Friday, April 9, 2010

The, absolutely, totally, most beautiful flower in the Spring rock garden has got to be Crocus Seiberi, the three-colour crocus.

The very centre of the flower is a brilliant deep yellow, then there is a wide band of pure white, then the petals shade into a sumptuous violet-purple. The large stigma in the centre is a deep orange. At any other time of the year we would think it garish, but in the Spring, with everything around still wet and draggled from Winter, nothing could be more beautiful. It cheers, it revives, the weary Gardener.

The second most beautiful flower in the Spring rock garden has got to be.... but no, there are so many second most beautiful flowers we won't even try that.

Excitement in the Night

I woke up about one o'clock last night with the clear thought in my head that a mouse had walked up my arm.

As I became a little more awake, I thought 'that's silly, I must have been dreaming....' Then I felt, unmistakably, tiny feet walking down my arm. Cold tiny feet! Whatever it was then stopped on the back of my hand and I felt the lightest lightest brush of something soft on my fingers. At this point instinct kicked in and I jerked my hand to get it off.

I went into the living room where my husband was still awake reading and told him 'A mouse just ran up my arm!'

He looked at me over his glasses. 'Don't be silly, you must have been dreaming,' he said.

I went back to the bedroom and turned on the light. There, sitting on my pillow, was a sleek and elegant brown, well, mousy-brown, mouse.

I called to Robert to 'come, quick!'

We watched the mouse, he or she, sitting on my pillow. It sat just like our cat does, with it's two neat front feet together and it's tail wrapped around them. It was mostly mousy brown-grey, with a lighter tummy and white feet. It had large ears, but they weren't round like in the cartoons, they were more like rounded-off squares in shape. It's eyes were like cartoon mouse eyes, though, black, shiny, and round. It looked all around, then went over to investigate the other pillow, sniffing at the corners and standing up against the headboard to see if it could see over....

Robert's big idea was to go and get the cat.

He put Pepper down on the floor near where the mouse had jumped (a three-inch mouse jumped over two feet), and she walked right over to it. I expected violence, but no, she sniffed the mouse, who showed no signs of fear, and turned and left the room! Kip, our Border Collie watched with interest, but he also made it clear he wasn't getting involved.

So I ran to the Studio and got a clear plastic bin I had just bought. When I got back with it the mouse was sitting in the middle of the floor looking around and I just put the bin down over it. Then I found a large piece of stiff paper which I slid under the bin to trap Mouse inside. We admired him (her?) for a while, then took him outside.

Meanwhile, of course, I will go right on complaining about the mice in the garage getting into my papers.... and yes, I changed the sheets before going back to bed!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Good Advice

"Do not put your rock garden under deciduous trees' is good advice, and I should know. I have just spent a long day carefully removing last summer's maple and oak leaves from my rock garden, and I'm not finished.

But sometimes good advice just can't be followed. When I started making my garden here, not only was the spot under these trees the only place where I could put a rock garden, but also a rock garden was the only thing that could go there. It is to the South and East of the house, and is basically a large granite outcropping. On the top there are a number of maples, probably all Red Maple, and one very old but still healthy Red Oak. The area slants down to the driveway and the Sampler Garden. The rock is mostly pink granite, but part-way up there is a long ledge of what I think must be limestone. It very much looks like it was once the edge of a lake or something. Some of the granite has fractured and the pieces have tumbled down, so the rock garden is basically on a large pile of broken rock.

Over the years, the leaves and needles from the trees have built up a bit of soil on top, and a few interesting plants have established themselves. There is a lot of Rock Polypody, Polypodium virginianum. It gets a bit dried out in August, but the rest of the yea
r it is a crisp light green ruffle along the North-facing ledges. One good rain in the fall and it revives completely. What it lives on is hard to understand - there seems no soil at all under the plants. The easiest, in fact almost only, way to move this fern to a new spot is to move an entire rock with it already on it. I've tried transplanting it, and had no luck - I think pulling it off the rock damages so many roots it can't recover. It does grow on the ground in the woods in a few places, though.

Partridge Berry, Mitchella repens, also grows happily on the granite
. In one spot quite a large patch drapes over a rounded boulder, its little dark green leaves a sparkling contrast to the pinkish rock. In the spring it is covered with its tiny white flowers. They aren't large, nor are there a great many, but they have real presence. Then of course the berries which appear in late summer are a spectacular red against the green. It's not hard to grow in a shady spot, wanting only good drainage and not too many smothering leaves lying on it over the winter.

The other thing that has really set itself up for happiness on the rock ledges is some species of raspberry, but since I can't say anything good about it, we'll not talk about them.