Sunday, January 14, 2007

Blue Jays and Spent Astilbes

Sunday, January 14, 2007
A quiet afternoon here at Vermont Flower Farm. This morning's snow has tapered to an occasional ball of fluff floating awkwardly to the white carpet below. The weather of late has given everyone a challenge as several fronts have merged with each storm and the outcomes have not always been as predicted.

I've always enjoyed watching weather and if I had things to do again I might even study it. Lyndon State College is about 30 miles from here and it has a very reputable meteorology program which meshes well with its Televisions Studies program. Learn to "read" the skies and then get a job on TV someplace. Not bad! There's also the possibility of working at a place like St Johnsbury's Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium that houses and sponsors The Eye On The Sky, a weather forecasting station and educational center. These are great resources and we are very fortunate to have them so close.

As I watch the weather, I also watch the birds, my very own weather predictors. As the snow stopped, the birds began to appear in large numbers. First the Juncos began leaving the comfort of the large forsythia bushes and then the Chickadees followed. Both were quickly chased away by 9 noisy Blue Jays who succumbed to "flock intimidation" by a group of about 20 Evening Grosbeaks. On goes the images I get to watch every day, supporting the notion that birds and animals feed heavily before a storm.

The clean white snow also accentuates the leftover plant stalks and seed heads left from autumn. Some folks are possessed to clean their gardens each fall and to a degree I follow that philosophy. Close to the house, however, I leave the spent flower stalks to stand out against the winter snow and give remembrance to the beautiful summer, just passed.

One of the seed heads I like comes from the various astilbes we grow. I'm not sure how many we have now but those for sale are worth a look on The flowers bloom here from the end of June on into September with heights from 10 inches to almost 6 feet. Although there are four basic colors, white, red, pink and lavender, there are many shades of each to choose from.

Astilbes prefer shade and moist soil conditions although they can handle sun if the soil is well amended with organic material. Pumilum, one of the smallest astilbes, grows into a tight mat of late blooming, pink flowers.I've used this plant as a rock garden accent and despite the arid conditions which prevail, it always looks quite nice.

As you walk your gardens on the next need for some fresh air, pay note to the leftover foliage and seed heads. If our selection of astilbes doesn't quite give what you're looking for, give Leo Blanchette's a try. Leo and his family live in Carlisle, Massachusetts and they know a great deal about astilbes. Try Blanchette Gardens

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where winter trout season has begun and where George, the anemometer-less weatherman sits and predicts on a quiet, wind-free afternoon.

Gardening thoughts and wishes,

George Africa

1 comment:

California Gardener in Zone 23 said...

Stunning photo of the blue jay. Thanks for posting