Tiny things #4

I think this is the final of my "tiny things" posts, but it's a subject that I could probably spend a week on itself: the water in my pond.

More specifically, what's in the pond water. I've been wanting to get the microscope out and take a look for a while, and finally made it happen yesterday.


Tiny things #3

Another tiny things post;  I've already shown you the very young raccoon, the baby mantises. Today it's time to look at the tiny toads!

There are still hundreds of these tadpoles in my pond, but many of them have made the transition to being primarily land creatures. Let's take a look.


Tiny things #2

Continuing with my "tiny things" posts, this is the photo I received from my wife when I was out of town the other day:

Of course the mantis babies hatched three weeks early, right? Everything else in the garden has been early this year, so why not them? I was disappointed that I missed the event, as I enjoy releasing the little boys and girls all around the garden. Knowing exactly where each of them was given their freedom lets me return every week or so to see if I can find them and check on their progress.


Tiny things #1

Today I start a series of posts I'm calling "tiny things", for reasons which will soon become apparent. Some weeks I wonder just what I'll post about, as interesting topics seem so hard to find. Sometimes though, topics get handed to me.

Such is the case with today's subject. Keep reading to find out who owns this cute little ear...


work-to-wow ratio

Years ago I worked in the engineering department of a manufacturing company. This department was relatively large -- it took up the entire second floor of the building -- but I spent a couple of years on a secret project that required a small team of us to stay sequestered in a small room. Being somewhat isolated from the rest of the department we went through a period where each of us discovered and told jokes to the rest of the team each day (informally -- we didn't setup a stage with stool and microphone or anything like that). We heard good ones and terrible ones in out limited time to interact each day, and with my brain in full engineer mode during those years I came up with what I called the "length-to-laugh" ratio. If your joke was a long one it better be hilarious, but if you had a one or two-liner it could be so-so and still end up with a good length-to-laugh rating.

What's the point of me telling you this? I've found that garden projects are similar, in that long projects really need to make a huge impact to be worthwhile, but quick jobs don't need to pack the same punch in order to make a difference. Today I have one of these short ones that rates really high on the "work-to-wow" ratio at least for me.


Dainty whites, cups of wine

A little look at a couple of plants that are blooming right now, one new to me, and one I've had for several years. First up: feverfew.

This is a plant that Ted let me dig when I helped him control his bamboo a few months ago. I remember him saying "it reseeds but I like the flowers", but since it was still quite early in the spring all I saw was the nice ferny foliage, and had no idea what the blooms would look like.


Cardoon, concern?

I've been growing cardoon for five or six years now, hoping each year that the plants reach the size and impressive form of the ones I grew the first year. They behave as tender perennials here, or biennials -- sometimes making it through the winter, but usually not.

These plants have wonderful thistle-like blooms on them but since they don't flower the first year from seed, most years I don't see the blooms. I've actually only had the plants overwinter one time before, until this year of course. (This previous post is probably my best about cardoon, as it includes some old photos of those "better" years.)


Making it better, color to green

I learned something last fall when I created my first planting beds for spring-flowering bulbs: that bulbs are easy! This spring I also learned that it's fantastic seeing those tufts of green emerge from the cold ground, followed by uplifting splashes of color!

I'm learning something else now though: that foliage doesn't look too great as it feeds the bulbs and slowly declines. So I did something about it.


Forgotten edibles

I've recently been showing you the veggie beds, giving an in-depth tour of the herbs, greens, tomatoes, peas and the rest.

I completely forgot that I have another "bed" of edibles this year -- on my driveway.


First, ever, for me

Something amazing and surprising happened to me the other day. Well, I suppose it wasn't so surprising, and really isn't that amazing to most gardeners, but for me it was a special day.

You see, I got my first Opuntia bloom! In fact, it was the first cactus bloom ever in my garden, and I've been tending to a potted cactus for almost 20 years now.



There is one herb that years ago I couldn't bear the taste of. Actually, I couldn't bear even the scent. Today it's one of my favorite edible plants.

And I can't grow it.


New free plants!

The other day when my gardening friend Michael invited me over to see his bamboo, he had an ulterior motive: he wanted to give me some plants.

His strategy was to show me around the garden and when we got to the plants that he wanted me to take, he really talked them up, lamenting how many of them just don't get enough sun in his garden to impress. Then we turned the corner and he said "I hope you'll take a few of these home" as we looked upon a row of already-dug divisions. Smooth, Mike, very smooth.


A little more on the veggie garden

The other day when I gave you a thorough look at my veggie beds, there was one little project I didn't tell you about.

This small bed outside the fence, to the left of the gate. It once had some flowers and Greek oregano growing in it, but that was a few years ago. Lately it's been a mess, and I'm tired of looking at it!


Just some bamboo

Yes, it's just some bamboo, but it's big bamboo. It's beautiful bamboo.

It's also not in my own garden, darn it.


Veggie garden update

It's been a while since I took a look at my small veggie garden, but I've mentioned it briefly in a few other posts recently. Things are going well with the edibles, but before we look at its current state, here's what it looked like 5 weeks ago:

That was the first week of April. Not bad, but let's see what's going on right now...


Veggie blooms

Yesterday I showed you what's blooming in my garden right now, but I held out on you. I had several more flower photos, all from the veggie beds.

Things are going great in the edibles department this year so far. Whether it's because I have enough good soil now, the winter was mild, or spring was very early this year (or all of these) I've been happy with the veggies. But more details about that in another post soon. Today is about the blooms.


Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

It's the 15th of the month, which means it's time for GBBD again! That's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day if you're not good with acronyms. Carol at May Dreams Gardens started this meme a while ago, and every month we get to see what's blooming in so many gardens because of if!

Here's a sampling of what's flowering in my garden right now.


Feather grass!

I was busy with non-garden things this weekend, but I made sure I reserved a couple of hours to get some chores done out there. With limited time and a long to-do list, I got right to work doing some planting...

...then "wasted" the next 20 minutes taking photos of the Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima) which is looking fantastic. I've had this in my garden for the last 6 years or so, usually having it pop up as a volunteer. The original mass planting area hasn't had one of these silky beauties in it for 4 years.


Mother's Day Morning

Just some photos for you to enjoy today.

If you're a mom, Happy Mother's Day!


Opuntia update

Remember the Opuntia cuttings I received a while ago? I potted them up about 5 weeks ago, so I thought it was time to take a look and see how they are doing.

They all seem to be quite happy, although they're experiencing different levels of happiness.


Which end?

Out of all of the butterflies that are zipping around my garden right now, there is one that is a bit more relaxed but you will probably miss anyway.

The gray hairstreak in my experience will spend a long time on the flower it chooses, rather than frantically flying from plant to plant. This makes it wonderful to observe and photograph, as I can just sit and watch it for five or ten minutes or more if I want to. And often I do.


Tadpoles for tranquility

There's something so calming about watching pond inhabitants for me. After building the pond last fall I couldn't wait for spring so I could add some goldfish. I haven't done that yet, as I've currently got plenty of underwater activity to watch due to the tadpoles.

I'm not certain if I've got any frog tadpoles in here (which fish will apparently eat) so I'm holding off on the fish for a while -- but I can still stand here for hours watching the tadpoles. So I thought I'd put together a little movie to share this with you.


Mystery box of my own creation

You know how sometimes I participate in a plant trade and end up with a box at my door whose contents are unknown, a mystery?

Well this time the box is different: it's of my own creation. It contains several plants that I stored last fall in an attempt to determine different overwintering strategies. As you may remember, keep a lot of plants that are not cold-hardy enough alive over the winter indoors under lights, or semi-dormant in my garage. That's a pain, and I'd much rather store some roots, tubers, or bulbs than a large potted plant. So I experiment.


Not like the others

You know those picture games where they show you one image, then a second and ask you to find the ten differences between the two? Or the Sesame Street "one of these things" game? (You know: " one of these things is not like the others,   which one is different, do you know?...  ")

I've got something like that for you today. I'll show you a series of photos, and you try and spot which one is different. Ready?



Did I already mention that I spend a lot of time standing by the pond, just watching? Water beetles, tadpoles, water striders, countless different "flies", the occasional frog -- there's always so much going on!

When a dragonfly makes an appearance, I'm extra-excited though! A few times every year I see these large, cool fliers in my garden -- maybe because of the stream? -- but I hope to see a lot more of them now that I have a body of water they can enjoy.


Red, I always forget

I started growing a couple of Amaryllis plants one year around Christmas, when on a whim I picked up two bulb kits on clearance at a local big-box store. I hadn't grown them before, but at 50 cents each they were a bargain. I potted them up in the little plastic pots they came in, using the included potting mix -- which seemed like straight peat moss. They both bloomed soon after: large, red, frilly blooms, a welcome burst of bold color for a winter windowsill.

The blooms faded, but the leaves remained, so I kept caring for the plants, putting them outdoors once it warmed up. Toward the end of summer you're supposed to move them into a dark spot until the foliage dies, then bring the bulbs out, repot them and enjoy new blooms around Christmas.


Butterflies, slow down!

I've heard that with our mild winter it's going to be a good year for insects -- or bad year, depending on what your opinion of these fascinating, omnipresent creatures is. If the number of butterflies that I've seen in my yard is any indication, they're right.

My garden has been crazy with butterflies, and it's only the first week of May! I want to take photos of all of them, but the trouble is they just won't sit still! Perhaps they are also noticing the extra competition so are frantically flitting about. It's been so frustrating, as the photos are just not happening.


Too good to be true

Since I finally got the patio cleaned up for spring, I was able to take a good look at it. One of my favorite things about it right now is the Japanese maple. Or should I say maples plural,  because I have two here. I tend to just think of the one though, because it's doing so well.

So well in fact that it has outgrown this space. Time to find it a new home!


Correcting a past mistake

This Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Filicoides' was planted in 2006 when we had the trees taken down and I built the patio area. It was about 4' (1.2m) tall and looked like a nice accent plant for the spot. Labeled as a "slow grower" -- which I disagree with -- it's now a major focal point here.

The trouble is, I "mulched" the area beneath it and the stair landing with rocks. This has caused problems for me, every year being more and more work as weeds come up between the baseball-sized rocks. Since I don't weed this area every week, the resulting carpet of green makes the tree difficult to see, as the ground beneath it is so busy. So I fixed it this past weekend.


Look closely: Siberian Iris

I received a big division of this plant a couple of years ago from my gardening friend Michael, who was eager to share and get some room for new plants at the same time.

I'm thankful for his generosity, as these deep purple -- or are they dark, dark blue? -- blooms are some of my favorites. I like them better than bearded irises, maybe because they're not trying so hard. They're happy with being simpler, and I can appreciate that.


Just tadpoles

I remember seeing two different sets of toad eggs in the pond this year. The first eggs were tangled in the rushes. The second were just in the shallow water of the pebbled "beach".

Based on the number of tadpoles I'm seeing now, there were many more eggs that I never saw.


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