Garden Clean-up

Hallelujah! Today the sun shone, and the thermometer hovered at a balmy 55 degrees. CAS and I were supposed to hit the Flower and Patio Show, but a computer crash trashed several hours of her work AND our plans. We're going on Friday instead. 

So I took advantage of the weather to cut back the buddleia, caryopteris, and the Annabelle hydrangeas. The Endless Summer hydrangeas I left alone, as they flower on both old and new wood. I was excited to see buds on them! And on the magnolia, and the lilacs, and even the damn honeysuckle I have to whack back every year. Yay spring!
Anyone, I chopped the Anabelles back to the ground, and I shaped up the honeysuckle into an arch.  I find that the earlier I prune it, the less I have to chop up. I tried to cut the caryopteris back to just above the last viable bud, but the bottom is getting so gnarly that I mostly just whacked at it. Some of the branches have rooted themselves, so I cut those off the bush to see how they do. The buddleia I cut back to about six inches.

I turned the compost too; well, some of it, anyway. I have a Biostack composter that I love; that one was time consuming to turn, but not all that hard. Even after I bought the Biostack, I kept my old compost heap. I made it from scavenged pallets, and it's utterly homely, but it's in a corner and masked by a magnolia. Plus it's perfect for the big batches of waste generated by garden clean-up binges. The heap is not covered. As a result, it was frozen solid. On the upside, it made a nice study base on which to stand and toss chopped up branches into my mini-brush pile on the opposite side of the fence. 

The mini-brush pile lies in the U made by my house, my backyard/frontyard fence, and the neighbor's short length of fence. It is largely a result of laziness; I hate chopping up all those branches by hand so I can fit them in the garbage. Plus I loathe the thought of sending that stuff to a landfill. So I do a sort of semi-chopping, then chuck them over the fence. Eventually I'll have to figure out what to do with them, but in the meantime, they're out of sight and likely providing a nice place for Al the possum to stay when he's not hanging out in the cat house.

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Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw

So I've acquired this cat. 

Well, actually I've acquired two. The first is, of course, my sweet Kitty (short for Dander-free Kitty the Hypoallergenic Cat). I won't bore you with the details, but I'm allergic to regular cats. Siberian cats do not produce the allergen that makes me sneeze, so I can snuggle Miss Kitty all I want without inducing an allergy attack. My sister found her for me on Petfinder, and I flew her in from Minnesota. Apparently we don't have dander-free cats in Indiana. 

Anyway, Kitty is an indoor cat, except when I take her out to stalk around the garden while I weed. She occasionally takes off, but she's 1. chipped, and 2. easily freaked, so it's not too hard to bring her back. The rest of the time she spends watching out various windows, shedding on my pillow, and curling herself around my head while I sleep. 

But the cat I recently acquired is a local stray I've named Big Lou. A rambling tom cat, he first came around when I was putting out food for another stray cat (Jack, who often visits during the summer). Once Big Lou figured out that I was a reliable source of food, he chased Jack off and laid claim to my porch as his own personal territory. 

He spends at least part of each day curled in the cathouse (yes, I bought a house for a stray cat, I plead momentary insanity), especially early mornings when he knows I'll be bringing out the chow. He runs down to the curb to meet me whenever I pull in so I can love on him. And once or twice he has attempted to enter the house to make himself at home, but I've chased him out.

So given that this is a fairly large cat who still has all his claws and to all appearances a very definite sense of ownership of me, my property, and the food I put out for him, I found this little vignette particularly interesting:

That is the hind end of one of our local squirrels (whom I personally believe run some kind of squirrel mafia). He has just raided Lou's food dish, while Lou is curled up, completely content in his little house.

But even the squirrel is no big deal compared to coming home last night to find in the cat house not Lou, but a big-ass possum. This possum periodically swings by to check out the cat food dish. I call him Al. Al has also been known to take a nap on my wicker porch settee on warm summer evenings. 

So my point here is that Big Lou is clearly more of a lover than a fighter. 

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Signs of Spring

Huzzah! Spring is nearly here! Here's how I know:

1.  I saw the first shoots of crocus and daffodils today! They may well have been hiding under the snow for a while, but today's thaw let me actually see them. I've been forcing crocus inside too. Those shoots also thrilled me, but not as much as the ones outside that indicate winter's days are numbered!


2. The Indiana Flower and Patio Show is in town from March 8 to March 16. And after the winter, there's nothing like that first flush of inspiration I get from seeing all those flowers in one place. Who cares if they're nearly all hyacinth, tulips, and azaleas? They're flowers! In March! 

Come on, spring!

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The Planning Season

I am so done with winter. Unfortunately, winter is not done with me, not by a long shot. My conservative estimate is at least another five weeks of winter, likely followed by several weeks of mud. Mud's OK. I can live with mud. I have a pretty pair of sky blue wellies that allow me to clomp around in the mud. Snow and ice, on the other hand, I'm ready to be done with.

Winter is, of course, the long stretch known to gardeners as "the planning season." And all the books talk about how you can really see the bones of the garden in winter, which is kind of helpful when planning. It's also why it's so important to have shrubs and evergreens and hardscaping. At least you have something to look at when all the perennials have died back to the ground.

Well, you can see the bones of my garden in the attached photos. I wasn't willing to tromp in the snow, so I opened my back window and leaned out. My cat came out to investigate, walked out the window to the outer window sill, sniffed the cold air, and immediately headed back in. She's a Siberian; you'd think she'd be dying to romp in the snow.

Anyway, wintery bones. Here you go.

It's kind of nice you can see the round lawn underneath the dusting of snow. What you don't see in this photo is the circular brick patio next to it. 

The grow poles in front of the garage are covered with clematis in summer. Well, the one on the right is; the ones on the left should be in the "leap" stage this year, since I planted them three years ago.

The little shrubs along the path are lavender bushes. I love lavender, and I plant more every year. 

And here we have the potager in winter. I know, a real potager would have a charming little fence around it, but I've only got so much room for vegetables. This spring, I'm going to add another set of two trellises to the right of this picture and another long bed at their base. I'll have to uproot a lavender to do it, and I'm pretty sure it won't survive the transplant process. 

Anyone who thinks gardening is a hobby for little old ladies has never 1. murdered plants in order to rearrange a garden for aesthetic purposes, 2. pruned a rosebush, or 3. built her own raised beds and trellises. Let me tell you, it's a lot of work. But the pumpkins and melons went wild last year, and I'd like more space for them. When your garden is small, you have to go up instead of out. Hence, trellises. 

Also, here you see the circular patio I mentioned. 

This bit is my perennially difficult shade border. I'm not planning to change much of the planting in the back garden, but I'm going to rework this border. 

Just to the left of photo in my neighbor's yard is a huge maple tree with roots that go to China. Between that and the honeysuckle bush (also on the neighbor's side of the fence), there are so many roots and suckers I literally have to take an axe to the soil to plant anything bigger than a daylily. The viburnum I planted there died a slow and painful death, so I'm looking for a nice shrub to give this some structure. Maybe an oakleaf hydrangea. They're good in shade and pretty tough. There are three Anabelle hydrangeas there already; they're the little brown sticks standing up. The rest is daylily, geranium (I love geranium), and lady's mantle. Last year I planted spiderwort, but I'm not sure it will be back this year. 

When it's not so cold, I'll take a photo of hosta alley, which runs along the side of the house (to the right of the potager in the photo above.) Hosta alley is also my work area, where I keep the garbage cans and whatnot. Also the spigot is there. 

There's a massive old workbench in my basement that's been here since I moved in eight years ago. The BF thinks we can haul it outside, hopefully without taking it apart, or at least without serious injury to either of us. I'm going to stick that puppy in hosta alley, right next to the spigot, where it will become the most spacious free potting bench you've ever seen. Homely, maybe, but I did mention it's free, right? If I get particularly ambitious, I will cut out a square on one end so soil can fall through, and add an outdoor sink on the end next to the spigot. If I'm lazy (likely), I'll just use it as it is. Given how much we charge for potting benches and potting sinks at the store, I will feel gloriously smug either way. 

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