Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Getting Ready for a Winter's Nap

Monday, October 29, 2007
Now, that's a welcome sight for every gardener I know! Dirt. Pay dirt, you ask? No... I paid for it. :-)

I couldn't get a picture of it all, because I was standing on the back bumper of the pickup. Of course I didn't take a photo until I'd already removed two wheelbarrow loads... but, you get the general idea. (The pickup bed was probably 1/2 full.)

I had exactly 3 hours to remove the dirt and spread it around. Not only did I do it, I even prepared three beds (removed the fallen leaves, shredded them with others from the lawn, and replaced a thin layer on the bed) before adding the dirt. (Whew!) I was running out of time, so I sprinkled the dirt on the fallen leaves in the other beds. I'll rake those beds later.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I raked and shredded more leaves today. I have a "carry bag" full of them, just waiting to be distributed. I didn't get photos taken. Just too many other things going on these days. Am a bit anxious about being able to get to everything I want done this Fall.
The above photo shows a hosta (I didn't identify it) dressed for Fall. Next to it you might notice one interesting leaf. Peer into the photo, as there are two others coming on the far left, and one near the top left. They are Arum Italicum. A very nice gardening blogger recently posted photos of his (!) just as I was about to ask "What is this?" (I'd been too lazy to look at catalogs or past orders.) I thought they might be fun to grow, and I seemed to remember that they get orange berries in the Fall. (I was right!) Click on the plant name for details.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Ta-dah! Look at that gorgeous mulch!
(Yikes! Notice that full truck bed!)
Oh, well... it's another beautiful day.
I took the liberty of spending most of the morning walking trails around town with a good walking buddy! We spent a generous three hours walking and talking! :-)

So... during the course of the afternoon, I was able first (!) plant a new shrub/mid-sized tree that I am so excited about having purchased. It's a Pagoda Dogwood, and you can find information by clicking on its name. My friend with whom I walk weekly has one and its fall leaves are beautiful!

This photo makes it look pretty impressive... at this moment, it's only about 3 feet tall.

With only one mid-afternoon break, I was able to mulch the bed you're getting a glimpse of, as well as two other beds in the backyard. I also mulched three front yard beds and all the raised beds. Plans for tomorrow (weather permitting) include raking the two largest backyard beds, shredding leaves and distributing a shallow layer (maybe) and placing mulch on these beds.
Whew! Wouldn't that be a great day's work?

I'll post my progress tomorrow night... meanwhile, not only is it shady out there, it's Dark and about bedtime!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

More Anglewings!

You must get excited about today's discovery!
Early this afternoon, as I was headed 'round the corner of the house for the compost pile with a load of nice, healthy (soon to expire) coleus and my compost container from the kitchen counter, I was surprised by a sudden flurry of wings. I quickly recognized anglewing butterflies... and assumed it was another batch of Question Marks.

Wrong! This time I had encountered a myriad of Commas. They're noticeably smaller than Question Marks. Check out the October 2, 2007 post entitled "Ah Anglewings" .

You will probably first notice the angled tan/brown wings
of the Comma in the center of the photo below.
But, look closely!
The one just to the right of the tan butterfly is Very Well camouflaged.
It's nearly the color of the tree bark.

(You might want to click on the photo to get a closer view.)
Looking again at the butterflies above, do you see the metallic "comma" on the underwing?

How about this colorful shot?

And, here's a perspective as to the size of the butterfly.

They were hanging around this oak tree due to sap that was leaking.
(I'm going to check with the biologist at the Extension Office about that!)

Red Admirals like sweet stuff, too!
(and green bottle flies and Asian ladybird beetles)

Just one more item showing its fall colors.
Now... That's Shady!
(And I don't mean to imply that just because it's in the shade!)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Watching Fall Arrive...

In My Backyard.
October 13, 2007.
October 20, 2007.

October 25, 2007.Nearly the same trees... just different angles.

And this is what I saw this morning when I looked UP!

The backyard will be soon less shady...
and more "leafy-on-the-groundy."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Just a Little Peek at Fall Front-Yard Maintenance

This is a fun tool!

When I just feel like walking around,
I push this little brush roller,

the leaves fly into the "hopper,"
and I dump them onto the tarp.

I do actually enjoy raking, though.

(This tarp is probably a good 20 feet long.)
I'll measure tomorrow.

Can you tell where I've picked up leaves?
(The tree in the photo above is a shagbark hickory.)
Doesn't the yard look nice in the photo below?
(It will last about one or two days! ha.)
These are photos of my other favorite fun "tool."It works with two folded plastic trimmer "strings."
(Earplugs are a necessity!)

Our yard doesn't have enough grass to mow to warrant one of those fancy riding mowers with the bags on the back... like most of my neighbors have. But, that's okay. I can still shred my leaves! I get to determine the size of the shredded material, and the bulk is greatly reduced... to that of about 1/4 - 1/3 of the original.

You can set the shredder on a tarp, or attach a leaf bag to the bottom.

If I haul leaves to the ravine, I can get Many more on the tarp if they're shredded. Our trees are primarily Oak, so if I want to use leaves as mulch, I shred them so they'll degrade much faster.

And, some of them go into my good old compost pile! :-) Nothing "shady" about that!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

What I found

While taking a tour around the backyard...

Tricyrtis Hirta "Variegata"These plants didn't get very tall. They're in a shady, prone-to-be-dry spot.
But this one bloomed!
Photo taken October 10, 2007.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Looking Back for a Moment...

Looking back at this past August...
Honeybees in Sedum
(actually, I planted two varieties together... this sign says Liriope Spicatica,
but I'm not sure this is correct. One variety has pink flowers; the other has purple.)
Finally... painting the shed!
But check out the "neighborhood!" (poison ivy) :-)
A view of the raised beds.
Sorry about the compost pile on the right and the
chicken wire fence on the left...
The first will eventually be somewhat concealed,
and the second will at some point be replaced (I hope!).

And a close-up of the Purple Coneflower.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

In Memory...

of my sister Barbie.

My sister was killed one year ago today by a hit-and-run driver. She'd gotten up early (as usual) to walk her little dog. They were walking the crosswalk about 2 1/2 blocks from home (at 5:45 a.m.) when it happened.

It's still hard to believe that I can't just call her on the telephone. She has a wonderful family and I try to keep in touch.

There are no answers to "why" questions.

But I do know that we can continue to reflect on the favorite memories... of sister trips, family raising, growing up, etc. And we can miss her.

But in my heart of hearts, I know that our lives last but an instant compared to the infinity of time. And I know that there will be a grand reunion some day in the not-too-distant future.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fall Busy-ness!

So far I've planted 60 daffodil bulbs, with another 60 to go! I've been anxious to try Fritillaria meleagris ("snake's head fritillaria") and I found some bulbs at a great nursery west of Cedar Rapids yesterday (Saturday).
I received the following information about fritillaria meleagris on-line:

This is a Mediterranean species and you’ll find it will grow in a dampish area.

The flower stem holding purple or white flowers will reach to 8 to 10 inches.

Plant the base of the bulb to 3 to 5 inches deep and put these smallish bulbs 2 to 3 inches apart for the best show. Bob, of Bob's Garden, tells me to angle the bulbs at a 45 degree angle when I plant them, so they won't hold moisture and rot. Great clue!! (Thanks!)

They will take full sun and light shade so they perform very well in rock gardens as well as on the edges underneath shrubs and trees. Here's some captivating information: They are interesting bulbs to grow but don’t grow them for their fragrance. Mostly they smell like rotting meat with a touch of old-egg thrown in for good measure. Doesn't that sound enticing? ;-)

They do tend to like somewhat acidic gardens so peat moss can be added before planting. After planting, a little can be gently cultivated between bulbs but do not disturb the bulb if possible. Like most fritillaria, they do resent being moved once established.

Good tips, don't you think? They should be fun to see next Spring!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It's That Time of Year...

in our Neighborhood Garden.We moved into this neighborhood (yep, that's my house in the background) 5 years ago as of mid-October! Anyway, one of the neighbors suggested a garden on this corner. After the granite marker was installed, we each donated flowers, etc. from our yards and gardens. I donated a couple of different types of lilac bushes, sedum, liatris, rudbekia, cranesbill geranium, etc. Others donated hibiscus, coneflower, Rose of Sharon, statice, siberian iris, daylilies, etc., etc., etc. It has been a fun project.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Frances To The Rescue!

"Avast You Dastardly Fellow!" (Is that Pirate talk?) What about, "Check Out My Sword, Hither! How Dare Thee Perform Such Brutal and Heartless Deeds? It is I, Frances! Avenger of Dastardly Deeds to the Rescue!" (Is that better??)

I couldn't help it Frances. You conjured an image - and I just had to respond! Good Going! I'd call on you for help Any Time! :-)

Had to include a close-up. Not only was the brute wreaking havoc, but he was Enjoying It!
Double Kudos, Frances! :-)

Thanks for the entertaining tale. I can well imagine the adrenaline it took and appreciate the time necessary to be able to create your post. :-)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

And now... a frog

Just a little fellow... awfully cute!
(You sure get detail when you click on this photo!)
And he didn't seem to mind that I was getting too close.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Studies in Color and Contrast!

'Lightning Strike' Toad Lily (tricyrtis)

found in shady backyard gardens

Japanese Bloodroot
(foreground, sunnier spots)
sets the stage for the color/contrast!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

My Own Black Swallowtail Caterpillars!

Last Spring I planted parsley in my "sunny" flower garden in hopes that I'd be able to entice Black Swallowtails to visit. I've noticed others lately who have spotted the caterpillars. Frankly, I don't mind telling you... I was a bit envious. However, this morning (as I began the process of gathering and disposing of fallen leaves before they get too deep) I checked my plants.

Something suspicious here?
Do, do you see what I see?
Ohmygoodness! On my very own parsley plants...
a Black Swallowtail Caterpillar.
(click the name for information)
Actually, I found three large caterpillars,
and there were several that looked as though they hadn't hatched long ago.
According to the article, newly hatched larvae have a white band...
it's discernible below, I think.
(Compare this little fellow to the parsley leaf.)
I understand they overwinter within their chrysalis.
I assume I'll have to somehow protect this plant.


Ahh, Anglewings!

There are both Question Marks and Commas. However, the new butterfly book I recently purchased has them all indexed under the name "Commas." The wings on the butterfly below are spread apart a bit, their translucence allowing the interior color and markings to show. Wow! (It's hard not to be exuberant!)(Click on any of these photos to enlarge them for detail.)
There were four of them in the yard when I drove home Sept. 29. On Sept. 30, I noticed them again, hanging around the dry hummingbird feeders. Presumably looking for food. So, I ran to get the camera!

They looked newly hatched... absolutely perfect. Again, my book tells me that there are two broods that fly between Spring and Fall, and that the second-brood adults hibernate, fly again in the spring, and mate. (I wonder where they all hibernate during the winter???)

The photo below shows one in the closed position. There's a silvery backwards "c" with a dot underneath... hence "Question Mark." The comma has only the silvery "c." (Depending upon the way the butterfly is facing, the "c" will either be forward or backwards!) It generally rests with the wings upright. They open and close with "breathing movements."
I timed this photo pretty well... note the beautiful lavenderish outline on the interior wings.
If you'll look closely, you'll note that these are two different butterflies. (They're sitting on two different feeders.)

Another one of those breathtakingly beautiful moments...
and we can be reminded of the grandness in what we most often take for granted.

Monday, October 1, 2007

I'm Home... and look what I found!

The hibiscus had triple-stamen... all the better to share the nectar, I guess!

The volunteer impatien (who knows how it got into the pot) was blooming. If you look closely, as I draw it aside, you can see that I was really trying to start a few Christmas cactus sections that had been, much earlier this summer, knocked off the parent plant by a... squirrel?

Here are my two Christmas cactuses. Actually, one blooms at Christmas, while the other blooms around Thanksgiving. The close-up shows that the plants weren't hurt with the early pruning.

In fact, this branch has FIVE starts on it!

This Chocolate Drop coleus loved its setting; it took over! The Pineapple coleus is very, very pretty, but I especially liked the Rose Splash geranium. It became crowded by the coleus, so the plant didn't remain as sturdy as I'd have liked. But the blossom was a "bright spot!" You might see some very light leaves at the bottom and right side of the pot (what pot?). This was 'Lemon Licorice' Helichrysum petiolare. I'm quoting from the tag. At any rate, it may have done better with less crowding, but it gave a nice contrast.

The wandering jew nearly hides the frog pot below. An earlier photo showed just a few starts.

The temperatures dipped some last night. It didn't freeze, but the moss rose looked pretty peaked this morning. Perhaps it's time to take the pots indoors to the screened porch.

And it's time to begin raking leaves. The good thing is that, due to the fact that 1/2 of the trees lose their leaves in the fall, the winter is "less shady." ;-)