Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

Flowering today: Pulsatilla vulgaris aka Pasque Flower

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wildflower Wednesday March 2013 -- Marsh Marigold

My Marsh Marigold has started blooming profusely. Not long ago I posted a picture of it with one lone flower open. Now it is looking really quite gorgeous.

Caltha palustris, which is the Latin name for Marsh Marigold, was the first plant that I took a chance on planting directly in my stream. I just popped it out of its pot, clay-ey soil and all, and plunked it down in the water, at the edge, after clearing a spot in the rocks that line the stream. I then piled small rocks all around it to hold it in place. It's the only plant in the stream that the raccoons, which routinely play in the stream at night, have not ripped out, chewed on and tossed around, roots and all. Occasionally they sample it, but it bounces back quickly from any damage. Its leaves are toxic, so they soon learn their lesson. It's one of those plants like pokeweed, whose leaves are edible only after being boiled. And boiled again in a change of water. And then boiled again in new water for good measure. And maybe even one more time. A vegetable after my Scottish mother's heart, who believed in boiling every vegetable into mush.

I have since planted a few other kinds of plants in the stream, using cloth bags, which hold a lot of soil and a mix of plants and thus prevent the raccoons from pulling them up. I wasn't sure at first whether they would thrive in the rushing water, having read that most marginal or aquatic plants prefer still water. But they have thrived.

Marsh Marigold in front, with golden sweet flag, golden creeping jenny and Canna lilies behind in a cloth bag

Sometimes the raccoons knock over the rusty metal duck, and I have to reach in and right him. Maybe they would prefer a yellow rubber one.

You can see the distribution map for Marsh Marigold here in this link to the USDA Plants Database. It's native to North America, specifically the cooler regions of the U.S. and all of Canada. Are you familiar with the USDA website? It's a great resource for finding out whether a plant is native, introduced, endangered or invasive, or when trying to identify a wildflower that the birds have conveniently planted for you. I also often use it to find out whether a plant is native to the western U.S., which is important to know, since Washington, Oregon and California have such a different climate compared to the East.

Other websites with excellent information about native plants are the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which also contains links to the Native Seed Network, a database that tells you where to find seeds; Flora of North America; the Kemper Center for Home Gardening; and the University of Washington Burke Museum (for info about plants specific to the state of Washington). Those links will take you to pages about the Marsh Marigold, but once there you can search for others.

Marsh Marigold is not actually related to annual marigolds. It is more closely related to buttercups, which you can see in a closer look at the five-petaled flowers.

Wildflower Wednesday is hosted by Gail Eichelberger, on the blog clay and limestone. It's a monthly celebration of wildflowers around the world. Gail's post today is also about an edible wildflower, but hers doesn't require boiling. Go there now and check out other bloggers' posts about the wildflowers they grow in their gardens.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Seed Starting Success

Last winter I didn't start any seeds at all, although most years I do lots. This year I'm back on form. I've been sowing seeds for a while now and putting them out in the portable greenhouses that I have. I had to buy new plastic covers for three of them, because after being left out in the sun, they start to deteriorate, and eventually just fall apart. But they lasted about three years. I bought the new covers from Amazon.

Three of my portable greenhouses. There's a reason they're empty, except for the pots of rocks on the bottom shelf.

The little greenhouses are on the south wall of my house, where they get plenty of sun. In fact, when it's sunny, they really heat up, like 80 or 90 inside even though it's only 30 or 40 outside. I actually have two more in another part of the garden.

In a recent post I mentioned our cra-a-a-a-azy weather last week. The craziness was preceded by a couple of days of extreme windiness and torrential rain. Jenni from Rainy Day Gardener warned me that she had seen discussions of our coming bad weather on Facebook (I wasn't even aware of it). In the past on really windy days, those little greenhouses have toppled, even with something weighing down the bottom shelf (hence the pots of rocks). So I took all my trays of four-inch sown pots out of the greenhouses, and moved them under my hoophouse (which also gets quite nicely warm inside).

The hoophouse (you can see one of the seedling trays there on the left).
As I was transferring the trays to the hoophouse, I couldn't help noticing that quite a few were sprouting or had already sprouted.

These are all Echinacea purpurea, started from my own seeds gathered from last year's flowers.

I also did an entire tray of various kinds of lavender.

Salvia patens is a great Salvia with big blue flowers. I grew it a couple of years ago from seed, and saved more from it to sow this year.

I don't know if I have a photo of Salvia patens in my iPhoto archive, but you can read up on it here on Plant Lust.

The Joe-Pye Weed seeds were bought. I really should save seeds from my 'Little Joe' this year.

The Eryngium 'Blue Hobbit' seeds came from my own garden.

'Jade Frost' came from my garden as well.

And the Astrantia seeds too. I'm not exactly sure which Astrantia it is, but they are pretty pink flowers about a foot or so tall.

I sowed a couple of different Asclepias (Milkweed), this is the only one that is starting to sprout

I'm glad to see Catananche caerulea sprouting, another pretty blue flower, with interesting papery seedpods.

Linum lewisii (Blue Flax) is a pretty native with blue flowers.

None of them have true leaves yet, but it won't be long! I still have loads of annuals that I want to grow this year, but I've been waiting on those for a bit. My plan is to sow them in place in the garden, so they will need the weather to warm up just a bit. It looks like next week will be making up for last week, we are slated to get a string of sunny days with temps in the 50s and maybe even 60s!

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Bright Spot

Many areas just north of me got snow last night and this morning. Here it isn't snowing, raining or foggy, and the sky is partly blue. It's cold, though, but hopefully it will warm up a bit, if it stays sunny.

My first Daffodil is mostly open. I think it's called 'Double Campernelle.'

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Happy First Day of Spring!

It's the first day of spring here, and the weather has been cra-a-a-a-azy! An almost ten-degree drop in temperature this morning, and rain, wind, sun (for 20 minutes). Then rain, wind, sun (for 20 minutes). Repeat, repeat, repeat. Either Spring is coming in like a lion, or winter is going out like one.

During one of those sunny breaks I ran out and did a quick circuit of the garden. I have four pea shoots! WooHoo!

I sowed some seeds today for four different kinds of winter squashes -- Waltham Butternut, Blue Hubbard, Sweet Meat, and Small Sugar Pumpkin (OK, technically that's not a squash...) I tried growing winter squash my first year here, and failed miserably. I have high hopes for this year. I'm going to keep them under plastic for a while, till the weather really warms up, like I do with my tomatoes.

Because I couldn't do much out in the garden, I cooked today, and I thought in honor of my seed sowing, I'd share the recipe with you. It's basically the filling for squash pie. Squash pie without the crust. Or squash pudding. Anyway, it's yummy! (I looooove my orange vegetables, but I think I like winter squash best.)

Squash Pudding


One medium size butternut squash
2 tablespoons coconut milk
2 tablespoons almond butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon (or more)
½ teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of salt


Peel the squash, cut it in half and take out the seeds and stringy innards. Cut it up into more or less 1/2 inch cubes. Toss in a bowl with some salt and light olive oil (NOT extra virgin, or you could use some melted butter). Lay it out on a cookie sheet in a single layer and roast in the oven for about 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Take the tray out, and turn the pieces over as best you can (I usually just kind of end up tossing them around). Then roast them for another 15 minutes. When you take them out they should be nice and soft, and have caramel-y brown edges on some of them.

Put the cooked squash in a food processor or blender with all the other ingredients and give it all a good whir. It helps if you warm the almond butter up a little bit so it's runny. When the squash has been well and truly pureed and all the ingredients have been incorporated, spoon it out, either into a big bowl which you can use to dish it out from whenever you want some, or you can portion it out into individual serving cups. If you absolutely have to have something crunchy with it, you can top it with some chopped nuts. And if you really want it sweet, add a couple of tablespoons of honey. But the squash really is sweet enough.

Refrigerate it, so it will set up thicker. OR you can just eat the whole thing right then and there, and save the space in your fridge for something else.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Foliage Followup -- March 2013

The day after Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is Foliage Followup, hosted by Pam at the blog Digging. Hold onto your hats, I have a lot more foliage right now than flowers, and some of it might even be interesting.

It seems like only a couple of days ago that I was down on my knees, weeding this patch and wondering where my 'Gold Heart' bleeding hearts were. They seem to have burst out of the soil!

Nearby in the same bed are three large-leaved foliage plants with gold highlights, planted last fall (the bleeding hearts are three years old). I just hope I haven't overdone it. Maybe my thinking was to let them fight it out amongst themselves. I always assume when I plant up an area that something is going to up and die on me.

Farfugium japonicum 'Aureomaculatum'

Acanthus mollis (but can I remember which one? No. It has mottled golden early leaves, which eventually fade to green)

Variegated Petasites

Beneath that trio of large leaves is this lemony-limey Heuchera

Also nearby is this bulbous monstrosity, looking a bit like a prop from an Alien movie.

It's Rheum palmatum x tanguticum, ornamental rhubarb. Not for eating.

Around the corner and at the front:

Cyclamen hederifolium

Primula marginata 'Mauve Mist' (no flowers yet, but who needs flowers with leaves like that?)

Another scene from Alien, Podophyllum pleianthum is rearing its umbrella-shaped head

Filipendula 'Red Umbrellas'
My favorite of all hardy Geraniums is Mourning Widow, Geranium phaeum 'Samobor'. During last weekend's dry sunny days, I moved several clumps to the front of one of my beds, rather than leaving them scattered around the garden in random spots.  At first they were a bit droopy, but this week's recent rain has revived them and they seem to be settling in.

Such a nice round shape!

Along the woodland path a yellow Corydalis has seeded itself around, appearing in random spots. I love its deceptively delicate foliage.

Planted just last year,  Jeffersonia diphylla, aka twinleaf, promptly disappeared, but is now up, I'm glad to see.

This dreadfully out-of-focus shot is Trillium ovatum.

Its big sister nearby is almost ready to flower!

Arum italicum 'Jack Sprat' is a reliable dry shade performer.

It just occurred to me while looking at my photos, that this variety's dark spots make it a good foil for black mondo grass, which seems to thrive just about anywhere.

I think I found a good spot for my recently purchased Cardiocrinum giganteum, in part shade in well-amended but well-draining soil. It's still tiny, and probably won't flower for another 7 years, so keep your fingers crossed for me.

I could keep going, but I'm sure you're getting bored. I'm just really thrilled to see so much recent activity in the garden.

To see more great foliage, check out Pam's blog Digging, where she is highlighting a recent trip to the conservatory at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. In the comments there will be plenty of links to other bloggers' posts.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day -- March 2013

I hope you're not sick of seeing Hellebores. If you are -- well, skip down, there's more to see. Most of the Hellebores that I've shown have been recent purchases, already blooming when bought. These are the ones that have been growing in my garden for a year or more, now blooming.

'Mardi Gras Double'

I'm concerned about the floppiness at Mardi Gras' base. It seems to be afflicted by some kind of mold, fungus or rot, which I haven't seen on any of my other Hellebores.

'Ivory Prince'

Primroses are thriving, as usual.

Pink Hepatica (being photo-bombed by the blue one directly behind)

Feeling a little blue?

Brunnera macrophylla

Brunnera and Cyclamen coum

Chionodoxa forbesii/Glory of the snow

Last fall I divided and potted up some Pulmonaria, leaving one piece in the ground. Now the potted ones are blooming and the one in the ground is not.

Marsh marigold in the stream has one flower open, but plenty more coming soon

I'm very happy to see so many flowers on my Indian Plum/Oemleria cerasiformis. I moved it in January to make it part of the screen/backdrop against the back fence. It hasn't missed a beat, and in fact is flowering even more profusely than ever, leaving me hopeful of seeing lots of fruit this fall. Not that I would ever eat it, because reportedly, it is more pit than pulp, and the size of a cherry. But the birds and other wildlife might, which is one of the reasons why this native small tree was planted.

Indian Plum/Oemleria cerasiformis

And in the not quite flowering yet department:

Mukdenia rossii


Variegated Petasites

Mahonia repens

Dog-tooth Lily/Erythronium dens-canis


I hope you enjoyed this look at what's blooming or about to bloom in my garden. Check out Carol Michel's blog May Dreams Gardens, the host for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, where you'll find hundreds of other blog posts around the world.