Monday, April 27, 2015

Early Spring in the North

Heading north on US Rte 81 through Virginia
We arrived home from our southern trip this past week. I always worry, when we're in Florida, that I'm going to miss all the beautiful spring flowers in all their glory like the tulips, daffodils, crocuses, and flowering shrubs and trees.

Well, that certainly wasn't the case here in Upstate New York. Thank goodness. We pulled in our driveway and there were just a few crocuses blooming. The daffodils were up and there was color in the buds, but none of them had opened yet.

Spring snow shower

Then it snowed. Enough to cover the ground, too. It started off with just a few flakes floating around, but then it got heavier and started to accumulate. The next few days it was either raining, snowing or too cold or wet to work outside so I just spent those days washing clothes from our trip and putting stuff away like all the clothes I brought for the trip but either didn't need or didn't wear. When you travel that time of year you need winter clothes and summer clothes.

It was really nice to see the green grass again. It hasn't started growing yet, where it needs mowing, but I'm sure with the next warm spring rain it will shoot up fast.

Royal Star Magnolia bud

The trees have not leafed out yet. There are just tiny buds on them. The weeping willows in the area are the first trees to fully leaf out. Currently their leaves are majestic in their lime green colors. They look like little feathers on the trees. The Royal Star Magnolia has some buds on it that are getting ready to open. Probably the next warm day they will pop out too.

I was able to get out this past Saturday for a few hours and start my yard work. I really saw a big difference in my flower gardens from previous years. What I remember doing different, is that last fall I was very diligent in keeping my garden beds clean and free of leaves and pine needles. And I tried to keep up with the weeding. I really think that made a difference in how my gardens look this year. Of course it could be that all those weed seeds haven't sprouted yet, too. And I also used "Preen" in some of the beds, too. "Preen" is a pre-emergent weed killer. It will kill weed seeds that haven't germinated. It won't kill existing weeds or any other perennial. If you want to use it, I recommend weeding your garden first, then apply the "Preen" according to package instructions. But, if you have seeds planted in your gardens, or you want some of your plants to go to seed then you don't want to use the "Preen". I didn't not use it in the gardens where I have foxgloves planted because they are a biennial and I want them to go to seed. If you would like more information on foxgloves or biennials check out my blog post Where Did My Foxgloves Go?

Finally some of the daffodils are blooming.
If you are able to, this is a good time to get out in your gardens now. This time of year the ground is fairly soft and the weeds pull easily. Also it's not too hot and the black flies or "punkies" haven't hatched out yet.

I'm going to also put down some composted manure in some of the beds that have been neglected in awhile. I've found that after returning from a trip this time of year, that if we have an early spring, the perennials are so big it's hard to rake, weed or mulch around them. It's a lot easier to do it now rather then when your plants are a foot high or so. The mulch will keep the weed seeds down. Most weeds need sun to germinate. A layer of mulch will also help hold in the moisture, improve the soil structure and add nutrients when it breaks down.
White-throated Sparrow (looks like he has a white beard)
As for our feathered friends, there are still a few Juncos that are hanging around that haven't returned to their Arctic breeding grounds yet. I've seen a few White-throated Sparrows in the area too. I've never seen them stay in this area of my yard through the summer, but I'm sure some of them spend the season here and others fly further north.

I woke early this morning (about 5am) and was almost back to sleep when I thought I heard a Mourning Dove so I didn't pay any attention to it. But then I heard it again and realized it wasn't a dove but an owl. It stayed around for awhile singing its monotone "hooting". Needless to say, after that awakening I couldn't get back to sleep.


Hellebores. I thought I would highlight the Hellebores. The hellebores are deer resistant plants and that's probably because all parts of the plants are poisonous. Be careful handling the hellebores, because it's possible to get a rash just from planting them. The plants grow in clumps and depending on the variety they can grow up to two feet tall. The are often called "Lenten Rose" or "Christmas Rose". In our northern climate, they usually start to bloom late winter to early spring, depending on the location and variety of your plant. They are drought resistant, but do best in moist, well-drained soil. They do not like standing water. They will rot if they are too wet. They grow in either partial or full shade. The plants grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9. The plants will reseed themselves, but because they are hybrids it may be different from the parent plant. Once the seedlings have developed a set of true leaves you can transplant them to another area of your garden. To keep them looking tidy, cut back the old growth (winter leaves that have turned brown) in the spring down to the ground.

~ Have Fun This Spring ~

Our Welcome Home Committee - I think he spent the winter under our shed.

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Would love to hear from you!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring in the South

Mocking Bird

I know I haven't posted many blog posts in the last few weeks, but wanted to let you know that I really appreciate all my readers and followers. I'm very thankful for your loyalty in reading my blog posts, as well as your comments and "likes" on my Facebook page.

We're still in Florida! I feel very blessed to be able to enjoy a jump start on Spring by our stay in Florida. While I can sympathize with my family and friends that endured the long winter in the Northeast, just know that I thought of you often. And I mean it, too. I would wonder if the snow was melting, how cold was it, did any of my friends have extensive damage from the snow,  how much snow is left in our yard in Mexico, NY, how windy was it, and did anyone have any damage from the harsh winter?

White Ibis

Most of the "snowbirds" (people who spend their winter in Florida to get away from the cold and snow) have headed back home by now. It's starting to get hot in Florida. At 10 a.m. in the morning it's 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  We were in the 90's yesterday and that's expected today, too. We're not really snowbirds. We stay home for most of the winter. My husband really enjoys the cold weather and he is avid downhill skier. He has enjoyed his time the last few years skiing a few times each week with our son and two oldest grandchildren. I'm glad they have this special time together enjoying this outdoor activity.

Green Heron

So the end of February (I have to tear my husband away from skiing), we head south to enjoy some warm weather. And usually March isn't that great for skiing because the snow is starting to melt and you get the spring rains. However this year was an exception. I can't believe that March was as cold as it was in the Northeast. I almost feel 'guilty' for enjoying all this heat and sunshine in Florida.

Osprey with his catch of fresh fish

Osprey on recycled satellite dish for nesting purposes

But soon we will be leaving here and heading home. I always enjoy the songs of the birds and the green growth of spring when we arrive here. One of the first sounds that you hear when you head south is the song of the Mocking Bird. This bird has so many varieties of songs that unless you see him while he's singing you never know if you are hearing the actual species he's imitating or the Mocking Bird itself.

Sandhill Crane sitting on nest with two recent hatchlings

We also look forward to seeing tropical bird species that live in the areas surrounding the marshes, swamps, shorelines and lakes of the south. Some of those birds include the Ibis, Sandhill Cranes, Anhinga, Great Egrets, and Herons. When we arrive in early March, several bird species have built their nests and laid their eggs.

Sandhill Crane with chicks that are 24 hours old
It seems so odd to me to be down here this time of year and everything is green, the wildlife are raising their babies, and the bugs are out. It's really strange to see the fireflies in April. There are some pesty bugs around here though. Like the mosquitoes and the "no see-um's". They are bad. And of course there are the alligators, and snakes. Lots of snakes (poisonous ones, too).

Baby Great-horned Owl

Great Egret

Also, because everything so so green and flowering in Florida in the spring there is a lot of pollen that can cause several problems for those with allergies.

Florida = exquisite flora, fauna, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and beaches!

Note: some of the wildlife featured on this page are also found in several other States including Central and Northern New York. The wildlife was not baited or called in for these pictures. 

Hope you enjoyed some of 
our photos from Florida. 
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