Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Garden Review & New Year Wishes

A Year in Review

(click "YouTube" button to view in full screen)

Thank you all for your awesome support you have shown through your comments, advice and friendship.

Warm wishes and may your garden bring you many wonderful surprises and treasures in 2012!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

W4W: Weathered

Weather Report: “Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there’s really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather” ~John Ruskin

How we all love to talk about the weather, especially gardeners. And this winter one could say the weather has been particularly unusual. So it is apropos that the Word for Wednesday hosted by Donna at Garden Walk Garden Talk is Weathered. Be sure to link over to read Donna's in depth post on our changing climate as well as to see other interpretations of weathered gardens.

I searched my photo archives for any images I had taken that demonstrate how my garden had been altered in color, texture, composition or form from exposure to weather. It was more challenging than I anticipated. What I did find were some more artistic expressions of "weathered" in nature.

The hosta leaves that were hit by a hard frost earlier this month begin their decay but still provide interesting shapes.

Some old, weathered bird houses in a friends garden have seen better days but provide pops of color.

This picture was taken this summer in Pascagoula, Mississippi near my in-laws farm. The cypress trees found in the swamps along the coast provide protection against erosion and flooding in this area. These forested swamps are like a "speed bump" for the storm surge caused by hurricanes.

These roots near Falls Park in Greenville, South Carolina have been exposed from years of erosion and weathering. People have also left their mark with carved graffiti on the bare roots. You can check out an interactive image of this Medusa tree here.

I love the creative elements that are naturally produced in gnarled limbs, fallen trees and stumps giving them a worn appearance.

A wasp hive, long abandoned, sits amongst the fallen leaves to decay and return to nature provides some interesting texture to the winterscape.

While the snow and cold altered the structure of the fungi on this fallen tree making them sag and droop giving them a tatty look.

Freezing temperatures created a shear of ice on parts of this flooded area in a Michigan park we visited over our Christmas travels to my family. Living in the south I don't often see both ice and water like this. It is beautiful.

When we visit in summer we spend a lot of time along the Lake Michigan coast which is made up of sand dunes. These dunes are constantly eroding due to winds blowing shoreward at up to 25 mph.

Lichens, fungi, mosses, grasses, wildflowers, shrubs and trees are all part of the dunes ecosystem. These plants have evolved to adapt to the harsh environment. The dune grass helps hold the sand in place and protect from the wind erosion.

This time last year north Georgia was covered in a blanket of snow. December this year has been much milder with temperatures a good 10 degrees or higher than average. These extremes really create unpredictable conditions for plants. I have plants blooming already that under normal conditions don't bloom until February.

Japanese Flowering Apricot 


How does your weathered garden look?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas
Foehliche Weihnachten
Prettige Kerstdagen
Joyeux Noel

from my garden to yours!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

GBBD: December Sparkles

It is hard to believe that it already mid-December and the last Garden Blogger's Bloom Day post for 2011. December has been a rather mild month with only two hard frosts. That was enough to put down most of the blooming plants for the winter but taking a walk through my garden this morning revealed some interesting finds.

The creeping phlox seem to be a little baffled by our mild weather. Normally spring blooming, the phlox have started to bloom early. A heavy dew had them sparkling in the morning light. Almost as if they were decorated for the holidays.

Hellebore are also blooming earlier than normal. They usually show their faces in late January to early February. But we have been enjoying temps in the low 70's this week! So they decided to have an early show. According to the Farmer's Almanac we were at 39.2 last year. What a difference a year makes!

The Coral Bark Maple is particularly intense this month with its very deep coral color.

The Oriental Paper Bush (Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Winter Gold') is new to my garden this year. I am looking forward to seeing the blooms open around mid-January to early April. In the meantime I am enjoying their spectacular large silvery buds. They hang like ornaments on a tree.

The euphorbia and creeping begonia are looking very festive with their red and green tones.

The tropical milkweed is putting out presents. The pods are opening to reveal many brown seeds. The fluffy floss is spectacular when the light reflects on the filaments and the morning dew drops hang onto the ends of the hairs. These gifts of nature will blow where they may.

And lastly, I really love the browns of the dried hydrangea 'silver dollar' blooms. They are just splendid in every season.

You can enjoy other December gardens from all over the globe by linking over to May Dreams Gardens.

Happy Holidays y'all!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Calamondin Ready for the Holidays

Citrus fruit is a staple in our household. We use them in cooking, decorating, gift giving, beverages, as aromatherapy, and simply eating. A new addition to our palate is Calamondin, a citrus plant originating in China and introduced to the United States as an “acid orange” in the 1900's. Hybrids between citrus subspecies have been cultivated for so long it is sometimes hard to know the species exact origins but it is believed by horticulturists that the Calamondin is a hybrid of lime and either mandarin or kumquat.

We purchased our tree two years ago. We keep it in a pot so that it can easily be moved to the right location. The plant is hardy up to 20 degrees F so it does need to be brought inside over winter and placed in a well lit area. Ours started fruiting just before our first hard frost hit and we brought it indoors and keep it in our potting room in front of a large window.

In the United States Calamondin is grown mostly as an ornamental as it makes a great patio plant but the juice can also be used as you would lemon or beverages, to flavor fish and meats, teas, cakes, preserves, pies and sauces. It is deliciously tart!

During warm months we place it outside in direct sunlight or half shade. It grows best in temperatures between 70 to 90 degrees F.

The tree can produce blooms year-round in the right environment and it can be blooming and have fruit at the same time. The blooms are incredibly fragrant. The fruit is green to start and as it matures it turns orange. The fruit is most abundant from November to June. The bees and butterflies love the nectar and fragrance of the blooms too! 

The fruit also has some medicinal qualities. You can rub the juice on insect bites and it will stop the itching and irritation. The juice can be extracted and saved in ice cube trays covered with a plastic bag for later use. But for this year it looks like we will have ripe fruit for our holiday cheer!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thanksgiving 30 Day Challenge: Day 30!

Thirty Days of Giving Thanks has come to an end. This has been a wonderful experience for me. The days passed a little more slowly as I savored the special moments each day. As I focused on my November garden I became more aware of the often overlooked and perhaps under appreciated things in my garden. It also gave me time to reflect on all the wonderful people in my life and all the joy they bring.

Today, I want to give a special shout out to my wonderful gardening partner, my husband. I am so fortunate that he shares my love for gardening and the outdoors. Without him our gardens wouldn't be what they are. 

He has cleared all the underbrush from our wooded lot so that we actually have a place to garden; he digs the holes for all the plants in our rock hard clay, and lays all the hardscaping. He is much better at envisioning the garden design than I am. He was the brains behind the woodland garden beds and paths, installed the wall between the orchard and the vegetable garden, built the raised beds for the kitchen garden and planted all the trees.  Not to mention all the regular maintenance like mowing, laying mulch, trimming and pruning. The list goes on and on…I am so blessed that he shares my passion and together we create our special retreat.

A huge thank you to everyone who has visited my blog and provided their support, thoughts and comments and shared in my journey.  I am grateful for all the inspiration, advice, creativity and passion for the natural world and gardening that you provide. xo!

And, a special thanks to Cat at The Whimsical Gardener for hosting this inspirational challenge! It has been fun!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving 30 Day Challenge: Day 29

As November is the month for giving thanks  this year at our house we created a Thankful Tree. The idea is to write notes of thankfulness and hang them as reminders of our grateful hearts.

Since I have been posting daily this month of things that I am thankful for I thought I would share some of the notes my children added to our tree:

Family, Friends, Home, Our Garden, Nature, Books, Camera, Health, Clemson, Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons, Holidays, Frogs, Snakes, Our Dogs, Prehistoric Animals, Walking in the Woods, Maps, Drawing, Architecture, Movies, Legos, Arts & Crafts Wednesdays, Founding Fathers, Junior Master Gardeners, Board Games, K'nex, Birds, Climbing Trees, Soccer, Challenge Class, Armed Forces, Our teachers, Family time, Swimming, Traveling, and Game Night.

This activity was a great way for my children to think about all the special people and things in their lives and appreciate all they have. Since they enjoyed this so much, for the month of December we will be creating a Christmas chain. Each time a member of the family completes a good deed, such as sharing a toy or helping bring in the groceries, he/she writes it down on a red or green strip of paper and adds it to the chain around the tree. As Christmas nears the chain will get longer and longer and they can see how their kind contributions have made the chain grow longer.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving 30 Day Challenge: Day 28

all this time
The sun never says
To the Earth
"You owe me"
What happens
with a love like that
It lights

Thankful for glorious sunrises. Such a great way to start the day.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving 30 Day Challenge: Day 27

There is no season such delight can bring,
As summer, autumn, winter and the spring
~ William Browne

The weather as been all over the place recently from 80 degree sunshine to hard freezes at night. But I am thankful for the changes. Since I have lived in places where spring or summer lasts one or two weeks or summer is endless I am always grateful to enjoy four full seasons of Mother Nature's glory.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving 30 Day Challenge: Day 26

The Indian Hawthorne shrubs around our home are full of pomes (fruit). They are a good source of food for birds, especially during the winter months. 

We have five shrubs so it looks as if there will be plenty to go around.
I am grateful that they produced an abundance of tasty blue pomes (note: should not be consumed by humans) since most birds only eat about 25% of their daily food from feeders during the winter .

*  *  *  T I P * * *
I don't normally shop at big box stores but yesterday I was at Lowe's and discovered that they have rolled out a nationwide recycling program  (read more here) for plastic pots, trays, tags and hanging baskets regardless of condition or place of purchase. This is a great initiative  especially since many curbside recycling programs don't accept these items. Please help spread the word so that we can keep these out of our landfills. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving 30 Day Challenge: Day 25

A hard frost late last week put an end to all the beautiful fall foliage. So yesterday my husband and I spent a good 6 hours gathering leaves (yes, we have that many) for the compost. I caught a glimpse of this Japanese Maple leaf as the morning light shone through it. It was a stunning glow and was extra special as it was the last one hanging on.

Today I am thankful for the little joys found in my day.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving 30 Day Challenge: Day 24

The leaves in autumn do not change color from the blighting touch of frost, but from the process of natural decay.-They fall when the fruit is ripened, and their work is done.-And their splendid coloring is but their graceful and beautiful surrender to life when they have finished their summer offering of service to God and man.
~ Tryon Edwards

I am thankful for all the leaves that lay on the ground that will become leaf compost and make my garden grow better next year. In nature everything has its purpose.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 30 Day Challenge: Day 23

Thanks giving
1. a. An  act of giving thanks b. an expression of this; esp., a formal, often public expression  of thanks to God in the form of a prayer, etc. 2. an annual U.S. holiday observed on the fourth Thursday of November as a day of giving thanks and feasting; it commemorates the Pilgrims' celebration of the good harvest of 1621

Today I give thanks for the food before us
The family and friends beside us
And the love between us

To all my American friends, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving 30 Day Challenge: Day 22

A hard freeze late last week put an end to most of my fall blooming plants. So my thoughts turned to planning for next year's garden. A source that was recommended by Organic Gardening was the Seed Savers Exchange. They specialize in heirloom seeds and happen to have a 50% off sale on their 2011 seeds. Before ordering from them I checked out their review at The Garden Watchdog, a directory of garden mail order companies where gardeners can review their purchases and experiences with these companies. (This is a great resource if you haven't used it before.)

Here are my purchases~

Star of the Veld (Ursinia anethoides): this is an annual with long lasting golden flowers with silvery foliage. Drought tolerant. Prefers poor soil.

Evening Sun Sunflower (Helianthus annuus): Flowers in shades of orange red and burgundy. Very dark center and multiple heads and extended bloom time. 6-8' tall.

Orange Sun (Helianthus annuus): Bright orange double flowers with 6" heads, reminiscent of large chrysanthemums. 6-8' tall.

Diablo Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus): Meaning devil in Spanish. Beautiful when planted in random pattern. 2-3' tall.

Red Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata): Bright pink and red vanilla scented flowers in June and July. Grows 5' tall in moist soil with good drainage. Perennial (hardy to zone 4).

German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita): pleasant fragrance. Graceful plant are 12-20" tall with endless masses of 1" daisy-like flowers that can be used to make tea. Annual

These were my kids' picks:

Moon & Stars (Citrullus lanatus): known as sun, moon & stars because the fruit is covered with pea-sized bright yellow "stars" and usually one larger "moon". Foliage is also spotted. Fruit have sweet pink flesh and brown seeds.

Dinosaur (Lagenaria siceraria): (aka swan gourd) perfect for gourd craft swans. Total length 18-24" with a 8" bowl. Best when grown on a trellis.

I am looking forward to germinating these seeds in late winter. I will certainly post about them next year.

 *  *  *

I am thankful for having such a great selection of seeds available at my finger tips. I few clicks and the shopping is done. I am also thankful for resources like the Garden Watchdog that make it easier to find reputable places of business on-line.