Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Rose Hips as Winter Food for Squirrels

My backyard is still under over a foot of snow with more expected this week. My bird feeder has been a busy gathering place for my feathered friends. And the squirrels are just as happy to dine on whatever mess they find on the ground from those messy birds.

But yesterday, I saw them munching on a different treat - rose hips.

During the summer, my carpet roses are a beautiful shade of pink and emit a sweet scent. Rose hips are swollen seed pods that form under the blossom, turning orange and red, and last for months after the blossom is long gone. Here's how mine looked in October.

Rose hips are a tasty treat for squirrels, birds and rabbits. Humans can eat them too, but only the fleshy outer part. The hairy inner seeds can irritate human intestines. Personally, I've never eaten one, but I've read that they taste like a tart apple crossed with a rose petal. Rose hips are rich in vitamin C and can be made into jams, jellies, syrups and tea.

Looking at these two, enjoying the rose hips, I'm so happy I didn't deadhead the roses at the end of the season. I left them because they were attractive, but also a valuable food source for wildlife during a time of year when food is scarce.


Monday, July 16, 2018

July Garden: What's Blooming Now

It's hot and humid here on Long Island, NY this month, which is typical for July. Around this time, I'm happy I did most of my big gardening tasks in the spring when the weather was more comfortable. Still, there is always a flower to deadhead or a perennial to relocate. Thankfully though, the garden is mostly on auto pilot and I'm enjoying the blooms.

Here's what's growing and blooming in my garden this month:

 The Russian Sage mingles with the Black Eye Susans

Echinacea 'Hot Papaya' really stands out (and above!) the 
Sedum, Liatris and more Black Eyed Susans

 A beautiful pink bee balm - Monarda 'Raspberry Wine'

More pinks! Above, coneflowers (echinacea) in bloom and below, a hydrangea -

Over in the shade garden, the Japanese Painted Fern is looking lovely next to the small Hosta 'Mouse Ears' and Hosta 'June.' This whole garden is finally starting to fill in!

Do you have any of these same plants? How's your garden this month? I'd love to hear from you!

After leaving a comment, head on over to May Dreams Gardens to see what's blooming around the country today.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

How to keep sane during the winter that will not end?

We had no snow in February and enjoyed days when the temps reached into the upper 60s. Spring will be here soon, I thought, as I looked over my still-sleeping landscape. Nothing changes in the winter. No shoots of new growth, no pink flower petals opening to the sky, no change in the intensity of the sun. Winter is a welcome time to rest and for the first few weeks, I’m relieved for the rest and ability to hibernate for a bit. But by they time March comes along, I’m ready for spring. 

I walk around my yard daily, looking for signs of life. A daffodil shoot perhaps? Buds on the magnolia tree? The birds are singing in the trees - they know whats coming.  I start thinking of the spring-clean up tasks I must tackle before the season gets too far in. I make a list.  And then - WHAM! A Nor’Easter hits Long Island. We are covered in snow, high winds topple my shrubs and cold temperatures burn the tips of my emerging daffodils. Sigh. 

In December, snow is exciting. Its beautiful as it covers the trees and landscape, quietly falling to the ground. My children are so excited to play in the snow, they get all bundled up in their snow gear even for an inch of snow on the ground! Yet now, as the snow clings to the witch hazel flowers, smothers the emerging hellebores and blankets the evergreen shrubs once more, it’s lost its appeal. I want it gone. 

The ground is frozen and so I’ll need to put off my work outside for a few more days. I continue to dream of new things to plant and where. The gardening catalogs have begun to arrive. Beautiful plants, lush with color, promising pleasant days outdoors ahead. I circle a few in every magazine, not sure where I’ll fit them into my yard, but knowing I could somehow make it work if I tried. 

The air is brisk and cold but I venture out to clean up from the storm, gathering fallen sticks and tree limbs for my children to paint or use in their pretend campsite under the oak tree. The snow has melted but its still cold. The rhododendron leaves droop down protectively every morning telling me the temperature naturally. I’m ready to put away my sweaters and snow shovels and I then, we are hit with yet another storm. This one is more rain than snow, but it’s a damp cold that goes right through you. The winds whip around leaves from the neighborhood, and suddenly, my spring clean-up was all for naught. The ground is now soggy and cold. My hellebores want so badly to bloom, but its tricky, even for these that don’t mind the cool weather. On the north side of my house, piles of snow remain. Now frozen, they are a strong reminder that spring has not yet arrived. Temperatures have not reached a warmth that could melt shaded snow. 

By now its late March. I visit the local nursery’s annual flower show. Colorful azaleas, blossoming trees and active fish ponds delight my senses. I walk past the rows of pansies and ranunculus for sale. I want to buy these, but the forecast is predicting another snow storm. 

So what do I do to keep sane when winter will not end?

  1. I continue to flip through my gardening magazines and plant catalogs. Maybe I won’t purchase anything this year, but I can still learn about new varieties, admire new combinations of plants and thinking about what could be.
  1. I purchased a few succulents and a cool new container. I’ve been wanting to grow succulents for a long time, but have always put it off. Now, I needed a project. I needed to watch something grow and flourish. It’s lovely on my table and it makes me smile.
  1. I keep cleaning up the leaves outside. They are blown in from all over and continue to collect in this one spot on my patio. I bundle up, get out my rake to clean them up and add them to the compost pile. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.
  1. I start planning for next month. Spring weather will eventually come, of this I am sure. It’s just a matter of when. Nevertheless, I won’t let it get in the way of my planning. There are meetings to schedule with clients, seeds to be planted at the school garden and spring pruning that needs to be done. 

    But for today, I’m determined not to let the weather forecast get me down. Instead, I’m planning a trip to the botanical garden to see their gorgeous, annual orchid show. It’s all indoors, in a warm greenhouse, filled with colorful and vibrant plants. Someday spring will come. For now, I’ll just enjoy what I can.