by Leslie Cox; Sunday; March 24, 2019

March 10th:

First snowfall of the season - November 2017More snow! Another half inch. Not that much but enough to re-cover the garden completely. And just when we were making such good progress in the melting department.

Thankfully, it did not last long and the sun is shining brightly once again on the clumps of remaining piled up snow. As much as I would like to see much more snow accumulation up on the mountains, holding itself in reserve for the summer drought, I have had enough of the white stuff down here at almost sea level.

I am itching to get out in the garden and work the winter softness out of my muscles.

Actually…we did get out in the garden this last week to do some work. A couple of sunny days was all the encouragement we needed to start on the spraying jobs.

Camellia - closeupAt the top of the list was the camellia. We did not spray it last year and wouldn’t you know it…the cottony camellia scale showed up again last summer. This pest is a bit of a bugger because it overwinters in the egg stage on the underside of the camellia leaves. So in order to “get” them, one must be sure to spray on the underside of all the leaves. Not an easy task given the shrub’s height and proximity to the house.

Time will tell come June and July on how good a job I did on the camellia this year as that is when last year’s eggs will hatch. I am hoping I can spot the almost invisible scale nymphs by then…if there are any. If there are, I will be spraying the shrub again to catch the nymphs before they mature into breeding adults.

I do not like to spray at that time of year because the beneficial insects are out in force by then. Dormant oil does not differentiate between good and bad insects. It just coats them all and smothers their soft bodies to death.


March 24th:

It has been a busy couple of weeks in the garden since the weather has turned warm…although overnight lows are still mostly hitting zero and lower. Have just had two or three nights above zero so far.

Hepatica nobilis (liverwort)Garden update…all the spraying and tree pruning has been done. I have raked all the leaf mulch off my front beds and John mulched them with the lawn mower. This will be mixed in with some fish compost later and added as a top dressing to improve the soil in my front garden.

With the hepaticas unburied from their winter leaf blanket, I noticed the old leaves needed to be pruned. Turned out to be a painstaking job as there were lots of new flower buds forming underneath and some flowers almost fully opened. Having said that, it was a pleasant job sitting beside the clumps and slowly revealing the bright blue flowers.

Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum'The hepaticas cleaned up, I turned to the two clumps of bishop’s hat, Epimedium x rubrum and E. x versicolor ‘Sulphureum’. These also need their old leaves cut back to allow the flowers full room for their display. Leave the old leaves on and you do not get full bang for your buck. I was thankful I got to this job before the flower buds were showing underneath. Nearing the end of the afternoon, I was not wanting another slow session of pruning. Had had enough contemplation for one day.

Next on the list was tackling the rugosa rose hedge. John was firing up the burn pile with his tree pruning debris and other stuff from cutting back all his tall grasses, etc. And this was the year to get serious with the rose hedge.

Rosa rugosa - double pinkWhew. Nothing like getting poked and prodded in places you would rather not. The thing about the thorns on rugosa roses…they are mostly tiny and prolific. And they have a penchant of breaking off in your clothing…jeans, shirts, gloves, etc. Needless to say, thorn stabbing typically continues until you strip out of our clothes and throw them in the washing machine.

But having said that, I am in agreement Abe Lincoln: “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” I do complain every spring when the rose hedge needs pruning because of those thorns but for the rest of the season this headge is pure joy for the prolific flowers it produces and the heady scent which carries on the air around the garden.

In truth, we often have people drive slowly past our place with car windows down, only to turn around at the end of the street to make another pass. Much like I always do on Moss St. and Linden St. in Victoria when the cherry trees are in bloom. Traveling those streets under a full pink canopy is a purely delightful experience. (I am sad, and somewhat angry, to hear the City of Victoria has voted to remove those trees and replace them with native trees because of the drought. But that is an argument for another day.)

Kale 'Red Russian' seedlingsMoving on…I have squeezed in some seeding while waiting for the temperature to warm up enough to work comfortably outside. The assorted kale seeds starting sprouting by the third day…on heat mats…and are growing up nicely. I will be starting their hardening off phase tomorrow to get them ready for transplanting into the vegetable garden.

The first lot of tomato seeds have all germinated…on heat mats, starting the fifth day from sowing…with the exception of the Sweet 100s. It was fresh seed too, so I am stumped. This tomato lot includes Sweet Million, Super Sweet, Patio, Tiny Tim, Tumbler, Early Girl and Snow White.

Tomato 'Snow White'Most of the second round of tomato seeds have also germinated…starting on the fourth day and on heat mats. This lot includes more Early Girl, Snow White, Super Sweet, Sweet Million, Sweet 100 (trying it again but not sure why), Coyote, Gold Nugget, San Marzano and Tiny Tim. And wouldn’t you know it…well I should have at any rate…no Sweet 100s showing in this batch yet. Nuts.

Also a huge disappointment…none of my lettuce seeds have sprouted. But then I knew that was all older seed. I really should have done a germination test on those seeds first. My bad, especially since germination tests are so easy to do.

Enough said for now. Need to get out into the garden! Plants wait for no one come spring.