This Week in the Garden – March 22

Pretty Crocuses

Now that Spring is officially here, the daffodils, crocuses, hellebores, and more have opened their flowers in celebration!

Miniature Narcissus

Miniature Narcissus

The first daffodils to open this week were the miniature narcissus. They stand about six inches tall.

Daffodils

Daffodils

There are several clumps that had opened by today, including some taller varietes like this one. In this shot you can also see Columbine leaves starting to emerge.

Crocus

Crocus

Last week, I photographed one lonely crocus that had emerged. I found several more around the yard, in two different varieties. This one has more uniformly colored, rounded petals.

Crocus 2

Crocus 2

But I really like this other variety, with its variegated leaves, darker tipped, pointed petals.

Pretty Crocuses

Pretty Crocuses

I think over the years, critters have eaten some of the bulbs as there really are just sort of random single crocuses for the most part, around the garden. I think it would be neat to plant more of these, and maybe snowdrops in some lonely areas.

Pink Camellia

Pink Camellia

The pink Camellia is just bursting with beautiful blooms right now.

Pink Camellia Blossom

Pink Camellia Blossom

It is a fairly early blooming Sasanqua variety.

Blooming Stinking Hellebore

Blooming Stinking Hellebore

This week the Stinking Hellebore started blooming. It’s quite a bit different from the Lenten Rose variety.

Stinking Hellebore Flowers

Stinking Hellebore Flowers

The flowers are these light green, leafy orbs. I’m glad I caught it this year.

Pretty Hellebores

Pretty Hellebores

But I prefer the beautiful colors of the ‘Lenten Rose’ Hellebore.

Dark Pink and White Spotted Hellebore

Dark Pink and White Spotted Hellebore

The blooms in my yard are pretty standard though- typically white, pink, purple, or some combination of the three.

Purple Hellebore

Purple Hellebore

Some are spotted, others are solid.

White Hellebore

White Hellebore

Last year I did a whole post just on Hellebores

Light Pink Hellebore

Light Pink Hellebore

I’ll probably collect seeds again for anyone who wants any.

Blooming Leatherleaf Holly

Blooming Leatherleaf Holly

The other variety of Mahonia started blooming this week too! I talked about the first blooming Mahonia back in early January.

Buds on Trees

Buds on Trees

Some of the trees, as well as bushes, are starting to swell with buds.

Flowering Quince buds

Flowering Quince buds

Here you can see the Flowering Quince are about to pop!

Frozen Hydrangea buds

Frozen Hydrangea buds

I also took a closer look at the Hydrangea bushes. Some of the buds look like what I photographed here- brown and possibly frozen.

Hydrangea buds

Hydrangea buds

But others are definitely showing signs of life! I should definitely have some flowers this year!

Harry Lauders Walking Stick Catkins

Harry Lauders Walking Stick Catkins

There are also some buds on the Harry Lauders Walking Stick- just above where the catkins form at the branch. The catkins have really puffed up since the last time I took a photo, seen below.

Catkins of Harry Lauders Walking Stick

Catkins of Harry Lauders Walking Stick

Snail

Snail

And finally, this little guy. I found him while clearing out one of the beds. He appears a little nervous in this photo, looking at me, but I love the shadow of his eyes on the leaf.

.

This Week in the Garden – March 15

Icicles on Leaves

This week in the garden — the transition from Winter into Spring. There may be a few slightly colder than average days left this winter, but the weather has definitely turned a corner, and we are seeing more sun, more warmth, and more green. Even though the calendar says we have just about a week left until Spring officially begins, it is here. I can smell it in the air after a good rain, the smell of fresh dirt thawing out from winter’s freeze. I can hear it in the rain and in the new songs being sung by the birds as they begin to look for a mate. I can feel it in the warmth of the longer days. And I can see it in all the new leaves and buds that are emerging. My heart rejoices in the change, the renewal of the earth. I am ready for it, hopeful for a renewal in more than just my spirit.

Just a few weeks ago, we had several inches of snow covering everything.

Daffodils pushing up through Snow

Daffodils pushing up through Snow

And now, so much more is coming up.

Daffodils and more pushing up

Daffodils and more pushing up

Snow blanketed the earliest of the Spring bloomers (or the latest Winter blossoms), the Hellebores.

Snow Covered Hellebores

Snow Covered Hellebores

But now they can start to stretch their flowers to the sky.

Hellebores Blooming

Hellebores Blooming

I need to get out there (hopefully on a slightly drier day) and start removing some of the spent foliage. It is not necessary or crucial, and it may even be considered too late in most cases to do much for the plant except to neaten the appearance.

More Hellebore Blooms

More Hellebore Blooms

I love how many Hellebores I have on this small plot of land. Their little shots of color are perfect this time of year.

Hellebores out front

Hellebores out front

You can see in this next shot that I still have quite a bit of leaf litter to pick up. I left it purposefully this winter as a sort of mulch for the beds. It should be warm enough now that I can remove them (and hopefully compost some!).

Hellebores under 'Queen Crimson' Japanese Maple

Hellebores under ‘Queen Crimson’ Japanese Maple

And a detail of a flower under the tree:

Hellebore Bloom

Hellebore Bloom

As the foliage dies back, some of it turns this beautiful shade of dark purple first.

Dying Hellebore Foliage

Dying Hellebore Foliage

Another type of Hellebore, the stinking Hellebore or Helleborus foetidus, is also about to bloom.

Stinking Hellebore Blooming

Stinking Hellebore About to Bloom

Another early bloomer is this pink Camellia that’s been trying to bloom for several weeks. Now that we’ve had a stretch of a couple days, nearly a week of good weather, it is starting to go crazy.

Early Blooming Camellia

Early Blooming Camellia

Several buds were damaged with the extended cold weather we had, leading to “frost bitten blooms”.

Frostbitten Blooms

Frostbitten Blooms

They look sort of orange in this photo, but are really more brown. Even on the more protected blossoms, you can see a little damage around the outer edges.

Camellia Blossom not fully open

Camellia Blossom not fully open

I also spotted this lonely guy today.

First and only Crocus so far

First and only Crocus so far

And I guess to be technical, this little weed was blooming too.

First weed of the year

First weed of the year

At least I think it’s a weed. I’m not sure what it is, although it does look a bit like creeping jenny, of which I have plenty very close to this spot.

I’m continuing to get a lot of attention from the birds at the feeders. This male cardinal was eyeing the food, but wouldn’t come close with me near the window.

Male Cardinal

Male Cardinal

And you may have noticed I did actually clean the windows- inside and out! Here’s a great shot of a chickadee, clearly showing the sides and markings indicating that it is in fact a Carolina Chickadee. An eagle-eyed reader pointed out my mistake in my last post.

Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee

While out at the library this week, we also spotted a Hawk come fly in close to the building and perch for a little while. I managed to identify it from the photos we took at home as a Red Shouldered Hawk.

Red Shouldered Hawk

Red Shouldered Hawk

He/she was quite large, although it’s difficult to tell from this photograph.

Buds on the Viburnum

Buds on the Viburnum

As the new buds come in, I also am surveying the garden for any potential damage. I can’t tell for sure, but even though they aren’t green anymore, I think the Hydrangea buds survived this year.

Hydrangea bud - dead or alive

Hydrangea bud – dead or alive

At least they aren’t black. I’m going to just have to wait and see if anything grows from them this year.

Green Buds on Bush

Green Buds on Bush

I can’t remember what bush this is, but as soon as it starts to bloom I should know. I was pleased to see a bunch of tiny green buds on it today. And just some more signs of Spring:

Spring is coming

Spring is coming

Spanish bluebells and daffodils coming up in the front bed, and in the side:

Spanish Bluebells coming up

Spanish Bluebells coming up

This area will be a carpet of color in about a month. And finally:

Garden Phlox coming back

Garden Phlox coming back

It’s not too early for the tall Garden phlox to start peeking out from its slumber. This year I am going to try to be more vigilant about the Phlox bugs so that I can have as many blooms as I can get.

This Week in the Garden – Feb. 22

Yellow Rumped Warbler

This week was full of snow and freezing temperatures. Other than shoveling snow, I tried to spend most of my time indoors. On my snow day from work, I staked out by the window for about twenty minutes and managed to capture pictures of several different species of birds.

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

And please excuse the dirty windows…. The Tufted Titmouse is one of the more common species that comes to the feeders all year round.

Chickadees

Chickadees

Black capped Carolina Chickadees are another common species. I see them all year round, and they are so cute and small. They will typically grab a seed, fly to a nearby tree branch, and then peck at it and eat it. I also recently read that they will sometimes stash seed during the warmer months. (Thanks to a reader, I’ve corrected what type of Chickadee lives here. I think I assumed it was a black capped Chickadee because that’s what I grew up with. Thanks Megatron!)

Eastern Towhee and Downy Woodpecker

Eastern Towhee and Downy Woodpecker

Here a Downy Woodpecker and an Eastern Towhee are sharing the ledge. The Downy gets a bit anxious though, and usually scares off other birds while it’s feeding. The Eastern Towhee visits seasonally, and in the Spring will spend hours “fighting” his reflection in glass (windows) or the side mirrors on the car.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

The Carolina Wren is another small and cute bird that stays here just about all year. Last year, one made a nest in a plastic bin we had sitting out on the lower deck (in shade by the house). There were three or four little babies that hatched and then fledged pretty quickly.

Bluebird

Bluebird

I have noticed quite a few bluebirds at times- sometimes there will be as many as six or seven together. I’m very glad to see them. We do get European Starlings quite a bit too, which are known for disrupting and tossing out nesting bluebirds. I try to shoo them away as frequently as I can.

Robin

Robin

The Robin. Some birds seem more acutely aware of what’s going on behind the glass- and the Robin is one who seems to be able to see me. If I make any movement, he’ll fly away. If he sees me, he won’t come near the feeder. This is contrast to the chickadees and titmice who seem completely oblivious.

Yellow Rumped Warbler1

Yellow Rumped Warbler front

And finally, the most exciting watch of the day was this Yellow Rumped Warbler. I had to search my field guide thoroughly to find the name of this bird. I saw one a few days previously, and then saw a few more on the snow day. I took lots of pictures.

Yellow Rumped Warbler

Yellow Rumped Warbler back

And here you can see how it got its name. Now that I’ve identified it, I wonder if I’ll see it again.

Today (Sunday) was actually quite nice, at 52 degrees Fahrenheit, I managed to get out and check up on my hydrangeas. Some of the buds may be dead from cold, but I’ll just have to watch them and wait and see this summer. I also checked the Camellia to see if the flowers were damaged. The ones that were open have frostbite, but the buds that haven’t opened yet may be Okay with just some minor burns. While I was out, I did notice lots of footprints in the snow.

Rabbit Footprints

Rabbit Footprints

I was surprised to see some rabbit footprints in the snow. I was just thinking the other day that it had been several months since I’d seen a rabbit in the garden. I had supposed they may have been eaten due to increased cat and hawk activity.

Bird Footprints

Bird Footprints

I think bird footprints are adorable.

Cat Footprints up and down hill

Cat Footprints up and down hill

I thought these prints were amusing too- cat prints going up and down the hill. Even with the warm temperatures, there’s still quite a bit of snow, and I consider it dangerous to trek down into the lower garden. To break from the dreary weather, we managed to get out this weekend and go to the 9th Annual Virginia Orchid Society Show, held at Strange’s. It wasn’t very large, but there were some amazing specimens on display.

Colorful Orchid

Colorful Orchid

The sizes, shapes, and colors were just incredible.

Amazing Orchid

Amazing Orchid

They also had Orchids for sale, and they had several lectures on orchid care. The lectures and admission was free, which was perfect for a much needed shot of color.

Orchid Society Show

Orchid Society Show

I’m so excited and ready for Spring!

 

Chicken Salad with Cranberries and Tarragon

Chicken Salad Sandwich and French Onion Soup

The other night Mr. Lucky and I decided to have “Bistro Night” for dinner. I made chicken salad for sandwiches, and he made French Onion Soup! He found the recipe for the soup on Martha Stewart, and it was excellent. The only thing we would change is to cut back on the amount of Thyme called for (by at least half).

Chicken Salad Sandwich and French Onion Soup

Chicken Salad Sandwich and French Onion Soup

I am sharing my own recipe for chicken salad, that I developed after enjoying the sandwiches as Starbucks. Not wanting to spend $8 on a little sandwich, I knew it would be easy to come up with something similar that I could recreate whenever I wanted.

Chicken Salad all stirred up

Chicken Salad all stirred up

As with most recipes- you can change any amounts to suit your taste. Usually I don’t measure anything and just go with what I think looks good.

Chicken Salad with cranberries and Tarragon

Ingredients:

25 oz. of cooked chicken, shredded or chunked

¼ cup of chopped celery

¼ cup dried craisins or cranberries

¾ mayo

2 Tbsp lime or lemon juice

½ tsp Tarragon (can be more, be generous)

¼ tsp garlic powder

Black Pepper to taste

Salt to taste

Steps:

  1. Shred the chicken.
  2. Chop celery, and add to the chicken
  3. Add craisins and mayo, stir all together until well mixed.
  4. Add lime juice, tarragon, and garlic powder, stir until well mixed.
  5. Add salt and pepper to your taste preference.
  6. Store in the fridge up to a few days.

Enjoy on your favorite whole grain bread!