Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wow! WS Buddleja blooms!

I had no idea that so many WS perennials would bloom the first year. Last year I DID start some perennial seeds under lights in the basement (hollyhocks and lupine) and I was surprised with the lupine actually bloomed the same spring. The hollyhocks, however, didn't bloom until this year.

So when I sowed all those perennial seeds in recycled plastic jugs this past winter, I did not really expect to see blooms the same year. Annuals, yes. Perennials? No, not really.

Boy was I wrong. In fact I updated the Flower page and listed all the WS perennials that are either blooming now or in bud.

But I think I'm happiest about are the 12-20 butterfly bushes that are budding out every day. Some are as high as my waist and still growing! (The plants, sillies, not my waist! *grin*) I honestly don't know how many bushes I have, some planting holes got more than 1 plant. I'm tickled pink, uh... purple! :-D

The biggest surprise, the 'knock me down with a feather' shocker is that my WS'd Dwarf Mustead lavender plants are beginning to bloom. How crazy is that?

For a complete list of WS perennial blooms visit my Propagation page (click here). You could also visit my updated Flower page (click here) where I show what's blooming in each bed. Meanwhile I'm going to update the Garden project page soon with info on the deck rebuild and new privacy fence. (It's always something to keep me from doing too much of that 'sitting down' thing I've heard tell about...!) Stay tuned! :-D

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Let's talk toad...

Can you have a 'bumper crop' of toads? Maybe a bounty, or a plethora, or just plain lots.

I've enjoyed coming across the occasional toad in the garden or mulch over the years and they are always so welcome! I used to have 3 or 4 that I knew of spread over the 1.25 acres.

Not last summer but the summer before the sunroom and front stoop were invaded by carpenter ants. And while I try to avoid using chemicals around here, there was no pussy-footing around. But I didn't call in the 'big boys', but instead found a professional insecticide formula and then sprayed the exterior of the house myself. I used half-strength and did not re-apply as frequently as listed. Within 8 weeks I was ant-free. Instructions said to keep applying to prevent future invasions. Now that would just be overkill to my mind. Why keep poisoning all the GOOD bugs just to 'maybe' get some baddies.

Besides, I just knew, in my heart of hearts, that my foray into extermination put toads, birds, and other creepy crawlers at risk. I was so concerned about the effects of the insecticide that every morning (it was in June) I would get up before dawn and go out and sweep up all the dead and dying June bugs under the security lamp and bury them in the compost pile so the Jays and other birds didn't eat them. I even put trays under the light so that the June bugs didn't fall onto the ground so the toads wouldn't eat them. As careful as I was, I only had one toad that year -- and eventually it dissappeared.

This year, however, all is well. Better than well! This place is hopping with toads! It seems that every bed or corner has a resident toad. They tend to stay in a small area and claim it as their own. The toads measure maybe 3" long and (like this guy in the pic) spend the day backed into a cool hole to keep their skin from drying out. I've counted at least 13 toads and thought I was lucky. But yesterday I was really surprised to see several new ones in the mix. These are this year's toads probably come up from the pond over in the golf course. They are small, maybe the size of the end of my thumb.

Apparantly the drought is not affecting them. It may be that I use lots of mulch and there are still places where last years leaf mold is deep enough to shelter them during the day. And I know there are at least 3 under the deck. What a treat to have them around!
On other topics, Trixie (the rescued Yorkie) left for her new home yesterday. She will be missed, but we're just glad that she has a new 'forever home' now.
And while I don't post here as much as I'd like to, I do keep up with my great tomato adventure. Click on over to the Vegetable Page and check it out.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Where are all the bumblebees?

First off, let me do a little boasting (for which I should honestly take no credit) about the success of the hollyhocks I started from seed (mixed colors, doubles) last spring. While last year they never bloomed and the plants themselves didn't get any bigger than footballs, they came on like gangbusters this season. The tallest spike is just over 8 feet !!

And how clever of them to sort themselves out: the tall red right next to the arbor, the shorter whites flanking it and the more petite peaches-n-cream coming up with one of the whites. And they are attracting honeybees and solitary bees. Unfortunately the Jap beetles delight in burrowing into the blossoms and I have to dig them out.

I'm seeing honeybees, solitary bees, hover bees, sweat bees, etc. etc. I even tolerate the many carpenter bees (oh my poor shed). But I've not seen at all this year is even one bumblebee. Nada. Zip. I've been reading that they are in bad trouble this year and the total lack thereof seems to bear that out. I really miss those big 'teddy bear' bees.

I am, however, seeing many more of the green metallic bees this year, especially on the coneflowers and sunflowers.

Local honeybees are having a grand time on the white clover, the still blooming Johnson's Blue geranium (going on 9 weeks now!), the many varieties of zins, sunflowers and phlox.

And then there are the butterflies... wow... but I'll do a separate post about them later.

Bottom line the place is buzzin'. I just wish there were some big friendly bumbles in the mix.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ring garden attracts more than just bees!

So I'm washing up some dishes and looking out the window toward the Ring garden and glimpse movement in the deep clover. Something small and furry. Is it a 'possom? A 'coon? A... a... dog? Omigosh! I rushed outside.

When I approached her, the little thing ran back through the wet grass and clover toward the tall weeds by the golf course. It took some time to coax her out (actually I had to get hold of her and bring her out). She was wet and shaking and her skin was all inflamed. I brought her up to the breezeway and wrapped her in a warm towel. Where did she come from? No collar. No tag.

I called all the organizations I could think of: local animal control, humane society, etc. None of them could offer any help! (So much for my years of supporting the Humane Society!) Next I checked out all local papers, Craig's list, etc. for any entries concerning a lost Yorkie. Nada! What to do?

The timing of the rescue was awful. I was packing up to leave for the holiday (4th) weekend and couldn't take care of a lost sick dog at this point. I went to my neighbors, explained the situation, and (with their hearts of gold), readily agreed to share her rescue.

After a vets' examination, her inflamed skin was diagnosed as a staph infection and is being treated with antibiotics. During the evening Trixie (we call her) stays with the nabes. During the day while they are at work I take care of her.

The vet thinks she might have been dumped because he said that in this economy heartless stupid people would rather just 'throw away' a pet they can't afford rather than do the humane thing and either find them new homes or have them quietly put down.

I admit I briefly toyed with the idea of adopting Trixie myself, but knew it wasn't a good match. If i were to have a dog it would have to be a more substantial breed, one that could help me in the garden, chase Frisbees, play tug, etc. A bigger dog.

Meanwhile she is getting well, gaining strength and showing every sign of bonding with my neighbor. (*grin*). We're taking good care of the Trixter and checking out several potential new owners. I'm sure that in no time this little girl's story will soon have a happy ending! :-D