Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Waiting for the garbage men

I am anxiously anticipating the trash pick up. I put out 4 of those big paper landscaping waste bags full of ivy and now the rain seems to be picking up. The garbage men usually come at mid-morning so I hope it all will last. I also believe that you can put out yard waste just in clearly marked bags, not in the tightly sealed cans, as the city requires for other garbage. They do say on the Baltimore City web site that there are no volume limits for yard waste, which is good because I have a lot out there.

I was particularly anxious to do a number on the yard because the neighborhood rat has been spotted again and I wanted to remove anything that might attract it (or them). This winter in particular has left a mess behind in my yard. The ivy fell over, branches broke off, and everything just looked terrible.

As shown in the photo, the wind and rain are pushing over my daffodils. Oh, well, I assume they’ll be all right after the rain leaves and the sun comes out. Yesterday I wrote an article about how to care for spring bulbs and I mentioned staking them. I did think of doing that to my own daffodils but the weather is supposed to improve soon.

While I was waiting for Blogger to settle out so I could post this, they came and took all of my bags of ivy. Hampden garbage men are the best!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Drowning in Ivy

I keep thinking it is too early to do any real work in the garden, especially since it went down into the 20s here last night. I went out to putter around this afternoon and ended up doing major clean up. I even stopped to walk up to Giant to get some of those gigantic paper bags. Yes, I do have a compost pile, but I needed the bags for piles and piles of English ivy, which is everywhere in my yard. I pruned and pruned and pruned. Then I pruned some more. It all looks much better now. After I cleaned up I mowed the lawn for the first time this season and the whole place looks much improved.

When I was out there I was even more convinced that my new goals for the garden are the best thing. I have a small yard and in the spring I work the vegetables in around the spring bulbs and then eventually remove the bulbs. Now I can leave the bulbs in place, which will be much less work.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hyacinths and City Hall

I was putting out my recycling yesterday when I noticed a blooming white hyacinth in my yard. It puzzled me, but then I remembered that a student gave one to me last spring. It was potted and I saved the bulb and must have mixed it in with the daffodils. I spotted these hot pink ones when I was walking home from work yesterday. There are near a building in Remington that Hopkins uses, I think, for facilities management. Nice guys work there.

I’m trying to do my latest Examiner article but there is a problem with the photo upload tool. This is aggravating because part of my strategy is to have colorful, pretty, eye catching photos to draw people in. I’m just writing about this weekend's events, though.

Speaking of that, I was pleased that the City Hall garden is going to be up and running again. With the recent turmoil surrounding Sheila Dixon, my main worry was if the garden would continue. I was down there a lot last summer and really enjoying photographing it and writing about it. The June article has a slideshow that I particularly enjoyed making.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Daffodils and a Garden Plan‏

I have not finished planning my garden this year. I know, I know, everyone else has done this already. But, there were a few things I was thinking over and waiting out. I have to reconfigure things a bit because of a new shady area. But, that is not bad because the now shady spot was once a scorchingly sunny area where my plants often dried out. This year, I'm going to have bright shade tolerant flowers in that area, like impatiens. I decided to grow mostly flowers and herbs. Last year my vegetables did not produce the way I'd like them to and I think I'm going to give that a rest for this year and only grow pleasurable things. I'm going to get seeds for tall heirloom flowers and I will also wind morning glories around my bean poles. With my square foot vegetable bed, I might reconfigure it in the a more traditional herb garden design, with some kind of round shapes.

Just after I did a lame "What's blooming in Baltimore?" post for March, flowers are suddenly out everywhere. I've seen flowering trees, iris, and am starting to see zillions of daffodils. The tulip poplars look like they are emerging. These daffodils are behind the Rotunda, up against one of those little buildings back there.

Monday, March 22, 2010

That Elusive Delmarva Fox Squirrel

I’m sure I’m going to tell you lots of squirrel stories as I write this blog. In my neighborhood we are blessed/cursed with the common gray squirrel, which is cute but can be destructive. I am more enamored with the Delmarva fox squirrel, which my friend and I have had brushes with on the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

The first time I went there I read about this squirrel in the visitor’s center. Oh, they are shy, retiring, hard to spot and endangered. People we knew had been coming to Chincoteague for years never saw one. Well, yes, we saw one, on that very trip. As we made one last trip through the wildlife loop before driving back to Baltimore, there he was! The elusive Delmarva Fox squirrel was sitting on the side of the road and sunning himself. Well, since we were leaving the cameras were packed and by the time we finished our fumbling he was gone.

This squirrel, though shy and retiring, likes to sit by the road and taunt passers by. We saw them on subsequent trips, but they always ran just out of camera range. In fact, most of my pictures of them show them streaking away. But, one day last fall this squirrel decided to pose for me, and in range of my zoom lens.

So, that is what prompted me to write “Types of squirrels found in Maryland”. I was just curious about the Delmarva Fox Squirrel in particular. It was also interesting to see that we have gray, red and flying squirrels in Maryland as well.

Next, I’m going to write an article about deterring them as pests, which is less romantic but more practical.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What the heck is hellebore?

Even though I’ve been gardening since I was a kid, a plant I’ve never heard of will suddenly emerge in my life and then seem like it is everywhere. This just happened with hellebore. I noticed it first, on all things, Farmville, when it was part of the special St. Patrick’s Day activities there. First of all, the name sounds horrendous, but since “growing” it on Farmville yielded good money I put in a few virtual crops. Next, when I was walking home on a gray day a few weeks ago I noticed a pretty blooming plant with small greenish flowers. (This was when almost nothing was blooming.) It all came together when I came across an article by the Philadelphia Gardening Examiner. (Nice photos in that article.)

I presume their association with St. Patrick’s day is not only due to the greenish flowers but also due to the bloom time. Like with Bells of Ireland, their green color is because the “flowers” are actually sepal petals. These are the normally small petals that are at the bases of flowers. Apparently hellebores are in the Ranunculaceae family. Some types are evergreen.

I photographed these pinkish-purple hellebores up in Roland Park. Trust them to have the fancier version up there.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Peeking over a wall in Annapolis

I was in Annapolis on St. Patrick’s Day and peeked over the wall of the Paca house to see how the gardens fared. It mostly looks as lovely as ever, but in the second photo you can see how their evergreens were damaged by the storm. I also saw lots of damage to the shrubbery in front of the Hammond-Harwood house.

The Paca house is dear to my heart and I assure you all I do not always look for free. I’m sure I will be there again this summer, once the garden season is in full bloom.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I want more clover!

On St. Patrick’s Day it is obligatory for garden writers to write about clover, but I love it all year long. I have had my own adventures with growing clover, both outdoors and in. The photo above shows my messy lawn at present.

Last summer I wrote an article on starting a clover lawn. I did this because my lawn had lots of clover in it anyway and it seemed to be an eco friendly article topic. (For whatever reason, I needed to do something eco friendly.) I usually have a big package of White Dutch clover on hand anyway, because I like using it as a cover crop. I don’t think I mentioned this in my original article, but over-seeding works for people trying to mix clover with their existing grass. That is what I wanted to do, actually. But, since I got over-enthusiastic and did it in the middle of summer I didn’t get much clover. This month I’m going to try and remember to scatter some seed out there. March is good for over-seeding the lawn because the freezing and thawing cycles usually leave the ground moist and loose.

I also used to get little pots of clover from the Charles Village Safeway during this time of year. This was the cute little St. Patricky stuff – not oxalis, which I never seemed to warm up to. I used to make a point to look for it but it never occurred to me that I could just scatter my own seeds on some soil in a pot and have the same thing. Duh. So, on that note, here is my obligatory St. Patrick’s Day clover article.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Emerging Flowers

At least once a month I like to wander around Baltimore city, particularly downtown, and keep tabs on all of the local greenery. At this time of the year things are beginning to emerge with the promise of a bloom. Here, it looks like tulips are going to grow among these pansies, though I can’t be sure. The leaf shape sure looks like it, though. This is up near the top of that big concrete fountain that is at one end of McKeldin Square. You can see part of the fountain structure in the upper right and the Gallery on the upper left.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - March 2010

For Garden Bloggers Bloom Day I have a couple of things in my garden. The flowers I have are not as nearly as showy as the stuff I found for my Examiner column. I’ve noticed a lot of dramatic crocus, particularly a colorful purple spread near Wyman Park. There is also the famous spread out near the corner of University and 40th street, which makes the grass look pale purple.

My own crocus are limping along. I think the squirrels dug up most of them and ate them over the years, but I still have a couple that seem to blend in with the grass here. There is also a bit of clover, in anticipation for St. Patrick’s Day this week.

And, lucky me, I have a second daffodil. I think I spotted another early daffodil in Roland Park this morning when I was out walking, but otherwise I just see buds in other people’s yards.

I also have a few pansies that are trying hard, despite the rain. This poor but intrepid flower is really bogged down by the rain, but still trying.

The real action with Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day is over at May Dream’s Gardens. I also do my own spin on things with my Examiner column, so check out my “What’s Blooming in Baltimore?” article for this month.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Charlottesville and Waynesboro, Virginia

I’m back from a relaxing trip to Charlottesville, Virginia where my friend and I stayed with our accommodating friend, Joe H. On Friday we explored downtown Charlottesville and poked around the bookstores down there. I was amused to discover this tree with a bit of guerrilla knitting on it. In my old blog I once did a post on guerrilla knitting and have since tried to hunt up pieces of urban knitting in Baltimore. But, since that sort of thing comes and goes I am not always successful. So, I was happy to find this in a little park near the library, not far from an equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee. From maps I guess that this would be near the corner of 1st and Market.

I love Charlottesville, or “T.J.’s town”, as out host sometimes calls it. It has a pleasant country charm but it also has a lot of cultural things that I am used to up here in Baltimore: movies, bookstores and museums. They even have some sort of shopping promenade near this park, with lots of cool little shops and theatres. I wish the area around our harbor here in Baltimore was like that instead of full of chain restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory.

On Saturday we tooled around Waynesboro, which is just over the mountain from Charlottesville. It has a great Salvation Army, Chinese buffet, music store, and an excellent little museum operated by the Waynesboro Heritage Foundation. This museum is free and packed with things related to Waynesboro history, from the Civil War, to local industry, to their movie theaters and drug stores. If you like 19th century history there is a lot to see in this little old bank building.

After that, we wanted to go up on the Blue Ridge mountains and travel sight-see along Skyline Drive but it was closed. Our host speculated that it was due to storm damage, not only from the February snow, but also from the recent wind and rainstorms that were ending as we arrived. There seemed to be a lot of storm damage on trees down there, even more so that up here and we got it pretty bad. Still, the rain cleared out by afternoon and so our host took us to a place where we could get a few scenic photos.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Daffodils, English Ivy, and New Writing Projects

This morning I went to put out the recycling and when I was doing my garden check I saw a spot of yellow. It was this daffodil! You see, our neighbor has a garage that borders our yard, and that has English ivy growing all over it. The ivy is a pain, but I only trim it enough to keep it from invading my garden beds. I like to keep it otherwise because our birds shelter in it.

Well, large hunks of that ivy fell over in the February snow storm slumped over my one flower bed. I ignored it, thinking that it wasn’t doing any harm but today I did a little prune and rescue for the plants underneath. The daffodil stem was broken so I cut it and put it in a vase in my kitchen. I also found some pansies that survived (the ones in front of the house didn’t). I had a few Brussels sprouts seedlings in last fall and now one has survived to be about six inches tall. I also have some Red Russian kale about that size, too. It has been so wintery until just now that I forgot to plan any serious garden clean-up, but I will do that soon.

I wrote another article on the 2010 Maryland Home and Garden show. I got some nice attention from the last one I did, but it took me a long time to do all of the photos. Plus, I had a bit of a headache during the show and didn’t take great notes so I had to go back and carefully look at all of the signs and ribbons in my pictures.

I have a March “What’s blooming in Baltimore?” in the works and now that I have the daffodil I actually have enough photos for a slide show. I have some sort of clover themed article for St. Patrick ’s Day, but beyond that I’m looking forward to brainstorming a new set of fresh article topics. It is spring, and my fingers are worn out from typing “2010 Maryland Home and Garden Show” so much for the last series. I’m bad at clever titles and often make them too long, so that didn’t help.

This past week I’ve just been thrilled to be back outside, getting my own photos of flowers again. I like stock.xchng for what I don’t have because I can find photos that match my style, but I’d rather use my own stuff.

Searching for snowdrops

This morning I impulsively started this blog because I felt the need to journal not only about my personal gardening experiences, but about my garden writing. I write a column for Examiner and I try to stick by the “no first person” rule because I feel that it makes me look more professional. However, I do have a lot of photography/writing adventures and sometimes travel to gardens outside of the city. This morning I was inspired yet again by May Dreams Gardens, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

For example, I’ve been trying to find snowdrops for a month. My photos from last year are dated early February and I know that I found them out at Lake Roland, along that path that is up the hill, beyond the pumping station. But, searches at that time this year yielded nothing and then the big snows came. On Monday a friend and I walked back there for the first time since before the February storms. There is still plenty of snow, muck, and ice out there so it took forever to walk a short way, but I eventually found the snowdrops. I wanted to do a “What’s blooming in Baltimore?” article for March but not much is out and I wanted my snowdrops.

Since I found these, snowdrops seem to be everywhere. When I was running yesterday morning I found some naturalized along Evan's Chapel Road. On my way to work I found another small grouping near the small playground near the old Hampden police station.

Ironically I just found a daffodil in my own garden, but that story will be in my next post.