Monday, March 28, 2011


            I can’t believe it’s almost April already. Where do all those fleeting minutes disappear to when we’re not watching?

            Am delighted to report we finally got some significant rainfall after two weeks of none. I actually ran the drip irrigation and the spray zone on the south side of the house a couple of times last week, something I am loath to do now that Oak Island charges twice as much for water  to exit the house as it does to enter. (But we do have one top-o’-the-line sewer system. If only we could afford it…)

Captivating violas spill out
of a terracotta pot

            Temperatures did one of their early-spring reality-check nosedives this weekend. NOAA issued freeze warnings for tonight for inland areas, reminding us it ain’t over locally until the last-frost lady sings on April 9. Oak Island hasn’t dipped below 32°F since February 13 this year, but the evergreen memory of the Great Easter Freeze of April 8, 2007 remains. Bad season for strawberry farmers, and for flowering shrubs and trees, was 2007.

            We need occasional slaps in the face like that from Mother Nature to remind us we’re not really in charge here. It’s like the spoiled-brat mentality of the people who build enormous beach-front vacation homes on tony Figure Eight and Bald Head Islands, an incredibly stupid move when one considers that barrier islands are, by definition, unstable. Now that the ocean is exerting her inexorable power, the rich feel all the taxpayers of the state should be happy to help finance terminal groins to protect their investments. I have two things to say to them, and to the legislators that live in their pockets:

Ajuga reptans 'Caitlin's Giant'
starts blooming in late March
in southeastern NC

1. Terminal groins don’t work. Talk to any Virginia Beach resident about the one at Rudy Inlet. Look at the never-ending dredging of Oregon Inlet on the Outer Banks.
2.  You aren’t ever going to stop the ocean from doing what she wants to do, no matter how hard you try. Money can’t fix disregard for nature. Ask the Japanese, who thought constructing nuclear power plants on fault lines would be okay. (Are you listening, California?)

            Okay, that’s it for today’s political rant. I’m feeling my oats, having had the self-same letter to the editor published in both local papers this month. (The StarNews even left in my description of our town attorney as “gormless,” probably because the children working the copy-edit desk didn’t know what it means.)

Against all odds,
the Christmas poinsettia clings
to life on the screened porch

            Onward to wrapping up the month in the garden.

            Ratty-looking poinsettia moved to porch, where it seems happier. One out of four cyclamen (the white-bloomer) bit the dust, the rest are good: the pink-with-purple-eye specimen still has flowers! The papayas persevere despite their relocation to the Kitchen of Death, but we all eagerly anticipate the day they move outside, along with their sidekick, the tape-worm fern. The Solanum pseudocapsicum appears to be reveling in its escape from the confines of the house. The Ledebouria, Hemigraphis, dahlia, penta and verbena all look dead, but I’ve been fooled before. I won’t consign them to the compost pile just yet.

Baby pea plants stretch
toward their trellis

            Trellised the peas, which responded by reaching out tentative tendrils toward the mesh. Tim and I bought the rest of the materials for the two new raised beds, and wait only for the rain to stop before erecting them. I continue to put off thinning the beets, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, Nigella damascena (love-in-a-mist) and poppies-for-seed sown as a lark. To rationalize my uncharacteristic timidity in regard to this chore, I’ve told myself I’m waiting for really big true leaves to emerge.   
            Fine Gardening magazine’s June issue (don’t ask me why June came out already. I just take what arrives in the mailbox) has an interesting article on thinking outside the cage regarding tomato staking. Southern California's Scott Daigre makes some interesting suggestions involving concrete reinforcing wire and hog fencing that I plan to try.

            Four blueberry plants arrived (in excellent shape, by the way) from Gardens Alive! The two ‘Ka-Bluey’ came in four-inch pots and the pair of bare-rooted ‘Elizabeth’ I potted up into three-gallon pots immediately. I was so impressed, I immediately ordered another ‘Elizabeth’ and two ‘O’Neal’ blueberries and a ‘Ouachita’ (pronounced WATCH-ee-taw) blackberry. Where am I going to put them? I don’t know.

Seedlings survive on their
piano-based light table

            The seedlings on the piano continue to progress, albeit slowly. Two more black-eyed susan vines germinated, and two more pots of strawberries. None of the six Passiflora seeds that I saved sprouted, nor three of the hollyhocks, nor the other three black-eyed susan vines. (Planted three each from this year’s Renee’s Garden and last year’s Ferry-Morse seeds: one Renee and two Ferry-Morse germinated. Wonder what that means?) Lost two hollyhocks to stem breakage. So 40 out of 54 of the indoor pots sprouted. Not bad, considering my track record.

The cats are gonna love this crop!

Heartened by my indoor successes, I sowed another batch, to be left outside on the potting table, on St. Patrick’s Day. Planted 15 pots of edibles, three pots each of ‘Ambrosia Hybrid’ cantaloupe; ‘Hale’s Best Jumbo’ muskmelon (an heirloom variety); ‘Tendergreen’  cukes; ‘Sumter’ cuke (“organic” seeds, whatever that means); and ‘Snack Seed’ sunflowers. Also tried my hand at starting flowers—six pots ‘Summer Romance’ alyssum; five more ‘Indian Spring’ hollyhock; and four pots ‘Spitfire’ climbing nasturtium. Also sowed a 16" diameter bulb pan with cat grass.

Covered the lot with the wire shelves of my mini-greenhouse to deter critters.

As of today, all the sunflowers and ‘Tendergreen’ cukes have sprouted, along with all six pots of alyssum, two hollyhocks, two nasturtiums and the cat grass. It’s my best seed showing ever.

Weed-free, Kowed and kelped,
my new bed awaits further developments

            Finished weeding and clearing around the edge on the 13th; got the whole thing Kowed-and-kelped on the 17th. T and I have assembled all the materials for installing drip irrigation, which is the next step. After that, all that remains is to build an arbor (out of hog fencing, as per Scott Daigre?), design and plant. I’m already wishing I’d made it bigger.

Check out Kathy's latest article
in Carolina Gardener, and learn
creative ways to stake tomatoes
from Fine Gardening


            The April issue of Carolina Gardener, the one containing my article on sustainable fertilization choices, arrived in the mail last week. Keep an eye out for it at your local garden center and at Borders bookstores.

            “Winter Weeds” edged out “Stuffing Stockings” as the most popular post last week. And about time, too.

            Here’s what’s bloomed in my yard this month:
·         BULBS: Muscari aucheri, M. latifolium, M. armeniacum; Tulipa clusiana, T. turkestanica, T. sylvestris; Chionodoxa forbesii ‘Pink Giant’; Ipheion uniflorum ‘Jessie,’ ‘Wisley Blue,’ ‘Rolf Fiedler,’ and pink-blooming ‘Charlotte Bishop’; the early daffs have passed, but the later ones, like split-corona ‘Tripartite’ and  orange-cupped ‘Kedron’ are still blooming.
These variegated wallflowers
(Erysimum linifolia 'Variegata')
have been flowering for a month

·         PERENNIALS:  Erysimum linifolia ‘Variegata’ (variegated wallflower); Ajuga repens ‘Caitlin’s Giant.’
·         TREES: Crabapple Malus sargentii; Southern crabapple Malus angustifolius is budded.
·         ANNUALS:  The violas are glorious. The delphiniums my grower-friend Christine supplied me with are budding (yes, delphinium is considered an annual in hot-summer zones).


Delphiniums getting ready to bloom

Since comments from y’all are still few and far between, last weekend Tim installed a site meter to bolster my morale. It has a really neat world-map feature that shows me where people click on from. The biggest surprise was a reader from Tokyo, who maybe found “Taking Time” of interest. Most consistently present so far is the person in Mountain View, California, to whom I proffer my heart-felt gratitude. Most mysterious is the no-known-name place in the middle of the country (the ID box just says “United States,” which I already knew: I am no slouch at geography, thanks to my 10th and 11th grade teacher, Mr. Crippen)—west of Memphis, east of the Rockies. Please consider leaving a comment revealing your dot’s name. You can do it anonymously, if you’re scared or whatever.

Regardless, oh, Silent Ones, thanks for dropping by. See you next time.


P.S.—By the way, Chuck, thank you for the kind words. My warmest regards to you and Miss Maggie.

1 comment:

  1. Do you have any pictures of the Delphinium bloomed? I am part of a gardening society and we just got in a few perenials and they have no pictures. Also check out our blog its new! thanks! GREAT SITE!!!!