Sunday, April 28, 2013

Wild Violets

One of my favorite flowers. They grow just about everywhere on our property.

Yellows in the Garden


 Woad flower bud

 Wild Mustard

 Alpine Strawberry flower


Lamiastrum flowers                                                                                                                            Garlic stem

A Walk Through the Garden on April 28, 2013

 Here is a selection what is blooming and growing today.

 Purple Leaf Plum

 Bleeding Heart

 Irises in new location with Butterfly/Hummingbird Plantings in Back

 Assorted Tulips
 Shallots and Garlic planted last fall

Snap & Snow Peas in front; Walla Walla Onions in back

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Muscari botryoides

The temperatures vary from day to day and it has been chilly the past few. I cut some grape hyacinths, Muscari botryoides, to enjoy close up while spending time indoors.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring Planting Underway

I've spent a few afternoons working outdoors this past week and a half. Today I planted 225 WallaWalla onion plants, a half dozen Viola tricolors, sowed two varieties each of snap and snow peas. Already planted are broccoli, lettuces, parsley and spinach seeds which haven't come up yet. Indoors are a dozen or so more vegetables in various stages of germination and growth.

I also sprinkled raw flax seeds in one of the garden beds. I had read in Sally Roth's book Backyard Bird Secrets for Every Season that she does this to provide nesting material to the birds. I do know that flax yields long fibers used to make linen fabric. It is also used to make paper. (I have purchased raw flax fiber and have cooked, beat and turned it into paper.) What I did not know was that birds like to weave it into their nests, along with the fibers from butterfly weed (another great fiber for papermaking, and which I had just gathered and stored away the day before I read Sally's note in the book!) So Sally writes that she buys raw flax seed at the grocery store (sold in the baking or cereal/grains aisle), sows it outdoors where some of it is eaten by the the birds, but most of it sprouts and grows. I decided to give it a try. Not only will the pretty blue flowers  be attractive to my eye, swaying in the breeze, but will attract native pollinators and butterflies to the garden as well. Hopefully more than enough of these seeds will sprout and grow producing usable fiber for the birds to build their nests and for me to turn into paper as well. I will keep you posted on the progress of this.

Still to do: 
- transplant the newly sprouted hollyhocks from the perennial border into the Hortus Conclusus before they
   are discovered by the deer.
- divide the bearded irises and move them to their new bed
- sow carrot, beet and turnip seeds
- mulch perennial border
- rake out and mulch beds around the house

I doubt I will get all of that done this week because there is art "work" to do as well. This and next month will be filled with much activity and I hope to get here to post regularly about it.  Let me know what gardening pursuits you are up to!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Cicely Mary Barker's Primrose Fairy

The Primrose Fairy

Why this post? Read here.


Primrose – Primula species

Now the bright morning star, day’s harbinger
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The flowering May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow Cowslip and the pale Primrose.
                                                                         -from Song of May Morning by Milton

Primrose, first-born child of Ver
Merry spring-time’s harbinger,
With her bells dim.
                                                                -from Two Noble Kinsmen by Shakespeare

Primula as a genus or plant group, has over 500 species and are classified and arranged into various groups. Information on these classifications can be found starting here.  We will take a look at those most common and familiar.

Primula vulgaris
 The English Primrose, Primula vulgaris (Latin for “first one” and “abundant or common”, respectively), has been the quintessential harbinger of spring in Britain, as evidenced in the writings of Milton, Shakespeare and numerous other writers of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932), famous British landscape designer wrote:

“More than half a century has passed, and yet each spring, when I wander into the primrose wood and see the pale yellow blooms, and smell their sweetest of scents, . . . for a moment I am seven years old again and wandering in the fragrant wood.”

Forbes Watson, 19th century garden writer wrote:

 “It is the very flower of delicacy and refinement; not that it shrinks from our notice, for few plants are more easily seen, coming as it does when there is a dearth of flowers, when the first birds are singing, and the first bees humming, and the earliest green putting forth in the March and April woods; and it is one of those plants which dislikes to be looking cheerless, but keeps up a smouldering fire of blossom from the very opening of the year, if the weather will permit.”

The leaves of this plant, and all Primulas, grow in a basal rosette, meaning a cluster of leaves growing in a circle which remain close to the ground. The leaves are a light, fresh “spring green” color and are crinkled. The fragrant, pale yellow flowers rise singly on long stems. Purple and blue variations can sometimes be found growing wild.

As a flower of early spring, it is not surprising that in the Victorian Language of Flowers, primroses represented early youth and young love. It was said that if a young woman were to come across a primrose before Easter, while out in the fields, she would be married that year. In Catholic symbolism the primrose is a flower of mercy and compassion. If a sinner passed one by, the primrose would assist him and save his soul.

Primula veris
The Cowslip, Primula veris (Latin for “first of spring”), also mentioned by Shakespeare, bears clusters of small yellow blossoms held on a central stem above the rosette of crinkly bright green leaves.

The flower clusters resembled a bunch of golden keys and were once believed to point the way to hidden treasure and open the locks of castles. Another common name for this plant was Paigles, which was an old Anglo-Saxon term referring to St. Peter, who held the keys to the Kingdom of God. Himmelschusslechen is the German term for this plant and means “little keys to heaven.”

The primrose (including cowslip) was used medicinally through the centuries to treat several ailments, including as a sedative and to “strengthen the nerves.” It was used as a tonic for the complexion. In the kitchen, wine has been made from the flowers. Flowers are also candied and used to decorate cakes.  The flowers may be brewed into a tea or can be eaten fresh with cream. The leaves are added fresh to salads or boiled as a potherb.

Popular Primrose species cultivated as garden flowers are:

Primula polyanthus
P. polyanthus – brightly colored flowers of pinks, blues, red, white and golds with a yellow center. These are the primroses most often seen in the United States.

Primula auricula
P. auricula – available in many colors with a contrasting center. The leaves are evergreen. This variety was very popular during the Victorian era.

Primula japonica
P.  japonica – this variety produces very tall stems holding large clusters of white, pink, crimson and purple flowers.
Primula malacoides
 P. malacoides – Fairy Primrose – grown as an annual or potted plant, the small flowers in clusters on tall stems are available in pastel shades of pink, lavender and white.

Primroses grow best in rich moist soil in partial shade. 

Note: This article was written by me for the blog 12 Months in View. All photos are from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the photo for a link to the original location. A bibliography of the reference books I used is available upon request.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Monthly Garden Photos - April 2013

I began this project last month, as part of an online group. On the 5th day of the month I will post a photo of the same four locations to document the seasonal changes.
Birdbath in Perennial Border
 Above: visible perennials are drumstick allium, Dame's Rocket and Foxgloves

New Garden outside Wisteria Studio

 Above: daffodils with buds about to open

The Hortus Conclusus
Above: towards the left, a floating row cover protects lettuce and broccoli plants from frost. To the right of it are tulips. Other greens (close to the fence) are garlic and woad plants. That is a cold frame on the right.
View of Family Pond & Wetlands

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Hello Springtime!

Hibernation is finally over! The sun is shining brightly through the windows, the birds are singing and the gardens are calling me. Out I go as soon as this post is published!

Vintage Comic originally printed on this day in 1999
My mother clipped this comic strip out of the newspaper, wrote the caption on top and mailed it to me in 1999. She knew me quite well! I still feel this way each spring!