Open for business

Ready for occupants

Ready for occupants

As predicted, the warm temperatures arrived. Then they went directly to summer-hot temperatures. This week, we are in the 80s, which is too hot, considering that the canopy trees were mostly not even blooming yet. Forget about leaves. No shade. At all. Hot, hot, hot!

Now, of course, everything is exploding simultaneously. Pollen clouds haze the air, tree buds swell visibly, and the critters have all moved into full-out courtship mode. Toads trill from twilight to dawn. Bird song sweetens the air, along with the perfume of deciduous magnolias. Grass needs mowing. Ticks and mosquitoes lurk everywhere, hungry for blood. Ah, springtime in the southeastern piedmont.

I have managed to take a few pictures, but the plants and critters are moving so fast now that I’m having trouble keeping up. The vegetable garden, of course, has taken priority. My beautiful bed of greens that had been huddled under a garden cloth tent for warmth were suddenly too warm in there. But the sun is now too strong for them. Wonder Spouse devised a clever fix. He cut the fabric tent and shaped it into a canopy that protects the lettuces, spinaches, and Asian greens from direct noon-day sun, but allows them access to more gentle angled light and better access to passing rains.

Here’s what the bed looked like last Friday:

Greens thrive beneath their canopy of garden cloth.

Greens thrive beneath their canopy of garden cloth.

Here’s a closer view, so you can more easily see the plants:

They've grown much larger since this shot was taken.

They’ve grown much larger since this shot was taken.

Now the greens are large enough for single-leaf harvesting. Instead of waiting for greens to fill out as heads, I harvest individual leaves as they attain salad size. I’ll be picking greens for our first home-grown salad tomorrow morning as the sun comes up. Veggies and herbs are at their harvestable best first thing in the morning before the sun has begun to melt them. I can just about taste those tender sweet greens now…

Meanwhile in the greenhouse, the summer veggies, flowers, and herbs are well germinated and growing strongly. The tomatoes and peppers will need to graduate to larger pots in the next few days. The basils and flowers will take a little longer.

Tomato and pepper seedlings in the greenhouse.

Tomato and pepper seedlings in the greenhouse.

Tiny basil and marigold seedlings will need another week or so to reach transplanting size.

Tiny basil and marigold seedlings will need another week or so to reach transplanting size.

Since my last update, I have also direct-sowed into the garden beds several varieties of carrots and two of beets. I haven’t seen any signs of them yet, but it’s only just now been about a week. I’m hoping that this current bout of summer-like heat will not prevent these cool-weather veggies from germinating well. After this Friday, our temperatures are predicted to return to normal, so I’m hoping the spring garden can hang on until the cooler spring temperatures return. Spring vegetable gardening is always a gamble here. The summer garden is easier. You can almost always count on the weather turning hot enough for tomatoes and peppers to thrive.

Of course, much more is going on all over the yard and gardens. Last weekend, Wonder Spouse helped me re-activate our front water feature:

Clean water awaits the inevitable arrival of breeding amphibians.

Clean water awaits the inevitable arrival of breeding amphibians.

The pitcher plants in two of the pots are not as robust this year. I allowed far too many cardinal flowers to seed into the pots with the pitcher plants, where they proceeded to outcompete the pitchers. I spent several days digging out several dozen cardinal flowers in the hopes of re-invigorating the pitchers. Now it’s a waiting game to see if they can recover.

So far, only one flower bud (foreground) has appeared on my pitcher plants. I can only hope for more again next year.

So far, only one flower bud (foreground) has appeared on my pitcher plants. I can only hope for more again next year.

The trees are blooming about three weeks later than they did last year. Native redbuds are just opening in my yard:

Cercis canadensis flowers are just starting to show up.

Cercis canadensis flowers are just starting to show up.

And my Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia) is only now pushing out flower buds. Ditto for my Eastern Columbines. Both of these natives are usually open by the beginning of April, just in time for the arrival of Ruby-throated hummingbirds migrating up from their southern winter homes. I hadn’t seen any hummers, but judging by the arrival of my summer warblers, I decided to put out a feeder last Friday. Several hummingbirds were enjoying the feeder by the next morning, and I’ve seen them on it often since. Without their native flowers, they really need the sugar water I offer to help them recuperate from their long migration.

Red buckeye flowers will probably need another week to open for business, despite the heat wave.

Red buckeye flowers will probably need another week to open for business, despite the heat wave.

My native coral honeysuckle is usually blooming by now, too. This year, the one on my trellis is only just beginning to produce flower buds. The one draped over a tree stump near the creek is slightly further along. It’s buds at least show color.

These buds have probably opened in today's absurd heat. I'm sure the hummers are happy to see them.

These buds have probably opened in today’s absurd heat. I’m sure the hummers are happy to see them.

The ferns are finally showing signs of life. Here’s a group of naturally occurring Cinnamon Ferns that thrive in my wetland:

I always worry until the fiddleheads unfurl. The deer are very hungry right now.

I always worry until the fiddleheads unfurl. The deer are very hungry right now.

Inside my deer fence, my Christmas Ferns are also showing new growth:

Fiddleheads just shout "Spring!"

Fiddleheads just shout “Spring!”

I can’t close today’s post without mentioning the currently blooming deciduous magnolias. Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’ had a record extended blooming period of six weeks for me. The cool weather kept the flowers fresh, and the cold snaps only browned a few buds. Magnolia acuminata ‘Butterflies’ did not fare as well. When the heat hit it, all the buds opened at once, looked gorgeous for about two days, and now most of the petals have already fallen to the ground, surrendering to summer-like early April heat. But when they were fresh they were lovely.

Here’s the tree last Friday:

The tree is 25 feet tall now, so it's hard to get all of it in a shot that is still close enough to show off the flowers.

The tree is 25 feet tall now, so it’s hard to get all of it in a shot that is still close enough to show off the flowers.

Here’s a close-up of the canary-yellow blossoms just as they were opening a few days ago:

These flowers don't lose color in the heat. They just give up and drop their petals.

These flowers don’t lose color in the heat. They just give up and drop their petals.

As is always the case, my Magnolia acuminata ‘Elizabeth’ is blooming about a week behind Butterflies. Actually, a bit less than a week this year, likely due to our 85-degree day today. Elizabeth is taller than Butterflies. My 17-18-year-old specimen is about 50 feet now, and when the flowers open, the effect is jaw-dropping. Here she is from a distance this morning. I had to stand fairly far back to get all of her in one shot:

Magnolia acuminata 'Elizabeth' this morning.

Magnolia acuminata ‘Elizabeth’ this morning.

Then I took a few steps closer and tried for a shot with as much of the tree in it as possible:

A little closer view of Elizabeth.

A little closer view of Elizabeth.

And, finally, here are a few branches closer up, so that you can see the gorgeous flowers.

Elizabeth's just-opening blossoms this morning.

Elizabeth’s just-opening blossoms this morning.

Elizabeth’s flowers are a much paler yellow than those of Butterflies, and under harsh sunlight, they fade to parchment white. The effect is lovely and more subtle than Butterflies. The flowers of both trees emit a perfume so strong that deep inhalation just about knocks me over. On a spring breeze, I can smell their fragrance across half of my five-acre yard.

There’s more, of course, what with everything exploding simultaneously in the heat. I’ll try to do a better job of keeping you posted here, but there’s just so gosh darn much to do out there. Weeds, for example. They have exploded along with all the invited plants.

But I’m not complaining. Hard work is part of the therapy of gardening. I’ll feel downright righteous when I sit down tomorrow evening to dine on our first garden salad of the year. It really is true, you know. The food does taste better when you grow it yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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