Friday, March 10, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 177

 I went out yesterday afternoon with the express notion to photograph some of the blooming things this week here on November Hill. I got exactly two photographs before I succumbed to the lure of gardening tasks and abandoned my plan to take photos!

Both these came from a brief check in with the potager. These are blackberries, which seem to me to be blooming quite early in their season, and with some cold nights returning this week, they may freeze. Nonetheless, here they are, so very delicate and beautiful.

The coral honeysuckle is also blooming and I’m less worried about it. This is a very hardy native and should be fine with whatever the weather brings. 

I went into the potager thinking I would do a quick watering of the beds I’d sown seeds in on Sunday, and did that. I planted a number of early spring vegetable seeds as well as a potato mound. We’ll see how it goes! I got caught up in filling the bird bath, poking around in some other areas of the space, and looking at the space as a whole to see what I might do with the native persimmon tree that has sprung up in the middle of my central pollinator plot. I considered letting it grow there but it’s going to block the sun for both these plants I’ve photographed, so I need to move it. We have a number of persimmon trees on the farm, on the path to Poplar Folly and in Poplar Folly, and since they’ll likely attract wildlife, Poplar Folly is the best area for them. I may move it to the strip that goes along our gravel lane, behind our fencing. We’ll see. This was a task best done in the fall but I did not do it!

I also used my little electric weedeater to take out some nonnative and slightly toxic flowering plants that have come up near the barn. I can’t remember the name of them at this moment, but they popped up a couple of springs ago and were pretty and seemed innocent enough, but turned out to be not native and not great for little hands to get into, so I went on a search and took them down to the ground before they could flower. While doing that I was careful to leave the dandelions. 

When I put the weedeater away I found two packets of native flower seeds I’d bought last spring but never planted, one being lemon bergamot and the other Mexican sunhat coneflowers. I planted and watered these yesterday in a couple of empty spots along the walkway to our front door, which led me to sweep the  flagstone walkway and recall my plan to take up all the flagstone and use as a landscaping feature in several of the beds. This flagstone is in many sizes that have never been perfectly flat, which makes them trip-worthy. I’d much prefer large rectangular stone there and the way to push that project is to remove what’s there, repurpose it, and then have the eyesore of no stone at all to get me focused on replacing what I removed. It would be a good time to do it going into spring/summer. 

Along the front pollinator beds I *meant* to photograph the golden alexander that’s coming starting to bloom, and the columbine that are already blooming. It’s the first spring I get the effect of having moving volunteer columbine across the walkway for a double impact of early flowers, and it’s quite lovely! I’ve been clearing winter foliage in small work sessions over the past week and a half or so, and the beds are looking tidier already, though I’m not completely done. The holly bushes along the walkway were literally buzzing with bee activity yesterday. They’re flowering and are quite attractive to both honey and native bees. 

Most of the plants in the front beds are coming in now, and once I get the winter stems and stalks trimmed back I’ll work on removing unwanted weeds, anything not native, and a few volunteer invasive shrubs that have sprung up since last year. One big decision I have to face is whether or not I will finally remove the giant butterfly bush in the larger bed. It’s the last remaining of the many that were here when we bought the house, and while it’s a great attractor of insects, it offers blooms but no food for caterpillars that desperately need it as they transform into butterflies. I have a short list of things to replace it with, including clethra, another button bush, New Jersey tea, and arrowwood viburnum. I’m just not sure what I want there, and the plan was to remove and replace at the same time in the fall, but it bloomed late and I couldn’t bring myself to remove it when it was full of insect life. Now’s the time if I’m going to do this in 2023. 

Our redbud are blooming fully now, and the dogwoods are just starting. I have two of the three oakleaf hydrangeas I planted now coming back after their winter dormancy, and the shade bed as a whole could use protection from the deer. It’s going to be an eyesore to do that, which is why I haven’t yet, but for the plants I put in to get truly established they will need time to grow without being eaten down. 

Another area that I need to consider protecting is my bird haven space. The deer are coming into that corner and eating back some of the plantings. Ideally that corner would have privacy panels installed on the exterior fencing that not only prevent deer jumping in but offer a private corner from the traffic on our lane, and I just haven’t figured it out yet. Ideally something rustic and naturalized enough that once the bushes I’ve planted get up to full size I won’t need anymore. If I use fallen branches to make this, it could naturally deteriorate and maybe the timing would work out. 

For now, keeping up with the removal of winter foliage as new growth comes in will be my primary task in all the garden areas. 

Another big plan we are considering in the near future: finally building the small cottage I’ve had in mind for most of the years we’ve lived here. I envisioned it for some of that time as a writing retreat for me, then as a guest house, and now it’s morphed into a small home for our daughter. There are a couple of  good spots for this structure, and we have an amazing and personable contractor who could do it well, so I’m pondering designs and need to get estimates on cost. The dilemma is how to do something like this quickly but with minimal disruption to the horses and our lives. 

Today we have some rain and it’s a gray day overall, so a good time to do some researching. 

No comments: