Saturday, April 2, 2016

Spring Clean-up and Garden Preparation

All winter, I dream of sunshine and plants and gardening. I wish for warmth (and fortunately we had a really mild winter), but researching plants and planning the gardens makes it easier to get through.

In February, we had quite a few warm days, so we worked on cleaning up the mess that winter had left us. Weeds growing between the brick pathways, mulch and dirt washed away by the rain, bricks needing to be pulled and re-set, bushes needing pruning, leaves to be bagged that had been keeping the bananas and elephant ears warm, and more. Even if the clean up isn't the most fun (and seems to endless), it felt so good to be working today establishing order.

Cleaning up!

So many gumballs to pick up!

March was really quite warm and spoiled us. We opened the pool on March 7th and heated it up. The boys were able to swim at least three days a week with hot days coming here and there.

The pool looking like alligator juice on opening day.

One rainy day, we decided to put the truck to use and drove down to Walker's Palms in North Carolina to check out a new shipment of NC-grown palms. We picked up two 30-gallon Sabal minors, which were huge! They are super hardy, but they are not a trunking palm. That is, their fronds grow up and look like the top of a Sabal palmetto, you could say. Chris also picked out two Sabal lousianas (trunking and very hardy), a few seven-gallon NC Sabal palmettos, one triple-trunk 15-gallon Sabal palmetto, and a saw palmetto. Planting these around the yard gives a nice feel of fronds and palms all throughout the yard. I'm excited to watch them grow over the years, but I love how it makes it feel tropical all throughout. Eventually, as more perennials return and we will in the beds more, we'll have some lush layers. I remember a couple of years ago when we drove down to Florida, we saw native Sabal palmettos growing with saw palmettos at their feet. The saw palmettos looked like baby palmettos all around. I loved how wild it all looked.

We had lost our pindo in the retaining wall last summer. Following a brutal winter, the pindo fought hard to recover. We trimmed off a lot of fronds and it did put out new growth; however, since our yard is so shady, I think it was struggling with a lack of sunlight. Then last July, we had a crazy amount of rain. Pindos prefer less rain, and we did our best to help with irrigation. The hard winter, less sunlight, and torrential downpours were enough to kill it off. It was one of Chris's favorite trees and a great piece, so we debated a replacement for a long, long time. If we put in another pindo, I worried that we'd just lose it in a handful of years. So, I persuaded Chris to try a different route than a palm. (Gasp!) We picked up a nice, full loquat tree in a 30 gallon pot. Loquats are cold hardy and produce fruit if the winter is not too harsh. We have one out front that is fruiting. Their leaves are cold hardy and remind me of a magnolia, which is my favorite tree. Of course, the loquat doesn't fill up the whole retaining wall area all the way, but I planted some lilies as well and hope to fill it more with elephant ears and maybe a hibiscus.

All the palms in the yard are looking really great, though. This past winter really was not bad and we didn't even end up wrapping the palms at all. We kept an eye on the weather, but decided it wasn't necessary. (The wrap v. don't warp argument is for another time). The winters of 2013 and 2014 were quite rough with dipping below zero and multiple snow and ice storms. In the spring, the palms took time to recover. They lost a couple of fronds from burnback. The fronds on the windmills sometimes bent down from the weight of snow. It took a couple of months in the spring to fill back out again with new growth. This year, though, everything looks mostly untouched. Even our sagos are so full with long growth that Chris trimmed them up some. Our one windmill (which was four feet tall when we planted it in 2013) is flowering with at least half a dozen seed pockets--probably more.

Super cold hardy Sabal minor.

Silver saw palmetto in front of the loquat tree. Not quite as hardy, but being by the retaining wall should help establish a nice micro climate. Also, since it is so small, it will be easy to protect.

 Windmill palm flowering

The bananas have been growing back for a couple of weeks and the canna lilies are returning as well. I can see a couple of elephant ears re-emerging. As I said, our yard doesn't get as much direct sun as other yards, so the bananas do not grow as quickly, but I'm happy to see them back. I know the yard will look like an amazing jungle eventually.

I know the "clean up" isn't over yet. The pollen is falling like crazy and won't finish up until May. Then we'll likely spread mulch. This year, we have so many perennials returning that we won't need to buy much in the way of plants--maybe just some elephant ears, hostas, and such. I have some orchids and ginger plants coming by mail order that I got off ebay for quite cheap.

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