Marty's Gardening Journal, March 22nd 2010

After torrential downpours (4.36 inches in our neck of the woods) on Saturday the 13th and still miserable weather on Sunday and Monday, the sun came out and the temperatures headed up, way up. What a relief to feel the sun on your face again. I caught myself walking around with a smile on my face at lunch time while running some errands in town.

Sunday morning, after the torrential downpours, a bit of tragedy took place in the garden. A hawk, possibly a sharp-shinned hawk, caught a bird in the front yard, right in front of the window. There were a few cries from its prey but it was swiftly dispatched and then feeding commenced. For two hours this hawk feasted until there were only feathers and few bones left. Cruel? Well, such is nature; one dies, one eats. It is no different in our garden where one creature feeds another and where the cycle of life, death and rebirth can be observed, albeit usually a bit less graphic than the hawk and its prey.Hawk March 14, 2010

The gardening club (Gardeners of Somerset Valley, of which I became a member several years ago asked me to become more involved as an officer and at our March meeting I was elected as president. Being a member of a gardening club has allowed me to spend time with like-minded individuals while also forging great new friendships. Meeting about 8 times a year we hear from different speakers about a range of gardening subjects. I gave a presentation about “De Keukenhof” (the kitchen garden; and also participated in a speakers’ panel with a hands-on presentation on making new plants from cuttings.  At the annual plant swap each May members fill the trunk of their car with plants from their garden or extra seedlings raised during early spring. Members give away their stock and in return get plants from others. It is a great way to try something new and it doesn’t cost a penny.  Our club as well as many other gardening clubs provide (small) scholarships to students studying to enter the horticultural field. All in all, it’s a great way to spend a few hours each month, while the yearly membership fee is the cost of a few cups of coffee.  If you are interested in joining a gardening club, take a look in your local paper to see if there are any in your area meeting or check out this website from the National Garden Club: 

As winter progressed, my pond iced over although the pond de-icer kept a hole open in the ice, providing the fish with oxygen.  Sometime in January I saw some fish lazily swimming around, but most of the time they would remain on the bottom of the pond, hiding under the rock shelf. I have been using one kind of de-icer or another for years now and never lost a fish. However, one early morning in late February we got a bit of heavy, wet snow followed later by white fluffy stuff. That evening I thought about going outside and moving the snow of the de-icer, but figured the fish would be fine and I would take care of it in the morning. What an awful, awful mistake I made. The thin layer of heavy wet snow had coated over the air holes in the de-icer, no longer allowing for harmful gas to escape from the pond or oxygen to be drawn into the water. My fish suffocated and as the ice melted I took out one dead fish after another. I have been beating myself up over this over the last weeks and realize it was a lesson learned, unfortunately at the expense of my wonderful fish. Now I will need to do a thorough cleaning of the pond, get the waterfall going again and buy some new fish after we come back from our vacation. And next winter? Not only will I have the de-icers in the pond, which will be cleaned off religiously each morning and evening after snowfall but I will buy and use a pump to provide additional oxygen in the water. Fish in happier days 5-2008 resized small

As we all waited for better weather, the first blooms opened up in the garden. First there were the snowbells. I put 100 bulbs in the ground last year and now I am reaping the rewards with these early bloomers. Next, bright blue iris reticulata, a favorite of mine. The pansies, planted last year, came through the winter unscathed and presented me with bright yellow flowers as soon as the weather improved. In the much colder back yard where the sun barely reaches this time of year, my eye caught a spot of blue; last year’s primroses from the supermarket are now in full bloom. Last but not least this early in the season, the flowers from the Hellebores are up. Soon these clumps will have tens of flowers on them and the seedlings from three years ago will be blooming too. I noticed one older clump of Hellebores is surrounded by at least 100 seedlings; I will be busy potting these up in the coming months. In the spring of 2011 they will be big enough to be put in the garden, plus there are enough of them to be given away. Then the wait is on for them to bloom in 2012 or 2013. Well, what can I say; we don’t garden for instant gratification.

Seeds started a few weeks ago are doing well. Cockscomb, also known as celosia, is coming up nicely. I already noticed that I need to do a bit of thinning out as I have 4 to 6 plants coming up in each little cell.  The zinnias are taking off like gangbusters as well, and while the Irish bells were a bit slow to take off, they are catching up with the other seedlings now.  Cuttings from coleus taken in late fall last year grew into new plants which allowed me to take more cuttings for additional plants. By now the fuchsias, which overwintered in the garage, have made the transition to a more hospitable room. Slowly they sprout new leaves.  Days continue to grow longer and with the start of Daylight Saving time on March 14th, we gained an additional hour of daylight as the clock jumped forward.

With temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s on the weekend when spring arrived I worked in the garden. The pond was cleaned up, the waterfall is on. It’s time for the willows to get their yearly haircut. Perennials are starting to come up and each day more spring flowers open. Mother Nature is putting her annual spring show on again and as always for me it is not a moment too soon.