Vernal Equinox: The Garden Always Knows

I refer to my calendar each year to confirm the first day of spring. My garden needs no such reminder. While I’m busy planning in my head or on paper, my garden knows it’s time to spring forth. Every year it takes my breath away. I’m more steward, than gardener most days. I keep the weeds at bay, train the vines away from the sidewalk and trim away spent flowers or browning leaves.

In truth, none of these things are necessary. I like a tidy garden, so grooming the plants brings me pleasure. It’s also an opportunity to kneel on the earth, a way to feel connected to something magnificent. Mother Earth never ceases to amaze me.

According to The Farmer’s Almanac:

“On the equinox, Earth’s two hemispheres are receiving the Sun’s rays about equally because the tilt of the Earth is zero relative to the Sun, which means that Earth’s axis neither points toward nor away from the Sun.”

Meteorologically speaking, March 1st is the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Astronomically, the equinox is generally considered the start of spring. Today is the day that both hemispheres have exactly the same amount of daylight. That in itself is something fun to celebrate.

Come have a look at my garden on this cool, overcast, early spring day.

California poppy

California poppy, waiting to open. It’s our state flower

Cornflower bud

The first of the cornflower buds

Nigella bud

Nigella ready to bud. The bees love them.

Fuchsia freesia

Fuchsia freesia (say that three times)

curb garden spring

The narcissus stems make great supports for the budding sweet peas in the curb garden

three flowers in the curb garden

The beauty of threes

assorted freesia

Assorted freesia

mystery flower red

I planted this in a pot last summer and I forget what it is

yellow freesia and violets

Yellow freesia with violets at their feet

I have a bounce in my step and a racing heart. Spring, glorious spring. You never let me down. Are you ready for the changing season? Are you entering Spring or Autumn?

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WordPress Needs a Scratch-and-Sniff Feature

Spring: when the birds sing, the flowers bloom and the intoxicating scent of the garden can bring you to your knees. I snapped photos today, with Mouse the Cat at my heals. We’ve been inhaling the tantalizing scent of freesias scattered throughout the garden.

mouse with flowers at his feet

Mouse tries out a new pair of shoe buckles

Freesia are native to Africa, named after a German botanist and now growing in San Jose. They get around.

yellow freesia

Yellow freesia

I bought a bag of assorted colors several years ago, and they’ve come back bigger and better every year. So far I’ve seen yellow, red and white (my favorite) but I think a few purple ones will be up soon. I took a handful to a friend today with a few sprigs of asparagus fern. The wonderful scent lingered in my car even after they were gone.

red freesia

Red freesia

white freesia

White freesia near the walkway

Freesias, sweet peas and daffodils

white freesia

Freesia toppling over the walkway

white freesia curb garden

Freesia in the curb garden

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could press your nose to your screen and drink in that scent? Perhaps one of those twenty-something technical geniuses will develop a scratch-and-sniff like feature.

The hyacinths are also up dusting corners of the garden with their potent scent.

purple hyacinth

Purple Hyacinth (William of ‘William and Kate’)

hyacinth

Pink Hyacinth (Kate of ‘William and Kate’)

It’s no surprise that even manufactured scents try to borrow from nature: rose-scented perfume, lemon-scented dish detergent and lavender-infused essential oils. Nothing tops nature.

Along the fence, our jasmine vine is in full bloom, inviting me to linger under its shade. I hope it survives the abuse it will get when work boots hit the ground. It’s time to replace the fence.

Star Jasmine

Star Jasmine vine

curb garden

Curb garden with daffodil and freesia

daffodils in the curb garden

Narcissus: 1) Daffodils; 2) Mouse the Cat

The flower is the poetry of reproduction. It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life. Jean Giraudoux

So what do you think? Could “scratch and sniff” be the wave of the future? Mmmmmmm

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A Garden Under the Influence of Rain

wisteria vine

Wisteria refreshed

It’s been an extraordinary spring!

Everywhere I turn I see a happy garden under the wonderful influence of rain. I’m taking none of it for granted.

From the self-seeded pumpkins,

2016 garden pumpkin near patio

Self-seeded pumpkin, impervious to the cool night temperatures

to the spontaneous cottage garden

2016 sweet peas love in a mist poppies

My all-volunteer (self-seeded) garden

everything seems larger than life.  It’s rare for San Jose to get rain this far into the year, but we continue to get small storms every week or so keeping things fresh and alive.

I prepped an Earth Box for some pumpkin seeds, and following the package instructions, waited for warmer nighttime temps. I needn’t have bothered. There are two self-seeded pumpkins growing across the back garden doing just fine. They don’t mind the cooler nights and show no signs of slowing down. Emboldened by last year’s pumpkin success (no water, no squash bugs) I’m happy to see these two doing well.

2016 pumpkin vine self seeded

Another self-seeded pumpkin, already setting flowers

The tomatoes doubled in size within a few weeks. I’m glad I staked them from the start. They always looks so small when they’re just getting started, but I’ve learned the hard way how difficult it is to stake them once they are under way.

2016 garden tomatoes

Tomatoes Doubling Down

The raspberry canes survived the move and several of the canes are setting flowers. There is nothing quite so good as a fresh, warm berry from your garden. Grow, berries, grow!

I missed the memo about Nasturtiums taking over the garden, but I don’t mind. They’re beautiful, colorful and edible and they’re supposed to keep the bad bugs away. So far so good so I say “go Nasturtiums.” There are strawberries hiding under the flowers which is probably just as well. If the birds don’t see them, they can’t eat them.

nasturtiam close up

Variegated Nasturtium

Thanks to the heat and rain, the basil is already flowering. The flowers are pretty but they take away all the energy from the leaves so I’m pinching them back every other day. I made this same mistake last year. The tomatoes take longer to fruit so while I’m waiting for tomatoes, I’m having to discourage the basil from flowering. Hopefully I can stay on top of it. Caprese salad is in my future!

I’m really happy with my raised (Trug) planting bed. I wrapped the legs with copper tape before adding a single plant, and it worked. No snails! I used strips of burlap as mulch this year, with plenty left on the roll for years to come. It was also supposed to discourage the cats from using the boxes for other purposes, but they think it’s a delightful place for a nap.

2016 slinky in the planter box

Slinky found her way to the planting box

slinky in the planter box

Cozy

mouse in the garden bed

Nasturtiums and Mouse the Cat

What an incredible spring.

March 10th vegetable garden

March 10th, 2016

vegetable garden may 5th

May 5th, 2016

 

Up Pop the ‘Daffies

Things are popping up all over the garden.  Don’t you love this time of year?

With plenty of evidence of a squirrel invasion and the later-than-recommended planting date, I tried to keep my expectations low.  I’d seen daffodils in full bloom throughout the neighborhood,but mine were still a no-show.

A watched pot never boils, so I feigned indifference. Up popped the ‘Daffies. I planted fifty of them in the curb garden, interspersed with last year’s perennials.  I lost count due to feline distractions, but I’m pretty sure most of them came up.

daffodils break ground

Daffodils break ground

chocolate mint

Chocolate mint

Mint is a bit like ivy. It will rule the garden if left undisturbed. So with a watchful eye, I hope to encourage the mint to trail over the edges of the garden bed, to leave plenty of room for everything else. It’s beautiful and fragrant and super easy to grow.

thyme

I think this is Thyme

I think this is Thyme, but don’t remember planting it.I looked at my planting list, and thyme wasn’t included. That’s okay, though. I like a little mystery in a garden.

feline border control

Feline border patrol

Mighty Mouse, my feline adviser wouldn’t take no for an answer. He hounded me throughout my rounds, insisting I pick him up. I rested my foot on the support of the box and he made his move. His special party trick involves springing from the ground on to my shoulder or my back. It’s fine in the winter months when I’m wearing a jacket, but summer shoulder-hopping is strongly discouraged.  Ouch!

curb garden

Curb Garden

That’s the long view of the curb garden. We’re just ten days away from the Northern Hemisphere’s first day of spring. I. Can’t. Wait!

Friday Flowers

The rain continues. I had a white-knuckled drive across the valley this afternoon, with bits of flooding across the freeway. I’m happy to be home and enjoying the rain with my feet firmly planted on the ground. Flash-flooding is inevitable with so many months of parched earth.

Hopefully we can weather this storm without loss or injury. Everyone forgets how to drive on wet roads.

Traffic conditions aside, what a happy soaking in the garden. Signs of spring were everywhere this week. Come take a look:

abutilon

Coral Abutilon

yellow freesia

Fragrant freesia

garden peas

Garden peas

tulips

First tulip

jasmin buds

Jasmin buds

alyssum

Sweet Alyssum

Vernal Equinox in my own Backyard

Happy spring!  Here’s what’s happening in my own little slice of garden paradise.

To Bee, or Not To Bee?

Raspberry Vines

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn. ~Hal Borland

Flowering Bulbs and Budding Fuchsia

I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden. ~Ruth Stout

In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours. ~Mark Twain

Flowering Carrot

Spring is sooner recognized by plants than by men. ~Chinese Proverb

The Bees Arrive on Schedule

All things lavender:

Cowichan Valley Lavender Farm: Beautiful drawings and additional links

Lavender Crafts: How to make lavender wands.

Learn more about the relaxing properties of lavender at The Hub

Provencal Lavender Field Maps (for that fantasy vacation to France)

Lavender in art: Watercolor on Etsy.com

 

For additional garden quotes, visit the Quote Garden.

Spring it On!

Patio Garden

Hooray for spring which officially arrives on our coast around 1 am tomorrow.   Spring Equinox symbolizes the re-emergence of plants and trees awakening from winter’s slumber.  It also means longer lines at the garden center.

When I was single and working full-time I used to use some of my paid time off  each spring to start my garden.  It didn’t matter where I was living, I always found a way to break ground even if it meant settling for a patio garden.  When I rented a room in a house in Willow Glen, I planted in the three narrow strips lining the driveway.  My production was minimal in that miniscule plot, but the corn got plenty of sun, and I had the immense pleasure of gardening.

When the Willow Glen owner sold the house and gave us the boot, I moved to an apartment in nearby Campbell.  I managed to cram about 20 houseplants into my 400 square foot apartment, valuing greenery over any superfluous furniture.  As I set down emotional roots, so too did my garden expand.  I spent my weekends at local nurseries and assorted home and garden centers planning for my little patio.  One pot became three and eventually I lined both sides of the narrow walkway with potted flowers and plants.  I added vines along the fence, and even planted some zucchini behind my apartment, though I really didn’t have enough sun.  I planted flowers along the path to  my door, to the delight of my neighbors who shared the view.  The owners of our four-plex preferred simple cement.  It was nice to have a bit of green along the walkway, welcoming me home each day.

I married my husband in 1995 and settled in a quiet neighborhood, known for excellent schools.  It was important to both of us that we raise our boys in one place, having bounced around so much in our own youth.   I’ve enjoyed it immensely.  It took awhile to realize I could turn plants loose from their pots and allow them to put down roots.  I love the stability that allows me to plan a garden from year to year, not worrying about evictions or troubles from the city. My Campbell four-plex, as it turned out, was illegal.  It has since been torn down and replaced with a single-family dwelling.

Life is impermanent and change is inevitable.  But year after year, spring arrives, and along with it feelings of hope.    In the end, it’s not about yields but about the joy of the practice, the nuanced discoveries and the dirt under your nails.

What are you planting this spring?

Plants and Cats