“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.”
My Literary Cat
‘Sgt. Karrin Murphy, alias Murph’
“In ancient times, cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.“
NOTE: Murph would be the most unlikely cat ever to be worshipped by anyone, anywhere. After rescuing her and her brother, Harry, almost two years ago, as kittens merely eight weeks old, Harry settled into our household and totally totally embraced his role as ruler of the roost. On the other hand, Murphy still dives under the nearest bed or couch when any human approaches her. You’d think she’d have figured out by now that we are mostly harmless and provide all the food and creature comforts she could ask for, as devoted slaves will do, but nooooo. We call her the Skittery Kittery.
My Literary Cat
‘Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden’
“I am the Cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me.”
–Rudyard Kipling, The Cat Who Walked By Himself
NOTE: Harry thinks the bookshelves over my desk are the perfect place to walk–and to lie down–by himself. Perfect for surveying his Kingdom. And for taking afternoon naps, far away from the riffraff, namely the dachshunds, below.
(Click to Read Quote & See Picture Full Sized)
“The roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are what they are; they exist with God today. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence.”
How beautiful is this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson? And how fitting the message for the start of a new year. My friend Nicki took this picture of a rose in her garden, Souvenir de la Malmaison, which is a favorite of both of us. Then she printed this beautiful card to tuck in my Christmas “basket” and I now have it framed and sitting on my desk.
I want to keep this quote in mind throughout 2013, to remind me to live in the moment, and to never compare myself to anyone else. Treasure your own individuality, folks, and fill your days with as much happiness and laughter as you can. Don’t worry a moment for what anyone else is, or has. You are exactly who you are supposed to be and you have everything you really need in order to be happy. At least, that’s going to be my personal philosophy this year, to the best of my ability.
Thank you, Nicki, for such a splendid card and sentiment. It’s a treasure.
“When the oak is felled the whole forest echoes with its fall, but a hundred acorns are sown in silence by an unnoticed breeze”
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. “
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!
“Crabgrass can grow on bowling balls in airless rooms, and there is no known way to kill it that does not involve nuclear weapons.”
I think Dave’s on to something, here.
“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 (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 (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.)
Photos found online.
The Pond by Amy Lowell
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.
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.
After leveling the pond in place, we filled it with well water, and hooked up the pump.
Then Mark stacked bricks around the pond to enclose it…
…taking a few breaks, here and there…
…and voila. A beautiful brick pond!
The entire project, including setting up the pump and the bamboo spitter, only took one weekend.
The pond today, with additional brickwork walkways and seating areas.
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.
“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.”
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.
“The secret of architectural excellence is to translate the proportions of a dachshund into bricks, mortar and marble.”
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.)
HOW TO TURN YOUR DACHSHUND INTO A FRONT END LOADER
(Injury caused by angry cat. Recovery was complete.)
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.)
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.
“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
(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.
“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.”
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.
I always loved this poem by Emily Dickinson, and think it really evokes that shiver down the spine feeling you get when you glimpse a snake gliding by, even when you love them like I do, and know it is a harmless species. Still, they are animals of graceful mystery and they never fail to stop me in my tracks for a moment, with a slight quickening of my heartbeat. Or as Miss Dickinson referred to it, “…tighter breathing and zero at the bone.”
Hope some of you enjoy this:
A narrow Fellow in the Grass Occasionally rides-- You may have met Him-- did you not His notice sudden is-- The Grass divides as with a Comb-- A spotted shaft is seen-- And then it closes at your feet And opens further on-- He likes a Boggy Acre A Floor too cool for Corn-- Yet when a Boy, and Barefoot-- I more than once at Noon Have passed, I thought, a Whip lash Unbraiding in the Sun When stooping to secure it It wrinkled, and was gone-- Several of Nature's People I know, and they know me-- I feel for them a transport Of cordiality-- But never met this Fellow Attended, or alone Without a tighter breathing And Zero at the Bone--* Emily Dickinson
“Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Author Sarah Ban Breathnach says “success arrives only after we have mastered failing better.” Boy, nowhere is this more true than in the garden. How many special, must-have plants have you dragged home from the nursery, only to find they were not happy in your garden? How many seeds have you planted, only to have ants carry them off for their own anty munching? If we were to let our failures in the garden stop us, we would all have yards filled with nothing but weeds and dirt. Gardening teaches perseverance like nothing else I know. Stick to it long enough, though, and you WILL find the perfect plants for your little corner of the world. You’ll learn how to protect newly planted seeds from marauding ants. And you will definitely begin to reap the rewards of your hard work. Just don’t give up. Plant and plant again. Learn more about what succeeds in your zone, something you can’t always tell by what’s available at your local generic or “big box” garden centers. Talk to other gardeners in your area, join an online garden group, join a local garden club, and read, read, read. As your knowledge grows, so will your plants. But always bear in mind that the best teacher of all is failure. Just learn to fail better! And did I mention never give up?
“I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.”
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
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 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.
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
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 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.