Leafing Out

Photo of seedlings in flats

Flats of my strong seedlings this year…a mixed blessing. After advising that in zone 6b we should start seeds around February 25, I couldn’t wait and started mine two weeks earlier. And I was growing some things I hadn’t tried before, so I had no database for decisions. The dahlias I thought would be pot-sized are a couple of feet tall already, upending my plans. I’ll have to expand the dahlia bed and buy other things for pots. 

Celosia are too sensitive for a long sojourn, and should be started late so they don’t live in pots for months…maybe I’ll learn this time! (I’ve brought a couple indoors to my plant shelves so their roots can warm up.) The tomatoes and cosmos, as you can see, are good and healthy in confinement, but more than ready to be in the ground. I have upwards of twenty flats altogether, a big job to carry in and out of the garage…

And nothing to do but wait. A weather phenomenon called an Omega Block is keeping Ohio in winter, and we won’t get real May temps until the end of this week.

Photo of frog designed bird waterer and bog pots

Last post I discussed how helpful it is to the roots of plants to have a rock over them. A pot works in the same way. You can see that the mini-hosta (Munchkin Fire) under the edge of the bog bowl is bigger and hardier than the other two. The bog bowl holds pitcher plants, and the red pot has a Venus Flytrap. [Plant Delights is a great place for variety in bog plants, with trustworthy sourcing.]

Photo of small tub pond and surrounding plants

I added this tub pond at the rear of my yard. I tried a couple of times to get it leveled, and it went off each time, due to settling of the planter’s fill. But I think the uneven water line is a good thing, in fact. If an animal gets in, it has a way of reaching the edge and climbing out. Once the leaves grow over the tub, it will look fine. The plants are purple-leaved heliopsis (Burning Hearts), two types of carex, chartreuse-leaved hyssop, Blue Victory salvia, silver sage, calamint, and coreopsis. These should all be deer resistant, so I won’t need to spray much close to the pond. Inside, you can see a couple of the new blocks that stores like Lowe’s are selling for constructing raised beds. I thought they’d make great supports in ponds for water-plant baskets, as the niches can shelter tadpoles.

Photo of a hugel bed with logs showing, mulch, and plants

My hugel bed, maturing nicely. The logs are slowly being buried by soil activity, and their tops make an attractive feature. Last year’s plants have deepened their roots and are benefiting from the microclimate, that keeps them warmer than the outside temp. The new plants are two more pulmonarias, snapdragons, and woolly lamb’s ears. My yard has tons of fireflies in the summer, because these stick and log borders are perfect insect habitat. 

Photo of brunnera and bleeding heart mingling

Photo of yellow-leaved bleeding heart

One of my shade beds, with brunnera and bleeding heart mingling to a pretty effect. Below, the bright yellow bleeding heart that’s become a star of this area. I was looking for a plain one when I bought it, and didn’t want the yellow leaves. I’d thought of adding one in late spring, and that year the yellow was all I could find. As it turns out, it’s a perfect plant.

Photo of giant Empress Wu hosta

They say hostas don’t like to be moved. These Empress Wus did nothing their first year. The second year, because I’d got them as a BOGO and hadn’t really paid attention to what they were, I read up on them and learned their claim to fame is huge size. Then I knew the Wus needed a bigger space, and moved them by the chimney. But they aren’t sulking at all; they’re taking off and sporting footlong leaves. (The little fence is a deer-snout-bumper, which actually works pretty well in deterring them.)

Photo of bright coral heucheras and blue green hosta

Finally, some heuchera that I bought cheap at Walmart, with no variety name. Their first foliage is a velvety corally-copper, going great with the astilbe, the Solar Eclipse heucherella and the blue green hosta.

Waiting for the Cold Spell to End

Photo of garden cart and plants

These are the seeds I started March 15. The biggest growers are the annuals, the centaurea, nicotiana, and tithonia. They toughen up well enough with temperatures in the fifties, but need an eye kept on them in case the wind blows too cold. Of perennials, I have rudbeckia, columbine, shasta daisy, lupine, achillea, foxglove, hollyhock, catmint, coreopsis, hibiscus. The slower-growing annuals are coleus, impatiens (the big ones flowering above were started from cuttings), larkspur, calendula, ageratum…and I just started the end of spring annuals, that could sprout sown directly; but, in the case of sunflower, are vulnerable to birds eating them, or need a good start to root well and bloom sooner: morning glory, marigold, and nasturtium.


Photo of Milkweed border

Along the side of the garage I have a stand of swamp milkweed (white-flowered) that grows every summer into a seasonal hedge. These plants get a lot of love from bees and wasps; so far, I haven’t seen monarchs. But, as every year, I want to tout the tithonia flower, which is very attractive to monarchs. That may be because the kind that migrate to Mexico are looking for a familiar haven along the way (tithonia is also called Mexican sunflower). When they go to seed in the late summer, goldfinches will feed on them too.


Photo of old yew bush

On my old property, I planted an acorn and grew a Chestnut oak about twenty or thirty feet tall at the time I left. I’d like to think it’s still there…maybe it isn’t. But owners can do what they need to with their own place. My garage was first hedged with yew, bushes grown a couple feet taller than me. If they were left alone, there’d be no moving up the side between my property and the neighbors’. I don’t myself like trimmed foundation bushes, so I cut them down, rather than try keeping them up—I couldn’t get the stumps, because my chainsaw is only a little battery-operated one. One yew, and I’m happy it did, if I can keep it small, came back and has a sort of Bristlecone pine vibe.


Photo of my grandfather and his brother

My grandfather (left), his brother (right). I don’t know who the skinny man in the center is.


Photo of my grandfather, his brother and mother

Same group, but with my great-grandmother in the middle.


Photo of my great grandmother

My great-grandmother Barker, 1960s, probably Mt. Vernon, Illinois




Broken Up Hawk Nest

Here are the remains of the hawk’s nest from last spring. It sat on its branch intact through the late fall, and then I saw a bird up inside, picking it apart. I don’t know what the purpose would be, unless because hawks feed meat to their young, the nest has edible bits that other birds seek after they’ve eaten a lot of their other food.



What Is It

This is something unknown. It may be a canker, it may be the remains of some animal killed by the hawks. I made the photo as close-up as I could, and I can’t tell.


Tree Surfing Squirrel

Here’s a picture from earlier in the year. A while back, 2012, there was a huge storm in Ohio called a derecho, and when I was driving home from work that day, I was stuck in traffic at an intersection, a few blocks from my street. A whirlwind came up right by the roadside. (I was thinking, “Let’s not have a tornado now, I’m almost home.”) Out my backdoor, while the sky was not quite dark as night, but dark, I saw squirrels on the side of the oak “tree-surfing”. At that time, I didn’t get a picture of this behavior, but last summer, during a heavy thunderstorm, I did.


Picture 014

This picture is even older, showing the house (on the right, with chimney) I lived in in Chauncey, Ohio. The little dog was my smart border collie mix, and her name was O’Keefe.