Red twig dogwood glows in low light on Friday, Feb. 15, 2020, in the Kachemak Gardener’s garden in Homer, Alaska. “Exactly the reason to have this shrub, to be appreciated in winter from the comfort of your home with a fire crackling in the wood stove,” writes Rosemary Fitzpatrick. (Photo by Rosemary Fitzpatrick)

Red twig dogwood glows in low light on Friday, Feb. 15, 2020, in the Kachemak Gardener’s garden in Homer, Alaska. “Exactly the reason to have this shrub, to be appreciated in winter from the comfort of your home with a fire crackling in the wood stove,” writes Rosemary Fitzpatrick. (Photo by Rosemary Fitzpatrick)

Kachemak Gardener: Here are some random thoughts on gardening

Having crossed the threshold of my seventh decade I will be doing a few things differently. The one that you may want to take note of is the purchase of seeds. My intention is to ditch the seed catalogs. I know. They are lovely and inspirational and we can all keep hold of that. But to actually make an order, well, let’s do some rethinking.

There are seed racks galore right here in Homer, and the postage has already been paid. You will find everything to meet your needs. If you are into hard-to-find varieties you probably aren’t reading this. I aim to those who are new to gardening or have tried and failed and want to try again. For me, I can’t live without the California poppy “Rosa Romantica” that will need to be ordered. Even my tried and true source Select Seeds no longer carries it. Having found it via Google I will order at least three packets; that should see me through. But really, everything you need is right here in Homer.

Let’s not forget our excellent local nurseries that will provide you with every single seedling that you could possibly desire, ready to go, ready for success, nothing stringy and flopped over due to lack of light because you didn’t either clean your windows or offer additional lighting. There. You can skip the seeds altogether.

Here are some random thoughts for you to chew on:

• From an article in the Anchorage Daily News, Feb. 7: “Bumbles are vanishing, and scientists blame climate change.” We gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts were struck by the overwhelming number of bumblebees in our environment last summer. Never have I seen so many. They are usually here and there, but not last growing season. We have been discovered by bumblebees. They must be refugees, immigrants, aliens. Let’s welcome them.

• The bird feeder has seen amazing action this winter. The varied thrush have been gorging on medium shelled sunflower seeds, the preferred source of nutrition for black capped chickadees, boreal chickadees, red breasted nuthatches, dark eyed juncos, fox sparrow, white and golden crowned sparrow, white throated sparrow, woodpecker, and sparrows that we haven’t a clue what they are. Quite a list, until hordes of varied thrush (that we now call “bully birds”) pushed them out. HORDES. This is a bird that we hear more than see early in the spring and then that’s it, gone. Not so this year. Then the sharp shinned hawk found them and had a feast so their numbers are now reduced. Interesting. Speaking of white throated sparrows, this is the first time we have ever seen them, and we have a pair living in our garden all winter. They are very distinctive. John likes to say that he and I can misidentify birds faster than anyone.

• This leads me to The Ruckus in the Honeysuckle mystery. Yup. There is a Dropmore honeysuckle trellised on the west wall of the house. Our bedroom shares that wall and I’m used to the sound of birds settling in for the night all summer long, a gentle rustling that starts around 9:30 p.m. Winter is silent except for a west wind. About four times this winter we have been roused from a sound sleep between two and four in the morning by something that is aggressively scrambling in the honeysuckle. No tracks. No droppings. No damage. Mystery.

• Have you read “Gathering Moss” by Robin Wall Kimmerer? Both the Homer Public Library and The Homer Bookstore have it. It has changed the way I perceive moss now and forever. And I most definitely want to look at moss under a microscope. No longer will I pull it out and toss it on the compost. Plus, in the latest English Garden magazine, there is a photo of galanthus (snow drops) growing THROUGH moss. How excellent is that?

• This is the most perfect time to take a good look at your houseplants. With the lengthening daylight they are responding with total joy. A nice shower and some plant food right about now will do wonders for them. Anything look like it might need repotting? Dividing? Get to it. You will be rewarded.

• My thoughts have been weighing heavy about the primula vulgaris (common primrose) and hellebore that were in bloom the first week in December. This wasn’t continuous bloom, but a whole new set. And the azaleas buds were fat to the point of bursting. Most of the crocus were showing, and muscari and scilla. Goodness. Wait and see. Patience.

Having shared all of that, here is a more immediate garden thought: You need to get your tuber begonias potted up. I’m sure you stored them comfortably — individually, in paper bags, in a coolish spot. If they have sent up weak sprouts, feel free to snap them off. More will be coming on once they are settled in nice fresh potting soil and put in your sunniest, clean window.

Start planning, start thinking.

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener and has been writing Kachemak Gardener since 1990.

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