Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Chihuly Kind of Day

It is just when mother nature gives us a tease of warm temperatures in the middle of winter that I really get spring fever. I am just itching to see those spring blooms and vivid colors in my garden again. To feed my soul I took a look back at my photographs from last summer's visit to the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

Coincidentally they were celebrating their 15th Anniversary with a Dale Chihuly exhibit. I am a big fan of his work and I was first introduced to his series of exhibitions with botanical settings at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens in 2004. I really love his organically shaped glass sculptures and how they work so well in the botanical environment.

These two pieces were on display in the Tropical Conservatory. They standout enough to make an artistic statement and yet they fit in with the tropical elements as if they are meant to be there.

A walk outside to the waterfall in the Sculpture Park revealed the Niijima Floats. They are very large glass balls which may be a little deceiving in this photograph since the waterfall is pretty large. They were stunning.

But then a walk over to The Goves and Hekman Pond took my breath away.

I could sit at the pond for the entire afternoon. It was so incredibly serene. There was just enough of a breeze so that the floats (Walla Wallas) danced in the rippling water and the willow branches swayed through the water making a lovely rustling sound.

The boat (Yellow Boat) was filled with various glass forms in wonderful greens and yellows with the occasional punch of purple.

The Blue Moon at Hekman Pond

 Around the corner from the pond were long cylindrical pieces (Reeds & Spears) littered on the hillside reaching for the sky.  The intense red against the hill of lush green grass was very dramatic.

Another bold statement is this tower (Citron Green and Red Tower) in front of the Conservatory.

In stark contrast these trumpets provide much softer feel and complimented the perennials well.

I think I have had my color fix and am now energized to continue my color choices for my landscape this year. But, spring still can't get here soon enough!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Celebrating a special January bloom

Note to my Southern Meadows readers:
It has been almost two weeks since my last post. And it has been a frustrating two weeks to say the least. I had serious computer issues with a virus that invaded my computer.  Many attempts to restore my computer failed. The virus just didn't want to leave. Why do people do such ugly things???? Well, after much contemplating and researching we decided it was time I needed a new computer. After all I was working on an 8 year old machine (ancient in the world of technology). So now, I am armed with a new 'super fast' laptop (because what wouldn't seem fast compared to a prehistoric PC), a 22" monitor and external hard drive with 2TB to store all my photographs. I am still in the process of exploring my new computer and getting all my pictures organized again. But first things blogging. Oh how I have missed the garden blogging world. Fellow garden bloggers have been busy gardening, planning for spring, taking amazing photographs, and participating in very fun garden carnivals and photography contests. I have so much reading and commenting to catch up on. 

Here at Southern Meadows all the snow has melted and the landscape is back to its dull, winter neutrals and there just isn't much going on in the garden at the moment. So today I am celebrating a different type of bloom in my life. A bloom more beautiful than any I could grow outside in my garden.

my baby with his ice cream cake
My youngest son turns 7 today. He has an adventurous soul that is full of passion and curiosity. He brings so  much vibrant color and happiness into our lives and I am so blessed to be his mother.

So happy birthday to my sweet boy! May you continue to grow and blossom every year!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Under a White Blanket

Overnight, an arctic blast covered much of Georgia with snow. With a warm cup of coffee in hand, I took a peak out of the kitchen window toward the woodland garden. This is what I saw ...

We got about 7" and, it is still coming down, along with freezing rain.

Our puppies are 18 weeks old now and had so much fun frolicking in the snow. They played "catch me if you can" and merrily dug away.

While the kids and dogs were playing I took a walk around the garden. I found that so much was covered under a blanket of white snow that there wasn't much to photograph other than the landscape.

Fence around our fruit orchard ...

In the woodland garden...

My garden boxes, devoid of any vegetables at this time of year, only contain perennial herbs but they were completely covered by snow.

My Euphorbia was one of the few plants poking out of the layers snow. I think this one looks like a puffer fish.

Some of the Autumn Ferns, which are amazingly hardy, were still looking green.

My Agave was drowning in snow and will certainly have a lot of cold damage.

My Japanese Maple 'Sango Kaku' was showing its amazing coral bark. Regrettably, it was difficult to get the true color in a photograph with the low light available today.

My little girl Sasha decided to jump out at me from behind some trees.

The lot next door is still empty and undisturbed by development. This is great for the wildlife and I am sure allows me to have a more diverse representation of birds and mammals in my garden. I took a stroll next door and this is what I found. The Sumac still had its autumn fruit which was so stunning against the crisp white snow.

A young pine showed some magnificent greens and yellows.

And this weed's seeds just looked so picturesque covered in snow.

I don't know what tomorrow will bring but today was really special since snow here in Georgia is a rarity. I'm silently wishing for another day of school and business closings so I will have my husband and kids home for yet another day!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Images of Things to Come

As all gardeners do at this time of year, I am perusing through seed and plant catalogues dreaming of things to come. In addition to catalogues, magazines and other blogs, I also take inspiration from places I've visited.  I am looking through my library of photographs and am starting my list of trees and shrubs that I would like to incorporate into my garden this year.

Leonard Messel Magnolia 'Magnolia x lobeneri'
The Leonard Messel Magnolia is one of the most desired magnolias. It is slow growing to a height of about 15 - 20 feet and is extremely hardy. I have read that it has been grown successfully from Northern Minnesota, without winter protection, all the way down to Zone 9b. Combine this trait with the gorgeous star-like pink Spring blossoms, and excellent disease resistance, and you have yourself a near perfect landscape specimen.

Leonard Messel Magnolia (taken at State Botanical Gardens)

Another beautiful variety is the Yulan magnolia ('Magnolia denudata'). It is Magnolia that many people think of when they picture a magnolia tree. It has exquisite pure white, bell shaped flowers which can be smelled across the Southeast. They are attractive to bees, butterflies and birds. It is a hardy tree which grows about 50 feet high. It has an extensive root system so be mindful of where you plant it! But what is a Southern garden without at least one Magnolia tree!

Yulan Magnolia (at State Botanical Gardens)

Winter hazel ('Corylopsis veitchiana') flowers in late March to early April and the flowers are really amazing. Weeping racemes up to 3" in length adorn small buttery-yellow flowers that have a light fragrance. It blooms prolifically and is covered in golden chains of flowers.

Winterhazel (at State Botanical Garden)

This is not to be confused with Witch-hazel (Hamamelis) also called Winterbloom because it blossoms bright yellow in the darkening days of fall and winter. It is a medium to large size shrub which can sometimes be treelike with its angular and zigzagging branches. The horticultural name means "together with fruit". A rarity among trees its fruit, flowers, and next year's leaf buds all appear on the branch simultaneously.

Witch-hazel (taken at Atlanta Botanical Gardens)

I see a pattern emerging here. All these trees have blooms that appear on leafless stems. I think this is a reflection of my desire to have more winter/spring interest in my garden.

Here is a shrub that I admire each time we are in the mountains that I would love to see in my woodland garden....the Mountain Laurel ('Kalmia'). It is related to the rhododendron and similarly they need moist air  and rich, acidic soil. This is not a problem in Georgia!

Mountain Laurel 'Kalmia'

The Flowering Quince is another of the first shrubs to bloom each year.  It is incredibly easy to grow and virtually indestructible. It likes sun and well drained soil and it will provide great color for the winter garden.

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles)

I think this is a pretty good start to my list for 2011. At least I have the trees and shrubs picked out. Now, on to the accent plants, grasses and ground cover choices. Stay tuned....

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Inspired tree recycling...

Have you recycled your Christmas tree yet? Chances are you have. Maybe you took it to your local tree recycling depot where they chip the trees and use it as mulch. If you have a pond perhaps you sunk it into your pond as a refuge and feeding area for fish. Or, like me, you placed it in your garden to enhance your wildlife habitat. But, do you ever wonder what happens to all those trees that don't get sold at tree lots, nurseries or the big box stores? This week my kids and I went to Zoo Atlanta where we found out about one Atlanta purveyor who had the forethought to donate his remaining trees to the Zoo. What genius! The animals LOVE them!

The Black Rhino eagerly munched away at the tree which had been thrown in its yard. It even picked up the entire tree with its horns and proudly carried it around.

The African Elephant chomped happily away at the tree limbs too.

And who knew that Red Kangaroos would devour them?

Of course one would expect the goats and sheep in the petting zoo to like just about anything and so it was no surprise that they were crazy over these trees. They just gorged on them en masse!

I talked with one of the zoo keepers who explained that trees from people's homes couldn't be used since they stand in water for weeks and they are usually dried out by the time they get taken down. Animals really prefer fresh trees.

So, my plan is to get the word out. Many if not most states have a ban on trees in landfills and have recycling options for Christmas trees...such as soil erosion barriers, fish feeders or mulch for paths and hiking trails. So why not consider encouraging your local Christmas tree lot entrepreneur, tree farmer or even the big box stores to donate their unsold trees to the local zoo. It helps out the zoo with feed costs, puts the trees to good use and they become good stewards of the community. It is a win-win for all.