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Despite seven cats in the neighborhood, this squirrely squirrel seemed extremely relaxed while enjoying a sunflower snack. Maybe he could even be labeled as show-offy. He must have known all the cats were in the house and sound asleep. Or, like many Michiganders, maybe he is only celebrating and enjoying a sunny, fairly warm spring day.

Unfortunately, the DNR has suggested everyone empty their bird feeders. The 3,000 or so bears in Northern Michigan are coming out of hibernation. They will be hungry and find sunflower seeds delectable.  Several years ago in the middle of the night I watched one laying on his back in the snow with two feeders he had torn down, pouring the seeds into his gaping jaws. The back porch lights illuminated his misdeed. Sorry birds, sorry squirrels. I don’t want Smokey on my back porch.

After a long spell of foggy warm days and melting of previous layers of snow, temperatures lowered a little and it snowed over night. In the morning wet and heavy snow coated everything. (I know how heavy as I had to shovel it!) It is one of those spectacular winter views that turns the landscape white and black, a fairy-esque landscape sparkling in ice and snow on trees. This is one of the wonders of living here. You can see how heavy the load on the branches is as they bend with the snow’s weight.

photo of last night's snow

 

Yesterday morning.

Yesterday morning.

I planted some cold crops two Saturdays ago and another group one Saturday ago. As of last Wednesday, nothing had sprouted. Well, the plants in the indoor biodome have. Two types of tomatoes, eggplants, amaranth, and Penstemon ‘Rocky Mountain’ have come up. I’ve tried the Penstemon outdoors two years in a row with no luck, so at least I should hopefully have plants to put in the ground this year. Nothing else up in the vegetable garden except the carrots left over from last summer, and the garlic is coming up.

Thursday a long lasting snow-sleet storm hit the state, and even the community college where I teach was closed. The snow continued on into April Fool’s Day. It was very cold, but today (Saturday) is in the 50s. Most of the plants emerging from the soil remained impervious to the weather. I have twigs and branches to pick up and lots of last year’s stems to remove from the flower garden, and weeds emerging, so work is already lining up. But no emerging crops. Maybe that is a good thing.

Time will tell, but it started the season off early, and looks to be a different season. Looking forward to spring. Snowdrops and a few crocus are already up and blooming, and daffodils have leaves emerging from ground.

I don’t have any daffodils yet, and the only blooming things in my garden are the snowdrops. After visiting Olathe, Kansas, where daffodils were in abundant display along with many blooming shrubs including forsythia, redbud, and crabapples, I know how far behind Northern Michigan is. But the signs of encroaching spring are showing. I took the photo of the pussywillows (Salix discolor) just emerging today while taking a walk.

Emerging catkins of willow trees emerge, a sure sign of spring.

Emerging catkins of willow trees emerge, a sure sign of spring.

The bloodroot (Sanquinaria canadensis) are just beginning to bloom along the road in a wooded depression. Their fat palm-shaped leaves emerge from the ground furled in tight spears, and their blooms spring up not much higher than six inches. These small native glories of the spring also make wonderful garden plants. I have some that I purchases a few years ago in my woodland garden. They are starting to spread. I think I’ll buy more to help them along the way. If you decide you want some, just be sure that you buy your rootstock from a reliable nursery and don’t dig them out of the wild.

According to Armitage’s Herbaceous Perennial Plants the rootstock has a yellowish-red sap when cut. He says, “The sap was used by the Indians as a dye for coloring and war paint(517).” That’s interesting, isn’t it?

They are very hardy plants but ephemeral in that the foliage dies back in summer. Shade is important, as is springtime moisture. They can be divided after their blooms have died off, but I still think I’ll just buy some more.

Armitage, Allan. Herbaceous Perennial Plants. Varsity Press, Inc. Georgia. 1989.

if you haven’t already, now is the time to walk through the weeds. All types of seed pods are showing their stuff. Yes, they are usually dark brown, tan and otherwise unappealing, but look at their interesting shapes and forms. You can work them into a floral design as is, or spray paint them to the color you desire.

I cut these seed pods from my Asclepias tuberosa, or common butterfly weed. While stripping the withered leaves off the stems, I scattered the seeds in my field, so that some might eventually take seed there. Don’t the pods look like little bunny ears? Hmmm… flower show next July with Peter Rabbit theme… perhaps these are just the ‘flowers’ needed.

seedpods

Seed pods from Asclepias tuberosa.

Asclepias tuberosa are one of my favorite perennials. While not much to look at during the spring and early summer, they come into their own in July or August with brilliant orange or chrome yellow umbels, and then these wonderful seed pods appear in October and November. They are a native plant, drought tolerant and hardy in my zone 4 garden. A relative of milkweed, they have the same milky sap that identifies the genus. My plants were grown from seed, but they are available from certain nurseries, but don’t try to collect them from the wild. They are tap root plants and seldom survive transplantation.

IMG_0736

Butterfly Weed in the wild

I love the colors of autumn, but I hate to see the end of the outdoor gardening season. I’ve moved many plants this summer. (Whenever I put their roots in a hole, I explain they shouldn’t put them down too deep, they might move.) Most of them seem to be prospering, although I moved one coneflower just before a three week drought began. It will probably survive. All this moving makes me look forward to next summer, to see if I placed each plant in just the right spot.

Most of my plants bloomed up to three weeks late this year. My Phlox ‘David’ didn’t bloom until the second week of September. Even my ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum colored late. However, the Canadian geese are flocking, and I’ve been told that is a sure sign of an early and hard winter. Ugh. I’m thinking I better get use to it, but how do the geese know?

Part of my heart garden in September -- Sedum 'Autumn Joy.'

Part of my heart garden in September -- Sedum 'Autumn Joy.'

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