Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Little Tool Maintenance

Yesterday was a chilly day, but the sun was out, so I decided to do a little garden tool maintenance out in the garage. I got out the WD-40 and cleaned and oiled my favorite hand tools, and then went to work on the hand pruners. I have a cheapish pair and 2 pair of Felcos,  No. 2. The Felcos last forever--I have had one pair for probably 20 years. (I really can't believe I haven't lost a pair, as I am always misplacing them, or leaving a pair in the garden somewhere, so it is somewhat of a miracle that I still have that original pair.)  Last fall I read in Fine Gardening magazine about this nifty little sharpening tool, called Speedy Sharp. It sharpens your garden pruners and small garden tools easily and quickly, so I ordered it online. I tried it out yesterday and it seems to work great.  You just put the sharpening blade at a 45' angle to the blade you are sharpening and use about 5 or 6 smooth strokes.  You won't believe what a difference it makes with sharp pruners. I like this little tool cause it's so compact and it can sharpen anything with a blade, even the curvy blades of my pruners, and you can just keep it in your pocket.

Next on my list is to take down the gourd birdhouses and clean them up, and then put a coat of spray shellac on them.

And I'm happy to see all my pots again after the long winter.  I am partial to terra cotta. I have a few of those recycled material pots and I like them, but terra cotta always wins on looks, hands down. Love my ruffled pots.

And my succulents are still hanging out in the garage. I gave them a little water a few weeks ago when it seemed like spring was on its way. They can go back outside in a few weeks, if it ever starts to warm up.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Six Years

I really like Harlan Coben's books (loved Gone for Good, and Tell No One),  but this newest book left me disappointed.  I found myself turning the pages faster and faster, just wanting to get to the end and be done with it.  Six years ago, college professor Jake Fisher fell in love with Natalie; suddenly she broke it off with him and married an old boyfriend a few days later. He goes to her wedding and she makes him promise to leave her alone. And he did--for six years--until he reads an obituary of her husband in the local paper. Jake then goes looking for her, and guess what, she is nowhere to be found and no one has ever heard of her. The dead husband turns out to have been married to someone else, and even the church where she was married denies that there was a wedding there six years ago. So off Jake goes on the trail of this convoluted mystery. I never really got into the characters, or the plot. I did finish it, just to see what happened, but it's not a book I would recommend. I get so annoyed with these authors who seem to stick with a certain formula in all their books. It just doesn't hold up after so many tries. IMHO. Coincidentally the Washington Post gave this a great review yesterday, so what do I know.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Another Monday Morning Surprise

Out my window this morning

More snow! I wonder if these will be the last snow pictures of the winter?  I love the snow so much and we have gotten so little the past few years that every snowfall now seems like a gift, even on the 25th of March. It was wonderful to wake up this morning and look out the window and see white. Winter just doesn't want to let go, it seems. It's okay with me.

I am going in to work this morning, but for now am sitting here enjoying my tea and the snow (still falling!), and listening to our new Sonos wireless hi-fi system.  Yesterday Brooks helped me pick it out and set it up, and it's amazing. I am a radio fan so love having this new toy to play with.

There's a cherry blossom bud under that snow

Oh hello there

Friday, March 22, 2013

McCoy Flower Pots

Back in the day when I was really into antiquing and flea markets, I started collecting McCoy flower pots. McCoy was a manufacturer of pottery in the early 1900s from Zanesville, Ohio, and their pottery has become quite collectible.  I first started buying them because I liked their colors (green) and their floral designs,  but then I started getting into it and looking for different designs and now I have a pretty nice collection of pots. There are a lot of pottery planters out there, and a lot of reproductions,  but the way to find "the real McCoy" is to look for the mark on the bottom of the pot.  I use my planters all the time, and while I am not in the collecting mode anymore, I still keep an eye out for anything unusual when I am at a flea. I know my kids will be happy to have them someday. Haha!

This one is my favorite--it's tiny, only about 2 1/2" tall.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


So this is what happens when you forget to water a button fern. Crispy. And dead. I hate when I do that.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

First Day of Spring!

Here in the Time Between, by Jack Ridl

Here in the time between snow

and the bud of the rhododendron,
we watch the robins, look into

the gray, and narrow our view
to the patches of wild grasses
coming green. The pile of ashes

in the fireplace, haphazard sticks
on the paths and gardens, leaves
tangled in the ivy and periwinkle

lie in wait against our will. This
drawing near of renewal, of stems
and blossoms, the hesitant return

of the anarchy of mud and seed
says not yet to the blood's crawl.
When the deer along the stream

look back at us, we know again
we have left them. We pull
a blanket over us when we sleep.

As if living in a prayer, we say
amen to the late arrival of red,
the stun of green, the muted yellow

at the end of every twig. We will
lift up our eyes unto the trees hoping
to discover a gnarled nest within

the branches' negative space. And
we will watch for a fox sparrow
rustling in the dead leaves underneath.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Garden on March 19

Herb garden and lavenders

It sure doesn't feel like spring the past few days, with the snow and chilly rain we have had. Yesterday was just the most miserable day. I went out this morning to look around, and in the garden at least, there are signs of spring. A little snow won't hurt the garden. The weekend before last I cleaned out this front garden and I love how it looks now, early spring,  so full of possibilities. Little patches of perennials, clumps of bulbs appearing, so much going on below the surface. We just need a week of sunshine and lots more will be happening. Once it warms up a bit, I will spread bonemeal around the emerging perennials and bulbs. Speaking of which, the sun just came out!

Perennial garden

The lawn companies have been making their rounds and can I rant for just a minute about how these 'supposed' landscapers are doing the 'volcano mulch' around trees in my neighborhood?  Aren't they supposed to know how to mulch a tree for goodness sake? It drives me crazy to see them just pile on more and more mulch around a tree. Mulch should never be more than 2-4  inches high and should never be placed up around the trunk of the tree, which allows diseases and pests to attack the tree. Thick blankets of mulch will prevent the tree from getting water and will eventually suffocate the tree. When we mulch our trees in the spring, we always break up the old mulch around the trees and poke some holes into the ground a little, then we spread a thin layer of new mulch around the tree, and out to the drip line, and always leaving the base of the trunk exposed. Just saying.

Volcano mulch in neighbor's yard

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday Morning Surprise

Woke up this morning to a little snow, so grabbed my camera and went out for a walk.  I had been planning to take pictures of my neighbor's lawn full of crocus this morning, so the snow was an extra bonus. I love seeing the emerging blooms covered in snow. I'm sure it will all be gone by this afternoon, but it made for a lovely morning walk.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Which Zinnias to Choose?

So many zinnias to choose from! Those seed packet displays at the nursery are so enticing, especially in the chilly days of winter.  But I found these seeds especially tempting, with their pretty watercolor designs. I always plant zinnias from seed, and I picked up a few packets of 'Peppermint Stick' and 'Cut and Come Again' last week at the nursery. But I will be choosing more varieties in the weeks ahead and am going to order a few also that I can't find locally.  It's fun to look at catalogs online and see the multitude of varieties that available.  I can't seem to help myself when it comes to zinnias. Below are some of the zinnias seeds I plant every year~ I always do the 'Cut and Come Again,' they are great for cut flowers and I find they are the most mildew resistant. I also plant the 'Peppermint Stick,' the lime green 'Envy,' and the small 'Profusion' zinnias, which are great to use as borders.

I love this 'Queen Red Lime' zinnia, but have never seen the seeds around here. That is one I will be ordering from Burpees. Also the 'Tequila Lime,' another lime green variety I want to try. If you sign up for their email newsletter, you get free shipping. There's a bunch more  ('Purple Prince') I'll probably order too. I could look at pictures of zinnias all day long...

'Queen Red Lime' zinnia (via Burpee)
White 'Profusion' zinnias (via Burpee)

'Candy Cane' zinnia (photo via Fine Gardening)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

How to be Perfect

Excerpt from "How to be Perfect" by Ron Padgett

Get some sleep.

Eat an orange every morning.

Be friendly. It will help make you happy.

Hope for everything. Expect nothing.

Take care of things close to home first. Straighten up your room before you save the world. Then save the world. Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.

Don't stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don't forget what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm's length and look at it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass ball collection.

Wear comfortable shoes.

Do not spend too much time with large groups of people.

Plan your day so you never have to rush.

Show your appreciation to people who do things for you, even if you have paid them, even if they do favors you don't want.

After dinner, wash the dishes.

Calm down.

Don't expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want to.

Don't be too self-critical or too self-congratulatory.

Don't think that progress exists. It doesn't.

Imagine what you would like to see happen, and then don't do anything to make it impossible.

Forgive your country every once in a while. If that is not possible, go to another one.

If you feel tired, rest.

Don't be depressed about growing older. It will make you feel even older. Which is depressing.

Do one thing at a time.

If you burn your finger, put ice on it immediately. If you bang your finger with a hammer, hold your hand in the air for 20 minutes. you will be surprised by the curative powers of ice and gravity.

Do not inhale smoke.

Take a deep breath.

Do not smart off to a policeman.

Be good.

Be honest with yourself, diplomatic with others.

Do not go crazy a lot. It's a waste of time.

Drink plenty of water. When asked what you would like to drink, say, "Water, please."

Take out the trash.

Love life.

Use exact change.

When there's shooting in the street, don't go near the window.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Feels Like Spring

Isn't it funny how one day of sunny weather and mild temps makes you feel like winter is over?  A week ago we had snow, and then boom,  three days later it felt like spring. On Saturday everyone was outside in their yards, working or playing.  Our neighborhood has lots of kids, and they were outside all weekend long, playing street hockey in the cul-de-sac.  Anyway, I got started on garden cleanup, and I decided I need to do more of that in the fall. There's just too much to do to leave it all until the spring. I felt kind of overwhelmed looking at everything I had to do.  So on Saturday I started in the backyard garden,  cutting back all the old and matted leaves of the hellebores--what a difference that makes. The flowers really stand out better and the increased sunlight will produce more blooms.

Once I finished with the hellebores, I was into it, and so I started raking leaves and debris from the beds. My usual routine is to clean out the beds, then go over it with a hoe and scrape away any weeds and break up the soil around the existing plants, then sprinkle bone meal around all the existing perennials.  I cut back all the perennials, and even found my snapdragons had survived the winter. They are pretty hardy and often survive a mild winter.  Walt cut back hard the smoke tree and the buddleias (butterfly bushes).  I should have taken a picture of all the garden debris out on the curb waiting for the recycling pickup!

Lots of the perennials are showing signs of growth, heucheras, perennial geraniums, and sedums,  especially after cutting back all the old leaves and stems. It's always fun to see those bright new leaves!

And one of my tree peonies in the backyard already has several big fat buds. I think it's because it grows in a more sheltered space, as my big tree peony in the front yard isn't showing  any new growth yet. Looking through my garden journal, I can tell we are about 10 days behind last year. In 2012 I was doing this clean up on the first of March, and had even cut back my hellebores on a sunny day on February 23.

Tree peony

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tulips For a Rainy Tuesday

I woke up this morning to the sound of pouring rain and it looks like it's going to rain steadily all day. I love a day like this, especially in the spring when I can just imagine all the happy plants and trees, drinking in this good rain. Just think how good this is for all the bulbs that are just peeking through.  And I can have another cup of tea and sit here and make my plans and lists for the spring garden...

Monday, March 11, 2013


Crocus blooming in the Bishop's Garden

Yesterday was such a beautiful day, and after spending most of the weekend not feeling very well, and working outside for awhile in the garden, I decided to go down to the National Cathedral for their Sunday Evensong service at 4 pm. We have been to this late afternoon service before, and really enjoyed it.  It is quite an experience to hear the service given almost entirely in music by Cathedral choirs, especially in such a magnificent place. This time it was the Cathedral boys choir singing. Of course it's also an excuse for me to walk through the Bishop's Garden on the grounds of the Cathedral,  one of my favorite places in DC. There were lots of people out enjoying the gorgeous weather, people reading on the benches, students lounging on the grass,  and kids were loving all the secret places in the garden.  There wasn't much blooming yet, some snowdrops, crocus, and lots of hellebores, but I could tell they had been busy in the gardens, as all the roses were neatly pruned, the perennials had been cut back, and beds were waiting to be planted.