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January and February this year have been dry with 1 1/4″ of rain since January 1st. And it has been warm. It was close to 70 degrees two days ago, and will be warming up again today. As I write it is 62 degrees and it is still morning! I ventured outside with the camera to show off some of the signs of spring!

This morning I discovered that the Helleborus is blooming! I have nurtured this plant for the past few years. It was given to me by a co-worker and gardening buddy, and last year was the first year that it bloomed. Today there are 3 blossoms and a number of buds! It is a beautiful flower indeed, and one plant that the deer will not touch.

Helleborus

Helleborus

The inside of the flower is pretty spectacular!
Inside the helleborus

Inside the helleborus

Wandering a bit further into the garden I can see that my Daphne, another deer resistant plant, is starting to bloom! This is a must have for a shade garden! The fragrance is heady!
The Daphne in bloom

The Daphne in bloom

Around the corner from this plant I see the daffodils are getting ready to show their pretty faces!
Daffodils ready to bloom

Daffodils ready to bloom

Looking up I see that the rhododendron is budding too! This plants leaves turn rust color in the fall and remain that way until the spring season is just about over.
Rhododendron buds

Rhododendron buds

The other exciting find is that the rosemary is in full bloom! This will draw the bees!
Rosemary in full bloom

Rosemary in full bloom

And at our front door in a nice shady spot is a chocolate camillia, which is loaded with buds! I cannot wait to see their beautiful red flowers!
Camillia buds

Camillia buds

If you are interested in deer resistant plants, you will find that all of the plants in this post are deer resistant!

Thank you for visiting today! Have a great Sunday and a wonderful week!

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Let’s have some fun, shall we?  Can you answer these questions right off the cuff?  No research, just the answers.  I got these from a friend, and thought that this would be a fun blog to post…

Question #1 – Name the one sport in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends.

Question #2 – What famous North American landmark is constantly moving backward?

Question #3 – Of all vegetables, only two can live to produce on their own for several growing seasons. All other vegetables must be replanted every year.  What are the only two perennial vegetables?

Question #4 – What fruit has its seeds on the outside?

Question #5 – In many liquor stores, you can buy pear brandy, with a real pear inside the bottle. The pear is whole and ripe, and the bottle is genuine; it hasn’t been cut in any way. How did the pear get inside the bottle?

Question #6 – Only three words in standard English begin with the letters ‘ dw’ and they are all common words. Name two of them.

Question #7 – There are 14 punctuation marks in English grammar. Can you name at least half of them?

Question #8 – Name the only vegetable or fruit that is never sold frozen, canned, processed, cooked, or in any other form except fresh.

Question #9 – Name 6 or more things that you can wear on your feet beginning with the letter ‘S.’

Check back in about 6 hours for the answers!

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Did you know that horseradish is not in the radish family but actually in the family of cabbage and broccoli? It belongs to the family “Brassicaceae.” It is a native plant to Europe and Western Asia. It is a root plant that can achieve a height of about five feet!

Horseradish - Photo from the Botanic Garden in Utrecht, Netherlands

The root itself has little aroma, but when the root is grated or cut, that grate or cut damages the cells in the root causing the release of an oil in the plant that causes an irritation to the nose, eyes and the mouth. This is what we would also call the heat in the vegetable. Consider a hot mustard…same thing.

It is a perennial plant in zones 2 – 9, and can be grown outside of these areas as an annual. It is the main root that is harvested in the fall and the secondary roots, also removed from the ground, can then be replanted, and will remain in a dormant state until the following spring. It can also be an invasive plant by sending the offshoots of the root to the area surrounding it.

The root - Photo by Anna - Vienna, Austria

How did this vegetable get its name? Well as is usual on the internet there are all kinds of stories. One tells a story of a sick horse that they thought was not going to make it, so its owners let it eat whatever it wanted. It went to a weed that they thought was poisonous, and the horse miraculously survived! So they tried the plant themselves and found it delicious. The problem with this story is the horse ate the greens not the root. Another story is that the word is derived from the German word for the plant, which is “meerrettich.” It is believed that English speakers could not properly pronounce the “meer” part of the word. They would say “mare” which then they turned to horse. Another story indicates that the plant is a radish, and it was given this name to mean that the vegetable was “as strong as a horse.” So which is the right story? Who knows, so pick the one you like best!

The horseradish that we using in the kitchen is actually a combination of the root plus a bit of vinegar and cream. The most popular meat that this is served with is beef. But it can be used as a spread on a sandwich. And there is actually a cheddar made using horseradish that is wonderful on a roast beef sandwich. It is also added to the ever popular Bloody Mary beverage.  Try grating a bit of this root into your mashed potatoes for a bit of a zing!

It has medicinal properties as well. In years gone by it was used to help cure the common cold. It has also been used as a diuretic. It is also being used in the studies of cancer. It has been known to kill certain bacterial strains.

So next time you are at a dinner table where horseradish is being served, you can impart a bit of interesting facts about this incredible root!

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I love the spring. Everything returns to life. It is the resurrection of nature. Here are some photos of spring emerging in our yard!

The pollen from the pines and the oaks are something else. It is sticky and it covers everything. Here are photos of these two natives in full bloom!

Digger pine blooms

If you click on that photo, you can see why a pine cone looks the way it does as it develops. We have a variety of oaks, and this is a photo of blue oak blooms.

Oak blossoms

I love the smoke bush as the colors are so incredible, and here is what it looks like as it comes back to life.

Smokebush before it smokes

Our dogwood is just starting to leaf and bloom and here is a photo of the delicate flower that this tree produces.

A dogwood blossom

Did you know that Ginko helps memory? I am glad that this tree remembers to come back every year! The leaves are little fans and here they are springing to life.

Ginko springs forth!

And the lavender will soon be attracting bees!

Emerging lavender

The Helleborus is amazing with the little freckles all over the petals.

Helleborus

And the first of the iris are here!

Iris in bloom

One of the natives that is truly glorious is the hazelnut. Isn’t this a beautiful leaf?

Native hazelnut

One of the prettiest of the natives is the redbud. At the lower elevations they are done blooming, but here they are just coming out. Standing near this tree is like standing by a beehive. It is buzzing!

Redbud in bloom

And to close this trip of spring in bloom, here are the remains of a dandelion that bloomed pretty early.

The last of the fairies

I will take you back to revisit all of these plants later in the season so that you can see how they change!

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“God gave me a thumb and made it green, what happens from here remains to be seen!” B.W. Beacham, 2012

Burpless cucumbers have sprouted!

I love it when I put a seed in dirt, and then days later see the miracle of life spring forth! What an amazing thing life can be – don’t you think? Seeds are popping in my greenhouse and I wanted to share these with you! For another view of gardening be sure to check out: Aquaponic Family

Here are a few photos of what I discovered coming up in the greenhouse this afternoon. There were no indications yesterday of anything coming up…I am so excited about this! Take a look!

Six corn plants are up!

Wahoo!

Pickling cucumbers have sprouted!

Cucumbers rock!

Peas have sprouted!

Nothing could be sweeter than a fresh pea! In the greenhouse, nothing is more exciting than seeing dirt crack, and it is cracking on the green beans!

Green beans are popping the dirt!

See the potato sprouts?

This last one was not my best photo, but I just came home from work, and with the failing sunlight in the deep pot, this was a hard shot to take!

Stay tuned! No you will not see my vegetable garden dance, unless my husband captures me doing it! I am jazzed that what I have put into soil is working!

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One of the tales that we heard when we first moved to the Sierra Foothills was that you should not plant your garden until “it snows on the dogwoods.” We were told that the local tribe of Indians, the Maidu, believed that this was a sign that spring had finally arrived.

The native dogwood trees here are an April blooming tree with a huge white flower.

Dogwood bloom - Photo from Wikipedia.com

Beautiful isn’t it?

Well, today it is snowing on the dogwoods! I was wondering about this old legend, and so I looked it up. What was not surprising is that this is just a tale, and the tale is not specific to our area. What I did find from various sources is that this time of year is known as “Dogwood Winter.” Just like we have an “Indian Summer” in the fall, we experience the Dogwood Winter in the spring.

Indian Summer is a warm spell that occurs just into the fall season when the weather has cooled down. The Dogwood Winter similarly occurs when a cold spell occurs as the spring days are just warming up. These early spring snows though are needed by some of the native plants in our area. In early spring, a cold snap like the one we are experiencing, as an example, stimulates the blackberries canes to start growing.

Back in the olden days, farmers would watch nature to determine when they should plant their crops. And, interestingly enough, history records that there are three of these cold snaps before we can plant our gardens. And, this is not limited to our area here in the Sierra Foothills.

So today I mark the calendar as the second snap as one occurred during our time in Hawaii. One more to go? We shall see if three is the magic number!

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I spent hours today inside the greenhouse planting many of the vegetables and some of the flowers that will hopefully grow for me this season. I started by getting my seeds arranged and then creating my labels.

Getting ready for planting

More packets ready

It was very relaxing letting my mind wander as I sat and filled my trays and containers with soil, dropped in the tiny seeds, and covered them with soil.

Once this was done, I got two of my potato pots ready. This is something new I am trying this year. The package included a plastic piece that needed to be inserted at the top of the pot to hold it in the shape. One comment about these: I found that on one of the pots they had sewed the seam down making it impossible to go all the way around, and the other was larger than the pot itself leaving a small portion of the plastic exposed. Further the directions indicate how much soil to put in, and not having a ruler at hand it would have been nice for the maker to have included a mark to the first level of dirt required. Be that as it may, I guesstimated the amount of soil, and got my starter potatoes in.

When I was done with these I watered all the containers.

One side planted

The other side is planted too

The door is ready to close

You may have noticed the large blue barrel at the back end of the greenhouse. This is filled with water and will warm up during the day, and will act as radiant heat keeping the greenhouse warmer at night.  The potato pots are the two green cylinders on the ground at the left.

Check back later as I mark the progress of what I have planted! The earliest to sprout is 7 days!

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I find myself itching to start getting ready for the spring season. I have done some clean up in the vegetable bed, but what really needs work is the greenhouse. Come and take a look with me…

The greenhouse before

Pots are strewn around, tools are in no particular spot, and dead weeds abound from the rock floor. If the weather continues the way that it has this season, I need to get this place in order! So, I straightened up and organized!

Cleaned up

and ready to use!

Now let’s take a look at what I am planning on putting in!

This coming season's vegetables

My mouth is already watering thinking about all the different flavors that my garden will produce. Did you notice the potatoes? The first year we lived here I grew Kenebeck potatoes and they made for some really tasty fries! This year I will be growing these in special potato pots!

Maybe you noticed that there are no tomato seeds. I have a source for heirloom tomatoes and I get these as early as possible.

Stay tuned for future posts as I take you through getting started this growing season, and follow along as it progresses!

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