Garden Cleanup Tips Zones 5 & 6

Cool dry days are perfect for pulling up expired annuals, clipping back spent perennials, and generally clearing away plant litter. It’s also a good time to assess the performance of your plantings and decide what changes you’d like to make. I’ve found that planting the same type of annuals in a spot every year is a mistake. They never do well for me the second year. It’s better to vary plantings: begonias one year, petunias the next, and another favorite stellar performer the following year.

There are a few perennials I leave untouched until late winter. Some, like hydrangeas, add winter interest to the garden as they look lovely with a dusting of snow. The seeds of others such as Echinacea, or purple cone flower, provide food for birds late in the year. Lavender is a tender plant that will survive winters best if left untrimmed until just before it begins sending out new growth the following year. I generally clip back clematis on a warm day in late winter, as well.

One more thing – don’t forget to add a few more flowering bulbs to your garden.

If you have any garden tips, for whichever area you call home, I’d love to hear them.

An Unlikely Pest

One of my favorite birds is the beautiful little goldfinch. I was happy to see two of them frequently perched on the wire fence surrounding the vegetable garden this summer. Surprisingly, they didn’t fly away when I worked nearby. I assumed they must have found it to be the haunt of a favorite insect, and appreciated their diligent maintenance of the plot. At the same time, I was dismayed by the devastation of my beet crop. I’ve planted them the past several years and they have never done so poorly. They looked like they were being attacked by insects. I planted two more rows, but the leaves were barely out of the ground before they were completely consumed. Eventually, it dawned on Don and me that goldfinches could be the culprits, so we covered that corner of the garden with netting. The birds promptly flew away and the plants began to recover. I never would have guessed they liked greens.

A Day at the Beach

beach pic sm

Don & Darlene in Grand Haven

No shoes,

sand between toes,

cool water strokes my feet;

a walk along a sunny beach;

summer.

*

Bright flash;

water sparkles

as far as I can see;

white sails reach up to touch the clouds;

magic.

*

A shock;

quick immersion.

I rise gasping for air.

A tall green wave approaches me

again.

*

Warm sand,

skin bronzing light,

heat above and below

as I stretch out to enjoy this

comfort.

Birds In Winter

by Darlene Blasing

(Ah, such is the plight of the birds tonight. Dec. 29, 2012)

Little birds at my window swarm,

with snowy beaks and feathers,

wishing they were safe and warm

in this, the worst of weathers.

In trees and shrubs, their branches bare,

no hint of shelter can be found.

The snow that swirls with gusts of air

hides gardens sleeping on the ground.

Other creatures sleep beneath

the snowy blanket lying there

in tunnels deep within the earth

Without a worry or a care.

Inside our houses snug and dry

we peer into the stormy night

watching with compassionate eye

the little birdies’ chilly plight.

If only there could be a place

For every bird compelled to roam

over winter’s frigid face

without shelter, without home.