Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The First Day of Spring!

Yesterday was officially the first day of spring at Mosswood Gardens!

Greenhouse #1 was fired up to a toasty 70 degrees, and with the sun shining, the temperature soared up into the 80's.

After dividing and potting up our new collection of houseplants and tropical foliage, we finally began seeding, an activity that always puts me into a bright and cheerful mood as I daydream about the finished product. First to be seeded was herbs, including four varieties of basil (our first batch), cilantro (coriander), thyme, marjoram, rosemary, curly and flat-leaf (italian) parsley, sage, chives, dill, oregano, and summer savory. We also seeded 21 different colors of petunias, and there are many more to come!

Today, the seeding continues, beginning with snapdragons, which were assisted with pre-chilling, cacti and assorted succulents, vinca, verbena, salvia, dusty miller, datura, impatiens, gazanias, lobelia, and a large number of perennials, to be nurtured to maturity and added to our extensive list of offerings (see http://www.mosswoodgardens.com/index_files/Perennials.htm for a partial list).

Check back often for updated reports as we march on through our rigorous seeding schedule!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Winter Foraging

Although today was much cooler than yesterday, and occasional light flurries skidded through on quick bursts of cold air, it was clear and bright for the most part, and there was no accumulation.

One of the best features of this time of year is that it provides an opportunity to venture into areas that may be inaccessible at other times. Bare and brittle branches give way more easily as you traipse through the scrub, and visibility is dramatically improved. With the ground still frozen and wetland growth matted down, normally marshy areas may be easily traversed. While I still urge the intrepid forager to exercise prudence and caution (pond surfaces, for example, are clearly off limits!), such conditions are wonderful for ransacking some of the spoils of winter. In fact, now is the time to plan ahead for some of the dried arrangements or whimsical elements you may wish to incorporate into your indoor and outdoor botanical decor in the future. Dried pods and fungi that were beyond your reach in autumn may still be found clinging to many plants. Plump green buttons of moss are still thriving. Pine cones still litter the ground. Best of all, there are bird's nests to be had!

With the breeding season long over, now is the perfect time to hunt for abandoned nests in shrubs and small trees. Such nests can later be used throughout the landscape for interesting effect, whether tucked into a planter, nestled amidst a perennial grouping, or placed in a decorative birdhouse. Just remember to wash your hand after handling.

Incorporating a disused bird's nest is a wonderful way to add rustic beauty and a natural element in any setting. Besides, by spending an afternoon in their pursuit, you will not only be getting fresh air and exercise, you will also learn just a bit more about the favorite haunts of birds, information that may be useful in spring when it comes to planning a bird-friendly landscape. Who knows? You might even find a new resident this spring!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Resisting the urge to jump into spring

Today was a glorious spring-like day. Although a somewhat cool wind was blowing and the sun was intermittantly obscured by clouds, bright patches and stretches of blue sky burst through regularly, and the sun beat down warmly. Even the slick layer of snow that has frosted our yards has vanished since yesterday evening. With temperatures exceeding the low 60s, I was not surprised to spy a few errant insects who had roused themselves from their winter slumber to buzz by drowsily.

For those who have spent the better part of the winter trapped indoors, days like this (particularly as it comes at the end of what has been a three-day weekend for many people) can lead to an overwhelming urge to be in the garden and get a jump on spring clean-ups.

Although the beginning (or overzealous) gardener might surmise that getting a headstart on clearing the beds of dead leaves, dried stalks, wind-barren seed pods, pine needles, and other winter detritus is a sensible (not to mention enjoyable) way to spend a day like this, I would strongly caution you to resist such well-intentioned efforts.

Winter thaws, even as brief as this one, have a tendency to stir some plants from dormancy. You may have noticed, for example, that some of your spring-flowering bulbs, most notably daffodils, have begun to poke up through the ground, as a result of slightly milder temperatures (although, as a side note, this sometimes occurs as the result of a period of milder temperatures that may have stimulated slight growth all the way back in late fall). Nevertheless, such stirrings are not a sign that is is safe to uncover your plants from the protective covering of store-bought mulch or a thick mat of leaves.

As those of us know who have lived our entire lives in the northeast, the danger of bitter cold temperatures and damaging storms is still far from being over. If the mercury does fall or a heavy ice storm does occur, plants that lack protection will be extremely vulnerable and may not survive. Thus, not only do I caution our customers not to uncover their plants, but I also recommend that they still refrain from removing last year's dead growth, as even this can add a bit of protection to your favorite perennials. Additionally, as I've written before, much of this growth adds winter interest should your property be again buried beneath a snowy blanket. I, for one, prefer to see the ghosts of seasons past to scanning a flat, uninterrupted landscape. Besides, many of these plants still serve as perches for resident birds (one of my favorite sights in winter is to watch our chickadees swinging happily on the seven foot tall fronds of our ornamental grasses!).

If, despite reading the above, you really must get your hands dirty, I suggest a day of re-potting houseplants. Often neglected, many houseplants will be grateful for a larger container (or division when they have reproduced beyond the accomodation of their pots). Even more important, particularly for those of you who may not fertilize as regularly as you ought to, re-potting provides your plant with fresh and more nutritious soil, for a healthier, happier plant that will often reward you with a sudden growth spurt. Best of all, the typically messy task of re-potting offers you the perfect excuse to enjoy the weather by working on a surface outdoors. Just be sure to bring your plants inside before the temperatures fall below 55 degrees and never water them in with frigid water from an outdoor tap (indoor room temperature is best).

Happy President's Day!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

My Birthday

Today is my (Heidi Stroh of Mosswood Gardens) birthday, and my Valentine's Day flowers are open and even more stunning!

Temperatures are still extremely cold, but it is sunny and bright, and the sky is a lovely, clear blue--exactly the shade you will see above the clouds when you are embarking on a much-needed aerial journey to the tropics at this time of year! My mother always insisted that my birthday marks the coming of spring, but here at Mosswood Gardens we celebrate spring in early April with a luscious rainbow of pansies and violas.
For now, given the cold we are still experiencing, I think Hermes the Mosswood cat had the right idea for most of the day yesterday!

Although winter is still far from over, the days are definitely getting longer and it is just about time for our seeding to get under way in full force. Transplanting will follow shortly after, and our busiest season will be upon us in no time.
In the meantime, unlike most other businesses in our area, which close for the winter, our gift shop is open on the weekends through April, when we will again maintain regular weekday hours. Even so, although we are a bit off the beaten path and this is a relatively quiet time of year, we are still constantly seeing new faces. Almost invariably (and today was no exception) newcomers are delighted by what they find. The most frequent comments when looking about are, "that's different!" and "how unusual!" as they discover the uniqueness that characterizes our gifts, jewelry, and decor. Upon realizing that we are also a full-scale nursery, their excitement for spring is overwhelming, and we look forward to the day they return to see Mosswood Gardens in full bloom.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

February Chills and Thoughts of the Future

While it's still extremely cold outside and the warm months are still a distant dream, here at Mosswood Gardens we are already anticipating the after-season, selecting the finest of brightly-colored chrysanthemums for our fall displays.

Last season, reds were the most popular, particularly the daisy varieties. While the pom-pom and button types are more traditional, the past few years have seen a surge of experimentation, as gardeners test the limits of hardiness and seek drama. Luckily for them, mum breeders have kept pace with disease and pest-resistant varieties that feature show-stopping colors and flower habits. Of course, in addition to reds, we also offer orange, bronze, lemon, yellow, gold, burgundy, purple, lavender, pink, white, and bi-color varieties that span the season from early to late and flower in forms ranging from button and pom-pom to daisy and spoon.

Although spring has not yet arrived, we are excitedly planning for the entire 2008 growing season. With expanded visibility in a large number of local and regional farm markets, we recommend that our large and loyal local customer base visit us early for the best selection. Visit often for weekly promotions and to secure your favorite items, as we anticipate selling out of many of our finest offerings early in the season. It's not surprising, considering that we offer the healthiest and most mature perennial plant stock in the area, as well as the most dramatic and unusual annual combinations!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Jack Frost Sweeps Through

Last night was ice clear, with a million stars visible and twinkling sharply. It was also extremely windy and an unusual number of planes seemed to have been diverted into a holding pattern over our skies.

This morning the wind has still not relented and the cold is so biting that the cats refuse to set paw outdoors. A thick crystal glaze hazes the uninsulated glass of the storm door.

Although such wind and temperatures can be mortal to many plants, the slight snow cover that recently fell will help to protect them. In general, the heavier the blanket, the better off your plants will be. Often, it is supposedly milder winters that prove fatal.

In areas where temperatures plummet but snowfall is minimum, the best way to protect your plants is to apply a thick layer of mulch at their base in the fall. I usually suggest waiting to do so until after the ground freezes, so that the mulch does not hold too much moisture, which can rot the roots, or become host to pests or disease. I also recommend that you do not cut back your summer flowering perennials until it is time for a spring clean-up. The old vegetation can add additional protection and provide visual interest during the barren winter months.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday at Mosswood Gardens

Although the winter winds are howling, inside our gift shop it is cozy and full of light. We have just added the River Queene line of jewelry to our inventory and are truly excited by the reception it has has had. Inspired by the element of water, in combination with historic and mythological figures of female prominence, this line of jewelry invokes a sense of mystery and longing and is perfect for the romantic or discerning princess in your life. Stop by to see the magic for yourself, as we are the exclusive dealer of this artisan's work.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Beating the winter blues.

Here at Mosswood Gardens, we understand the cabin fever that sets in about this time of year. While temperatures outside will remain cold for months, spring will be arriving in our greenhouses next week, when we begin to plant the first seeds of the season. Although you may not have a home greenhouse, you, too, can look towards the warmer months by planting some seeds of your own.

When planting seeds, be sure to read the package instructions carefully. Many seeds must be pre-treated before they are ready to be planted. Some require refrigeration or freezing for a period of time before they will break dormancy. Others require that the seed itself is "scarred" to penetrate the hard outer shell.

In the northeast, where we are located, now would be a great time to plant pansy seeds or to start many perennials, which can tolerate cool weather. For most other seeds, you may have to wait a bit, depending on how many weeks before the last frost date the package instructions advise. In our area, which is zone 4-5, Memorial Day is usually the day that is picked, although there is rarely frost after May 15th. If you get a late start on planting, you can speed up germination for many varieties by creating a mini-green house, which can be accomplished by creating a tent out of dowels and clear plastic over your planting (provided you have not selected seeds that need cool temperatures to germinate). Once your seedlings have emerged, the tent can be removed to allow them room to grow and adequate air circulation.

Happy planting, and don't forget to look for updates to our photo gallery at: http://www.mosswoodgardens.com/index_files/PhotoGallery.htm , our catalog at http://www.mosswoodgardens.com/index_files/Catalog.htm , and our website at http://www.mosswoodgardens.com throughout the growing season!