So like that, it’s May. Funny, isn’t it? After all the long dark winter of wheedling and whining and then the slow, gray torment of April, suddenly more fabulous days are upon us and with them, sweet jewels all across the landscape.
We’re at the end of a long and lovely, but dry week, so I had no issues at all with the showers of yesterday and today. You can see above the red tulips, how happily the garden heliotrope has perked up with a nice deep slow overnight soaking of rain. That plant looks as though it will offer us three or four tall flowering spikes over the next couple of weeks. I’m very happy with how well it’s doing this year, especially since it didn’t bloom at all last year.
Here’s a frilly purple pansy I found in windowboxes in town on Thursday afternoon, when I brought my mountain bike in for a tires and tune-up (and an upgrade to a comfy seat). While they worked on the bike, I had the chance to knock about a little and snap a few photos. I also captured this pretty tulip in the park on Main Street. Love the way the red creeps up the sides of this yellow beauty.
It was great to get the bike out on the old bike trail again and I look forward to knocking about more on the bike, exploring the world around me. I’m enjoying the bike much more as a non-smoker, too ( 288 days!), and hopefully the exercise will help address that post-nicotine bloat. ; )
So, with the day off before and the small garden bed out front looking so good, I turned my attention to the two garden beds alongside the house down below my deck. The first level of the house forms a sort of courtyard back there and the garden beds were a little overgrown and in need of some weeding and division and replanting.
Since I have this gardening madness, I may as well put it to good use and the Downstairses are quite content to let me play. Once I got started, they were out to check my progress and cheerlead and keep me company, which was fun. There was even a little wine, too!
Here’s the Before shot:
There are hydrangea bushes on either side of these steps, which lead into the guest accomodations. On the left side of the stairs is a great colony of lily of the valley, which are all preparing to bloom. It’s the wrong time to move those guys, so I just weeded carefully around them and let them be. After they are done blooming, I might divide them and move them around to shadier locales, where they might enjoy a longer and sweeter bloom time. First things first, I removed all the statuary, old garden tools and other fiddly-bits and gee-gaws and such that were in the bed, so I wouldn’t damage them…but also to get a good look at them to see just how to use them to the garden’s best advantage.
I started off pruning the old stalks from a great spreading mass of shasta daisies on the far side of the steps, and also pruning the deadwood out of the hydrangeas, which are leafing out nicely enough to see what’s not coming back. I had a bit of a shock when I knelt down at the first hydrangea to clip it up and there was this explosive burst from the lily of the valley, as the Tiniest Bunny Ever dashed away from me, running over to find shelter beneath an old iron stove, where he tried to catch his breath and keep an eye on me.
I also found a very large hosta just emerging, a large astilbe, and some gladiolas. As I worked to remove all the grass and weeds from the garden beds, I discovered (as I thought I might) the components for a loosely arranged stone wall at the front edge of the garden, all overgrown. I dug those out and set them aside, as I edged up the beds and made them just a smidge deeper, before re-lining them with the rocks and also a wonderful Lion statue right at the edge of the steps, where it belongs.
One of the reasons I was turning my attention to the other ground-level garden beds is that I am holding off with my deck plantings for now. There had been talk of the deck being rebuilt this spring, so it made sense to hold off ’til that was accomplished. But now there’s a new flag on the play, as a very industrious robin has decided to make not one, not two…but FOUR nests on the underside of the deck. If one of them is good enough for him to attract a mate to nest under there, that’s likely to delay the porch replacement, not to mention curtail porch usage.
P also brought me a bag of iris divisions which she’d gotten via her sister’s hairdresser, so as I divided the shastas and shifted them around, I also dug in some of the irises. It’s the wrong time of year to move them, so we probably won’t see flowers from them this year, but we’ll see.
I moved a clump of coreopsis from the front fence garden to plant amongst the divided shastas, since I love the combination of the two plants and alongside these steps is the perfect spot for their co-mingling. Meanwhile, I was also able to split and replant both the hosta and the astilbe. While I was working, it started raining lightly, which I didn’t mind, since it meant I wouldn’t have to do too much watering at the end of the project. It’s kind of fun to work in the rain, but after a while, one does get a bit muddy and messy and then it’s time to draw things to a close.
I felt a little troubled about having disturbed the baby bunny a little later on, when L and P came outside to point out the hawk which was sitting on the wire not far away, staking out the big bird feeding station in the side yard. Of course, you can be sure there wasn’t a bird or squirrel in sight and I think by then that little bunny had found himself new cover.
After a few minutes of our observation, the hawk took off, swooping into the brush at the far side of the neighbor’s property, after who knows what quarry. It’s the Circle of Life: it doesn’t pay to look too closely sometimes.
I also found a bunch of smaller pieces of slate, which I’ll eventually dig in as a ground-level landing in front of the steps. I got them arranged to see how they’d look and make sure there was enough, but that’s a part of the project I had to defer for another day, as my energy levels began to fade and the rain continued. I want to dig out the grass at the base of the steps and then seed in some creeping thyme around the slate once I’ve laid it in. I always like the way the pink flowers creep out into the grass. They make a nice steppable groundcover that smells real yummy on a hot summer morning.
In the process of cleaning up and enlarging the beds, I also made room for some of the seeds I’ve got for planting all around this place. I think a couple of sunflowers and some morning glories might thrive together at the back of these beds, too, and who knows what else.
Here’s the After shot, as seen from the deck above:
Meanwhile, I kept being drawn back out to admire and enjoy the tulips in the front garden bed. They seem to be lovelier every day and I’m quite pleased with how the colors are all playing so nicely together.
I may have made a mistake with the pansies. I had put them on the north side of the bed thinking they would be more protected there as the season progressed, but it turns out they get the hottest, late day sun there, and also there are some pretty strong breezes that seem to come up the driveway.
As a result, I notice the flowers are quick to fade and actually start to look like chipped china, so I’m thinking about relocating them to more protected locations. I have some good ideas for that, though, which I think may work even better. Updates as events warrant.
Meanwhile, the front garden bed is also graced with a new purple, as the money plants there are beginning to bloom.
As I wrapped up the afternoon’s work, the drizzle eased up again and there was a bit of sunshine. I could probably have sat gazing at those tulips a while longer than I did, but I found my energy waning a little and it was nice to get upstairs and have a nice hot shower and yummy toasted cheese sandwich.
There was also, of course, a cat who was feeling a little neglected at my having been downstairs in the garden all day (although I regularly stopped back up for assorted tools or fresh cups of coffee and to offer kitty treats or have other necessary breaks), although he didn’t want to hear about how the recently-acquired leash and harness might help facilitate his coming along with me.
Ah, well, we had some enjoyable face-to-face time this evening.
Here’s some of the twenty-four zinnia seedlings I recently transplanted to slightly-larger seed pots this past week. It’s still too soon to set them outside, but they are growing pretty nicely.
So far, there is no sign of any columbine seedlings, but I think I remember that they are slow to germinate. I do have plenty of seed, so I may scatter a little outside. The shadier end of the bed I worked on today might be a proper place for some, actually.
But meanwhile, there has been a lone lupine seedling. We wish him well.
And elsewhere in the Nest, we’ve recently welcomed a new african violet, a gift from my friend Vera. Actually, it’s not a new one, per se, as I actually had this one – or one of it’s forebears – previously, but sadly, it died during the move to Harwich. Anyway, it’s nice to have a new version of what was always a very lovely plant and hopefully this one will thrive.