Monday, April 25, 2011

Foundation Planting in Need of Serious Help!

Here's a picture of the front of our house.  We moved into my husband's childhood home on a beautiful lake four years ago.  My mother-in-law is a wonderful woman and had many talents, but she is not a gardener.  When she had the house resided and landscaped several years ago, she instructed the landscaper to put in plants that she wouldn't have to do anything with to maintain.  So we had a lot of evergreen shrubs and river rock around here when we moved in.  It is a design that worked for her, but doesn't work for this girl who likes to see flowers blooming and get her hands dirty!

This little foundation planting is the last of the river rock, and it's coming out this spring!  We're in gravel soil, which you could probably guess by the sorry state of our grass, so every bed that I've put in has required a LOT of work removing gravel and hauling in some good soil.  I'm hoping that the landscaper did his job amending the area before he planted way back when.  The site is mostly shade as it is north facing.  I'd like to add some height to the area as well and I wouldn't mind bringing the bed out a few more feet.  Any advice or suggestions out there?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

More Water Fowl

Female Common Merganser

Male Common Merganser

Tell me you don't think of penguins when you see this picture!
I'm getting tired of posting about ducks, but it's truly the only thing of interest to view around here these days.  Here are some pictures of Common Mergansers, though they are truly lovely birds and not "common" at all. Note there is STILL ICE ON THE LAKE!  Tomorrow we are supposed to hit 60 degrees, and if we do, I plan to hop in the canoe with my daughter to head to the other shoreline to see if we can pick out the nest of a bald eagle that was swooping over the lake yesterday. 

For now, I'm heading out into 35 degrees to rake up some leaves.  Brrrr.  I'm going to need to come in for some hot cocoa after that.  It hardly seems like late April.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Wishin', and Hopin', and Thinkin' and Prayin'"

Snow is flying again tonight, not entirely unusual for late April, but unusual in how often this seems to be happening this "spring."  Yes... "spring" in quotation marks.  It's hard not to feel a crippling sense of hopelessness at this point.  Of course spring will come, eventually, right?  Right?


Well, here's a photo from one of my first years gardening at our house.  We're coming into our fifth season at this place, our ever after home, and I'm wishin' and hopin' that the gardens fill out just a little more this year, that I get to grow my gardening space, and that spring truly will decide to show up!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Hooded Mergansers

One thing that I've become more interested in, especially after reading other MN garden/nature blogs, are the birds and waterfowl in our little corner of the universe.  This evening, I spotted a new duck that I hadn't noticed or paid attention to before, the hooded merganser.  Now that I know what they are, I'll have to pay more attention to whether or not they are frequent visitors to our shoreline.  If they are, I'm sure they're thinking what I'm thinking... man, it's cold, what are we doing here?!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sounds of Spring

"Quack, quack, quack..."

Mallards along the shoreline in front of the house

That sound at 5:30 am really should annoy me, but the past few days, it's been music to my ears!  It means the ice is melting on the lake, that spring will truly arrive one of these days!  The sounds of spring are almost as delightful as the smells and sights.  There's a morning songbird that always reminds me of spring, but not being a birder, I have no idea what it is or how to even describe it's two-toned, high-low, sing-song.  But I know that whenever I hear it, it brings a smile to my face,and I just want to whistle right back!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Herbs & Such

Last night I had the opportunity to rake the leaves out of several gardens here and was surprised at what I discovered in my herb garden.  Last year, I planted some perennial sage and oregano.  Here's how they look after surviving a harsh MN winter:

These were new plantings last year and I didn't expect to see them right away this spring.  I knew something was up when I was raking away and smelled the oregano in the air.  Mmm... what a smell!

I also discovered some onions that overwintered.  I got these for free at a local greenhouse last summer.  They had planted the seeds rather late and the onion plants were just teeny-tiny last year.  So I planted them last year and they barely grew.  I wonder what they'll do this year.

Onions and some renegade strawberry runners from the plants "next door"

And finally, some spring bulbs are just starting to show up.  Last fall I planted scilla, muscari, and snowdrops, and I haven't seen any signs of them, but the daffodils are starting to grow as you can see in the picture. 

I planted some tulips when we first moved in four years ago and they just never did very well, so I haven't bothered planting any more even though tulips are my favorite spring bulb flower.  I'm not sure if I'll try again this fall, I'm feeling more adventurous and maybe if I purchase some good bulbs from a good supplier (John Scheepers?) then I'll have better luck.  I just don't know of a lot of people with luck with tulips in this area.  We'll see - there's a full year of gardening ahead and I'm starting to get excited!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Butterfly Garden

My neighbor, Rita, emailed me today to ask me to help her put in a butterfly garden at her house.  What a fun project!!  She found this link on the U of M extension website and we have plans to do something similar.

Figure 1. A sample butterfly border garden has a large variety of host plants.
Figure 1
  1. Tawny daylily
  2. ‘Marine’ heliotrope
  3. Gayfeather
  4. Butterfly weed
  5. Petunia
  6. Mountain bluet
  7. Annual aster
  8. ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum
  9. Rock cress
  10. French marigold
  11. ‘Happy Returns’ daylily
  12. Blanket flower
  13. Nasturtium
  14. Goldenrod
  1. Purple coneflower
  2. Dill
  3. Hollyhock
  4. Joe-Pye weed
  5. Globe centaurea
  1. Peony
  2. Turtlehead
  3. Swamp milkweed
  4. Yarrow
  5. Queen Anne’s lace

Rita has been gracious enough to open her garden to us for our use, which is where we grow most of our veggies, in true neighborhood gardening fashion.  She has a great spot to add a butterfly garden as she has a large, sunny lot.  I have some of these plants here that we can divide, but for the most part, we'll have to spend some serious time at the greenhouse or at my favorite plant stop, Glorified Weeds!

I'm not a butterfly expert, and I'm only an amateur plant enthusiast, so I'd love to have some feedback or suggestions for this project.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Snow Free Gardens!

I can't believe it - it's actually 61 degrees here this afternoon!  I came home from work to discover that all of the snow in the gardens has melted.  Wow, do I have my work cut out for me! 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

National Frog Month

Leopard Frog
April is National Frog Month.  Frogs are one of my favorite little critters.  They're harmless, stealth little guys, hiding out under the big leaves of the rhubarb, waiting to snatch up some tasty little bugs.  And when you spot one, it usually causes you to do a double take as they blend in so well you're not sure if you actually saw one or not.  As kids growing up in an area full of natural wetlands, we loved spending time catching the little guys, collecting them in a pail, pretending we were going to have a frog farm, only to send them off their merry little way before we had to run in to dinner.  Often one of my brothers would suggest we sell them to fishermen, which probably prompted the rescue release mission. 

Here's hoping I have the pleasure of running into one of these little guys soon!

Monday, April 4, 2011

"They're gonna put me in the movies..."

Okay, so not ME, exactly, but my little hometown of Moose Lake, MN, for which this blog gets its name, is featured in the upcoming animated movie RIO.  Opening April 15, Rio is a 3-D animation feature from the makers of "Ice Age."  Set in the city of Rio de Janeiro, the comedy-adventure centers on Blu, a rare macaw who thinks he is the last of his kind.  When Blu discovers there is another - and that she is a she - he leaves the comforts of his cage in the small town of Moose Lake, Minnesota, and heads to Rio.   Blu and his female counterpart are soon birdnapped, escape, and have to find their way back to Moose Lake, to the only true friend Blu has ever known- his owner, Linda. 

Our little town is all a-buzz with the movie mania.  Film crews have been in town all weekend and the movie apparently premieres in our vintage, one screen, little movie theater here this week before opening across the country later this month.  We'll take our 15 minutes, thank you.  Congratulations, Moose Lake, for being the quintessential little Minnesota small town!