Monday, March 31, 2008

Galanthus Encore

We're still seeing some new snowdrops popping up in places, though in another week or two, they'll have likely disappeared until next year ... such is the garden fate of one of its earliest late winter arrivals. But we do treasure them for their brief reign over the still messy garden littered with leaf cover, from which they have little problem (if any) just punching their way through when they're ready!

These two little clumps are near the front of our original bulb bed we started out front years ago, and if we can get ambitious enough this season, we'd like to to totally overhaul it and build it up. But it all remains to be seen, because this particular bed is just loaded with small bulbs (crocus and galanthus), tulips and daffodils and a few stray fritillarias. In the first shot, if you look closely you can see even more crocus poking through the leaves on their way to their place in the newly warming Spring sun.

I consider the second shot a fortuitous mise en scène of these little plants emerging from their winter den ... I can almost see the nest where they spent their winter's nap below them, and it's as if they all woke up at different times and are arising from the darkness where they slept .... But alas, their waking period is oh too brief, and they'll soon hibernate again until the right moment again next Spring. To me, that's one of the most magical aspects of the spring bulbs ... they provide so much beauty and wonderment during their relatively brief appearances, only to vanish until the following year. When I think about it, it's a lot like Morel season ... it's brief, sweet and oh so delicious, but oh so short ... always leaving us wanting more.

Photos taken 29 March, 2008
Fuji Finepix 2650 -- soon to be replaced by the bigger, badder Fuji S700!
More to come ...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Start on the Front Garden

Here's a shot taken of the front bed after we'd had enough of three hours of intensive work cleaning up out front on Saturday. It still looks pretty barren and brown right now, but if you're willing to spend the time examining it, you'll see there's a lot coming up here, especially the spring bulbs! How many can you pick out from this shot?

At least the snow is finally gone (we hope) and the greening of Casa IVG has finally begun this cycle. Keep this view in mind, as I'll update it periodically as the season progresses ... barring any harsh returns to winter, it's looking to be a spectacular spring show this year!

Life Stirs in the Post Winter Detritus

I discovered this fuzzy little guy Saturday afternoon while clearing out a bunch of last year's growth in the front garden. This woolly bear caterpillar, aka 'Isabella Tiger Moth' or Pyrrharctia isabella, was just snoozing undercover until I disturbed his long winter's nap. At first he was all curled up until I fired up the camera and then he apparently figured he'd been 'outed' so to speak. So I was lucky enough to get three quick shots as he headed off to better protection ... I deliberately left a bunch of leaf cover there for him to finish his winter's nap, because it's hard for me to resist these fuzzy little caterpillars I remember fondly from my childhood, when I used to delight in letting them crawl over my hand.

According to the Wiki entry, they're pretty benign caterpillars, dining primarily on grass and weeds, so I said, hey! Send me a couple hundred of them in the front garden, and they'll help get rid of some of the pests we have to deal with every year! I'm just glad they apparently don't target ornamentals ... so the more the merrier I say. The moth they eventually metamorphose into isn't particularly spectacular, but now that I've seen one (see Wiki), I recognize that we always have a lot of them around in the summer months when they lay their eggs, which then hatch into these caterpillars in late summer. Apparently they spend the winter hiding out in the caterpillar form, and then proceed with the rest of their transformation in spring. So, as far as we're concerned, this little guy is given free rein to dine to his heart's content in the front garden until ready to go through the inevitable change ... And when we see the Tiger Moths in the garden later in the summer, I'm sure we'll wonder which one of them was the little guy I so rudely woke up in the spring!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Rude Reminder

We awoke early this morning to a surprising sound ... thunder! At the time I thought, oh, that rain that was supposed to come through finally made it here, then I laid back for a bit (it was well before the alarm would be going off), pulled the covers up a bit and snuggled back in with Pepa. Then the second round of thunder came through ... what had been some initial rumbles that woke me had now turned into some rip snorters that managed to rattle the windows as I heard a noisy rain coming down outside. After a pleasant, sunny high of 55 on Wednesday, it seemed to be just a comforting return of early Spring thunderstorms, something we always look forward to in this season.

Then, as it always does, the alarm went off and after the usual ritual of hitting the snooze button a few times, I got up to go downstairs, take Pepa and Rolly out and get my first cup of coffee (man, do I love that programmable KitchenAid coffee maker!). As I opened the window shades on my way I had a rude reminder that winter doesn't seem done with us yet! There was snow and accumulated sleet (and perhaps even a bit of small hail) in the drive and the ground was quickly becoming covered with a light layer of snow! UGH, I thought ... just when things had been looking more spring-like of late, here it was again. Needless to say, that realization didn't exactly put me in the cheeriest mood to start the day. It was one of those late winter, early Spring days filled with grey skies and chilly temperatures (I think it eventually made it up to about 35F) when you just want to stay in bed and ignore the nasty weather outside, but such was not my lot (as it always is!).

One of those days when something was constantly coming down ... sleet, rain, snow and no sun to be seen. Those kinds of days when I would love to just be a dog for the day and spend my time curled up in a warm blanket snoozing away the hours. Well, Pepa and Rolly certainly had that kind of day, making me somewhat envious that I couldn't just go back to bed and take a nap. By the end of the afternoon, the snow intensified significantly, right about rush hour (as it frequently does) and from about 4:00 to 7:00 we had a dandy snow going on outside. Fortunately, it wasn't accumulating much on the streets or sidewalks and only the grassy areas let on that it had been snowing today. The brave early bulbs (snowdrops and crocus) were definitely taking today off, and the crocus in particular had closed up tightly, hoping for better days to come, I'm sure.

I suppose it had to happen. There's a bit of folk wisdom here in Des Moines, that during the state high school basketball tournaments (which actually happened earlier this month) the tradition is for one last blizzardly blast of snow to arrive. Well, we thought we had dodged the bullet this year (after all we did end up having the 5th snowiest winter on record), but Mother Nature decided to remind us that warmer weather and sunshine are still on the horizon ... oh so out of immediate reach, yet inevitable. Just. Not. Today. But soon! Believe me, we are sooo ready for that day!

So, I didn't achieve my dog's life fantasy after all, but at least our furry loves (thx Olivia for the term) were able to profit from it. I took the picture of Pepa (above) late last night as she was happily snoozing away in her new favorite chair (the blanket is a big draw for her). I think a lot of us say we envy the dog's life for its relaxed and carefree pace. But it's worth considering that our perceptions of what it must be like may not necessarily coincide with our dogs' perceptions. And as if we needed more proof, I'll conclude by including a link to a wonderful short film that Olivia sent me last weekend. It's called Dog Years, and is an instructive reminder of what our furry loves might be thinking. Check it out, it's a good little film. Maybe I would have felt this way today if I had had my dog's life fantasy after all.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Late Afternoon Crocus Glow

This little patch of Golden Snow Crocus has been happily naturalizing over the past two or three years, the result of me having had a few extras who needed a home when we planted them a few years ago ... so I just popped them into some of the grass along the sidewalk and just let them go. I think I only originally planted two or three bulbs and now look at them! So far this Spring I've noticed that the crocus already up and blooming have definitely increased their areal coverage since last year, precisely what we intended all along. And if I had my way, I'd buy hundreds of these tough little bulbs and let them take over the entire yard, along with the Siberian Squill (yet to appear), hoping to eventually carpet the everything with a bright spring show of gold and blue ... ah, a guy can dream can't he?

Stay tuned for more crocus to come ... I noticed today that the first of the purples have opened, but by the time I got out in late afternoon, they had closed up shop for the day, just as these golden ones were in the process of closing when I finally got out at about 5:30 or so ... finally, the benefit of the longer days (and daylight savings time) is starting to pay dividends!

Photo taken 25 March, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Yippee! The Snowdrops Finally Appear!

We've been waiting for over a month now to see the Snowdrops emerge ... telling ourselves that this is the latest we've ever seen them ... Well, I was curious about last year's arrival date, so I went back to the archives and found this post. Looks like we were getting impatient last year too! But, after what has seemed to be an interminable winter, the Galanthus elwesii have finally broken ground ... now we know that winter is on its inevitable way out ....

These photos show a nice little patch that has been naturalizing in the back corner garden, along with the yellow crocus featured in the previous post. We're of the mind that you can never have too many
Snowdrops or Crocus in the garden ... they both naturalize freely in the garden and don't mind breaking through the winter dead vegetation and leaf cover, oftentimes literally spearing their way through to announce themselves, and with that the definitive arrival of the Spring bulb season.

I was out this afternoon after work getting some late day shots of some of the crocus out front and I noticed that lots of other bulbs are breaking ground ... tulips, daffodils and even more crocus are on their way to join the show! I'll be featuring them here (as usual) as they come into bloom, so there's lots more to look forward to in the next few weeks ...

Photos taken 21 March, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Whispers of Spring (Finally!)

With the snow at last receding with this more than welcome (hopefully not brief) respite from winter, things are (finally) starting to pop up in the yard and garden! We've been done with snow for quite some time and have been waiting impatiently for these little guys to break ground. And with the warmer temperatures for a few days at a time recently, the snow cover is almost gone and the gems of spring are kicking off the annual cycle in the garden.

So here you have the first crocus to emerge at Casa IVG this spring ... not even open yet but already brightening the landscape and spirits in this house and garden. Soon the other (early and giant) crocus will burst on the scene, along with the Siberian Squill, Glory of the Snow, Hyacinths, Tulips and Daffodils and more ... Signs like these are really what seal the end of winter (proper) for me, and I'm sure many other gardeners ... I know of at least a (large) few right now ....

Photos taken 20 March, 2008 at about 5:15 p.m. CDT

More to come ...