Friday, December 17, 2010

Feeding the Birds

As you can see-I love to feed the birds. I feed them all summer as a matter of fact. (yes, I know they can find food-I just like to feed them!) In late spring I put out hummingbird feeders. In late fall I put out thistle in special tube feeders for yellow finches. And we always have quite a flock visiting us at breakfast, lunch and dinner. However..this year I am having a bit of a problem.
Can you see this guy hiding up in the tree? This hawk is huge! It almost looks like an eagle the wing span is so wide. I think (looking at my bird book) that this is a "Cooper's Hawk" which preys on backyard birds. At one time this bird was known as a "chicken hawk" for obvious reason. But, we don't think this is our problem..
We think this is the culprit--the one chasing our little friends away. This little one is much smaller than the other hawk. What we don't know is: is this a baby Cooper's Hawk, or could it be another kind? There is a "Sharp-shinned" hawk (again looking in my book) that is similar to the Cooper's but smaller..and according to the book hangs out at backyard feeders. I am not thrilled there are predators out there scaring my little birds friends away, but at the same time it has been very interesting to see these large birds. And yes, I do know this is part of nature, survival of the fittest, etc... The hawks are welcome-just wish they didn't want the diners as their dinner!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Beautiful "Tulip" Day!

Today is tulip day! The bulbs have been in the refrigerator now for about 8 weeks, so it's time to get them in the ground. I thought my Mother wanted me to plant some in her garden, but she decided there was no more room-so..I planted 60 bulbs in my little backyard today. And what a perfect day to be in the garden. It was sunny and warm (temp was 67 at planting time-which explains why we have to chill our tulip bulbs here in Texas!) After some much needed house work this morning--I couldn't wait to get outside.
I don't use a bulb planter like I bet most of you do. I like to use this old, ugly, slender spade. It has a sharp point that is great for digging down into clay soil. I was somewhat worried about digging up existing bulbs as I went, but only came across a few. I had 6 different types of tulips-mainly yellows and reds which I planted in between the pansies. I bought 10 all white bulbs that I planted together out under the bird feeder. I added lots of red pepper, then mulch to this area to try and discourage pesky squirrels. The last group of bulbs were white with red edging. I planted them behind the flagstone patio--again with red pepper on top. I never know whether I should plant only one color tulips, or plant lots of colors but always group the colors together (which I think I heard in class is the right thing to do.) But I like red and yellow mixed together so much-I usually mix the bulbs together in a pot, then toss them here and there. I never mark where I am planting as I LOVE to have surprises popping up in spring. By the time I finished planting and peppering and mulching..I was ready for a break. Nice afternoon snack--warm pumpkin bread right out of the oven! Ummmm--what a beautiful tulip day!
Hope you had a good day today!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wildflower Seeds, Backyard Tree and Thanksgiving

I thought I would give you an update on the wildflower seeds I planted in October. With the warm sun and lots of watering, it didn't take them long to germinate. This little area behind the pond is not the best place for spring wildflowers, but even the few seeds I scattered here have developed into tiny seedlings.
Along the fence and in the corner wildflower bed I scattered Lemon Mint and Standing Cypress seeds. There are lots of little seedlings in both areas that are continuing to grow. We have had some rain, but not enough so I have tried to keep all areas watered enough to help the little plants out. Wildflowers are drought tolerant, but not until they are larger rosettes.
I found an empty area in the corner bed and planted Golden Wave Coreopsis that are starting to come up. I wish they were further along as our temps may get to freezing this next week. I also planted pass-along poppy seeds and some heirloom larkspur seeds a MG friend of mine gave to me. I am so hopeful both of these plants come up and produce blooms.
Along with all the new little seedlings are bluebonnets that re-seeded. You can see how nice and healthy they look. I really wish everything was this big and may regret planting in October instead of September. We are due for a warmer winter this year, so maybe all the seedlings will be fine. Fingers will be crossed!
The Chinese Pistache tree in back has been turning a beautiful red this year. It is still not the prettiest tree, but we are hoping this is still part of the "ugly ducking" stage they say Pistache trees go through for 5 years. I do think the size makes it perfect for our little backyard.
But now let's talk about the wildflower seeds that I scattered under this tree...
Well, I am not very excited about all these little plants because I just planted Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush here. As you can see, there are tons of things popping up and I can tell you it's not just bonnets and paintbrush! My biggest problem with this bed is that it is being taken over by Carolina Geranium! I think I told you last year there were a few plants in this bed I couldn't identify and I think a few of you told me it looked like a wild geranium-and it was! As soon as those plants got bigger and I could tell what they were, I pulled them up. This year they have taken over! Yes, there are bluebonnets and I think paintbrush growing among the "weeds", but I am not sure who will win out. I have tried to pull the unwanted plants, but it is not easy-plus I have trouble not pulling bonnets that are mixed in. So..bottom line is that I may not have a pretty wildflower bed around the tree in spring, plus next year I will probably not plant seeds here and try to eradicate the unwanted weeds. Just hate this, but I will have to live with the problem for now.
It is hard to believe next week is Thanks-
giving. And, it's hard to believe 2010 is about over. Time really does fly by when you are having fun, and I have had lots of gardening fun this past year! I am grateful for all the success with plants I had, and even for the failures as we learn so much from those experiences. I am grateful for my wonderful family and my home, and for all my precious friends.
So, from my home to yours:
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
For flowers that bloom about our feet;
For tender grass, so fresh, so sweet;
For song of bird, and hum of bee;
For all things fair we hear or see,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee!~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bulbs! What is going on??

I have been waiting for all my daffodil bulbs to arrive so I can get them planted. This afternoon I met the UPS man at the door when I heard him drive up. I knew the last of the bulbs were here at last. A couple of weeks ago I went to a Master Gardener Meeting and heard "The Bulb Hunter" speak. He was a wonderful speaker who has a company called Southern Bulb Company. He has hunted bulbs all over Texas. Very interesting story--go here and read all about it. After the program, we were able to purchase a few varieties of bulbs. I bought Lilac Wonder tulips and Golden Dawn narcissus which I planted today. I also ordered heirloom daffodil bulbs from Old House Gardens. That's what arrived today. You know how I love fragrance in the garden, and it's no different with bulbs. I always try and find the best bulbs for Texas that have the best scents. I planted 3 types today: Sweetness, Trevithian, and Campernelle. I also planted some of these last year. Which brings me to the next subject....what is going on with last year's bulbs?
Do you see what I am finding in my yard..
Daffodils are coming up in front and in back..look at this!
And look how big this one has gotten. Oh dear, oh dear. I talked to a master gardener expert, and she said this same premature sprouting is happening in every one's garden around this area. She thinks it is because we had that a cold spell, then quite a warm up soon after. Are the poor bulbs confused? I am not sure, I just know I don't want to be disappointed this coming spring when I watch for spring blooms and see none. My MG friend said to be sure and mulch the appearing bulbs very good. So not only did I plant today, I mulched--and mulched again. It turned out to be a perfect day for planting. Right after I finished tucking the bulbs in the ground and covering with the mulch, a soft rain started to fall. I sat on the patio and watched the delicate rain hit the flower beds and pictured what these beds will hopefully look like in a few months. I have tulip bulbs chilling in the frig-I will plant them in December. That will end my gardening for a while I guess. As much as I like to be out getting my hands dirty, I look forward to sitting in front of a fire for a while and dreaming of gardens yet to come!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Back in the yard - Class is over!!

Last Monday was the last day of Master Gardener classes--yahoo! However..we were given the take home exam which included 8 chapters of about 50 questions in each one. So I bet you can guess how I spent last week. I closed myself up and worked on the exam for 2 days straight. But I can happily say that the exam is finished, I will turn it in tomorrow. After one year of internship (volunteering 72 hours in MG projects), I will graduate and be an official "Master Gardener." Whew!
While I was busy with school, summer turned into fall and I realized this weekend that my little garden was in desperate need of attention. The first thing I did was clear out the old wash tub and plant 3 different kinds of kale with a few pansies tucked in.
The Mexican Mint Marigold started to bloom so it will stay where it is for a while. It dies back in winter so I may need to plant a few pansies to cover it when that happens. Note to self: need to cut this plant back in July--it got rather leggy this year.
All the seeds I planted are coming up nicely--well... we will talk about this later. There are a few TOO many seeds coming up nicely (that are not bluebonnets!)
My main area of concern were the beds along each side of the flagstone walkway, and around the the pond. The pond beds were just cleaned out and got some nice new mulch for winter. The flagstone beds were totally cleaned out and planted with pansies. I also added a few snapdragons to this bed. I have always wanted to try them, and seeing some healthy looking plants at Home Depot for a dollar-well, this seemed like the right time.
I added pansies to both sides of the walkway. These beds house daffodils and tulips down deep in the ground, so it's nice to have something to plant on top. When the bulbs start to pop up, the pansies will not get in the way-they just add more spring color to the show. Ummm, just the thought of that spring flower show makes me smile!
Have you heard of the new cascading pansies? I read about them a few weeks ago in the paper and decided to buy a pot, plant it in a hanging basket and see what happened. This one came from HD. I noticed the flowers are not as large as traditional pansies, but larger than violas. I'll give you updates on this plant. Hopefully by spring I will have an overflowing basket of sweet smelling flowers!
The old wheel-
barrow has not gotten a winter make over yet. Would you believe that those yellow flowers hanging over the side (all the way to the ground) are marigolds I planted last spring? Yep! They just keep blooming. I will say the foliage is starting to look kind of brown, so it won't be too long before I will have to pull them out and fill the wheelbarrow with something else, but until then I will just keep on enjoying fall in this space.
It's hard for me to believe this past year has gone by so fast. It's not cold here in Texas, but we are starting to get fronts that will bring us seasonal cooler weather. As I do so often when seasons change, I pull out my articles written so many years ago by the late Jo Northrop. I know I have mentioned this before-Jo Northrop was legally blind..but oh how I loved "seeing " the seasons through her eyes:

"The exquisite cranberry and chrysanthemum days of November are a gift. We intensely and thankfully absorb them, knowing the inevitability of sudden, bone-chilling cold. Even in clear autumn sunlight, a scarecrow among fallen leaves in a deserted garden looks cold. It is this deepening of the season, passage toward the end of the year that gives November a quality that is energy charged...In these fine cranberry-chrysanthemum days, every day can be a day of thanksgiving."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fall at the Arboretum

I took a break from my hectic schedule to visit the Dallas Arboretum last week. It was so pretty and fallish! Join me for a short tour...
The little cottage was cute and cozy like always..
and the giant lilies were still floating on the pond.
The water wise area was blooming and looking happy,
but the real show this trip were the beautiful fall flowers and..all the PUMPKINS!!

There were houses made of pumpkins..

There were beds bordered by white pumpkins,
and beds bordered by orange pumpkins!
There was a German cafe surrounded by hay bales and pumpkins.

Who knew pumpkins grew on sweet potato vines! : )
There were pumpkins stacked up every-
There is always something wonderful to see at the Arboretum-even if you just want to sit and relax.
Of course of all those pumpkins-this
was my favorite!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

"Thyme" for Seeds!

Happy Fall Y'all! It has sure been busy at my house. No one told me Master Gardening school would be so..well..hard! Sorry I haven't been visiting your blogs lately. I study all the time! And, all of a sudden, it's fall! The temps are cooler, pumpkins are at the markets, as are mums and scarecrows. Love it! In the business of life, I almost forgot that it was "thyme" to plant wildflower seeds. Well, I didn't really forget-but the temperature was so hot here mid September I thought I better wait. I called the Wildseed Farm to verify, and they agreed-"wait for October" they said.
So, as I turned my calender to October yesterday, I realized the time had come. I had to pull up a lot of flowers from this bed around the tree. That was quite a job, both physically and emotionally. The flowers were leggy and looking pretty sad, but they still had blooms on them. I hate, hate to pull up things in bloom, but I did have seeds ready to plant, so I got busy.
Last night I soaked the bonnet seeds, and bright and early this morning I was ready to start scattering. Wildflower seeds must touch the soil, you don't really plant them. After soaking all night, the bluebonnet seeds became plump and felt like tiny little rocks. Very easy to grab a handfull and toss them here and there. I love scattering seeds-makes me know how Johnny Appleseed must have felt! :)
I do have a few rosettes coming up from last year-can you see this little one in front of the rock-but I have so little space to have flowers in the back, I use the beds to plant annuals which makes it hard for the bonnets to re-seed successfully.
I scattered seeds everywhere I could find a bare spot. They may not germinate in all spots, but why not try and hope for spring blooms.
This sunny spot is the corner wildflower bed that has only crazy wild things in it. I scattered bluebonnet seeds, mexican hat, horse mint, standing cypress and indian paintbrush here. In spring, I will add plains coreopsis and ox eye daisies.
I love seed planting day in fall! It teaches me patience, gives me hope for the future, and brings me joy! I can't wait to see what surprises these little seeds will bring me next spring!
"The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied. They always look forward to doing better than they have ever done before!"
Vita Sackville-West

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Smart Cars and Butterflies!

Ohhhhhh I had such a good time Saturday morning! A friend of mine is a member of the DFW Smart Car club and invited me to be her
"navigator" for the Smart Car Butterfly Rally! (no, I will not share with you how many times we got lost!) This is Sheri, and her car "June Bug." Have you ever seen anything so cute! The Smart Car club was teaming with Texas Discovery Gardens to provide scholarships for children to participate in some of their programs.
"All sponsorships benefit Texas Discovery Gardens’ 2010-2011 education programs by giving our community’s under served youth a day of environmental learning. These programs teach math in nature, the study of botany and insects, the science of soil, composting and how to lead “greener” lives in the real world through direct, hands-on experiences. "
About 23 cars participated in the rally. Some were decorated with just a few butterflies..

..while others were decked out completely in their butterfly finery! But of course,
"June Bug" was the hit of the show. As we drove from one end of Dallas to the other, heads turned and everyone waved. We went to butterfly gardens, farmers markets and community gardens. Unfortunately there was not enough time to stop and take pictures, but we did enjoy passing by and seeing all the various gardens. The two projects that impressed me the most were the butterfly garden at White Rock Lake's Bath House Cultural Center (created by Dallas Master Gardeners!) and the Lake Highlands Community Garden. This community garden is big. The gardeners incorporate organic and water wise gardening principals and I will tell you the plants were lush and healthy. Very impressive!
After the rally we headed back to the Texas Discovery Garden to the Butterfly Conserva-tory.
We were each given a little sack that contained a live butterfly (raised at the discovery center). On a count of 3...we all opened our sack and let our butterflies go. Mine sat on my finger a while, then I moved her to a leaf to get her strength. Before long she was flying with the other butterflies. If I was a butterfly, think I would enjoy living here!
Sheri, thank you so much for such a wonderful morning-and for such a good cause! Our children are the future. I was very happy to support the Texas Discovery Garden as they educate these future caregivers of our world!

"We have not inherited the earth from our fathers, we are borrowing it from our children.
(Native American Saying)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Just couldn't help myself!

Ok--so it's 95 degrees outside...I am at Home Depot...and what do I do???
Well, of course--I buy asters...

..and mums!

Please hurry fall!!