My Tulip Time

My driveway bunnies now have flowers all their own. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My driveway bunnies now have flowers all their own. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My Tulip Time

When I first started planting tulips several decades ago, I had the worst luck. If it wasn’t some hungry little mouse eating the bulbs, a family relative going through a vegan stage picking and frying them. Yes, tulips are edible although I can’t remember them to describe the taste.

When I moved to the house on my one acre Missouri limestone hill, I swore off tulips, opting to plant daffodils and related natives for spring color.

Last fall, however, my gardening buddy gifted me with a huge box of discounted bulbs including tulips. It was such a lovely, exciting gift that I got to planting them. Also helped that the first hard frost was in the forecast for about a week later.

Winter has been colder than usual but it’s still a bit of a gamble how many bulbs will make it without becoming food for mice and squirrels.

This spring, in addition to the regular spring colors of pink Eastern Redbuds, vanilla white Dogwoods, blue Grape Hyacinths and flowering vinca, I now have a lovely pop of red, yellow and purple color courtesy of these gift tulip bulbs.

Would you like to see them?

This is the flower bed across the driveway from my concrete bunnies. I see this flower bed as I walk up the driveway to my garbage can and down the road to my mail box.

A sprinkling of tulips greet me at the top of the driveway. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A sprinkling of tulips greet me at the top of the driveway. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

As I return from my mailbox, I detour to a path that takes me to one of my memorial seating areas.

This one is for my Uncle Tony, who lived in Louisiana. The little pop of red tulips brightens up this corner while other summer-blooming plants get their start.

A group of tulips in my Uncle Tony’s memorial bench area. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A group of tulips in my Uncle Tony’s memorial bench area. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Another way to approach my house is through this series of round concrete steps leading to, and from, the front door.

Sometimes I walk down the road and return to my garden through these steps so I lined them with a little pop of tulips as well. Frankly I don’t have large swaths of available soil to plant so I sneak tulip bundles in where I can and still protect them.

Tulips welcome visitors walking down my front door path. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Tulips welcome visitors walking down my front door path. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Rainy days mean time spent in reading nooks through my house so I added a little plop of tulips where I could enjoy them from a window seat. This view out one of my windows made me think I really should add one of my Pink Tullp Quilts on my bed, then I thought no, I have enough tulips around me as it is.

A few tulips brighten up the southern flower beds. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A few tulips brighten up the southern flower beds. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This little clay pidgeon has been with me for more than 20 years so I gave her a little embellishment by planting orange tulips around the path that leads to her sitting spot.

My clay pidgeon gets company with orange tulips. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My clay pidgeon gets company with orange tulips. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Back to the other side of the garden, where I am walking back to the house from Uncle Tony’s memorial bench.

The path leads by my driveway retaining wall, which now has little bouquets of blooming tulips. You can see staining from how the water perculates through the wall, giving it a nice aged look.

This will be the third year for the retaining wall plantings and I am looking forward to seeing how it grows.

Small bunches of tulips brighten up my retaining wall gardens. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Small bunches of tulips brighten up my retaining wall gardens. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

As I walk down the path to the back of my house, I added another small bundle of tulips at the bottom. Once they stop blooming, other plants will take over and hopefully give them some cover so they will return next year.

A few tulips welcome you to this garden path. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A few tulips welcome you to this garden path. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Thanks to my gardening friend Tom for this lovely gift of spring color, I hope it’s a gift that keeps on giving!

Charlotte

Lovely Wild Violets

Recently-transplanted Missouri wild violets next to last year’s cousins. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Recently-transplanted Missouri wild violets next to last year’s cousins. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Lovely Wild Violets

If there is one native Missouri flower that represents spring to me, it’s wild violets, viola sororia or “sister,” because it looks so much like other violets.

I remember “discovering” these native flowers many decades ago in a field behind where I was living. It was in a neighborhood without street lights so it was easy to sit outside and gaze at stars at night, then walk through the field and try to find flowers.

These Missouri natives are called “common violets.” Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins

These Missouri natives are called “common violets.” Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins

Common violets can vary in color from a dark, almost navy color to the light lavender here, which reminds me of the lavender applique cat in our Pastel ABCs baby quilt, which I am currently working on as a custom gift.

There are other Missouri native violets living in my garden. Some have moved in on their own, others have been invited in, such as these white violets with purple accents.

These violets look like they can use a drink of water, don’t they? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

These violets look like they can use a drink of water, don’t they? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

I also have yellow violets in one spot - don’t ask, I don’t remember where so I need to wait for them to bloom - and all white violets, which I planted at the entrance to my house so I can enjoy them every day.

The white violets tend to bloom later than the common violets. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The white violets tend to bloom later than the common violets. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

These wild violets are not only pretty March-June but the flowers are edible and high in Vitamin C. Since I don’t use toxic chemicals in my garden, I can pick a handful of flowers and add to a salad. Not only is the color pretty but I am adding vitamin C and a little tartness to my meal.

I confess, I also love the look of them on my plate.

Wild violets from non-chemical treated spot in my garden, ready for lunch. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Wild violets from non-chemical treated spot in my garden, ready for lunch. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

These are also welcome resting spots for bees and other pollinators, and their heart-shaped leaves add a nice contrast to other garden greenery. I tuck these in at the front of flower beds wherever I can. don’t know why some people find these plants to be unwelcome, we have to rethink our standard of beauty being a sterile green carpet. These are the plants we should welcome into our gardens!

Charlotte





Cat Hair for Birds Nests

The first cat hair offering disappeared in less than a day. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The first cat hair offering disappeared in less than a day. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Cat Hair for Birds Nests

Do you have long-haired pets? I have one cat and, over winter, I save the hair from her daily brushings to give to birds for their spring nests.

There have been a number of suggested bird nesting materials and some are do nots: aluminum, plastic, human hair, yarn and dryer lint. Also on the do not use list are string and dog hair. The best nesting material I have found to date is the long cat hair. It lasted less than a day in the repurposed suet feeder, now refreshed with a second batch.

Suet holder has been re-filled with another batch waiting to be added. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Suet holder has been re-filled with another batch waiting to be added. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Later this year I will check birdhouses and look for tufts of cat hair sticking out of nexts and birdhouse corners.

The cat fur is a favorite because it is very soft and warm, giving the nest extra insulation and protection.

To save your long haired cat fur, clean your brush after every brushing session. Clean your winter suet holder before filling with pet fur, then hang back on a tree.

If you can watch the suet holder, periodically check it and you may catch a bird helping themselves to the fur.

Charlotte

Apiary Cattle Panel Arbor

This double cattle panel arbor guides me into my north apiary. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This double cattle panel arbor guides me into my north apiary. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Apiary Cattle Panel Arbor

If a bee skep represents beekeeping then cattle panel arbors represent Ozark backyard gardens. Over the years, I have seen many of these either spanning garden beds or forming welcoming arbors in front of farm houses.

When a friend showed me how to bend these metal structures to form the arbor shape, I started to add them to my garden. If you have shopped for garden arbors, you know they can be quite expensive so having an alternative that provides for creativity was right down my alley.

Cattle panels are popular garden arbors in the Ozarks. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Cattle panels are popular garden arbors in the Ozarks. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Once painted black, the cattle panel arbor nicely disappears into the background but I still wasn’t happy with the overall look.

The same friend who showed me how to bend the cattle panels made a lovely gate out of cedar boughs, which inspired me to add cedar boughs to the cattle panels.

Carefully cutting the boughs so I that i can weave them through the metal squares, I started to add cedar limbs from discarded trees from our local recycling center. Setting them two squares apart, they form the skeleton for the overall cedar covering.

Weaving cedar branches into the cattle panel takes time and some creativity. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Weaving cedar branches into the cattle panel takes time and some creativity. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

I have the structure in, now to collect, clear and add more cedar boughs.

I already have grapes and blackberries growing over the cattle panels so it will be a matter of time to see who covers the cattle panel first, the plants or me!

Adding cedar branches to the arbor side. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Adding cedar branches to the arbor side. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This is an excellent way to reuse long-lasting cedar while giving the cattle panels a nice texture and finish.

Here is the first apiary cattle panel arbor I made, located at the front and entrance to my garden:

Once seated on the garden bench, the view is to my north apiary. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Once seated on the garden bench, the view is to my north apiary. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

I like to have seating areas all around my garden, places where I can sit down and enjoy the view. Some of the areas have arbors, others now have these cattle panel arbors that will provide shade.

Each of the cattle panel arbors have plants already growing over them: blackberries and grapes. Over a couple more arbors rescued clematis vines are being encouraged to grow. Looking forward to seeing these arbors covered in green!

Close up you can see the painted cattle panel under the cedar. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Close up you can see the painted cattle panel under the cedar. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Charlotte

Secret to Bare Root Plants

Bare root Itoh peonies are getting a start first in a container. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Bare root Itoh peonies are getting a start first in a container. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Secret to Bare Root Plants

It’s that time of year when gardeners dreams turn to buying bare root plants because they are less expensive, or something they can’t easily find locally. Or maybe you get a bare root tree for Arbor Day, or as a store giveaway at your local home and garden center. Regardless of how you get them, there is a simple secret to getting bare root plants to grow.

You need to pot them first.

That’s right, no planting directly into your garden this first year. Instead, get them in pots with potting soil and let them grow in the pot for the first year. What the plant is doing is establishing roots, which will ensure the plant survives when you transfer it into its final growing spot.

A number of friends have bought bare root plants from places like George O. White Nursery in Licking, Mo., one of my favorite places to get local native plant stock. The prices are hard to beat, the most expensive tree seedling is 90 cents per seedling, and the price goes down as you buy in larger quantities.

However, you don’t want to take those seedlings and plant them straight into your garden or landscape. The roots need a little more time developing so once you get the bare root seedling, get them into a pot. Make sure the pot is about twice the size of the current root structure to give it room to grow.

This bare root dwarf fruit tree is getting a start in a pot. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This bare root dwarf fruit tree is getting a start in a pot. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

And be patient. It can take a little time for new seedlings to get used to their new environment, which is why I use plain potting soil, not soil with added fertilizer. I can then monitor how the plant is doing and add my own fertilizer as I see fit.

How do you know if the plant is settling in?

New green growth is a sure indication the plant is settling in. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

New green growth is a sure indication the plant is settling in. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Green growth along the trunk nodes is one good sign. And don’t be discouraged if you don’t see much growth this first year above ground, with the right conditions most of the energy should be going into root development.

I leave my seedlings in pots through the growing season, then add them to my garden in fall or the next spring. I keep an area that I call my nursery and plop the plants, pot and all, in the nursery to winter over there if I haven’t moved them to their permanent location.

And don’t forget to water them. Since they are now in pots, they may need water more frequently than the established plants in your garden.

You will know they are ready to plant in the garden when the tree seedlings are looking more like the Tree of Life lap quilt.

Charlotte

Daffodil Bouquets

Most of these daffodils where picked in bud form. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Most of these daffodils where picked in bud form. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Daffodil Bouquets

There are few things that brighten up a room than a bouquet of spring-growing yellow gold daffodils, these remind me of our Yellow Gold Double Wedding Ring Quilt.

To have longer lasting inside bouquets, pick the daffodils when they are still in bud. Once exposed to the warmth of a room in a flower vase with water, the buds will open into flowers and give you a longer-lasting display.

These daffodil buds are excellent cut flower candidates. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

These daffodil buds are excellent cut flower candidates. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

When cutting daffodils, leave at least one flower bud so you will know what type and colors that group of bulbs produce.

I also only pick one or two buds from each group so I can also enjoy the flowers in bloom outside as well as cut flowers inside.

Daffodils don’t play well with other flowers so don’t mix your daffodil bouquets with other flowers straight out of the garden. If you want a blend, let the cut daffodils sit in water by themselves for a good 24-48 hours. The toxins in daffodils that deter deer will drain and then you can mix them with other flowers.

Large King Alfred in the back and small Tete-A-Tete daffodils in front at Bluebird Gardens, (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Large King Alfred in the back and small Tete-A-Tete daffodils in front at Bluebird Gardens, (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Also take clippers with you when cutting daffodils out of the garden. The clippers will give you cleaner cuts and you won’t have to tug at the green stem to easily remove it. Keep the green leaves on daffodils so the leaves can collect sunlight and, through photosynthesis, translate it into energy they store in bulbs for use next year.

Finally change the water in the vase every couple of days and recut the stems to give your daffodils a long life inside.

King Alfred daffodils are the largest daffodils currently on the market. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

King Alfred daffodils are the largest daffodils currently on the market. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

If you don’t have daffodils in your garden, or you want to plant more this fall to have enough to cut, King Alfred daffodils are the largest available on the market. Just a few make quite a statement and are hard to miss either in the garden or in a vase.

If you want something smaller, look for Tete-A-Tete daffodils, which qualify as miniatures and are long lived once cut and used in flower vases as well.

In between, there are a variety of early, mid and late blooming daffodils and jonquils, providing a nice variety of flowers to enjoy over the next few months. Happy spring!

Charlotte

Dandy Daffodils

Can you distinguish these daffodils? King Alfred in back, Tete-a-Tete in front. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Can you distinguish these daffodils? King Alfred in back, Tete-a-Tete in front. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Dandy Daffodils

Rain is in the forecast and I can’t wait. Every spring thunderstorm encourages yet another patch of daffodils to bloom. The old-fashioned, early daffodils have finished blooming and King Alfred is making a statement along with the Tete-A-Tete smaller splashes of yellow. I truly love seeing the daffodils in bloom, their sunny colors are a great way to celebrate spring. And since I don’t remember where I have planted them, it’s a bit of a treasure hunt to walk my paths and discover what is blooming around the corner.

According to the Daffodil Society of the US, there are 13 1/2 daffodil divisions. I added the half for the “Miniature Daffodil” category.

According tot he Daffodil Society, “there are thirteen descriptive divisions of  daffodils.  Miniatures have the same descriptive divisions as standards, only with smaller blooms, usually less than 2 inches (50mm) in diameter.

A Daffodil Society poster with the 13 different daffodil categories. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A Daffodil Society poster with the 13 different daffodil categories. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Daffodil Divisions

Division 1 – Trumpet Daffodils

One flower to a stem; corona (“trumpet”) as long as, or longer than the perianth segments (“petals”).

 Division 2 – Large-Cupped Daffodils

One flower to a stem; corona (“cup”) more than one-third, but less than equal to the length of the perianth segments (“petals”)

 Division 3 – Small-Cupped Daffodils

One flower to a stem; corona (“cup”) not more than one-third the length of the perianth segments (“petals”)

 Division 4 – Double Daffodils

One or more flowers to a stem, with doubling of the perianth segments or the corona or both.

Division 5 – Triandrus Daffodils
Characteristics of N. triandrus clearly evident: usually two or more pendent flowers to a stem; perianth segments reflexed.

 Division 6 – Cyclamineus Daffodils

Characteristics of N. cyclamineus clearly evident: one flower to a stem; perianth segments significantly reflexed; flower at an acute angle to the stem, with a very short pedicel (“neck”)

 Division 7 – Jonquilla Daffodils

Characteristics of Sections Jonquilla or Apodanthi clearly evident: one to five (rarely eight) flowers to a stem; perianth segments spreading or reflexed; corona cup-shaped, funnel-shaped or flared, usually wider than long; flowers usually fragrant.

See the frilly trumpet on these light blond daffodils? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

See the frilly trumpet on these light blond daffodils? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

 Division 8 – Tazetta Daffodils
Characteristics of Section Tazettae clearly evident: usually three to twenty flowers to a stout stem; perianth segments spreading not reflexed; flowers usually fragrant.

 Division 9 – Poeticus Daffodils
Characteristics of N. poeticus and related species clearly evident; perianth segments pure white; corona very short or disc-shaped, not more than one-fifth the length of the perianth segments; corona usually with a green and/or yellow centre and red rim, but sometimes wholly or partly of other colours; anthers usually set at two distinct levels; flowers fragrant

Division 10 – Bulbocodium Hybrids
Characteristics of Section Bulbocodium clearly evident: usually one flower to a stem; perianth segments insignificant compared with the dominant corona; anthers dorsifixed (ie attached more or less centrally to the filament); filament and style usually curved.

 Division 11a – Split-Cupped Collar Daffodils
Split-corona daffodils with the corona segments opposite the perianth segments; the corona segments usually in two whorls of three.

Division 11b – Split-Cupped PapillonDaffodils
Split-corona daffodils with the corona segments alternate to the perianth segments; the corona segments usually in a single whorl of six.

 Division 12 – Other Daffodil Cultivars
Consists of daffodils not falling into any of the previous categories. Many are inter-division hybrids.

Division 13 – Daffodils distinguished solely by Botanical Name 
Consists of the Species, Wild Variants, and Wild Hybrids found in natural daffodils.

 Miniature Daffodil
Miniatures have the same descriptive divisions as standards, only with smaller blooms, usually less than 2 inches (50mm) in diameter. My tete-a-tete daffodils are a welcome miniature daffodil welcoming visitors to my garden.

I get to enjoy blooming daffodils all four seasons with this Four Seasons Lap Quilt I use as a wall hanging off my den.

 How many of these do you have in your garden?

Charlotte


Tomato Starts

One of my tomato starts in their own pot near my kitchen. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

One of my tomato starts in their own pot near my kitchen. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Tomato Starts

It’s about time to start planting seeds indoors for outside growing after the danger of frost. Where I live, that is usually Mother’s Day, around May 10. But before you start, check your potted plants for any volunteers that have hitchhiked in that soil. If you replanted in previously-used soil or had plants sitting close together, you may already have plant starts growing.

Although I love having fresh, homegrown tomatoes, I don’t grow tomatoes from seed. They tend to take matters into their own seeds and sprout all by themselves and, this year ,they are right on schedule.

Over the years, I grow tomatoes in pots on my deck. The seeds end up in neighboring pots and tend to start growing on their own late winter. This year, I found the tomato starts in a potted banana tree.

Tomato starts popping up all by themselves in a banana plant. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Tomato starts popping up all by themselves in a banana plant. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The tomato seedlings don’t show up all at once. The first one is now sitting in its own pot, crushed eggshells in the bottom and coffee grounds mixed up in the plain potting soil, no added fertilizer. This way I can control how much fertilizer is going into the soil.

After noting the first tomato plant, I started to check the soil for any other arrivals. Sure enough, more tomato plants are showing up so I will be potting those as well.

See the little seed on the tomato start bottom left? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

See the little seed on the tomato start bottom left? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

I let the little seedling get established before I move it and I take a whole glob of soil around the roots so that it has the least amount of trauma making the move.

When I see these seedlings, I can’t help but think of my Vegetables Baby Quilt with talking tomatoes.

This is gardening at it’s easiest. How many of us overlook those seedlings by pulling them out or piling rocks on top of them?

Charlotte

How to Get Christmas Cactus to Bloom at, Lets Say, Christmas

March 20 xmas cactus bloom.jpg

How to Get Christmas Cactus to Bloom at, Lets Say, Christmas

I have a “Christmas” cactus blooming right now, the first day of spring 2019. I’m embracing the blooms and calling it my Spring cactus although there are different Schlumbergera plant relatives, one that is currently a Thanksgiving cactus called a Christmas cactus; the original Christmas cactus (in photo) no longer on the market and an Easter cactus that is not even related.

These hardy but tropical plants need a little help to bloom on cue here in North America. Back in their native habitat in Brazil, they have weather triggers to get them to bloom in December, the beginning of the South American summer. I grew up near their native habitat, Christmas without swimsuits still seems a little odd to me but now I’m happy just unwrapping them as a gift and staying bundled up in my coat and blankets.

Most cactuses sold on the market today are actually Thanksgiving cacti, which explains why they tend to bloom end of November. They are also grown in greenhouse conditions to get them to set bud for sale around Thanksgiving.

To determine what kind of cactus you have, look at the green fronds. The original Christmas cactuses (Schlumbergera bridgesii) have smooth, round edges (photo) while Thanksgiving cacti (Schlumbergera truncata) have pointy, jagged ones.

Like other succulents, cacti are well-adapted to life with little precipitation. The leaves have evolved into spines, which in addition to allowing less water to evaporate than regular leaves, defend the cactus against water-seeking animals. Photosynthesis is carried out by enlarged stems, which also store water. Unlike many other succulents, the stem is the only part of a true cactus where this takes place.

My Thanksgiving cactus started to bloom because I had it outside on my back porch earlier this fall. The cooler temperatures triggered the buds to form without my doing any adjusting to the amount of light it was getting every day.

Holiday cacti are called "short day plants" meaning in order to produce flower buds, they require fewer daylight hours and/or cool night temperatures. The shorter days and cooler nights signal the plant to produce buds. I have tried both triggers and found the cooler temperatures are the easier way to encourage blooms.

To get your holiday cactus to bloom when you want the blooms, locate holiday cacti indoors in a cool, bright location where daytime temperatures are 65-70° F and evening temperatures are 55-65° F. If plants are exposed to cooler night temperatures of 55° F, plants will bloom in approximately 5-6 weeks, sometimes regardless of the day length.

I frankly don’t mind when they bloom out of season, it reminds me of how I enjoy my “Let it Snow” Lap Quilt Throw after Christmas as well. I just love having them in bloom any time they decide the time is right.

Happy Christmas in March!

Charlotte

Tulip Types and Varieties

Parrot tulips bloom among double pink tulips in the Bluebird Gardens retaining wall. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Parrot tulips bloom among double pink tulips in the Bluebird Gardens retaining wall. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Tulip Types and Varieties

Did you know tulips are edible? As members of the lily family, they're also related to onions, which may explain the first part. Although I rarely hear anyone promote tulips for a meal, they do make for a lovely addition to any dish assuming no chemicals have been applied to them as they were growing.

One other interesting thing about tulips. If you have them planted in a bulb garden, watch the flowers follow the sun by literally moving in the dish. They will also do that as cut flowers in a flower vase.

According to the National Garden Bureau, tulips say “spring” like no other flowers. Their "vivid, paint-box colors are a feast for winter-weary eyes" and I couldn't agree more. Who doesn't think of spring when they see tulips in bloom??

These members of the lily family typically grow a single stem and flower from teardrop-shaped bulbs that are planted in fall for spring flowers. Tulip bulbs require a dormancy period with cool, winter-like temperatures for several weeks. During this time, the bulbs sprout roots and the embryonic leaves and flowers inside the bulb begin to develop.

Tulips are native to southern Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, North Africa and Asia. Works of art depicting their distinctive shape date back to the 10th century. They have been cultivated in earnest for at least 400 years including generating the short-lived "tulipmania" in the 1600s where collectors were spending literally fortunes to possess one tulip bulb.

By leveraging the tulip’s natural tendency toward diversity, generations of breeders and tulip collectors have produced a mind-boggling array of flower forms, heights, colors and bloom times. Today, Holland produces most of the world’s annual tulip crop, which exceeds 4 billion bulbs annually.

My garden frog is unimpressed but I love the double yellow tulips blooming. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My garden frog is unimpressed but I love the double yellow tulips blooming. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Basic Tulip Types and Varieties

There are more than 150 species of tulips with over 3,000 different varieties and are classified into Divisions by type. The tulip names include links to a variety of suppliers so you can see the actual tulip varieties.

Division 1: Single Early. Medium size blossoms with a classic tulip shape. Short, sturdy stems with an overall height of 10-14," often fragrant. FlairPurple PrinceBestseller, Apricot Beauty

Division 2: Double Early. Extra petals give these flowers a full look. Shorter than most other tulips, most are about 12” tall. Lovely cut flowers. AbbaMonsellaFoxtrotMonte Orange

Division 3: Triumph. This class offers the widest range of tulip colors. Triumphs are midseason bloomers and stand 15 to 20”. Barcelona, BastogneJimmyPrincess IreneRonaldo

Division 4: Darwin Hybrid. Strong plants with large flowers. Bulbs often return and bloom for several years. Mid-Spring. 22” tall. Ad RemApricot ImpressionBanja LukaPink Impression

Division 5: Single Late. Tall, egg-shaped flowers are large and long-lasting. Regal presence in the landscape. Heat tolerant. 22” tall. La CourtineMentonDordogneViolet Beauty

Division 6: Lily-Flowered. Long, narrow cups with pointed petals that flare out at the top. Excellent for cutting. 12-20” tall. Elegant LadyMarilynMerlotPieter de LeurSapporo

Division 7: Fringed. The top edge of each petal is whiskered and often slightly paler in color. Bloom time is mid to late spring. Overall height 20”. CarouselFancy FrillsLambadaRed Wing

Division 8: Viridiflora. Streaks of green give these tulips a distinctive look. Most cultivars bloom mid to late spring. Long-lasting cut flowers. 20” tall. Groenland, Spring GreenFlaming Spring GreenArtist

Division 9: Rembrandt. Petals display exotic markings and color breaks and resemble the tulips in 17th-century paintings. 20-24” tall. Rembrandt Mix

Division 10: Parrot. Ruffled, puckered and fringed petals twist as they mature. Excellent cut flowers. Heights vary from 14-22”. Black ParrotEstella RijnveldSilver ParrotTexas Flame

Division 11: Double Late. Plush, peony-like flowers are long-lasting in the garden or in a vase. Many cultivars are fragrant. 15-22” tall. I planted several Angelique this fall because those are supposed to be very fragrant.  AngeliqueCarnaval De NiceUpstarYellow Pomponette

Division 12: Kaufmanniana. Early bloomers with a tall, narrow cup and pointed petals. Blossoms open out flat in the sun. 8-10” tall.  Johann Strauss, Scarlet Baby, StresaHeart’s Delight

Division 13: Fosteriana. Also known as Emperor tulips. Big flowers are  4-5” tall and open wide on sunny days. Early spring. 18” tall. Albert HeijnOrange EmperorPurissimaRed Emperor

Division 14: Greigii. Decorative foliage adds to the appeal of these flowers. Some cultivars have two to four flowers per stem. 12” tall. Mary AnnQuebecRed Riding HoodToronto

Division 15: Species. Wild or wild-like cultivars with relatively small flowers on slender stems. Good naturalizers. 4-10” tall. Lilac WonderLady JanePeppermint Stick

Division 16: Multiflowering. Sometimes called “bouquet” tulips. Three to five flowers per stem extends bloom time and impact. 14-20” tall. Candy ClubFlaming Club

As members of the lily family, tulips are also relatives to onions.

Charlotte

Do Cotton Sheets Save Fruit Buds?

These are my dwarf fruit trees covered in fleece and cotton sheets during our last cold spell.

These are my dwarf fruit trees covered in fleece and cotton sheets during our last cold spell.

Do Cotton Sheets Work to Safe Fruit Buds?

This last cold spell was four days long. I didn't know at the time it was also part of the coldest spring in Missouri's recorded history. I have been trying different materials to see which ones work the best to protect my fruit tree flowers from getting nipped during this late winter freezes. 

Over the years I have tried bird seed bags, corn bags, a variety of blankets and settled on cotton - sheets, pillow cases and lightweight fleece blankets. I will cover them with plastic bags if rain is in the forecast but without a chance of precipitation its all about keeping the flowers from getting blasted.

After four days, I wasn't sure if they had been covered for too long or not so as soon as there was sunshine and temperatures in the evening over freezing, off came the sheets.

My uncovered dwarf fruit tree flowers are none worse the wear for being covered in cotton.

My uncovered dwarf fruit tree flowers are none worse the wear for being covered in cotton.

After giving the dwarf fruit trees a few hours to enjoy the sun, I went back to check to see how the covered flowers were doing.

These are dwarf patio peach trees.

Dwarf patio peach trees made it through this last freeze covered in cotton pillow cases.

Dwarf patio peach trees made it through this last freeze covered in cotton pillow cases.

One of my favorite spring-blooming dwarf fruit tree is the apricot, the vibrant pink color is just lovely.

My lovely dwarf apricot required two sheets to give it full coverage from the last freeze.

My lovely dwarf apricot required two sheets to give it full coverage from the last freeze.

As I was heading back to the front of the house, I saw honeybees visiting the recently uncovered blooms.

One of my honeybees visits the dwarf patio peach tree blossoms saved by cotton sheets.

One of my honeybees visits the dwarf patio peach tree blossoms saved by cotton sheets.

That made all of the effort to cover up the trees worthwhile!

Charlotte

The Dirt on Soil

Leaves are a good soil additive, helping to keep soil from packing too densely, especially Missouri clay. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Leaves are a good soil additive, helping to keep soil from packing too densely, especially Missouri clay. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The Dirt on Soil

 

Did you know there are more microorganisms in a tablespoon of soil than there are people on earth? Soil is an amazing recycling operation, a constant re-combining of minerals and decaying plants and animals.

An average soil sample is 45 percent minerals, 25 percent water, 25 percent air, and five percent organic matter. Different-sized mineral particles, such as sand, silt, and clay, give soil its texture.

How fast water interacts, or doesn’t interact with those mineral particles, determines how well different plant varieties can pull the nutrition they need. Then there are the good soil organisms and the bad ones that, once out of balance, can turn soil communities into infertile landscapes.

To find out what kind of soil you have, you can do a quick soil test at home:

1. Fill a quart jar one-third full with topsoil and add water until the jar is almost full. Screw on the lid and shake the mixture until all the clumps of soil have dissolved.

2. Set the jar on a windowsill and watch as the larger particles begin to sink to the bottom. In a minute or two, the sand portion of the soil will have settled to the jar bottom. Mark the level of sand on the jar side. A colored magic marker will work, you can wash it off later.

3. Leave the jar undisturbed for several hours. The finer silt particles will gradually settle.

4. Leave the jar overnight. The next layer above the silt will be clay. Mark the thickness of that layer. On top of the clay should be a thin layer of organic matter. Some of this organic matter may still be floating in the water. In fact, the jar should be murky and full of floating organic sediments. If not, you probably need to add organic matter to improve the soil's fertility and structure.

Not sure what you are seeing? I can understand, sometimes it all looks like a big muddy blob. Take a good look until your eyes can distinguish between colors. Give up? Ok, but don’t toss it down the sink, pour it on a flower bed, there is another way.

One of the easiest soil amendments for flower beds is to add weathered wood chips. The wood chips break down into added organic matter and, once in decomposed form, are a wonderful planting medium for many plants. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

One of the easiest soil amendments for flower beds is to add weathered wood chips. The wood chips break down into added organic matter and, once in decomposed form, are a wonderful planting medium for many plants. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Collect about 6 scoops or 1.5 cups of soil from 6-8 points from a good 4-6 inches below ground from around your garden in a plastic bag and take it down to your local University of Missouri Extension Office. For $15, they will send the samples off to a lab. In a couple of weeks, you will get a very detailed analysis back with a detailed report of your soil including ph levels and recommendations of what you need to do, if any, to improve your soil.

The report will also help guide you in what you can plant in your soil conditions and how to amend your soil for optimum garden growing conditions.

Take your time with whatever you do, most soil amendments take time.

Charlotte

 

Saving Fruit Buds From Freeze

Lightweight blankets, sheets and cotton pillow cases cover my flowering fruit trees early April.

Lightweight blankets, sheets and cotton pillow cases cover my flowering fruit trees early April.

Saving Fruit Buds From Freeze

Hopefully it's the last snow of the year but the forecast was ill-timed. Some of my dwarf fruit trees were flowering, their pink buds and round little posies threatened by the below freezing temperatures.

Over the years, I have covered them with a number of different textiles to see which ones work the best against frost and freezing temperatures. As long as it doesn't rain, cotton sheets, pillow cases and lightweight fleece blankets and coats seem to protect them the best without causing damage as they are unwrapped later.

If there is wet precipitation, then adding something over to shield the cotton helps. Bird seed bags, corn bags and plastic dry cleaning bags have helped to keep the cotton from adding weight to the branches.

These dwarf fruit trees have been covered for three days against the cold. Hopefully they will get unwrapped in another day or so and the flowers will warm up enough to entice the bees with freshly-produced nectar. I'm sure the bees will be happy to be out of their hives as well!

Charlotte

 

April Gardening Chores

Prune lilacs immediately after blooming or you may be cutting off next year's flowers.

Prune lilacs immediately after blooming or you may be cutting off next year's flowers.

April Gardening Chores

There’s so much growing in mid-Missouri, where I live in USDA Hardiness zone 5b, I love taking my walks to see what’s popped up or getting ready to bloom, and what may be visiting my garden. Haven't seen rabbits yet but they will soon be checking out the greenery, too!

Clean out composters and add to flower beds and fruit trees. Mix with existing soil for now; you will mulch this later. Leave a good bucket of finished compost as starter for the next compost batch and start adding leaves, grass clippings if you have them, kitchen scraps and water. Don’t forget to mix.

Prune lilacs immediately after they bloom. If you wait until later in the season, you will be cutting off next year’s blooms.

Continue to sow lettuce, spinach and radish seeds every 10 days or so for fresh spring salads in your round foot garden. I would call it my pot garden but that leads you to believe I am growing something completely different. Call it your garden in pots, if you prefer.

If you like to grow peas, this is the last month to plant sugar snap peas and snow peas, they prefer cooler weather conditions. To keep their roots happy, mulch with cardboard to keep them cool, then add a layer of wood chips.

As daffodils and tulips continue to grow and bloom, sprinkle compost around them to keep the bulbs well fed. As the flowers fade, remove them by snipping off the flower heads. Leave the greenery until it turns yellow; the green leaves help the bulbs store energy for next season’s blooms. Don’t mow the leaves down with the lawn mower until they turn yellow or the bulbs will gradually become smaller and you will not have any more blooms next spring.

If you have a vegetable garden area, this is a good time to add cardboard to kill off any growth prior to summer planting. Don't till, the prevailing thought now is that tilling damages the soil ecosystem. Kill the plants you don’t want, make holes to plant the ones you do, or make trenches to plant seeds, and cover. Easy peasy. Who doesn’t like easy gardening??

Pot gardens work just as well to grow onions, lettuce, spinach and other spring crops.

Pot gardens work just as well to grow onions, lettuce, spinach and other spring crops.

Start your summer plants inside in containers you can transplant outside later; tomatoes, peppers, watermelons, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchini.

Don’t forget companion plants to reduce crop damage; basil is a good bug deterrent for a lot of plants and grows easily from seed.

Plant for pollinators as well. I love zinnias and so do butterflies and bees. Native plants such as New England Asters, yarrow and purple coneflowers are good choices for pollinators because they have long blooming seasons. For another good annual, try sunflower seeds. Birds will love the seeds in the fall.

Enjoy the beauty of Missouri’s native trees, these usually bloom this month, redbuds and dogwoods. Better yet, plant a few more native trees along with compact dwarf fruit trees. Although planting native flowers is still good for pollinators, trees provide better, and more reliable, pollen sources for bees. The smaller fruit trees are good pollen sources as well and, when pollinated by bees, will also give you easily accessible fruit to pick.

Charlotte

Signs of Spring

'Tete a Tete' miniature daffodils blooming at the corner of one of my hillside flower beds.

'Tete a Tete' miniature daffodils blooming at the corner of one of my hillside flower beds.

Signs of Spring

When I think of spring, I imagine two favorite signs now connected by a thoughtful gift from an East coast colleague that shows up with the first early spring flowers.

We had worked together a few years back. When we were on breaks or sharing a meal, we enjoyed comparing notes about our very different gardens.

His was an east coast, meticulous garden inspired by formality and precision. He had clipped topiary Boxwoods, manicured Weeping Willows and dramatic Drooping Cherry trees. I used to tell him his garden sounded just a tad sad based on his description, did he have anything with more of a happy sounding name planted anywhere?

By comparison, my Missouri limestone hillside garden was a riot of easy to grow native redbuds, dogwoods and compact fruit trees sprinkled with anything that bloomed throughout the growing season, even weeds. No grass to mow. Ponds, lots of birdhouses, bird baths, benches, butterflies and bees, “quite a busy place” he used to say. And frogs. Lots of frogs, all shapes and sizes but my favorites were the spring frogs.

Frogs, he would say, as if the concept was brand new to him. I gathered nothing went into his garden without advance permission.

A Missouri spring peeper frog resting on my back ladder between making joyful noises.

A Missouri spring peeper frog resting on my back ladder between making joyful noises.

Little frogs called spring peepers, I would add. Tiny grey frogs with a big presence, they make a resounding noise on the first warm spring-like day, everyone knows just when that is, at times it is in the middle of winter. The sun will come out, the day will warm up and so will the frogs. One won’t be able to hear one’s thoughts for the racket it’s quite special.

We would go on with our official business and when talk turned back to gardens, the conversation would come back around to the little frogs, which apparently they don’t have on the East coast. Or if the do, they must sing much more quietly in his garden.

So what do these little frogs do, he once asked.

Well, I said, giving it due consideration. They swim in the water in my empty flower pots. They hang out in my rain barrel. They sit under plants. They suction cup themselves to my windows and drive my cats crazy.

I mean, do frogs have jobs, he asked.

Why yes, I said. They eat bugs.

And peep?

Yes, they peep, usually in spring, when daffodils much larger than they are bloom.

(I didn't say it was scintillating conversation, now, did I.)

Another time I showed him a picture of one of my frogs. I have a couple living in a rain barrel. I wanted him to see what they looked like just in case he found any on his property. He nodded once he took in their size and coloring.

So when I opened the box of miniature daffodils with his return address, I knew exactly why he sent them. They were for the spring peepers, teeny tiny daffodils for the small frogs he knew I had in my garden.

Welcome spring!

Charlotte

Good Garden Visitors

Opossums are good garden visitors, they keep ticks and snake populations in check.

Opossums are good garden visitors, they keep ticks and snake populations in check.

Good Garden Visitors

As spring pops up, it’s time to welcome good garden visitors and set aside pesticides and insecticides. Although I understand those are used because they are conveniently available, most home gardeners do more harm than good. Let’s look at more environmentally friendly, and less costly, alternatives:

Birdhouses. Besides being fun to make and even more fun to add to a garden, birdhouses provide shelter to a variety of attractive garden visitors. Some birds feed larvae and caterpillars to their young and by doing so provide bug control. These homes are also good shelters for paper wasps, which are good pollinators for fruit trees. Having alternative housing also keeps paper wasps away from your house doors and windows.

Birdbaths. Add rocks and sticks to provide safe landing spots for small insects and keep the areas filled with water, especially when there are dry periods.

Provide other water areas with shallow dishes, pebble areas and sand for butterflies and other smaller insects. All living creatures need water.

Toad houses. Use old broken ceramic pots turned upside down as long as there is a space underneath that creates a cool spot for a toad to sit in. Toads like cool, damp spots and will eat more than their share of destructive insects.

Hover flies are 3/8 to 3/4 of an inch long with black and yellow stripes. Some people call hover flies sweat bees since the flies enjoy a little tasty drink of sweat periodically. However, hover flies don't sting and actually can't sting even if they had the urge. Hover fly young are ravenous predators of garden pests such as aphids, thrips and small caterpillars. The adult hover flies do not eat other insects but feed on nectar and pollen

Rehabilitate well-used bird houses by adding new holes and wire to be able to rehang them.

Rehabilitate well-used bird houses by adding new holes and wire to be able to rehang them.

Plant a variety of flowers. Many predators and parasites feed on pollen and nectar or use flowers to supplement their food supply if they run low on pests. To attract the good bugs, also called beneficial bugs, add plants in the carrot family and mustard family. Use plenty of plants with small flowers such as sweet alyssum, dill, fennel, garlic chives, coriander, cilantro and white lace flower, cultivated version of Queen Anne's Lace. Other popular plants for good bugs include: blanket flower, coneflower, coreopsis, cosmos, tansy, yarrow, goldenrod, sunflowers, yellow alyssum, sweet clover, buckwheat and hairy vetch. Let a few of the broccoli plants go to flower.

Plan a season of bloom. Gardeners enjoy having flowers all season as much as the beneficial insects.

Include some permanent hardscapes such as stone paths and decorative rock. These attract lizards, part of nature’s garbage patrol. Lizards consume dead insects.

Don’t be too rushed to escort that opossum off your property. Opossums eat fruits, snakes, insects, snails, slugs, eggs, mice, rats, fish, frogs, crayfish, and carrion. They are immune to Missouri venomous snakes and, through grooming, get rid of a lot of ticks. They are also nocturnal so if you don't want to cross paths, start taking your garbage out first thing in the morning.

Charlotte

Bird Bath Benches

This is my mother's old garden bench now close to her old garden bird bath.

This is my mother's old garden bench now close to her old garden bird bath.

Bird Bath Benches

We often seem to spend extra time locating the perfect spot for bird baths but do we even consider a nearby seating area?

I was pondering this question as I finished weeding a part of my garden where my mother's garden items are now settled in. One is a bird bath I finally was able to plug up so that it holds water and my returning Robins enjoy using for bathing. Many of the Robins are descendants of the original 12 or so I raised by hand and released; Robins, as many songbirds will do,  return to their fledging spots to raise their young.

My closest bench used to be across the driveway, too far away to quietly sit and watch the birds splashing. Once the bird bath was fixed, I moved my mother's old bench closer so that anyone could settle down and watch the show in the bird bath.

That's one of the great delights of having a certified wildlife garden, there is always something going on if one only takes the time to slow down long enough to observe. Now the bench reminds me to slow down and take it all in.

Charlotte

 

June Gardening Chores

My herbs, tomatoes, peppers and yes, a banana plant on my back deck garden.

My herbs, tomatoes, peppers and yes, a banana plant on my back deck garden.

June Gardening Chores

Behind in gardening chores? So am I. It’s been such a wet spring, it’s hard to get anything in the ground, let alone much mowed. The plants sure have taken advantage of all of the moisture. And just think, June is traditionally our wettest month of the year.

Since our spring season is getting extended with our rapidly changing climate, there is still time to get some late spring chores done:

1.     Japanese beetles show up this month so hand pick and drop in a bucket of water with soap. Also treat your lawn with nematodes and milky spores, both will gradually help eliminate grubs.

2.     Trim lilacs now so growth the rest of this year will provide blooms next year.

3.     Get your flower pots planted. Water the soil first, let drain, then add your flowers for better adjustment.

4.     When planting vegetables, plant a new supply every 2 weeks to give yourself a new crop through the season.

5.     Keep your asparagus bed weeded and let the green top ferns grow until they go brown, do not cut.

6.     As rain stops, make sure to water deeply in the root zone. Don’t sprinkle on leaves, that’s a waste of water and does nothing for your plants.

7.     Pinch mums weekly through July 4th to keep them bushy and delay bloom until fall.

8.     Leave spring bulb greenery to die off naturally. I gently remove the yellow leaves if they bug me and plant summer perennials to cover them in the meantime.

9.     Plant annual flower seeds, such as zinnias, sunflowers, forget-me-nots, cosmos, marigolds and herbs.

10.  Mulch your vegetables, even those growing in pots. Shredded leaves, shredded paper and torn cardboard all work under dried grass and leaves.

This dill and purslane volunteered from last year. Gardening doesn't get much easier than that!

This dill and purslane volunteered from last year. Gardening doesn't get much easier than that!

11.  When mulching, leave 2-4 inches clear from the plant stem and the mulch ring no larger than 5 inches deep. More than that and you are smothering the plant itself.

12.  Check for dead limbs and remove before they fall on someone.

13.  When planting wildflowers, mark the beds where seeds have been added. Some wildflowers may take 2 years to germinate.

14.  Add bird baths for interest and a bird water source. Birds will help keep unwanted insects down.

15.  Feed roses and other plants compost to give them a good source of energy.

16.  For those of you with grass, don’t cut more than 1/3 of the grass down at one time.

17.  When making new flower beds, use cardboard boxes to kill off unwanted plants. Add shredded leaves, grass clippings, mulch to get the bed ready for fall planting.

18.  Take photos of your garden. Use the same photo spots you used in spring so you can see the changes from one season to the next.

19.  When adding perennials, focus on native plants. Once established, they will require less water and care than non-natives and Missouri has a lovely array of native plants to choose from.

20. Make sure to have a seating area in a cool garden spot so you can sit down and enjoy all of the work you have invested in your garden.

Charlotte

Hummer Time

This is one of my inside cats supervising the hummingbird feeder out of the window to my deck. This cat in particular takes her supervisory duties very seriously and lets me know whenever there is a hummingbird at the feeder.

This is one of my inside cats supervising the hummingbird feeder out of the window to my deck. This cat in particular takes her supervisory duties very seriously and lets me know whenever there is a hummingbird at the feeder.

Hummer Time

With all of the other spring signs several weeks early this year, I decided to put out my hummingbird feeders a few weeks early and turns out, I was just in time.

Hummingbirds winter over in Central and South America, migrating back north for our spring and summer while the southern hemisphere goes into its winter season. As they migrate north, the male hummingbirds are the first to show up at backyard feeders. They are the scouts, checking out food and nesting areas for the incoming females.

This year, I had one ruby-throated hummingbird at the feeder off my deck the first day I put out the feeder.

How Hummingbirds Migrate

The story of how hummingbirds make this trip is amazing. During migration, a hummingbird's heart beats up to 1,260 times a minute, and its wings flap 15 to 80 times a second.

They fly alone, often on the same path they have flown earlier in their life, and they fly low, just above tree tops or water. Flying low allows the birds to see, and stop at, food supplies along the way. They are also experts at using tail winds to help reach their destination faster. Research indicates a hummingbird can travel as much as 23 miles in one day.

A good hummingbird feeder has feeding slots that are flush with the surface. That way the feeder can easily be cleaned with an old toothbrush and hot water. Do not use detergent when cleaning a hummingbird feeder, a little bleach in water will remove any mold growing inside the container. (Photos by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A good hummingbird feeder has feeding slots that are flush with the surface. That way the feeder can easily be cleaned with an old toothbrush and hot water. Do not use detergent when cleaning a hummingbird feeder, a little bleach in water will remove any mold growing inside the container. (Photos by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Hummingbird Homemade Sugar Syrup

You can help feed hummingbirds with a simple solution of sugar water. I make my sugar syrup one part sugar, 4 parts water. Mix the sugar in hot water out of the tap until the sugar dissolves completely. You don’t want to boil the water unless you boil, then let it cool off because boiled water can be too hot.

Once cooled, I store the sugar water in the refrigerator and only fill the hummingbird feeders halfway so the sugar water doesn’t spoil. Then change the sugar water every week or so; more often in warmer weather.

When cleaning out the hummingbird feeders, don’t use soap or any other cleaning agent or you may find the hummingbirds won’t use the hummingbird feeder.

To keep mine clean, I rinse out with hot water and a give it a good scrubbing, then add a little dab of bleach in the water to remove any leftover mold and rinse well.

There was a nursery rhyme where I grew up in Brazil about hummingbirds getting rides on the backs of geese. I was at a conference of biologists many years ago listening to one present his theory of how those tiny birds make the long trek across the Gulf of Mexico. After basically saying they couldn’t prove beyond a shadow of a doubt how hummingbirds fly across that long expanse of water without food, I mentioned the nursery rhyme and asked if there was any possibility that those two species worked together.

The scientist said no, they knew the hummingbirds made it across the Gulf of Mexico because they found their little exhausted bodies along the shoreline.

The voice of an old gruffy, well-respected biologist came from the back. “That’s where the geese dump them.”

Charlotte

Finding First Strawberries

Can you see the first strawberries? I have strawberry plants as border plants at Bluebird Gardens.

Can you see the first strawberries? I have strawberry plants as border plants at Bluebird Gardens.

Finding First Strawberries

For many years I have used strawberry plants as border plants.

It started when I found a patch of wild strawberries and didn't want to mow them over. Once transplanted into my garden, I kept them as border plants so I could easily find them.

When my brother sent me strawberry plants for a birthday, I also planted those as border plants. There is something enticing about planting something edible along flower bed borders, the anticipation of finding something delicious along my garden walks still thrills me every time I think about the possibilities.

As strawberry season approaches, I start looking through my flower borders for the first strawberries of the season. Easier said than done because my resident turtle population also has their eyes on those berries. One day they are there, the next completely gone so I try not to get my hopes up about finding a delicious treat.

For several years, I even had strawberries planted in a raised bed thinking that would discourage slow-moving visitors. Instead, I found a turtle pulling itself up over the raised bed border to get to the ripening strawberries!

These strawberry plants are day neutral so they should fruit several times this year.

Not sure the front strawberries will make it but that one in the back...

Not sure the front strawberries will make it but that one in the back...

Strawberries require rich soil so I add compost every fall around the plants so they have enough time to absorb the nutrients before fruiting. I'm sure the turtles appreciate the extra effort!

Charlotte