Thursday, August 31, 2006

Trees in miniature - Deep Cut Gardens

Delicate branches

Roots caress a simple pot

White blossoms shimmer

The essence of all forests

Lives here in one small tree.

-Mastuyama Mokurai

The art of bonsai is meant to suggest a tree which has grown naturally under specific conditions, for example windswept on a rocky shore, clinging to the side of a cliff, or standing undisturbed in the forest. The time and patience needed to train a tree in miniature form to look natural and mature is, perhaps, the foremost challenge of this horticultural practice.

A gardener studying bonsai is encouraged to study nature and get out and look at trees. Get under them and look up. Notice them. Get to know them so that you might create a representation of all of nature in one small tree.

Pics taken in the Japanese Garden at Deep Cut Gardens in Middletown, NJ. Other posts about Deep Cut are available here and here.

Post submitted to The Festival of the Trees.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

8/30/06 Mid-week bunny fix

"Happiness seems made to be shared." - Jean Racine

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Scrapbook samples

This is one of many pages done for my brother's annual Halloween party. It was the first year after my DH and I were married, so we went as Frankenstein and his Bride. My DH makes a pretty convincing Frankenstein, doesn't he? My brother and sister-in-law (in the strategically placed fig leaves) were Adam and Eve and my dad was a Keystone Cop. (This is a 14X14 page that wouldn't fit on the scanner bed so it's cut off on both ends.)
First Christmas after we did some work on the house and got new furniture. Me with a Pixie haircut! (Another 14X14 page)
Missy and Freckles as little baby bunnies. Say "Awwww..."
My husband seeing the osprey off at Sandy Hook on Labor Day 2000
My brother-in-law's wedding. I scrapbooked a wedding album as a gift for them.

Naturwoman and I have been chatting a bit on her blog about scrapbooking, and we each wanted to have a look at the other's pages, so I thought I would share a few here tonight. These are scanned and should be clickable for a closer look, if you dare. What I like best about scrapbooking is the storytelling aspect; picking a few of the best photos from an event and using them to give a sense of what happened. I never used to be such a shutterbug, so the prospect of scrapbooking my photos seemed reasonable. Nowadays, the idea is pretty daunting.

Scrapbooking has evolved to be a very complex craft; I'm not artistic enough or patient enough to do the types of pages I see in magazines today. I like to use pretty papers and stickers and play with colors and different styles of handwriting. For the first few years I made my pages for a 14" X 14" album, then I switched to a more standard size. Now I like to do little *books* - smaller page sizes are more fun and a bit easier to do.

Now it's your turn - let's see some of those pages!

**Edited to add that Sandy at gardenpath has posted one of her pages - it's really neat - have a look!

Monday, August 28, 2006

A waystation for migrant hummers

Colorful flowers attract hummingbirds to the garden; nectar makes them hang around for a while. I only see hummers in my garden in late July and August, so I try to plant late-blooming flowers that they like. They visit the cleome, but I'm not sure that they provide any nectar. They especially like the black-and-blue salvias and some other salvias that aren't visible in this pic. I expect the hummers to arrive shortly after the Rose of Sharon hedge begins to bloom; again I'm not sure if they're able to feed from the flowers, but they do visit them often and like to perch in the hedge in sight of the feeders.

I place my feeders in as shady a location as possible so that the sugar-water won't ferment as quickly. It's important to maintain the feeder and change the solution at least every 2-3 days or anytime it looks cloudy. So as not to waste sugar, I only fill this feeder about a quarter of the way full - that's more than enough for a day or two. Notice also that I don't use red food coloring - it's not needed so long as some part of the feeder is red to attract the birds.

We have a variety of flowers that are pretty and attractive to hummers; flowering maples (Abutilon) are a favorite and come in many colors. My husband and I try to grow them all. ;-) We have them in purple, peach, yellow and red this year. The first hummingbird I ever saw was nectaring at a red blooming maple that we had trained as a small tree outside the bedroom window. These aren't hardy for us in NJ, so we bring them inside each fall and try not to kill them. We usually fail.

Killing stuff over the winter gives us an excuse to try something new the following summer. This flowering maple is a new one for us - it looks like the hummers might like it, but I'm not sure about the lantern-shaped flowers. I also grow pineapple sage for the hummers, but it usually blooms so late for me that the hummers are long gone when it finally comes into flower.

I have a collection of pretty glass hummingbird feeders like these that are really beautiful to look at, but are a nightmare to keep clean. My husband can't resisit buying me a pretty new feeder each year for my birthday, but he's not the one in charge of cleaning and filling them! I hardly ever use these ones because the ants always find them before anyone else.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Nothin' like a Jersey tomato

Is there anything sweeter than a Jersey tomato warm from the garden? Add just a little salt and pepper and you've served up perfection. My brothers and I used to eat them standing out in the garden, like an apple, when we were kids. Do NJ tomatoes have a reputation anywhere outside of NJ?

I never got around to cooking a proper Sunday dinner tonight; having spent most of the afternoon in front of the televison, which I almost never do. Instead I put together a salad of fresh mozzarella, basil from the garden, and heirloom tomatoes that I picked up yesterday at the farmer's market. Just a drizzle of dressing made it perfect and delicious!

Michelle blogged today about tomato sandwiches (just add white bread, mayonaise, and salt+pepper) and Hanna at This Garden is Illegal has been blogging about fancy tomatoes for a week or so. It seems that many of us are rejoicing at the ripening of this good garden food. I'd love to hear your favorite way of eating a tomato. Share a recipe if you'd like. I have one that I'm eager to try - pasta, grape tomatoes, and goat cheese - sounds yummy!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Bird's nest

Bird's nest is an alternate name for Queen Anne's Lace, so called because of the way the stems rise upward to form a cup-shaped basket as the seed heads ripen, reminding some of a bird's nest. The flower heads are flat-topped and as dainty as any fine lace; the foliage fine-cut and bright green. A single purple floret lies in the center of many, but not all, of the flowers.

Some botanists believe that this central purple floret acts as decoy to attract insects to pollinate the flowers. It's said that many insects will automatically be lured to the dark-colored flower and I've found crab spiders patiently waiting there for their next meal to arrive.

If the crab spiders have come recently from yellow flowers they will be light yellow and adorned with faint pink markings. After a few days on the white lacy flowers they gradually turn white, also with pink markings, to match perfectly the white "umbrellas" with their purple centers, near to where they are waiting for their next victims’ arrival.

These pics were taken in the meadow at Deep Cut Gardens, but Queen Anne's Lace can be found now along many a roadside. I'll sometimes grow it in pots at home, afraid to set it loose in any of the gardens because it reseeds so freely. Queen Anne's Lace has quite a few lookalikes, many of them deadly poisonous, so be very careful of sampling the root of any plant you suspect to be this wild carrot.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A jade earring in its place

What a difference a day makes! On my way out the door to work this morning I detoured to check the progress of the monarch caterpillar and discovered it still dangling upside down, deciding how to get rid of its skin. When I returned late this afternoon, I found the caterpillar had redressed itself in this beautiful chrysalis!

"The chrysalis of the Monarch... looks like a jade earring. Near the light green top, an elegant band of gold is underscored with a thin black line. More highlights of gold decorate the bottom half. No one fully understands the purpose of this glitter. Perhaps the pupae gleam to warn off predators. Perhaps their reflectance camouflages them in the light and dark of a sunlight branch. They may be trying to look like metallic beetles. They may be imitating raindrops." - Sharman Apt Russell, An Obsession with Butterflies

Thursday, August 24, 2006

a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,i.... J !!!

Look what I found this evening in the milkweed patch! I've been searching all summer long for monarch eggs or caterpillars, suffering monarch envy at the project Bev at Burning Silo has going on, and had about given up on finding any this season. I'm so tickled to have spotted this!

I'm guessing the caterpillar will make its chrysalis on the underside of this snakeroot leaf. I've never come upon a monarch caterpillar in this state before; they always go missing just when they get big and fat, but according to what I've read on the Monarch Watch website the caterpillars wander until they find a suitable site and then form this "prepupal J" before shedding their skin for the final time. I'm hoping that in the morning I'll find a beautiful chrysalis in just this spot.

I've been amusing myself the past few weeks by watching the development of the many groups of milkweed bugs that are feeding on the Swamp Milkweed seed pods. Yesterday I found that many in this group were in the process of shedding their skins to adulthood. Other seed pods have bugs in various stages of development and in the last few days I've found many of the very tiny ones that I had at first thought were aphids. I thought the pic at right was interesting because you can see one bug (almost in the center of the pic) who still looks somewhat transparent. I don't know whether the black coloration is in the wings or on the body itself, but this one's wings are clear and it's very light orange compared to the others. Upwards to the left of that bug and below to the right are the shed skins of others. Not the greatest of pics... I apologize. Click on the photo to enlarge and you may actually be able to see what I'm talking about!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

8/23/06 Mid-week bunny fix

Maybe, just maybe, I've finally found a bunny that will pose for pictures, rather than running underneath the nearest piece of furniture when the camera comes out. Peeper likes to sit beside the window on my hope chest and that's where I took this pic today. The afternoon light streaming in the window does wonderful things for her brown fur, don't you think?

It's almost two months now since Peeper *showed up on the doorstep* with the help of a kindly neighbor. Just about a month since she was spayed. The change in her personality has been quite dramatic in that short period of time. She no longer peeps at me like a little lost bird; she doesn't often have reason to be frightened now. For a while she would peep and growl at the vacuum cleaner, but now she just boxes at it if I get too close while cleaning her cage. She doesn't peep when I touch her, but is frightened when she thinks I might pick her up.

She's learning to like being petted and loves to explore in the evenings when she's out. I've had to set up an x-pen to confine her to the office and hallway, otherwise I'm sure she'd take run of the house. With Dora, who used to live here in the office, I never had to set up a gate at the doorway because she would not cross the threshold; Peeper has no such fear and a moment of inattention on my part found her down the hallway in our bedroom, under the bed.

She's a very unassuming rabbit; a lot like Freckles. Very quiet though; she hasn't learned to throw things the way Freckles likes to do. She's happy sleeping the days away, eating greens, hay and the occasional baby carrot I hide for her somewhere, and exploring and contemplating by the window in the evenings. One at a time I'm introducing her to the treats that most house bunnies love. Most she likes and will grab from my fingers and run away with. Last week I gave her a small piece of what had to have been her *first ever* banana. Most bunnies love bananas. Not Peeper... not yet. She curled up her lips and backed away suspiciously... then she ran and thumped at me. Silly rabbit, not liking nanners!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Perfuming the night 2

This is not the greatest of pics, but our Angel Trumpets aren't much to look at this year. The trees are spindly and the leaves are a sickly shade of unhappy green. Now, at the end of the season, we have our first three flowers. I was hoping to show you how the flower shape of the Angel Trumpet is the same as the moonflower, only these trumpets hang downward and unfurl in the same pretty way. The flowers last a bit longer than the moonflowers, as well.

There is a bit of confusion among the common names of these plants with trumpet-shaped flowers. I'm as confused as anyone. We call White Daturas *moonflowers*, but the link I provided in my first post about them was to another plant commonly called a moonflower which is in the morning glory family. Pam, who lives in the desert, mentioned in her comment to yesterday's post that Daturas grow there, but not moonflowers. So, I'm guessing she's refering to Purple Daturas, of Jimson Weed fame. I guess it's the same plant, but with a different colored flower. Both have the spiney, thorn-covered seed balls that give them their other common name, Thorn Apples. The purples do not make a nice garden plant, in my opinion, and are very weedy looking.

Angel Trumpets are Brugmansias, I think. I'm afraid to be too certain. Is everyone confused yet? The rule my DH and I follow is that if the flowers point up to the moon we call it a *moonflower* and if they point downward it's an Angel Trumpet. Works for us!

In good years, we have a few plants in large tubs that look like this one, courtesy of Birds and Blooms. Isn't it fantastic! My father-in-law grew the most spectacular Angel Trumpets and his yard was filled with them. Quite a sight! Somewhere in the attic I have a copy of an article the local paper did about him and his flowers. The local ABC news affiliate picked up the story and interviewed him - that was something to see my in-laws on television. Wish I could have put my hands on the article to post here tonight.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Perfuming the night

Poised on its pistil
Getting the nod from dusk's dawn
Night's heady perfume

haiku by C. Gardner

Watching the swallows and swifts this evening while I watered the garden, and waiting for the appearance of the bats overhead as my signal to go inside, I reached down to turn off the well pump and got a whiff of this moonflower - wow! Most of them are planted along the fence surrounding the pond, intermixed with day-blooming morning glories, but a few are in pots up beside the house, where on humid nights their lemony scent drifts in the windows. The smell can be overpowering enough to give me a headache, especially if we also have Angel's Trumpets blooming. I loved the shape of this flower as it unfurled.

Some cultural info about moonflowers is available in this blog post from 6/8/06.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A cross-stitcher's shame

I used to do a lot of cross-stitching. Really, I should say I've started a lot of cross-stitch projects, but I've only finished 4 or 5 of the many I've started over the years. I like to do samplers - pictured above is one of two samplers that I've finished; this one needs to be laundered, pressed, and framed. It's the first in a set of three, the second, just barely begun, is beside it. I also did a baby blanket for my niece that was later passed on to my other niece, I think. It's probably stashed in the bottom of a closet somewhere since she's not a baby anymore. It's hard to appreciate the work involved until you've done it yourself.

Cross-stitch is really easy, but requires good eyesight and persistence. The persistence part has always been a problem, lately my eyesight is the excuse. There used to be a great little shop downtown that sold beautiful pieces of linen for stiching and thousands and thousands of charts. The shop closed up and moved far away, so I haven't bought anything new for a while, thank goodness. There are more than enough half-finished projects in a bottom drawer of the end table to keep me busy for the rest of my years. Each piece takes so many hundreds of hours that I just get tired of looking at it and must put it away for months on end. Usually, when the urge to stitch bites me again, I find myself picking up a different project than the one I last worked on. Some of them I never pick up again, having decided that I don't like the colors or the design anymore.

I can blame my current urge to stitch on silverlight and madcapmum who often post pics of the beautiful things they make with a needle and their hands. I wish I were determined enough to actually finish something - maybe if I devoted just one hour a week to it I could see some progress. For today, I think I'll spend a little time with that sampler above - those pea pods need some color.

"The great majority of men are bundles of beginnings." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Riders of the wind

Swamp milkweed pods and seeds

"The far travelers of the plant world, the original sailors of the air in the plant kingdom, prepare their hostages to the wind. The gossamer parachutes, each with its germ of life, approach their time of departure. The winds of Autumn will bring down the leaves, but they will also carry a fragile freight of next year's green and urgent life. Who can count the fluff-borne seeds that will fill the late September air?" --Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons

Friday, August 18, 2006

Where's a wildflower expert when I need one?

Group nature walks have spoiled me, I think. While I don't need to pay too much attention on bird walks, it's comforting to have a naturalist closeby to ID a bird I don't know. I don't often bird with a group anymore, but when I do I use the naturalist to help me learn a birdsong or a tree or the name of a wildflower. At last night's bird walk I learned Partridge Pea and Bouncing Bet.

I have a few wildflower books, but haven't learned how to *key* a plant properly. It's laziness, I admit, but I tend to rely on my better knowledge of cultivated plants, rather than a wildflower guide, to help me ID a plant. Last night the Bouncing Bet reminded me of Phlox, so had I not been able to simply ask the naturalist for an ID, I'd have come home and searched through my Newcomb's Guide for a flower that reminded me of Phlox. The Partridge Pea looked very similar to Crown Vetch, so that one I might've figured out easily enough on my own.

This evening I took Buddy for a walk to the farm pond and stream that are down the street. The environmental commision here in town has recently made this wetland area their *project* for improvements; they've removed a lot of the vegetation from the borders of this pond. This concerns me because I think it will only make the area even more attractive to Canada Geese (they frequent the adjoining athletic fields) - I often find herons and sandpipers here and a pair or two of mallards, but hardly ever any geese. They've also made and mulched a narrow trail through the wet woods which makes walking there more pleasant.

I found the plant pictured above right growing all along the stream bank. The flowers look very familiar to me, but I'm not certain what it is and my wildflower guides have only further confused me. I'm nearly certain it's a Eupatorium - maybe Eupatorium coelestinum, most commonly known as Mistflower, but the flowers (which haven't opened completely yet) don't look right for this ID. Also, it seems to be growing as a vine, or maybe that is some other plant vining up through it. To further confuse the issue, this flower could be a *cultivated* one, rather than wild, because a plant nursery shares the property. I would really appreciate if any readers can help me guess what this pretty plant might be.

One group of plants that I almost always recognize is Viburnums; they are a favorite. These beautiful berries belong to a Cranberrybush Viburnum that grows along the woods edge beside the nursery. Whenever I walk by, I have a look to check on the progress of flower or fruit and remind myself that I really would like a few of these at home. I just need to find a place for them.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sunset birding with the girls

The girls I work with are good sports, for the most part. On a lark I invited them to a bird walk sponsored by Monmouth County Audubon out at Sandy Hook tonight. We'd been looking forward to it for a month or so. We arrived almost an hour late, but just in time for the *death march* out the Fisherman's Trail to the very tip of the Hook. It's not a terribly long walk, but the trail through the dunes is all soft sand, lined on both sides with poison ivy, beach plums (almost ripe!) and bayberry. The wind direction was good so that at least there weren't any bugs biting to make the hike any more miserable.

We didn't see a great number of birds, but enjoyed instead a beautiful sunset over the water. We did have nice looks at osprey, some southbound plovers, and many far away peeps. I was most impressed with the swarms of swallows going to roost as we made our way back through the dunes to the parking lot. This wasn't the greatest trip for getting beginners interested in birds; I knew that would be the case, but I think Sandy Hook on a summer evening is one of the prettiest places to be and any birds are just a bonus. We ended our excursion with dinner at the Chinese place around the corner from my house and I think there might have been a stop for ice cream after they dropped me home.

The photo at right above shows the Three Birding Stooges - Debbie, Linda, and Debbie's daughter (who must be one of the cutest kids ever! - she passed up going to the fireworks tonight to come along on our walk).

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

8/16/06 Mid-week bunny fix

Yesterday was Missy's 5th Gotcha Day - I woke her from a sound sleep early this evening to take a photo of her. She's not awake enough yet in this pic to be mad at me, but before long she was giving me the evil eye, or as I call it, her *Attila-the-Bun* face. She is a very tolerant rabbit, but isn't afraid to nip me when she thinks I need it.

Two days (and a trip to the vet) after bringing her home from a pet store I brought home Freckles to be her friend and living companion. For most of the first six months with them I questioned my sanity on a daily basis. I was miserable with these two messy, timid (yet very headstrong) rabbits who wanted nothing to do with me. Little by little I learned how to *manage* normal bunny mischief. I gained their trust and fell in love. Five years and six more rabbits later I couldn't imagine a day without them in my life and in my home.

In her five years here, Missy has lived with (and lost) three rabbit friends. She has health problems and needs heart meds twice a day and is forever on and off antibiotics for a respiratory infection that never really goes away. She sleeps and *loafs* a lot these days and breathes heavy at the least bit of excitement. But, she loves to play and does the most fabulous wobbly binkies of any rabbit here. And she loves her salads and her hay. I love you Missy Bun - Happy Gotcha Day!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


"Platero es pequeño, peludo, suave; tan blando por fuera, que se diría todo de algodón, que no lleva huesos. Sólo los espejos de azabache de sus ojos son duros cual dos escarabajos de cristal negro.

Lo dejo suelto, y se va al prado, y acaricia tibiamente con su hocico, rozándolas apenas, las florecillas rosas, celestes y gualdas... Lo llamo dulcemente: «Platero?», y viene a mí con un trotecillo alegre que parece que se ríe, en no sé qué cascabeleo ideal...

Come cuanto le doy. Le gustan las naranjas, mandarinas, las uvas moscateles, todas de ámbar, los higos morados, con su cristalina gotita de miel...

Es tierno y mimoso igual que un niño, que una niña...; pero fuerte y seco por dentro, como de piedra. Cuando paso sobre él, los domingos, por las últimas callejas del pueblo, los hombres del campo, vestidos de limpio y despaciosos, se quedan mirándolo:

--Tien' asero...
Tiene acero. Acero y plata de luna, al mismo tiempo." - Juan Ramón Jiménez

Most of this I typed from memory, some 15 years after having to recite it as part of a college course. One of my final classes as a Spanish major was a course in Spanish phonetics and phonology. Very difficult and scary course. I was one of only a handful of *Anglo* Spanish majors at my college; I always thought this to be a good thing because school was the only place for me to practice Spanish and I was able to practice with and learn from native speakers of the language, rather than other *gringos* like myself.

In addition to learning the phonetic alphabet (which is like a whole other language) a large part of the coursework was recitation of poetry and prose. We used many of the literary works that I had been forced to analize bit by bit in my literature courses. Only now I had to tear them apart bit by bit, re-writing each phonetically and reciting them over and over to get the pronunciation of every sound just right. Each of us had to stand in front of the class and recite. At any slight mispronunciation my professor made us start over at the beginning. Over and over we did this, day after day. Some of it was awful, tricky stuff (akin to Shakespeare), but others, like this piece, were great fun and almost a joy to recite. I dreaded taking my turn in front of the class each day and chuckled quietly to myself at the mistakes made by the native speakers. It might sound mean-spirited, but it gave me a lot of confidence to realize that their pronunciation wasn't perfect either! This course did wonders for my accent and I'd always wished that I'd been introduced to the techniques sooner. When I was teaching high-school Spanish, I sometimes made my students do recitation, which they *enjoyed* about as much as I did. I'm sure they hated me for it, but it was good for them... and maybe they learned to love the story of Platero the donkey the way that I once loved it.

"Platero is so little, so hairy, smooth, and so soft to the touch that you might say he is made of puffy cotton, all light and boneless. Only do the mirrors of his dark eyes seem to be hard, jet-black, like two beetles, like two scarabs made of brilliant glass.

I turn him loose and he goes off straight to the meadow, fondling, caressing the blossoms, his muzzle barely brushing the tender flowers, sky-blue as the air, golden as the sun, pink and red as the sunrise and sunset... Then softly I call to him, "Platero?" and he comes to me with a happy trot, running with such a merry jingle that it seems to me like a vague tinkling, a laughter he makes...

What I give him he eats. He loves the taste of amber-colored muscatel grapes, mandarin oranges, and the deep purple figs as they burst with their crystalline honey, a sweetness of warm, golden drops...

He is tender and finicky like a young boy, a small girl, a child... but inside he is strong, he is dry like rock, like the land he walks. When I ride him on Sundays through the outskirts of the small village, down the streets, the narrow lanes, field men, the strong men, all dressed in their Sunday clothes, stand and look; slowly they watch and speak of him:

"Steel, he's got steel..."

Yes, he's got steel. Steel and the silvery sheen of the moonlight, and all at the same time." - translation by Myra Cohn Livingston and Joseph F. Dominguez

Monday, August 14, 2006

Violets for remembering

I don't do well with house-
plants. I keep trying, though. I bring home a pretty little plant, like this African Violet, to replace the last one I killed and hope to learn from my mistakes.

I've always wanted to be able to grow African Violets. I was successful once with a plant given by my sister-in-law at Easter. I was very careful not to kill it and had it re-bloom for me. Then last summer I thought it might like a vacation on the patio and baked it with late afternoon sun. Silly me!

My mother grew African Violets. I remember the windowsill in our dining room lined with them in pretty pastel shades of purple and pink. I came across an old pic the other night of the first Thanksgiving after she passed away. My father, newly responsible for laying out the feast, stands at the head of the table with my mother's violets neglected and dying on the windowsill in the background.

I must have been thinking of that photo when I brought this happy little violet home from the market this weekend. With the right combination of light, moisture, and luck I'll line the windowsills here with violets to rival my memory.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Who do you garden for?

Yesterday I took a drive to Cape May County to visit two gardens: Leaming's Run Gardens in Swainton and the Model Backyard Habitat at the Cape May Bird Observatory Center for Research and Education in Goshen. I've visited both gardens in the past, but always early in the Spring before things are growing well. I went yesterday hoping to see each in its prime.

Leaming's Run bills itself as the largest annual garden in the East and a *mecca* for hummingbirds in August. I had high hopes, since my visits in previous years were so early in the season that the gardens didn't look like much, having been only recently planted.

The gardens were pretty enough, but my overall impression was that the plantings were repetitive and sterile. Granted I was less interested in the plants than I was in what was attracted to them, but I think they might include a larger variety of annuals in their 20+ individual gardens. I left having seen one hummingbird and a few swallowtail butterflies; disappointed that I had driven more than 2 hours to see many of the same flowers I have at home and fewer hummingbirds or butterflies.

I was glad to have a *back-up plan* for the day. Less than five miles away is CMBO's model backyard habitat - full of pretty flowers and teaming with life. Maybe not as colorful or as neat, but certainly more interesting to the likes of me! The gardens are maintained by volunteers and are inventoried regularly for birds, butterflies, and dragonflies. Plantings are done with wildlife value as the focus. There is a wildflower meadow, dragonfly pond, Purple Martin colony, and the native trees, shrubs, and flowers are planted to benefit hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators. All of the pics in yesterday's post were taken in these gardens.

The most popular plantings yesterday were a few very large patches of mountain mint which were teeming with beneficial wasps and butterflies. There must have been at least a dozen hummingbirds in residence, each staking a claim to a particular feeder or flowering plant. A gentleman was there counting butterflies and told me he had seen at least 32 different species in just a few hours. The garden even caters to the taste of certain butterflies for rotten fruit. The picture at left shows a Hackberry Emperor (front) and a Question Mark *nectaring* on smelly rotting fruit. I've never seen either of these butterflies before and found it interesting to see how well camouflaged they are in this pic with soupy apples and peaches as a backdrop.

The visit to these two gardens, each with a particular focus, really brought home to me the value of planting with wildlife in mind. The first, while planted to draw a particular species (I never saw so much cardinal flower and that horrible red salvia in one place!) was so much less pleasing because it held no variety. The second, which represented a variety of habitats in its plantings was much more attractive and interesting - to me and the *wildlife* it provided for.

Note: The pic of the habitat garden (above right) is from CMBO's website. Click on it for a link to one of many excellent articles on planning a wildlife garden.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Small things

"She sat down in a weed patch, her elbows on her knees,
and kept her eyes on the small mysterious world of the ground.
In the shade and sun of grass blade forests,
small living things had their metropolis." - Nancy Price

Thursday, August 10, 2006

NY Ironweed and other wild things

NY Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) is another native that I planted because of its attractiveness to pollinators. It grows quietly in the back of the moist border with joe-pye and swamp milkweed and then blooms in late July or early August. This aster family relative is said to get its common name from the rusty color of the seedheads. The misty look to this pic is not an artistic touch; my camera fogged up last week when I brought it from the air-conditioned house out into the 100 degree heat to take this pic. I didn't have the wherewithal to stay out long enough in that heat, so decided I liked the effect.

All of the flowers in my garden have bloomed, save the goldenrods. The joe-pye is tattered and the milkweeds are ripening seedpods.

I've been watching these milkweed bugs for a few weeks, waiting for them to get big enough to take a pic. When I first noticed them I thought they were aphids, but with each day they are coming to look more like their adult form. These bugs feed on the tissues and seeds of the milkweed plant, and it's thought that they congregate in numbers like this to increase the benefit of their warning coloration to possible predators.

I inadvertantly soaked this little baby a few times before I learned to check beneath the geraniums before watering them. He was convinced that he was so small and so brown that I wouldn't be able to see him under there. Mother Nature's camouflage at work!

Monarchs are the most numerous butterflies in the garden this year, I've only spotted a few swallowtails and not even very many skippers. I spend a little time each day searching for eggs or caterpillars, but still have found none.

Today's attempt at a decent hummingbird pic. I envy those of you who can manage it. I'm glad to finally be seeing them in the garden, and love to watch them chase one another around! They've been visiting the sugar-water feeders, but also the salvias and the little flowering maple trees.

For Char who's missing Clover

Clover of The Hay Diaries has gone to the Bridge. doesn't seem to be allowing comments on the post, but I'd appreciate if you'd stop by there and send comforting thoughts to a dear NJ friend.