Monday, March 30, 2015

Crocus Vigil Day 22: First Bloom of Spring

That's it! There it is! The first bloom of Spring, it's official, my crocus vigil is over after 22 days on March 28, 2015.

This little guy bloomed in the sunshine even though the weather was still bouncing above and below freezing. It's a lot smaller than I thought it would be, the open flower is only about as wide as a quarter.

small purple crocus
Day 22, the first bloom - it opened in the sun briefly but then closed overnight

small purple crocus
March 28, 2015

small purple crocus
Another one getting ready to go, March 29, 2015
My first crocus bloomed during the day my parents came to visit and drop off some Matrix Citrus Mix pansies - so now technically I have them blooming in my yard as well, but my crocus was still my first bloom of Spring.

The pansies, technically Viola X wittrockiana 'Matrix Citrus Mix' were looking a little wilty, but perked right up with some water (except for the ones in the container, which are taking a little longer to perk).

Viola X wittrockiana 'Matrix Citrus Mix'
Instantly gives me something to look at other than a dirt pile

Viola X wittrockiana 'Matrix Citrus Mix'
I got them in the ground right away before we were out the door to dinner

I wasn't planning to buy annuals for myself, but the splash of green, orange, and yellow at least makes the yard look alive and is a nice change of pace from the unseasonably cold weeks. I also didn't realize pansies were so tough when it comes to cold, they just wilt and come right back in the sun. My parents say they should bloom for about a month and then die right as the other perennials in my yard are emerging - so it will be nice to have some overlap there.

I think next year if I do annuals in the early spring, I'm going to do a LOT to make a statement because a few here and there looks kinda wimpy.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Crocus Vigil Day 20: Purple Sighting and Croci Under Rocks

I took these photos on Thursday, March 26 which makes it Crocus Vigil Day 20 in my crocus watch 2015. I spy color! Here comes my first bloom, it's on its way! The only setback? We have 2 days in a row this weekend with lows in the teens. It's almost April and I woke up to 18°F temps this morning!

I'm sure the croci will be fine, but they probably aren't taking off as fast as they could if it were a balmy 60°F like it was last week. At least the sun is shining - I think the ground will still warm up even though the air temp is below freezing.

first crocus of spring
My first crocus coming up, hoping it will bloom this weekend but the 18° air temps probably aren't helping!

In other news, I was looking around the edge of the mulch border where I planted the crocuses, and I noticed a sprig of green poking out from under a rock. I lifted up the rock and found a long yellow crocus stem trying its best to find the sun. Oops! I must have re-arranged the rocks without realizing how close the croci were to the stones. I wanted them to be right next to the stone, but I didn't want to confuse them!

crocus coming up under rock
Let me move that rock out of your way with my human hands, sorry about that!
I found a soil temperature map online, and it looks like things are warming up in spite of a few freezing days here and there. The national map from GreenCast says Indy is currently between 30°-35° but when I zoom in the map looks like this:

soil temp map
Soil temperature map for March 28, 2015 from
The color on this map looks more like 45°-50° so which is it? Maybe I should just get a soil thermometer, or maybe it's not that important.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Baby Jade Super Slow Leaf Propagation

I'm not sure if I'm doing something wrong, but this 'Baby Jade' [Crassula argentea] is propagating SUPER SLOW from a leaf I wiggled away back in February. For real!

Here are some progress photos, you'll have to look closely because there is very little changing!

jade plant leaf propagation
Day 10

jade plant leaf propagation
Day 24

jade plant leaf propagation
Day 50

Blue Fescue from Seed Progress Photos

I recently nabbed some blue fescue seeds [Festuca glauca] at Target because I want to do a mass planting in a section of my backyard bed. I'm going to be moving my side yard blue fescue to the back to get more sun, and I want a few more aside from what I'll get from dividing my Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue' that I already own.

I was encouraged by this video I found online that shows actual progress examples for blue fescue grown from seed.

Unfortunately on the package it doesn't tell me what variety of blue fescue this is, whereas the one I got from Allisonville Nursery was the type 'Elijah Blue'. Oh well, hopefully they don't look obviously different near each other.

blue fescue seeds
$1.37 for seeds, hoping to get a few good clumps and save myself $10 or so - plus the fun of watching grass grow!

blue fescue seedsblue fescue seed supplies

blue fescue seeds on soil
I didn't space them, I just sort of sprinkled them around. I'm hoping to get 2 good clumps out of this.

damp soil
Damp thin layer of soil over the seeds

plastic bag mini greenhouse
Sandwich bag greenhouse to keep the soil moist - Day 0 is March 9, 2015

blue fescue seed progress photo
Blue fescue germination by day 4

blue fescue seed progress photo
Blue fescue from seed day 8

blue fescue seed progress photo
Blue fescue from seed day 16

blue fescue seed progress photo
Blue fescue from seed day 18 - So far it just looks like normal grass but it is slightly firm to the touch
Can you tell I've got cabin fever? Taking photos of grass growing every 2 days, sheesh! I'll try to hold off until they do something different, and then I'll add the photos to this same post...

Update 5/5/2015: I transplanted the new grass shoots into my backyard flower bed. I wouldn't say they "took off" but at least now they look more like blue fescue and not just regular grass. Each individual grass blade turns into a whole clump of its own. 

blue fescue from seed 2 months
Blue fescue from seed, this is one of the babies planted March 9, photo taken May 5 so about 2 months since planting
blue fescue grown from seeds
Another update, here we are on August 25, 2015

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Crocus Vigil Day 17: Freezing Rain, Winter's Last Hoorah

After hanging up my big winter coat 'for good' this season, I came home to freezing rain yesterday! Little ice balls dotted the mulch, they were actually quite pretty.

I'm trying not to freak out because I know the crocuses will be just fine. Every article I read re-assures me that everything will be just fine. Forecasts say lows will be down to 18°F on Wednesday - but I have to remind myself that the ground has done quite a bit of warming up over the past few weeks, on those days when it was sunny and 65. What a tease!

The clay soil actually warms slower, but will also cool slower - retaining the heat from earlier and leaving the croci basically unphased by the overnight dip.

crocus in winter
I hope that new white shoot in the center is the actual flower poking through

crocuses frozen rain
Croci doing their best, taking their sweet time

frozen rain balls
Little frozen rain balls on a patio chair

Cryptanthus bivittatus Turning Red

I re-potted my Cryptanthus bivittatus into a ramekin on the windowsill in fresh brand new succulent mix potting soil and covered the top with quartz chips. Shortly thereafter, I noticed the Cryptanthus bivittatus turning pinkish. Now I've seen pink varieties in the store, so I thought - maybe it's supposed to be pink and it's happy to have new soil?

As they weeks go by, the Cryptanthus bivittatus is turning redder and redder. It's a dark maroon red now, and my denial is fading. I'm pretty sure I over-watered the little sucker. The quartz chips not only make it harder to see when the soil is dry, but it holds the moisture in longer as well. I think I flooded it out, and it's basically sitting there half dead and bright red. I'll let it go a bit longer, because actually it's quite striking, but I'm not very optimistic.

Cryptanthus bivittatus turning red
Cryptanthus bivittatus - Thursday, March 19, 2015
Cryptanthus bivittatus
The 'before' photo - February 22, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

Crocus Vigil Day 14: First Day of Spring

So here I am on the first day of Spring, we have drizzling rain and a high of 54°F. No blooms yet! I've even been getting comments on Instagram that their crocus are in full bloom in Colorado. [grumpy face].

Nevertheless, I'm patiently waiting, and the crocus are doing their best in the clay soil. Oh, excuse me, I just looked up the plural of crocus and it's crocuses or croci. So the croci are doing their best in the clay soil.

crocus first day of spring in Indiana
Croci coming through on the first day of Spring, but no blooms

Itea virginica 'Sprich' Little Henry® and 'Henry's Garnet' Sweetspire

I got a recommendation from my friend Mike for Itea virginica 'Little Henry' Sweetspire (also called 'Sprich') as a great small shrub option for my backyard, especially for it's brilliant fall display. When I was at the 2015 Indiana Flower and Patio Show on Monday, I noticed this little guy in about 4 different displays. Looks like it's getting quite popular!

It's always nice to see plants in person before you buy them, and I was pleased with the shape and floppy leaves and flowers. I'm looking forward to getting these in April. I was going to order online from Monrovia but they said this item was unavailable in Indiana? Odd. It looks like it's also available from Proven Winners direct from their site.

What's the difference between Little Henry and Henry's Garnet? It looks like the only real difference is the size, with Henry's Garnet getting up to 5-6 feet tall, and Little Henry staying around 2-3 feet tall and wide. Both are said to sucker, so they will spread out gradually. 

Itea virginica 'Henry's Garnet' Sweetspire

Itea virginica 'Henry's Garnet' Sweetspire

Itea virginica 'Sprich' Little Henry® Sweetspire

Itea virginica 'Sprich' Little Henry® Sweetspire

Itea virginica 'Sprich' Little Henry® Sweetspire

Dryopteris erythrosora 'Brilliance' Autumn Fern

A while ago I was trying to identify the fern in my side yard, even though it was rather mangled in the dead of winter. After Googling for hours and looking at tiny details all the way down to the lowest pinna - I think I spotted the identical fern at the 2015 Indiana Flower and Patio Show.

My rationale: If I got an un-labeled fern from a local nursery, it's more likely that I will stumble upon a match in person at another local event, rather than on Google. Using Google is sort of like trying to match your symptoms to all possible illnesses in an internet database, when it's much more likely to be whatever is going around town at that point.

This Dryopteris erythrosora 'Brilliance' from the garden show is a dead ringer for what I thought was Dryopteris intermedia - although I must say I got pretty close just using image searches, considering the shear number of fern varieties.

Dryopteris erythrosora 'Brilliance' Autumn Fern
Dryopteris erythrosora 'Brilliance' Autumn Fern

Dryopteris erythrosora 'Brilliance' frond
Dryopteris erythrosora 'Brilliance' frond

Dryopteris erythrosora 'Brilliance' lowest pinna
Dryopteris erythrosora 'Brilliance' lowest pinna

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Succulents at the 2015 Indiana Flower and Patio Show

indiana garden show succulents

I took too many photos to put in one post, so I'll split them up by posting just my succulent photos in this one. Plenty of succulents to be seen at the 2015 Indiana Garden Show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, officially called the Indiana Flower and Patio Show (57th annual).

The succulents were gorgeous, and many were mixed into the surrounding landscapes - so I got to pretend I live in a climate that supports perennial succulents hardy over winter. Unfortunately, not all the succulents had names. A lot, in fact, were lumped into "various succulent" displays and sale shelves.

Cordyline australis 'Red Sensation'
Cordyline australis 'Red Sensation' also called Cabbage Palm (Zone 7b)

spider aloe
Aloe humilis 'Hedgehog' also called Spider Aloe (Zone 9b)

garden show succulents

succulent wreath

blood banana
Musa acuminate 'Sumatrana Zebrina' also called Blood Banana hanging out among the tulips

gold moss stonecropgold moss stonecrop

Above, I'm not sure what this tiny succulent ground cover is called, but it's by Proven Winners. Maybe I can find it on their website somehow. From Google searches it looks most like Sedum ‘De Oro’, gold moss stonecrop.

mixed succulents

Sedum acre 'Aureum'
Yellow Stonecrop, Sedum acre 'Aureum'

Monday, March 16, 2015

Crocus Vigil Day 10: Green Busting Through

I'm a day late for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day this month (always the 15th of the month), but since nothing is really blooming I think that's okay. Here's my first Bloom Day post!

These things are going way slower than I thought. Once I saw the little sprouts peaking through, I thought I would have blooms within a week. Spring is taking its time, and I'm learning more about how these tiny bulbs emerge. They're my first bulbs in my first yard in my first spring in my house!

It starts with a pale yellow-white bullet point that pierces through the soil, and then the bullet breaks open releasing strings of slender green leaves.

crocus bulb day 10
Day 10 of my Spring Crocus Watch

Amending Clay Soil with Upside Down Sod and Expanding the Backyard Bed

The weather has been sunny and warm, so I'm getting a head start on my Spring landscaping projects. I want to add a huge backyard bed that will be my main full sun South-facing bed. I want to try to do it right, instead of just adding plants to the thick clay soil, I'm trying to amend the clay soil to make it a more friendly home to my future plants.

The reason I'm doing this so early is because I want to give my soil mix some time to basically decompose to create some nice soft humus or at least something softer than a clay slab. It's going to be sort of a compost pile for a month until I really get planting in April.

The clay is so thick and chunky, it forms huge ribbons and solid clay balls - I swear I could throw a vase with  this stuff. Conceptually I'm approaching it by trying to sort of marble the clay with organics - like how a steak is marbled with fat - my soil will be chunks of clay marbled with nice soft soil.

Before and after photo of my new backyard bed - my main south facing planter!

I was reading up on how to amend my clay soil, some sites recommend a variety of solutions, others suggest equal parts coarse sand and coarse organic matter (and in large quantities). I also found this extremely detailed article, and another pertaining to Indiana specifically.

I decided to buy 3 bags of peat moss, 4 bags of topsoil, and a large bag of hardwood mulch. This was my approach:
  1. Rip up the sod layer
  2. Chop up the underlying clay slab or at least make some deep cuts
  3. Dust the clay with a thin layer of peat moss to get it marbled into the cracks
  4. Add the sod back on top face down
  5. Another layer of peat moss
  6. A layer of topsoil
  7. And finish with a dusting of hardwood mulch
  8. Water the whole thing and let it settle and decompose for a month
After my chopping and upside down sodding, I had a lot of air pockets in the bed, and the bed was significantly raised - which is fine! I'm hoping the whole thing will settle together, and I expect it to sink a little bit over the next month.

amending clay soil
Some of my topsoil from Lowe's was still frozen, but it had plenty of time to thaw in the sun while I ripped up sod. I got a new tarp to put the sod pieces on so I could add them again later face down.

Concerning the rocks, I had quite a few to pick from, and decided to add a few to compliment my lower bed - but I wanted to cool it a bit with the rocks. I got a little rock happy, and I don't want my yard to look like a rock hoarder lives here. 

clay soil with peat moss
Chunky sod face down with a dusting of peat moss, still a little more sod to add

amend clay soil with peat moss
More peat moss, Chris said he likes the dark brown color because it matches our couch pillows :)

backyard landscaping rocks
My rock placement in the back bed, with one at the edge as a hose guard for when I water the side yard. I only ended up using my very favorites rocks and now I am hesitating to throw the rest out in case I need them for something later.

backyard flower bed
The curve comes out about 7 feet at the rain spout, goes in to about 3 feet at the spigot, and goes back to 5 feet out next to the porch.
All said and done the project took me about 5 hours. I was encouraged to see quite a few worms below the sod layer, which means they're strong enough to break through the clay. I hope the upside down sod dies quickly and begins to decompose in the next month so I can plant on top of it!

blister on handback sun burn tan line

I didn't think it was possible, but through thin clouds I was able to get a nice sunburn... in Indiana... in March. Also, my soft baby hands have had it easy all winter and weren't ready for yard work, I got 2 nasty blisters, one on each hand.

Overall I'm very pleased with the shape of my backyard bed, and I can't wait to begin adding plants to fill it out. My plan is to be sensible (as sensible as possible) and add things a few at a time to hopefully cut back on the number of times I move things around.

Update 4/18/2015: Turning the sod upside down and covering it with mulch is not enough to kill the grass. This stuff is tenacious! It's sending up long tubers to scout out the surface and then grows quickly after the rain. I should have used Round-Up over the whole area first, because now I'm left trying to pull shoots and spray spot treatments of grass killer in between my new plants. 

grass growing through mulchgrass growing through mulch