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The Garden Awakens

Anise 'Woodland Red' ( Illicium floridanum ) A few weeks ago, I thought spring would never arrive, but now the change is astonishing. The nights are still cold (40s and sometimes even 30s) so planting tender annuals and vegetables is unwise although I have already succumbed, but covering and uncovering things gets old quickly. Someone made a wise comment last week and I must agree with them - "Don't plant anything tender until after May 1". Several plants are blooming like never before. One is the Anise shrub (above and below). I don't know if the recent tree pruning, which is allowing more sun into the woodland path, is affecting it or perhaps it is just age, but I've never seen so many blooms. Michael refers to this as "the stinky fish shrub" and I have to admit to smell of the flowers is quite unpleasant. It is so beautiful that I can overlook that. The old pink dogwood tree, which was already here, shades our woodland path and it too is prett

Spreading Mulch

First, before I get to the mulch, I wanted to share a photo of the transplanted loquat. I am thrilled with its progress and think it looks great for January! I felt really guilty after moving it but it was one of those situations where I wanted to make room for another plant. I do that a lot. I thought it was a goner after leaves and limbs continued to turn brown. But, new growth in popping out all over. 

My neighbor was over and I was sharing my mulch with him. I said "I can feel spring in the air". He laughed and said "Well, it is 45 degrees." And so it was. But the sun was shining, no wind or rain and the birds were singing. I can feel spring coming.

Today was a good workout and I made it much longer before my sciatica, lumbago or whatever it is called in lower back started acting up. The mulch mountain is dwindling...

This was a huge chip drop and one drop is going to be enough and then some. Because these chips come from arborists, they are not treated with dyes and therefore don't have the attractive color. That turns some people off but I can't over-emphasize the benefits this gives the soil. It breaks down fast and your garden will love you for it. What I usually do is cover high profile areas with a layer of the darker chips from the garden center.

This batch of chips also had a lot of fir needles in it but I really like that.

I noticed that the potted sumac looks interesting -

I don't focus well on one activity and when spreading chips along the fence in back, I noticed this -

This is the bamboo screening that the previous owner placed over the hurricane fence. I'm surprised it has held up this long. I've covered most of the screen and fence with the twig fencing but there is some areas left along the side garden. Every year, I find where it has blown down. This seems to happen despite my best efforts at tying it. So, once again, I stopped what I was doing to get it back in position.
This looks to be a nice, dry week with temperatures in the 40s so I hope to get more done.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. Nothing like a fresh dressing of mulch (of any shade) to make it feel like spring is around the corner.
    (Is there a purpose to the upturned terra-cotta pots next to the sumac?)

    1. Chavli, they are just decorative. There were more to the stack but we occasionally will grab one if needed.

  2. It's great that you were able to move the loquat without doing it harm. Kudos to you for getting as much mulch spread as you have. Rest your back and take your time with the rest.

  3. Ah, the chip drop mountain! I’ve got one of those, too. There’s quite an online debate about the most efficient way to fill a wheelbarrow. Starting with the barrow on its side gets a lot of upvotes. What’s your technique? I’m mostly using a pitchfork; the snow shovel did not work for me since mine’s not on a paved surface.

    1. I just a shovel and sometimes a pitchfork. I do use the wheelbarrow but a lot of my spaces are tight so I tend to use buckets a lot. It takes longer to spread but good exercise.

  4. Your garden always looks interesting. It is nice that you have that mountain of mulch to spread. Your garden will be happier for it. I like the look of that bamboo fencing but it doesn't last long here. It must be all the freezes and thaws of winter that destroys it. Happy mulching...


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