Spring Emerges

We made it, spring has arrived and everything feels right on time. This winter's weather felt more like the norm for Oregon, so we're off to a good start. Since the nursery where I work has opened for the season I've been very busy there and have not spent as much time in my own garden, but Facilities Manager sure has been busy, and I've managed to get in a few weekends worth of work, too. Also, besides the chores we've been pecking away at, I thought we could look at a few interesting plants this week. So here we go!

At day's end on the first day of spring 2018. Not bad at all. The yuccas in this shot got a thorough cleaning up after a good, wet winter.

When we first decided on the location of the vegetable garden, I mentioned that it was on a slope. Over time, I thought, it would be more difficult to work (as we get older), it would be nice to work on flat ground. I suggested that as FM cultivates the land he should try to level it out. Well, he agreed to the leveling out, he just did it the manual way. Here you can see his 40-inch drop from the highest point to what will be the level point. 

FM here: Some 25 hours of shoveling wet and damp dirt makes for a tired FM! And it still is not exactly level, but the "slope" is long gone. This is a great puzzle for a geometry student. A 50' x 50' plot with four corners of different elevation. What is the volume of dirt to be moved? How deep is the deepest corner? And, as the dirt is removed and tossed from one area to the next, how does it become, ahem, fluffier? What about the streak of clay that sweeps across the upper corner? It's really dense. And the burn area in the middle about a foot down? Hmmm, there's much to consider, and so I considered it all as the days and the shovelfuls passed. Not to worry. We will continue to level it when I cultivate with the big, rented cultivator next month. It was hard work, but great exercise.

 With working at the nursery comes a paycheck and with that paycheck comes compost. Two units delivered a week or so ago. It is covered so it won't get more rain soaked than it already is. We've been moving it, too, wheelbarrow full by wheelbarrow full.

After I compost all the plants that need it, the remainder will go to the veggie garden. Here I had to make a decision about the meadow area. I am sure there were lots of great seeds from desirable plants on the soil's surface, but the issue was there were way more weeds taking hold. Even though I regularly weeded all winter long, they were out of control. So I buried them. All of them. Only plants that were emerging were not buried. The soil here is rather clay-ish and wet right now, it needed a little compost to help soil structure over time. I hope I don't have to do this regularly, for the idea was for a wild, natural look and to let some things seed at will, as a meadow would. Wildflowers don't really go for rich compost, but I had to do it.

I spared Oscar the agave, he doesn't want any compost.

The Himalayan mounds (background) will also get a good dose of compost and then I'll leave them be, for most of the plants I chose for this area are really lovers of lean, well-drained soil. I just needed to smother some weeds and it feels good.

Facilities Manager took care of the first mowing of the year. It's amazing how much better weeds look when they're mowed. Seriously, though - we're not really lawn people, this is more like field grass, to be honest. It's just there, and we can't replace all of it with gardens, so we have to, at the very least, mow the stuff. 

Niiiice. Thank you, FM!

Veggie starts are being hardened off outside little by little. I need to do some thinning, I think! 

Last year I did an experiment. I cut back a few Carex comans to see if they would look better in the long run rather than leaving them be. They looked a million times better with fresh green new growth, the ones that weren't cut looked a little crispier and browner. This year, I decided I would cut back the 131 Carex comans (yes, I counted) in this new bed created last year. It was a surprisingly frustrating job. They get gummy - rather just difficult. I was screaming and throwing things when FM came out to help. The job is done. That is all I have to say about it.

While not really a chore, we are preparing ourselves for our first hive of bees which arrive in early April. FM got their new home all ready, more on the bees in a few weeks.

My peas are finally emerging. Yay! Spring really is here.

 Now, on to the plants. I've included a selection of trees, shrubs and perennials that caught my eye this week. Here, a weeping Salix or willow blooms. It was already on the property, so I do not know the variety.

Salix elaeagnos 'Angustifolia' otherwise known as rosemary willow for the leaves' resemblance to rosemary. It is so lovely, it takes center stage in the labyrinth garden. Just beginning to leaf out, the flowers are quite small and inconspicuous but kind of cool.

One more salix, this one a gift from fellow garden blogger Anna of Flutter and Hum. This is a black willow or Salix gracilistyla 'Melanostachys'

Here is an image from last month, fairly striking contrast with the orange "claws" of the pussy willow. I just read that is why they are called "pussy willows" for their cat claws - now I know.

Sambucus racemosa 'Sutherland Gold' foliage emerging. The reddish tones will give way to bright golden chartreuse foliage, adding a bit of light to an otherwise shady area.

Spiraea thunbergii 'Ogon' - one of those "ordinary" plants that I never thought I would put in my own garden. At least not the last garden, small as it was. Now I have wooded areas and I have chosen plants not so much for a botanical collection but for how they fit into the landscape and how that landscape makes me feel. This feels good to have white sparkly tiny flowers in late winter and it fits into the woodland theme. So I have "ordinary" plants and I love it.

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'- one of those plants that really delivers. When I bought this a few years ago at a nursery I briefly worked at, I was surprised at the $15 price tag for a tiny pot, something like a 4" or 6". Apparently they are very difficult to propagate and they are in high demand, so that explains it. Once it gets going, however, I'm told they really do grow to a good size, so worth the expense. This plant also adds to the woodland feel and fits right into my master plan.

Ipheon uniflorum 'Album', a small spring ephemeral bulb that I bought at work.

This glowing tree is pretty special. My friend and colleague at work gifted it to me after he grew it for his own garden, but did not end up having a good place for it. It is a Cupressus arizonica - a golden sport from one of his friend's trees. I am going to call it 'Nathan's Gold'.

Emerging leaves of Podophyllum pleianthum - May apple. This monster is always the center of attention in the shade garden.

I know it doesn't look like much, but the emerging leaves of Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' or Japanese forest grass make me so very happy. 

Here's a pleasant surprise. Limnanthes douglasii or Douglas' meadow foam seeded a little. I'm thrilled, for this little native wildflower attracts SO many pollinators for weeks and weeks. I dug chunks out here and there (as if you can tell) and planted them throughout the garden. I hope it naturalizes everywhere. 

Here's what the flower looks like.

Sweet double flowers of Primula vulgaris 'Double White' I bought at work last year. Nice to see it come back, I haven't had a lot of luck with primroses.

Rhamnus alaternus 'Variegata' from Xera Plants. This evergreen shrub will eventually reach about 10' high and is reported to be an easy plant to grow. It's been in the ground about a year and a half, it should get going this year, hopefully.

Ceanothus 'Italian Skies' backlit by the evening sun. All those little buds will soon be a frothy blue flower haze covered in bees.

Since the great agave melt of last winter, I turned to Sempervivums for my spiky fix. I have since added hardy agaves, not to worry, but these little guys deserve a little notoriety. I will try to get these all straight, however I bought most of them at the same time so I'm a bit mixed up. Pictured here is Sempervivum 'Topaz' with rich cold weather colors. 

Sempervivum 'Mrs. Giuseppe'

S. 'Icicle'

S. 'Pekinense'

I believe this is S. 'More Honey', although it could be S. transcaucasicum.

Sometimes at work, little "chicks" get knocked off onto the ground. I cannot stand to see one get tossed into the compost pile, so I rescue them. This is the result.

I have several hanging baskets that I do not use. Just too much extra work to keep watered - I have enough on my hands. My solution is to fill them with cool moss I find on the ground. This one got an extra passenger, a little ceramic kitty watching the squirrels.

The last kind of plant, the spotted bengal variety. Here Hobbes is on a mission to explore some newly mowed grass with FM in hot pursuit. These guys are only allowed outside with us, on supervised (VERY supervised) field trips.

Facilities Manager has other plans for him. No grassies for you, buddy! Well, OK . . . maybe a little. But get a load of that tummy.

Little Lucy in the evening sunshine.

There's the bulk of the ornamental garden, looking fine for the first day of spring.

Spring is here and I'm all the happier for it. While winter was a good, mild one, I prefer to be outside and when the weather is bad and prevents me from doing so, I'm a little grumpy. Give me outside chores and plants over inside t.v. any day. 

We have many spring plans for the garden, although not at a break-neck pace like the last two years. We'll certainly keep you updated as beauty in the gardens starts to explode. Also, a shout out to East Coast friends who are still experiencing winter, we feel for you and hope it passes soon. For our Southern California friends, may you survive the torrential rains coming your way.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you so very much for reading, we love hearing from you and knowing what you're all up to in your own gardens. Happy gardening and happy spring, everyone! 


  1. "It's amazing how much better weeds look when they're mowed." Pretty much my motto over here where the front and back "lawns" we got when we bought the house are concerned. Until we can dig it all up and start over, I just "keep it short!"

    Love the Sempervivums! Gorgeous. I have a few in the gravel garden beside the driveway, but they're just the standard variety; I need to diversify. : )

    Thanks for the continued inspiration. Oh, and thanks for the reminder - time to spread a little compost! xo

    1. Oh, those "lawns"....so "lovely" aren't they? Keeping it short sounds good to me.

      Those Sempervivums, there are so many cultivars out there, it's mind-boggling. They are all cool, though.

      Glad you enjoyed the post and yes, it's compost season, my gardening friend! Have fun!

  2. I love the willows, and the opportunity to see the kitties, of course. As always, I'm impressed by how much - and how well - the 2 of you tackle challenges in your garden. It's going to be beyond fabulous. It's raining here today but we've accumulated just 1/4 inch since yesterday. There are debris flows in Montecito but nothing horrific and we hope the rain remains slow but steady. My seasonal total in this location just reached 3.2 inches (since October 1st) so it looks as though this rain year may miss classification as the driest on record after all, if only barely.

    1. Oh, Kris - I didn't realize you have had so little rain - I thought (hoped) this past winter brought much more your way. Hang in there, and we're crossing our fingers for no mud slides for you guys.

  3. Looking good! I get antsy when I can't get outside for long periods too. I just bought a bunch of different Semps at Little Prince, they had the greatest selection! You know me, I can't toss plants either, I would have rescued those babies just like you.

    1. Antsy...that's a great way to describe it. It's nice to know I'm not the only plant nut out there saving little plants all the time. Yay for plant nuts!

  4. Love the trust between Hobbes and FM -- not many cats let you hold them like that without kicking -- full length, tummy exposed! Wonderful to watch spring unfurl at CG.

    1. Aaw, that's sweet you picked up on that. Hobbes and FM are tight - we all are, but that cat looooves his daddy. They are both the best cats, such sweethearts and believe me, even when we're transporting the escapee that way, he's purring up a storm. He's a lover, not a fighter.

  5. It is exciting for me to see what all is hopping at your garden. I know in just a couple of weeks or so my garden will be looking similar as far as things popping. The FM will not have to have a gym membership any time soon. Especially if he is having to move yards of soil. I am impressed. I know you both will be so happy when you are older that you made gardens easily accessible. Those sweet kitties. I can see why they want out with you. Your garden is a treasure trove of places for cats to investigate. I can never get those hens and chicks to grow here. I think I don't have enough sun and the soil isn't right. Even in pots they don't do well. Yours look so healthy. Enjoy the season...

    1. Yay for spring and plants-a-popping!

      The cats do love exploring the gardens, they are fascinated with bugs, especially watching bumble bees.

      I don't know why hens and chicks grow so well here - maybe the clay soil? Maybe the gravel? What's your soil like? That's too bad you have trouble because they're so fun and should be fairly easy. Well...every garden is different.

      I hope your spring comes very soon and your plants explode with happiness! Cheers!

  6. That Hobbes tummy!!! I wanted to reach right into the screen to rub on it.

    The Carex comans, might it respond to burning as well as cutting? I know less than nothing saabiut grasses, but a little controlled fire seems like it would be so much less work.

    As always I am amazed at what you both have created out there...

    1. Ooooh..Hobbes tummy is the warmest, furriest, squishiest tummy ever! He gets lots of tummy rubs.

      That's an interesting idea about the Carex c. - I am going to look into it. Thanks for the suggestion!

  7. Wow, your garden continues to amaze! I fear that if I worked at a nursery, I'd end up owing them money every month instead of the other way around. Glad that you made enough to pay for compost:) Hobb's tummy is beautiful & I notice that he's forming a "T" to say, "Tamara, come save me from FM." Happy spring right back at you!

    1. Hee hee..."Save me, Tamara!" - good one! He's likely thinking "D'OH! I'm busted...my plans to take over the world have been thwarted."

      Yes, much of my paycheck does go to plants as you can imagine. I kind of feel like I work for plants, and, in a way, I guess that's ok. That and compost. And cat food.

  8. Me too. And I'm admittedly a bit grumpy today with all of the rain and cold wind. Your gardens are looking fabulous. Kudos to the FM or leveling your veggie garden. How smart is that? And your seedlings look really healthy. I can't wit to see the Meadow Foam in bloom. It all looks great!

    1. Boy, the grumpy factor is high the past few days with SNOW again? What the corn? Hopefully it will be the last grasp at winter.

      Yes a level veggie garden makes for happy gardeners, right? It was difficult last year so I know it would only get worse if we left it at such a slant.

      The Douglas' meadow foam is SO pretty in bloom. Do you have any, Grace? If not, maybe I can save you some seed.

  9. FM just had to start things off the hard way. My arms and back and legs hurt just thinking about it.

    I share your philosophy regarding lawn. If I had the resources, I'd get rid of pretty much all of it.

    I found out the same thing regarding Carex comans after trimming some of mine back last year. This year I'm cutting back all of the silver ones. It's easier if you use a sharp pair of long-bladed pruning shears and only cut small clumps at a time, like you're cutting hair, putting some tension on them as you cut. The bronze ones look much nicer. You can hardly see the dead bits because the whole plant is brown anyway! I have a pair of Japanese pruning shears that work really well. Expensive, but worth it. https://honmamon-japan.com/products/hanakumagawa-one-hand-pruning-shears-single-blade-edged-handle-without-hand-guard-whole-length-270mm-abt-10-6

    Ha! I always wondered why they were called pussy willows. And speaking of felines, that tummy! I want to touch it!

    1. My arms and back hurt too from watching him, Evan. He swears it's good exercise so...who am I to argue?

      Those pruning shears have me drooling. OY! Expensive, maybe for Christmas this year..or birthday..or...

      Isn't that funny about the pussy willows? I always assumed it was because they are fuzzy like fur. Now we know!

      Come rub Hobbes' belly any day, Evan my friend! You are always welcome here.

  10. Your posts are more fun than buying the latest gardening magazine. You have created a paradise and knowing that you are not finished just gives me more and more reasons to come back and see what you are up to. I love that you are getting bees. I would do that if it were not for my husband and his problem with insects that just might sting or bite.
    I absolutely love everything about your place. It's loaded with life and energy and just looks so homey and comfortable.


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