a week of firsts: snakes, magnolias, frenzy

first snake 2FIRST THINGS FIRST, OR SO THE SAYING GOES. And so a normal spring goes, too–if there is ever such a thing again. Two prolonged bouts of early heat have changed the pace, to say the least, and so I’m doing lawn repairs (right on time) and also mowing (three weeks early!); pruning already leafed-out shrubs (so much easier when they’re still asleep!), and otherwise improvising. We’ve got wide-awake snakes and a wild hodgepodge of overlapping blooms–but the same recalcitrant Demon Cat. (Some things never change.) The latest evidence, in an impromptu slideshow:

Click on the first thumbnail to start the show, then toggle from slide to slide using the arrows beside the captions. Enjoy!

  1. Sharon says:

    Ah, snakes! This week my husband found one in the car in the map pocket beside him . . . while driving . . . after leaving the car door open while working in the meadow. He flinched but maintained control until he could stop the car and I could let it out. Kudos to him!

  2. Amy says:

    The wonderful (but unseasonably warm) weather we’ve been having seems to have everything 1-2 weeks ahead of schedule. First asparagus poking up here also — usually we don’t cut any until May 1.
    Worried about the frost though. A lot of the new foliage is very tender. Too large an area to cover everything. Maybe just the most vulnerable hostas. Margaret, will clematis buds be damaged by the cold?

    1. Margaret says:

      @Sharon: Your snake tale reminds me of that movie title about “Snakes on a Plane” or whatever it was. Yikes! Kudos to your husband, indeed. That would have been the end of me.

      @Amy: What buds get nipped depends on so many things, I think: how tight (or open) they are, whether they got heated up by the sun that day before the frost settled on them (I feel as if that’s the worst scenario — from all hot and tender to frozen solid in a matter of hours — and also how cold it gets. Most things, especially in tight bud stage, are just fine to a pretty cold degree. What worries me is when it is a frost that lingers (not just a momentary dip to 32, but hours of serious freeze). Fingers crossed, especially for our local fruit farmers.

  3. Susan says:


    So much the same thing here in PA, everything all at once (including the ticks and snakes)! In a way, though very beautiful, it makes me a little sad that Spring is not more drawn-out. Spring chores must be attended to with frenzy… what next? Echinacae blooming in May?

    You have a lovely website. Thank you for sharing your passion with us.


    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Susan; thanks for the kind words. Frenzy is right, and I an freaking out a little, but I guess I always do in April (and again in May). :) See you soon again, I hope.

  4. Johanna says:

    Indeed, all my pink tulips burst open today! Wahoo, I can get back to home-grown flower on my desk at work.

    Your place is looking fabulous. I just love your old apple trees with the narcissus under them. Terrific.


  5. Margaret, great pictures! Especially the frog, the snake, and the bumblebee! Which camera and lens do you use for your close-up photo shots? I have the Nikon D700, and am working on developing still-life skills in the garden.

    Best of luck getting through the upcoming chilly spell!

    1. Margaret says:

      @Green Thumb Geeks: I have the D700, too, for the last month, so I am VERY amateurish with it still. A powerful camera! Daunting, but I am trying.

      Each shot is different lens…some zoom, some macro.

      I am practicing use of a fixed 60mm macro right now (AF-S Micro Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 G ED) and wow, it’s hard. Each day I force myself to work with it, and I am improving, but not there yet by any means. Seems like the deal is that you need to REALLY give it lots of depth of field which since it’s macro (or as the box says “micro”) isn’t much depth of field relatively speaking. So when I select F22 or something even for a flower or two that’s better. In years past, I used an 18-55 and could get in pretty close but used very shallow depth of field (like F5.6 or 6.1 or some such). So the “macro” thing is completely confusing to me mentally. :)

      I wish I could explain this like a professional, but I am just an amateur with a keen interest in looking at things and taking their pictures. I was MUCH better with real film that I am with digital…these cameras are so much more complicated that my old Nikon F series were. Alas!

      A photographer friend says that I may need two “macro” lenses, and I am still uncertain if this 60mm is the right one for me…but as I say, I am just trying to teach myself how it works before trading it in or keeping it and mastering the damn thing. Onward, right? (Oh, and PS — my pro friend says “make the tripod your best friend” especially when working with long lenses, like the snake pic, which is shot w/a 70-300, or with macros. Did mention the tripod I ordered is still in the box it came in? Bad girl.)

  6. Carol P says:

    ME TOO!!! Forsythia still blooming and I cut lilacs (S. vulgaris) this weekend. How crazy is that? I am visiting my college daughters (both at Syracuse U.) this weekend and am bringing them lilacs. I always cut flowers when they were at home and put them on their nightstands and, low and behold, they miss them! Just a couple stems, whatever is blooming. I’m raising little gardeners and very happy about that.

    My biggest frost worry is Hosta “Sagae”. It’s up a good 10 inches versus little nubs of all my other Hostas. I’m in Pittsburgh and it’s been really summer-like.

    Thankfully no snake sightings. I know they’re good for the garden, but they gross me out.

  7. Margaret, now it makes sense why the pictures come out great. I need a Macro lens. I also just got the D700 and have a wishlist in mind of which lenses I want to pick up over the next few years. Right now everything is with my fixed focal length 50mm/1.8. It’s nice, but doesn’t let me get as close to the subject as I’d like. Thanks for the tips!

  8. Nancy says:

    Jack looks handsome, as always, and you must tell him. His oversight of your efforts is endearing, but all “nonworking supervisors” run the risk of being made redundant in these difficult times–especially in the garden! The garden looks great and this unusual simultaneous season uncovers some treasures we don’t often get to see. Thanks for your insights and photos!

  9. Willi says:

    What a great shot of the snake!! I’m so jealous you have snakes in your garden. We had a garter snake in our garden when I was a kid and I loved to come across him (or maybe it was a her? I have no idea!).

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