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Catching Up, Again!

Hi, folks!  Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted here.  Some of you know, I’m writing a book (a first-time experience for me), and it has definitely caused me to neglect both of my blogs a bit.  I’m trying to figure out a way to balance my projects, but it’s tricky.  So please bear with me for a little while, if I’m running a bit behind now and then.

Just to let you know, I’ve been seeing the little box turtle in my garden nearly every day.  The dogs track her down, rushing around with their little hound noses pressed to the ground until they find her hiding spot.  They bark and poke.  She closes up shop and waits.  So far, Turtle 23, Dogs Zero.  I do make them stop as soon as I see them barking at her, because I don’t want them to harrass her, but I don’t think they can do too much damage.  For one thing, Potter’s front teeth are almost gone, sadly, and I’m sure he can’t bite even the EDGE of her shell.  And Maks is more about the noise, anyway.  He never bites at anything.  Still, I like for the turtle to have some peace and quiet as she wanders around.  And I’ve got my fingers crossed that she is finding enough food and water in my overgrown beds.

Haven’t seen any fall migrants yet, but I do need to pick up some fresh sunflower chips this weekend.  As soon as I start seeing goldfinches, I will know it’s time to be watching closely for things like painted and indigo buntings, cowbirds, and the occasional rose-breasted grosbeak.

Not too much going on right now, though both Belinda’s Dream and Abraham Darby are blooming like crazy.  My little clump of muhly grass is putting out a few feathery pink blooms, but it really needs to be in a spot where early and/or late sun shines straight through the blooms.  That’s what makes them glow like sparklers.  Here are pictures of mine, though not very good ones, I’m afraid.  You can get an idea, though, of how pretty the blooms can look when the sun hits them.

muhly grass in bloom

I have a couple of pictures of my cassia tree in bloom I’ll post soon.  Sadly, last night’s wind and rain beat it halfway to the ground.  I hope it will straighten back up as it dries out, but I’m doubtful.  I may have to cut it way back.

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Hello, Friends!

perennial morning glory vine

Perennial Morning Glory

SO sorry I haven’t updated this blog in a few days.  I haven’t forgotten you, honestly.  I’ve just been really busy with lots of projects, around the house and in the yard.  I’ve also been working on my…ahem!…book.  Yes, I’m finally writing one, and let me tell you, I have a whole new respect for anyone who has gone through this process from beginning to end, and actually produced a book.  Even a BAD book.  It’s HARD, time-consuming work.

But it’s really not an excuse to neglect my blogs as much as I have been, so I’m hereby promising you a post later today.  Probably another one on critters in the garden, just for fun.  And also because not much is blooming right now.  In the meantime, I thought I’d share a picture or two just to make you smile.  Enjoy!

Kitchen Cabinets

Another project that kept me busy.  Painting cabinets and replacing hardware.

I’m much happier now!

white bird of paradise

Found this “bird” on my white bird of paradise last week.

It was hidden in the middle of the plant, and I almost missed it. 

It’s the first bloom in 8 years that I know of.

More Blue In The Garden

abraham darby rose with blue bench

Abraham Darby Rose With Blue Bench

(Click to Zoom)

Roses in central Florida usually bloom all year long, throughout the fall and even the winter.  Abraham Darby is full of buds right now, and I just like how it looks arching over one of my blue benches.

This is the time of year when I remember the PLUS side of gardening in a state that’s so hot in the summer.  Me, thinking:  “Oh, yeah.  That’s right!  We get to garden all winter!”   I will have to try to remember that when I’m trapped inside every year, during sweltering July and steaming August.

It’s still not feeling like fall, here, but it IS starting to cool off a tiny bit at night.  It was 94 degrees Saturday afternoon, though, so I’m going to keep reminding myself every day that I do get to garden all winter.  Since I can’t change the summer temps, I should just be grateful for that, and stop complaining.  A bit.  🙂

Look What Mark Built!

Stacked brick bird bath

My New Brick Birdbath

(Click to Zoom)

After showing Mark the article on using bricks in the garden in that South African e-magazine which featured our pond, we decided we liked the stacked brick birdbath pictured.  We also decided we needed to add a few more birdbaths in our garden, too.  (I’m convinced one can never have too many!)  Since we have enough salvaged brick to build a second house piled here and there in the pot ghetto area of the back yard, we didn’t have to buy a thing!  We also have several stacks of salvaged slate from a demo job in downtown Orlando, too.  So Mark built one of brick and one of slate.  I love both of them, and best of all, since the bricks and slate are just stacked up, they would be easy to relocate or take down completely, if we wanted to make changes.  It only took him about an hour on each one, to be sure every layer was level and neat.  I’m all smiles!

Stacked slate birdbath

(Click to see Full Sized)

This makes at least five birdbaths in my backyard, alone.  How many do YOU have?  Even birds that don’t use feeders need water, and will usually make use of a birdbath, even if it’s just a shallow bowl on the ground.  And watching them bathe is so much fun!  

Not All Grass Needs to be Mowed!

Purple Fountain Grass

Purple Fountain Grass

(Click to Zoom)

“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.
–Eleonora Duse

Don’t you just love ornamental grasses?  So many beautiful ones to choose from these days, though a lot of them don’t do well in central Florida.  Still, pink muhly grass and purple fountain grass are among the ones we CAN grow, and they are such wonderful accents in the garden.  The stand of purple fountain grass above is as tall as I am, or close to 6 feet.  When it is blooming and the morning light shines through it, it’s just beautiful.  Do you grow any grasses that don’t need to be mowed?  Being a non-lawn person, myself, those are my favorite kinds!

Garden Blues…Sorta.

Blue Chair behind Iris

Black Gamecock Iris and Blue Chair

(Click Any Picture to View Full Size)

I just love to use an accent color throughout my garden.  Since we moved into this house in 2004, I’ve been using my favorite color, blue.  I painted the shed door with my favorite shade, added chairs, painted a few benches, and used lots and lots of blue pots.  I just like touches of blue scattered all over the yard to tie it all together.  I get plenty of other color in my plants, including lots of purple, lavender, pink, yellow and red.  But I think by adding touches of blue, it seems cohesive, instead of chaotic.  Here are a few pictures for you.  Some of them were taken a couple of years ago, so you might notice that not all of the brickwork is down yet.  The yard today is mostly a courtyard with big, free form flower beds.

Blue birdhouse and pot

Blue Roofed Birdhouse & Cobalt Pot with Pink Rose

Blue Garden Bench on Patio

Recycled Bench Painted Blue with Blue Daze in Vintage Planter

Blue Urn Water Feature or Ali Baba Fountain

Blue Urn Makes a Great Ali Baba Fountain With Water Cascading Down Sides

Raised Herb Garden

Blue Pot Anchors Raised Herb Bed

(You can see brickwork in progress)

Blue Glass Bird Bath Behind Belinda's Dream Rose

Cobalt Glass Birdbath and Pale Blue Gazing Ball in Flower Bed

Blue Plumbago

Blue Flowers Like This Plumbago Add to The Look

Do any of you like to have a particular accent color?  Do you plant coordinated beds, or do you prefer an anything goes approach?  I’m curious  about what other gardeners like, and I really enjoy seeing pictures of other gardens, too.

Favorite Fall Bloomers #1 – Goldenrod

“The goldenrod is yellow,

The corn is turning brown,

The trees in apple orchards

With fruit are bending down.”

     –Helen Hunt Jackson

Seaside Goldenrod in My Garden

Seaside Goldenrod In My Garden

(Click to Zoom on any Picture)

Well, they tell me fall is fast approaching.  In some parts of the country, it’s actually getting cooler.  Hard for me to believe either of those things when the mercury is still topping out at 93 degrees each day around here.  It’s a shame, too, because autumn is really my favorite time of year.  I love everything about it, especially when I’m lucky enough to spend a week or two in the mountains.  Crisp, cool mornings, with the smell of apples and frosted pumpkins in the air.  *sigh*  Bliss!!

However, Florida does have the advantage of offering year-round gardening, with some annuals and vegetables that actually perform better in the winter than at any other time.  So I guess you take the good with the bad.  And this time of year, we do have some fall bloomers that begin to perform well.  I have several that I really enjoy, but probably my favorite of all is goldenrod.  I love it!  And there are so many wonderful varieties to enjoy, with different shapes to the bloom heads, different heights, and different leaves.  But as far as I know, they all sport glorious sunny yellow flowers that attract bees. 

Roadside Goldenrod (Unknown species)

My personal favorite is seaside goldenrod, shown at the top of the page, which has low growing basal rosettes of large, leathery leaves, but sends up 6 and 7 foot tall bloom spikes that are covered in bumblebees for weeks.  It self-seeds in my garden, though not in an invasive way at all, and I wouldn’t be without it.

Close Up of Goldenrod with Beetle

Photo from Backyard Biology (Thank you, Sue!)

Check out Sue’s post featuring the picture above and a whole series of wonderful goldenrod and prairie pictures.  They’re great!  And by the way, don’t worry about goldenrod causing allergy problems.  They have gotten a false rap all these years. Turns out their pollen is too heavy to float on the breeze, and they’ve been getting the blame for problems caused by ragweed.  Ragweed blooms are inconspicuous and often share the same field with the showier goldenrod.  People go, “I’m sneezing.  Look at all those yellow flowers over there.  They must be the cause.”  But trust me.  You can grow all the goldenrod you want with impunity!  If you haven’t added any to your wildflower or butterfly garden, you really should try it.

What fall flowers do YOU love to grow?  I’d love to hear from you!

Check It Out!

I was checking my “Blog Stats,” a couple of days ago, just taking note of where visitors to the blog are from and various other interesting tidbits that help you run your blog smoothly, when I noticed that I was getting a lot of hits from South Africa.  Now, I see hits from all over the world coming in, so that isn’t necessarily a surprising thing, but there seemed to be quite a few of them in one week.  I found a link back on one of the visits and out of curiosity, clicked on it myself.  It took me to a really nice e-magazine from South Africa, and an article on cool ways to use leftover bricks.  I was happily taking note of some of the projects and saving the pics for my husband’s use, when I happened to come upon something that looked very…familiar!  Imagine my surprise when I got to picture #6 in the article!  Check it out, here:

E-Mag Article on Ideas for Decorative Uses of Bricks

I really enjoyed the article, got a few new good ideas, and was very flattered that our pond had been included.  The little link below each picture that says “Via,” is a linkback to the blog or website where the photos were obtained, by the way, and some of them are worth checking out, too.  I was very happy to have a link back to my blog, and it is obvious that I’ve had visitors generated from this article.  What a nice surprise it was!  The world of blogging gets more interesting to me every day.

New Poll

Rudbeckia triloba or Brown-eyed Susan

Rudbeckia triloba or Brown-Eyed Susan

I got the idea last night that having monthly polls would be fun, so I zipped over to PollDaddy.com and learned how to make one.  Still playing with the available color schemes, etc, but it seems to be performing well.   So I hope you’ll scroll down on the right side, and vote for your favorite garden bloomers.  I think it will be fun to see the differences in the things we love about our gardens, and I will be putting new polls up frequently.  Have fun!!

Rat-a-Tat-Tat! Woodpeckers In The Garden

“Even the woodpecker owes his success to the fact that he uses his head and keeps pecking away until he finishes the job he starts.”

   –Coleman Cox

Red-bellied Woodpecker on Tree trunk

Red-bellied Woodpecker

After seeing some lovely photos of downy woodpeckers at one of my favorite blogs (link below), I decided it would be fun to post about the 8 woodpeckers resident to central Florida, several of which are common garden visitors.

 The most common woodpecker in Florida is probably the red-bellied woodpecker (pictured above).  The red-bellied part of its name refers to the wash of red over tan that the males acquire during breeding season.  Red-bellies belong to a group of woodpeckers called “ladder-backed woodpeckers.”  If you notice the black and white horizontal bars on this bird’s back, you can imagine why.  One of the things I like most about this woodpecker is that it visits feeders regularly, supplementing its insect diet with lots of seed, especially sunflower and safflower.  The bird shown is a male.  Females have red on the backs of their heads, too, but it does not go forward all the way to the beak, like this bird’s does.  Red-bellied woodpeckers are medium sized birds, about the size of a stout robin.

Downy woodpecker on suet feeder

Downy Woodpecker

The smallest woodpecker in Florida is also a very common bird, though often hard to spot.  The tiny downy woodpecker is not much larger than your average sparrow.  It can be told from its very similar cousin, the hairy woodpecker, by the much shorter bill, and slightly smaller size, overall.  As you can see, downies will come to suet feeders, but in my experience, they seldom come to a seed feeder.  I frequently see downies chasing each other round and round a tree trunk, and their high pitched calls are very recognizable.  They are really cute little birds, and fun to watch in the garden.

Pileated Woodpecker on tree trunk

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers in Florida (maybe in the United States), being about the size of a crow.  Pileated means “crested,” and you can see from this picture that they are well named.  The female has less red on her crest, and her “moustache” is black, so you can tell the bird pictured above is a male.  If you are old enough to remember Woody Woodpecker cartoons, you might be interested to know that Woody’s laugh was patterned after the call of the pileated woodpecker.  They are LOUD and really do cackle.  I see pileateds in my yard several times a week, and hear them even more often.  They are beautiful birds, especially in flight.

Northern Flicker Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

Another common woodpecker around these parts is the Northern Flicker.  The flicker is the only woodpecker in Florida that is primarily brown in color.  The spotted breast is very distinctive, as is the “V” shaped red mark on the nape of its neck.  This is a male flicker above.  The females have a red moustache, oddly enough.  It’s usually the other way around.  The flicker gets his name from his slow “wicka-wicka-wicka” call, and is the only woodpecker who is seen on the ground as often as on a tree.  They have an unusual habit of taking dust baths in anthills, and then picking up a large ant in the beak and rubbing it all over their feathers.  This is known as…ready?…anting!  The theory is they are spreading the formic acid the ant gives off, though I’m not quite sure to what purpose.  They are between the red-bellied and the pileated woodpeckers in size.

Red-headed woodpecker on branch

Red-headed Woodpecker

Surely the most beautiful of all the woodpeckers is the strikingly marked red-headed woodpecker.  I see fewer and fewer of them every year, and they are not common in most gardens.  They are the only woodpecker whose diet consists of large quantities of “mast” in addition to insects.  Mast is the term for acorns, so unless you have a lot of large oaks in your yard, you probably won’t have red-headed woodpeckers visiting you.  And these days, I see them only in more rural oak groves, for some reason.  They are roughly the size of  the red-bellied woodpecker, and it’s always a pleasure to catch sight of that beautiful black and white plumage darting through the trees.  Notice that the entire head and face of the bird is red, rather than just the crown of the head.  This is the only woodpecker in Florida patterned like that. 

Yellow-bellied sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

No, it’s not just a slangy insult tossed around in old western movies.  There really is a bird named that, and the name is quite appropriate.  This smallish woodpecker has a wash of yellow over his belly, especially in breeding season, and he does “suck sap!”  Okay, he doesn’t suck it.  But the holes he drills in trees produce running sap that he actually eats.  Plus the sap attracts insects for an added bonus.  In central Florida, sapsuckers are winter visitors, and I’m expecting mine to show up in the next few weeks.

Sapsuckers leave perfect “bracelets” of holes girding tree trunks in neat rings.  If you see these types of woodpecker holes on your trees, you know for sure you have had sapsuckers visiting your yard.

Yellow-bellied sapsucker rings around tree trunk

Sapsucker Damage

The general school of thought is that unless the sapsuckers are staying in your yard all year long, their damage to trunks is merely superficial.  Honestly, I think it’s kind of cool, and I smile when I see these “bracelets” on my trees.

Red Cockaded Woodpecker

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

And finally, the rarest woodpecker in Florida.  The red-cockaded woodpecker is on the Endangered Species list.  They are very habitat specific, and logging and other stresses on their preferred habitat has been a factor in their decline.  Unless you are willing to hike far into the woods to a known red-cockaded nest, and sit down and wait for what could be hours for an extremely brief sighting of one swooping in from nowhere and disappearing into the tree cavity, your chances of seeing one are kind of slim.  This is a very handsome bird, with wide white cheek patches and a small red patch on top of its head that is often hidden under a black cap.  Its relationship to the trees is prefers is quite unusual, and if you are interested in such things, you might google it for a bit more information.

Hope you have enjoyed seeing these Florida woodpeckers, and maybe you’ll notice a few of them in your own yard.  Don’t forget to click on the images to zoom in, and if you would like to hear their calls, I’ve listed them below.  Also, drop by Backyard Biology to see some fantastic photos of nature and wildlife, and to read some pretty interesting facts, too.  It’s a fun blog!

Backyard Biology

Woodpecker calls and drumming sounds.  (Note, some of these links have more than one clickable recording).

Red-bellied Woodpecker Call

Downy Woodpecker Call

Pileated Woodpecker Call

Northern Flicker

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

All images found online.

Critters In The Garden #2 – White-Winged Doves

“Just like the white winged dove…
Sings a song…
Sounds like she’s singing…
ooo baby… ooo… said ooo”

Stevie Nicks, “Edge of Seventeen”

White-winged Dove

White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)

While not everyone appreciates all the many critters that thrive surprisingly well in urban gardens, I enjoy most of them on a daily basis, from lizards and snakes, to possums, flying squirrels, butterflies and moths,  and of course, birds.  I’d venture a guess that most gardeners enjoy avian visitors, and many, like me, put out feeders and birdbaths to ensure their comfort.  Here in central Florida, we have a wide variety of  birds that will visit and nest in our backyards.  In addition to the usual songbirds, I have red-shouldered hawks that nest in my oaks, barred owls raising young across the street, and woodpeckers of several types.  I’ve had my share of white ibises foraging in the front yard, and even had vultures scrabbling over a piece of roadkill who fought their way up my drive way and onto the front stoop, once.  Occasionally, a bald eagle lands in one of our trees, and we often see and hear sandhill cranes flying over.  All of these visitors will be discussed in future posts, I’m sure.

For now, I’m thinking about the change in our local dove population.  Our most familiar dove has always been the mourning dove, which frequents backyard feeders in great numbers.  Most anyone who pays attention at all has heard their sad call, which is what they were named for:  “Oh, woe, woe, woe….”   But shortly after we moved into this house eight years ago, I noticed a much stouter and larger dove at my feeders, with a shorter, squared off tail, and bright white wing markings.  I was surprised to find out I had a pair of white-winged doves residing in my backyard.  These birds are primarily a western species, not originally native to Florida, but were  introduced here a few decades ago. They  are becoming more and more common throughout this area.  A year after we moved in,  I had 4 of them at my feeder, and the next year, 8.  Now there are more white-wings visiting than there are mourning doves.  I’m not sure that’s a good thing, ecologically, but I’m very fond of them, with their “oooh, baby, ooooh” calls.  Somehow I find them more handsome than the mourning doves, as well.  Perhaps that’s because I didn’t grow up seeing them everywhere, so they are still a novelty to me.  It remains to be seen whether their increasing numbers will affect the mourning dove population, which has always seemed more than just abundant to me.  For now, I will just enjoy the white-wings along with my other feeder visitors.

Here is a picture of a mourning dove  for comparison.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

Check out these links to hear the typical call of these birds. (Just scroll down until you see the sound bar & click on the “Play” arrow.)

White-Winged Dove

Mourning Dove

Photos found online.

Ponds In The Garden

“Cold, wet leaves
Floating on moss-coloured water   
And the croaking of frogs—
Cracked bell-notes in the twilight.”

The Pond by Amy Lowell

(Click any image to zoom)

There is nothing like a water feature to make a big splash in your garden.  Once again, pun intended.  Even a small container of water with a potted papyrus plant or elephant ear adds a special grace note to a flower bed.  We have a large backyard, by urban yard standards.  Slightly less than a double lot, or close to 1/2 acre.  I knew I wanted a pond in the center, set up to be the main focal point.  For a long time, we talked about digging a large, free form pond with a waterfall and stream, but one day, we realized we were never going to have the time or energy to get it done by ourselves, so we needed to go to Plan B.

Galvanized Water Trough for Pond

Visiting a local feed and farm supply store, I purchased a 6′ x 2′ galvanized trough and had it delivered.  I would have been happy to set it up as is, and go with the country look of galvanized metal, but Mark, being the bricklayer of the family, wanted to tie it in with our patio and brick pathways already being established.  Two feet tall is higher than you might think, so we decided to lower the profile a bit and set the trough into the ground about 8″ deep.  Perfect. 

Filling water trough for goldfish pond

After leveling the pond in place, we filled it with well water, and hooked up the pump.  

Mark enclosing galvanized water trough with brick to make goldfish pond

Then Mark stacked bricks around the pond to enclose it…

Brick enclosure around galvanized goldfish pond almost done.

…taking a few breaks, here and there…

Brickwork surrounding galvanized water trough goldfish pond completed.

…and voila.  A beautiful brick pond! 

The entire project, including setting up the pump and the bamboo spitter, only took one weekend.

Finished galvanized water trough goldfish pond with brickwork enclosure.

The pond today, with additional brickwork walkways and seating areas.

Galvanized water trough pond with brickwork surround and friendly dachshund.

As you can tell, many, many more bricks have been laid since the pond was set up a couple of years ago.  Most of our backyard is a courtyard now, with free flowing flower beds here and there.  It’s wonderful.  No mowing or fertilizing a huge lawn, for one thing.  And so many places to pull up a chair and sit.  The pond is home to fat, colorful goldfish, and a few frogs can be heard there on summer nights.  The sound of the water is relaxing and helps disguise the sound of nearby traffic.   It’s the best thing we ever did out back, and I’m so glad we aren’t still waiting to dig a bigger one.  This one is actually perfect for us! 

If you have added a pond to your garden, I’d love to hear about it, and see pictures, too. 

What’s In A Name?

“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.”

~A.A. Milne

Spiderwort In The Garden

Consider the spiderwort.  Flowers of the loveliest blue, opening every morning and closing in the afternoon.  Graceful, grass-like foliage, tinted a teal green.  Hardy, trouble-free, and eager to fill your flower beds with color all year long, here in central Florida.  Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?  Except, it’s considered by most to be a weed.  An annoying invader that needs to be destroyed at all costs.  Out, out, damned spiderwort!  You can probably see where I’m going with this.  At my house, spiderworts are allowed to grow and bloom where they will, unless I need the spot for something else.  Why not?  They’re beautiful, and fill bare spots perfectly.  And unlike some actual garden plants I’ve been given, they don’t spread so horribly that I need a backhoe and a drum of Agent Orange to eradicate them.  Prolific, but not obscenely so.  Therefore, I smile at their pretty blue faces every morning, and enjoy them, until I need to replace them with a new rose or flowering perennial.

So what “weeds” are welcome in YOUR yard?  I’m sure many of you are growing native plants here and there, and by some standards, most of those are considered weeds, too.  Just as my spiderwort is a native, so is my seaside goldenrod, a tiny purslane called moss rose, a volunteer scarlet morning glory, and a few others.  Most are welcome for now.  They tend to be hardy and often provide food for birds and other wildlife.  I’ll share some pictures of other “weeds” I love tomorrow.  In the meantime, I’d love to know what’s volunteering at your house.

Dachshunds In The Garden

“The secret of architectural excellence is to translate the proportions of a dachshund into bricks, mortar and marble.”
–Christoper Wren

Obviously, Christopher Wren never met my first piebald dachshund, Oscar.  With his legs too long, and his ears too short, Oscar would not likely have made a good transition to architectural design.  But he was a loving and affectionate dog, who never met an enemy, and he enjoyed nothing more than to be in the garden, on lizard patrol.  Since I realized yesterday that posts with photos of dachshunds included attract a LOT of attention, I figured I’d give Oscar a turn.  You can see for yourself that well proportioned or not, his coloring was beautiful, and I can attest to the fact that his personality matched.  He was a much beloved addition to our family, and rests now under my largest birdbath, where he is surrounded all day long by the lizards he loved to chase.

OSCAR MEYER’S BEANIE WEENIE ON LIZARD PATROL

(Though I tried to save any he caught, I’m afraid he was NOT a lizard’s best friend.)

Dilute Red Piebald Dachshund, Oscar

HOW TO TURN YOUR DACHSHUND INTO A FRONT END LOADER

(Injury caused by angry cat.  Recovery was complete.)

Dilute Red Piebald Dachshund, Oscar, Wearing Neck Cone

 

HOW TO BE COMFORTABLE WHEN YOUR HEAD IS TOO BIG TO CARRY AROUND ALL DAY

(He would rest like this for 15 or 20 minutes at a time.)

Dilute Red Piebald Dachshund, Oscar, Resting His Big Head

And there you have it.   Dachshunds, in the garden, or in the house, make life better.  I once took a test on how to discover which breed of dog is right for you.  You had to choose one word from a list of attributes that would be important to you in choosing a dog, like guard work,  beauty, loyalty, etc.  I picked “Funny,” and the answer that popped up was, “The dog for you is a dachshund.”  Luckily, I already had two.  I knew all along my instincts were right. 

Quote #8 – Richard Buckminster Fuller

“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.”

     ~Richard Buckminster Fuller

 

monarch butterfly on coral honeysuckle vine

Monarch Butterfly on Coral Honeysuckle Vine

(Click to Zoom)

I love this quote.  Makes you think twice about judging by appearances, doesn’t it?  You never know what’s inside someone, and when a beautiful butterfly might emerge.  Here’s wishing each of you a moment when that butterfly inside comes out into the sunshine, spreads its wings, and flies into a bright new day.

Took this picture last spring, when one of my hand raised monarchs took his inaugural flight and landed on my honeysuckle to bask in the morning sun.  Later, the hummers came to visit, but for that moment, the whole vine belonged to him, and Butterfly Life was GOOD.

Quote #7 – Marcelene Cox

“Weather means more when you have a garden.  There’s nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans.”

     ~Marcelene Cox

birdhouse flower bedBirdhouse Flower Bed

Never does this ring more true than when you are facing the daily afternoon thunderstorms and heavy rains of Florida in late summer.  And this coming week, we are expecting Hurricane Isaac to pay us at least a passing visit.  Here’s hoping you are all safe from the storm, and your yards will revel in the rain, without getting smashed to smithereens.

Dancing Ladies

Dancing Ladies Orchid In Bloom

Dancing Ladies Orchid

  (Click to View Larger Image)

My favorite orchid, given to me by a friend from South Florida, is Dancing Ladies.  I love the tiny, brilliant yellow flowers with small brownish purple speckles on them.  This plant, which started out as a small spray, is now about 6′ wide, and had 15 bloom stems this spring, each about 4′ long.  It was UH-mazing!  It hangs in my Bali Hut, and gets moved out to the front corner when in bloom.  I know it’s time to divide it, but I’m scared to mess with it, for fear I’ll destroy it.  I’m wondering if my best move is to take it to a nursery with knowledgeable orchid people there who can advise me, or even do it for me.  I’d be so unhappy if I lost it!

Dancing Ladieds Orchid Bloom Spray

Believe me, photos don’t do this beauty justice.  There were hundreds and hundreds of flowers on it.  Thank you, TreeFrog, in case you ever stop by and see these photos.  I think of you every time this blooms!

Critters In The Garden #1

One of the best things about having a garden, even in urban or suburban areas, is the incredible amount of wildlife you can provide habitat for.  Of course, most gardeners are very happy to welcome songbirds to their yards, but many have no idea how interesting and varied other forms of garden wildlife are.  I’m hoping that by sharing pictures and information here about the many other creatures who call my own yard home, others will realize what a wonderfully diverse place a garden can be.  Over the course of the weeks ahead, I’ll be posting on birds & birdfeeders, butterflies & other insects, mammals, and reptiles that coexist pretty well in my yard.  Especially considering the two killer dachshunds I have who patrol their territory on a daily basis. 

Just to kick this “series” off with a bang, I’m not going to start with cute cardinals or brash bluejays.  I’m going to leap right into discussing the critters many people fear, dislike, or simply don’t understand, the reptiles.  Particularly snakes.  If you count yourself among the many who actively dislike snakes or think that they are always venomous or dangerous, I hope you’ll read a bit more, and learn to accept them and their place in the garden with less fear or hatred.   Perhaps you will never learn to see them as the beautiful and interesting creatures that I do, but if you can restrain yourself from bashing them with shovels, I’ll consider these posts a success.

Let’s start with the snake I see most often in my garden, the Southern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor priapus).  This is one of my favorite snakes, being completely harmless, and very beneficial in the garden.  I also think the long, streamlined body is quite pretty, with the grey to black, smooth coloration, and the white chin that is distinctive in the southern subspecies of this snake.   (Click on any image to open a larger version).

Southern black racer (coluber constrictor priapus)

One of the things about black racers that I most enjoy is their habit of “periscoping.”  When gliding through grasses or slightly taller vegetation, they often pause and lift their head up high, in order to “scope out” the lay of the land, and make sure no unseen dangers await them.  Like all snakes, they use their tongue to taste air molecules for the scent of anything threatening or delicious nearby.  Also like all snakes, racers can and WILL bite if threatened.  If you are not experienced in handling snakes without causing harm to them or to yourself, don’t try to pick these guys up.   Just admire their graceful slide through the garden, and let them go on their way unharmed.  Their bite may not be venomous, but it can be painful, and can cause breakage of the snake’s teeth, which isn’t good for them.  Black racers do not make good pets, either.   I don’t really espouse keeping wildife as pets to begin with, and racers, in particular,  never get over their nervous disposition,  and really dislike being handled. 

I had a wonderful moment with a black racer a couple of summers ago, when I was hand watering my flowers.  We were in drought mode, as is often the case here in central Florida, and the splashing water attracted a medium sized racer, about 2 1/2 feet long.  He slid forward a few slow inches at a time, stopping repeatedly to check me out and be sure I wasn’t doing anything that looked threatening.  I stood very still and let the water continue to sprinkle on some leaf mulch in my flower bed.  Eventually, the racer reached his goal, lowered his head to a tiny puddle of water in a cupped leaf, and began to drink.  By this time, I was holding my breath, watching something I’d never seen before, and not wanting to scare him away before he had quenched his thirst.  He drank a very long time, then turned slowly, raised his head to give me one more look, then turned and glided back under the fence, to whatever hiding spot he had emerged from.

Here is a picture I took a few weeks later of what might have been the same snake, though I have several living in my yard.  Notice the white chin, which you can see clearly, even though this snake doesn’t have his head raised up.

Southern black racer (coluber constrictor priapus) in my garden.

If you have any questions about black racers or other snakes in your garden, please feel free to ask.  If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it for you.  In the meantime, here’s a link to a website with lots more information on the Southern Black Racer.

Roses In The Garden

“I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.”

     –Emma Goldman

Belinda's Dream Shrub Rose

BELINDA’S DREAM SHRUB ROSE

I have no use for diamonds, either, but roses, I can’t live without!  Growing them in Florida is always a challenge, with our extremes of weather and the constant humidity.  Plenty of sun, but plenty of wet weather, giving blackspot and powdery mildew a foothold every summer.  But still, for me, it is worth the extra work to have roses in my garden.

I no longer delude myself into thinking I can keep an entire bed of roses looking good, but I have found if I scatter the roses here and there, with plenty of other plants around them, it works.  The surrounding plants will disguise the rose when it is not performing at its best, thus giving me a chance to prune it back, feed it thoroughly, and wait for it to return to glory.  Roses have amazing recuperative powers, and 99 times out of a hundred, like a certain terminator we all know, they’ll be back! 

Here are a few pictures of some of my current favorites.  (Click on the picture to see a larger version).

All American Miracle Floribunda

ALL AMERICAN MIRACLE

This rose is smallish for me, and struggles with blackspot, but the spectacular red & yellow striped blooms fade to pink & white, and are worth the effort.

Don Juan Climbing Rose

DON JUAN CLIMBING HYBRID TEA

An old standard for years, Don Juan has a wonderful fragrance, and an exceptionally deep red color.  It’s hardy, and seems to be less prone to disease and pests than many varieties.

Abraham Darby David Austiin Rose

ABRAHAM DARBY

This is a David Austin rose, and one of the most beautiful & fragrant roses I have in my garden.  Austen’s roses have the look & vigor of old roses, and are so easy to grow. 

Florida Home Run Pink Rose

FLORIDA HOME RUN PINK

The Home Run series of single roses with a wild rose look was developed by the popular KnockOut Rose folks.  So far, I love this little rose, and it blooms constantly.  We’ll see how it performs as it gets bigger.

Belinda's Dream Rose

BELINDA’S DREAM SHRUB ROSE

This is definitely the most dependable and consistently beautiful rose I grow.  It repeat blooms all year long, and the gorgeous pink flowers have a terrific fragrance. They last a long time in a vase, too, making this one a winner all the way around.

Do you grow roses in your garden?  I’m interested in hearing which perform best for you, especially if you have a Florida garden?  Or if you grow under similar conditions.

What’s Blooming In Your Garden Today?

In spite of the muggy heat and excess rain lately, I managed to find a couple of things blooming here and there.  Most everything else is buried under vines and weeds, waiting for my return to yard work.  I reckon it’ll keep a few more weeks.  In the meantime, here are a few pictures for your viewing pleasure.

Nothing is more colorful each morning than ruellia (also called Mexican Petunia, though it is neither from Mexico, nor a petunia).  While this plant is known to be an invasive species in Florida, please be assured that there is a non-invasive, sterile variety, and I only grow that one in my yard.  I will be happy to provide more info on that, if anyone is interested.  You can’t grow a tougher, more resilient plant.  And they’re pretty, too.

Here is an example of the one of the vines running amok in my garden this summer.  This is a volunteer native called Scarlet Morning Glory.  The flowers are only about an inch across, very pretty, and attractive to hummingbirds.  On the negative side, the vine will cover anything in its path.  But on the positive side, sort of, it dies completely every winter after the first heavy frost.  However, it seeds like crazy, so you will find yourself pulling babies all spring.  My advice is not to plant scarlet morning glory on purpose, but if it volunteers as this one did, and you find it running rampant in the late summer, you may as well enjoy it for awhile.   My thryallis peeking out from underneath this one it might disagree with me.

I found one last purslane blooming in a hypertufa bowl.  It looks pretty happy, where most of  its brothers and sisters have succumbed to way too much rain in recent weeks.  They will reseed a bit, here and there, and the parent plants will come back, but they never seem to  look as good as the originals purchased from the nursery.  At least not in my yard.  Other than that, they provide dependable color for a fairly long time before they begin to decline.

What’s blooming in YOUR yard today?