Friday, February 29, 2008

Busy as a bee

Seriously. We saw our first bee of the season in the garden last weekend, and since so few flowers are in bloom right now, it was indeed busy.

The last three weekends have provided enough glimpses of springlike weather (with a strange, glowing orb in the sky and temperatures above bone-chilling) that I pronounce that the 2008 gardening season has officially begun in our small homestead. J and I took a trip to a specialty nursery that stocks more varieties of rhododendrons than most people can imagine. It is a dangerous, dangerous place (it would have been more dangerous if we realized at the time that many, many varieties of Japanese maples were also to be had).

We had planned on buying only a few small rhodies (by small I mean those that max out at about 1’ x 1’ or 2’ x 2’) as evergreen anchor plants in a still-empty bed in the middle of our front yard. Well…we came home with 10. For anyone out there who things rhodies are simply big-leaved foundation shrubs (especially ubiquitous in the Pacific Northwest), the diversity in just those few plants we adopted is astounding. Big leaves, tiny leaves (1” by 1/8”), round paddle-shaped leaves, narrow pointy leaves. Flowers in shades of lemon yellow, sky blue, violet, deep red, cream, white, cotton candy pink and pink fading into white. Lovely. The largest of these will reach 3’ x 3’ over many, many years.

In case you don’t think miracles exist, we arrived home with our plant bounty and immediately put ALL OF THEM into the ground. Unheard of! We also moved three plants to the front yard from their temporary resting places (a Viburnum, a small false cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Snow’) and a small variegated-leaved evergreen shrub whose name I can’t recall...)

It’s amazing how a few hours work can transform a landscape. Especially when the rest of our front yard already has young shrubs and trees in place, along with a lovely-even-in-winter herb border, foxgloves that never figured out it was winter, a winter vegetable patch (mostly kale, chard and beets) and masses of emerging spring bulbs.

My ambitiousness extended to planting four bags of bareroot perennials from Costco, including bleeding heart (Dicentra), maidenhair and cinnamon ferns, trillium and about 20 assorted hostas. I plugged a dozen of the hostas around the rhodies, for a nice contrast of leaf size and shape. I’ll add some deep purple columbine later, along with three hellebores I picked up at Costco last night (I also picked up a bag of 12 variegated-leaf hostas [after swearing up, down and sideways to J that I had actual spots for them] and a flowering pear tree that has a narrow enough mature width for our fenced side yard.).

A lovely line of coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea)will flow on the street side of the rhody bed, once we pick them up from a conservation district native plant sale next week.

Indoors, most of my tomato seeds have sprouted (except for holdout Koralik...not sure what it's waiting for) and I hope to see action from my pepper and eggplant seeds any day now. With grow lights glowing from the basement 24-7, I'm sure our neighbors must think we're growing pot. Heh, heh.

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