their regular blooming time. Normally, they put on a show with the golden grass with which they are interplanted. The grass has hardly sent up a new blade for the spring, but the primroses are out in full force! I hope there will be buds coming along later to coincide with the bright new golden-green growth of the grass. The hardy Cyclamen coum are fully up and open... bright cerise pink flowers that make up for their diminuitive size by their intensity of hue. There are some new members of the colony announcing themselves this year with a single flower. I'm thrilled when a choice plant like this starts to colonize. We're far from that, but have more than a few years ago and maybe in three more years there will be quite a display in that spot if I treat the soil well. In the same north facing bed there is a shrub called Sarcococca, which is covered with small creamy-white frizzly blossoms. They are not showy, but you can smell that intoxicating vanilla-like sweetness from the front walk before you even make it as far as the front lawn. I associate that scent so much with the announcement that spring is coming along soon.

Another herald of approaching spring is the Witch Hazel. We have one near our bedroom window between the garage and house and another smaller one in the back ash bed. Their petals are nothing more than little bands of golden yellow that roll back up when the weather takes a turn for the worse ... fuzzy golden tufts on the ends of the tree branches... but what a wonderful smell they have! You can see small pollenating insects in a cloud around the branches on a nice day. The smell is reminiscent of freshly squeezed orange pulp.

Also in the back bed are the Christmas Roses (Helleborus niger) which are out in full. Three small seedlings placed there about three seasons ago (or was it two?) have grown like weeds and produce a veritable bouquet of golden centered, single white flowers that look much like roses. Considering the low stature of the plant, these are actually rather large... maybe about 2 inches in diameter. They are not very prolific in seed production, so chance seedlings are cherished. In the center back of the bed, the Helleborus orientalis plants are sending up their bloom stalks. Most of these are muted shades of rose and burgundy, with an occasional apple blossom pink and green combination. Their subtlety would certainly be overlooked during the exuberance of late spring, but now they are the stars of the garden.

My last stop was to admire the beautiful bleached wheat color of the Miscanthus grass near the back arbor. This plant is over my head and the ends of the blades are rather curled and textured looking after weathering the winter... albeit a mild one. Because of the lack of snowfall this year (once that hardly counts) this mound of grass is still quite beautiful. More snowfall would have split the clump and broken it down, but it still stands tall and full and rustles with ever breeze. As I turned from this back bed, I saw two spots of bright yellow in the ash bed. The Danford irises (all two of them!) were emerging. They are the earliest bulbous iris to bloom in the late winter and usually the slugs will have their dinner on them before you notice their presence. Oh... one other surprise was a single tiny "Blue Pearl" crocus that was blooming alone under the Styrax tree. I did not put it there, but it must have seeded from a clump of that crocus which is planted nearly 20 to the north. I am delighted with such little surprises!

13 June 1999 - I can't believe it's been three and a half months since I wrote here! There were so many times I planned to come in the house and report on the garden doings but it never happened. For those of you who actually read this journal... I apologize! Spring got rather hectic. The Symphony Chorale had two concerts... two weeks apart. We were under the gun to get the music in hand for the first one and had many 3 hour long practices leading up to the concert (and around 3 during the week of). Two weeks later... more intensive rehearsing for a pops concert with the symphony... boy, was I frustrated and tired. The concerts were nice and all, but some of our rare nice weather for the months of April and May happened during those intense weeks. Since I have a few spring allergies, it's not the best thing to get exposed to pollens the week of a concert (affects the voice). Ah, well... the music season is finally over. There was another opportunity to rehearse and sing with a church choir for a special program on June 6th (this church actually PAID the people who came in to fill out their choir). Got a chance to do Rutter's "Gloria" with a brass quintet backing us... it was WONDERFUL! Enough about music...

The other thing that has gotten in the way of keeping up with the garden page is the SOAPMAKING! In March, I started selling excess soaps through the web page. After doing this for awhile, it became obvious that I should bite the bullet and get a business license. I'm still learning this as I go along, but wanted to be legal and above board. This past week, I've been making soap that is special ordered and it has been pretty busy (trying to squeeze a little yard work in between). This should let up pretty soon when I get a few more batches done. You should see our dining table! I expect it to be like that short story (was that Benchley or Thurber... think the latter?)... "The Night the Bed Fell" ... only it will be my dining room table! Boxes of curing bars are crisscrossed over one another in precarious stacks. If the kids bump the table while getting their folded laundry, the domino effect can often happen! :-) As you can guess... the housecleaning chores are going begging... when it gets bad I take some time to touch things up and get the girls to help with some vacuuming.

On to the GARDEN! It has been a very cool and rainy spring... a bit depressing but not all that bad either, when we consider some of the heat with which other parts of the country are suffering. It has made it more difficult to work in the garden... but I confess... I've let a lot of nice days pass because there were other duties pressing or soapmaking stuff to take care of. There is still a very large area in back that if totally weedy, but I've made a bit more progress on it. The bed leading to and in front of the arbor is looking better and the rose bed has all the vinca removed as of this past week. There is a portion of the rose frontal bed that still needs weeding and then I'll have the girls do the bark. It has been helpful to have them follow behind and mulch for me. I usually need to do some touch up, but it saves the shoulder from too much strain. I've lost a lot of small perennials in the rose frontal, but have things to put in their places after the weeding is finished. In the spring, I bought some dahlias from Costco and they are still not in the ground! Finally potted them up and they are all growing in pots on the deck. Many of them will go into the rose frontal area where the weeding is not yet complete. I am also amazed at the plants that are still alive in all the grass and weeds! Many bearded iris that have not bloomed for a couple of years are still struggling along and have enough going for them to be salvaged. There was a bloom stalk on one this season that I had pulled to the front of the other section of the rose frontal when it was weeded last spring. I was afraid of losing this iris... very delicate and pretty (think the name was "Pretty Print"). It is white with a soft lilac edging. As these areas are weeded, I toss around alfalfa pellets before the girls put down the bark. When new things are planted, I mix in some alfalfa pellets and sometimes some bone meal or compost in the planting soil that goes around the roots. The plants really LOVE the alfalfa... think I'll use those forever. They are so easy to use also.



Very contrasy picture, but shows the area I last worked on in back. It was a beautiful day... during a rare hot week in May of '99. This spot has filled out a lot more since this photo was taken.

[Work in Back... May '99]

The roses are in full flower now and most of the rhodies are going over. There are a few later ones (oranges and purples) still going, but they will be fading by next week. Seems like they are a bit later this year with the cold weather we've had. The beds in back that got weeded and restored last year look wonderful! ... Particularly the ash bed. It is currently brimming with Siberian Iris, finishing flowering onions, some bearded iris and emerging yellow Achillea. I wish I had the page updated so you could see it, but it will come on a delayed schedule. You'll get May eventually before you see what's happening this week! I have a stack of photos on the scanner and I am going to try to get a new page up this week. My poor roses never get the early spray they need, so they are getting some holes eaten in the leaves by those little rose slugs.There has been early black spot this year on some of the bushes and I've picked off affected leaves and discarded them on the burn pile. No spray as yet... I don't think I sprayed at all last season... maybe once? Good intentions but not organized enough.

A couple of daylilies have opened blooms already, but it has been too cold and they are quite unimpressive. They really shine with warmer nights and days. By July, they will be bursting with color. I just noticed a few true lily buds getting color in the oak bed. There is an early one planted there called "Cherry Smash" and I suspect that's it. The Madonna lilies in the ash bed have buds and will be opening in the next couple of weeks. Seeing how that bed has taken off is inspiring and I need to keep myself going on the back. It's still a huge area and tough going when you are trying to dig out grass runners and heavy turf, while searching for and saving perennials. There was a large clump of Veronica 'Red Fox' at the front of the back perennial bed that had to be completely lifted and weeded out. When resetting these pieces that had already grown, they were definitely set back and look awful. I know that by next spring, the plant will be in good shape again, but it's hard to disturb them in growth and see the end result. There was a healthy clump of Nerine foliage near that spot and after I dug around and weeded out the grass, it rewarded me by wilting down and turning brown early. Sigh. As long as it doesn't die, I'll forgive it! :-) Near the arbor I was delighted to find a little colony of the Viola vilmoriniana that used to grow across the path and near the fence. I thought I had lost all of it, but discovered this patch by the arbor and a whole colony under a fir tree in the lower field! Put a picture of that on the page. Am so grateful that plant established itself in other places, since I'll be surprised if any is left where it was originally planted. I haven't worked my way back that far yet!

The 'Hurricane' rhody north of the house is growing very nicely after being whacked off last year. The other one next to it only has a couple of leafing shoots and I don't expect it to come back. This spring I opened up the pathway leading from the entry walk to the front yard and several of the Viburnum davidii got completely cut back. I was not sure if they would sprout from the base... so far nothing. If they don't do anything I will plant some new small bushes there... either of the same thing or maybe some Lingonberry. Not sure if there's enough moisture to keep those happy... but I've always admired their fine evergreen foliage at the nursery and think they would stay smaller. Would also be a nice contrast to the larger evergreen leaves of the rhodies overhead.

Enough Sunday morning rambling. Time to eat breakfast. Hope to get more done by this fall in back... will keep you posted (eventually!).

25 February 1999 - Been a long time, it seems! I guess by looking at the date below, it's not as long as it's felt. Between my being sick and the weather, not much yard work has been happening lately. We are on the verge of setting a record here for days of rainfall. Today will be 83 days that we've had recorded precip each day. 84 days is the record. Unfortunately, there was a lot of flooding in Silverdale a couple of days ago because of it ...in certain low areas known for that when it rains very much. One of the parking lots was reported to have almost 3 feet of water. They brought in pumps and barricades and are keeping the water out of the businesses there, hopefully, but the bowling alley is getting water inside. There are a lot of volunteers trying to keep the wooden floor dry so that it will not warp. My sister bowls there! We actually had a sun break yesterday afternoon and I gleefully ran outside with the camera and took a few pictures. The same for today. It was GLORIOUS to see the sun.

When I went out this afternoon, the first thing I did was check the progress of the hellebores in the Oak Bed. Most of them are very pretty now that they are open and a couple are two-toned with pink and white and some green on each petal. I'm pleased that all three of the original plants are represented in the babies...although some plain white ones would really liven it up more. Maybe I can bring in another white plant later with burgundy freckles. More crocus are blooming..particularly the volunteers that have seeded from the purple and white with purple striped ones I planted years ago. They bloom earlier than the original clumps...maybe because the corms have not pulled themselves as deeply into the soil as the ones set by hand. In a few more years those singles will be making clumps and will really make a show...might even become pests, if that's possible! The smallest of the early narcissus in the garden, 'Tete a Tete' are starting to show color and will be blooming within the week. The roses have about one inch of new growth and if the rain ever lets up and when I have more energy, I will go out and do the winter pruning.

Went to the doctor last week and found out I had bronchitis so am finishing up medicine for that. A head cold that set in on top of it has been more miserable than the former, but they both are beginning to show signs of lifting. Unfortunately, this hit right when I was scheduled to attend the Northwest Flower and Garden Show with a friend. There was no way! I went to town tonight for the first time in a week and came home with two boxes of perennials from Costco! I'm weak at this time of year! One was a yellow mini daylily called 'Eenie Weenie' and the other the variegated iris (pallida) with white instead of creamy yellow margins. I'll pot these up tomorrow and set the pots on the deck until I figure out where I can possibly plant them! There are also three bags of bulbs out on the porch waiting for planting. One is a white Oriental Lily, another mixed colors of miniature gladiolas, and the third some pretty coral colored dahlias for the rose frontal after I dig up the second portion I didn't finish last year. Reminds me...need to look up 'Shademaster' hosta...they had those at Costco also. Hmmm.... might be a nice short variegated one to tuck in somewhere. :-)

2 February 1999 - Happy Ground Hog Day! I'm a bit fatigued and have a sore arm (flareup from a stupid old tennis elbow thing from too much weeding...maybe six years ago?), but I had to write about my two hours in the garden today. Sigh. The sun actually came out half way for part of the day so my first trip into the yard was in the morning to take a few pictures. While walking around the north side of the house to capture a couple of snowdrops, I smelled a very sweet and familiar scent. Took me a second trip past that spot to look over and realize that the Sarcococca was in full bloom. Yumm! Love that smell. It always reminds me of when I worked at the nursery...in the late winter this smell would permeate the air in the lath house. The frizzly off-white flowers are nothing to wax poetic about...except for that great fragrance, which will be more intense when the air temperature outside begins to get into the 50's.

For the first time today I caught a whiff of the Witch Hazel in the alley bed. It has had some flowers open for a week or more, but they have not been characteristically fragrant as yet. That should come soon. Love that citrusy smell! Anyway.... I finally pushed away from the computer this afternoon and got outdoors around 4:00! Figured even if I just got an hour in cutting the old leaves off the hellebores that are budding, it would be worthwhile. Well...after two hours outside, this is what I did:

Started under the Styrax japonica with removing the old leaves off the Primula vulgaris...then the three Helleborus orientalis. They have buds rising from the crowns and the new flowers look so much fresher without being surrounded by the worn leaves from last season. Then I went to the Oak bed and did the same on the bunch of seedlings (from the Styrax bed parents) that were set two years ago. Boy...have they responded to the alfalfa pellets, compost and manure that were dug in first! I was hoping for the first few flowers (maybe) this season. Almost every plant is blooming with a couple having several bloom stalks their first time. I was awed and amazed to discover this a few days ago. I love discoveries like that...much better than finding that mice have eaten the roots of some prized possession over the winter! I may have some of those discoveries yet to come as well. All the hellebores placed in the oak bed will be shades of burgundy or rose, except for the three seedlings of Christmas rose, which are pristine white. Two of those are blooming and one is loaded with flowers! I'll be putting more photos on the web page soon, hopefully.

From there I tackled the dead plant tops in the rest of the oak bed, pulled out a few perennial weeds here and there and tossed them out onto the lawn (which is full of its own perennial weeds already!). The other stuff was placed into the wheelbarrow to be placed (dumped is more like it!) on the compost pile (which I discovered later was being sought out by some blackberry vines that definitely need to be addressed SOON!...from the root end). After grooming the oak bed, I was preparing to quit and go inside, but saw just one more area I could do first...the part of the rose frontal that had been weeded and reworked last year. It had some ugly fallen dahlia stalks that Karen had commented on a few days before (how awful those looked..."what is that?"). Well...I cut back most of the dead stuff in that bed and then went to the part of the rose bed behind that had been weeded last year and removed the old tops of Nicotiana and Borage. Now...after emptying the wheelbarrow, I would quit!

Well...I remembered on the way in that what I had really intended to do was cut back the soft pink hardy fuchsia growing in the alley bed near the dogwood tree. I'd just need to go inside and get the loppers for that chore. Not only did I do that, I cut back the Phygelius aequalis 'Moonraker' near the cement bench (which was hanging over the Daphne odora that is in bud) and pulled off some old daylily and hosta foliage near the path. Done, you say? One last thing...there was an acorn (the biggest one I'd seen so far from our tree) that I'd picked up while weeding near the path where the alley bed empties out onto the back lawn. When I picked it up to examine it more closely, I could see a small green shoot coming through the pointy top. Neat! (Unless I end up with oak trees sprouting all over the yard that need pulling....:-( This was potted up in a gallon pot and I'll find a home for the baby tree later. Oak trees are so wonderful to garden under and take awhile to establish. I've really enjoyed ours now that it's take on some size. Now that it is producing viable acorns, the blue jays are enjoying it as well! Squirrels might be next if the cats don't intercept them before they get to the tree from the upper woods.

Time to go into the house... Oh, phooey! I'd wanted to dump some of the poor apples that I never got to from last fall. They've been stacked up unattractively on the porch and went through an extreme cold snap this winter (they were already dried out so much that it didn't faze them!). Took three or four boxes and tossed them on a compost heap. At one point, I wiped off one of the firmer ones to taste it and see if there was any flavor left after sitting out there since October. Not the greatest...but I've had store bought that were much worse! Decided to save back a few boxes and in the dim light of the front porch, I sorted out the squishy rotten apples from the three best boxes (my nose says I've missed some, but I'll get them in broad daylight). At times like this, the rubber gloves I was using for gardening came in really handy. They are wonderful gloves originally designed for fisherman and sold by a company on nearby Bainbridge Island. I think I have a link for them on the gardenlinks page. After finishing up with the apples, the only thing left to make the porch look a tiny bit better was to pull off the dead plant tops from the two hanging baskets and the planter box near the front door. After completing this and sweeping the sidewalk...I was DONE (in)!!! What a great feeling!...being outside taking in the cool air, listening to the birds and smelling the sweet smell of earth and musty smell of fallen leaves...observing new shoots and late winter blooming flowers. (The first crocus winked at me when I looked into the back yard from my bedroom window this morning... 'Cream Beauty.' ...I took photos.) This is such a wonderful time in the garden...before the new weeds take off and the pressure and frenzy of late spring set in! Hope my shoulder and elbow don't mutiny on me and that I can get that back area caught up this season! Cross your fingers!

5 January 1999! - Well...I just went in back to snap a shot of the dry Miscanthus with this foggy sort of sun setting behind it scene and on my way back into the house spotted WHITE in the oak bed. Upon closer examination, I was thrilled to see a rather generous clump of white flower buds rising through the downed leaves...from the Christmas Rose (aptly named)... Helleborus niger (only this one was some sort of hybrid type). I lifted three tiny babies from the original plant that is north of the carport and set them in the oak bed a mere two seasons ago. This one plant really took off and bloomed the next year after setting. Wow! I have one of those gardener's adrenaline rushes going as I type! It only takes getting through the holidays and a couple of months of not being in the yard to give me the rest I need to want to go out there again. Also...I love working in the late winter/early spring weather...hate it in hot summer! Also blooming now is the Winter blooming Jasmine/Jasminum nudiflorum. The Cyclamen coum are not open yet but the buds are showing and the stems getting longer. There are a couple of misguided double primrose blossoms open (we've had strange weather this winter, so far). The Helleborus foetidus is preparing to open and its green buds are nodding on half grown stems. If it gets mild anytime soon, I'm just going to have to get out there and start cleaning some places up and preparing to catch up. Some exercises for my weak shoulder are probably in order also so that I don't put myself out of the running in the first month! :-) Sorry for you folks back East and in the Midwest right now who are buried in snow. I guess your spring comes a bit later than ours (and it's certainly NOT spring here yet...we'll have some more cold before the winter has died) but your spring and summer will be just as glorious!

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