Saturday, February 27, 2016

Vole Trenches in Lawn (Photos)

My neighbor's grass is so long and dead, it's the perfect place for voles to romp around all winter long. Then people like me with healthy lawns are targets for voles to come through and eat a trench through the roots of the delicious grass. They're called vole runs or vole damage, and it's a clear sign they've been busy this winter. Apparently they don't hibernate.

vole damage in lawn
Vole tunnels through the grass, about 2 inches deep and 1-2 inches wide

It looks kinda like a river or ant colony from above, little ditches that spread out through long pathways about 2 inches deep. I thought for a second maybe it was just cracks from the freezing and thawing of the lawn, but now I think it's definitely voles.

vole runs in lawn
Filled in the trenches with topsoil, it took an entire 40 pound bag

Not much I can do right now, I added topsoil to the trenches. My dad says I might have them year round but in the summer you just don't notice because the grass grows so fast, but in the winter you can really tell. He's going to give me an underground ultrasonic wave thing that is supposed to scare them away for a 60 foot radius.

It's not a huge deal. I'm sure the grass will fill in with the new topsoil I added. And if this is the damage they can do over an entire winter, I doubt it gets much worse in the next few weeks while I'm waiting for the grass to start growing again.

Filing this post under #critters for sure!

dead grass in long stripsfield mouse damage with top soil

Quick Mulch on the Back Bed

I noticed some exposed roots on some trees and plants in my back yard where the mulch has either washed away or was kicked up by my dogs chasing each other at full speed through the beds. They love to run in the mulch because they get better traction and can sprint and turn sharp corners. What fun! Not so great on the plants though.

I got 3 bags of mulch at Lowe's and was happy to be back in the garden center. Last time I was there they didn't have any of my favorite mulch, but today they had more of it and even some dormant fruit trees out. They are gearing up for Spring!

3 bags was just enough to cover the back bed, and I edged the entire line with my grandpa's edging tool. It looks so fresh and clean!

Big head start compared to where I was last year

The little white stone is a marker where I'm going to put my Bloomerang Lilac on a standard

Added another rock to the downspout rock area, hopefully I didn't disturb the oriental lilies nearby 
exposed roots in mulchexposed roots in mulch

exposed roots in mulch

I also touched up around the birch trees, which is where the dogs run around a lot and exposed some of the roots.

mulch around tree

Friday, February 19, 2016

Dear Rabbits, Urine for a Surprise

Even though my yard is brown and drab all winter, it is a relative oasis for rabbits compared to the houses around me. All my neighbors have a few small juniper shrubs from the builder's original landscape package. I'm the only house with any kind of soft tissue perennials that should be coming up this spring.

That scares me a little because the rabbits definitely have me on their feeding trail right now. I let my dogs out at 3am only to see two large rabbits make a dash for the fence. Even with my 9 inch dog fence around the base of the aluminum fence, they jump over that and squeeze through mid-air. The rabbits are bigger than the dogs!

They've worked some of my plants down to a nub this winter. The only things they haven't touched are the woody plants like bushes and trees, and the lavender for some reason. They scalped my Dusseldorf Pride down to a painful looking nub, like looking at a starfish with all its legs cut off.

rabbit damage
Armeria maritima 'Dusseldorf Pride' with hungry winter rabbit damage
I'm thinking about moving to heavier ammunition. Predator urine all around the house and maybe even some moth balls on the side yards (where the dogs can't get them). I'm not sure how my dogs would react to wolf urine in the flower beds, but I 'found' some free large mammal urine earlier tonight and already started spreading that around the yard. I don't know if he's much of a predator, but this is chemical warfare now.

The other plan is to make a chicken wire cloche (I just learned that word) or more like a dozen of them to cover my emerging plants. These are freaking expensive! My mom also suggested maybe just wadding up some screen over the plants and weighing it down with rocks - it doesn't necessarily have to be formed onto a fancy frame like that as long as the plants aren't crushed. 

Crocus Vigil 2016 Started Without Me!

Last year I stood watch eagerly anticipating the emergence of my first crocus flowers after planting bulbs in the Fall of 2014. I didn't have to wait long, as little tiny sprouts emerged the 2nd day of my vigil. Those first shoots emerged on March 8, 2015 - and the blooms peaked on April 5.

This year, we've had a warmer winter, and I was anticipating an earlier emergence along with the face that they already have roots grown in rather than being grown from bulbs. But I wasn't expecting them this early!

As of today, February 19, 2016 I already have shoots emerging. Because I was ALL OVER my crocus watch last year, I have photos basically every couple days covering the month from first emergence to peak. Judging from those photos, I'd say these sprouts are already 5-7 days old but not quite 10 days old. Then again, there is no real way of knowing because they could have emerged and paused or emerged very quickly based on the weather.

crocus in february
February 19, 2016 crocus already emerging, high of 63°F today
crocus in februarycrocus in february

february crocus emergefebruary crocus emerge

Keeping an eye on other parts of the garden, I noticed a lot more rabbit damage, and a few other plants trying to wake up. The pale blue iris leaves are starting to emerge, and there are some fat buds on the wild ginger. An unknown evergreen succulent is also a nice surprise that the rabbits seem to be leaving alone.

evergreen indiana succulent
Unknown succulent that hitchhiked from Dayton on the iris clumps

Siberian Iris plotting for an early spring

wild ginger buds
European wild ginger - Asarum europaeum - buds looking like little lobster claws

Friday, February 12, 2016

Winter Aconite Blooming in February

This photo is from March of last year, but my mom just confirmed via text that my parents have winter aconite blooming in Dayton, Ohio as of Monday, February 8, 2016. That's crazy! It must have been the freaky warm winter that confused the early bloomers. I know they usually come up well before crocus, but February is a little nuts!

Here in central Indiana, we've been having heat waves too - with winter temps bouncing between the 50's and 20's. Also, when I was in Virginia, I saw bulbs emerging in January. It's going to be a weird Spring!

winter aconite
Winter aconite blooming in Dayton, Ohio (March 2015)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Notable Plants from My Trip to Orlando

Always nice to visit Orlando in the winter! This time I stayed at the Marriott World Center for a work conference and saw a great variety of tropical plants. I'll try my best to look them up online to identify them just from the photos I took. Any corrections are welcome in the comments section!

I'm pretty sure this first one is Bismarck palm (Bismarckia nobilis) just from the photos and descriptions I've seen online. 

Bismarck palm (Bismarckia nobilis)
Nice blue palm and a smaller one to the right just getting started. I think it's called Bismarck palm (Bismarckia nobilis)

Bismarck palm (Bismarckia nobilis)
Gorgeous blue palm tree, this appears to be a Bismarck palm (Bismarckia nobilis)
Next up, what appears to be Philodendron 'Rojo Congo' or possibly another Philodendron hybrid with purple red underside leaves and glossy dark green tops, exposed surface roots, maroon stems, and growing in partial shade 30 inches tall.

tropical plant red stems
Looks like Philodendron 'Rojo Congo'

Philodendron 'Rojo Congo'
Beautiful tropical undergrowth look but also very clean at the same time, Philodendron 'Rojo Congo'
Next up, this odd looking tree with thin stringy fronds that look like hair - like something out of Dr. Seuss. Where have I seen this before? It looks just like those small Ponytail Palm trees for sale as house plants, and indeed when I look up photos online of larger plants that looks like what it is. A huge ponytail palm or Beaucarnea recurvata.

ponytail palm
Large ponytail palm Beaucarnea recurvata

ponytail palm
The only specimen of Beaucarnea recurvata in the entire resort, huge ponytail palm