King Tut revisited, revived!

It seems like just a day or two ago, but ten days ago I divided my 'King Tut' papyrus. It had been in the garage for a couple of months, and I was afraid that I had waited too long to bring a division inside under the lights.

Some parts of the plant look pretty terrible, but it's not all bad news.


The seed packet displays are here! The seed packet displays are here!

There is nobody who puts out the spring gardening supplies around here earlier than the big box home improvement stores, which in St. Louis are Lowes and Home Depot. I was at HD today to pick up some paint and other stuff not related to gardening, then remembered that I needed a couple of small clay saucers to put under the green onion pots. Glad I did, because as I made my way over to the indoor part of the garden department it looked like they had just rolled out the Burpee seed packet display earlier today.

It's been a long time since I've seen a pristine display like this. Usually there are empty slots, packages put back in the wrong places, or packets displayed upside down or even facing backwards. Seeing it "fresh" was very nice. (Disclaimer: all photos in this post taken with phone's camera)


Let's do some potting!

I received those bamboo rhizomes the other day and I've got some plant cuttings rooted in water that I've been meaning to get into some soil, and since the temperature outside is about the same as the temperature in the garage (low to mid 40's F) it seems like the perfect day to do some potting. Yes, I could pot these up in the garage any day, but it's much nicer and simpler if I can leave the garage door open for more light and easier access to pots that I left outside this winter.

Here are most of the components, so let's jump right in!


Bugs from warmer days past

When winter starts getting to me, there are a few things I can do. 1) I can go to my growing table in the basement and get a fix of green. This often reminds me of work I need to do though, as some of the plants on the table need some attention. 2) I can browse my gardening books and seed catalogs, dreaming, planning, and counting the days until the last frost date. 3) I can go through my old garden photos, reminding myself what the yard will look like again in just a few months, when it warms. (It's surprising how quickly I forget each year!)

That's what I did tonight -- looked back over old photos. Instead of focusing on the lush greenery of what was growing though, for some reason insect photos caught my eye. Summer means insects, right? I'm pretty sure I haven't shown these before, and wanted to before I forget about them again. So here they are.


Bamboo trading season is upon us

For those of us gardeners who have been bitten by the bamboo bug, late winter is an exciting time as it marks the start of the bamboo trading season. (Yes I know it's not actually late winter yet here, but it can be for growers in warmer climates.) It's the best time to dig up rhizomes -- the parts of the plant that are underground and will produce new shoots in a few months. For those of us who grow running bamboo, some method of controlling the spread of these rhizomes is needed, and digging them up before the new shoots are produced is a good way to do this.

Since these rhizomes can be used to create new plants, it's also a great way to get new plants by trading with other growers. Growing from rhizomes or the small plant divisions that you typically get in trades is not the fastest way to get the big plants we typically want, but it is one of the cheapest, and it's definitely a lot of fun.


I meant to do that

Do you remember the finch nest on my front porch? It was built in April, used to raise some chicks, then used again in May to rear a second brood. By the time that last chick took flight, the nest was looking pretty sad -- it had quite a bit of bird "droppings" on it and around it. Once the last chick left I waited a while to see if the nest would be used again, but it wasn't, so I could have cleaned it up at that time.

Since cleanup would involve not just removing the nesting materials -- which would be easy -- but also some scraping and/or washing of the walls in that corner, I put it off. There was always something more fun to do.


A couple of owls

Sometime over the last 10 years or so, owls have moved into our neighborhood. Maybe they've always been here, but before then I wasn't paying enough attention to the natural world around me, but I don't think so. I've always been quite observant of nature, so I think it's more just a matter of getting enough "good" trees around here -- trees that owls would find attractive to nest in.

Besides the trees in the yards, there's a small forested area a few houses down the street from me, and that's the key -- that's where the owls live. (It's also where the deer often go, but that's nothing to do about owls.)


miniature garden, unwanted

I've written about various small-plant gardens before, collections of different colors and textures hugging the ground. Perhaps different species of thymes, or a collection of sedums (or better yet, a mixture of the two). Even mosses or lichens can create a wonderful small-scale garden under the right conditions.

A while ago I discovered another small-scale garden that had everything I look for in an attractive garden. Sort of.


Aphids say goodbye

At least I hope they do, because today I sprayed them. If you missed it, yesterday I wrote about the aphids on some of my overwintering indoor plants, and took a good close look at them.

Today they got a drenching with insecticidal soap, so that should do them in.


Aphids and more aphids

It's that time of year again when anybody overwintering outdoor plants inside starts having problems with various insect pests. The critters are there from the start, but it takes a little while for their populations to explode, which is when they first get noticed -- at least by me. In this case, I've got aphids on a couple of small potted bamboos.

Aphids normally won't do too much harm to bamboo and don't seem to like the mature leaves, but these are concentrating on the new, not-yet-unrolled leaves. The choicest, most tender parts of the plant (of course).



Another frigid morning after yesterday's snowfall. Another stay-indoors-with-the-camera day for sure. Know who doesn't get a choice about staying indoors or not? Deer.

I like seeing their tracks in the snow. It lets me know more about what they're doing in my yard when I'm not able to watch (which is nearly all the time).


Small project, long overdue

This weekend I finally tackled a little project that I should have done two months ago. It's my 'King Tut' Papyrus, one of my favorite plants. It's been sitting in the garage since I moved it there in early November -- it's not cold-hardy so I need to protect it during the winter.

The project was to divide the plant and bring a smaller division into the basement under the lights. The reason I didn't jump on this immediately in November is that I was waiting for signs of distress from the plant, and I haven't yet seen any.


Still contributing

The castor bean plants are some of the most dramatic, eye-catching features in my garden during mid to late summer. Their impressive height (8'-10' or more), giant leaves, and colors (dark reddish leaves and bright red seed pods) make a statement. Their only drawback is their size and resulting susceptibility to storm damage, requiring me to stake them up each year.

What I've found this year is that they're also worth keeping around during the winter.


The definition of neglect, and a resurrection

Every gardener has some plants that just don't get the attention they need. For whatever reason, we just ignore them. Maybe we're not overly fond of them, or we think they're extra hardy and don't need much care. Sometimes those plants end up looking pretty terrible, or maybe they even die.

Sometimes they look pretty terrible and they die, as is the case with my terrarium. At one time this looked pretty lush and beautiful, but those days are long gone.There were a few factors that lead to the demise of these plants: they grew too fast and became hard to control, I never watered them enough (it's a terrarium -- it doesn't need water, right?), but mainly I just stopped checking in on them. They're in a corner of the basement next to the treadmill, which hasn't seen a lot of use since last winter. So the plants suffered.


Fluff and curls

The other day when I finally got out into the garden and did my bamboo damage survey I had to photograph the fluffy Miscanthus grass seed heads too. To my eye these start out looking quite uninteresting in the late summer and fall when they emerge, but then really become attractive during the winter. They curl and fluff up, probably to facilitate their spread by the wind.

I'll be cursing these seeds in a couple of months when I'm cutting these grasses down, but for now I'm loving them.


Down, but not out

Last month I posted about one non-hardy plant that I had forgotten about and left out through a couple of freezes: my jasmine. My fix in that post was to prune the plant hard and hope that it would send out new growth. For the past several weeks I've been thinking that I took the wrong approach:

I certainly managed to turn it into a pot full of sharp, leg-poking branches.


Bamboo winter damage survey

Today's post might not appeal to everybody. It will be long, at least if measured by the number of photos (41), and somewhat painful for me to put together. That's because today's post is a survey of all of my unprotected bamboos to see how they're holding up to the winter so far. This isn't about the bamboos that are in the greenhouse, nor is it about the plants that I covered with plastic for the winter.

This is about the plants that are in the ground and exposed to the elements. The harsh, bamboo-hating winter elements. If you grow bamboo you'll probably be interested in seeing how things are doing. If you don't grow bamboo you may still enjoy seeing how the different plants hold up during the winter. If you're not interested in plants at all, then you're probably out of luck today.


Inside looking out

I haven't been much in the mood to go outside and walk around the yard lately. It's probably because of the weather -- bitter cold might be "fun" when you're reading about it, but it's not so nice when you have to live in it. Fortunately I don't have to live in it (except in tiny doses) because I work at home and don't have to leave the house for days at a time.

The sun was shining today and I thought it would be nice to take some photos of something wintry, but I just couldn't bring myself to gear up for a garden excursion. So I stayed inside and took photos from the windows. Also of the windows, or at least of the condensation on them.


There was ice once

Actually, there was ice more than once, but not recently. I just decided to post these photos from an ice storm that hit in 2006 because they felt appropriate. It's pretty darn cold right now: 13ºF as I write this (remember I usually write the morning's post the evening before) heading for a low of 5ºF.

So I think these photos are just about perfect today. Tonight. Whatever.


Up too early, luckily

Sunday morning I woke up too early -- much, much too early. The clock said 4:00 AM, and I was wide awake. I knew this was going to be a problem later in the day so I tried for about 30 minutes to fall back asleep, but it wasn't happening. Reluctantly I got out of bed and went to the computer. Read a few blogs, perused the day's headlines, looked through some old photos, and played some computer games. After two and a half hours on the computer I got bored and hungry, so made my way upstairs.

Surprisingly, it was still quite early -- just a little after 7:00 -- and the sun was just rising. Wow, was it ever rising!


A garden for mom

A few years back (in 2006 actually, the year I did so many garden projects) I decided to redo my mom's garden for her. This would be a big change for me because it was quite a small area.

Let's take a look at what I did and how it turned out.


Ming Aralia: Help!

I've had this Ming Aralia houseplant for a couple of years now. I've seen large specimens with price tags of nearly $100, so a few years ago I spent $5 on a small plant. It grew quite well for a few years, but then during the past year it started having problems.

Please keep reading, and let me know if you have any experience with these wonderful plants because I need help!


The story of the toads

Does your garden have toads living in it? Mine does. Oh, it's not that they're all over the place and I see them every day. I do see them occasionally though, and I like to think that the reason I don't see them more often is they're carefully camouflaged, hungrily hopping around beneath the cover of green I've provided for them. Sometimes though, conditions are right and I get much more exposure to toads than usual. May 2009 was one of those times -- in fact, it was the time when I learned more about toads than ever before.

As you may know, my yard slopes down from the front to the back, and behind my yard is a strip of common ground that is mainly trees and bush honeysuckle. This strip is only about 15-20' wide or so, and in this strip the ground slopes down quite sharply. Somewhere at the base of that slope is an area that can get saturated during wet weather, forming a large puddle (or multiple puddles -- it's not easy for me to get back there or see through the bushes).


Various Nothings

As I was looking through my photo archives to find a couple of specific images, I came across a few different images that never made it into posts. I also found a few older images (from before I started the blog) that I'd like to share with you today. I'll do this from time to time, as I have a more older garden photos that are worth sharing too.

So today it's more about the images. (I did not yet find those specific images I was looking for.)


Soil? Soil is for wimps!

In the world of plants, there is a lot to love. There's so much variety in size, shape, color, fragrance, form, and dozens of other factors that those of us who love growing plants can't help but find a few favorites -- plants we are just drawn to for some reason. For me, it's typically the big vigorous plants that you kind of need to fight with and show who's boss: bamboos, elephant ears, big ornamental grasses, vines.

But there's another type of "plant" that I'm fascinated by way at the other end of the scale. Tiny, ubiquitous organisms that typically go unnoticed, but have a lot to offer to those who care to look. I'm talking about lichens.



Although I feel like I could work in the garden every day, all year long, it's probably good that there are a few months during the winter when there's not much I can do. It's a great time to inspect all of the tools that I'm too busy using during the growing season too even think about, let alone inspect or replace.

One of the "tools" that I've really not paid attention to this past year is my work shoes.


Checking in on the greenhouse plants

Last winter was the first year for my temporary greenhouse, and I was out there almost every day checking the temperature, seeing how the bamboos were doing, and just enjoying all of the green during the blah days of winter. I'm not sure what's different this year -- maybe the novelty of having a plastic sheeted refuge from the cold has worn off, maybe I'm too busy with other things, or maybe since the bamboo in the yard is larger this year I've got enough green to look at -- whatever the reason I haven't been going out to the greenhouse very much this year.

In fact, I think I've only been out there one time since moving the plants into it, and that was to check for leaks and to add some magnets to flaps on the roof (to keep the wind from lifting the flaps). So this weekend I decided to go out there and see how everything was doing.


By the Bucket

After shutting down the stream due to sub-freezing weather returning, I noticed that a water-filled bucket had frozen over again. This was not surprising.

What was surprising was how very pretty the ice was.


The stream in winter

When I added the artificial "stream" water feature to my garden in 2006, I immediately fell in love with the atmosphere it created. Its quiet, bubbly voice made a big impact, adding a calmness to the patio area that I never would have thought possible. It became so integral to the surroundings that when its first winter came around I did whatever I could to keep that water flowing.

I remember bringing buckets of hot water out there on cold evenings, hoping to keep the stream temperature above freezing for the night.


The bamboo gives and the bamboo gets

After the snow melted in our recent "heatwave", I was checking out one of my bamboos that was bent to the ground in the snow, just to see if there was any damage. I didn't see any problems -- no bent or broken culms or branches. I did notice something interesting though. First, a little setup...

Since I removed the one bamboo from the raised bed this summer, this plant is the bamboo with the densest foliage right now, and that makes it an ideal shelter for birds during the cold weather.


Sneaking in some cleanup

The weather the last few days has been unseasonably warm, and with a temperature around 65ºF and a line of storms moving into the area, I thought I should do something about this mess behind the house:

I waited until March to clean up back here last year and wrote that I didn't know why I waited so long as this is the part of my yard I look at the most during the winter. So this year I wanted to get it presentable much earlier.


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