Last fall Carl mulched a few bags of leaves using the push power mower with the bag. Then we dumped the mulched leaves on several of the flower beds in lieu of purchased mulch. Leaves add lots of organic material to the soil as well as preserving water but in some places we got it a little deep. So, I spent part of the day cutting back the butterfly bushes (both large and miniarture) and uncovering the iris rhizomes. While I was fluffing up some of the leaves mashed down by the snow it was evident lots of plants are coming up. The Meadow Sage, Yarrow, Catmint, Clematis, Honeysuckle, Iris, Tulips, Daffodils, Black-Eyed Susans, Coneflowers, Autumn Joy Sedum, Candytuft, and Veronica are all coming up through the leaves. That's just in the two raised beds. Since we cleaned the debris from most of the gardens last fall, this spring was a piece of cake. In years past, my daughter, SIL and grandchildren used to come out and help us open the garden beds as a Mother's Day gift to me but somehow we lost that tradition. Carl was saying yesterday how much he missed it. While we aren't ancient by any means, each year takes a little longer and it's a little harder to get up after having gotten down. The new raised bed that was built is my favorite because I can sit on the side of it and work in that bed. Consequently, it's the nicest bed because of the ease of weeding.
While taking a break and sitting in the swing on the shed porch, we glanced up and saw half a dozen white pelicans circling the house. Their color changes as they turn into and out of the sun, from pure snow white to greyish with black on the end of their wings. It's mesmerizing to watch them. There has been no evidence of our juncos for several days, we assume they have left for the north to breed. The beautiful male Towhee has been gone for several weeks. The chipping sparrows are not here yet nor are the hummingbirds. According the Journey North, the hummingbirds were in Southern Illinois a week ago so they are coming. The bluebirds were on the north box several days ago but I haven't seen them since. We put out a feeder that holds whole peanuts but filled it with accumulated cat fur from a winter's brushing of the Persian. We will know when nesting season starts; the birds will be pulling fur from the feeder and it will drift across the yard. Titmice will fight over it. Cat hair is soft and dries quickly so it's perfect for lining a nest. I keep the brushed fur in empty tissue boxes and store it in the garage until it's needed. In a good winter, I can fill four or five boxes.
We had a good rain four days ago and the grass started greening up immediately. The crab apple tree outside my 'studio' (craft room) is showing leaves now. All the maple trees around our house as well as the two river birches have either big buds or actual leaves showing. The forecast for our area is rain this week so by the weekend, our world will be fresh and green. We have miniature daffodils blooming in the front yard and the day lilies are up several inches. A good rain will be a big boost to growth.
I moved the house plants into the greenhouse yesterday. With rain and clouds the weather is perfect for them. They need to be eased into being outdoors and with a heater for chilly nights, a week or two in the greenhouse is just what the doctor ordered. The pond plants that have wintered over in the bay window in buckets of water should perk up being outside. Carl will have the water barrels up soon so I can use rain water to keep the buckets filled. It will be many weeks before the temperatures at night are stable enough for the fragile tropical plants to go in the pond. Soon, I will be out shopping for the plants that always sell out because they can be stored in the greenhouse as well. Black and Blue Salvia is hard to find, it's a hummingbird magnet. Coral Nymph Salvia is also a wonderful hummingbird plant along with Gartenmeister Fuchsia. I need two tomato plants - Celebrity and Sweet 100s, both for salads and burgers. Celebrity is a smaller tomato but very prolific and has a wonderful flavor. I pick the Sweet 100s and eat them right off the plant. I used to grow Romas but found I didn't use them all so now I just grow the two types in the little courtyard off the gazebo. It's fenced in so the animals can't get the the veggies. This year we will reduce the pots there to allow room for a cat run outside our family room window. This will allow our two cats access to the outside without really being free. Our black cat, Sadie, wants to go out badly. Our Persian, Sassy, likes the window but doesn't try to make a break for it every time the door is open. We hope this will keep Sadie happy.
I also need seeds. Zinnia, Cosmos and Tithonia. The Zinnias and Cosmos will provide flowers for the bees and butterflies and seeds for the birds in the fall. Tithonia (Mexican Sunflower) will attract butterflies from everywhere. Our Monarchs have fallen off in recent years. Last year we only saw a couple of caterpillars and we plant milkweed specifically for them, both the orange and swamp varieties. I need to purchase both kinds as they tend to die out after several years. They also grow in the worst possible places, in between bricks that line the beds and outside the beds where mowing takes place. Of course, we are careful to avoid damaging those plants but sometimes accidents happen. Our gardens are design for nature. If a plant can't feed something or provide a nest site, we aren't interested in cultivating it. New this year was a screech owl box in the woods behind the house. We saw one last year, what a thrill. Hoping we will get a tenant. And a Pileated Woodpecker was on the kitchen suet feeder last week, I got a picture but my hand was shaking so bad it's not a good one. Hoping like crazy he/she will be back now that he/she knows where the suet is. Carl bought an extra box of 12 cakes just to make sure we had it on hand. Well, that's life in the midwest in early April, I hope where ever you are, nature is good to you.