The month of March

There are so many exciting things happening outside in March, and so much to look forward to. St Patrick’s day is a big celebration for many

and everyone welcomes the first day of spring on March 21st. The plums and cherry blossoms are opening and the daffodils surprise us with their large cheery blooms.

Our senses are awakened in March with fragrant flowers like daphne and hyacinth. Even the heavy rain storms excite us with their nosy pounding on our roof tops and streets.

It is on those sunny March days however, when people come outside to feel the sun on their skin and to breath the fresh air that our spirits are lifted and we welcome the coming of spring.

March is also a busy time. Gardeners are sowing warm season vegetable and flower seeds indoors and making plans for the veggie garden.

Sweet and snap peas can be planted in march and our minds are springing ahead to a bountiful summer. The cycle is beginning once again and there is enjoyment in all its potential.

4 year time lapse

Here is a virtual tour of my garden and its changes over the last 4 years. This is the first home I have owned and boy have I learned a lot about garden design, water catchment systems, pathway materials, and plant combinations! It all started here.

I think the weekend after we got our keys we sheet mulched the lot of it. 

Rented a dump truck and made three trips to Camby for horse compost. 

We did a work trade with Scholles Native Nursery and planted hundreds of bare root natives. 

And they grew! 

At first I made the pathway using free bricks on craigslist. But as you can see in this photo unless brick work is done properly, they can be a lot of weeding work. 

We moved plants around to find the right combinations of color, texture and size. 

We deleted plants that grew too big or did not work for the space and changed the pathway to quarter minus. And voila we are here in 2014 and excited about the new year. 

The little Galanthus that could

Galanthus nivalis, or Snowdrop, is the very first bulb to flower in the new year. I was so excited to see this little beauty in the Meridian Park Healing Garden yesterday because it means that the crocus are right on it’s heals. Then daffodils, then tulips, then lilies. It is the beginning of the botanical cycle and there is so much to look forward to. 

But lets not get ahead of ourselves. There is more to this sweet flower than its succession. For instance, did you know that some say the common name “snowdrop” does not refer to a drop of snow but rather eardrop, the old word for earring? 

One folk tale surrounding the Snowdrop says that falling snow was turned into these winter flowers to bring hope to the winter months and to symbolize the coming of spring.

The latin name Galanthus tells yet another story, which translates to “milk flower”.

Keep an eye out for this small (4-6 inches) white flowers popping up all over Portland, and look forward to things to come! 

Seasonally orienting activities in winter on a budget

It is important to celebrate the seasons every turn, but these nature activities can be extra meaningful when the days are short and the outdoors are blistery. We are so connected in work and play to screens, it is more important now than ever before to make a conscious effort to connect with nature. The social/emotional, physical and cognitive benefits are countless and these experiences are restorative to our senses. Here are a few simple, affordable activities you can do with all ages at home. 

This fun DIY potpourri fills the room with scents of citrus and cloves. Simply push the pointed end of the whole clove into the rind of the citrus and repeat! You can follow a pattern like the photo shown here or add the cloves randomly. I like to accompany this activity with citrus tasting, it is after all the best time of the year (for citrus)!

Paperwhite bulbs are a relative of the daffodil. Unlike the daffodil they are easy to force indoors and have small white blooms that are deliciously fragrant. They do not require any soil so this is a great activity to do around the kitchen table. All you need is a container that will not leak water, some gravel, paperwhite bulbs (easy to find at garden centers in winter, usually around 1$/bulb) and a little water. Nestle the bulb into the gravel so it is at least half way buried. Fill the container with water until the water is just touching the bottom of the bulb. Some instructions may say to keep in a dark closet for one week before putting next to a window but I have found they grow and bloom just fine without this dark period. Place them in a cool bright spot, right in a windowsill is perfect. Watch them grow and in just 3 weeks enjoy the beautiful fragrant blooms! 

Stringing cereal and cranberries on a piece of yarn may seem simple but from my experience all ages take great joy in creating a beautiful necklace for the birds!

Dwarf conifers

I love dwarf conifers. Besides being quite likely the easiest plants to care for in the urban garden they are generally drought tolerant, come in diverse colors, textures, shapes and sizes and have the ability to effortlessly blend hardscape with your landscape.  In my humble opinion they are one of the most underrated plant groups in the garden.

 Just take a look at these adorable specimens. 

And how this Wilma Goldcrest enhances the therapeutic value of the plants around it.

How these weeping cedars provide visual interest and structure. 

And how this Golden Ghost Pine and this Donard Gold Cypress do a pretty good job hiding my tool shed and compost bins! 

There is so much to love about these useful compact trees. Heres to the conifers! 

Beauty Berry AKA Nerds plant

I had to laugh when a friend came over and pointed to my beauty berry branch, vibrant purple and fully berried, and exclaimed “You have a nerds plant!”. Do you remember those small bright candies in the little cardboard box? Now every time I look at the colorful Callicarpa I can’t help but smile. I love this plant and besides its enormous presence in the garden it holds up wonderfully as a cut branch for bringing indoors for wet or dry arrangements. image

Blood Good

Oh my, it is mid November and this Blood Good Maple is still holding on to its fiery foliage. Paired with the Chief Joseph pine this small urban garden in Portland glows in fall. There are so many benefits to planning and planting for four seasons. Year round garden enjoyment helps deepen our connection to nature when the days are short and the ground is hard with frost. A fall and winter garden invites you outside, to sit and admire the wonder of the seasons. image

Garlic

It is time to get your garlic in the ground! Remember, soft neck is better for braiding and hardneck is typically better for long storage. I have used hardneck with braiding too, I just roll up the stems in a wet towel and let soften for a hour or so before working. Also, it is best to buy “seed garlic” from a garden center rather than using garlic bought from the grocery store because the seed garlic is disease and pest resistant and more likely to produce large, heathy bulbs.  Garlic does not want any root competition from weeds so plant the cloves 4-6 inches apart in rows 4-6 inches from one another. Then cover with 6 inches of straw (hay has grass seeds, straw has had most seeds removed).  The garlic will grow a few inches before winter sets in when it will rest until spring and growth returns. Garlic planted now will be ready for harvest early July of next year.  There are so many different flavors and intensities of garlic, experiment with tastes and discover the wonder of garlic! 

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Golden Raindrops Crabapple

Oh and did I mention this beauty? The Golden Raindrops Crabapple is not only disease and pest resistant (hard to find in a good crabapple) it holds onto its adorable little golden apples well into winter and far longer than the typical crabapple. This tree provides four seasons of interest and is perfect for the urban garden because of its small size. The birds will thank you for planting it too! 

Fall containers

It is time to freshen up your containers for fall and winter interest. I am a big fan of switching out my colorful annuals only twice a year- now for fall/winter and in April/May for the warmer months. This seems to help keep things simple and affordable.  Today I pulled the heat loving zinnias, coleus, bacopas, sweet potato vines and calibrachoas from 10 beautiful porch containers and replaced them with pansies and ornamental cabbage. Even though the coleus is still looking good in this container  the nighttime temperatures are dropping and it won’t be long before the coleus gets bitten.

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Violas and pansies thrive in cooler temperatures and will bloom all winter with dead heading. You can’t beat these little faces for a spot of color in the fall and winter if you are looking for a repeat bloomer. The ornamental kale and cabbage are another great choice for some showy fall/winter interest. 

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