Friday, July 21, 2017

While I Was Away

Those who read my other blog know that I have been in New York City for the prior week. Those of you who garden realize that being away from your growing plants for a long time is a bit traumatic.  You try to plan your vacation trip around the growing season.  Or you either throw things to the hands of fate or you try to find someone to water and check on things and keep your fingers crossed . 

We did not have anyone to really check on things except the man who helps mow and trim on the weekends. But we "lucked out" in that a heavy rain came mid-week. My roses are bereft as there was no one to pick off the beetles and deadhead to encourage more blooms. My other flowers have almost completed blooming before the fall time. 

This time in my yard with the heat and humidity there are a few late lilies, the ever patient phlox and the rather weedy annual flower bed full of zinnias and sunflowers all overshadowed by a thousand coreopsis!   The crepe myrtles are still in bud.

The vegetables had grown large and watery...cucumbers and tomatoes. We will pick and eat them anyway. 

This year hubby planted a new variety of sweet blueberry and we had amended the soil to finally get a decent crop.  Granddaughter helped us pick a pint or so for pancakes the next morning.

I also noticed that the planters I had placed in large bins of water (with mosquito dunks) had managed to hold their health if indeed looking a bit haggard from wind and pelting rain. But there was one surprise...

This sunflower, that volunteered from the bird seed this past winter, I staked well and it is  now 10 feet tall!  Soon goldfinch will flash their golden beauty and start picking away at the seeds and chumming down on the golden petals.

My gardening will have to wait as the weather is now unbearable!

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

I Have Volunteers

Each year I purchase a few annuals to put in pots on my deck. Every other year or so I change out the soil. This year I did not replace the soil as I was in California. When I returned I got a fertile sunflower from seed dropped by a bird during the winter feedings on my deck.  (All photos were taken through a somewhat dirty window!)

This sunflower is one of those giants you see in fields in France or perhaps our own Midwest. It is huge and I have staked it in the hopes of saving it from our winds and torrential downpours. Of course, it really sucks up all the moisture and I have to go out and water each day.

It seems that the goldfinch are impatient for it to flower.  

The male and female are not as disheveled as they have probably gotten their young ones out of the nest and on their way.

But their impatience is strong.  So now they are tearing apart the seeds of another volunteer in my petunia pot...the zinnias.  It is a colorful show I must admit, although it will probably ensure no zinnia volunteers next year.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Flower Painting with the Computer

I have been hiding from the hot sun and very humid days recently.  I sneak out early in the morning and water a few places and weed a few others in my flower gardens.  Then I lumber back inside with cut grass covering my feet and twigs in my hair and bugs on my back and go to my computer in the air-conditioned cave and spend time "painting."

This 'artwork' hides the weeds and softens the dead-heads on the flowers and evens out the harsh sunlight.

And I can pretend my garden looks as nice as yours. Your know who you are up in the lovely Northwest with all your soft and misty rain!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Scary or Just Lucky

The world is a scary place sometimes.

Above is a click-eyed beetle.  This one was about two inches long and quite and an eye-catcher.  It does not bite or sting and those round outlined circles on its back are not the eyes.  In the adult stage, it eats the larva of other insects, so it is considered beneficial.  I understand that if you catch it and put it upside down on the ground it will click its spine and right itself.  I was not brave enough to do that.

Above in this photo is the Hummingbird moth that is a voracious feeder of nectar.  This one is loving my bee balm.  They also are beneficial and do not sting or bite.  They almost look like a hummingbird when flying.

According to one website, "Hummingbird moths have been seen as a lucky omen. In particular, a swarm of the moths was seen flying across the English Channel on D-Day, the day of the Normandy landings in the Second World War."

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

And the Sun Returns

The sun has made its farthest reach to the west in this photo and now that summer solstice has arrived it will begin its journey back again to the left in the photo above.  I have been indoors during this magic hour most evenings because it is after dinner and dishes and I have put my feet up.  But the red in the window caught my eye and even though I had just changed into my nightwear I put on sandals and hurried down to the dock to capture such a lovely sunset.    (At my age I no longer care if neighbors catch me in my jammies.  It is an honor to be the subject of gossip rather than forgotten.)

The menhaden have started their dance up into my small finger of the river.  They are small fish that flash silver when they flip to swallow more plankton for dinner.  They swim in ballet groups of dozens and we saw several of these groups.  Next, they will be followed by those that eat them.  It is a constant drama.

There was a soft breeze that swept away the heat and humidity of the day and there was an added bonus of no biting flies or mosquitoes to distract from trying to keep the camera steady.

(Colors are true and not enhanced.)
Even when I turned around to head back to the house there was a different show going on behind me.

Glad to share my blessings on this day.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Who is that Tapping at My Window Pane?

The Blue Birds remain at my house this week.  (My prior post on this is here.)  The male and female arrive each morning just before sunrise and start at the deck perching on the backs of the chairs and staring at me on the couch with my laptop and coffee in hand.  This photo below is grainy because of the darkness of the morning I had to push the exposure.

I know they must see me because it is too early for the sun's reflection to hide the room. There is a lamp over my shoulder which has to open that part of the room to some glow and reveal my movements. They twitter almost timidly as only the Blue Bird can and then they thrust themselves at the windows for about ten minutes.  Their tapping against the window sounds careless as if they have tripped on their way somewhere and have to catch their balance.

I recently moved the potted geranium to protect it more from the hot summer sun and the Blue Bird appeared almost immediately to eat the bugs that I had exposed.

Lately, they have moved to the front of my house and do the same window pane "thrust and parry" there. I have recently discovered that they have a nest in a box on the post below the deck and at the side of the patio below. Not sure how they will have energy left to raise young ones since they seem to be constantly fighting with their imaginary neighbors. It is well into June and this will probably be a second nest for experienced parents, or a first if they are new to the routine this year. 

Hubby says they are defending their territory and seeing reflections of themselves in the windows around the house and I am sure he is correct. I am startled some mornings when I go to make coffee and find both of them peering in from the kitchen windowsill only inches from my nose until I flick on the light and they fly away.

A few years ago it was the constant and gentle tapping of the male Cardinal and that went on for about a month.  Cardinals do not nest in boxes, so they must have a had a nest high in the trees somewhere.  I wonder if I will miss the Blue Birds as I did the Cardinal.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Frittering Around

Early in the spring, maybe early April, while the weather was still cool, I saw a Monarch butterfly sailing across my yard and stopping at the tight green buds of the butterfly weed that was slowly emerging in one of my flower beds. I felt a pang of concern that he/she had flown here so early.  I had not seen a single butterfly other than this one and there was no nectar for sustenance.   The iris were blooming as were Columbine, but no substantial energy seemed available for this insect carrying some magnificent abstract orange and black art on its back.

We are now well into June and butterflies of all types are crossing the lawn to check out the butterfly weed, the Echinacea, the lavender, the primrose, etc.  

Below are a few of my visitors these past two weeks.

Checkered White---Pontia protodice

One of the skippers, a little blurry.

American Lady ? a little tattered from the storms.

Spicebush Swallowtail---Papilio troilus

Zebra swallowtail---Eurytides marcellus

Black swallowtail---Papilio polyxenes

Great spangled fritillary(?)---Speyeria aphrodite

They really do compete with the blossoms!

Wednesday, June 07, 2017


There are places in my yard where the wild Queen Anne's Lace can bloom. Other places the groundhog or the rabbit have made their salad of the stems and leaves. This plant, with its multiple platters of white lace, has decided to grow in the very middle of a dense bed of iris rhizomes and leaves. Its stem is hidden and it has grown three feet high allowing me to do all kinds of fun things with the camera.  A relative of the carrot and sometimes called "wild carrot" it is really somewhat invasive in certain areas.  In my garden beds, I can easily pull up most of the new plants in spring and leave just a few for these lacey caps.

Monday, June 05, 2017


The calm before the storm is never as calm as it seems. The noises are quieter, but if you stand ever so still and hold your breathing, they are there.

The squirrels do their acrobatic show high in the 150-foot tulips, where the air is thin, leaping fearlessly from branch tip to branch tip and causing a rustling that you can hear, barely, if you listen. They land perfectly and the movement of the branch is the only evidence unless a rare leaf gets knocked to the lawn.  When you look up you may see a brown shadow disappear on the other side of that big oak tree.

The noisy frogs have grown quiet and bees no longer buzz.  The birds are no longer singing, but they do chirp unrhythmically in the deep green shade of the forest as if moving a twig here or there to gird their nest for the impending wind and rain and shushing the little ones who may be afraid of the darkness in midday.

Some larger animal moves carefully in the ravine with the snap of a twig.  Perhaps it is that young doe that grazes at the edge of the lawn each morning as I watch from the kitchen window with my first coffee. She is usually hard to startle but she also must be heading for shelter as she dips her head below the branches of the holly tree.

The lawn mowers and leaf blowers are finally silent in the neighboring yards and wheeled items rumble toward the garages or sheds for shelter.

I hear the first rumble coming from down at the end of the river and when I look in that direction I see a blue gray ridge of clouds spreading.  The tops of the trees across the river fling wildly back and forth against the gray backdrop.  I sigh.  I also will now have to seek shelter.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Wake Up Call

About 50% of the time my evenings are good and long and I am well rested. Some evenings I wake up after 5 hours of sleep due to a sound, due to a bathroom call, or for no reason at all! I get up and go into the living room to read because I know it will take me some time to get sleepy again. I usually fall asleep on the couch and get awakened by hubby when he comes in to fix himself some breakfast. Yesterday morning as I was in a deep sleep on the couch, I was awakened at sunrise by a tapping at my deck window. I ignored it and tried to fall asleep once again. The tapping was repeated again after a few minutes. I rubbed my eyes and tried to focus toward the deck and the window. I saw a male Blue Bird throwing himself, gently, against the window and flying up and down in repeated attempts. I have read that this usually means he is jousting with his reflection in order to demand territory before mating. When I got my glasses on I saw this below.

The pair, male and female, waited patiently until I could get their photo through the window which is why all of these photos are a bit blurry and a bit noisy.  Then they flew to the deck chair.

The female started a bit of a dance, or was getting rid of bugs, or making some statement that eluded me.

Perhaps she was all aquiver in anticipation of her lover's gestures?
Then she smoothed herself and looked at me in the window...or perhaps looked at her reflection to see if her feathers were all smoothed out?

The male decided to do a little "s-wing" dancing and was certainly more Fred Astaire than she was Ginger Rogers in his grace.

This lasted a while and then he flew to the window and raced up and down it for three or four times before falling unceremoniously into the geranium pot.

Eventually, they both decided to get a closer look at me in my pajamas and perched on the door handle.

Yes, they have spit all over the windows and I will have to wash them again when they are finished with this mating ritual.  (They were at the windows again this morning and through would think they had better things to do if they want to start a family!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

It's the Little Things

I must admit in spring all those early bloomers are gorgeous. They are pre-blackspot, pre-fungus, pre-insect damage, and pre-wind and rain damage.  I spend many hours trying to capture that perfect rose or perfect clematis or perfect iris in their bold colors and shapes and sizes.   But today I realized that I should focus on the shy flowers, the little flowers, the ones that we sometimes fail to notice, but which are just as important. The Geum is one of those plants.   It does not require much care, although it usually likes it moist. It sends out blooms for a couple of weeks in the spring and sometimes a bloom or two in the fall. But each blossom is only the size of my thumbnail and the plant is not covered in blossoms, so it can be overlooked. This is a new plant I bought this year and the variety has "fire" in the name.

It looks a little like a teeny, tiny rose, does it not? The plant is short and compact and takes up little space. 

Another overlooked plant is my "evening" primrose. Many are familiar with the short compact primrose that is hybridized. Mine is a wild native and grows tall -- up to two feet. Last year it was new and sent up about two stalks looking like a fragile piece of silk in that part of the bed and showed for only a week.  I have only one plant and will try to remedy that. This year it sent up many yellow wings of flowers and looks established.

When you look in closely you see such a lovely clump of delicate silks.

My Guara is also blooming a bit early this year. Gardeners describe the plant as looking like pink and white butterflies flitting back and forth. That is an accurate description. Mine do not flit back and forth though. They grow long and floppy flying over the lawn and sometimes flopping face down into the lawn!  Maybe I should read up on keeping them compact. They tend to spread as well after a few years!

Next is the yarrow. Hardy, easy to grow, sometimes spreads too much by runners, some varieties need staking, but ever faithful in its lengthy bloom period.  Below an example of its platter of tiny flowers.

I had to tear out the hedge of Nandina next to the house as it was too crowded and impending on the walkway. I replaced a few of the empty spaces with a tiny spirea that blooms in the spring. It should only get two by two and not intimate the space. The flowers are tiny and spiky! I am sure you have seen the large hedges of spirea used in landscapes.

Oh, the first big burst of roses is now waning, so I will post a quick photo of that.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Counting Ducks

Responsibilities pulled me out of my lazy funk and forced me outside on the second of a rainy/misty/coolish day in my neck of the woods. We had to go out and count the eggs or hatched eggs in the wood duck boxes in the marsh. I say "we" in an extremely generous way because my roll is sometimes to carry a few things and other times to document with photos, and to give my lady friend company. When we head to the state park the greens are still very vital as the rains have washed all things clean.

The beavers have returned with an industrious vengeance. Park rangers have tried various methods to keep the dam lower so that the boardwalk at the edge of the swamp is not flooded.  You can see an older cut tree in the lower right hand corner.

Counting crew had to wade carefully across the lower part of the creek in the overflow of the dam.  Three of the boxes are across the marsh on the other side.

Mountain laurel were on the wane in their blossoms, but I got a few photos for remembrance. It is hard to time their bloom as it varies as much as two/three weeks sometimes.   The marsh was pulsing with life:  birds, water lilies, duck potato of the Sagittaria family, pennywort, and turtles.  Redwings were noisy and busy.

Blue flag was showing off it striking purples and blues as was the variegated iris.

It was mystical and while not quiet due to the birds and frogs celebrating spring, it was still very spiritual.  Very few humans had invaded on this early and cool morning.

Ferns carpeted shallow areas everywhere.  We followed the two major trails to investigate 18 boxes with a total of 93 eggs laid and 20 already hatched!  We considered that a good count and only frightened two sitting hens...or guess I should write that our counters were only frightened by two sitting hens.

At the end, we walked to the beach side just for the fun of it and discovered the leftovers from children looking for shark's teeth in the sand the prior weekend.