What’s blooming now

The early morning sun strikes through emerging iris blades and sets them aglow.

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The Lenten roses, true to their name, are blooming again.

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Tiny yellow flowers that look like miniature daffodils to me, are confidently called Buttercups by my grandson Luke, who’s three.
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Larger daffodils are beginning to flower.

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Pink hyacinths begin to bloom, their fragrance yet to make itself known.

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The garden is coming up green.

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And periwinkles carpet the woods across the way.

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Even after the coldest, harshest, longest winter, spring, at last, comes again.


Spring is coming — just ask the birds

It’s been a long, cold winter here. But the month of March always gives me hope for spring. And this year is no different. Even though white patches of snow still dot the ground, I know winter’s days are numbered.

Yesterday I saw squirrels running through the woods hopping from limb to limb in a kind of feverish ecstasy that enters all of our souls to one degree or another with the coming of spring.

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Our first robin is back. (A quick google search will tell you that some of the robins never leave. We, however, have not seen one solitary robin at our feeders the entire winter until the past few days. You can judge for yourself.)

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And a red-winged blackbird has been visiting our feeders. (Websites like the Cornell lab of Ornithology will tell you that these birds are here year-round. It also states, “In the North, their early arrival and tumbling song are happy indications of the return of spring.” Again, you can judge for yourself.)

Spring is coming. I can see it in the birds, and feel it in the air.

Soon.


The amazing planet earth

Downed red bud tree – March 2012

This planet we’re on and the plant life on it never fail to amaze me. Right now a storm just kicked up outside my study window where I sit at my desk. The rain is pouring, tree limbs are moving violently, thunder is booming, and my little dog Arthur is hiding behind the recliner shaking. I’ll have to go get his Thunder Shirt.

Storms amaze me. But that isn’t what this blog is about, just a timely coincidence.

I want to talk about new growth. New life.

You might remember last spring when I came home to find our red bud tree in the back yard lying down on the ground in full bloom, like a carelessly tossed aside bouquet.

Mark went out and cut it off at the ground. I brought in a few boughs for a centerpiece, a floral arrangement to  mourn the loss of this herald of spring.

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And if you’ve followed my blog at all, you probably know I like to take Arthur for walks at the Voice of America park where I often take photos of the birds that frequent the lake and surrounding meadowland. What you don’t know is that they have had a problem with beavers there in recent years. Even if you’ve never seen the results of a beaver’s work on a small tree, you will know right away if you ever do.

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 In March of this year, this is what was left of a Cleveland Pear tree planted in memory of a individual named Walsh.

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And this is what was left of a Swamp White Oak in memory of Dan Fleming.

I thought the trees were goners.

But here’s the amazing part.

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In the beginning of June, the Walsh pear tree started showing signs of life.

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By the end of June, the Swamp White Oak had a lot of dense new growth.

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And finally, our red bud tree is growing again. It looks like a little bush beside the chairs.

I think this is amazing.

What are we to make of it?

Well, some might say, that’s no big deal. The trees have an extensive root system that stayed alive even in the absence of limbs and leaves.

Yes! My point exactly.

It is all underground. I can’t see any of it. There is life pulsing beneath the earth, within the soil. Isn’t that amazing?

This is an incredible beautiful bountiful planet.

Don’t miss it it on your short stay here.


Here’s the thing about deer

If you’ve kept up with my blog at all over the couple of years I’ve been cluttering up the internet with minutia, you already know that I love deer. I have a whole page devoted to my deer posts, I spend a lot of time running for my camera and trying to capture the image of these beautiful creatures in a digital file.

However, if you’ve been keeping up, you also know I love my gardens, and rejoice in the surprises they offer me, like the recent volunteer sunflowers, for example.

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June 22 – volunteer sunflowers in my garden

We’ve never been able to grow sunflowers here before because of the critters. I’ve been running outside with my camera and shooting the progress of the sole sunflower bloom so far.

Can you guess where this post is headed?

June 25 - morning

June 25 – morning

This morning I was greeted by sunflower stalks with leafless stems poking out.

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June 25 – morning – deer track in garden

And it didn’t take a lot of detective work to figure out who did it.

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June 25 – afternoon

I think I should just make this point perfectly clear to the four-legged creatures dining in our garden — you’re not the only ones who like the sunflowers. Leave something for the rest of us.

So far so good. The buds and blooms are still intact.

However, I am not going to be a happy camper if I wake up one morning to find them missing.


June flowers — what’s blooming now

My gardens are colorful and lush this time of year before the summer’s heat starts to wreck its havoc on the leaves and flowers.

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The most striking things right now in my St. Francis Garden are the volunteers you see stretching up to the sky in the middle of this shot.

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These sunflowers sprouted from seeds distributed by the birds and squirrels who frequented our bird feeder this winter. I suspect we’ve had these volunteers before and unwittingly yanked them as weeds in early spring. This year I allowed the little sprouts to stay out of curiosity.

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The buds are forming. I’m very excited about these, especially considering the sunflower seeds I planted have never prevailed due to small creatures eating the seedlings.

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These little annuals are visible in the bottom left corner of the above garden photo if you look hard enough. (Clicking on the photo helps). I don’t know their name and forgot to keep the tag.

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I have high hopes for this Mandevilla on the trellis. They’re supposed to attract hummingbirds I’m told.

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If you look down past the feet of the sunflowers, you might be able to spot these bright little daisies. I used to have three nice bunches of them along the stone steps through the garden, but the bird feeder placement had a detrimental effect on them.

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These are the same daisies Mark and I planted at Annie’s grave, where Mom and Dad are now also buried. Since the cemetery is  about an hour and a half north of here they bloom a little later. I will wait about a week or two and then make the trip to see them blooming on the gravesite.

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At the bottom of the garden near the woods, these white astilbe are blooming. I think I need to plant more of these for next year. The other shade plants here—sweet woodruff, lilies of the valley, columbine, bleeding hearts—have all had their moment in the spotlight and are now done for this year.

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We have a nice little patch of yellow Stella d’Oras blooming at the end of the garden before you get to the back yard.

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I love the flowers on this variety, although the lighter cream or vanilla colored stella doras in our Angel Garden are my favorite. They have a lot of buds, but aren’t blooming quite yet.

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You probably noticed the spot of color provided by these purple petunias. I added this hanging cone-shaped basket last year.

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I’m trying to use more containers, but am not as vigilant as I might need to be to be successful at it. I rely heavily on Mother Nature in my perennial gardens.

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I think these are verbena, but don’t hold me to it. You’d think I’d know not only the common names, but also the biological ones for my plants— but, no.

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In the background you can see my biggest splash of color this month – the oak leaf hydrangeas.

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They bloom all along the upper edge of the Angel Garden. We have our home’s original owners to thank for them.

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Our daisies in the Angel Garden are doing quite well. This is the shorter variety like those we have in the St. Francis Garden. We also planted a taller version that haven’t started blooming yet. Initially we had those behind the shorter ones, but we transplanted them this season to the far end of the garden where they won’t be competing with the Stella d’Oras when they all bloom.

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We put in a little patch of vanilla marigolds in an open area near the far edge of this garden. Some of them are doing fine, others not so much. You might notice an occasional orange or yellow one interspersed. Someone wasn’t watching the tags on the flowers very closely when we bought them.

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Here is our little section of chameleon-ivy-infested liriope. Last year, or the one before, we dug these up and cleared this section of the ivy, but apparently not well enough. We will have to do it again. Most of the rest of the garden we worked on two times. I don’t think we’re going to see the end of the chameleon in our lifetime.

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We have a few princess spirea bushes that are blooming now.

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I love to run my fingers across the soft flowers. I think we must have had these somewhere when I was young, because it brings back an early memory.

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I’ve taken my container-gardening to the deck. We always had the railing boxes, but I’ve added several other pots. I’m starting to appreciate all those articles I used to read about the joys of container gardens. But they do require constancy in their care. You can’t neglect them for weeks at a time and hope they’ll get by with an occasional rain shower.

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This one is particularly demanding. I think it is some kind of rudebeka, so I assumed it would be low-maintenance. No so. It wants to be watered every day. And if you forget, it reminds you by completely wilting. At least it has the courtesy to revive in short order once given some water. I have a bad feeling about this one in light of the weekend trips on our calendar.

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Container gardens can still present a surprise or two. Could these be more volunteer sunflowers?

What to do?

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I planted a lot of red on the deck this year to encourage the hummingbirds to stop by. They don’t seem to be that crazy about the geraniums though.

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Here’s another Mandevilla. I have to give it occasional haircuts at the top or it starts looking like it has a mohawk.

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You can see why the hummingbirds like these.


Here’s a little gallery of the rest of the pots on our deck.

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And finally, the little container I found under our deck and planted with red petunias sits on the table we got from Mom and Dad’s yard, and the glider Dad loved to sit in—just one more reminder for me of those I loved and lost.

I hope your world is filled with color. Send me links to posts about your flowers.


One for my bird list – the blue-gray gnatcatcher

I’ve been noticing a couple of tiny birds in the two locust trees outside my study window. I think they may have an nest in our birdhouse that’s hanging there.

Photo from The Birds are Back post October 11, 2012.

Heeding the advise of my bird-watching blogging friend, Patti, at A New Day Dawns, I tried to identify distinguishing characteristics. The small relatively nondescript birds always confound me. But today I was successful at identifying the blue-gray gnatcatcher, even if I didn’t get a good, clear, up close and personal shot. The little birds would not sit still for a moment.

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The first thing I noticed other than its small size, was the white-striped tail. At first I wondered if it could be a baby mockingbird because of its size and its tail. Peterson’s Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies describes the blue-gray gnatcathcer as suggesting “a miniature Mockingbird.” Although I didn’t recognize it until I read it in Peterson’s, this little bird also has a distinctive white ring around its eye that you can see in this photo.

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Peterson goes on to say that the its tail is “often cocked like a wren’s tail and flipped about.” Although Peterson doesn’t mention it, I thought that the beak was particularly long and slender.

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Here is an action shot of the blue-gray gnatcatcher giving me the what-for. It had a worm in its mouth and I think it was trying to intimidate me away from its nest by making what could only have been considered a threatening noise and flapping its wings.

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That wasn’t particularly effective coming from such a tiny mite. But I moved on anyway not wanting to intrude on a mother’s work of feeding her young.

This bird’s size makes it irresistible. It definitely has found a place near the top of my favorite birds list.


If the humans left

I was sitting at the kitchen table this morning watching a robin enjoy the hanging planter full of garden refuse that I left for the birds as a kind of discount store or bonanza.

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We had already cleaned all the old dried leaves and winter garden refuse from the ground, and Mark covered it all with a rich, crisp layer of mulch, leaving slim pickins’ for nest-building birds.

I patted myself on the back. If I wouldn’t have created this hanging basket for them, what would the robins have done?

As I watched out the window, I noticed a rustling in the leaves near the top of a tree. A little squirrel emerged with a leaf-laden twig in its mouth and scampered across a few limbs, then up the trunk of a dead tree where I saw she was happily building a nest. It’s a dead ash tree, technically on our neighbor’s property. They plan to have their dead ash trees removed this year. I don’t believe there is anything I can do to save the squirrel, the nest, and any babies that arrive, beyond hoping that the tree-cutters won’t come too soon.

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Yesterday I walked out into our garage and was startled by a small bird in there. I think it was a juvenile wren. One of the two garage doors was open, but the little guy couldn’t seem to find his way out. I spent the next hour or so trying to help him leave. I adjusted both garage doors to try to give him space above and below the door to leave. I moved the car out of the garage so it wouldn’t get in the way. I talked and chirped to the bird, showed him the way out, chased him around the garage with a broom to try to direct him out, and tried to catch him in a sheet.

At one point after I had gone back inside for a few minutes, I found two other wrens in the garage. They left immediately upon my return and my hopes that one of them was the little guy were soon dashed when I heard him chirping. But I was encouraged that I was not the only one trying to rescue the baby.

Eventually I was able to lower the window blind behind him, reach in and catch the little guy in my sheet-covered hand. I patted myself on the back for returning him to the wild.

Bird in garage

What would he have done if I wasn’t here? I wondered.

If I wasn’t here at all, then maybe my house and garage wouldn’t be here either. And the natural progression of that kind of thinking led me to the question, What if all the humans left?

The birds would still be here. The robin would find nature-provided nesting materials all around.

The squirrels’ new home would not be in jeopardy.

And the little bird would never have found its way into a place it couldn’t leave.

When we were driving to Hocking Hills a few weeks ago, we passed an abandoned property on a country road. I first noticed the rusted, decaying car near the road. Then I saw the decrepit house further back in what was becoming woods. The rectangular property lines were clearly discernible where the neighboring properties, still being tended, ended and this abandoned property began,  as if a surveyor had pounded in stakes at the corners and strung a wire around. The grass was long, trees and bushes were sprouting up throughout. The semi-hidden car and the house were falling apart in pieces on the ground. The earth was reclaiming its own.

I don’t know how long the abandoned property has stood there, but my guess is that it hasn’t been all that long in the whole scheme of things.

If the humans left, the earth would reclaim its own in short order most likely. And the birds, the squirrels, the deer and all the creatures would have their paradise without us.


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