Spring has come early to central Illinois. Usually the day time temperatures are in the 50s with 30s at night. This whole week has skirted the 80s during the day and the high 50s at night. We've had our windows open all week and haven't closed them at night. Plants are coming up that usually don't emerge until April. Daffodils are up about six inches, tulip leaves are up but no buds have formed yet, my violets have leaves, the honeysuckle has leaves, the hydrangea has leaves. We worked in the garden Tuesday and Wednesday cleaning up debris and cutting down last year's plants. Almost everything we grow benefits wildlife in some manner - food, nesting sites, hiding places. Our perennials were picked for their value to the birds and butterflies that live here.
I took this picture from the porch this morning as the sun was coming up over the Illinois River. Unfortunately, from our property we can't see the river, but we have a fairly flat piece of property and everyone who can see the river has a step drop-off in their back yard. We bought this house for the land as much as the house; we have extensive gardens, a large pond with a waterfall and many bird boxes. We also have an abundance of blue spruce pine trees which are nesting sites for chipping sparrows, doves, robins, cardinals and house finches.
This is the view from my craft room window. The fences hold Dropmore Scarlet Honeysuckle and there are leaves on it already; it will bloom fairly early which is great for the hummingbirds who arrive before other sources of food are available. The birdhouse in the center of the fences is a bluebird house. The woods across the street support deer, fox and turkeys. I see them often from this window. The tree you can see at the right is a gorgeous crab apple with white blossoms. While you can't see in the picture, I can tell that the buds are getting ready to burst. The blanket next to the window is where my cat sleeps when she graces me with her presence (which isn't often). Soon I will attach a small feeder to the outside of the screen that I will fill with peanuts. I will get a steady flow of titmice, woodpeckers and chickadees to visit this feeder everyday through late fall and the cat will spend much more time here.
I went on 'walk-about' this morning, checking buds on bushes: the wiegelas both have buds as has the viburnum (which will smell like vanilla when it blooms). The wiegelas are great favorites of the hummingbirds and we have two - a variegated leaf with dark pink flowers and a white flowered one.
The annual bed has been covered with about four inches of straw to keep the weeds down and soon the greenhouse will go up. I have a huge envelope full of seeds I ordered on the internet and my husband built me a great potting bench last year. I will start some of the seeds in the house and the rest in the greenhouse. We have a garage sale in late May or early June where I will sell my extras. When it's time to plant, the veggies go in the pots outside the family room and the annuals are spread out through the garden beds and in the raised annual bed. In August, the Peoria Camera Club annually treks out here to take pictures in our garden. We provide a shady spot to sit, snacks and lemonade.
This year we will need to stain the deck and gazebo, install a new shade structure on the deck, move the old structure to the garden so we can plant Autumn Blooming Clematis on it and add a couple of chairs under it. My husband is on the roof now inspecting for winter damage. Soon he will be in his woods clearing his walking path and checking the native plants he's been slowly filling them up with. Once we have the furniture in the gazebo uncovered and arranged, the gazebo dusted and swept, I will start my coloring outside. The only problem with that is, there is so much going on in our garden, I'm easily distracted. I watch where the birds carry nesting material, I see where the baby bunnies are hiding, we watch the pelicans soar above our house, is that a dragonfly?