A Month into Spring

Time may be a social construct, but Spring arrives reliably year after year. Paper calendars are optional.

Welcome rain for a parched garden

The first bulbs emerge in February, a little pre-season treat. In our garden, that means hyacinth and once-upon-a-time, crocus. I haven’t noticed the crocus in recent years, but given their small size, they may simply be growing out of view.

Pink hyacinth

Soon the narcissus follows, bright and showy and strong.

Harbingers of spring: Yellow Daffodils

Freesias are my new favorite. They multiply year after year, adorning the garden with an assortment of color and an intoxicating scent. I planted one assorted packet several years ago, and have reaped the reward of purples, reds, pale yellows, and the prolific whites. They dazzle our passersby from the curb garden and along the curving ramp to our front door.

A trio of colored Freesia

Brilliant white Freesia

As the flashy bulbs finish for the season, perennials carry on with the show. Bright pinks, lavenders, and yellows contrast against the ever-present greens.

Dark pink azalea

Azalea close-up

Pale pink Azalea

Shiny new growth emerges on all the plants like a chick from an egg, small and tender at first, then vital and strong.

It’s not all fun and games. The weeds emerge, even with our meager rain, opportunistically growing beneath the established ground cover. They grow parallel to the lacy foliage of the California poppy, perhaps thinking I won’t notice.

They’re no match for this gardener.

As I hobbled to and from the car earlier this year, I would bend down and pluck one or two weeds. Now that I’m fairly mobile, I’m methodically clearing them from the garden.

The worst of the weeds gather near the curb, so I sat on the pavement there and got to work.

Over a few weeks, I worked my way down both sides of the drive, around the raised bed known as the curb garden, and then finally into the main garden.

Front Garden

Getting lost in thought as I pull weeds and tidy the beds is wonderfully therapeutic. It helps keep the worrying thoughts at bay. I hear bird song from the trees. I try to count bees, smiling to myself when I lose track. An abundance of bees is essential for our survival. My garden is content to do its part.

Garden Gallery:

Occasionally a lizard darts out of its hiding place and they always give me a start. They too are a gift to the garden, so as my nervous system relaxes, I count my many blessings and carry on with my day.

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. – Audrey Hepburn

An (Almost Spring) Garden Posy

Ahhhhh…

It’s been raining off and on for several weeks, leaving the air fresh and clear. I managed some garden time between storms, pulling together a spring garden posy. I love this time of year.

Spring bulb posy

Spring posy nestled in the planting bed. The wind kept tipping it over, but I finally got this shot

cat vase with spring bulbs

Hyacinth, Daffodil, Nigella, and Freesia in a tiny vase

It’s cheering seeing bulbs emerge from the dark, wet soil. Most are brightly colored and in some cases scented, too. They’re an intoxicating mix and a harbinger of things to come.

The hyacinth come up first…

Pink striped hyacinth

Pink candy-cane striped hyacinth

pink hyacinth

Fragrant and lovely hyacinth

followed by narcissus (daffodils)…

Daffodil and hyacinth

Garden posy: daffodil, hyacinth and Nigella greens

white freesia

White freesia

and then freesia.

The freesia are the garden darlings these days, growing larger and spreading farther year after year. They pop up in whites, reds, yellows and pinks, and seem to last for weeks.

“Spring drew on…and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that hope traversed them at night and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.”

–Charlotte Brontë

As I said earlier, “Ahhhhh….”

Emerging Bulbs and Weather Woes

The weather forecasters say it’s too early to cry “drought”, but it’s shaping up to be a dry, warm winter.

San Jose’s climate is semi-arid averaging a mere 15 inches (38 cm) a year. Most of our rain falls between October and March.  As we head into mid-February, there isn’t a drop in the forecast. It’s also been unseasonably warm.

Weather Report February 2018

Source: San Jose Mercury News The black dots represent record highs and lows for that date. As you can see we’re near or over those records.

It might seem uncharitable objecting to a series of warm, clear days when it would otherwise be cold and windy, but after a year of brutal wildfires, these conditions do not bode well for the months ahead. We shall see.

Garden patio potted plants

Garden patio steps: cyclamen, azalea, succulents (in pots), New Zealand flax and anemone in the background

This morning I spotted a self-seeded tomato that has already shot up in one of the planting beds.  I wouldn’t normally plant tomatoes before April. It’s all a bit surreal.

The daffodils (narcissus) are coming up. I can’t think of a more cheerful flower, breaking ground with their strong, green stems, then unfolding their yellow perfection.

daffodil budding

Daffodil just before opening

lemon yellow daffodil

Lemon yellow daffodil

Daffodil 'Ice Follies'

Daffodil ‘Ice Follies’

I love A.A. Milne’s poem When We Were Young:

“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
“Winter is dead.”

I play a little game with myself in November. I buy a few bags of bulbs, then plant them in random pots, beds and corners of the garden and forget about them. I’ve learned over the years what grows well (daffodils, iris, Calendula, hyacinth and freesia) and what to skip (tulips). Daffodils survive because they’re toxic to squirrels. They leave them planted deep in the ground. The freesia do an amazing job spreading each year, producing bigger and more productive plants each season.

I added to my hyacinth bulbs last year and they’re coming up in succession instead of all at once. They’re intoxicating.

Orientalis hyacinth Pink Pearl

Orientalis hyacinth Pink Pearl

Orientalis hyacinth

Orientalis hyacinth in full bloom

Orientalis Hyacinth 'Aida'

Any day now, this Orientalis Hyacinth ‘Aida’ well emerge in purple splendor

A year ago I planted Ranunculus. The name comes from the Late Latin term for “little frog”. I had mixed success. They are so pretty, that I gave it another go. The first year, the squirrels kept digging them up and tossing them on the deck. They were interesting enough to unearth, apparently, but not good enough to eat. Last fall I planted them after filling one of my Earthboxes with cyclamen and (name escapes me) a white trailing plant. That did the trick and they’re all up in beautiful, leafy plants.

Emerging Ranunculus

Emerging Ranunculus

My trusty guide when trying to remember when to capitalize the plants name (daffodils, no, Ranunculus, yes). Source: When should you capitalize plant names

Drizzle, Fizzle

Our ‘chance of rain’ was a tiny drizzle in the middle of the night. San Jose saw 0.01″ in the past 24 hours.  No puddle splashing for me today.

On the bright side, the garden looks refreshed.  The fog, mist and drizzle freshened up the foliage so that’s something.

Here’s what I saw on my morning rounds.

I mentioned a random bulb growing out of the bottom of the vegetable bed last week.  The lovely Narcissus made her debut yesterday.

narcissus

Narcissus

I need to prune this four-in-one fruit tree but I’ve been putting it off. It’s grown tall so I need a ladder. Two years ago I fell off the ladder trying to cover the tree with netting, and I’ve been nervous about it ever since.

fruit tree buds

Raindrops on tree buds

I see little blueberry buds. Sweet!

Blueberry buds

Blueberry buds

Succulents need very little water. I haven’t watered these plants in months.

Flowering succulent

Flowering succulent

Silver drops

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass [as if], it’s about learning to dance in the rain. Vivian Greene

Narcissus and Freesia

bulb packets

Bulb Packets

Hopefully I’m not too late. The cliché “nothing ventured, nothing gained” is at work in my garden.

Today I planted nearly 75 bulbs, 50 Yellow Trumpet Narcissus and 24 Single Mix Freesia. The preferred planting time is November through December.  We’re mid-way through January so I’m a teeny bit behind schedule. No matter. They’re in the ground now, a nice six inches below soil level. All these years of gardening and I’m still amazed that you can bury a bulb that deep. Their internal programming tells them when to pop up and where. If you plant one upside down, they’ll simple make a u-turn and grow up towards the sun anyway.

The narcissus will put on a show early to mid spring. They’re planted broadcast style in the curb garden. All that new, rich soil made quick work of the planting. It was nice to see earth worms in the mix too, always a plus.  As a bonus, I unearthed my afternoon snack: half a dozen carrots that I missed harvesting last week.

The Freesia are early summer bloomers. I planted them in a curved row in the small triangle garden I created last year. The mix includes white, yellow, red, pink and purple flowers.

Rain

San Jose received a ‘trace’ of rain last week. It was enough to clear the awful air we’ve had, but nothing more. We’ve had 27 spare the air days this season days thanks to fires, illegal wood burning and lack of rain.  Our five-day forecast calls for sunny skies and high temps. By Thursday, temps will be up to 72 degrees F (22 degrees C). January is typically our coolest month with an average of 58 degrees. I enjoy beautiful days as much as the next person, but it feels so strange to have winter skies, spring temps and summer ‘rain’.

Little Free Library

The Little Free Library is up and running a week now. Check back tomorrow for an update. I hope life is good in your corner of the world.

Garden Bulbs: Putting on a Show

Today, I was ready! I’ve been enjoying these beautiful tulips putting on a show and wanted to share them with you. I kept missing the chance to grab a picture of their buttery centers. The tulips start to ‘disrobe’ around mid-day, usually when I’m gone. They’re wrapped up snugly first thing in the morning and again by dusk. Aren’t they something?

Tulip opens up

Tulip opens up

three tulips

Trio of Beauties

Petite and purple crocus broke ground this week, blooming with sporty stripes and tailored leaves to match They’re small put powerful, and once established, appear year after year. I planted crocus in several pots and as a border under the Acer and around the steps. Next year I’ll be far more adventurous, planting in greater volume. They’re magnificent!

Purple crocus

Purple Crocus with Lemony Centers

This lovely should burst on the scene tomorrow, just in time for Blooming Thursday. (No pressure, little flower.)

Tomorrow's promise

Tomorrow’s promise

I’ll close with this luscious number. I don’t remember planting it and don’t know what it is. Suggestions welcome.

DSC_0006

(Almost) Blooming Thursday: Tulips!

Tulips Break Ground

Tulips Break Ground

Did you hear me squeal with delight?

Tulips are popping up all over the garden. They won’t flower for a little while, but the fact that they’ve survived this long (shh…don’t tip off the squirrels) is amazing.

Last fall I planted three varieties, purchased at a local garden center. They are all sourced from Van Zyverden.

I planted:

  • 15 Tulip ‘Angélique
  • 15 Tulip ‘Attila‘; and
  • 5 Tulip ‘Passionale

In other words, the potential for 35 stunning acts of nature. Guess what? I counted over twenty, ground-breaking bulbs! The last time I planted tulips, nothing came up. Zip. Zero. Nada. I’m really liking these odds.

tulip bulbs break ground

Tulips all Around!

While I had my nose to the earth, I noticed several more bulbs breaking through: Crocus, Narcissus and a few others, to-be-determined when they bloom.

Oh happy day!  What’s ‘cooking’ in your garden this Thursday?

spring bulbs collage

Assorted Spring Bulbs Break Ground

Tulip Bulbs

Tulip Bulbs