Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

An Obsession

I know I just blogged about Hibiscus blooms last week but I think I am obsessed with them. I just have to share this one with you. In early spring I purchased this Blue River Hibiscus from the Georgia State Botanical Garden. It has been growing happily next to our small pond and we have been enjoying the foliage draping over the water.

The buds began to formed about a month ago and I have anxiously been waiting for them to open. I knew the day was close when the crinkly petals appeared.

This morning two big 10" bloom were there to welcome me.

Look at this stunning snowy white bloom with no eye. Just looking at it makes me feel 10 degrees cooler!

The Blue River Hibiscus was found growing along the Blue River in southern Oklahoma and is so named. It is a delightful addition to my garden.

They bloom for just one day but they are beautiful even as they hang their heads good-bye.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Teeny, Tiny Baby

How cute is this little guy?! 
I found this baby anole hanging out on the blueberry shrub while I was harvesting berries.

He is about 2 inches long and can't be but a few days old. These little guys have to fend for themselves from day one.

He was a little camera shy at first hiding out behind the leaves.

But slowly ventured out. You can see from the expression on his face in the photo above 
that he is still a little hesitant.

I hope he has a great summer in my garden!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Summer Favorite

The summer heat has settled in and what bloom symbolizes tropical weather better than the hibiscus? Perennial and annual hibiscus were plentiful at our visit last week to the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

I was enthralled with these blooms and didn't realize until we got home how many shots I actually had taken of these beauties.

These massive blooms are a summertime favorite of hummingbirds and bees. The long pistil and stamens provide easy access to the nectar.

Not only are hibiscus a great food source for pollinators, we use them medicinally and they have culinary uses as well. They can be used to help lower high blood pressure, reduce fevers and relieve coughs. It is often used as a diuretic and is high in Vitamin C and minerals.

Hibiscus tea is delicious hot or cold and has a smooth, delicious taste. Here is an easy recipe to make your own tea.

Hibiscus Tea
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil
Add 8 large hibiscus flowers and 1-2 cinnamon sticks
Cover and allow it to steep for 15-20 minutes (note do no leave the flowers in longer than 20 minutes; it will result in a bitter tasting tea. For stronger tea add more blooms)
Strain the tea into a pitcher and add juice of a lemon, honey or sugar to taste.
Serves 4. Enjoy!

The swamp hibiscus (I think they call this the Texas Star in Texas) is a cold hardy perennial (zone 6 and above) that is native to Eastern U.S.  It likes damp soil (a no brainer considering its name) and grows in sun to part sun. Mine seems to be happy in part sun. They do have some height to them. They can grow up to 10 feet tall so a location that is protected from the wind is beneficial.

Hope you are enjoying your weekend!
~ Karin

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lily Candy

On a recent visit to the Atlanta Botanical Garden we were given a real treat. Lilies all over the garden were eye candy for the soul.

Flowers are the music of the ground
From earth's lips spoken without sound
~ Edwin Curran

Viewed from the top the petals look like a bow, the finishing touch on a beautifully wrapped present.

There is a superstition that says if you smell a tiger lily you will get freckles. And I know the rest of that story!

Sometimes called the ditch lily because of its abundance along roadsides where water is plentiful. The wildflower variety of this plant propagates through tubers while its cousin the ornamental lily grows on tuberous roots.

Ornamental lilies come in many stunning colors and are prized for their arching petals.

Lilies are in the same family as asparagus, garlic, leeks and onions. Most parts of the lily are edible and often used in Asian cooking and holistic healing remedies.

Water lilies were also in abundance throughout the garden's ponds. It was reminiscent of a Monet painting, only one that you could touch.

Water lilies play an important role in the natural habitat providing shade and cooling the water allowing for more dissolved oxygen. It also provides hiding places for small aquatic creatures.

Nestled in amongst the water lily's leaves were these adorable frogs. Poking their heads out to say hello.

American Indians used the roots of these plants to make flour and then baked it into pancakes. The young leaves and flower buds were eaten as vegetables and seeds as fruit.

Each of these blooms is like a work of art.

Gardening is the slowest of the performing arts.
~Mac Griswald

Friday, June 15, 2012

GBBD: The Colors of Summer

It has been unusually rainy this month. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining...far from it! We had 3 days of straight rain the second week of JUNE. The plants think it is fantastic! They are looking healthy and green and growing faster than the weeds in my garden. Whats not to like!

Continuing from last month, daylilies are still filling the garden with bold color and big blooms.

Don't you think the stamen look like long eyelashes? Blink, Blink.


An anomaly in my garden is this pink hydrangea. Why is this so special? Well, my soil (a.k.a. red clay) is acidic. Since the pH of the soil determines the coloring of this type of hydrangea, blue is the typical color you see around Georgia.

Hydrangeas produce pink blooms in neutral to alkaline (6.5 - 7.0) soil and will produce blue blooms in acidic (5.0-5.5) soil. I have always been told that the only way to get pink blooms in Georgia is to plant hydrangeas in pots and add lots of lime. (If your soil is more alkaline add aluminum sulfate to get blue blooms.) Sometimes you may see a hydrangea that has blue, pink and purple blooms simultaneously because of the varying pH levels in the soil around the plant.

This hydrangea was planted in the Blue & White garden. Oops! The OPS soil that we added to this bed must have brought up the pH level significantly for this to happen.

Other summer faithfulls and pollinator favorites around the garden ~

Bumble bee on Buddleia

Oranges & Lemons Blanket Flower with Russian Sage

Coneflower 'White Swan'

Black & Blue Salvia    
Coreopsis moonbeam

It struck me as I was walking through the garden that I never photograph my pots or hanging baskets. So to change things up here is a look at a few.

Lantana 'New Gold', sweet potato vine, coleus, Calibrachoa 'Cabaret'

Wave petunia 'Lavendar', Zinnia 'profusion cherry'

Colocasi Esculenta 'Black Magic' with Euphorbia graminea 'Diamond Frost'

Coleus, sweet potato vine, white pentas and black petunia

I am joining Garden Blogger's Bloom day hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Swing on over and take a look at blooms around the globe.

Have a wonderful weekend!
~ Karin

Monday, June 11, 2012

Eye Spy

Look what we found hiding out in the rockery. Isn't she gorgeous!

Many people run to the hills when they even hear the mention of a spider probably influenced by this popular nursery rhyme from their childhood.

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey,
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away

In fact they are really fascinating and beneficial creatures to have in your garden. 

We identified this as a wolf spider but it is difficult to know since she didn't stick around for long and it was hard to get a good look at her face. This is one of the few spiders that don't make a web. They live on the ground and have very keen eyesight to hunt insects.

See the round ball at the back of the spider that almost looks like a rock? That is her egg sac. Once the female has mated she lays a clutch of eggs and wraps them in a round, silk ball. She then attaches it to the underside of her abdomen. This is a unique characteristic of the Wolf Spider. Can you imagine carrying around a ball bigger than your abdomen? Oh wait, been there done that! When the spiderlings hatch they will climb on her back and hitch a ride until they have grown enough to venture out on their own. 

Take a look at the photo below.

Do you see someone blending into the tree trunk? This is a spider cleverly camouflaged. My son's keen eye spotted this guy hanging out here. I used flash on the photo below to take a better look.

This looks like a Fishing Spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus) named because some species are often found near water catching insects. However, they are more common in woodland areas. Maybe it would be more fitting to call it a tree spider as my husband likes to refer to them. They look similar to a Wolf Spider in size, shape and coloring. These spiders often hide amongst rocks during the day and hang out in trees at night waiting for prey.

Spiders are often victims of pesticides that people spray in their gardens which kills the spider's food source but also the spiders themselves.