Friday, December 31, 2010
Goodbye to the Garden, 2010
At 7:00 AM it was a beautiful dawn on the last day of December, 2010. Clouds , cold, and lake effect snow flurries have been the norm this month. I think just three days got above freezing. Two of them featured rain and lots of it. The other one was today. Of course red sky in the morning... , but Ed didn't want to go sailing. He just wanted to spend some time working outside in relative comfort. As it turned out we both spent some time outside. It was sunny with blue sky for the early part of the day. It must have been pretty close to freezing, because although the snow pack did some melting, it was in the areas touched by the sunlight. By late afternoon the clouds were back and things cooled down in a hurry.
The Stone Wall Garden is such a peaceful setting. One would hardly guess that a garden could be as exciting as a roller coaster. This year we've had the high of beautiful flowers, delicious meals of fresh produce and herbs, a small article in 'Horticulture' , and the Garden Bloggers' Convention in Buffalo. But we have also had the lows of frosted lilies, rodents in the beets, and tomato blight. It has been an eventful year and tomorrow we begin again. 2011 brings a new garden journal and a new beginning! Best wishes for a Happy New Gardening Year! I can hardly wait!
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Great Garden Gifts
I have to say I was tickled "pink" when I opened this Christmas gift from Helen. Even though the garden is covered with snow and it will be months before I can put this house in the garden, I couldn't have been more delighted. Every time I look
at this brightly colored bird house it will remind me of the dear friend who gave it to me and it will make me smile.
The somewhat feminine eye protection was also a gift from Ed. He's not fooling me one bit. I know he figures I will wear these and not borrow his. He may be right. I like these so much. They have good eye coverage and look oh so cool on me!
Monday, December 27, 2010
Almost Dead, Sort of Dead, Dead as a Doornail
With all the snow in the outside garden, my attention became focused on those plants that I have in the house. This rosemary plant is in the sort of dead category. The leaves have not yet dropped making a mess all over, but they are crisp and dried . The stems snap when broken. Ed asked me if we can save the leaves to use for cooking. I'm not sure as under normal circumstances healthy leaves are harvested from a live plant, dried and then used for cooking. Perhaps being dead first would make no difference or would it? This is not my only rosemary so the decision has been made . This sort of dead plant is headed to the compost.
That brings us to the patchouli plants. The plant on the left is almost dead. It's leaves and stems give a whole new meaning to the word limp. I could try cutting it back, but I did that with the plant on the right, and it is now in the dead as a doornail category. Keeping plants around that look like this does nothing to improve my winter mood. Time for these plants to make their trip to the compost. As far as next year goes, I will always try to winter over rosemary. I'm not sure about the patchouli. Perhaps I should say enough is enough. But I'm an optimistic gardener so probably I'll try just one more time!
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
I suppose not everyone would stop and take a picture of a frozen bilious green caterpillar, but I do that sort of thing. All sorts of questions come to my mind. What kind of caterpillar is this? It appears to be frozen, so is it alive or is it dead? I think I've read that if you are lost in the woods, caterpillars can be eaten, but one would think that applies only to some kinds. If they are frozen they are supposed to have a sweeter taste. Like that matters, I can't imagine being hungry enough to try this yucky looking specimen . With the temperature in the twenties, I quickly moved on down the path leaving this " juicy " morsel for the birds. Perhaps they will find him tasty. Bon appetit!
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
A Very Special Winter Solstice
Friday, December 17, 2010
Almost Winter Beauty
We are some distance from the Great Lakes. Cold dry Artic air draws moisture from the still warm lakes. That moisture becomes a unique type of fluffy snow. Areas closer to the lakes have five feet or more of snow on the ground. People there likely find less beauty in this snow. For us the ever present snowfall amounts to little accumulation. Its surface stays clean and sparkly.
The long shadow of the locust tree will not fit in the photograph. The sun is still dropping lower in the southern sky every day, and our daylight hours are still getting shorter. But in 3 more days, all that will change. Time to begin gathering wood for our bonfire.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The temperature is in the teens and this was a day for us to travel to the Y for our exercise in the pool. The roads were fine, but the river is already getting lumpy with ice. Our trip was the usual until we headed for home. When we left the Y , there right next to the wall of pool was a Peregrine Falcon lunching on a grey pigeon. He was so close to the street that we got a fantastic look at this gorgeous bird. Ed turned around and did several drive-bys so I could get a really good look. His head and beak shape, black cap and moustache, rufus and white chest, and sleek body, added to the fact that he was lunching on a pigeon, made his identification pretty certain. I checked my books when I returned home just to be sure. Part of me wished that I had the camera, but I'm sure if I did I would have just made him fly away and ruined his lunch. It was enough just to get such a close up look at this magnificent bird!
The big redtail hawk that I often see in the garden is bulky when compared to this sleek Peregrine Falcon. It's like the difference between a 747 and a fighter jet. I'm so glad I was fortunate enough to spot the bird. It made an ordinary trip something special to remember.
Just 7 days left!!!
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Today Was for the Birds!
Monday, December 6, 2010
Plants and Snow
|High Country Gardens "Collector's Edition 2011|
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Up Ramp, Down Ramp
When Ed and I retired and moved to the Stone Wall Garden, we tried to plan ahead. The house was built with everything on one floor, with wide doors for easy handicap accessibility. All of that was for later. We have lived here for 11 years and later is creeping up on us a bit. It is because I have been told to avoid stairs when possible that Ed is working on a ramp to the kitchen door. Fantastic progress is being made, and the end of the project is in sight, but the cold weather has slowed things. This morning it was cold enough that a thin layer of snow was easily swept from the ramp.
Just a few more sunny days warm enough for outdoor construction and the ramp will be ready for code enforcement inspection. Perhaps if the code officer is here on a cold wintery day he will not linger.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Cold and Frosty...Warm, Wet, and Wild...Cold and Frosty
Later in the day the I saw a very wet hawk sitting in the locust tree, watching the bird feeder, and hoping for a quick meal. But service was slow, no birds ventured near . As the water soaked bird left to look elsewhere for his dinner, I got a glimpse of his white rump patch. That means it was a Marsh hawk also known as a Northern Harrier. They are famous for preying on smaller birds. In our garden, it pays to be wary. There's no such thing as a free lunch.
By late afternoon the temperature dropped below freezing and snow began to fall. For a long time it didn't stick, but in the end the plants returned to a light coat of frosty white. We are back to cold!
Monday, November 29, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
In my treasured 1897 copy of How to know the Wildflowers, by Mrs. William Starr
Dana, I learned that bluets are dimorphous. Some flowers have long pistols and short stamens and some have long stamens and short pistols. Both kinds are needed for pollination to occur. Ed remembered this, so when he saw blue flowers and white flowers, he made sure to bring home some of each.
In Growing and Propagating Wildflowers, by William Cullina, I discovered that the color variation could mean that both Houstonia caerulea and Houstonia longifolia might be planted here in my shade garden.
Whichever they are, these little mounds of green leaves seem to be doing very well. I will look forward to their cheery little flowers early in May. Perhaps they will bloom all summer again next year. I just hope they become well established here.
In the past I've tried buying bluets without success. These plants from a friend definitely seem to be the answer. We will know more in the spring.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Thanksgiving Can Be For The Birds!
Friday, November 19, 2010
Our First Snow Day
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
November In The Garden
Last night was warmer and with hard rain during the night the garden has a very different look. Today looks like it might be a great day to work outside if the rain has finished, but everything is wet.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Gone To Seed
The bed of Gloriosa Daisies is loaded with seed heads.
This red sumac will be an attraction for the birds all winter .
Thursday, November 11, 2010
24 Cubic Yards In 24 Hours
Our car had spent the night at the base of the hill since the driveway was blocked. We expected that it might be stranded there for several days. Here is its return the very next day.
Don, the man wearing the cap, is the proud owner of the tractor. He was not certain that his machine would be able to handle the size of our job. By pushing small amounts of gravel at a time, the task was completed without once getting the tractor stuck. Ed was the shovel man on this day. By lifting small amounts of gravel at a time, the task was completed without once getting chest pain.
Slow and steady wins the race. The improbable is possible. Both workers will go to bed tonight tired, but happy, having acomplished so much on this gorgeous fall day.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
After just one afternoon, 24 yards of gravel are piled in the driveway waiting to be spread by hand. It's interesting that days and sometimes weeks go by and no one comes up our drive. As soon as it was blocked with gravel, the propane delivery truck turned into the driveway. He'll be back next week. A friend called asking if today was convenient to return a borrowed tool. I explained our situation and tomorrow he and his tractor will join Ed moving gravel. With any kind of luck I'll be able to drive up the hill to the house when I get home. It really was a cute little red dump truck and gravel happens.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Pretty Cold Garden Pictures
The all male asparagus that we purchased a decade ago from Miller nurseries looks so beautiful. It's such a nice shade of gold with lots of red berries. Of course the berries are female fruits. Just like the Chinese discovered, the all male thing doesn't work out.
My tricolor sage is still looking beautiful. The cold we have been experiencing has not yet had its effect on all of the plants. Many of the annuals are now dead. Some perenniels are beginning to get that blackened dead look. The big difference being that the perenniels may be back next year.
I saw my friend Susan today. She said, "I'm so thrilled with the "King Of Prussia" chrysanthemums you gave me." I can only imagine the look on my face as I searched my brain for the plant she was talking about. "What do they look like ?" I asked. "They are a beautiful, pink, and blooming now." she replied. " Finally I got it. "Those are 'Emperor of China' chrysanthemums". When we finished laughing Susan said, " Well, I knew they came from royalty. Where did I get the name 'King Of Prussia.' " We agreed it was obvious, that's a town in Pennsylvania. I've got to wonder why I didn't give her a proper label with the plant. It's not like I don't have plenty of stones to write on. I plan to do better. Of course including the Latin name would be nice, but change comes in small steps.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Not Even Half Dead
Now that it is November just one lemon verbena lives on the south facing windowsill in the basement. Part of the plant is doing its dead stick thing, but so far most of the plant has green leaves. Perhaps a fruit salad with lemon verbena leaves chopped in it is a possibility for Thanksgiving this year.
When the Richters' catalog arrives, 3 lemon verbenas will start off the order. If this plant makes it till warm weather , it will get a chance to spend one summer as a fragrant bush in the garden. Every winter I wonder why I deal with all this drama. Who knows maybe this is the year I will consider lemon verbena an annual.
My Horticulture magazine just came . I sat down to read it cover to cover like I usually do, and was surprised to discover that the article about lemon verbena we had submitted in July was actually in the magazine. We had given up any idea of having anything published because we included the necessary photograph using our 3.2MP camera not realizing how inadequate it was. Once we discovered the truth , we forgot all about our submission. They used Celeste Clockhard's great photograph. I have to say there's nothing quite like seeing something you have written printed in a real magazine. It is quite a thrill.
But does make me realize how much I love my blog.
The unbridled freedom to write without limitations or deadlines, coupled with the ability to correct mistakes even years later is wonderful. That being said, if you get a chance to look at the Dec/Jan Horticulture please don't miss our little article printed on page 70. It's a first for us!
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
In Search Of Hardy Chrysanthemums
This "Emperor of China" chrysanthemum is quite remarkable. Even with nights in the twenties, heavy morning frosts and no covering at night, it continues to produce its pretty pink blooms. It seems that a hard frost is necessary before these flowers will open. Each fall we impatiently watch, hoping that these flowers will have their chance to bloom while the buds remain tightly closed. Each year, with the rest of the garden mostly brown, the "Emperor of China" chrysanthemum produces its dazzling display after the frost.
A closer look at the mostly brown garden reveals that all is not dead. These "Clara Curtis" chrysanthemums have started next year's growth. The dried stalks from this year will be cut and placed over the new growth after the ground has frozen hard. We can never decide when to cut the dead stalks. Sometimes they are cut early and set close aside to use as winter mulch. Other times they are left in place to be cut later.
Having long ago given up on the root bound cupcake mums that never winter over for us here, we search for hardy mums and plant them in the spring. Next year we hope to have these two, as well as "Mammoth pink" and "Mary Stoker" return . In the meantime the hardy mum search continues .
Saturday, October 30, 2010
How Not To Photograph A Wild Mink.
I readied the camera while Ed circled around to get behind the big mound, hoping to send the animal in my direction. A rabbit burst out of the cover of the grass with the sleek black weasel on its heels. Both animals ran right by me. The weasel was incredibly fast, but that rabbit was even faster escaping into the garden. For several minutes we watched the weasel streak around before he disappeared into the tall grass north of the house. Even given all those chances, I got so flustered that this is the best picture I got. As far as I can tell there is no sign of the weasel in this picture. I also got a blurry picture of grass, and worst of all, a picture of the palm of my hand.
We wondered just what kind of weasel we had seen. I have seen an ermine here in the past, but this animal was was too big. We thought of an escaped pet ferret, but this animal was totally black. A little research would seem to indicate that this weasel was likely a wild mink. I'm disappointed that I didn't get a picture, but I am thrilled to have had the chance to watch this long, sleek, black animal. Honestly, a mink that is free to catch rodents in our garden is the only kind I'm interested in having.
We have had occasional glimpses of an animal like this moving near the edge of the mown field. One spring Ed found, lightly buried in a planting bed, half of a rabbit and a headless crow. We suspected that a fox had cached extra food but the headless bird is characteristic behavior for a weasel. Perhaps this mink calls our garden part of his home range. We hope we get to see him again!
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Watching The West Wind
It's mesmerizing to watch the milkweed seeds with their fluffy parachutes dancing on the wind. Often they cross the entire garden space from west to east without touching the ground. Occasionally they catch an updraft and fly high in the air. A late Monarch butterfly fluttered by on the wind. The chrysalis on the lily cage is gone. The temperatures have moderated , but there almost no flowers left where a butterfly might find nectar.
Later as Ed and I sat on the bench, we saw a hawk kiting on the wind. How amazing it must be to hang there motionless in one spot with the wind holding you high above the garden. As we watched, the hawk made a fast dive into the wind, landing in the pines. We barely got a look at the bird's beautiful, brown- speckled feathers, glowing in the sun, before the crows cawed. Crows consider the pines theirs, and waste no time chasing off intruders, no matter how big they are. The gang of noisy black birds chased the hawk, squawking, flapping, and diving as close as possible, to intimidate the larger bird. They are no match for a hawk when it comes to flying on a windy day. That hawk caught the air current and soared high on the wind leaving the noisy flapping crows to return to their piny woods. We watched for some time as the hawk continued to kite over the garden . Eventually he caught the wind and soared along the ridge until he was out of sight.
Now the garden is cooling off. The wind has died down.The fluffy milkweed dancers are resting on the grass. The air show is over, but today watching the wind blow in the garden was exciting!
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
October Tricks And Treats
Most of the annuals in the garden are dead from the cold. There's lots of cleaning up to do in the garden. Sometimes though, other things push themselves to the top on our to do list. Ed loves to dig in the garden, but digging to expose a broken septic line on our 6 year old house doesn't hold quite the same appeal. Today was a beautiful day for digging. He will need more just like it to finish this job.