Saturday, May 28, 2011

Pretty Much Picasso Petunia, take two

Last year I really wanted to plant some of these petunias in hanging baskets on the lake side of the house where they would get a lot of sun, but they were nowhere to be found around here.  This year, I did get my hands on some, which are potted in two lovely hanging baskets just waiting for summer to arrive.  Currently, they're sitting on the hearth of the fireplace where they won't freeze at night!

I was excited to finally find these, but I was also surprised at how small the flowers were.  This picture is from the Proven Winners website and unless you really look closely at how the flowers compare to the leaves, you would assume that they're larger than they truly are.  Or at least I did.  But that didn't stop me from buying them.

Now we just have to wait for the temps to catch up with the calendar here in northern MN!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Hyacinth (hyacinths?) are a new flower in my garden this spring!  I'm so glad that I planted more spring bulbs last fall.  I have these hyacinth blooming right now as well as graph hyacinth, scilla, a plethora of daffodils, and a few tulips.  Bulbs that haven't bloomed for me this spring yet are the allium and snowdrops that I also planted last fall.  If the snowdrops haven't bloomed yet, and it's late May, does that mean they won't?  Does anyone have experience with these, especially in zone 3? 

Monday, May 23, 2011


Today, the kids helped me plant 12 pounds of seed potatoes - four pounds each of red norlands, white kennebecs, and norkotah russets.  Last week we planted onions (candy variety from plants) and peas (sugar ann snap peas). 

It's still really cold here, cooler than average, so while I usually plant tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and the rest on Memorial Day weekend, I'm not sure it's a good idea to go ahead and do that quite yet.  Maybe beans, carrots, and dill can go in this weekend, but I think I'll wait another weekend to plant my transplants and cucumbers & squash.

Any other zone 3 readers out there who have been brave enough to plant more than potatoes and peas?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

More Spring Blooms

Narcissus - Not sure of the variety
Fern Leaf Bleeding heart

Primrose - This one has never bloomed for me, so it's a treat to see!

Dwarf Bearded Iris

Forget Me Nots


Here are some of the beauties in bloom in the gardens today.  The tulips are just starting to open up, and the yellow daffodils are putting on a beautiful show!

Turf to Brag About

Look at this beautiful lawn!  Ok, it's not winning any "turf awards" to be sure, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  At one time, before I started gardening and thinking more about my family's impact on the environment, I might have been embarrassed that our yard isn't lush and green and free from weeds.  But if my lawn did meet that aesthetic standard, then I wouldn't have the opportunity to see these white little wildflowers that I believe are some kind of anemone.  There's also a fun little patch of moss in the bottom right corner of the photograph, and maybe some wild strawberry as well.

What fun surprises nature has in store for us if we let her do her thing!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Prairie Restorations Field Trip

On Saturday, we took a long road trip to the Prairie Restorations headquarters in Princeton, MN, with the purpose of purchasing some swamp milkweed to add to our butterfly garden.  Butterflies, particularly monarchs, lay their eggs on swamp milkweed as the caterpillars find the plant quite tasty.    Not only did we find some milkweed at Prairie Restorations, we also went home with a few other treats!

Pink Rue Anemone (Enemion biternatum)

Dwarf Trout Lily (Erythronium Propullans)

Bishop's Cap or Two-leaf Miterwort (Mitella Diphylla)
I'm hoping these plants thrive in our woodland shade garden.  When we moved into our house four years ago, I lamented the fact that I couldn't grow a large number of my favorite sun loving plants because of our heavily shaded lot.  I have one very small sunny garden that I've had to load up with lilies and the like, and the rest of the gardens are made up of shade loving plants. Four years later, and my favorite spot in the yard is the shade garden out by the road.  Who would have thought I could learn to love the shade.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Wildflowers in my yard!

Who knew that my yard was a prime breeding ground for a variety of wildflowers.  We now have field pussytoes (antennaria neglecta) in bloom (sorry, no picture) all over the lakeside hill.  And when I was walking the dogs around the yard I spotted a large clump of Northern White Violas (viola macloskeyi).  With the help of my four year old, we dug up several of these and moved them to an area in my shade garden where they were less likely to be disturbed.

Northern White Violet also known as Small White Violet
I also found several Early Meadow Rue (Thalictrum dioicum) growing in the shady spot behind my garage where nothing grows.  In fact, it's become the resting ground for all of the river rock that was once surrounding our house and has slowly been removed bed by bed, so I wouldn't have thought that it would be good breeding ground for many plants.  We dug some of those up as well and moved them to various spots in the shade garden, leaving a few back there behind the garage.  That space may become an impromptu "rock garden" before you know it!

Early Meadow Rue

I also think that I spotted a few Canada Mayflowers (Maianthemum canadense), otherwise known as "False Lily of the Valley," behind the garage.  I think I'll wait until they flower to go through the hassle of moving them, just in case they aren't Canada Mayflowers after all.

I guess it's a good thing that my husband and I live in a neighborhood where it's ok for us not to be obsessed with our "turf."  Grass just doesn't grow well here, but we have a lot of beautiful varieties of moss!  And we have more creeping charlie than most people would care for.  Can I admit in this space that I actually enjoy the minty smell of creeping charlie when underfoot?  And there is nothing sweeter than my little guy bringing me a hand-picked bouquet of dandelions with a big smile and loving hug.  So I'll take my imperfect lawn any day as it holds surprise treasures all over the place!

Thank you to the Minnesota Wildflowers website for providing so much helpful information on these and other Minnesota natural beauties!

Ring-necked Duck

It's fishing opener in Minnesota, but the lakes are quiet today except for the whitecaps from the strong winds.  These Ring-necked Ducks were finding a little respite from the rough waters along our shoreline.

L to R:  Male and Female Ring-necked Duck

What a beautiful bill!

According to Ducks Unlimited,  the "ring-necked" name comes from a faint brownish ring at the base of the neck that you can slightly distinguish on the first picture. 

And this lonely Mallard seems like he's not really sure what to do and eventually swam off, perhaps to find another of his kind.

L to R:  Ring-necked male, female, and male Mallard
Duck recap from this spring:
Common Mergansers
Hooded Mergansers
Ring-necked Duck
Common Loon

I wonder what we'll see next!

Friday, May 13, 2011

PJM Rhododendron Blues

About two years ago, I planted three PJM Rhododendrons in front of my kitchen window.  Then last summer, something strange happened - one of them slowly died.  I tried nursing it along all summer, but to no avail, and by the end of the summer it was clear that it was a goner.  Then as I was raking leaves in the fall, I found the culprit - my adorable little Bichon-Poo named Jack took it upon himself to "water" said rhododendron.  So this spring, as my husband was doing yard cleanup, he dug out the dead shrub.  Unfortunately, another of the rhododendrons is showing similar signs of struggle that the dead one showed last year.  Dare I guess who is behind that?

Notice the one on the right, how healthy it is!  I'm afraid that when we pull out the dying one on the left, that little bugger will take out this final rhododendron.

So, do I leave the dying one there?   Should I buy a couple of new ones to replant?  Do I need to do anything to get the ammonia out of the soil before replanting?  Does anyone have some good suggestions for deterring this disgusting and destructive male dog behavior?!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Martagon Lily Update

bLast fall, I purchased and planted some martagon lily bulbs. Martagon lilies are shade loving plants, which is great for a yard full of tall oaks that provide lots of lightly dappled shade.  I have never seen martagons in person, but from what I've read, they have whorled foliage that emerges early in the season, and will develop small waxy flowers with recurved petals.  Martagons are slow to increase, which is nice if you don't want to disturb your plantings, but not so much if you want them to multiply in your gardens. From what I have read, they can also lay dormant the first year that they're planted, depending upon the size of the bulb.  So I wasn't sure what to expect of them this spring.  When would they emerge?  What would they look like?  Would I even see them this year?  Well, the good news is that two of three varieties I planted last year are starting to grow!  Here's how they looked today.

The third variety hasn't emerged yet, but I'm not going to give up hope because it was a small, small little bulb compared to the other two.  The one that hasn't sprouted yet is the Pink Attraction martagon, and here's a picture of what it will hopefully look like in my garden some day.
I'd love to hear from other bloggers who may have experience with these understated beauties!

The Daffs Are Blooming! The Daffs Are Blooming!

Look what was greeting me today when I got home!

Not only that, but it was 82 degrees today!  82!  Minnesotans everywhere were giddy as school children on the last day of school, and working in a school, I'm very familiar with that feeling!  Do we spoil the excitement by looking at the weather report for the next few days?  No, because we know we're going to pay for this 82 degrees and we will no doubt have another day in the 40's sometime soon.  That's spring in Minnesota.  But for today, we enjoyed it as if it were summer!

Here are some other blooms in the gardens.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tilling, tilling, tilling

Northern end of garden - soon to host potatoes, onions, and squash!
I know many gardeners who tout the benefits of a non-tilled garden.  In truth, they're probably on to something.  While I spent hours this weekend with the rototiller running, I shudder to think of the gas that was used to accomplish this feat.  And I believe I've read somewhere that turning up the soil in the entire garden can cause dormant weed seeds from deep in the soil to emerge and sprout, nevermind how upsetting it is to all of the little critters living just below the surface of the earth.   Yet I spent three hours, YES, three hours, tilling my vegetable plot in semi-clandestine fashion, with a guilty pleasure at seeing all of the fresh soil upturned and ready for me to dive in and sew my seeds, but feeling that if I were more eco-friendly, I'd only till where I would plant my rows.  Maybe next year.  Until then, I will admire my freshly tilled garden with it's dark, fluffy soil, and dream of the weather warming enough to do some planting someday soon!
Southern half of garden plot - soon to be salad greens, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, dill, peas, beans, and beets (in no particular order).

Saturday, May 7, 2011

If you're happy and you know it...

I don't know who is happier - me or these little plants that have been sitting in my bay window for weeks and now get a breath of fresh air because, glory be, the sun is shining!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Little Wonders

There still isn't much happening in the gardens, but I did spot these little blooms the other day.
Purple Viola

I also discovered, to my displeasure, that deer seem to enjoy bergenia, as you can kind of see in the photo below.  These are planted out in the shade garden by the road, which is right across from a large wooded area.  I guess they'll need to be moved closer to the house, as if that'll stop the deer.
Deer-chomped Bergenia

And just for fun, here's a picture of the rhubarb making it's appearance.  Funny plant, that rhubarb.  The first year we were in this house, I just let the rhubarb go.  My secretary was quite taken aback by that and the next year, brought me several wonderful rhubarb recipes.  I'm looking forward to rhubarb sweet bread, rhubarb bars, rhubarb pudding cake...  mmmmm!!!