Cozy Here Beneath the Blast

Robert Burns's mouse thought she was as snug in her nest as I am in my greenhouse. But Burns's plough smashed it all up, and out of his dismay, he wrote his very famous poem To a Mouse, a wondrous marvel of empathy.

I'm a wondrous marvel of empathy too. I think I may have to start the only no-kill nursery in existence. I've spent many happy hours now pricking out this year's seedlings, putting the big healthy ones in their own little pots, and tucking the less precocious bairns back in their little blankies to develop a while longer.

I just don't have it in me to toss them, even though goodness only knows what I'm going to do with 20-odd thimbleberry plants. The thimbleberry, Rubus parviflorum, are thriving mightily:

Unfortunately, they are not so appropriate in a suburban garden. Each of my babies can grow into a spreading thicket up to 8 feet tall! (Around here though, more like 4 feet.)

I Googled some interesting info on this page of a site called, which is in Minnesota. It says thimbleberry is "well adapted to vigorously invade many types of burned sites through rhizomes or seed."

That site also says that the seed requires warm then cold stratification. All I did was stick the berries I collected into envelopes, ignored them for an indeterminate period, washed off the seeds, and then sowed them in a random flurry of activity. So - just goes to show, advice isn't always correct for a particular situation.

There's a lot of other good info on that page though, e.g., the fruits were relished by the indigenous folk, the bark was used to make soap, the leaves were boiled to make medicinal tea, and also dried to a powder and applied to wounds to minimize scarring.

I wonder if a root barrier would tame thimbleberry for use in larger gardens. They are very pretty with big leaves somewhat like a current bush, quite large flowers, and lovely little pink berries, like raspberries.

(I guess they aren't strictly berries. They are aggregates. I just looked it up. Lots of words for different types of fruits. I love this one: drupe. That would be yer plum and peach, fruits with a single stone.)

But I digress. Digressions happen frequently on rainy days when the wind is gusting. Which brings me back to my original quote. There I was, cozily beneath the blast when Bang Bang Bang - above me the vents were being forced open by the wind!

Woodrat says not to worry, they won't actually blow off but I hae' ma doots.

To digress a little more: This post has been interrupted by three brief power outs in the course of writing thus far. Who knows what pearls of wisdom vanished like the snow drops in the river. To throw in a spoonful of colorful cliches.

I'm now working on my laptop which doesn't go down when deprived of current! So let's on to other seedlings and I may remember what I wrote a few minutes ago, who knows.

Here are the Madia elegans, common madia, throwing up their arms:

And here is Heuchera micrantha, alum root, also doing really well. A friend with a shady garden is interested in having some of these:

It's fun to see that so far one leaf is really big, then the next is smaller, then the last true leaf to appear is tiny. They are all in that configuration right now.

The Aquilegia formosa, western colombine, however, is not cooperating.

A crust of peat, starting to go green, had formed on the top. I roughed up the top to break it up before taking the photos. Beneath the crust, it was comparatively dry. Next time I try these I'll have to do a bit more homework.

Eriophyllum confertiflorum, Golden yarrow, are sprouting tidily one to a pot, about half a dozen of them. I'd like to have seen more sprouting but there you are.

Eriogonum nudum, naked buckwheat, is what I was pricking out yesterday, a full flat of them or more. My friend with the shady garden is also interested in these. You can see the crinkles of the eriogonum leaves starting to form.

They are healthy and fortunately not so numerous as the regular and seep monkeyflower seedlings, which are crowded and small, much as they were last post I did on these seedlings. I won't bother to post a picture as there is little apparent change. They are all still bursting with hope.

A learning point:

This is the shakedown period of use in the greenhouse. One thing I have realized is that the upper rack is much too high. I can't see what's up there (let alone water it) even if I get on a chair.

And I'd like a lower rack, maybe 6 or 8 inches off the ground. Trays laid on the ground are too vulnerable to bags o stuff getting tipped on them, or Duncan dancing through them on his way by.

I don't have any gallon pots in here as yet, but then I doubt if I'll need to use the greenhouse for the larger pots. I am growing natives, after all, and I have places outdoors for the plants to grow on - our upper deck is great because it is on all sides of the house, so I can control the amount of sunlight.

I am agitating for a shade structure though, to protect young plants from too much sun, rain, and wind till they are tougher.

My lovely Wood Rat (who is currently gnawing the front off his closet as I write and putting new twigs in place (as it were), to create a computer rack that will keep the noise of computers to a minimum) said - no problem! so I'm happy as can be.

And Duncan, who is staring out the window as I write, will shortly be happy too because a break in the weather means he FINALLY gets his morning walkies.

Afterthought about cameras: My much loved and much repaired Canon PowerShot Digital Elph (SD790 IS) is finally and literally worn out. It no longer reliably - um - projects its lens when stimulated by pressure to its on switch.

So yesterday I lavished some dollars on a new pocket camera - the easier to remember Canon PowerShot S95. It's got more controls, which I like, personalizing it seems pretty easy, and it's still small enough to slip into a pocket for use (carefully) while gardening. (An in depth review comparing it to two other "enthusiast compact" cameras is found on here.)

But the thing I like best about it so far is that in auto mode, it switches automatically between macro mode and regular mode! Maybe they all do this now, but it is one of those features that really really makes a difference. How often have you taken a whole set of landscape shots not knowing you were in macro mode? I know I have.

OK, Duncan, we're going now!


Town Mouse said…
Oh, I'll take some Heuchera, twist my arm. No thimbleberry, though, thanks much.
Barbara E said…
Your greenhouse looks lovely, as do the plants. And what are you going to do with all of these??

Happy Holidays!
Country Mouse said…
Well, Barbara, now I'm starting to put the word out. I've had good conversations with some neighbors about some problem areas on their properties. I do have to learn to stop myself from going into TMI mode, though! So I'm hopeful I can place the plants I'm growing now. Except for the thimbleberry! There I may have to cast my net a little wider. I wonder how they behave in large containers?
The thimbleberry should be fine potted up into larger containers. It grows relatively slowly for the first couple years. I was looking to plant some of these come spring. You could always mail some here!
Country Mouse said…
Good to know, Susan, that they do grow in large containers!
Thanks for coming by everyone. I'll be in the UK for a short trip over the holidays, if the planes can land at Heathrow that is - so happy holidays to all, if I don't post before I return!
Your greenhouse is really coming along! I'm still twisting Santa's arm...hoping we'll have one up by spring. As you're starting a no-kill nursery, I'm sure if you have an extra thimbleberry or two, we could adopt them. I expect the deer would relish them, but we have a few spots around the orchard we're the thimbleberries could range safely :P Looking forward to seeing what else sprouts this spring!
As an ex-Minnesotan I was delighted to see that you've discovered and mentioned the Rook! I have canoed their beautiful boundary waters area. And, have also done a 2-day dog sled trip in their frozen wilderness. BRRR! Three cheers for the BWCA.

Merry Christmas!
It looks like you're discovering the amazing pleasures of working in a greenhouse during inclement weather. A shade structure really does seem like the next logical addition. The few native nurseries I've visited seem to appreciate the protection they give, in addition to not having to water quite so frequently since the plants aren't stressed as much as being outdoors in the sun with new root systems in a shallow pot.