Spring Finally Arrives in New York! Hurray! Photos from Highland Park (Near Rochester)

~~By Grail Guardian

After the longest Winter I can remember in quite a few years, Mother Nature has finally blessed Upstate New York with her bounty once again. Temperatures Saturday soared into the high 80s, and I actually was able to turn off the furnace and sleep with the windows open!

NM-GRL may have the New Mexico weather advantage, but we have the glorious eruption of a never-ending cascade of color and foliage that reminds us why we still live here. Basically, I think most of us will move once Governor Paterson figures out a way to tax the flowers and trees (I’m sure he’s working on it…)

So until then, let’s start with the sea of daffodils!


This photo was taken last week, and many more have since come out. These are some early blooms at Highland Park (my favorite place to enjoy nature until my Dad gets his yard finished – I’ll do another post when his artistry is in bloom).


The first Magnolias starting last week – they are now out in full force and walking through this section of the park sends you on a sensory journey that just has to be experienced! I love to just stand there with my eyes closed and breathe in the sweet fragrance…


More Magnolias, surrounded by an incredible blanket of blue Glory of the Snow…


A splash of Spring colors blankets the old Oak tree…


I think this is a member of the Dogwood family. This park features an abundance of flora from around the world, and many unique species of lilacs created here for the annual Lilac Festival


These pics were taken just before the 2008 Lilac Festival. I cannot even begin to describe the heavenly aroma that surrounds the park when these babies are in bloom…


Some white Lilacs (photo from 2008)…


Since I’m taking the trip down memory lane, here (again from 2008) are a few of the magnificent Azaleas that are taller than I am!


Back to this year, Spring wouldn’t be complete without the forsythia. Again, this was taken last week, so they’ve filled in quite a bit.


And here’s a preview of the Lilacs! Starting to leaf out…they’ll be glorious in a couple of weeks!


And today the Bradford Pear outside work is in full bloom…


And our birds’ favorite tree – they love to eat the flower buds, but the tree seems to withstand their assault quite nicely. The cardinals keep trying to build a nest in it, but it’s too close to the building so they give up every year. Thanks to the security coating on the windows, we can watch them quite close up. We have to hang feeders off the windows to keep them from flying into the glass, but our male cardinal still tries to fight the “other male” he sees in his reflection at least once a day.


Editor’s Note:

Highland Park in Rochester was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead:

Renowned park designer Frederick Law Olmstead was responsible for final development of Highland Park. Among his other accomplishments was the design of New York City’s famous Central Park.


Saturday Sanity: The Antidote to the Madness (April 25, 2009) The Squirrels Invade

Originally Posted at InsightAnalytical

~~By NM-GRL (IA)

I had a very busy week in the garden this week and posted the details here.

Today, I finally got the chocolate flower into the ground. Hopefully, I won’t drown this one…it’s tricky with desert plants because they need some moisture to get established when first planted. BUT…it’s sometimes hard to tell what is too much.

The big event of the week actually occurred yesterday. The SQUIRREL WARS have begun in earnest! After the carnage in the garden a week or so ago, when all my baby swiss chard and mesculin was munched on by bugs, I bought on the spur of the moment a 9-pack of buttercrunch lettuce. To be safe, I planted them in the patio pots, in with the tomatoes and peppers. Perfect, right? Wrong! Yesterday afternoon I caught not one, but TWO squirrels brazenly eating the lettuce!

Last spring they also ventured far into the yard. It may be that they are raising a family and need a lot of food. Since the dogs are out for most of the morning, they stay away. But their past behavior has to start coming over the wall from about 1 or 2 pm until about 4. In the morning, the white-tailed doves eat most of the cracked corn I set out in this old plastic fountain that I found in the trash, so this afternoon I put more out and guess what? The two buggers munched happily on the corn and didn’t wander onto the patio. Of course, I had put up some gerry-built chicken wire to deter them…but… Here is a shot of how they peek over the wall…

Surveying the food situation...

Surveying the food situation...

Enjoying the free grub…

Wallowing in the food dish...

Wallowing in the food dish...

Frankly, I do have a soft spot in my heart for any animal that sits in its food dish. I had gerbils that did the same thing…the enthusiasm of the act is rather endearing.

I don’t know if I can keep them from my peaches for much longer. I’ve developed a new strategy. Instead of picking up the dog poop and putting it in the garbage, I’ve been tossing it along the other side of the wall near the burrow entrance that is hidden by big rabbitbrush bushes. Why I think any squirrels would be deterred by this, I don’t know…but I figure it’s worth a try! This year I have the most peaches ever and they are already HUGE!

Peaches waiting for squirrel visitors...

Peaches waiting for squirrel visitors...

I still haven’t finished the new trellises for the new grapes and I have to start training the Flame grape which is already full of little bunches. And, if I had time, I would be bagging those peaches now…my luck can’t hold out!!

FINALLY! Wind Is Gone and the Temperatures Are UP! GARDENING UPDATE!

~~By NM-Girl (IA)

Well, I’ve been slaving away in the garden every moment I have over the last few days. A couple of days ago, it happened. You could tell.

The winds died down and instead of the cool weather, we started feeling warm. Warm enough to make the car hot during the time I was in the store shopping.  Warm enough to make some of the plants look a little wilted midday.  It’s all about the sun–today it’s overcast, but for the last few days the sun has been stronger.  I’m already tanning if I go out for just a few minutes without my sun gear.

I have a big hat with a flap which covers my neck and an array of long-sleeved shirts that I use when I walk the dogs and go to the mailbox.  No matter how hot it gets–and it gets HOT–I still put those things on.  I’m sure people think I’m nuts.

Saturday I planted the new Belle of Georgia peach. Even with a pre-existing hole (after I pulled out the old tree), it was still a huge job as I enlarged the whole and mixed in a lot more compost and root stimulator.

On Sunday I planted a lot of the pots and sweet potato slips.  Yesterday, I moved around a lot of extra stones which I was getting out of the way while preparing the spot for the new chocolate flower.  In the morning, this perennial does smell like chocolate. I killed one a couple of years ago in the wrong spot, so I’m trying again. I’m going to wait to see if rains tonight or tomorrow before digging so I can take advantage if any moisture helps soften up the  hard concrete-like sandy “soil.”

So, here are some pics of where things are now in the garden!

The honeysuckle is blooming now…

Blooming honeysuckle...

Blooming honeysuckle...

The cactus is sprouting…

Cactus awakening...

Cactus awakening...

The mockingbird surveys the scene below:


Here’s a view across the covered patio looking toward the vegetable beds:

2009_0421gardenfinallyspring0030From the opposite direction to the other side of the yard:

2009_0421gardenfinallyspring0031The far corner of the yard where the white-tailed doves and rock squirrels eat cracked corn…a vitex tree starting to leaf out by corner…

2009_0421gardenfinallyspring0032Lots of fruit is growing now…and the squirrel was spotted in the yard…more next time!!

Saturday Sanity: The Antidote to the Madness (April 18, 2009) Glorious Organ Mountains; Apricots; Quail on the Wall; Sneaky Slick the Min Pin

Originally Posted at  InsightAnalytical

~~By NM-GRL (IA)

It’s been a frustrating week in the garden as the winds have continued and the temperatures have dipped the last day or so.  I’ve managed to put a couple of veggies and flowers into the patio pots, only to cover them up again to protect them from the weather.

Yesterday I bought a new Belle of Georgia peach to replace the one that is languishing.  I’ll get that in the ground over the weekend.

A big surprise is that I found a little apricot growing.  One seems to be finally showing on the flower I saw…but this one never seemed to have a flower that I ever saw, so imagine my surprise to see a an actual baby apricot!!  Let’s see if anything more shows up!

Last Tuesday I took advantage of the short trip over to my chess teacher’s house and took some wonderful pictures of the Organ Mountains. These views are literally a couple of minutes from my house…I’ll share one with you now:

Organ Mountain 4/16/09 Looking Like a Painting...
Organ Mountains 4/14/09 Looking Like a Painting…

New Mexico has wonderful light, which attracts a lot of artists.  The changes in the skies and the light that changes from second to second are things which never cease to amaze me.

Closer to home, the quail are beginning to show up on my wall.  I love these guys and their plaintive calls.

A Curious Quail...
A Curious Quail…

Finally, Slick the Sneak was into all sorts of trouble yesterday.  We left the house for an appointment and when we got back we found garbage all over the floor!  This hasn’t happened in quite awhile.  It really was close to the boys’ dinnertime, so I guess Slick was the leader of the pack in search of some grub.

This picture, which I took a couple of days ago, shows the little flash of the devil in his eyes:
Sneaky Slick
Sneaky Slick

Let’s hope the winds die down next week! I have to put up the new grape trellises, plant a chocolate flower and really have to decide if I should bag the peaches. So far the squirrels haven’t shown up, which is amazing. I see the papa or mama when I look over the wall and they gobble up the lettuce and other veg scraps I toss over right away.  I suppose they’re busy with babies and as they grow, I’m sure they’ll be hunting for a lot more food…including peaches!

New USDA Map: Climate Zones Shifting


Stumbled across this story the other day at a website called The Daily Climate.

This should make you folks up north feel better because, apparently, the hardiness zones are shifting in your direction. In other words your zones are becoming “warmer” and may change your planting choices.

I won’t go into a full discussion here because The Daily Climate post is so detailed and informative.

New U.S. Climate Zone Map

New U.S. Hardiness Zone Map

Here’s the direct link to the USDA map which links to more in-depth information about each hardiness zone.

I haven’t studied it in detail for down here in the high desert of  southern New Mexico, but maybe someday I’ll be able to plant more tropical plants?  Some like the Red Bird of Paradise already overwinter at the lower elevations, but here up in the foothills of the Organs it depends a lot on the micro-climate in each location.

Coming Soon to the North Country (Specifically, Wisconsin)…

~~By NM-GRL & Kenosha Marge

Kenosha Marge sent me a couple of pictures to inspire those still in cold, un-springlike weather…First, here’s a pic of what the crabapple tree near Marge looks like now:

Early April crabapple in WI

Early April crabapple in WI

Next, Marge has given us a picture from last May…which is not too far off, so hold on, spring is coming!!

The same tree, last May 2

The same tree, last May 2

Meanwhile, down here in southern NM, we’ve had a couple of days of chilly wind and yesterday it actually RAINED!  Sort of.  Moments after I took the picture of the front walk (below), there was no evidence of rain…the sidewalk was already dry!

Dancing in the rain...

Dancing in the rain...

Protected from wind and rain splats...

Protected from wind and rain splats...

This is place where you can literally have sun on one side of the street and rain on the other.  As for the temperatures, the wild 30 degree swings between day and overnight is what got my apricot blossoms last year and gave me no fruit.  That’s the cycle we’re in now.

If you look very carefully, you’ll notice the rain splats on the sides of the raised bed…(not so clear in this small picture…but trust me, they are there!)

Sometimes I think it’s easier just to have a real cold winter with a definable spring.  Our spring down here is erratic before the heat hits…

Saturday Sanity: The Antidote to the Madness (April 11, 2009) Carnage in the Garden; Blossoms; Harvesting Water; Empty Clouds; Spoiled Squirrels

Originally Posted at InsightAnalytical

~~By NM-GRL (IA)

This has been such a windy week that it’s been hard getting plants into pots, but by yesterday I had planted petunias, dianthus and a couple of peppers I had split off and saved for their pots on the patio.

In the raised beds, there has been absolute carnage as the little crickets are out in full force and the pill bugs have been nipping at lettuce and chard. In fact, I was horrified today to see some very nice chard seedlings GONE!!!

Over at our sister site Open Range Ramblings, we’ve been focused on fruit. Here’s a bit more…

Apricot blossom

Apricot blossom

So far, that blossom is the only one on the tree. In case you’re wondering what that odd thing in the background is, it’s my new “rain barrel”. What rain we get comes mostly in the form of huge downpours during the monsoon season during the summer. So, I’m hoping “harvest” about 50 gallons of water this summer.

Yesterday was rather cloudy but no rain! This is typical of this area…you really think there’s a chance…but nothing materializes most of the time. However, the sky does do some interesting things…the light here is always fascinating.

No rain after all...

No rain after all...

The squirrels are out, but I don’t see them too often. I’m thinking there’s some day care going on for little squirrels. The squirrels have been knawing at a cactus I planted last year, so I put water out for them near the wall. Nearly every day I toss the vegetable scraps over the wall for them to feast on. They must be fairly happy because this is the first year I haven’t found a huge hole being dug in the raised beds.

Obviously, my rock squirrels are pampered, in the hopes that they don’t have to rely on marauding through my garden TOO much. Chicago Correspondent Leslie sent this along awhile ago, and it describes the kind of life my squirrels receive:

 ...at the spa

...at the spa

Even though they need constant pampering, I have to admit the little ones are adorable, so I’ll be looking out to their debut and will hopefully be able to catch a few shots!

Have a great week outside!