Gardening Journal January 5th, 2012

Since the weather has been relatively mild in the last weeks a quick walk through the garden showed plants being tricked into thinking spring is on the way. Hellebore plants in sunny spots are showing their buds and some of the flowers seem ready to open up at a moment’s notice.

Hellebores buds in January 2012


The daffodil bulbs planted less than two months ago have foliage peaking up from the earth; some already are 4 to 6 inches above the soil.

Daffodil folliage up January 2012

Peonies' buds peeking up

As always, the tops of the red colored stems of the peonies can be spotted, just as the new growth of sedum can be seen as the base of the plant. It gives you an inkling of what Nature has in store for us months down the road.

Sedum buds January 2012

My pyracanthus or firethorn plant is growing up the side of the house on its large, large trellis. Twice a year, in early summer and again late fall, early winter, I shape the plant, a process called espaliering. It is a European gardening technique to grow a plant in a formal manner on a flat plane. By now the plant has reached the top and it follows each square on the trellis. In spring it will bloom with tiny white flowers and in fall it will show an abundance of red berries on all of its branches, turning a plain white side of the house into a piece of art.  Now in winter I appreciate the green outline of this plant.

After filling the birdfeeder with the usual (supreme) selection of hulled birdseed, I waited for the birds to arrive in droves, then waited some more. Finally, after about a week, they started showing up and now I see different species every day again. My flock of cardinals is growing. Each winter a group of about twelve birds, male and female, call my garden their home, eagerly dining on seeds and globs of peanut butter hidden among the branches of the corkscrew hazelnut. The first suet block (rendered fat with seeds) has been eaten and it is time to hang up a new one. This food source has a high fat content giving vital energy to the birds during the cold months of winter. It attracts woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees and nuthatches among others.  Squirrels will also munch on it, but as long as they are not complete hogs, I let them.

Indoors the woolly aphids have been battled and I won. The flower spikes on most of the Phalaenopsis orchids were getting quite long and needed to be staked. I carefully insert the wire stakes close to the spike in the potting medium to make sure no roots are pierced.  The wire stake can be bent to follow the natural curve of the flower spike and special orchid clips hold the spike in place without damaging it. Now I wait; spikes elongate and buds swell before bursting open into exotic flowers. Single flowers on my slipper orchids are appearing as well; so far three of them each have a bud growing bigger every day. Meanwhile an oncidium orchid is blooming with tiny little flowers which resemble a lady with her arms outstretched on the top with a skirt-shaped lip below, hence the nickname “dancing lady orchid”.

Orchid 'dancing ladies'

Sitting in the garden window in front of the kitchen sink I admire them as I am washing the dishes, simultaneously keeping an eye on the birdfeeder right outside; talk about my favorite way of multitasking! With the promise of so many indoor flowers I make my way through January, one day at the time.