What are these creepy crawling critters?

This post is not for the squeamish or faint of heart.

But I’m hoping someone can identify these insects for me, at least I hope they’re insects and not spiders.

We live in fertile territory here, and I have spent many moments enjoying nature and the young life that springs forth. I’ve thrilled to the sound of baby birds chirping with seemingly insatiable hunger; I’ve adored infant and juvenile fawns as they skamper through the yard; I was entertained by fox kits and a juvenile owl. But I guess I’ll have to say that infant insects is where I draw the line.

What are these things?

Zelus longipes - Milkweed Assassin Bugs perhaps?I was about 90% of the way through chopping down a volunteer yellow-flowering plant in our garden when I noticed a bunch of tiny red spots on a stem. Upon closer examination, I could see they were tiny insects.

Black ant

The only other insect in close proximity was this black ant. There were several other black ants on the plant as well, which isn’t really a big surprise as we have a lot of them here. A grand-daddy long-legs spider was also on the plant. We also have a lot of them. Ants I can tolerate, spiders, not so much. If these were baby spiders, I might have to do a nature intervention.

Zelus longipes - Milkweed Assassin Bugs maybe

I went inside and got my camera with my extension tubes for a macro shot. I can see I got those tubes just in the nick of time. Magnifying what I was seeing really didn’t make me feel much better. Then I started wondering if the other stems I had chopped off the plant and put in the trash receptacle also had the red invaders.

Sure enough.

Here’s the important question, did any get on me?

I hope not. And I think not. I’m pretty careful how I handle refuse and live plants in the garden because of the aforementioned abundance of spiders.

Zelus longipes - Milkweed Assassin Bugs maybe

I tried to count legs, but there seemed to be a lot of black thin things sprouting out of the bodies. I looked online, and think they might be Zelus longipes – Milkweed Assassin Bugs.

Apparently they’re predators of bad bugs, and are good to have in gardens. I hope I didn’t upset the eco-balance here because of the number of them that went the way of the refuse pile.

I think they’re creepy and and kind of spider-esque.

Please let me know if you can confirm or refute my identification of these little creepy crawlers.

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.

What’s blooming now that it’s September

It’s been a while since I photographed the flowers in our gardens, but to be honest, it’s been a rough summer on them and they haven’t looked all that picture worthy.

Recently Mark and I spent a couple of days digging out the last swatch of Chameleon Ivy tangled with the roots of the Liriope and Daylilies in the Angel Garden. Halleluia. I think we are done with that for the most part.

In our St. Francis Garden the roses have made a come-back since earlier scorching heat followed by a good drenching, or vice versa, pretty much decimated them. I cut them all back and they came out in full force a week or two ago. They are starting to fade now. And the Sedum are starting to turn color. Otherwise it is pretty lean pickin’s in the garden. We plan to plant some mums again this fall. For some reason we’ve not had good success with them here.

Out front the Hosta are blooming and so are the Liriope. We have quite a few Liriope around the yard and in the garden.

We added a few Caryopteris to the Angel Garden last year. I’ve always loved this blue misty bush.

And finally a single zinnia bloom made it to the light of day. I think the deer have been pruning the plants that sprouted from the seeds I planted in the spring. I like to cut zinnias to bring them inside. Perhaps a bud vase this year. I dead-headed the spent daisies a few weeks ago while we were working on the ivy, but a few are brightening up the garden still. Let’s hear it for the late bloomers. We put marigolds in a bare spot that we are trying to decide what to do with. We may keep that area for annuals. It’s nice to have color you can count on all summer.

I was thinking about abandoning the Woodland Garden. It is just a lot of gardens to take care of. But I walked up there today to see if there were any wildflowers blooming. The Woodland Garden looks so inviting. I startled a robin that was perched on a tree. I may take my camera and camp out on the bench some afternoon to see if any of my winged friends come to call. I think I may keep the garden after all.

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And my final bloomer isn’t a flower at all, bu the berries that came after the flowers on the Gray Dogwood trees (or shrubs). I think they deserved mention. Don’t you?

How are the flowers doing where you are?

Scenes of summer

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Morning swim lesson at the VOA – June 2013

I’ve been snapping photos here and there the last few weeks. I’m taking this opportunity to share them with you now.

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Hummingbird – June 04, 2013

This little hummer was making daily visits for a while. I haven’t seen him lately. He liked some of the potted plants on our deck.

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House wren – June 04, 2013

I call this one  “House wren in bird house.”

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Fawn – July 18, 2013

This hillside across the drive from our house used to be thick with honeysuckle. Mark has cleared a large section of it out. The little fawn decided to take a bit of a rest here.

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Fawn – July 18, 2013

I didn’t see the mother nearby. Perhaps she told this little guy to wait for her here.

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Sunflowers – July 19, 2013

Not bad for a few volunteers. I’m enjoying the height and color they’ve added to my garden.

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Male American Goldfinch on sunflowers – July 19, 2013

I call this one “Elevensies” after a tradition brought to me by a good friend and once-coworker, Cathy, who needed that morning snack to get through to lunch.

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Young buck – July 18, 2013

I’m not sure why this buck only has one antler. I googled it and nosed around a bit, but there was too much reading involved for the amount of time I wanted to spend. Perhaps you know and can tell me.

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Male American Goldfinch on sunflower – July 19, 2013

I call this one “Yellow.”

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Female American Goldfinch on sunflower – July 19, 2013

Let’s not forget the female. She clearly wanted her portrait taken as well.

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House wren – July 20, 2013

I was sitting at my computer desk, minding my own business, when this little guy started hopping back and forth on the two porch rockers sitting outside our large study window. He was there for quite a while before he flew up into the tree. And he was giving me the what-for. I’m not sure what he was carrying on about.

I suppose that’s just one more thing I’ll never know.

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?

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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.

May flowers

I just looked at my last garden update for you about a month ago. The spring bulbs are no longer blooming, but amazingly enough the lenten roses are hanging in there. The irises are in full bloom and the knockout roses have started flowering. The columbine, one of my favorites, are blooming in the shade with the sweet woodruff and lilies of the valley. The bleeding hearts are long gone. The Siberian iris have also bloomed. And the peonies have just started.

I love May.

I took photos on three separate occasions beginning May 10th, but am just now getting around to posting them. I hope you enjoy my May flowers.

May 10th

May 17th

May 21

Believe it or not, we still have areas of Chameleon Ivy to contend with. Mark experimented with using landscape cloth covered with mulch. He thinks it is working. I think the ivy is just tunneling under it and coming out the other side. This is especially apparent along the steps to the woodland garden. I’ll have to get outside with my ivy extraction equipment.

We do have a few sunflowers coming up. At least I think they’re sunflowers. I think they sprouted from seeds the birds dropped from the feeders. They’re not planted where I might have placed them were I doing the planting. But I always love volunteers.

We’ve planted a few other annuals here and there, and have switched out the pansies in our deck flower boxes for red geraniums. I didn’t include photos of the annuals, even though I love them and think they add wonderful and usually dependable color to the garden, but they are predictable and come from a store (unless you grow them from seeds which I attempted to do yet again to no avail).

The perennials rise from the earth like magic and then bloom. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.

What’s blooming in my garden and in my galleries

I meant to throw these photos in yesterday, but the post got long, and my neck got tired, and you know how all that goes. So I’m going to try out a gallery or two. I’m not sure if I can put different galleries on the same page.

As you will see, our blooms right now consist of the daffodil and hyacinth bulbs, a few pansies we put on the deck, the Lenten Rose powerhorses that have done remarkably well this year, and the beginnings of the bleeding hearts. Those are one of my favorites. You’ll sweet woodruff near the bleeding hearts, it’s a pretty bright green color and will produce a lovely little white blossom.

This is a tiled-mosaic gallery. I had to delete a few pictures and add others to be somewhat satisfied. I don’t know if there is a way to choose exactly where the photos go, so it was trial and error. I would have liked to exchange the large deck picture with the smaller bleeding heart one. You might miss it altogether. If you find it I do hope you’ll click on it to see the bleeding hearts larger. They’re just coming out. Once you’ve clicked on a photo, you can scroll through them all if you want. And I could have used captions, but just got lazy.

The hyacinths are beautiful, but the best part is their fragrance. Arthur thinks so too.

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This is a slide show I did with just two photos. I was a little slow at the start-up, but I think I’m really going to like the fairly new galleries at WordPress. Question answered. Yes I can put different galleries into the same post. This may not be news to you, but I am in a remedial blogging class over here.

Have you made it out of winter yet and into spring in your neck of the woods?

What a difference two weeks makes and the tale of a tree

My last post about spring was two weeks ago when I was Looking for Signs of Spring.

The tree with the swollen buds outside my kitchen door, is in full bloom. Last year this little tree only had one solitary flower. It’s interesting to note that I photographed and posted about that single bud on March 19th last year. We are nearly a month behind on spring this year. That’s the last time I pay attention to Punxsutawney Phil.

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March 30

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April 10

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April 15

Last year on March 19th, I took a photo of the magical green veil as the leaves in woods begin to unfurl. I called it “an elusive green mist where fairies play.” I’ve been waiting and waiting to see it this year, and the mist has finally arrived. It is rushing forward into full-blown leaves. The trees are trying to make up for lost time.

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April 10, 2013

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Five days later

Here’s a sad part of the story. Last year from my window view as I sat at my desk, this little tree was blooming brightly across the lane on our stretch of property there.

About a month ago, I was sitting here typing as I often am in the morning, and I heard and then saw about 5 or 6 township workers with chain saws working across the lane clearing things out. This wasn’t completely unexpected because the manager had stopped here last fall to talk to us about cutting down a big dead ash tree up on the hill. We own the majority of the hillside, but the township owns the top where there is a small pioneer cemetery that is overgrown for the most part. But as I sat and watched the workers, I saw a man come up to the little tree that was not yet in bloom but beginning to bud. “I hope he’s not going to cut that down,” I said to myself. And no sooner were the words out of my mouth than the deed was done. Some things just don’t have do-overs.

Mark was not a happy camper. He loves his trees.

As you may be able to see from the above photo, there was a LOT of honeysuckle over there.

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The workers managed to decimate about half the dense growth over there before Mark and another neighbor put a halt to it, resulting in a half thick, half bare view across the way. We had them finish the removal of the honeysuckle from our property.

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But Mark had them mark the small trees they were to leave standing. They had been removing the smaller diameter trees as well as chopping down the honeysuckle. The yellow tags around the trees indicate they are to be removed, the pink means they are to be left alone. Our neighbor had them completely block off his property with yellow tape. Now it looks like some kind of marriage of a crime scene with a used car lot across the lane.

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After much to-do, several emails, and a township trustee meeting over there, the township will be replacing our blooming tree that they leveled with a comparable one. Mark marked the place for it so they could check on underground utilities.

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Being something of opportunists, with the removal of all the undergrowth, Mark and I went out yesterday and bought then planted  a peach tree shown above

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and a cherry tree. They are both self-pollinating, which is an interesting idea if you stop and think about it. I’m thrilled about the cherry tree because we grew up with two cherry trees in our back yard. My mom made cherry jelly.

“You won’t be making cherry jelly with these,” Mark said. “We had trees like this at our last house and we never reaped a harvest.”

“I’m going to make cherry pie,” I said, undeterred.

“The birds got all the cherries,” Mark said. “You won’t get any.”

I can taste that cherry pie already.

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Meanwhile, a robin kept watch.

“And peach pie too,” I added, “I can’t wait.”

Chickadee apartment hunting

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 Deluxe chalet with garden view  Cozy cottage at wood’s edge Fun and funky outhouse motif  Nature lovers’ retreat

We have four apartments for rent in or near the St. Francis Garden. Yesterday a little chickadee was taking advantage of the nice weather and was out doing some apartment hunting.

I think we’re going to have a new tenant soon.

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