the rites of spring…in a vase

This heavy cast glass vase is thin when viewed from the side. Viewed head-on, it is broader, making it a good choice for holding stems in place. I neglected to photograph it from that angle so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

The Rhododendron ‘Ilia Cerise’ and its bold foliage dominate here, with a color echo from the Ribes and the light touch of a few stems of Narcissus ‘Thalia’.

If we zoom in, we can appreciate a stem of bleeding heart and one of Brunnera.

I have to point the camera right at the delicate Epimedium blooms to see them in a photo. Our eyes are much better at picking up these details in real life. Every Monday, you can check out vase art from around the blogosphere by visiting Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. I wouldn’t miss it, even when I fail to join in the fun.

got the blues…

…and lovin every minute of it.

In the garden, a mix of Pulmonarias, all from blog swaps and I’ve lost track of which ones they are.

A few Muscari latifolium, which I keep expecting to multiply…some day.

In the meantime, I can spare a few for a vase. Even after the flowers fade, the spotted foliage of the Pulmonaria makes a nice groundcover at the woodland’s edge.

To see what others are singling out for vase duty this Monday, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

monday vases gettingeasier

Little vases get a workout about now, when the pickins are still slim.

The leaves of a variegated Fatshedra and Arum italicum are a showy background for snowdrops and a couple of sprigs of Sarcacocca. The snowdrops have been muddied by rain and beaten up by hail. All the more reason to bring them indoors, where their delicacy can be truly appreciated.

At Joy Creek, making bouquets is a snap. Hellebores are scattered here and there around the gardens. Here, I’ve paired them with a stem of Osmanthus ‘Goshiki’ in a simple little bud vase that holds them upright to compensate for their nodding tendencies.

Pieris japonica ‘Prelude’ seemed to be begging for a star turn in a vase.

I was only too happy to oblige. See what others are finding for IaVoM (short for In a Vase on Monday) by visiting Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. It has become a Monday ritual for many.

pruning hydrangeas

I got to follow along as Mike (co-owner of Joy Creek) did his pruning workshop. A question that comes up a lot is how to care for Hydrangeas, so I thought I would share the pruning tips I picked up along the way. In the spring, your shrub should look like this, having left the blooms on the plant through the winter. It may run counter to certain neatnik tendencies but is better for the health of the plant.

The flowers darken, then fade and even skeletonize with the winter weather and can be beautiful, even bouquet-worthy, at every stage.

Early in March, a mature plant can benefit from taking out the oldest branches. Look for the oldest wood (it will be gnarlier) and cut it out at the base. This provides air circulation and reinvigorates the plant.

Leave the faded blooms on the remaining branches until mid-April. In Portland, we still run a risk of a late freeze and the flowers protect emerging buds if that should happen.

When the time comes (danger of a late frost has passed) snip the flowering stem just above the first set of green buds like the ones you see above.

By refreshing your Hydrangeas in this way every few years, you can look forward to stunning displays year after year.

finally, a day pruning

Good tools make all the difference. The loppers cut through branches in the 2″ range like butter. I finally wised up and started using them to cut back grasses too, saving a lot of wear and tear on overworked wrists. I had my old standby secateurs sharpened at Garden Fever and bought another, smaller version to stand in while waiting (their sharpener works in batches, so there’s a gap between dropping things off and picking them up). Between the two sizes, sprigs and twigs (ha ha) are a snap. A collapsable rake gets into tight spaces to clean up fallen debris. I’ve been searching for the right gloves to wear at work (more on that later). These didn’t work in that situation but are great for pruning protection. Finally, that little retractable saw is surprisingly effective in encounters with branches too big for the loppers.

Ceanothus ‘Blue Jeans’ was afflicted with several split limbs. Once I got started on it, the chaotic scramble of crossed or gangly branches kept goading me on to create a significant brush pile. In the process, many buds were sacrificed. I hate to think of a spring without the welcoming sight of the big blue bush. Maybe that bucket of branches will come through with a forced show to make up for it.

Meanwhile, over at Joy Creek, this Magnolia dresses up a stormy sky.

It’s furry buds are swelling with the promise of the spring show we know is coming, even if it sometimes seems a bit tardy.

called the witch doctor for iavom

Hamamelis ‘Diane’

Jumping the gun a little bit here. The blossoms on ‘Diane’ will elongate and become more of a presence┬ábutI was desperate for a bit of color, even if it is still doing the red and green thing.

Interestingly, there were some broken branches that were flowering as much as the branches left intact. The shiny leaves of Magnolia grandiflora are from downed branches too, as are a couple of cherry branches with lots of buds (we can hope). I don’t usually do props but the Witch Hazel suggested a theme and I did have a Witch Doctor’s rattle (Shaman) and a witchy candle holder on hand so they’re in there.

It’s always fun to see what people find to put in a vase during what is essentially most gardens’ down time. You can do that by visiting Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, where she hosts In a Vase on Monday every week without fail.

greens in a vase

Might as well put some of those downed limbs to work, so into the cut glass rose bowl went some of the ‘Thunderhead” pine, giant sequoia, Ozothamnus and Cotoneaster with a few red berries. The Euonymous fared pretty well but I added a branch of it to lighten things up a bit.

As you can see, the back side is pretty dark but I like the way the “candles” of the pine and the silvery Ozothamnus pick up the silvery tones of reflected light off the vase.

I’ll be glad when the spring ephemerals start showing up and I can move away from this red and green theme but for the dead of winter, this is not half bad. See what’s finding its way into other vases this week by visiting Cathy at Rambling in the Garden…spring seems a lot closer in some parts of the world.

after the storm

R has his hands full, cleaning up the storm damage.

It was plenty beautiful. Our house is completely hidden at the end of that little trail through 18″ of snow that lingered for a week.

Even when the sun came out, the snow stayed…it was so cold.

The ancient cherry tree in front had two huge limbs shatter.

They were kind enough to descend slowly to rest gently on the roof of the deck.

Limbs came down from many of the large evergreens that circle the property.

The little birch grove along the drive is sadly depleted.

The devastation to the ‘Thunderhead’ pine was, to me, the greatest blow. I’m pretty sure it will recover but it had reached a configuration that I had been working on for 10 or more years. Other things that got some extreme pruning from Mom Nature were Ozothamnus several Ceanothus and a mature Cornus kousa. The sun is shining today, Joy Creek will open soon and spring gets closer every day. Time, indeed to keep clam and carry on.

Wednesday Vignette

I am extremely fond of snow so we have tons of snow shots. This one made the grade as a vignette because of the way the new shoots on the fruit tree acted like little bowls, holding the snow. If you check in with Anna at Flutter and Hum on Wednesdays, you will get some very astute social commentary to go with her vignettes, plus links to others who participate in Wednesday Vignettes.