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Tangled Branches: Cultivated

happenings in and around my zone 6b gardens in northern Virginia and in central Virginia

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Out Like a Lamb?

March didn't quite go out like a lamb, even though it came in like a lion. It was overcast and cool all day, but no rain.

I weeded and trimmed this morning, but the ground is still very wet. Probably should have stayed inside, but the weeds are growing along with everything else.

I posted a few new pictures. The weather made them look a little flat, but at least you can see what is newly blooming.

The newest spring bird in the yard this morning was a chipping sparrow. Fifteen minutes later I saw there were 2 of them, and one seemed to be gathering dry grass.

Verizon is digging up our neighborhood for some reason, and today the utility marking company came by and painted orange lines right through my peonies. DH says they are digging huge holes in peoples' yards. If they dig up my peonies, I'm going to be very sad.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Sun, Flowers, Phoebes

Finally! Some nice weather! (But don't get used to it.) The ground in the back yard and woods was still squishy-wet this afternoon. I used the opportunity to pull up some honeysuckle that got started and was threatening to take over the woods again, and some wild strawberry. And I figured I was never going to get a better opportunity to finish off my Hugh Dickson roses, so I attacked with spade and garden fork and eventually pruning saw on one huge root, but they are now out of the ground. Squirrels (or something) dug up, chewed to pieces, and left the pieces lying there, my expen$ive martagon lily planted last year. I think I'll try to root some of the scales that look mostly intact.

I have a few more daffodils blooming now, and muscari, and chionodoxa, and vinca minor. Pictures tomorrow before it rains again?

There were 2 Eastern Phoebes in the back yard in early afternoon today. First ones I've seen this year. The juncos are still here.

I accompanied DH on a drive down to Suffolk yesterday. I was hoping to see more of spring down there than we have here, but it was barely noticeable. The most springy thing I saw all day was 2 large magnolia trees in full bloom.

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Monday, March 28, 2005

Damp and Dismal

It has been raining more or less all day. We just had a thunderstorm that briefly knocked out the electricity. The backyard is as flooded as I've ever seen it. Just now lightning is starting again. gardening today. My last two 'Hatsu Arashi' morning glories have germinated. That's 100% germination for those, but only 20% for 'Fujimusume' and 40% for 'Milky Way'.

My very favorite gardening book, in the chapter titled "The Gardener's March", contains the following:

When your watch stops, you pull it to pieces and then take it to the watchmaker; if somebody's car stops, he turns up the bottom of his overcoat and sticks his fingers in the machinery and then sends to the garage. With everything in the world it is possible to do something, but against weather nothing can be done. No zeal, no ambition, no newfangled methods, no meddling or cursing is of any use; the germ opens and a sprout comes up when it is time, and a law has been accomplished. Here you are humbly conscious of the impotence of man; soon you will realize that patience is the mother of wisdom!

After all, nothing can be done.

Warm, pleasant weather is on the way.

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Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter / Kidwell Farm

In observance of the season of renewal, yesterday we stopped by Frying Pan Park to see the baby animals at Kidwell Farm. In the big barn were 6 lambs (several weeks old), a litter of piglets (10 days old, pink and cute), and a just-days-old kid (a real kid - a baby goat). All were cute, but the kid was frisky and just adorable. I could've stayed a long time just looking, but DH has a shorter attention span.

So we wandered out to the hen house and the rabbit hutch. No babies either place, but the white and black rabbits looked soft, silky and content.

Further down the lane, we arrived at the peacock pen just as the peacock was folding up his tail. We caught a glimpse of it fanned out as we were walking up. He was radiant, even on a cloudy day. His neighbor, a black (wild-looking) turkey was also displaying. I had never seen that before. A strange sight - his head and wattles in various shades of blue and red, all feathers fanned out, accompanied by very odd sound effects.

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Friday, March 25, 2005

Rain and More Rain

It rained on Wednesday - a lot - records set at Baltimore and National Airport. It didn't rain yesterday, but was overcast and cold most of the day. It rained this morning. More rain is predicted for this afternoon. The weekend forecast includes drizzle on Saturday (the best weather of the weekend) and rain on Sunday, get the idea.

So, how about some indoor activities? I potted up a few of the morning glory seedlings that I sowed on March 7. Getting erratic germination on these - something around 50% so far, but I haven't given up on them yet. I thought maybe they would benefit from some bottom heat, so I sat the Bio Dome on the soil heating mat a week or so ago. I was suprised to find rather well-developed roots on some seedlings where the seed leaves hadn't really even opened yet.

But I need something beautiful to look at while waiting for the rain to stop. These are perfect. So are these.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

More Flowers

The day got away from me again yesterday, but I did some light weeding and general cleanup in the afternoon. And I took some pictures.

I was surprised to find a white Scilla siberica among all the blue ones. I didn't plant it, so it must be a chance seedling. And they are champion seed-setters. I started with, oh, 50 or 100 tiny bulbs 16 or 17 years ago, and now the whole area around the shrubbery in front of the house is carpeted with these. I moved a few here and there, but they've mostly done all the work themselves.

Gardening today is postponed due to rain.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Distance Gardening

A gardener from northern Illinois writes:

The robins must have looked at the calendar as I saw the first two
this morning. And the daffodils are just starting to break ground.

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Not Gardening

Didn't do any gardening at all yesterday, unless you count buying pruning tools at BJ's. I really could have used the rachet lopper last week when cutting down the roses. My old loppers were not quite up to the task, and my Fiskars pruning saw broke a couple of years ago, leaving me with my very old and not very sharp saw. Now I have a shiny new one of different design than the last one - hopefully more durable.

Hope to get outside this afternoon before the rain. Ice Follies daffodils are blooming nicely now, and the Scilla siberica in front of the house are starting to look very colorful. I plan to post some pictures later today.

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Sunday, March 20, 2005


The spring equinox happened before I got a chance to blog about it. I have some interesting links to share about the relationship between Sun and Earth.

This one always fascinates me. Right now, the line between night and day is vertical on the map. In three months, it will be at its greatest slope. There is a similar depiction at, but Walker's site lets you select your choice of map as the base, with various weather images among the choices.

The Sun-Earth Day site at NASA is very polished and information-packed. You can spend a long time browsing here. This year's theme is Ancient Observatories. If I remember, I'll tune in to the webcast later today live from Chichén Itzá in the Yucatan Peninsula to watch the serpent descend the stairs.

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Saturday, March 19, 2005

Pine Warbler Concludes Visit

I think the pine warbler has moved on. I haven't seen it since Thursday. Others in the mountains and to the south of here are reporting seeing pine warblers, but I haven't see any local reports. Maybe not worth reporting? Perhaps they're not unusual here, but this was the first one I had ever seen. So, not knowing whether I'll see one again, I'm posting the least bad picture I have.

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Goodbye Hugh Dickson

This morning I decided Hugh Dickson had to leave. I've been putting up with his untidy habits for far too long. I feel a little guilty because he's been here 16 years and I could have tried harder to get him to clean up his act. But between the blackspot, the floppy stems, and the relatively meager repeat bloom, I just got tired of him. I invited him to live with us in 1989; mail-ordered 3 plants from Roses of Yesterday and Today to go outside the bay window in the dining room ( would be lovely to host a brunch in late May with the windows open and the beautiful fragrance wafting in...).

I used to keep really good garden records until I took up genealogy in 1990. I only know that these roses are Hugh Dickson because I just looked in my old garden notebook, and found the sales receipt. It looks like Roses of Yesterday and Today doesn't have this variety anymore either.

I will say that Hugh was wonderfully fragrant, and when young was much more vigorous and floriferous than lately, and he was from a good family. But the planting site was always a bit awkward - hard to tend the plants there because the bay window was in the way and hard to wash the window because the roses were in the way. So I cut them down to the ground today, in preparation for digging them out. The current plan is to fill the space with some Siberian iris that could use dividing.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

More Narcissus

A couple more narcissus are starting to bloom. Tete-a-Tete, a miniature, and Ice Follies, a Large-cup. I see that I disparaged Ice Follies last year too (see March 18). Maybe I just don't like Large-cup narcissi, but I think the flowers are ill-proportioned. And I don't like the fact that the yellow cup fades so quickly. But then again, they are early.

Looks like the American Daffodil Society is now calling them Long-cup instead of Large-cup. Large-cup is a better description if you ask me.

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Yard Work

Finally got outside this afternoon to start some yard work. It felt like early spring today instead of midwinter. The ground is starting to dry out enough to walk on it, rake it, and weed it, but still very wet for digging. So I: weeded, raked, cleaned up dead foliage, pruned, etc. It wasn't as much as it sounds like - I only spent 15 minutes or so on each task. Didn't want to get sore and tired right out of the starting gate.

This is a good place to mention a very handy tip. Athletic tape is your friend in the garden. I always used to get blisters on the crook of my thumbs when raking, even when wearing gloves, but now I wrap them with athletic tape first. No blisters. I once read about using athletic tape in a slightly different way. If you don't like wearing gloves to garden, but also don't like having rough cuticles and dirt under your fingernails, tape your fingertips over with athletic tape and forget the gloves. I found this works OK, but took me so long to do all 10 fingers that it felt like a chore. So I put up with rough cuticles and dirty fingernails. But not blisters.

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Monday, March 14, 2005

Sunny, but Cold

Spring continues to unfold s l o w l y. It was darned cold today, even though the sun was bright. No warm-up predicted for a while either. The narcissus and the crocus are happy enough, and they'll probably last a bit longer this year with the weather this way (unless it snows again). The next things in bloom will be Ice Follies and Tete-a-Tete narcissus. I'm not overly fond of either one of those, but because they provide flowers early, they haven't been thrown on the compost heap . We'll take just about any kind of flower this time of year. I love the dark purple crocuses though (the picture makes it look lighter than it really is); must remember to order more of those next fall.

The pine warbler is still around and I still don't have a picture of it.

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Saturday, March 12, 2005

Pine Warbler

The possible pine warbler I mentioned in the last post is now a definite pine warbler. It's been making itself at home the last couple of days, eating at the Nuttery feeder and the suet feeder, and drinking from the birdbath. I haven't gotten a good picture of it yet. Every time I'm ready with the camera, the bird flies away. According to the species account at the Cornell web site, this is one of the few warblers that eats seeds and visits bird feeders. The yellow-rumped warblers hang around the suet feeder sometimes, but are not daily visitors.

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Yellow: Warblers, Butterflies, and Narcissus

I saw a new warbler this morning. At least, I believe it was a warbler. Shortly after 9 am, there was a brightly colored yellow bird on the Nuttery seed feeder. I don't have a positive ID (flew away before I could compare it to any field guides), but it was very yellow on the breast and head, pale gray wings with 2 white bars, and very faint darker streaks on the sides of the breast. Not a goldfinch, although they are getting more yellow by the day. Best guess is Pine Warbler. In fact after looking at those photos, I'm almost sure it was a Pine Warbler. I was surprised to see it on the feeder - I always thought warblers were insect eaters.

And Monday, when it was so warm, I noticed a butterfly fluttering around the back of the lot. Again, no ID (didn't get anywhere close to it), but it was yellowish - a sulphur?

The narcissus just beginning to open on Monday are now brightening the woods with yellow. The picture is from yesterday and they look even better today.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005


I planted a few seeds on Monday. Three kinds of morning glories, and mixed Pastel Carpet Alyssum. I don't see alyssum being widely-grown lately, but it's just the thing for early spring. It can take cold temperatures, maybe even a light frost, and it's pleasantly fragrant. It will fizzle when the weather gets hot, but by then we'll be interested in something flashier anyway.

But back to the morning glories. I've admired Japanese morning glories ever since growing 'Blue Silk' one year. Huge, pale blue flowers with a white picotee edge. They were so beautiful. Unfortunately, Park Seeds stopped offering them. I tried 'Mt. Fuji' mix from them a couple of years ago, and they were OK, but I still like 'Blue Silk' better. So this year I found some Japanese morning glory seeds the modern way - on eBay. I have my doubts about whether these will come true from the seed I bought, because the seller saved the seed from her own garden, but I'm eager to see whatever grows. I planted 'Fujimusume', 'Hatsu Arashi', and 'Milky Way'.

And the alyssum has begun to germinate already.

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Oh No! Snow!

We had a brief blizzard yesterday. When I got up around 6 am, it was pouring rain. By 8 am, it had started to snow. At 9 am, it was snowing sideways and the wind was howling. Possibly the wildest weather we have seen all winter. I'm really tired of taking pictures of snow, but look here for a good idea of what we experienced yesterday.

And to further slow down the progress of spring, the temperature last night got as low at 17 degrees.

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Monday, March 07, 2005

More Flowers

We had a nice warm day today for a change, and that brought out a few more flowers. The narcissus that were almost blooming a week ago, just opened today. When I went back to take a close-up picture of them, I found one purple crocus beginning to flower. And I was going to pull out what I thought was a dandelion, only to find that it was a winter aconite instead.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Blustery Day

What a cold, windy day it was! I went for a walk by the creek behind the house, down in the valley where the wind wasn't so fierce, but I didn't linger.

...and they stood up straight again, to listen, a little nervously, to the roaring of the gale among the tree-tops.
"Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?"
"Supposing it didn't, " said Pooh after careful thought.

The House at Pooh Corner
, by A. A. Milne

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Tuesday, March 01, 2005


Bluebirds and scillas are turning things blue around here. The bluebirds were around most of the day today, coming around for a few holly berries and then perching in the trees seemingly with nothing better to do. A few more scillas are blooming in front of the house. Some of these always bloom long before the rest. The next thing to flower will be yellow - the early narcissus are justhisclose to blooming. Ever wonder how the garden catalogs get those pictures of early bulbs blooming in the snow? Just like I did. They wait for a late snowstorm after the plants have begun to bloom.

This morning, however, looked like January. Yesterday's snow continued to accumulate overnight. But the sun is strong this time of year and by midmorning a few patches of bare ground had appeard. By afternoon, there were big muddy puddles in the woods.

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