Under Angel Wings


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April Showers, May Flowers

                                                                                                 My sunny backyard sunflower 2009

For the last couple of weeks, Elizabeth (my great-niece) and I have been trying to find a space of sunshine so we could go out on the patio and start planting flower seeds in our seed trays. Our spring weather in the valley this year, however, has been very unpredictable!! Yesterday Lizzie was over after school and it was pouring buckets of cold rain, again, so we decided to do our seed planting in the kitchen, or we would not have any flowers until late summer.

I had fun recently picking out some seed packets. Zinnias are always a favorite since childhood when our grandmother Pearl had lovely tall zinnias all around her home. Hollyhocks were a favorite of our mom, and they used to grow wild all around her house on our ranch. When the flowers died I picked off the seed pods and started some in my backyard where they look so pretty standing by the fences. It's always a surprise what colors you will get with hollyhocks, at least it is in my garden! Then sunflowers are important to provide those huge sunny faces that are so cheerful, and wonderful for the birds. I also picked up some delphinium seeds to try as an experiment.

We put a bag of potting soil in the sink and Lizzie started filling the little sections in the trays. There is room in the bottom of the trays for drainage, and each one comes with a clear plastic dome lid to protect the seedlings as they sprout and grow...

We made a matrix of all the sections so we could keep track of where we planted the different varieties of seeds. Then Lizzie will know what she is planting when she puts them in the ground! 

Now the seeds are planted and it's time to water. We're going to keep the trays indoors by the sliding glass door where they will get lots of light and not be too cold outside in the wind and rain. Last night right before sunset I saw one of the biggest, darkest clouds to the north of us that I have ever seen!

Last summer Uncle Jim helped Elizabeth plant some sunflowers and pumpkins in his garden. Uncle Jim's sunflowers were some of the biggest I have ever seen! He probably had to use a chain saw to cut them down. Our soil in Sutter County is some of the best in the world for growing things.

Last summer was the first time I have ever planted sunflowers in my yard, I don't know why. Every time I looked outside they gave me joy. They don't stay beautiful that long, tho, so it would be a good idea to stagger their planting times so that you always have some lovely fresh ones in the yard all summer long. I wonder if I can actually be that organized this year! The heads were so heavy I had to tie them to the fence to keep them standing tall.

Last year at Easter my two grown children, Olivia and Grady, were home for some family time and Dave and I twisted their arms to help us plant this bed of zinnias. It was amazing how fast this job was completed with four people helping!! We redid the bed, fixed the sprinkling system, leveled the dirt, spread on fresh bark and planted the little plants I had purchased in 6 packs. I enjoyed these flowers for about six months, so it was a great investment of time and money. 

The cut flowers were gorgeous as well.
There was only one problem...I forgot that zinnias get mildew if they get wet from overhead, and this bed is right next to the lawn. Every day they got sprayed and eventually some of them started turning ash gray which was disappointing. This year I am planting my zinnias all around the pool where they will just have drip irrigation at ground level, and hummingbird mint and shasta daisies will go in this bed.  We live and we learn!!

Last summer I had a volunteer plant come up right next to my fountain. It was a complete surprise!! In fact I didn't even know what it was for sure at first, because the leaves were so big. When I saw the stalk coming up I knew it was a hollyhock, perfectly placed for our enjoyment!! The color was the prettiest pink, and I just loved it.

I didn't have the heart to cut the plant off at ground level in the late fall the way I should have done. I cut off the flower stalk and left the plant all winter, because I was afraid it wouldn't grow back. The plant survived the winter and is twice as big this spring as it ever got last summer, with one problem. Hollyhocks are prone to rust which I did not know, so I have had to cut off a lot of leaves to try and save the plant. It seems to flourish no matter what I do to it! It has multiple stalks this year, so oh my goodness it should put on quite a show for us.

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