Archive for the 'flowers and gardens' Category

Late Summer Garden Glory

closeup white cosmos

Not only is it NOT a weed, but I believe that the thick hairy plant I accused of being a weed is actually a cosmos. That means it had every right to be growing where it was growing (where I dumped the cosmos seed). It seems to be a different variety than the ones that bloomed earlier. I have to say, I REALLY like this variety. *grin* And to think I was so disparaging earlier in the season. I’ll have to remember to be very careful weeding next spring and hope that this one self-seeds.
white cosmos

I’d had 2 hanging plants in the middle of my grasses and rudbeckia. One of them was finished by the end of July (I don’t even remember what they were – maybe orange zinnias? superbells? something orange-y that was done by August). I treated myself to a red begonia to replace it. I love the color!
red begonia

One of the other perennials I have been trying to get established is my pink guara. I “discovered” this plant a few years ago and fell in love with it. The way the flowers appear at the end of a long thin stem make it look like a cat toy. 🙂 I kept buying them and planting them and they would not come back the next year. This is the first year that my guara came back and I’m so pleased. I may pick up a few more to string them together. The recommended planting guide says to put them in a clump. Maybe that would have helped them winter-over as well. Whatever the reason, they came back this year and I am loving them.
pink guara

As for those trying-to-be-cucumbers… Well. We are definitely going to run out of something before they actually become cukes. For starters – how can they be growing when it looks as if the vine has already shriveled and died? There is no way these round balls are going to have time to elongate into cucumbers before the first frost. Ignore the little sign that says ‘lovage’. I was using that to support the vines when they were still green and healthy looking. What am I going to DO with these ‘fruits’? Do you think they are edible? Do you think they will turn all green? Did I grow ROUND cucumbers? Is there such a thing?
cucumbers

It’s now officially fall, but the temperature was over 90 yesterday. That means I have to keep watering everyone. We haven’t had rain in quite awhile. This is about the time I’m done with maintaining my garden but Mother Nature isn’t doing her part to take over automatic maintenance. In the past I was so energetic and ambitious I would get pots of mums and line the walk with them. I’m not doing that this year – WAY more effort involved than I feel like expending. It’s almost time to start pulling out dead plants, tossing them to the compost, dumping the dirt, and stacking the planters on the front porch to wait for next year. But until then – I’m going to enjoy the view.
thick cosmos

Triumph O’er the Treetops

The Big Red Lift

The Big Red Lift – like a big insect. How will it ever FIT?

They came! They sawed! They cutdown! The Organic Tree Care crew came today!!!! Like the commercials I hear for having junk hauled away: I pointed, they cut. The dead branches are gone gone gone! Let the winter winds blow! I fear no hurricanes for the dead branches are not with me. Clear skies above my deck and no easy critter access to my attic! Can you tell I’m just a wee bit excited? I bet now we will have the calmest hurricane season on record, and the least snow and ice during the winter. No branches will fall anywhere in town, thanks to my preventative measures. You’re welcome 🙂

First job avoid the wires

First job – avoid the wires. Success!

When we last checked in with our heroine (that would be me) she was frustrated by not hearing back from her justifiably busy and preoccupied new neighbor and disgusted with the need for a permit to cut down her own tree and she had settled on an end run: remove the tree dead branch by dead branch. The tree man came and gave a revised estimate over the weekend. It turned out to be less than the prior estimate although I’d been expecting more. I’d asked to have more branches cleared than just the ones on the dying tree. Thinking about it I expect it’s much more work to take down an entire bifurcated tree than to just do pruning, and the new quote reflected that. That was the second joy (the first of course being that I needed no permission for this end run). Paul (the tree man) promised to get it done in the coming week.

Coffee break

I always offer coffee/water to contractors. You don’t see the cups because they are drinking the coffee.

On Tuesday I came home and found a voice mail from my new neighbor – Mari Sue (NOT Mary Lou *grin*). She apologized for taking so long to get back, she was in agreement about the tree and we should get together and talk. It was late and I didn’t respond that night. The next day Paul called and said they’d come on Thursday to shear my shrubbery. That reminded me to return Mari Sue’s call. I told her that I was making her life easier – she didn’t need to do anything, decide anything, the tree was mine and I was going to have every dead branch removed the next day. She said that was wonderful, she and her landscaper had looked at the tree and agreed that it should/could come down. I said that come the spring we could revisit the situation, but that for the time being I was taking care of the obvious problems and leaving us some privacy thanks to the branches that were still alive. We ended the call happily agreeing to meet for coffee soon.

Cut back the driveway tree

2nd job- cut back the tree along the driveway. Most of it is done already in this pic.

Thursday the 3 men showed up. First we played musical cars. I’d left my cars in the street but they needed more room than just my driveway. So I moved my cars further down the block and they backed their trucks up to my property. Then they unloaded The Lift. This machine is SO COOL. It’s like a robot. The arborist controlled it with a remote control box he held in his hands. I looked at it at the end of my driveway and couldn’t quite envision what it would do. It looked huge.

Fitting the lift down the driveway

Look at how SMALL it is now with its legs and neck pulled in. It fits!

While all the maneuvering was going on my next-door neighbor Larry came out. He was naturally curious as to what was happening, especially as one of the feet of The Lift was now resting on his property. Larry is a totally laid-back person. We have a fine relationship and always grant each other’s contractors whatever access is needed across property lines. I knew he wouldn’t care if I was trimming his tree. Indeed, he didn’t care and was horrified to see the cantilevered branch which of course had come from his tree. He offered to help pay for the work. I thanked him and said that all I needed from him was what I already had – his permission to let the workmen cross the property line as needed and that he was totally comfortable with me trimming his tree. Legally once a tree or its parts cross a property line, the property owner can remove whatever is on/overhanging the property. I told him that he owed me nothing, he was not legally responsible, and that I never expected him (or Mari Sue) to contribute to this effort. It’s good to have neighbors with whom you get along. Let’s not mention Mari Sue’s predecessors.

Adjusting the Lift legs

Had to include this – look at how he can adjust each leg and adjust the angle of the foot – see his little remote control there on the right

We had 3 areas that needed work and I didn’t see how that machine would get there unless it had a long neck like a giraffe and could stretch all the way to the back property line. I’d asked to have the maple tree along the driveway (Larry’s tree) trimmed back from the house. Several branches were brushing the roof and others were against the side. In addition that tree was the source of the cantilevered branch on my garage. I wanted that and its siblings, which were lurking over the garage, removed. The third area was the impetus for all this work – the dead tree trunk between the 2 garages.

the cantilevered branch

The Infamous Cantilevered Branch

I’ve mentioned before about the power and phone lines being above ground. There is a thick power line stretching from the southern corner of my property across the driveway to the house. I watched the men start lifting the cage up and up and wondered how they were going to miss the wire. The neck of the lift moves from side to side, up and down. It was completely fascinating to watch. I was riveted. (SEE – I TOLD you I already practice some of the 7 habits of mindful people!!) I watched as they moved that neck slowly side to side. They got it to the far side of the wire and began going up. The neck actually brushed against the wire, and a bulging piece of the neck actually held the wire momentarily. But it all moved so slowly and they slid it just a bit more to the side and the wire was free and the cage was going up and then extending forward to do the tree along the driveway.

goodbye cantilevered branch

Handing down the branch! Bye Bye!!!

They began trimming those branches and I went inside. I was nominally working from home. 🙂 Soon I felt this NEED to go see what they were doing. I’m glad I did. There was a slight misunderstanding of what I wanted and I walked out there just in time. The request was to trim back the branches from the house, but had been received as remove the branches over the driveway. I said that I was quite happy with what they’d removed so far – the house was clear – but they could leave the higher branches. Those provide a lot of shade and relief in the summer. I didn’t want them gone, just trimmed back.

clearing the garage roof

Clearing the rest of the garage roof

Next came my cantilevered branch on the garage roof. To do that they had to move the lift further down the driveway. Watching him place the legs one at a time and adjust the placement of the feet was extremely interesting. I couldn’t believe how much smaller the lift now looked down the driveway. It was tucked in between the house, the tree and the garage. It fit and it worked. An amazing machine. The balancing branch was easy-peasy to remove: he grabbed hold of it and handed it down. Had there not been any other tree work needed, that is exactly what I’d have done. I’d have gone up on my step ladder and nudged it to slide further to the ground. Which is probably why it was a good idea to let the professionals handle it. *grin* I jumped up and down and cheered when they removed that branch. I’m not sure if they were amused or thought I was a crazy lady but they smiled back.

time to tackle the dead tree

Time to tackle the dead tree – have at it!

Next he began cutting the overhanging branches. One of the men got to do all the fun stuff – moving the cage, cutting the branches. The other two had to retrieve and drag the branches down the driveway to the truck. There was a lot of ground-cage communication. They also did a lot of checking and verification with me. By this time I’d dropped any pretense that I was working and was out there watching, taking pictures, cheering, and pointing. 🙂 What a GREAT morning! They cleared all of the overhanging branches and even removed some small dead ones that had already fallen and were snagged in the ivy.

going going

going… going….

FINALLY it was time to get to the dead tree. Only half the tree was dead but the other half is not all that healthy. I definitely wanted to be watching during this part because I wanted them to keep whatever could be maintained. That tree provides a great deal of privacy between our deck (especially the hot tub) and the upper floors of Mari Sue’s house. Since I’d been keeping my deck umbrellas closed all season because of fear of falling branches, I’d noticed exactly how little privacy we will have if that tree goes away completely. In the summer the deck umbrellas will provide privacy now that I can open them. In the winter it’s usually dark when we are in the tub so the lack of leaves is not as big a problem.

another one bites the dust

Another one bites the dust. These were all BIG branches

It really took him very little time to take down the dead trunk. The lower thicker branches had to come off in several pieces, but that top part came down in one piece. *laughing* In hindsight I realize that it looked a lot like a denuded Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. 🙂

And then it was gone. Gone Gone Gone. It was wonderful. I looked up and saw blue sky, unimpeded by dead spindly branches. The garage was clear of branches. I walked about, checking the property, making sure that everything I wanted gone was gone.

GONE! a cleared garage

Look at that – a CLEARED garage. Any branch you see is alive

I noticed a dead branch hanging down behind my garage, caught on the telephone lines running down the property lines. I really couldn’t tell over whose property the branch was hanging, but I figured none of us needed a big dead branch hanging on the wires. Yes, PSEG and AT&T (or maybe Verizon – who knows these days, right?) are supposed to keep those wires clear but is has been YEARS since I’ve seen them come around checking, much less coming to warn me they’d be doing work back there. That is why we keep a generator and a Hogwart’s Owl standing by on the ready. 🙂

the house is cleared as well

Both house and garage unencumbered yet we still have shade

Sure enough the arborist freed that branch. Then he cut down some dead branches overhanging Larry’s property. *smile* It was the least we could do since he’d been dropping all of the dead branches onto Larry’s back yard. I told them they could drop them on my yard but they said Larry’s was better. His back yard is all ivy in that corner. My yard consists of stepping stones and plants. The men explained that the ivy was a much better cushion for the branches and would decrease any splintering and breakage. They cleaned both yards once all the branches were down.

take it all away

Take it all away!

It’s done. I feel so GOOD! I can stop worrying about dead branches smashing into my deck and/or house and find something else to worry about. *grin* The crew was great. I can definitely recommend Mickiewicz Arbor Experts, LLC in Jackson, NJ. They were on time, they were pleasant, helpful, polite, patient, professional and left both properties clean and clear. Let it blow, let it snow, let it froze!

Fall Garden Excitement

black swallowtail

Black Swallowtail butterfly

I have mentioned that I did not think I had ever seen a hummingbird until I saw one in June in Phoenix. My next-door-neighbor had a humming bird feeder and she saw them. My husband said that he had seen one in our yard once also (years ago). Other folks in town have said that they have hummingbirds. I have now seen one with my OWN EYES in MY garden!!!! I am SO EXCITED!!!!!!

False Starwort Bolton's Aster

zinnias, false starwort, canna lily all still in bloom

I was chatting with a neighbor. He is always threatening to steal my Rudbeckia Laciniata Hortensia (my big gorgeous yellow flowers). One year I gave him seeds from the flowers. I believe one year I even dug up a plant and gave it to him. He has not had any luck growing them. This year I gave him the botanical name AND the name of the place from where I get a few new plants each year (Heritage Flower Farm in Wisconsin). As we were chatting – that’s when I saw MY hummingbird! It was wonderful. It checked out the big canna lilies and flew away. My neighbor said that is where he sees them as well – feeding on his cannas. You KNOW next year I’m going to plant a FIELD of canna lilies!!!!
brown butterfly or moth

I never did anything about harvesting the seeds from the scarlet milkweed (Asclepias curassavica). I’m not sure the pod is even still there. I don’t think I have them in a very good spot. I may get some more for next year and put them elsewhere – maybe in front of the porch. The false starwort (Bolton’s Aster) is doing fantastic! It is indeed putting forth dozens of little white flowers. I don’t know if that’s a moth or a butterfly enjoying them. It flitted too much for me to get a sufficiently clear photo so that I could search on it. The black swallowtail was back as well. I think it might be a female. I have such a clear picture of it now but I can’t tell if the difference between the male and female on the web site is because they happen to have slightly different markings by the tail end, or if those different markings are how you tell male from female. I think this one looks more like the picture of the female black swallowtail

Not a weed

Those are DEFINITELY going to be flowers, not more leaves

The big bushy weed thing that was growing behind the zinnias and next to the cosmos – it’s not a weed!!!! Look – it has little flower buds on it! I can’t wait to see what comes up. I KNOW I have pulled that plant out in the past thinking it a weed. There is something growing out from under the yellow peony that I’m sure is a weed. But it, too, seems to have flowers so it gets to stay. The only flowering thing I pull is my goldenrod. The goldenrod would take over the entire yard if I let it. Its runners are extremely aggressive. 🙂 Even pulling out easily a dozen runners this spring, I will still have a nice crop.

flowering weed

hey – if it flowers, it can stay

Among my many “let’s just try it” this year was an attempt to grow cucumbers. I love cucumbers. I gave my niece my Mexican cucumber plant for last year, and thought maybe I’d see if I could get real cukes this year. As you can see from the picture, it does not appear that I succeeded. I probably did not give it enough light, and maybe it needed friends to pollinate properly. It does seem as if it’s TRYING to make a cucumber. We’ll give it more time and see what develops. Maybe I should tell it that it is a WEED and it would be more productive?

supposed to be a cucumber

Half a cucumber?

Time for My End Run

bifurcated tree 1

Dead, unsightly, I want them GONE!

It’s been 3 months now that I’ve been trying to get permission from my neighbors to remove the tree behind my garage. Half of the tree is dead. There are still some live branches on parts of it. When I got estimates back in JUNE all the experts suggested removing the entire tree. To do THAT I need a permit from the township and THEY required permission from my neighbors. I couldn’t get permission from my neighbor because she was selling the house at the end of July and didn’t want to risk any damage. She told me to take it up with the new owners. August came and there was no sign of new owners. FINALLY last week, August 28, I saw a moving van.

more dead branches

Still MORE dead branches – some already broken off

I went over to say hello and mention the tree. I know my timing was terrible, but hurricane season is coming and I want those branches GONE. I wasn’t completely awful. *smile* I brought a hanging plant (red begonias) and I had written down on paper my name, my husband’s name, our address and our home phone. I went to say hello and welcome to the neighborhood and please look at the dead tree and come by for a cocktail or coffee. My new neighbor, Mary Lou, seemed to be completely frazzled. I suspected my effort had just failed. It’s now a week later. I’d hoped that maybe we’d see signs of life there again Labor Day weekend but no, no one anywhere in sight.

branches over hanging garage

I should make my neighbor pay for this part – these are HIS tree

Enough is enough. The heck with them and the township. I called Paul the tree man back. I said – we don’t need a permit to take branches overhanging my property, correct? He said that was correct. I said – come and get them. I am sure you are correct and the whole tree should come down but that’s not happening any time soon, and the wind and rain season IS soon. At one point it appeared we’d get a larger part of Hurricane Dorian but thank goodness that is NOT happening. It now looks as if we’ll get rain and tropical force winds at the most. That can still cause a bit of damage, especially if things get caught in the power lines. Our town dates back to pre-Revolutionary war times so our power lines are all ABOVE ground. I told Paul that besides the “dead” tree I’d also like the cantilevered branch removed from my garage. He made some comment about little overhanging branches won’t damage the roof. I said, noooooo, this branch is easily 20 feet long and balanced on the point of the garage. He agreed to include that. 🙂 Next week. He’s due next week. YAY!!!!!

bifurcated tree trunk

The source of my troubles

To be fair, the tree is not 100% dead. It is bifurcated, and one trunk is mostly healthy. The other trunk is mostly dead. I suspect that the tree people are correct and ultimately the whole tree will need to come down. In the meantime, I am becoming quite content with my approach. Some of those live branches are still giving us privacy from the neighbors behind us. I like that privacy. I know that taking it down a branch or 3 at a time is the most expensive way to deal with it. I suspect the cost effective approach is to either leave it be until it comes down on its own (would that really be cost effective????) or get the various permissions to remove it entirely. I keep imagining large branches being whipped off and crashing into either my deck or my breakfast room bay window. Or large branches coated with ice and snow breaking away with enough of a drop to damage the garage roof. Since Paul agreed to come and remove all the branches I want removed, I’m going to convince myself that I have selected the over-all best approach. *grin* I’m there. That was easy! In the meantime, I continue to collect the dead branches that reach the ground. I’m hoping Paul will take them, too.
piles of dead branches

Summer Bounty

produce still life

Friday was Farmers’ Market day. We’d eaten pretty much everything in the refrigerator. The caterpillars had my herbs. There were no ripe grape tomatoes on my plant. I definitely needed someone else’s produce if we were to have salads and snacks. It was glorious weather again, no hurricane near us yet. So I grabbed 2 bags and headed up to the market.
farmers' market pet vendor

I almost thought that it was going to be that rarity – a day when I saw no one I knew. I’d already picked up a few things when I realized I was staring at my next door neighbors. 🙂 We stood about chatting, as one does at the market. Larry took photos of us. This is apparently his “new thing” – documenting his life. Hah! He’s only half-way there. He needs to add commentary!
von thun's stand

As we chatted my good friends Matt and Janice came up. Their block was having their annual block party that weekend (yes, we went – it was great). Matt was walking about with a big huge watermelon and Janice had a sack full of eggplant for parmigiana. We’d probably have talked a lot longer, the market is so conducive for chatting, but Janice had an appointment she had to attend.
farmers' market sandwich board

I had finished picking my cukes, radishes and tomatoes when I heard someone calling my name. It was Bruce, who does occasional fix-it-up work for me. I hadn’t seen him in ages, it seems. I guess having a new kitchen cuts back on repairs. 🙂 We agreed we’d meet up at the block party.
baker's bounty

We had plans to go out to dinner with friends that night, so I didn’t need to do any food preparation once I got home. I decided to make a still life portrait of my purchases. The only thing not immediately recognizable are the pickles. Dr. Pickle is always at the farmers’ market. Thank goodness. Nothing like a good half sour pickle for a snack!
Dr Pickle

Yet Another Summer Salad

garlic and zest cracked wheat salad

Mediterranean Cracked Wheat Salad from http://www.garlicandzest.com

The weather is definitely cooling. It’s still summer, but we hear and sense Fall approaching. I know this because my husband and I are both back in the kitchen cooking. 🙂 He wokked two meals last week and I made another summer salad. Once the humidity dropped last week I felt energized sufficiently to tackle a new recipe. I decided to make the Mediterranean Cracked Wheat Salad. I’ve made tabouli before, usually from a box mix. I’ve also bought it pre-made from the store. I’ve never done anything fancy with it. As I mentioned in my Wheatberry Salad post, I have always shied away from “things” in my food. I also mentioned that I seem to be overcoming that attitude, thank goodness!

This cracked wheat salad is the last of the recipes I saved at the start of the summer, when I was searching for tasty, healthy food that wouldn’t require heating up the kitchen. This recipe called for boiling some water, but that was it for ‘cooking’. The rest was chopping and combining. I wasn’t able to pull anything from my garden for this salad. I’d already snacked on all of the grape tomatoes and I discovered that caterpillars were embedded in my parsley. Given all my support for butterflies, I abandoned my parsley to the caterpillars and used dried parsley. (If I identified the caterpillar correctly, it will be a black swallowtail, which makes sense.)

IMG_1863

Black Swallowtail caterpillars are welcome to my parsley


I had to substitute on the peppers as well, since I did not find pepperoncini peppers at the farmers’ market. I used jalapeno peppers. I’d like to try again with the pepperoncinis because jalapeno is still a bit hot for my taste. My husband, however, loved it. My other change was to ditch the olives. I don’t like olives. I knew I’d just pick them out of the salad, I wouldn’t eat them, and if I didn’t tell my husband that they were missing he’d never know. 🙂 No olives. I loved the taste and look of the julienned radishes. That’s something that would have never occurred to me. See – learning new things. I followed the instructions to only pour some of the dressing on the wheat/vegetable mixture. When I decided it need more dressing, rather than pouring or spooning it on, I used a fork. That way I was getting mostly the ingredients in the dressing and not much of the oil and lemon juice. That kept the mixture from becoming soggy yet it all got some of the dressing. Next time I will probably reduce the olive oil and juice.

This passed our taste test! We are both enjoying it, it’s going fast. It was easy to make, very clear directions which anticipated things such as liquid remaining after the wheat had been absorbing the directed amount. Definitely another keeper for the kitchen files!

Thanks again to Lisa at Garlic & Zest for sharing the recipe!

It’s NOT a Weed!!!!

false starwort with canna lily

Boltonia Asteroides False Starwort

It’s my Boltonia Asteroides – False Starwort! Apparently it blooms in August and September and can grow to 4-5 feet tall. YES!!! The article in Backyard Gardener.com goes on to say that “The Boltonias, because of their great height, are highly desirable in large perennial borders because the plants literally bear thousands of star-like flowers.” I’m so relieved. I KNEW I’d planted something there deliberately. I must have switched my markers when I was planting. Either that or I have been misremembering which plant grew tall. 🙂 I do like tall flowers.

false starwort

Flowering False Starwort

On the other hand, I’m fairly certain that I DO have a weed that has been trying to pass itself off as a cosmos. It is growing where I planted the cosmos. I thought it was a wonderfully healthy cosmos. Then I realized that it was too hairy and too thick to be a cosmos. I’ve seen this imposter before – it’s a weed. 🙂 It doesn’t flower. On the other hand, I rather like its hairy leaves. It gets to stay even though it has no flowers. But NEXT year I’ll pull it if I recognize it in time.

cosmos imposter

The Imposter – It’s NEVER going to flower! But it is hairy!

The grape tomatoes are coming in! I lost the first crop to some hungry predator a few weeks ago when I did not spray stinky repel-all quickly and abundantly. I was determined that *I* would get to eat THIS batch. And I did. And they were yummy. 🙂 I didn’t share at all.
grape tomatoes

I had a new butterfly today as well – the Common Buckeye. It was much less skittish than the Painted Lady the other day. I could step nearer while it was on the flowers and it didn’t dart away. The black swallowtail was back later in the afternoon as well. We’re all enjoying the not weeds. 🙂

common buckeye butterfly

Common Buckeye butterfly enjoying the flowering mint


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