Category Archives: projects

art of creation

Flower Count – day 5 – crocus

snow crocus in February
photo by SVSeekins

We can’t get through Victoria’s Flower Count without mentioning the good old snow crocus.  They’re the true harbinger of spring.  In this area they usually start to show themselves by Valentines Day.  This year there were these pastel hints of them at Valentines.

I enjoy watching their dance.  If a beam of sunlight hits, they open their flowers.  As a cloud blocks the sunshine, they close up again.  On a windy day, when the clouds are really moving, crocus can get really busy. It must be exhausting.

They look so delicate, but they’re pretty tough considering the weather they thrive in.  Snow is part of their name for a reason.  I’ve seen them survive a dump of snow without a shiver.  As soon as the sun shows up, they’re even gutsy enough to open their bloom right then & there.

early crocus in peony bed
photo by SVSeekins

I planted some brighter colored varieties in the peony bed.  The other day I noticed those were coming up, too.  I’ll have to tidy up the old peony stems, to better show off these spring bulbs.

Soon enough the new peony sprouts will be reaching for the sun themselves.  By the time the crocus finish, the peonies will take over the bed & give the crocus some shade to rejuvenate in through the summer

dandelions out - crocus bulbs in
photo by SVSeekins

Last fall I started an experiment trying to naturalize some crocus in the boulevard lawn at the same time as digging out some dandelion.  After all that digging, the lawn looked worse for wear, but as the grass is just showing signs of growth, I’m hoping it’ll be looking better soon.

crocus sharing space with moss & grass
photo by SVSeekins

The good news is that the crocus are starting to grow too.  Dividends – Yippee!

The blooms so far look pretty small in comparison to those growing in the flower beds, but there is plenty of growing season to come.  Hopefully they’ll take off this first year & be even stronger next year.

C is talking about the possible need to mow the lawn.  That will be another test.

In the meantime, I’m delighted to see the snow crocus.  Before we know it, daffodils will follow – then it’ll really feel like spring!

© SVSeekins and Garden Variety Life, 2012. 

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Flower Count

The Dandelion Dilemma

In my mind dandelions have pretty yellow flowers.  They’re deer resistant.  Long blooming. Survive drought & famine.  They’re tasty as salad greens.  And even make wine.

To C, that’s just not enough.

C carries a big grudge against dandelions.  He harbors dark thoughts & plots their demise.   He’s carried bucket loads away from the lawn after battle.  But still he lives in fear that the common dandelion will win the war.

This fall I initiated a new plan.

After having some success during wet seasons past, I decided to have another go at digging the dandelions out – and this time replacing them with crocus.

spring crocus
photo by SVSeekins

Fall is the proper time to plant bulbs. Considering I’ve dug the hole to get the dandelion out, I might as well take advantage of the effort, right?

My good friend AT planted the idea in my mind years ago.  When she was very young, her dad had employed the same reasoning in his yard: replace dandelions with crocus.  I’ve never seen that lawn, but in my imagination it is wonderful.

The crocus of choice promises to grow no higher than 4 inches tall.  They bloom in mid February.  Even if they’re still blooming when C brings out the lawnmower, they should be safely below the blade.  Cross my fingers.

After some rain in the fall, most plants can be dug out quite easily.  The soil is moist, and therefore softer, and easier to dig.   Dandelions however, have multiple, deep, sometimes cork-screwing roots.  If any section of root remains in the ground, it’ll happily renew itself.

planting crocus in lawn
photo by SVSeekins

For this project I chose the dandelion patch just outside the fence-line.  It was especially resplendent in dandelion.  It’s also a high visibility area that C is the most embarrassed about.  I gave special attention to get as much root as possible.

Working an hour or two at a time, I slowly made progress.  There was so much digging that the lawn looked pretty rough for the first while.

Well over 400 crocus bulbs were planted.

I’m hoping that by spring there will be a colorful blooming meadow.

So much of gardening doesn’t seem to be about having a green thumb.  Having a strong back is certainly a plus.  So is crossing fingers.   Wish me luck.   🙂

© SVSeekins and Garden Variety Life, 2012

snow crocus, woodland crocus, early crocus, summit park, crocus, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

PS – here’s the follow-up post a year or so later:

… and one from an established meadow

For the Birds: Suet Logs

Quick link to Recipe
thanks to

Each December, the urge to CREATE sweeps into our home. C looks forward to taking a few days off before Christmas to play in Santa’s Workshop.

This year the project idea came from a store-bought gift we’d given C’s mum this summer. It was a bird feeder – a Suet Log to be more specific. It’s just like a tree branch with holes drilled & filled with a suet mixture. The birds, especially the woodpeckers, flocked to her 3rd-floor deck. They LOVED it

The fellow at the store said many birds find their food inside the bark of trees, so these feeders attracted more birds than those looking for seeds.  Customers had reported over 110 different varieties of birds using this feeder.

bird feeder
photo by SVSeekins

C had to make some himself.  His Santa’s Workshop project plan was in place early.

All summer & fall, we put commercial  ‘bark butter’ into Mum’s feeder each time we were at her apartment.  After a while, the cost added up, so I figured it was time to try making the birdfeed from scratch, too.

A year or so ago Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary gave me instructions for pine cone bird feeders. They were stuffing homemade bird suet into open pine cones. The idea intrigued me. I figured the fat should work just as well inside the drilled holes of C’s logs as it would inside the pine cones. Although I came across those instructions this summer & put them ‘somewhere safe,’ do you think I could find them now?

In the end, I found a recipe from Garden Wise magazine that would do the trick.

suet bird feed ingredients
photo by SVSeekins

Procuring most of the ingredients was straight forward.  Peanut butter, dried fruit & breadcrumbs were already in the kitchen.   I washed eggshells & stored them frozen until needed.  The sunflower seed & millet was sourced in the bulk section at Buckerfields, a local feed store.

The rendered fat (suet) was a little tougher. I looked around for plain suet blocks that could be melted down & converted into this pliable recipe for the logs.  Even on sale, these wouldn’t be cost-effective.

It turns out, suet is available from the butcher.  I went to a butcher that specializes in British fare.  The British use suet in spotted dick – a steamed pudding.  Who knew?

Once I’d collected all of the ingredients for our bird suet, it didn’t take long to put it all together.

suet bird feed in jars
photo by SVSeekins

For packaging, it was important to me not to be wasteful. So I decided on canning jars. I had lots of them, & they can be reused or recycled.

We’re pretty happy with the finished product.    Now we’re waiting to see what kind of bird will be the first to find the new feeder in our garden.


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