Thursday, April 29, 2010

urban wildlife

This beautiful barred owl was hanging out in a tree in our front yard last Sunday afternoon - in broad daylight! It was really stressing out a mockingbird that apparently has a nest in that tree. It was there for hours, and Scott eventually got the great idea to get on the roof of the house to get a better picture.

This huge frog has taken up residence in our pond. It sleeps/hangs out in the biggest potted plant in the pond. Seems to freak out the fish a bit - hopefully they'll get used to it (because it doesn't appear to be going anywhere).

We had our first pond emergency (since installing the pond last summer/fall) last weekend. The fish started gasping at the surface. My research indicated that this was likely either the result of ammonia build-up or a pH problem. I didn't think it was ammonia since our pond is definitely not overstocked, and an ammonia test proved me right. It turns out that it was a pH problem, thanks to a heavy rain the day before. Rain here, for whatever reason, is very acidic. Thankfully we were able to solve this problem by adding baking soda to the pond in small doses over the course of a few days. Crisis averted!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

I hope you all had a nice Earth Day and got to celebrate and enjoy nature!

I did a bit of bird-watching (female Eastern Towhee):

And we enjoyed a candlelit dinner with no tv in the background:

We bought two apple trees to plant, but realized while trying to place them that a huge tree in the front yard needs to come down - a very sad realization for Earth Day! It's one of our three FIFTY YEAR OLD Bradford Pears, and it's split twice. When it had just split once, I said I had a two-split rule, but when it split again last October, I couldn't bear to do anything about it. I love the flowers in the spring, the tremendous shade it provides in summer, the leaves in fall, and the bird habitat. This tree is directly in front of the house. It looks pretty rough, but removing it will leave a real void. I know that sounds overdramatic, and no one likes Bradford Pears, but I swear I'm grieving this tree! They are taking it down tomorrow. We will plant two 4-5' apple trees and one 8-10' Autumn Blaze Maple. It won't make up for the shade or the environmental benefits of the big tree - at least for a long time - but the house will be out of danger, and hopefully my guilt about cutting down a living tree will be assuaged a bit.
Have a good night and a good weekend, and remember that EVERY DAY IS EARTH DAY!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Just Rosy

This rose bush is probably my favorite thing about our house. It's old, reliable, smells UNBELIEVABLY good, blooms on and off from April to September...and on and on.

This hot pink rose isn't quite as showy in shape, but it smells equally divine.

I will have some mini roses blooming in a few days. Most of my plants are all green right now (well, the ones that are alive), so the sight and smell of the roses is a treat every day.

Since many of you commented about me somehow managing to kill black-eyed susans, I thought a little follow-up was in order. I found the seed packet from 2008 - Ferry Morse Rudbeckia Hirta. The packet says clear as day "Perennial," but my favorite southern gardening tome categorizes this species as an annual. Confusingly, some websites refer to it as a binennial.

Well, at least I know I didn't kill one of the hardy varieties! Now I just have to find some replacements!
On another totally unrelated note, I just love these unfurling Christmas ferns. I'm going to enter this in the April Gardening Gone Wild contest just for kicks.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spring Smorgasbord

It's late enough now to tell what didn't survive the winter, and I'm quite surprised both at all of the plants that did survive, and the few that didn't. Muhly grass and elephant ears didn't make it. I'm super bummed out that my black-eyed susans, started from seed 3 or 4 years ago, didn't either. The huge sprays of golden yellow were hands down my favorite flowers in the garden last year.
Just in time to lift my spirits, yesterday my first ever clematis bloom opened. I got this clematis at a plant sale last spring for $1.

Would anyone like to guess what this is? Hint: the seeds of this plant are always sold as an annual, but it's a perennial plant here in the deep south.

It's a four-o-clock tuber!
Below are some lettuce (little gem romaine) and sugar snap peas harvested this weekend. We've really enjoyed our fresh salads. I'm trying to prolong the remaining lettuces by covering them with a sheet during the day (since it's already in the 80s here).

Christmas ferns unfurling:

Azaleas are still blooming:

Siberian irises are blooming:

Hope you're all enjoying a warm and sunny spring!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spring Scenes

The long-suffering azaleas are blooming like crazy now. I'm having a hard time capturing the color, but if you're a wine drinker, it's similar to the color of beaujolais. I haven't seen this color much, so it's a nice surprise (after FOUR YEARS of waiting to see the bloom color!).

Looks like we'll have a bumper crop of strawberries this year, if I can keep the slugs away. I need to put out beer traps stat!

This naked lady (belladonna lily) foliage is crazy huge! I planted the bulbs last year and got nothing - no foliage, no blooms. I was sure the squirrels got them. 1 for me!
These asters probably need to be divided about now.

Black and blue sage has come back with an almost disturbing vigor, all over the place! Oh well, there are worse things to spread.

There are still a few new daffodils opening.

Hostas bought last spring at the annual master gardener's sale appeared to die from the heat last year, but have really healthy new growth now.

New fatsia foliage. I love this plant - it's so weird.

I've mentioned the "two story camellia" before, and here it is in bloom:

99% of the blooms are pink, but there's always one or two white ones. For perspective on the size of this thing, Scott is 6'4":

For those of you who have been eagerly waiting (ha ha) for our entries into my family's annual Easter Egg Contest, here you go....

Scott's Harry Potter, and my Hedwig (Harry's owl).