Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category


Last year, we had a family of House Finches in our arbor vitae in front of our house. The male and female had three chicks. One of the chicks died that first morning. The other two – who knows, they seemed to have survived the first day or two at least before they went somewhere else.
120408IMG_0388_800 x 533Phineas Finch, 2012
120408IMG_0385_800 x 533Fiona Finch, 2012
120405IMG_0351_800 x 533Baby Finch, 2012

They’re back. This time, they live in the bush closest to our front door. In fact, the nest is visible out of our kitchen window. As of yesterday, there were no eggs, though Fiona was frantically preparing the nest. She built it out of normal nest stuff, plus the freshly cut grass from my lawn, plus long white dog hair from somewhere nearby. While she works, Phineas is perched on a tree above the front door. They chatter back and forth in a steady stream, Fiona at a ~100 Hz rate, and Phineas several times faster. It’s a keep-alive, a heartbeat if you will. Think about it for a second. Let’s say the birds had an alarm system along the line of “hey, I’ll chirp like crazy if something bad is about to happen and then you should escape.” That works great…until a cat pounces and snaps your neck before you can even shriek in terror. This is a better system. “We’ll keep chatting. If I’m ever quiet, you can assume something’s wrong and should get the hell out of here.” When one of us gets out of the car or goes through the front door, Phineas falls silent and Fiona bolts for a nearby tree. It’s a good system – we use that concept in designing electronic monitoring too.

Anyway, Phineas particularly enjoys the dandelions that grow throughout our yard (later, they’ll love the Zinnia).
130427_MG_2347_800 x 534Phineas Finch, 2013
And here’s Fiona in the nest:
130428_MG_2362_3253 x 2171Fiona Finch, 2013

This is wonderful and all…but if you’re familiar with our house animals, you might see some tension brewing. We do have one other more sinister resident – at least we used to. We haven’t seen him (well, her…) since last spring, but Mr Slithersworth and the Finch family do not make good neighbors. Mr Slithersworth would enjoy a meal of eggs or chicks. I’d prefer he stuck to grasshoppers, of which their are many. If he could eat the yet unnamed 10 lb rabbit that lives in the back, I’d be OK with that too. Or, he could leave. In any case, we’ll be watching the Finches closely. I think that Fiona laid her eggs today – she’s been sitting on the nest all afternoon. She’s about a month later than last year, for whatever that’s worth. We’ll see what we get.


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Garden 2012

The newest batch of seeds is here. I have crocuses blooming three weeks early outside and tulips out probably five weeks early outside, but I’m holding the line with when the seeds go in the ground in the basement. 2/21 for the first plants, 3/1 for the next batch, then 3/8 for the last. I’ll start sending a few out to the deck mid-April, with the first going into the ground around May 1.

I’m going to add another row of bricks around the garden border this year – I already have more volume of topsoil from all the extra that I’ve added over the last few years, and this is going to be a substantial increase in my topsoil depth. It’ll probably take me a few years to build it up to the full level, and I’ll have to be careful to keep the soil graded away from the house. This is going to further segregate the garden from the lawn – hopefully the weeds stop trying to jump the wall en masse.

Otherwise, I’m still just experimenting. The zinnias were big winners last year, and I’m propagating some lilies because I had a hard time throwing out healthy bulbs, but once more, most of the plants are new. I’m definitely intending to keep everything more spread out this year; that’s the big focus point in my planting strategy. Less is more.

That said, I’ll have many spare seedlings, should anyone be interested. Here’s this year’s crop:
Dwarf Zinnia
Queen Red Lime Zinnia
Ornamental Maple
Marigold Scarlet Sophie
Marigold Durango Bee
Primula You and Me Blue

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The latest set of garden pictures, though now at least a month old, are here.

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At the end of a whirlwind trip to Connecticut, I traveled to NY to visit my parents and grandmother. She is 80ish now, and just had pneumonia a month ago. We were sitting on her porch talking about how hard it is to keep up her enormous garden. She recently pulled up a swath of pachysandra.

Mom: Wow, that’s tough to pull up.
Nani (grandma), in thick Brooklyn-ish: No, you don’t pull it up – it’s too hard to pull up. You know what you need though? What you need , what you need is an axe.

That’s right, my grandmother uses an axe to chop out pachysandra. Apparently she thinks she has too many axes as well. I mean, how many axes does an 80 year old woman need?

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Basket Full Of Biscuits

The grow lab downstairs is now at its peak capacity. I’ve never had so many plants growing at once, and I’m more than a little worried about the persistent cold that should grip the month of April – I am running low on space. Recalling back to the beginning of season post, if you’d like any of these seedlings, let me know. Some of them are available for a good home, or even a bad home, where they will face almost immediate extermination.

Already transplanted to peat pots and moved to the top shelf:
6 Sweet Peas, 14 Dahlia

Sown directly to peat pots, not yet sprouted:
8 Nasturtium (I better see something any day now), 12 Vinca (my heirloom), 4 Convulvus (Ensign mixture on the other link), 4 Poppies (Eschscholzia), 4 Limnanthes

Sprouted in pellets or little loose dirt cells:
6 Sweet Peas, 14 Zinnia, 12 Marigold Durango Bee, 12 Marigold Bolero, 11 Gazania, 12 Rudbeckhia, 6 Geranium, 10 Coleus (10 pellets, a few have multiple that I might try to salvage instead of clip)

Not yet sprouted in pellets or little loose dirt cells:
13 impatiens, 12 petunia

By my count, of the things that are growing so far, about 6 dahlia, 4 Gazania, 4 Rudbeckhia, 4 Coleus, 6 Zinnia and ~5 each of the Marigolds are up for grabs. Actually…I probably have far too many plants. They give you an awful lot of seeds.

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Pretty Flowers

My seed purchases for the coming year are complete. Last year, I started growing seedling in my basement on 2/14 – I decided that was about two weeks too early, so I’m waiting until next weekend to sow this year’s crop. It’s almost entirely different – that’s what I like about ordering from seed catalog, I will have none of the same plants as anyone else around me. People in the neighborhood notice. I’ve been going to open houses in the area – something that a lot of the neighbors do. The realtor (who I’m chummy with, she sold me my house, and sells half of them in the community) tells people that I live at the corner. Last week a woman said, “Ahh, you’re the one trying to do the garden…” Not the first time that’s happen. Also not really a compliment, for what it’s worth.

Anyway, I ordered from three different seed distributors, Thompson and Morgan, Burpee, and the Seed Savers Exchange. Here’s what I’ll be growing:

From T&M

From Burpee
Coleus, Picture Perfect Rose
Zinnia, Queen Red Lime
Begonia, Picotee Mix

From Seed Savers
Flower, Ensign Mixture
Flower, Bishop’s Children Dahlia
Arugula, Apollo

Plus some heirlooms from my garden two years ago, the White Vinca (though not exactly the same cultivar as that one).

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Mixed Border

I have a bunch of things to write about, most of which I never will. One thing is necessary, however, you need to see my garden. I’m mildly obsessed with it. I spend on the order of 10 hours a week working on it. It’s delightfully haphazard, a sloppy clustering of various types of flowers, jumbled together into a 5 foot wide border that surrounds the front and side of my townhouse. That’s not to mention the deck, itself covered with a strange smattering of vegetables in various stages of development and potted in a wide array of containers. I’m constantly amused by the whole endeavor.

Anyway, here are some pictures:

From the corner of the border, marigolds with some basil seedlings in the top left.

Little floppy deep purple flowers (advertised as black), Nemophilia. I suppose they're cute, but in the future they'll live on the edges of containers.

A foliage plant, which I love, called Joseph's Coat, of the technicolor variety. It's a type of Amaranth. I'll grow it again.

The third sunflower we've gotten, a deep hued dwarf. By the way, if you want the cultivars for any of these, I'll tell you in comments.

The first two sunflowers we got. By the way, bugs love eating sunflower leaves.

A bunch of Johny Jump Up pansies, reseeded from last year. I don't know what to tell you, I have always liked johny jump ups.

Jackmanii Clematis, trained along the fence in the back. This picture is a little old, they've since exploded.

More clematis, hanging over the edge of the fence, a slash of purple visible from our cars in the parking lot in the morning.

Cosmos, they seem like they'll flower a ton, but I'm not quite sold on them. Jen loves them, however.

View from the corner of the garden, toward the side. Dahliah, Gazania, hydrangea, clematis, osterospermum, and cosmos in view

These things only open during the day. They are awesome, for the 10 hours a day they're out.

They're all a little different.

All the dahlia are different looking too. These are some robust plants, let me tell you...

I moved this rose to the other side of the garden and I swore I killed it in the process. Alas, it's still with us.

This is from the Buchart Gardens in Victoria, courtesy of my parents. I dunno, it's kind of motley. Behind it resides the foxglove and lupine.

The lilies and rose were our of control a few weeks ago. Those lilies are bigger than your hand.

This is from a few weeks ago, the pansies don't appreciate the broiling heat we've had.

This is kind of cheating...I probably took this picture two months ago. The phlox is miserable the rest of the year.

This is an eastern redbud, if you're wondering. It too is kind of dumpy the rest of the year, especially when it's blighted, as mine is.

They're really more of a pink, but I'd rather grow a redbud than a pinkbud I guess.

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