Spring Is In The Air & In The Soil

Achillea millefolium on 2-18-18, #411-1.

Hello folks! I hope this post finds you all well and anxiously waiting for spring as much as I am Not to mention the plants staring out the window all day. They know its cold so they are glad they are inside for now. Some of them let their anxiety get the best of them and let out a scream sometimes. I have to tell them to calm down and that spring is right around the corner. I didn’t take a photo of it today, but the Cereus hildmannianus subsp. uruguayanus (Fairy Castles) is going through a growth spurt. That wouldn’t necessarily be strange, but this plant hasn’t hardly grown a lick for almost two years. Sadly, the Faucaria tigrina isn’t looking so well, though.

But this post isn’t about the indoor plants. It is about what’s going on outside. This winter has been weird. We have had our extreme ups and downs lasting for several days at a time. January saw four days below zero but many days the windchill was well below zero. The high on January 1 was 10 degrees with a low of -9. Then, on January 21st it was 68. February has been wild, too. On February 4th, the high was 41 then the temp dropped 4 degrees by morning! This past week we had a low of 9 degrees on the 12th and a high of 73 on the 15th. GEEZ!!!

I’m not sure what the high was today, but the thermometer on the back porch said around 70. Now, folks, I have mentioned to you before about the thermometer on the back porch. It is 100% senile! Sometimes I will be on the computer and I will dad say what the temperature is, according to the thermometer on the back porch. I will check the temp on the internet and go tell him what it really is. But you know what? I think he would rather believe the thermometer. I feel like throwing it in the pond sometimes and getting a new thermometer. Maybe I should get a new one and put it next to the old one.

ANYWAY, getting back to the reason for this post. A few days ago when I was hauling out hay I noticed the elm trees by the pond were budding. It was a fairly warm day, warm enough that I was just in a T-shirt. When I was finished with the hay, I decided to check the Hosta. There is nothing like checking the Hosta to get your blood flowing and start making your fingers itch. Well, they are all firm which is a good sign, but H. ‘Potomac Pride’ has sprouts above ground. Of course, I have leaves covering it this winter which I haven’t had to do in years.

So, this afternoon, I decided to walk around and take a few photos because my fingers are starting to itch and my wheels are starting to turn. That is NOT a good idea in February.

So, as I went out the door on the north side of the house, I first noticed the Achillea millefolium was coming up. Well, I saw it a few days ago actually. Normally, it has to be really cold for the Achillea to go completely dormant.


Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ on 2-28-28, #411-20.

The Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ looks like it is giving it a shot. I have it in several areas but the leaves are covering them up. This north bed is a challenge to keep covered because the wind blows the leaves off during the winter.


Lysimachia nummularia ‘Goldilocks’-Golden Creeping Jenny on 2-18-18, #411-16.

In an above average winter, the Lysimachia nummularia ‘Goldilocks’ has no problem surviving. Although they are cold hardy down to USDA Zones 3a (-40° F), they will definitely die back to almost nothing. The past summer it did very well and almost filled the area. Right now, it has been reduced to a few noticeable areas along the foundation.


Geranium sanguineum on 2-18-18, #411-7.

The Geranium sanguineum can certainly hold its own during the winter even though most of the leaves are brown. It is also hardy down to -40. This plant has been here in this spot since around 1996 and is a descendant of the plant I bought from Bluestone Perennials in 1981. So, you can bet, this species is one tough cookie and isn’t about to let the cold get the best of it. They are survivors!


Phlomis ‘Edward Bowles’ on 2-28-28, #411-18.

HELLO! IS ANYONE HOME? Probably the plant I am most anxious to see show a sign of life in the spring is the Phlomis ‘Edward Bowles’. Typically, this plant shouldn’t survive in this zone, but it has since I bought it in the spring of 2013. Last winter I didn’t cover it and thought it was dead, then it sprouted new growth. It did remarkably well last summer as usual but didn’t flower… I covered it this year with a big pot which it completely fills. In warmer areas, this plant can get as tall as 6 feet.


Baptisia x ‘Lunar Eclipse’ on 2-18-18, #411-3.

I piled a bunch of leaves around the new Baptisia x ‘Lunar Eclipse’ a few months ago. It was new last spring and didn’t flower, so I am hoping it will return and flower this spring.


Iris on 2-18-18, #411-14.

The bearded Iris typically have new growth during the winter. I always leave the old leaves attached until the spring clean up for a little protection over the winter. They don’t need much here.


Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum-Elephant Garlic on 2-18-18, #411-6.

This is the first year I can remember the Elephant Garlic leaves freezing. This is their growing period. The leaves froze in January then it grew new leaves and they froze again. This has happened several times but they are surviving. 🙂


Salvia nemorosa ‘New Dimensions Blue’ on 2-18-18, #411-21.

I was really surprised to see the Salvia nemorosa ‘New Dimensions Blue’ coming up! The pink one is showing no sign of life, though. Normally one of the first perennials to come up is the Salvia x sylvestris ‘Mainacht’… No sign of it coming up yet. I hope it survives but I checked the stems and it doesn’t feel good…


Kniphofia uvaria-Red Hot Poker on 2-18-18, #411-15.

Two of the three Kniphofia uvaria (Red Hot Poker) have survived the winter with flying colors. Even during the coldest temps and I see this plant flat as a pancake, it stands right back up when the temps rise. I think one is completely dead though, although I thought it was dying before and it didn’t. So, we shall see.


Stachys byzantina-Lambs Ears on 2-18-18, #411-25.

Sadly, this is the only trace of the Stachys byzantina (Lambs Ears). The biggest and oldest plant has survived since 2013 and normally part of it stays green over the winter. The only thing left of it now is an old flower stem sticking out of the ground. Luckily, I divided it a little last spring and put one plant on the left side of the bed and this one in the corner bed on the southside. The soil in this spot is crappy fill dirt amended just a little with “The Good Stuff”. This plant, however, is in crappy soil. How did it survive? Well, maybe because it is right next to the foundation and had has a little leaf cover off and on. Most of the leaves on the south side of the house blow off. Ummm… I also cleaned off the south bed after the big “F” and most everything died. SO, there is basically no covering on the south bed…


Iris x violipurpurea ‘Black Gamecock’ on 2-18-18, #411-13.

The Iris x violipurpurea ‘Black Gamecock’ had also survived the winter. This spring I will be relocating it. It does not grow well between the basement steps and back porch


Canna on 2-18-18, #411-4.

I looked down in the leaves to check the Cannas. After the “BIG ONE” and the Cannas all shot craps, I cut them down and piled leaves from the yard on top of the tubers. I don’t mean a couple of inches either… More like 8-10 inches because they aren’t supposed to survive the winter in zone 6a. During the winter this is a favorite spot for the cats to lay in the sun so that 8-10″ gets packed down somewhat.

Information online varies somewhat, but Cannas are a tropical plant that should not be left in the ground below at least zone 7. Dad always cut their stems off after a frost and piled them on top over the winter. This caused a lot of rotting so I started piling on leaves from the yard. It worked so well the amount of plants has more than tripled in the past couple of years. I wanted to experiment with the Colocasia esculenta and try the same thing but I chickened out… It’s not like I don’t have plenty to experiment with.


Phytostegia virginiana-Obedient Plant on 2-18-18, #411-19.

The Phytostegia virginiana (Obedient Plant) is doing very well under a pile of loose leaves. I covered them back up…


Cylindropuntia imbricata-Tree Cholla on 2-18-18, #411-5.

Well, folks… I am not sure about the Cylindropuntia imbricata (Tree Cholla). I have had this cactus for several years and it has survived outside as I was told. Since this winter has been colder than usual, it may be a different story. I had debated bringing it inside earlier but, as you can see, I didn’t. I am tempted to go to Wagler’s and see if hers is faring better than mine. Because, if necessary, I will definitely need another one.


Sempervivum x ‘Killer’ on 2-18-18, #411-24.

The Sempervivum hybrid ‘Killer’ has survived all winter and is sporting its red color. There are plenty of brown leaves but they will be easy to remove in the spring.


Sedum sp. cv. ? on 2-18-18, #411-23.

This Sedum always survives it’s just a shame I don’t know the name. It could be ‘Dragon’s blood but I don’t remember buying one. I did find an old label from a Sedum called ‘Coral Reef’ I bought from Mast’s Greenhouse in 2016. I also found a photo of a cutting I took from somewhere in 2016 called ‘Cherry Tart’… Undoubtedly, this Sedum is one of them so I need to do some leaf research… Truthfully, I just now noticed the photo of ‘Cherry Tart’ from 2016 and I  found the top of the old tag that says ‘Coral Reef’ a few weeks ago.


Sedum kamtschaticum-Russian Stonecrop on 2-28-28, #411-22.

THANK GOODNESS! The Sedum kamtschaticum (Russian Stonecrop) is doing well. This past summer it covered up by the Celosia spicata ‘Cramer’s Amazon and almost gave up. I guess I wasn’t paying enough attention and by the time I removed some of the Celosia this plant was all but dead. I am glad to see it is alive and well. The variegated form is still barely hanging on. It doesn’t grow as well… I didn’t take a photo of the Sedum spurium ‘John Creech’, but it has also survived the winter although not as well…


Tagetes patula ‘Brocade’ Marigold on 2-18-18, #711-17.

GEEZ! I cleaned off the south bed but I didn’t three other beds yet. I opted not to cut off the dead ‘Brocade’ Marigolds yet because I do want their seeds to come up again. I know what a struggle it was getting them going although they have thrived the last few years. I did not collect seeds just in case because I figured there would be thousands of seedlings come up this spring.


Hosta ‘Potomac Pride’ on 2-18-18, #411-12.

The Hosta ‘Potomac Pride’ is always the first to sprout in the spring. As I mentioned earlier in this post, I noticed it had sprouted a few days ago. So, today, I pushed back the leaves to take a photo as evidence. The rest of the Hosta are firm but no sprouts yet. Although…


Hosta ‘Dancing Queen’ on 2-18-18, #411-11.

I did see some green on the Hosta ‘Dream Queen’ under the leaves. 🙂


Abuja reptans ‘Chocolate Chips’ on 2-18-18, #411-2.

NORMALLY the Ajuga reptans ‘Chocolate Chips’ has predominately been evergreen. This winter, it is predominately the opposite. The leaves I covered it with blew off… I usually don’t even have to worry about mulching them.


Heuchera ‘Obsidian’ on 2-18-18, #411-8.

Then I checked the new Heuchera (Coral Bells) I bought last spring. Heuchera ‘Obsidian’ is already growing new leaves.


Heuchera ‘Venus’ on 2-18-18, #411-10.

The Heuchera ‘Venus’ is showing signs of life…


Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’ on 2-18-18, #411-9.

Heuchera ‘Southen Comfort’ is a little behind but still alive and well. The new Hosta, including ‘Empress Wu’ are still dormant, but their underground part (whatever you call it) is still firm.

I know it has been a while since my last post but I did make a few drafts that I didn’t finish. I have taken a lot of photos of the birds, which I identified, but didn’t post. I never noticed them that much before because the feeder is in the “other” yard. This winter I decided to feed them on the ground under a maple tree about 40 feet from my bedroom window and along the flower bed next to the window. I have been amazed at how many birds have come to eat and expect to be fed. I am not exaggerating, but some days it seems there must be nearly 200. There are easily over 100 Dark-Eyed Juncos (Snow Birds), about 20 Cardinals, at least three species of Sparrows, a Northern Flicker that also looks in my bedroom window, a Brown Thrasher that isn’t supposed to be here, and so many Morning Doves it is hard to count (42 one day all at the same time). Some days there are also quite a few Eurasian Collared Dones. Of course, we have Blue Jays and Starlings.

Dad has always tickled me about the doves… There is one he calls “Hootie”, or at least he seems to think it is always the same one. One day a couple of years ago, we were at the feed mill and he heard “Hootie”. He said he flies all over town. I hated to break the news to him, but “Hootie” is a Eurasian Collared Dove and they are an invasive species… I do like to hear any species of doves call, though. It gives one a peaceful country feeling.

Well, I better get back to working on the pages to the right. I have just finished the “L’s and am getting ready to start on the “M’s”. First up is Mammillaria. Umm, I just counted and I still have close to 200 pages to add or finish (that includes the ones with the “*” that are still under construction). I must say, I am doing more thorough research and learning a lot. I am reading a lot more information and it is taking more time. Several names have changed and need updating. I am not in any hurry and I am just taking my time. I have other things to do around the farm from time to time. I am not going into a lot of detail about “how to grow” plants, just my experience with them. I am adding links for other information from others who know more about growing plants than I do. I just like growing plants, taking photos, doing a little research, blogging and writing about my experience.

I have also started reading more about the authors, the men and women who discovered and named the plants (the explorers). You would be amazed who some of these people are and what they accomplished. Some of my future posts will be about them. This past week I accidentally found a Wikipedia article titled “List of botanists by author abbreviation“. I almost fell out of my chair! Why didn’t I find this way before now? Maybe it’s fairly new. Every person who named and described plant genera, species, etc. is on this list and nearly every one has a Wikipedia page. A few weeks ago I was puzzled about the “L.f.” Of course, “L.” is Carl von Linnaeus, but what does the “f.” mean. I searched and found out that is the abbreviation for Carl von Linnaeus the Younger, the son of Carl von Linnaeus who actually wrote Plantarum Supplementum… He carried on after his father. Well, that is just one of many very important men I have read about. Check out the link and look up some of the older authors. Check out Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (Tourn.)(1656-1708). He actually named a lot of plants before Linnaeus even though the “L.” is often used instead of Tourn. ex L.

OK, I am finished now. I hope you stay well, safe, positive, prosper and everything else AWESOME! Just be happy and know you are blessed! Be thankful, love and be loved. Until next time… Take care and GET DIRTY!

6 comments on “Spring Is In The Air & In The Soil

  1. Debbie from surrey uk says:

    Brilliant post – thankyou for that super tour of the new life pushing through in your world! galanthus nivalis & iris reticulata are putting on a show here. Cynara cardunculus has its first tiny tiny leaves that will end up so huge….
    please please please can we see the birds !! I’m in the uk so the idea of cardinals etc v.exciting to me!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello there Debbie from Surrey! Glad to hear it is spring there, too. I will have to check our Cynaria cardunculus and Galanthus nivalis. OK, I will work on the bird post. You don’t have Cardinals? Thanks for the comment!


  2. Jim R says:

    Thanks for that tour. It is reassuring after a cold winter to see the new growth getting ready to show. Your plants are much farther along than mine. One I am watching closely indoors now is my orchid. It bloomed last year at this same time. It is ready again right on schedule. https://photos.app.goo.gl/xz0wwbLbMBTJSuzl2

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello there, Jim! You are so right about new growth being reassuring! With the colder temps than usual and the leaves blowing off the plants it makes you wonder. There are some spots where the south bed that look like a sidewalk. Glad you see your orchid is going to flower. I have not grown any orchids for some reason. I shared the photo with my sweetie and she said they have a lot in the Philippines. She said they can just tie them to a fork or branch on a tree and they grow. Even in charcoal. They have a lot at Wal-Mart from time to time. Thanks for the comment as usual.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love all the potential at this time of year – all those plants just waiting to burst forth.
    It has been a soggy winter here, but we decided to rest the vegetable plot this winter and let the hens spend lots of time in there to eat up some of the pests and add a little fertilizer. I’m hoping this approach will have reduced the slug and snail population (chickens seem to love slug/snail eggs) which started to get a bit out of hand last year. Fingers crossed they have done their job well.


    • Very good to hear from you Dr. Jan! I don’t blame you for letting your garden plot rest because of the slugs and snails. They can be a real pain. Hopefully, the chickens will help. It is too bad slugs and snails are mainly nocturnal or they would work on more than just their eggs. I used a product called Sluggo when I lived in Mississippi around the Hosta. It helped somewhat. We are very dry in our part of the U.S. and need rain. What little snow we have had has been dry. I know that sounds weird to say “dry snow”, but it is very fine and usually during very cold temps. We get a wetter snow with large flakes when the temps are warmer. Thanks for the comment as always.


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