Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Plant some perennials this spring

When you plant your spring flower garden this year, consider moving beyond the usual annual zinnias and petunias to perennials.  Although they are usually more expensive than annuals initially, they return every year and spread to make new plants.  Early spring is a great time to plant perennials, as well as shrubs and trees, so that they have cool weather and spring rain in which to establish themselves before summer arrives.

I do not have a favorite perennial; they are all beautiful during some parts of the year.  Some are beautiful but will not perennialize in our climate, and deer and critters love others too much to make them worthwhile in my garden.
Japanese painted fern in the foreground with hellebore in the upper right

In my shade garden, now, I am enjoying my Lenten rose, or hellebore.  At maturity, it grows about ten inches high by twelve inches wide, and has blossoms ranging from shades of white to pink.  It blooms during the Christian season of Lent, and sometimes blossoms start as early as Christmas.  During the rest of the year its leathery evergreen leaves provide interest in a shady spot.  Deer do not bother it, and it reseeds itself politely, so you’ll have baby hellebores in a few years.

My aunt gave me some Japanese painted ferns a few years ago, and I love the lavender-silver leaves that brighten a shady area.  It complements the darker green leaves of Hostas.  Hydrangeas and camellias are happy in shade, and give interesting blooms throughout the year. 

In early spring, Bleeding hearts, or dicentra, join the hellebores in the shade garden with lovely weeping pink and white blossoms.  Columbine, which can tolerate some sun, is also nice in the shady garden, and Astilbe’s feathery plumes give an unusual flower shape.  Anemone is a staple in my fall garden; it has flowers that are as perfect as those on a cake, and it blooms from late summer until frost.
Astilbe is budding and is about to bloom

When planting the shade garden, don’t do what I did as a beginning gardener and look up at the lovely shade the pine trees provide in the backyard and consider it a perfect place for a shade garden.  I do recall all the work I put into that garden with fondness, because it was fun and a learning experience, but almost all the plants died when summer came and the bully pine trees sucked every bit of moisture from the ground, saving none for my poor perennials. 

On a garden tour one year, I saw dedicated gardeners with a lovely shade garden under trees.  This was not long after my mass murder of perennials under pine trees, and I asked the gardener how he managed to have these beautiful impatiens and Hostas by the trunks of mature trees.  He confessed that he puts the plants in large pots underground to keep the tree roots away, and he provides copious amounts of water.  If you have the resources, try this, but also know that both my grandmother and I killed dogwood trees by digging among the roots of established, blooming trees to plant shrubs and perennials underneath.  It would be hard to kill a pine tree this way, though.  Dogwoods are temperamental.
Happy hosta gets morning sun and afternoon shade

Especially in our climate, plant a shade garden on the north side of a building, or in shade provided by distant trees.  Many perennials that tolerate shade enjoy some morning sun, as long as the sun is gone before lunchtime in the summer.  Don’t do another thing I did wrong and decide that because the sun doesn’t reach a spot in December or March that it won’t hit the spot in July.   My poor plants that were happy in December were roasted in July, and what I thought was going to be a shade garden turned into a sunny spot. 
Get to work on the perennial garden, and don’t be afraid to kill some plants.  You won’t get a nice garden until you can apply compost made from the remains of plants you killed.   

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Guinea Eggs--a Taste Test

Mr. Cuteypants is the light colored bird in the center

I'm a little late getting this post done, but I wanted to let you know about guinea eggs.  Mr. Cuteypants (a female) faithfully lays an egg almost every day.  The eggs are about half the size of a chicken's egg, and the shells are much harder than a chicken's egg; they require several good knocks against my granite counter top to shatter the shell.  They taste like a chicken's egg.
Three guinea eggs

Cooking them for breakfast

Mr. Cuteypants has become much calmer since he's (she) begun laying eggs.  Perhaps he's preparing for impending motherhood, I don't know.  I do not miss his incessant squawking of "Buck wheat!"

Mr. Cuteypants last summer.  I need an updated picture; he has more wattles now.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mr. Cuteypants has finally done something useful...

...and it is official: he (she) is a girl. I went out to check on the chickens this afternoon and heard Mr. Cuteypants making a sort of forlorn chirping in the chicken tractor, which contains the nesting boxes.  He didn't dash out to bully the chickens when I approached the pen with food, so, given his past dramatic history, chronicled here and here,  I decided to check on him.  Mr. Cuteypants is many things (loud, irritating, etc.,) but not forlorn.  As I approached the chicken tractor, he dashed out, unharmed.  I checked the nesting box, and found one tiny guinea egg among the chicken eggs.  We'll eat it for breakfast and let you know how it compares to chicken eggs.  Too bad The Pearl has met his maker, or we could, as my girls pointed out, have "cute little baby guineas!!!"  

Mr. Cuteypant's egg is in the center
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Friday, April 5, 2013

The First Asparagus Has Appeared in My Garden!

Spring is finally here, even if we are having to take a detour back to winter today.  Yesterday, I picked the first asparagus spear, which means that spring has truly arrived!  

I picked the first asparagus spear this week!
I transformed it  into an omelet with some of my eggs.
Thanks ladies!
My artichoke plants look healthy, and I expect them to bloom soon.
Honeybees love the fava beans.  I will probably turn these into the soil before the beans form because I grew them as a cover crop to provide nutrients to the soil, not to eat.  Fava beans do well over winter in SC.  They are a cool-season crop.
The collards are blooming; the bees are enjoying them too and I'll save seed when the seeds form.
Potato plants I set out in February are peeking through the soil.
The garlic I planted last fall is happy!
English peas 
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