Sunday, January 31, 2010

Signs of Early Spring

Budding Ladies Slipper Orchid, Paphiopedilum "Supersuk Eureka"-click any left sided image to enlarge...
A new stalk on the amazing "La Paz" Hippeastrum
"Shooting Star" Hoya -indoors
curiously coiled Cyclamen seed capsules...ripening in July
Fall blooming Cyclamen hederafolium
Snowdrop Sweetness
the stalwart Snowdrops..
Stunning Spring Hellebores!
Helleborus orientalis
Hellebore buds looking good enough to eat...if they were Rhubarb!
side view of the cold frame
temporary cold frame for Spinach...
hives ready to be reversed...
clustering Bees...needing more room for Spring!
bottom boards prior to cleaning...
The snow has melted, and we had a small additional snow fall, but it was gone within twenty-four hours. The Sun came out, a blessing to be sure. I had a list of Sunday chores that needed to be attended to, like it or not. Watering all the indoor plants, for one. It takes about an hour to deal with the indoor garden-all the tender things that I can't risk in the cold greenhouse. A friend contacted me from the local Bee club, recommending I do a Spring clean-up of my hives, and suggesting that I reverse the hives as well, giving the bees needed room to grow. I had just inspected the hives a day or so ago, and found that I had mouse damage on both of the hives, so It was certainly time to see what was going on in there.The last chore I wanted to accomplish was to clear a sunny section of the vegetable garden and put up a temporary cold frame for a Spring crop of Spinach. I eat Spinach almost every day, so this was important! I did try to put some in the fall, but the seed was older and didn't sprout well. Way too early for regular sowing, but this could get me several weeks jumpstart over the rest of the garden. It was nice to see that my Fall planted Garlic was growing first time growing it! The bright day led me to explore the garden a bit, seeing what was stirring in the cold light. I found plump Hellebore buds, already twisting in their leafy bedding. The first Snowdrops made me smile, so,so beautiful. The below zero weather left damage in it's wake....the previously mentioned Blue Atlas Cedars, and the Magnolia grandifloras-a carmel gold color-I think they will recover.

The Bee clean up was my first chore of the day. I got all my tools together, finding fuel for the smoker, locating the very necessary hive tool to pry things apart and the cumbersome but needed veil. I was cold, but heated up with activity and excitement! Tearing into a hive is a little daunting, at least for me in that it's been my first year with Bees. I cracked the outer cover and puffed in some smoke...waited a minuet and did the same to each level. The smoke calms the Bees and makes them gorge on honey, calming them further. There are specific methods for reversing a hive, and I followed them to the letter. The bees were at the top super on the hive, so I carefully lifted them off the stack, and placed them on the already remover outer cover.Then the second super is similarly removed, this one with less Bees in it. The bottom super had no Bees in it, but showed a lot of mouse damage to the comb. I had forgotten to Winterize the hives by adding the mouse guard to the entrances...without a barrier, the mice can clean out a whole hive over winter, eating honey, Bee bread(pollen) and even Bees!. The bottom boards of the hive are normally cleaned by the bees themselves, but they don't break their cluster enough to take care of cleaning during the Winter. I scraped the wax and propolis (glue from tree and plant sap..) and cleaned the dead Bees away. I then re stacked the supers in the reverse order the had originally been. the hives were smaller but now the Bees have head room, and are closer to their food and honey. I felt like they seemed low on honey stores, so I put on some tray feeders and gave both hives a gallon of sugar nectar to help with Winter feeding and hive build up for Spring.

I've been going a little stir crazy with cabin fever, so I decided a little time in the dormant vegetable garden would get me started with the season! I had not done a very good Fall clean up in the garden, and after all the snow, everything was flattened and looking rather bleak. It occurred to me that if I cleared a section in the sunniest part of the garden, I could put up a temporary cold frame for a jumpstart on the Spinach. It was pleasant to work in the brightening Sun and hear the birds chattering in the surrounding trees. In about an hour, I was ready to sow the FRESH seed, and put the cold frame together. Six recycled storm windows and two divided light sashes made a very serviceable cold frame for my early Spinach.


  1. I really want to add some helebores to my gardens. I'm looking over the availability sheets for the perennial nurseries we order from. I'm very tempted to bring in a rack of them just to see if people would buy them. A few have asked. Maybe another couple of weeks, I will.

    I've got winter vegetables started too. I sowed Pak Choy and stonehead cabbage. Snow peas are still not peeking out of the soil yet. Maybe the sunlight of the past two days will help. Once the snow melts, I'll head out and check.

  2. Tom, I bet you will sell out of Hellebores if they have any buds or flowers on them, they are slow to establish, but they go on for many years! Fun to start from fresh seed...good cut flowers too! Brian

  3. Hellebores are a favorite of mine, and absolutely delightful when they start to bloom in the bitter cold! Looks like you've got some amazing things going on there Brian! It seems we're all getting cabin least February is the shortest month...

  4. Tim, I don't want to rush it, but....come on Spring!You can never have too many Hellebores

  5. Some beautiful photos here! Our Witch Hazel just started blooming, too. Spring is out there somewhere.

  6. I need Witch Hazel too! cut a branch and put it by your bed, I know some are really fragrant...nice to wake up 2!

  7. I do love hellebores but they don't like Charleston, SC much so I will continue living through those of you who grow them so well!

  8. Your blog is so beautiful! I think we are all getting a little antsy. i have plenty of weeks before i can get out into my yard.