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Archive for the ‘garden’ Category

Goldfinches!

It took almost a week, but these guys showed up yesterday. First there was 1, then there were 2 and today there were 3 (although not all at the same time).

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goldfinches

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And then, I saw these guys on the hummingbird feeder. I think there’s a rule that only hummingbirds can visit a feeder with their name on it, so what were they doing?

not hummingbirds

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Staycation

John and I are on another staycation this week. Hardly relaxing, our weeks off are usually spent doing hard labor on projects around the house that we just can’t do on a weekend.

Yesterday we worked for 8 hours trimming the hedges, giving our front azaleas a much-needed pruning and of course, the cleanup. Thankfully, the weather was pretty nice, it wasn’t too hot, although it was humid. But when is it not around here? I also took out a shrub that has looked much better in previous years, this year half of it died. There is a dogwood seedling that is growing practically underneath it, and we like dogwoods better. So the shrub had to go to give the dogwood room to breathe and grow into a tree.

Another project on my bucket list (but one that’s going to have to wait until the trash cans are emptied), is to hard prune the forsythias in the back. Several years ago, I bought two forsythia twigs (literally, each one was a twig with roots in a pot) from the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s annual plant sale for $1 each.  I planted one under the cherry tree and because it doesn’t get much light, it’s smaller than the other one and has fewer blooms. The other one is pretty much in full sun and is just loving its location. It’s huge! I’ve never pruned it and it’s blocking the gate, not that we use that gate much, but still. I just want to cut it waaaay back this year.

While John was working on the hedges, he found this:

robin's nest

How sad. There were two eggs in it, but one was cracked and smelled putrid. I imagine that this nest was abandoned for some reason. We marveled at how tightly woven it is. Nature is amazing, isn’t it?

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Weekend Wrap-up

I should have posted this a couple of days ago, when it was still relevant, but I was so busy at work yesterday and I had a vendor lunch so there was no time to do it then.

To start with, we had a bit of excitement in the neighborhood early Saturday (middle-of-the night). John and I heard fireworks/firecrackers before we went to bed Friday night which I thought was a little early in the season. Fireworks are illegal in Henrico County, but since they are easy to buy, there’s usually someone setting them off in the week before July 4th. During the night we were briefly awakened by two separate “pops” or “bangs” but heard nothing else (and the dog didn’t even wake up) so we went back to sleep.

I got up about 6 and went out to get the newspaper. I thought the mailbox looked kind of funny:
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(please no cracks about the dirt, it was a mistake to buy a white mailbox because I’m not spending any time and effort to keep it clean)

And then I looked inside:
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And then I looked down and around:
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Oh yeah, “they” blew up the mailbox with fireworks and left some firecrackers behind. Since it only blew the door open, I imagine they were disappointed. But they did me a favor because we replaced it with one that’s black plastic. I called the police and filed a report, not that I thought the perps would be apprehended, but because we figured that the second “bang” we heard in the night was someone else’s mailbox befalling the same fate. We drove around a few streets in the neighborhood and did see evidence of other mailbox vandalism so the kids were busy Friday night. I work with a neighbor who lives a couple of streets over and he made it sound like there’s always something going on in our subdivision. I don’t ever hear of anything and I prefer it that way. I feel safe with my head-in-the-sand attitude.

We had a big project planned for Saturday (actually it was planned for last weekend but we just didn’t have enough time). About mid-April every year when we pass our “last-frost” date, we go to the garden center and buy the annuals that we put out on the deck, plus set up our pond-in-a-pot. But we had to delay that rite-of-Spring because our deck hadn’t been cleaned in more years than we should admit. We couldn’t do anything until John finally got to use the power washer I gave him for Christmas:
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He wanted some before pictures, so I obliged him:

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We had a lot of algae this year, maybe due to all the snow we got over the winter, but it sure made for slippery footing when wet.

He did a great job
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My mother gave us some money to put toward a tree in memory of John’s brother, so we bought this Japanese maple. I’ve always wanted one and we don’t really have anywhere in our yard to plant one (or any other kind for that matter).
Red Dragon Laceleaf Japanese Maple

The rest of the weekend was spent at our end-of-the-season church fellowship get-together Saturday night and the usual running around Sunday after church. John took me out for a wonderful steak dinner at Firebird’s for Mother’s Day and then back home to watch the season finale of Amazing Race. I was rooting for the Cowboys to win so was disappointed when they came in second. But I was very relieved that the Models didn’t win because they’ve been so annoying all season long and it’s “amazing” they made it to 3rd place.

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If you remember this from last June:

Oak leaf hydrangea

Oak leaf hydrangea

Last year, I had to build a fence around the oak leaf hydrangea. A bunny in my garden attacked it early in the season. But in the second picture, it was on its way to recovery.

Well, here it is now:

Oak leaf hydrangea

There’s no sign of a bunny in the garden (yet) and I think it’s gotten a good-enough start that if it’s attacked again, it would hardly notice. At least I hope so.

This plant started from a cutting given to me by a friend. I am so proud of it, and I want it to grow to adulthood. I ♥ hydrangeas.

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I had a very productive weekend this time. The house wasn’t so dirty after having been cleaned top-to-bottom last weekend, so I didn’t mess with any of that, except for laundry. That left more time for photography, sewing and yard work. I intended to give the quiltmobile its first bath yesterday, but the sky couldn’t decide if it wanted to just spit or actually rain and get it over with, so that task never happened.

Saturday morning I headed over to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for my first outing with the Richmond Photography Meetup group. Our goal was to shoot the butterflies in the Conservatory. There were about 30 people signed up, but I think a lot of people straggled in past the 9:30 meeting time, so I don’t know how many actually showed up. I don’t think anyone was taking attendance. Entrance into the Butterfly room is limited because it isn’t very big. There were posted guards at the door and I felt sorry for the older woman at the entrance side because she couldn’t seem to keep people from opening the 2nd exit door before the inner door was closed. Even though there was a younger woman posted inside for the purpose of making sure that the butterflies couldn’t escape, some people managed to get past her and went out the door without following the rules. I didn’t see any butterflies trying to beat the system too, thankfully.

The room was hot and sweaty. They have automatic misters that come on frequently so the humidity level in there is almost unbearable. Maybe that’s good, keeps people from lollygagging in there. Unless you’re a photographer with the express purpose of lollygagging. But when the misters came on, we had to point our lenses down so as not to get rained on. I heard someone say they were having trouble with their lens fogging up, but I didn’t have that problem. The butterflies were flying all around, not all of them were interested in posing for us. There was a beautiful blue one which was the prize because it was so elusive. You see, the blue is on the “inside” or top of its wings and you could see it when it was flying around. But when it landed (not often enough) it closed up its wings and it was a pretty boring gray/brown color on the outside/bottom. Nothing to write home about.

I got better shots than I expected. I was using my 55-250mm and shot in either manual or shutter priority because I wanted to keep a fast shutter speed to avoid shake (on my part) and also to freeze the butterflies in flight. It was a little cloudy overhead and I suppose there could have been better natural light than there was, but I had my ISO cranked up to 1600 in order to get a proper exposure on my meter. I didn’t want to use an ISO that high, my camera is not one of those high-end ones that are noiseless at high ISO settings. The butterflies were flitting around so much that shooting them in flight was pretty much not working for me, so I dialed down my settings and concentrated on getting them when they landed on something.

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This next one is a moth, probably the size of my hand. It was stunning. There were two or three of them on this tree and they were very obliging for the cameras.
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After I left the Conservatory, I wandered around the rest of the grounds for about an hour, stopping to talk to other like-minded photographers. It was a beautiful day, even with the humidity the sky was blue with fluffy clouds. I left around noon, having taken almost 100 shots.
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John took the dog for his annual shots in the morning and then spent the rest of his afternoon at the office. Saturday night we went to Mimi’s with friends from church, had a wonderful time.

Sunday found me out in the yard, finishing some cleanup I had started the day before. We weeded the crabgrass out of the front bed on the corner as it was threatening to take over the drainage ditch. It’s always something, isn’t it?

I got a lot done on the unnamed quilt. All the blocks are trimmed and positioned on the design wall. Putting the top together is probably my favorite part of the process, probably because it means it’s almost done LOL. In this picture, the row on the floor has been stitched together. I put 2 more rows together this morning before work and at this rate, the top could be done by week’s end. I really do think it needs borders and I’m thinking seriously about one with scallops. I’ve never done one before, but I’ve seen it demonstrated on TV several times. I’ll have to play with it in EQ6 to make sure it’ll look good.

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John bought the new Wii Resort game yesterday and we played best of 3 in table tennis. He won, 2-1. It was fun. He spent his afternoon going through our old audio CDs and loading them into iTunes on his media center computer. I spent my afternoon weeding through the bazillion photos on my computer and getting them organized. I am going to start uploading more of them to my flickr account, so stay tuned for that.

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Identify this plant

Does anyone know what this plant is called? Theses picture were taken at The Tides Inn in Irvington, Virginia but I saw another one at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and it didn’t have an ID tag.
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Week in Review-part 3

I don’t know what it is about this spring that is attracting destructive wildlife to my garden.
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This is a hosta with bite marks in it. We have been planting all our hostas in “vole cages” on the advice of a nurseryman, but this year for the first time the creatures are attacking the plants from above as well as below-ground. See that vole hole? We decided it’s time to fight fire with fire, so we got some mousetraps, baited one with peanut butter and put it under a shoebox, covering this hole.

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The next morning I went out to see if we got one and was shocked to find the trap missing. The shoebox had not moved and the trap was too big to drag into that hole. I looked all around the area and never did find it. I had visions of some creature running around with a trap hanging from its tongue.

We set another trap last night and this morning it was still in place under the box. When I got home tonight, the trap was no longer under the box, but I did find it a few feet away, sprung and baitless.

I’ve lost a rose, daylily and favorite hosta to voles this year. I didn’t know they ate roses or daylilies as I’ve never had a problem up to now. I guess I’m going to have to plant everything in cages, grrr.

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Unusual garden art

I certainly can understand a bit of whimsy in the garden. I have some myself:

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But in the front yard? These shots were taken in neighborhoods within 2 or 3 miles of us.

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I figure this gnome is probably 4 feet tall. I wish I could have stood next to it to give you a sense of the scale, but I was kinda taking a guerilla photo in a drive-by because I didn’t want to get “caught.”

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Cute, but why?

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OK, this last one has had me baffled for years. I haven’t been brave enough to knock on the door and ask them “what the?” It too, is fairly tall. And it’s the only thing in the yard. There is no landscaping to speak of. This was another drive-by shot. I’m just too self-conscious to be a papparazzi.

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Garden update

A couple of updates on the garden patients:

Oak leaf hydrangea Before:
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Now:
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“Kaspar” hydrangea Before:
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Now:
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And some random garden shots:
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This hosta is growing rather weird this season. It’s sort of a variegated variety but look how the new growth is coming out of the center in a solid color. There’s another one growing right next to it and it’s new growth is the same variegated pattern. Strange, huh?

 

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See this hole in the dirt? This is in a pot out in the garden bed. There used to be a hosta in this hole. It was there just last week. There is no sign of the hosta anywhere on the ground, so whichever varmint did the dastardly deed, it either ate it on the spot and cleaned up after itself very well, or it dragged it off somewhere. I need a forensics team to come in and dust for fingerprints.

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One of the species of “new-to-us” bugs is the cicada. We were not familiar with them at all back home in L.A. They lead a curious life, one that makes me wonder what God was thinking. They live underground, come up for air on a fairly regular cycle (some only every 13-17 years), break out of their skins, mate and then crawl back underground to start the cycle all over again. I have found a lot of these carcasses around the garden this year and this is the first time I’ve actually seen one out of its skin. I love the chirping sounds they make on sultry summer afternoons. Had I been raised in the south as a child, I’m sure this sound would be one of my favorite childhood memories.

I’m going to close with a shot that’s sure to bring lots of hits to this blog. It’s a Stinkhorn fungus, commonly named “Garden Penis.” (Go ahead, Google it)

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Yes it stinks and attracts flies. I tell you, Virginia is certainly not short on interesting fauna!

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100th post!

I probably should have planned better, should have had a really great post to celebrate #100. But it crept up on me and I only just noticed that I’d posted #99. (Well, at least I didn’t miss it.)

So I don’t have anything great planned but I’m going to tell you about our “staycation” last week. It was John’s birthday week and the weather couldn’t have been better. We’re saving ourselves for a trip to California this summer, so we took last week off to get some household projects done.

The week started out with our church choir’s performance of John Rutter’s “Mass of the Children” on Sunday the 17th. It is an absolutely beautiful choral work, as most, if not all, Rutter pieces are. We’d been working on it since Christmas I think, but it was well worth it. It features adult and children’s choirs, soloists, organ and chamber orchestra. The children were stationed in the balcony, their voices were to be like angels, and angelic and ethereal it was.

John had some yard work planned, including taking out a couple of small trees growing where they shouldn’t have been, plus cleaning up some tree limbs in another bed. I planted 9 daylilies I got from our friend Anne:
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Half of them already have flower buds!

My pride and joy, my Ballerina roses, were in full bloom last week:
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We performed a long-overdue procedure on our kitchen floor and it was so successful I think I’ll be able to live with the awful thing for a while longer (good thing, since we’re stuck with it for the foreseeable future.)

John got a new GPS from the kids and I for his birthday and he happily played with his new toy for the rest of the week. We ran around town so that he could put it through its paces. Only one thing about it that he’s not really happy with is the bluetooth feature, his iPhone doesn’t work well with it. If there is a new iPhone on the horizon, perhaps it will work better.

We took one day trip to the National Zoo in Washington DC . I’ll go into more detail about it in another post.

And we ate and ate and ate. John signed up for a bunch of local restaurants’ birthday clubs so we had coupons to use up. We went to our new Mimi’s Cafe twice, once to Lone Star, Coldstone. We went to Chili’s for fajitas on the birthday. Wow do they have great chips. We also went to Cheeburger Cheeburger in celebration of a friend’s birthday. We still have Red Robin and Firebird’s coupons left, but I expect they’ll expire before we can get there. So much for my May weigh-in this coming weekend. 😦

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