I am glad to say that Spring seems to finally be here for real. Today was in the 70s and the long range forecast suggests that even the low temps will be in the 40s. So I can safely get on with planting.
The earliest daffodils are all flower-down from stem freeze, but the new wave of flowers are opening. There should be some good pictures soon. The hyacinths that were completely absent last year (planted Fall 2015) are showing small flowers this year. I am relieved they are alive at all. I'll hope for a better show next year. The tulips are emerging but not blooming yet.
I planted 25 astilbes in a re-dug bed last month. I assume the cold isn't a problem for them since they a perennials. I have another 25 for an island I created around a tree and 3' rock on the front yard. Astilbes will appreciate the half shade AND they are listed as being deer-resistant, which matters in the front. The deer ate most of my hostas last year so I am moving the survivors to the fenced-in back yard. There are 2 kinds on large crinkly-leaved hostas the deer never touched so I will divide them into 1/4s and fill in the empty spots. I have been tending toward more of the same plants in large masses, so that works too.
For too many years, I have planted "6 of this" "6 of those" etc. Which is nice from 5' away, but looks rather jumbled from further away sort of like a pile of mixed tiles on a table. I'm going for at least 25 sq ft of the same plants for most of the beds.
EXCEPT I'm also going "cottage garden" along the 75'x 8' bed along the fence. That should become a riot of self-sowing color of various height I hope! And if I'm lucky, they should grow tall and thick enough to shade out the runner grass that showed up about 5 years ago and seems impossible to eliminate by digging them out.
Along with the new astilbe bed and the fence bed, I have 3 edged areas in the middle of the back yard. One is a wildflower bed, one is for an invasive lychamistra, and one is for mostly spring bulbs where I am also planting dwarf butterfly bushes, dwarf roses, yuccas, and annuals that don't need much water (spring bulbs like dry summers).
The wildflower bed was initially planted last year. I tilled the soil loosely and gaily scatterred seeds from a "wildflower" packet around. I didn't get much. So this year I bought specific wildflowers suited to partial shade and poor soil. Some I planted inside in flats so that I know I have something growing to transplant randomly. The rest I'll scatter and hope that Nature lets them grow.
And I'm cheating a bit. I also bought a packet each for Bees, Hummingbirds, and Butterflys. It might be a very odd-looking bed (about 30' x 15').
The lychimastra (I simply CANNOT ever remember how to spell that) bed is only 10' diameter. But it is easy to mow around so they can't spread. Indeed, I thought I killed them 2 years ago, but they keep coming back ("invasive" right, have to remember that). I admire the purple foliage and the gold flowers are nice. I just need to remember to shear off the dying flowers before the seeds spread. Hedge trimmers are good for that.
The spring bulb edged bed is my real hope. IF they ever grow. Last year, the hyacinths never came up at all but have (weakly) this year. This year 1/2 the daffodil flowers froze. The tulips are looking promising. And it is the closest bed to the deck. I have the sunflower seed feeder in the center and there is always lots of activity there. The birds go through enough seeds that the shells are pretty good mulch. I might change the pole the feeder is on from an in-ground pole to a free-standing one I can move around to mulch other spots.
This is last year in April. It will look like this soon, but I have 3x the daffodils and the tulips have multiplied a bit and I have gotten rid up most of the weeds...
I need to mark the spots where the existing tulips are (with cardboard pinned down with tent stakes) after the leaves are dying back so I know where to plant more between them this coming Fall.
The finches are starting to color up. I see slightly more gold on the males each day. Boy can those guys EAT! I have 2 tube feeders of Nyger seed and I have to refill them every day (about a qt/liter of seeds). I buy the stuff in 50# bags and fill up qt bottles I've saved and store them in the basement freezer. I order it from a local home project store, but sometimes it is available from Amazon too. The 50# cost $75 which is $1.50 per pound; a lot better than the $2 to $2.50 per pound the small bags cost in local stores.
This is from April last year. They aren't this gold yet, but will be soon. I can't wait to see them like this again. And it is good to know I'm helping them get there. I have no doubt that I have the healthiest, brightest goldfinches in my area!
It is hard to count them, as they flutter around and fuss over perches, but I probably have at least 2 dozen. I have about a dozen resident cardinals, a vague number of purple finches, a few woodpeckers, some doves, some titmice, some sparrows and and a few random other visitors at the black oil sunflower feeder. The goldfinches eat more weight in seed than all the birds eating the sunflower seeds.
I watch them using a target range spotter-scope on a tripod. That's a lot easier trying to hold binoculars in my trembley hands (DDT exposure as a teen, I suspect). I should buy a serious camera for taking pictures of the birds too.