Wednesday, April 2, 2008

No Pansies in Sight.

I went to three stores, one of which promised their garden center would open April 1st, and I could not find a flat of pansies anywhere. I'm about as impatient as gardeners come. I found this old radio flyer wagon with a nice bright blue aged patina, and I'm dying to fill it with blue and yellow pansies. See, a wagon is on wheels, and I can pull it in the kitchen overnight if the temps are too low, only to bring back out during the day and have an instant color in the colorless yard. While shopping I did find my very first rototiller, a gas powered model on sale at Farm and Fleet. Happy Birthday to me.

Theo picked up a boatload of manure for my vegetable bed, and I'm dying to get it worked into the grass clippings and homemade compost I threw over the soil surface last fall. I've never ammended my soil, just fertilized with my watering can, and topped it with weed preventer. I started my compost pile a year ago, and have begun to use it. After losing squash, and having some less than spectacular tomatos last year, I've concluded my biggest soil problem in the veggie bed is drainage. Had I known 4 years ago I would have saved the tiny chunks of cement Theo dug out of the patio that used to cover the now veggie bed. I could have used the cement chunks to create a rock layer beneath the soil. I did not know much anything about gardening that first year though, and the rocks are long gone. My quest to improve drainage begins now, or after I till. I'll be putting in various lettuce, swiss chard, radishes and turnips this weekend. I'm taking a risk of losing the crops to record cold temps, but if that happens, I just replant later. Each of the items I listed say to plant either as soon as soil is workable or after danger of heavy frost has passed.

I'm just so anxious to get out into the garden! Today, while the boys napped, I added some manure & bone meal around the base of each of my roses, then dumped some water soluable rose plant food over them. I can't remember if I shared the miraculous news, but it appears ALL of my roses survived winter! I'm stunned. I thought for sure I'd lose one, as I always have in the past, but the bud union is green on every single one! I have 12 roses, a Morden Centennial, Granny's Pride, Double Delight, Toulouse Lautrec, John Cabot, Mr. Lincoln, Kordes Perfecta, two cl. Golden Showers, a cl. Don Juan, and cl. Iceberg, and an unidentified whitish rose that us wonderfully reliable.

Here's a picture of the base of my John Cabot rose. I've read tons of articles and books about rose gardening and I find it interesting that many people will tell you it's "easy" to prune a rose back in the spring, simply remove "dead wood." One article said dead wood was easy to recognize b/c dead is brown/black and alive is green. This doesn't apply to my roses. Sure it's a nice general rule, but this John Cabot is thriving from toe to top, and it has plenty of brown branches that have fresh nodules of growth forming on them. See, here, there is no dead wood pictures, and it's not all green. In fact, most of the shrub's higher branches are a warm indian brown (for those of you who loved your big box of crayolas as much as me as a kid).

Additionally, not all healthy rose branches are green. My morden centennial is all red, all throughout the winter. It's quite stunning actually. Here's a picture of a thriving branch of the Morden Centennial. I'm not shy to mention mine looks a hundred times better than the one at the local Rotary Gardens, and I got it half dead on clearance at Home Depot years ago.

Last fall I protected these roses with a 10 inch layer of free city mulch and leaves from a tree beside our yard. I stopped pruning in September. Otherwise, nothing special, nothing different; perhaps I finally have a collection of roses that are right for my climate. I have 8 more new roses in my dining room and kitchen sink waiting to be planted for this season. 3 are potted, and the rest are bare root I've been adding suplemental water to. I'm researching when its safe to plant them in my area. I think mid to late April, sooner if they are purchased outside b/c they have then been hardened off or acclimated to the cold.

So, I can't plant much anything yet, but I have been finding some ways to keep busy. Yesterday afternoon I moved an arbor I have had in the veggie bed to the side of the house at the entry to our hose area. I wanted to have something to look at through the living & dining room windows, preferrably roses. Plus, the back of the house had too many arbors. I found these glass balls at Hobby Lobby for $2.50 each, and new instantly I wanted them to be in my garden. There's a garden themed gift shop in McFarland (up by Madison) that has similar balls hanging all over looking so charming beneath branches. I can't wait until a vine makes it to the top of the arbor and casts a shadow so these balls can glow in the shade.

My very first time seeing a blue ball hanging in a garden was last fall. I'm shopping for sedum at a local perennial farm as it was raining, freezing cold; I passed on a path and into a breathtaking hosta garden beneath a massive tree. I glanced up to find a huge lone blue ball hanging from the tree. I fell in love with the idea, and if I ever have a huge tree like that you can bet it'll have a giant reflecting ball hanging it's shadows. For now, these little blue balls will do. I threw some pink sweet pea seeds on both sides of my arbor. Sweet peas are one of the flowering seeds that can be started before the last frost, although I've personally never tried it until now.

Of the 8 new roses I have awaiting planting, 4 are climbers, and two will be put to work beside this arbor. I may even try to get all three around it. I have a cl. blaze with bright reddish-orange blooms, a cl. queen elizabeth with perfectly pink blooms, and a cl. pink don juan and cl. don juan (red). I want to get the look of multiple rose colors on one arbor.

While I'm on the topic of arbors, look what survived the winter winds:

I constructed this knobby little arbor in the middle of perennial border I created last year. I used branches from our willows. I love Charlie-Brown-Christmas-Tree it is. A cl. iceberg (white) rose grows here, and I plan on adding a white or purple clematis this spring and possibly some blue morning glory. I'm debating whether or not to battle years worth of seedlings coming up in this bed.

Sedum & Perennials
I've uncovered some treasures in the bed near this arbor. I planted these maiden pinks from seed last spring indoors. They look so lush and green and I can hardly believe they were encased in ice a few weeks ago. I ran my hand through the dainty foliage over and over to make sure it was real.

I was surprised to see that this Sedum Angelina I picked up at the perennial farm with the blue ball, has emerged with a nice red hue. This is quickly becoming one of my favs in the garden.

And I cleared last years growth from sedum 'Autumn Joy' this week also. I always find these little rosettes of new growth so pretty.

Happy gardening to you all. I'm off to get some gas for the tiller.

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