April showers

better bring some May flowers! It’s been super gloomy the last few days and I’m hoping for some sunnier (or at least drier) weather so I can get my raised bed all set up and filled with soil.

We did have a spot of sunshine earlier this week which brought out more tulip blooms in our yard:

Bright red! #FireflyCottage

Fingers crossed for more lovely sunshine soon!

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yard progress

Friday morning I picked up four fruit trees that I had ordered through the Isabella Conservation District‘s annual tree sale:
– Methley plum
– Blake’s Pride pear
– Harrow Sweet pear
– Canadian Harmony peach

I was super excited to get these – the conservation district offers them at a really affordable price, and this means we’ll have that much more fresh fruit to enjoy (I hope!). They also only sell varieties that should do well in this climate. The trees spent the day and night in our garage – for bareroot trees a cool place out of the sun is usually a safe space to keep them if you only need to do so for a short time before planting.

Saturday morning we got out bright and early and started digging holes! We are also having some repairs to the outside of our home done, and the masons were out on the scaffolding working on the chimney while we were out planting. It’s nice to be getting so many things accomplished!

First off, we started with this Harrow Sweet Pear tree:

Harrow Sweet Pear Tree

Harrow Sweet Pears are supposed to be more productive than some other varieties, and the fruit should be slightly sweeter than, say, a Bartlett. The skin is less tasty than some other varieties, but I have an aversion to the texture of pear peel anyway, so I’ll for sure be peeling them regardless. This variety is supposed to be resistant to fire blight as well. It stores well and is recommended for baking, cooking, canning and freezing, so I’m excited about it!

Then we planted a Blake’s Pride Pear not too far away (so they can easily pollinate):

Blake's Pride Pear Tree

This pear is also supposed to be productive and is recommended for fresh eating, canning, and baking. It’s also resistant to fire blight and should ripen in September, about a month before the Harrow Sweet Pears. It is known for being juicy and having a smooth, buttery texture.

A little bit further toward the front of the yard, we planted this Canadian Harmony Peach tree:

Canadian Harmony Peach Tree

This peach should produce in mid to late August and is supposed to have a pleasing texture. The fruit are known to be on the larger side and should keep well. It is recommended for cooking, baking, canning, and freezing.

Finally, we planted this Methley Plum tree out front:

Methley Plum Tree

This fruit should ripen even earlier, somewhere from May to July. It is juicy, mildly sweet, and is good for fresh eating as well as making jelly. It should also be a good producer, though it will probably be a few growing seasons before we get a solid crop. The label that came on it says Italian Prune, but I’m not sure what the difference is between that and a Methley Plum. Anyone know more about this?

Sunday we tackled another big project: cutting back the lilacs. I had thought to do this last year but then wimped out. Both of these shrubs had been left to grow to enormous size – easily 20′ or more, and had a ton of dead limbs and a lot of insect damage. Here’s the bigger one last year near the end of May:

Lilac toward the back of the property

As you can see, there was quite a number of suckers and new growth underneath, but those bits didn’t get much if any sunshine so they didn’t really have a chance. I decided that the big limbs would have to go in the interest of encouraging the plant to be a manageable-sized shrub again.

Lilac toward the front of the property

This one, which is closer to the front of the yard, is smaller, but was still gigantically tall. It had an even higher percentage of not-good limbs.

The city is coming through to chip brush during this week and next, so we figured it was time to just rip the band-aid off and cut these down (since we knew it would generate quite a bit of chip-able material). It’s so difficult to do this sort of thing just when new green leaves are appearing, but it had to be done! If nothing else I wanted to get rid of the dead wood home that was hosting so many destructive insects.

Cut to a few hours later after lots of work with the bow saw and sawzall:

Lilacs cut back so they can become shrubs again

and

Lilacs cut back so they can become shrubs again

and

Fruits of our labor: lots of branches to be chipped

Lots of work! We were definitely feeling our muscles after that! It’s a good ache, though, knowing that we accomplished a lot. We also noticed on Sunday that there were already tiny buds emerging on three of the fruit trees we planted just the day before (the plum came just as one trunk – no limbs – so it did not)! All the water we gave them combined with the glorious sun on Saturday must have agreed with them. The Burning Bush and apple trees are also budding and leafing out. Yay! We also noticed that there are Grape Hyacinth ALL OVER and that we have some tulips that are almost ready to bloom (more pics on flickr). I’m excited to be finding things that are already established.

I also noticed this growing by the garage:

Probably a weed?

It’s so robust I assume it must be a weed – anyone recognize it?

The last bit of yard work we did was to hang up two new mason bee houses (a steal at Aldi!):

Mason bee house

Mason bee house

They’re so cute! I don’t know that I love the cord that they came with for hanging, but for now it’s easy so I’ll go with it. Hopefully they will provide homes for some pollinators!

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de-gorgeous

Today has been, in the words of Lady Miss Kier, de-gorgeous! I started out this morning by freeing the tulip leaves in the driveway-side bed from the leaf mulch that was strangling them.

driveway-side bed

There are also iris coming up along the fence, and some daylilies sprouting. K also got out the Sawzall and cut down the stumps of the weed tree that we’ve been trying to kill behind the garage:

weed tree stump

weed tree stump cuttings

What an ugly mess! After doing that, we went to the Despot and picked up some lumber to create raised beds in the veg garden. We also bought some stump killer which we applied to this stump when we got home. I’m usually loathe to use chemicals of any kind on our property, but this tree is tenacious and I want it dead. It’s also in the best possible place to need to use chemicals – behind the garage and a distance from anything growing, and totally out of bounds for the dogs.

The raised beds were SO easy to build! I’d measured out how much space I wanted to cover, so we had the store cut the boards to length for us. The hinges I got for my bday last fall worked quite well! (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)

raised beds!

raised beds!

raised beds!

K kindly pitchforked the compost piles and transported a whole bunch of lovely, delicious-smelling compost from the bottom of the piles to these beds. I need to figure out how much soil it’ll take to fill these in and arrange to have that delivered.

raised beds!

I also cleared out some more thick leaf piles from the garage-side bed where tons of daylilies and other things are coming up:

garage-side beds

As you can see I didn’t clear away nearly all the leaves, but I had mulched it so thickly that I needed to take some out to let these guys grow.

After that, we finally finished scooping poop and raking the back yard and K did the first mowing while I pruned back some perennials. The yard is definitely showing some signs of dogs living here:

back yard

We seeded a bunch of white clover in the far back right corner last summer and it took really nicely back there, so I’ll probably order some more seed this year. There are also a lot of weird bumpy patches and big areas of crab grass throughout the yard, so we might end up fencing off sections, digging up the turf and re-seeding with clover. Did you know that white dutch clover does not turn yellow when dogs pee on it? You can also mow it like grass.

The dogs, of course, were delighted with all the lovely smells that we stirred up by mowing and spent some quality time snuffling around.

Brodie and Logan

Logan

Logan looks so regal basking in the sun, doesn’t she?

When I was pruning, I noticed that I have asparagus coming up!

asparagus!

This is the third year for the asparagus (since I planted it from seed) and it looks like it will finally be big enough to eat this year. These shoots are about half the width of my pinky finger and only about four inches tall, so they’ve got some room to grow.

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crocus!

It was gorgeous yesterday so when we were both home from work, K and I took the dogs for a walk and I spent a few minutes snapping some photos of the crocuses, which are now blooming. I planted these along the front border of the front garden (nee front yard):

crocus in the front garden

crocus in the front garden

crocus in the front garden

They’re so tiny but so satisfying.

The tulips under the red maple tree are also sprouting more by the day:

tulips coming up under the red maple out front

tulips coming up under the red maple out front

I suppose I should probably clean up these old leaves sometime soon.

In the back yard, I noticed that there’s something sprouting in the AC unit garden. I think it might be daylilies? They seem to crop up in this area every year, though I have been moving them to another bed:

something coming up in the AC unit garden

something coming up in the AC unit garden

While we were hanging around in the back yard, Logan was keeping close by me. She’s such a lovey dog, but she can be slightly camera-shy. She didn’t want to look at me, but I did manage to snap a nice profile:

Logan stands twisty

More photos at Flickr.

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sleeping in the flowers

Well, not really. It’s another rainy day, but I’m glad to see that it’s helping a lot of our flowers bloom. I didn’t plant these iris and tulips together on purpose, but they compliment each other nicely.

tulips and iris

I am totally digging these variegated tulips. I can’t remember when I planted them or where I got them, but they are really pretty.

IMG_0007

My lone allium is getting ready to bloom. It looks neat with rainwater on it.

allium

And I think this tulip looks like a baby bird beak does poking up out of a nest.

tulip beak

More photos at Flickr, n’est-ce pas.

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rain, rain, come again

It’s been looking like rain for a couple of days, but today it finally actually arrived.

black tulips

The sun came out after, which meant I got to snap some nice pics. The pollen was puddled in a bunch of the black tulips like the one above. On the photo below, you can see a wee spider hanging out.

black tulip with spider

pink tulip

The irises I was having trouble identifying last month are now getting ready to bloom and they look like they’ll be a gorgeous color!

Iris

I’ve seen some posts lately about people’s opinions of violets – are they weedy and should be removed, or are they pretty and should be embraced? I’m of the latter school. They volunteer and have pretty flowers and relatively attractive foliage, so why not?

violets

The red maple outside our front window is a strange shape (it has three main trunks, none of which is particularly dominant) but it’s leafing out like crazy and is sort of stunning in the sunlight.

red maple

More photos at Flickr.

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all things seem possible in May

It has been another gorgeous weekend and I spent as much time as possible out in the yard. The tulips are blooming out front.

tulips

black tulips

tulips

There are more tulips than last year, so they’re spreading a little, but I would love for them to multiply even faster. I may end up investing in more bulbs in the fall – we’ll see.

I also spent a little time removing the handful of dandelions that had sprouted in the front mulch (former front lawn). I’ve pretty much decided that there’s no need to till the front and that it’ll be easier to keep weeds out if I just dig holes for the perennials I’ll be planting. It will avoid disturbing any latent weed seeds, at least. I did pick out a number of maple seedlings that had fallen from the red and silver maple trees out front. That’s a battle that won’t be ending anytime soon.

red maple and silver maple

In the primary veg bed, I was doing some weeding and discovered that there are a bunch of what I believe are tomato seedlings sprouting up from where I let a couple of errant tomatoes lie over the winter.

could these be tomato seedlings?

There are several of these little clumps. I had no idea the seeds would even have the possibility of germinating, especially after the semi-harsh winter we had. This will change the layout of the garden slightly, but I’m going with it!

Lastly, I noticed two awesome things: (1) the blueberry bush I planted last year is sprouting!

last year's blueberry bush, sprouting

It never really thrived last year, and the birds ate most of the few berries it produced before I could get to them. I thought it was a goner and didn’t expect it to come back. I saw these leaves budding out and could almost hear it pleading, “I’m not dead yet!

And (2): the purple wintercreeper on the back fence is taking!

purple wintercreeper

I put in a ton of cuttings last year and had pretty much given up hope of any of them actually growing, but several of the ones I put in the back corner have a bunch of new growth. Woot! I haven’t picked out the rest of the cuttings from last fall, just in case they end up growing, and today I trimmed some of the uber-exuberant growth on the main planting bed of wintercreeper and put some more cuttings by the back fence. I will not give up on covering up the ugly fence with something!

More photos at Flickr, of course.

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sprouty

We’ve had quite a bit of rain lately, but interspersed with some nice, warm sun. Perfect weather for the garden! Things are sprouting up all over. Well, not really, but they’re sprouting.

Calabrese Green Sprouting Broccoli

Calabrese Green Sprouting Broccoli

Iceberg Lettuce

Iceberg Lettuce

The tulips out front have also been benefiting from the good weather.

black tulips

Finally, we’ve had a few people out to give us estimates on tilling the front yard. I still see value in doing that, but I’ve been reading up on a few websites that recommend not tilling – just leaving the mulch in place and digging holes to plant things and letting the mulch keep out the weeds until the perennials fill in. I took a peek and the grass is totally composted/smothered/gone underneath the mulch! I was sort of afraid that there would be a bunch of matted grass under there, but hooray, there’s totally not! Which means that tilling may be much less important than I previously anticipated. It would definitely be nice to save that money for other purposes. Most of the plants I’ve ordered for the front yard haven’t arrived yet, but my Seed Savers order for the front yard came today.

Seed Savers stuff for the front yard

I can’t wait to start planting, but I will, because I want to be able to really see the whole big picture when I’m placing things.

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sunny Monday

It was another gorgeous day today, by all indications of the tons of things that are growing and blooming around the house (I have to trust these signs because I was in the office all day and didn’t see it for myself).

This fritillaria popped up out of nowhere today! I mean, I know it was there, but it showed no signs of being anywhere near ready to bloom yesterday.

fritillaria

Remember the purple wintercreeper that was budding out the other day?

purple wintercreeper

Well, it’s gone N.V.T.S. nuts!

purple wintercreeper

There are also tulips galore in the front flower bed.

tulips

tulips

tulip

tulip

Yay, spring!

More photos on Flickr.

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Spring is springing

Spring is here, or at least on the way!

purple crocus

purple crocus

purple crocus

I can see tiny bits of pollen on the edges of a few of the petals – is that an indication that some polinators have visited? I hope so!

The tulips are coming up, too. I don’t know if it means anything, but I think the way the tips of the leaves are reddish/purple is neat looking.

tulips coming up

Unfortunately, along with all the good things coming up, the stupid invincible yucca is coming up, too. I despair that we will ever be rid of it.

yuccy yucca

More photos on Flickr.

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