Lesson taught

I've been seeing as many downy woodpeckers as hummers at my hummingbird feeders lately. I assumed it was just a single downy that couldn't get enough of the sugary drinks, but the other day while it was raining I got proof that it's at least two.

This juvenile (on the left) was being taught by its parent how exactly to work this liquid candy machine.



We finally some relief from the drought. I think this is the first morning this summer that I had to cancel garden plans because of rain!

It started as a very light sprinkle in the morning, and I didn't get excited because this happens every week or so and ends up being nothing. Today though was different, as the rain kept building.


Finally, a little pruning

I've got two 'Lady in Red' hydrangeas in my yard. The original in the front is a reasonable size and fits its space quite nicely. This one in back though, well, it's just too large!

I think it's been in the ground for four years, and I've finally decided to prune it. It's beautiful, but too much for this space!


Getting artsy again

Sometimes I end up with photos that although had potential, they just didn't make the cut. Maybe they ended up out of focus, or I couldn't get a framing I liked. It could also be that I just had too many photos of a single subject, or they just were lacking something.

Usually these will get deleted (even the biggest drives will eventually fill up, so no point in wasting space), but sometimes I'll experiment with different stylized filters, hoping that extreme processing will salvage the image.


More Malabar

I've posted before about Malabar spinach, a thick-leaved vine that I just love growing. In fact it was just a couple of days ago that I posted about the single-pole trellis I used because I didn't want to pull out some volunteer Malabar spinach seedlings.

I also have several of these guys in pots, from 2" seedling pots containing, well, seedlings, to gallon-sized pots with plants that are over a foot tall (or is the correct adjective "long"?). Plenty more than I can plant this year, but now I've got a couple more!



The Canna cultivar named 'Tropicanna' is a beauty.

A bit busy for some spots in the garden with all of the stripes and different colors in the leaves, but so striking!


Pond gets better, and fish!

The pond is getting better, as the algae problem is lessening. It may not look like it here, but it is.

Let me show you what I mean.


mouse field

I usually don't catch mice in the garage during the summer, as that's normally a cold-weather activity. Recently I noticed some suspicious activity though, and I caught a mouse. Unfortunately I'm not in the habit of checking the trap every day during the summer, so when I opened it after skipping a day a weak, dirty, wet mouse was visible - it must have spent a full day in there! I was so glad it wasn't dead that I put it in a bucket, sprayed it with water to clean it up a bit, then gave it some fruit, seeds, and some tissues, paper towels, and a little saucer of water. By the end of the day it was looking a lot more energetic, so I was planning on releasing it the next morning. Of course I forgot that healthy mice can easily jump out of buckets, and in the morning it was gone!

No worries though, because I think I caught it again that night. You know what that means, right? A trip to the mouse field!


It's orange day

I noticed something when looking at the kitchen counter the other day: recent harvests have been quite orange!

This isn't some weird side effect of the heat, it's just the way these varieties grow.


A simpler trellis

Yesterday I posted the first half of an involved trellis project. I love vines, so I'm always looking for spaces for them to grow in my garden. I've got a couple of pergolas that are becoming vine-covered finally (I got a late start planting the vine seedlings this year), I use the deck railing and supports as trellises, I have a couple of copper pipe trellises that I made, and even have a couple of simple tripod structures for vines to climb.

But now I'm going to add another to solve a little problem: this malabar spinach volunteer growing up my air conditioner.


Potential, do you see it?

In a recent post I mentioned that a certain view of my yard might be changing after a project I had planned for the weekend. Well, that project has not happened yet. It's started, but hasn't progressed enough for me to show you that part of the yard again. Here's how it got going though...

See this tired old boxspring? It's been in my basement for a while for two reasons: first, I hate adding things to the landfill if I don't have to. Second, I saw in this boxspring not a useless piece of trash ready for bulky item collection day, but the potential for a new feature in the garden.


So you don't like variegated bamboo?

It's interesting how some plants can completely captive you, while others you just don't care for. For example, begonias. Some people are just crazy about them, collecting every type they can find. I don't see the attraction, and find them to be just another plant, even boring. (No offense to those who love begonias!) For those who are crazy about certain types of plants, it's impossible to see why everybody doesn't love them, right?

That's how it is with me and bamboo. Bamboo is a plant that just does it for me, and my collection is always growing. So when I recently read that there was somebody who loved all sorts of plants but did not really like variegated bamboo, my first thought was "you haven't been looking at the right variegated bamboos!" If this is true and lack of exposure is the problem in this case, I hope today's post helps.



The other day it was GBBD (Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day), so thanks the the meme that Carol at May Dreams Gardens started a while back, I get to see what's blooming in so many other gardens. I didn't participate this month because I only had a couple of things blooming, or so I thought.

It turns out that although my garden is dominated by foliage, I've got a nice selection of flowers too -- despite the heat and drought.


Some digging, more plants

This summer has been so hot and dry, I haven't done as much planting as I had planned. Most of my beds are pretty full already, but I have lots of extra plants and there's almost always room to squeeze in more, right? This is especially true of newer beds that aren't living up to expectations.

Take for example the bed along my driveway. For years this was a strip of lawn, until last summer when I moved a bunch of potted plants out here and instantly created a nice border. Then in the fall I created a permanent planting bed and filled it with spring-flowering bulbs. After the tulips, daffodils, and other plants finished blooming this spring I planted lots of common flowering annuals, thinking that I'd move pots out here again to help fill in the bed if needed.


New for me: Senna alata

If you read my blog regularly, you'll know that I like to try new plants every year. For me the potential in a new seed packet or even a few seeds shared by a gardening friend is one of the most exciting things about gardening. I'm not just talking about trying a different variety of tomato (although I recommend doing that too), or red petunias instead of the pink you always get -- I mean try something really different. A plant species or genus that you never have grown before.

For me this year one of the "new" ones is Senna alata (aka Cassia alata, or Candle bush). This is a tropical plant that I'll grow as an annual, and promises to be big and impressive. So far it's been that.


beauty, touched with white

Not much to say this morning.


Rose Mallow

A couple of months ago on a visit to Mike's garden, he "forced" me to take some Iris (Yellow Flag) divisions, as well as what he called "Marsh Mallow". I planted both of them in large pots, and the mallow -- which I've now identified as "Rose Mallow", Hibiscus lasiocarpos (or "lasiocarpus") -- is now starting to bloom.

I wasn't sure what to expect with this plant, but now that I've ID'd it and can see what the blooms are like... wow. I didn't expect much from this plant this year, as it did just get uprooted. This is a Missouri native, and its 6-inch blooms are among the biggest of our wildflowers. Nice!


A look around, July 2012

Just a look around at parts of my garden. It's something I need to remind myself to do every once in a while, as it's important to step back look at the big picture. I tend to focus on individual plants for much of the time, I miss seeing how it all fits together.

Plus I like sharing.


Quick Thinking

Remember the other day when I posted about the hot exhaust from an excavator working at my neighbor's house fried some of my plants? The day after that happened, I got a knock on my door while I was eating lunch. "Is it okay if we bring the excavator down your driveway? We can't get the right angle from the front."

"Sure", I said, "that's fine."

"Some of your bushes are in the way. We'll dig them out for you..."

"DON'T DIG UP ANYTHING!!" I commanded as I hurried out to the driveway.


Bench project #2: build it!

Recently I did a simple bench project in which I just sprayed a clear coat finish over a metal bench I bought this winter. Since one of my goals for this summer was to add more seating to my garden, that was a step in the right direction. It wasn't overly satisfying though, because I like designing and building things, and there was none of that involved with that project.

So with a couple of days off after the holiday last week, I built another bench. Nothing fancy, but I like the end result and hope you will too.


Worth the wait

For those of us who live in climates where cardoon (Cynara cardunculus, one of the most fun botanical names ever) is not reliably cold-hardy, it can be a long wait to see the huge, thistle-like blooms.

About 16 months from seed sowing time to be exact. That's only if the plant makes it through the winter though. If not, it's start some more seeds and reset that clock.


My trouble with zucchini

Although I tried growing zucchini in the past, this is only the second year that I've seriously grown it as an experienced gardener. Although I'm not super-crazy about this squash, it's the promise of huge yields that attracts me. I've heard stories of people trying to give away zucchini, leaving bags of the dark green beauties on neighbors' doorsteps.

I don't know if I'll ever be counted among the ranks of those with more zucchini than they know what to do with. In fact, I wasn't even sure that I'd be included in the group of people who have ever grown a single zucchini -- until now.


Bench project #1

Remember back in February when I posted about the great bargain bench I found? It was marked down 80% because the finish was rubbing off. I had a simple plan for it when I bought it, and finally put that plan into action.

June is usually a great month for projects in the garden, but the hot, hot weather and travel for work really ate up my time for those. I had a few days off  from work after the holiday last week, and that gave me the breathing space I needed to tackle a few projects like this.



Yesterday evening, around 7:00 or so I noticed it was getting pretty cloudy. A quick step outside showed me a spattering of big raindrops -- nothing to get too excited about though, because that has happened quite a bit during this hot, dry spell. We'll get a small but intense thunderstorm pass nearby, so that we'll hear the thunder, see the lightning, feel a few stray drops, but get no useful precipitation.

With the cloud cover I decided to do a little repotting: dug and potted some volunteer Malabar spinach seedlings, repotted a few small plants. It was nice being able to do this in the "cooler" air, as the temperature had dropped into the low 90's. All the while thunder crashing all around, I just knew this storm wasn't going to miss us, and surely we'd get some rain.


Travel bamboo

As a break from the crunchy, heat-damaged sponge that is my garden, I want to show you some other plants.

I spent a few days in the Los Angeles area last week and while in Hollywood I got to see some bamboo.


This burns me too

Yesterday I posted about the burn damage that the heat and drought are inflicting on many of my plants. Today there are more photos of crispy leaves, but it wasn't the weather that did this.

No, this damage was man-made, and it gets me a bit angry thinking about it (both with myself and with those that caused it).



So hot, for too many days, with not a drop of rain to heal the cracks in the so-hard ground.

These plants are not accustomed to 105ºF (40ºC), when the once-friendly sun turns vicious and burns.


Busy bees

Today is a holiday, and I will spend part of the hot, hot day raking algae and watering and doing other unfun stuff in the garden, but I will spend the rest of the day taking a break.

Know who doesn't take breaks? Bees. Especially when it's hot. In fact, when it's really hot outside it's almost impossible to get good photos of these pollinators because they just don't sit still. I tried.



There are a trio of spiky blooms in my garden this year. Usually it's just a pair of them, but this year there's a third.

Here's a quick look at them.



Know what you get when you travel for several days while the temperature climbs above 100F (38C) every single day you're gone?

You get a mess in the pond. At least I do.


Just can't stop them

Last year when writing about how these large ants always take over one of my hummingbird feeders, I got some good suggestions about how to stop them.

The "well" on top of the feeder itself is supposed to be filled with water to form a barrier that the ants can't cross. This works for about 10 minutes until the water evaporates. Okay, maybe an hour or two. Still not long-lasting enough to be practical.


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