Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Snowy Squirrel

Seems like every time I look out the window on this snowy day I see more creatures flying and running about. The wisteria seems to be “the” place to be today. I’m guessing that’s because there are lots of branches to sit on and it is better than being on the snow-covered ground.

This squirrel was busy eating an acorn when I saw him through the family room window.

Oops, he spotted me.

I think he’s decided to check me out a little more closely.

Is it just me, or is he smiling at me? I think he’s posing for his “close-up.”

Aw, he really is cute, especially with little bits of snow on him. Or maybe it’s a her. He (or she) kept running down the wisteria and going behind the small wood shed that holds our trashcans, then coming out with an acorn and running back up the wisteria to eat it. His stash must be behind the trashcan shed.

I’m not usually a big fan of the squirrels since they dig little holes all over the yard and garden, as well as in my potted plants. They also occasionally end up digging up plants to hide their nuts under them. So, yeh, not really my favorite creatures to have in the garden. However, after seeing this little guy, I may have warmed up to them a bit.

Birds on a Snowy Afternoon

This morning, as I was enjoying my cup of coffee on this rare, lazy Saturday, I noticed quite a lot of birds hanging out in the wisteria. There is still snow on the ground and they seemed to be looking for some food. I noticed the bird feeders were empty, so I suited up and filled them. While I was out there it started to snow. As soon as I came in, all of the birds swarmed the bird feeders. I tried taking video of them from the screened-in back porch, however, they didn’t want to come around even though I was fairly far away. I ended up having to take some pictures using my zoom lens while standing in the family room looking out the window.

Here’s a bluejay that chased away all of the sparrows at the bird feeders.

Here’s a bird on top of the arbor (on the left side). I think it’s a type of sparrow, but don’t hold me to that since I really don’t know my birds well.

A squirrel decided to check out and see if any seed fell from the feeders.

As I was taking the pictures above, I turned around and looked through the other family room window and caught the bluejay in the wisteria that is on the greenhouse. Some of these are blurry, but it is kinda neat to see this handsome boy more close up.

He seemed to be gathering twigs, until he spotted me, that is.

A little while later there was a pair of cardinals. It may take a bit of looking to spot the female. She is in the middle right area, kind of behind a wisteria pod.

I got some fairly decent shots of the male cardinal.

He sure is a handsome fellow. In this last photo, I didn’t even realize the female was in this shot until I looked at it on my computer screen later. She’s in the top right corner.

You never know what you’re missing until you slow down and take the time to look. I’m glad I went outside before the new snow started to fill the feeders. I think the birds will appreciate it.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Garden Classes I’ll be Taking This Year

As you know, I love taking classes or workshops on various garden topics each year. My schedule has been more tight the past year or so due to the web design night classes I’ve been taking and will continue to be so as I work towards my certificate. I will be fitting in a few interesting one-day workshops at Longwood Gardens.

Ideas for Impact
Longwood has been doing this full day of garden lectures the past few years in February to “dig” gardeners out of their winter blues. Each year they have different topics and you can do either the two morning sessions or the two afternoon sessions or the whole day. I’ll be doing the morning session this year where their plant experts talk about their favorite plants and where I will get some ideas for creating more curb appeal – learning to create “a more ecologically-friendly and welcoming suburban landscape.” I have only done minor adjustments to the front yard since we moved into this house, with thoughts of doing more. We have a small front yard, though, and could use some ideas. To be honest, I wonder if anything I come up with be doable with all of the enormous tree roots we have in our front yard. It will be a fun morning, though, on a cold winter day.

Vertical Gardening
Vertical gardening and green walls are a big trend right now. I am interesting in learning more about it, how to create one, what kind of plants work best, and how to care for it. We will learn those things in this class, plus take a look at the green wall at Longwood (which is really large and impressive), and plant a small vertical garden of our own. I am really looking forward to this class. I have to wait until May, though.

Handmade Soaps From Horticulture
Alas, I may not get to take this class. It is so popular I am on the waiting list. This class is about learning the basics of “the cold process method of soap making using vegetable oils and herbal additives.” You get to make a batch of soap and bring it home. I always thought it would be cool to learn how to make soap using herbs from the garden. This class isn’t until November, so the fact that it’s already full is an indication of how popular their classes are at Longwood Gardens. You always have to sign up early because they fill up fast. I thought I was early, but apparently not early enough.

There are other classes I would like to take that just didn’t work with my schedule. One in particular I am really sorry I won’t get to take. I have taken some classes in botanical illustration and watercolor and really enjoyed it and have always wanted to take more. (See my “Favorite Classes” post to see a few of my drawings.) Unfortunately, most of them are during the day during the week. Guess it must be popular with retired folks! They are finally offering evening classes March-April and September-November. Unfortunately, I know I will have a lot of homework during those months. It’s too bad they aren’t offering them during the summer because I plan on taking a break from my web design classes this summer.

Longwood Gardens really has an amazing number of classes and workshops throughout the year. I look forward to getting their class catalog every January. The Morris Arboretum offers classes, too, but lately I have found more of interest at Longwood. There is one class I’m considering this year at the Morris Arboretum on making a miniature table garden out of ferns, moss, other small shady plants and wood. That could be fun.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

More Snow

Earlier this week we got a foot of snow. With high temperatures in the 20s or lower, this snow doesn’t seem like it will melt anytime soon.

Here’s the view looking out the family room window.

Good thing I have a zoom lens and could take this picture without going outside in the freezing cold!

This was taken looking out the window on the other side of the family room. No birds in the birdhouses today, although I have to say I’ve been surprised with how many birds I’ve seen lately – sparrows, bluejays, cardinals and a woodpecker were all at the bird feeder recently.

Neither of our two cats know what to make of the half inch of snow that blew in on the screened-in back porch.

This snow and these frigid temps just remind me that I am not cut out for the cold and could never live much further north of here. When you have a high of 12 degrees with wind chills below zero, you find yourself wondering, “Do I really need to go anywhere? Or can I just stay home?” I haven’t left my house to go anywhere other than work lately...and yoga class the day before the storm. I would be a hermit never leaving my hovel if I lived where it was like this all winter long! I think I’ll go work on my plans for my veggie garden for this spring. Maybe that will make me feel warm.

Observations about October 2013

Still trying to catch up here on the ole blog. Again, I don’t have a whole lot of photos from October, but here is what was going on.

The Kitchen Garden in October

It seems logical to start out with a photo that includes two of my neighbor’s cats. These two cats have been showing up in my pictures pretty often lately. There is a third orange and white cat, but that one is more skittish and runs away from me. Here are the two cats relaxing at the entrance of the kitchen garden. You can see the Panicum Shenandoah grass on the left has changed colors and is more reddish/orange. There is a purple aster on the right that is blooming and lots of basil behind the two potted boxwoods. The standard rose in the center needs pruning.

I had both flat-leafed and curly-leafed parsley in the kitchen garden this year and enjoyed both. The flat-leaf doesn’t seem to do as well and doesn’t get nearly as full as the curly-leafed kind.

The Mariachi Hot Peppers were still going strong in October. This was my first year planting these instead of Jalapeno Peppers and they did SO much better. They were so prolific that I was giving some away. They start out yellow and ripen to red.

I finally got decent tomatoes in October. All of the rain in the summer made them later than usual. It was my first time trying Brandy Boy Hybrid and they really did taste delicious...once I got some to try.

I also had a crop of arugula in October that I was enjoying in my salad, however, I seem to have forgotten to take a picture of it! I had planted it in September so I could have a fall crop of it.

 The Flower Garden in October

Yes, this is yet another shot that includes one of the neighbor’s cats. Both of them love to take naps on the garden bench, although never at the same time. The red flowers are Pineapple Sage. I love it because it is a perennial, smells wonderful when you rub the leaves, and brings a pop of color to the garden in the fall. 

Here’s the Pineapple Sage again with a purple Aster – two colors that I don’t use together very often, but I like it. This sage has taught me that I need more reds and oranges in the garden.

This was taken standing in the kitchen garden looking towards the shed. You can see the dried flowers of a hydrangea in the foreground and can also see the Pineapple Sage and Aster again.

Here is the purple Aster close up. I should probably be pruning it early in the season so it doesn’t get so leggy.

The yellow Melampodium is starting to fade here. The pink roses were still blooming off and on. In fact, they kept blooming here and there through late November or early December. The reddish color in the background is a mum that comes back each year.

Here is a close up of the mum that comes back each year. This is the first mum that has ever come back for me. It’s a pretty magenta/reddish color.

A close up of the pink roses.

These are herbs and a succulent container that are right outside the back door. The herbs are (clockwise from left to right) Rosemary, Silver Sage, Thyme, and Oregano. The succulents are now in the greenhouse, of course, however they are in a different container. After having this box for years, I ruined it by setting it directly on the ground and the bottom rotted out. There was a plastic liner inside, which kept the dirt on the inside away from the wood, but stupid me wasn’t thinking when I put this here without anything to protect the bottom! Live and learn.

While we are looking at is my colander of succulents that I planted in the spring. If you remember, some of these succulents came from Lowe’s Home Improvement. You can read my previous “Reformed Plant Snob?” post, and also see what the container looked like in the spring in my “Potted Succulents” post. This container is also in my greenhouse now.

When I moved this container into the greenhouse for the winter, I was surprised to see moss on the bottom. It looks really cool, doesn’t it?! Moss and succulents don’t really like the same conditions so I wasn’t expecting to see this. I can’t remember if I lined the very bottom of the colander with plastic or not. If I did, then that might explain the moss forming on the bottom.

That was the gist of October and that is the end of my garden photos from 2013. Just wasn’t anything exciting to take pictures of after that.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Reminiscing About September 2013

Looking through my posts, I realized that I hadn’t really posted many pictures of my garden since September. I’m ready to make up for that...kind of. Turns out I didn’t really take many photos in September. I was on vacation in Maine for almost two full weeks, so I’ll blame it on that.

The Flower Garden in September

I really wish I knew the name of that one pink rose bush that blooms non-stop all year long. I inherited it from the previous owner. It is the best rose I have – hardly ever shows any signs of disease or insects, and blooms off and on from spring through fall. The yellow annual Melampodium always looks its best around this time of the year.

The Morning Glory vine on the trellis attracts the bees and the hummingbird.

The Black and Blue Salvia is one of my favorite colors. I just love the flowers with the dark stems. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get shown off very well where I have it. I planted it two years ago and am contemplating seeing if it will survive a move to a better spot.

I find it very ironic that the name of this flower is Obedient Plant. It is definitely not very obedient. It likes to try to take over the garden. Some people refer to it as the Turtlehead flower. It does add a lot of much needed color in the late spring and fall, though, and the hummingbird seems to like it.

Well, there’s one of the neighbors orange and white cats again...this time in the back of the flower garden sunning him or herself.

The Kitchen Garden in September

After being very neglected in August, I spent a great deal of time Labor Day weekend and the following weekend trying to get the Kitchen Garden in better order. It looked much better managed in September than it did in August.

In September, I planted more arugula seeds so I would have a fall harvest and I was enjoying string beans, lima beans, and hot peppers from the Kitchen Garden. The tomatoes were finally starting to ripen, after a very rainy summer. Unfortunately, the tomatoes sometimes split on the bottom. These were Brandy Boy Hybrid.

I had lots of parsley and used it often. The orange cosmos were still blooming.

I was also eating lots of sweet basil and sorrel in September. The garlic chives were blooming. I love how they look, but I hate how they re-seed everywhere. I need to get in the habit of cutting off the flowers before they drop too much seed. They like to re-seed not only in the raised bed, but also on the gravel path. Try weeding tons of tiny garlic chives from a gravel path and see how much fun it is.

This hyacinth bean vine popped up in the bed with the basil. Must have blown there from last year, since I hadn’t planted any this year and had never planted any in that u-shaped bed before. I’m not complaining, though. I absolutely love the pinkish flowers and the bright purplish/magenta beans of the hyacinth bean vine.

I was happy to see that this Crape Myrtle was surviving in the back corner of the Kitchen Garden. I believe it is the Pink Velour variety. I had planted this in memory of my old cat, Monty, a few years ago. It seems to always be just out of reach of the sprinkler, but yet it has grown. I’ll be glad when it’s big enough to cover the gap in the neighbor’s fence so I don’t have to see his abandoned boat peaking out at me.

This Euonymus Green Spire and Panicum Shenandoah grass are along the border of the Kitchen Garden up against the neighbor’s fence and to the left of the garden bench. I also have one each to the right of the garden bench. When I planted the two Panicum, they were tiny little things that I had ordered from Bluestone Perennials. It has taken a couple of years, but they are finally a decent size.

And my last picture of my Kitchen Garden is of this really creepy-looking spider that I almost walked face-first into. He had a huge web that went from the butterfly bush in the flower garden to the tripod trellis my green beans were on in the Kitchen Garden. I’m sure glad I saw him before he ended up in my eye or my hair. Ew.

My Carnivorous and Bog Plants in September

My two containers of carnivorous and bog plants seemed to be at their happiest in September. Somehow I missed getting a picture of the White Tresses in bloom. They had looked so pretty.

The venus flytraps were smiling bright and showing their sharp “teeth” on this sunny September day. 

I had picked up this Sundew at Longwood Gardens’ gift shop earlier in the year and it was quite happy hanging out in my bog container. It was busy trapping tiny bugs with those sticky little hairs.

The Rose Gentian (a bog plant, but not carnivorous) bloomed like crazy this year, but I somehow missed taking pictures of it at its best. You can see all of the buds, though.

Here’s a Purple Pitcher plant just waiting for an unsuspecting fly to buzz into its water-filled cup.

Dana’s Delight Pitcher, poised for action. 

White Pitchers, with some succulents in the pots in the background.

I sure do love my Pitcher plants. Their just so cool.

So, there you have it. That was September in a nutshell. Better late than never, I guess.