I was warned….

…but didn’t heed advice. “You’ll be sorry,” they said. Yes, I think we are a little sorry.

The tiny bunny we encouraged to dine on our clover a year ago has become rogue. We helped to keep him alive all winter by feeding him peanuts. He loved them and would appear in the harshest of blizzards to wait for a meal at dawn and dusk. And now, the weather has warmed and the snow has melted but each morning as I feed the birds, there he waits. “Give me peanuts!” he says with a stern stare. And when I pile some in front of his nose, even the squirrels are wary of stealing from his stash. Don’t mess with his peanuts!

Where his den was during those winter days, we did not know. But now, the snow has melted and we finally learned where’s he’s been hiding.

bunnykins

Our bunny actually resides beneath our deck.

And how’d he get under there?

Here’s how:

Bunny damage

He tunneled through the snow and right through the lattice to make a cozy bungalow. Horrified, I blocked the opening. He made another…. and another…. and another.

2nd rabbit opening

And the clover isn’t tall enough for a tasty meal….so in addition to the peanuts, he eats my pansies. He nibbles on my chives. He really enjoys the tulip leaves. He snacks on my ornamental grasses. And he’s not budging from our yard.

We see several rabbits in the distance chasing each other at full speed and we know what that’s all about… but our rabbit isn’t interested. He will sit in the sun. He will stretch out on the grass. He will sniff and sample different plants. We once watched as the other rabbits dashed through our yard one evening just a foot from where bunny was resting. He hardly glanced at them. He had no interest in bunny play. He simply yawned and waited for his peanuts.

We finally named him Ferdinand, just like the bull in the children’s book… the bull that was bred for the Spanish bullfighting, but instead simply loved to sit under a big tree and smell the flowers. Our Ferdinand lays on the grass, yawns, stretches, eats peanuts, samples some garden plants, and then retires to his beneath-the-deck bungalow.

The Story of Ferdinand

Amazon.com

Our greatest fear is that Ferdinand is really Ferdinanda and we will eventually discover little Ferdinands beneath the deck. What to do…. what to do!

Finally some blooms!

According to the New York Times, we should have foliage emerging in the Northeast on or about April 16.  But due to the 2018 jet stream bringing us Arctic air with low temperatures in January and February, spring is delayed this year.

We are seeing the colorful crocus blooms here and there (if the bunny hasn’t found them first) but the daffodils and tulips I planted last fall are still showing just green. Buds on woody plants are swelling but no leaves and no flowers yet.

However, we do have one small broadleaf evergreen shrub that is shining with profuse blooms in our shady border nestled beneath the boughs of a crabapple tree.

Pieris japonica

It’s the Pieris japonica or Japanese adromeda. Each morning I walk out to this border, coffee in hand, to admire the sole evergreen shrub in bloom in our landscape. These cascading clusters of white flowers hanging about 6″ long are the first to bloom each spring and will charm us for two to three weeks. The plant is often called ‘lily-of-the-valley shrub’ for the small bell-shaped blooms appear so similar to the small lily of the valley plant.

Japanese

New leaves on the plant will emerge in a lovely bronze shade before maturing green. I often clip a few of these new leaves to add a bit more contrast to flower arrangements… as well as using the attractive older leaves that are dark green and very shiny.

There are a number of variants of the Pieris japonica in with blooms of pink and red but I prefer the white blooms that serve as a light in a shady border. The shrub performs best as an understory plant in shade or in filtered light. Lace bugs can be a problem…. especially if planted in full sun… but I’m thankful they haven’t found my Pieris!

Just when you thought it was safe….

….to think about spring, you receive a stern message from nature that you have never been in charge! We’ve had a few days that have teased us into beliving we were all about spring. Neighbors rushed into their yards. I could hear blowers, I could see folks leaning into borders and those with rakes and wheelbarrows, filling them with sticks and leaf debris, and finally our landscape company spent two days mulching much of our neighborhood “common ground” and “living fence” area.

But today we are back indoors wondering whether our outdoor garden frenzy was just an illusion. It feels bitterly cold again… back to the 20’s and we’re hunkered down in our fleeces with a fire in the fireplace. Sigh….

These tulips bloomed indoors and I thought they would look better in the garden…. the only thing in bloom.  The bunny loves the leaves!

tulips

Our fabulous, rich 50/50 mix of fine mulch and organic compost was applied to sections of the garden. Fingers crossed for this new Russian sage/Allium border. Right now the tulips are beginning to unfurl and the tips of the daffodils are breaking through the ground. I didn’t pick up the Russian sage snippings because the robins are doing that for me!

April 13, 2018

robins with Russian sage 2018

I loved having the three days  in the garden… cutting back ornamental grasses, lightly pruning woody plants, especially our borders of paniculata limelight hydrangeas, thatching the lawn, edging borders, planting pansies, transplanting shrubs..including one to a neighbor’s home. The first early days of spring in the garden are such a charge.

Now we wait. Soon a truckload of mulch should be delivered to a central spot in the neighborhood and homeowners and their wheelbarrows will rush to retrieve what we need for the rest of our gardens. It’s a good plan and I’m primed for more garden jollies whether it’s in snow, rain or sleet!

The last one bit the dust…

With our late March snowstorms, the lone Bradford pear tree in the neighborhood could no longer bear the snow weight and lost 90% of its limbs. The tree was removed and thank goodness!  If Michael Dirr, professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia and my go-to expert on woody plants, says the tree is a ‘scourge,’ then it is. Once the darling of the nursery industry in the 1950’s, we now know what a mistake it is to plant a Callery pear.

The trees are probably a true harbinger of spring with their very early beautiful, white blossoms (that come with a stench!). The Callery pear was brought from China and found to be fast growing, disease resistant, adaptable to numerous climates, soil types, sun or shade and pollution.

As the Bradford tree grew in popularity, nurseries began developing several cultivars, Chanticleer pear, Aristocrat pear, Cleveland Select pear…. as the Bradford was soon to be found to have major flaws in the branches that grew at weak V-shaped angles from the tree. Trees began to split or lose branches. New cultivars somewhat improved the problem but the Bradford continued to reign in landscapes and as a urban street tree.

Bradford 2018

In many areas of the country today, the tree has spread into wild areas choking out natives. Cultivars themselves aren’t invasive but the combination of different cultivars hybridize and produce fertile fruit. Several states have listed the tree as invasive and in many areas, it is forbidden to plant one. I poked around online but didn’t see any information about the tree being invasive in New Hampshire.

Virginia, my home state, is one area that lists the tree as an invasive plant…. and I just returned from a whirlwind trip to Ohio and Kentucky where landscapes and woodland edges were white from pear tree blooms. It’s listed as invasive in Ohio. Beautiful to behold but who knows what the impact of escaped trees is to our ecosystem.

A little past bloom peak, I photographed this pear tree lined avenue in Louisville KY as we drove by last week. I wouldn’t park my car beneath those branches!

Louisville

As for me, I’m sticking with the serviceberry tree that is an equally beautiful spring bloomer, a native that provides year round interest… fluffy white flowers in early spring and just full of bees, followed by edible berries that the birds adore, then we enjoy lovely orange-red leaves in the fall.  You can’t go wrong with this one…

 

Drat! There goes another House Sparrow

Gimme an A!   Gimme another A!
In late winter with snow still on the ground, house sparrows (Passer domesticus) claimed these letters over a local Walgreens Pharmacy and were busy building nests. These are birds that not only seem to be everywhere you go, they ARE everywhere that people go, chirping loudly and claiming any crack or crevice for nesting.
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House.sparrows
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You won’t see these birds in wooded areas, forests, or on grasslands. So what’s the key to their success? Humans…. yep, you and me. You find these bold invasive birds wherever people have built structures…. on farms, in cities and in the suburbs. Nesting in close association with humans have allowed them to spread just about everywhere on Earth.
house sparrows
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For weeks, several have been seen in our yard gathering nesting materials, getting a head start on migratory birds that have not yet arrived. They are very aggressive toward our bluebirds, fighting for nesting rights in the bluebird house. They eventually claimed the box and the bluebirds left. We had to step in. We removed our bluebird box.
The house sparrows’ incessant chirps are ringing out nearby so I think they’re around the corner in a neighbor’s gutter spout as they were last year. But they are back to check for the box daily…
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walgreens
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This chunky immigrant from Europe was introduced to the North America well over a hundred years ago and it has simply taken over.  Walk into any Home Depot or Lowes or garden store. The loud chirping you hear from the rafters is the house sparrow.
House sparrows are NOT protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Act. Why? Because it is an invasive species and destructive. They are aggressive toward other birds, will kill adults and young, destroy eggs, and are prolific breeders. They eat seeds and a wide variety of other foods, scavenging trash around fast food restaurants, eating vegetables in your garden, grains on farms.
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House_Sparrow_Wikipedia
Some report a decline in numbers of house sparrows due to a rise in numbers of and competition from the invasive house finch. But the house finch doesn’t invade/destroy eggs/kill bluebirds at our house so give me a house finch over a house sparrow any day.