Friday, April 29, 2016

The Winter Coat Spring

A nearby Pear in Bloom

     It is now the end of April and it still feels like early November. We have had about three beautiful days and one day that broke  80 degrees.But mostly it has been wet and miserable... for us at least. Except from some magnolias whose buds were nipped by a cold night, most of our plants are liking the slow start to the season.

A neighbor's Crabapple

     The other flowering trees that bloom a week or two later are happy as can be. In the yard my tulips are in their glory, while my Narcissus are still in great shape.

     One of my favorite flowers in spring and early summer is  Stylophorum diphyllum, AKA the wood  poppy. This plant has interesting leaves, very pretty yellow flowers, and, like all poppies, produces a latex-like yellow sap that the Indians once used as a dye. Wood  poppies like dappled shade and moist  loamy soil.  They need some local  encouragement. In Illinois they exist only in the far south counties and Cook County (Don't ask me how we lucked out.)

     While not yet an official endangered species, wood poppies are getting ever harder to find -- crowded out by loss of forest land and various European and Asian  invaders, like garlic mustard and Japanese still grass. Left to their own devices they spread quite easily. They are not subject to fungal and insect pests and mammals hate their taste.

          Our shady neighborhood could be a perfect home for this native if a few more of us plant it. So brighten up your day.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Spring Already!


     I discovered to my horror that I had let the entire winter go by without once writing a  post for this blog. I will spare my dear readers any convoluted explanations and just get started again.

     Our recent winter was mercifully warm and brief -- especially compared to the one last  year. The ground barely froze and was able to absorb water quickly. This spared us a frequent spring problem: having ground too wet to cultivate. I was able to cultivate my vegetable garden and re-build my raised beds so they ran in a direction 90 degrees from  last year by the end of March. This is my simple-minded way to make sure I do not plant the same crops in the same space over and over -- a sure way to attract pests.

     By this time our usual April buddies had popped up:

More Scilla

Galanthus (Snowdrops)


     Not only were these first harbingers of spring going strong by the end of March; the second ranks had also made their first appearance. The first Narcissus buds had popped up and the first few Forsythia buds had appeared.


Early Forsythia

     After such a promising March, April has so far been wet and miserable. Who could forget that day of howling 50 MPH winds, rain, snow  sleet and hail? The magnolia buds that were just beginning to blossom, took a beating. But most of these spring bloomers are tough customers and have survived the bad weather intact. Look at the Narcissus and Forsythia now.



     Wan managed to plant parsley and spinach seeds between raindrops yesterday. The fact that we could cultivate the garden early means that we can now now plant as soon as each crop can survive the over-night lows.  Next week the broccoli seedlings will go  in, as well as seeds for snow and sugar snack peas.

     You really know that spring is here when the tulips arrive.

Early Tulips

     Unfortunately, it just started to snow. Ah, Chicago.