Archive for the 'flowers and gardens' Category

Caught in the Act

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Painted Lady butterfly

The black swallowtail butterfly has been much more cooperative than the orange and black butterfly. The other day I managed to catch a few photos of her, although she moves so fast! She is much more aware of my presence than the black swallowtail, which allowed me to get close enough to take several decent pictures. This butterfly moved every time I moved. All the photos are just that bit out of focus, but I think she’s a Painted Lady. Now that I’ve gotten this close, I’m wondering if it is this butterfly I’ve been seeing or if I really was seeing Monarchs earlier in the season. Maybe I’ll have another lucky day and will be able to catch her, or other butterflies in the act! I’m happy to see that they are enjoying the zinnias as much as I am!

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Wings folded

I love the tropicana canna lilies. They are simply stupendous. I was listening to a garden show this morning that was explaining how I should dead-head the flowers, but it sounds a bit tricky. Apparently the new flower is growing right next to the old flower and if you cut in the wrong place you lose the new one. Sounds too risky for me to try. She was also giving instructions on how to dig them up to over-winter them. Sigh. I suppose I SHOULD try to do that – the plants are so expensive, and I do want them every year. But by the time it’s digging-up time, I’m really “over” my garden. 🙂
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I have also figured out that what I thought was the false starwort is actually the butterfly weed. And what I thought was the butterfly weed is probably some huge weed weed(you can see it behind the cosmos and zinnias and to the left of the canna lilies – it’s green 🙂 ). I guess the false starwort died. I started reading to see what I’m supposed to do with the huge butterfly weed seed pod. Apparently I should harvest it, which seems to be easy but messy. I think one of the reasons I’ve been so confused is that I tend to buy very tall plants – ones that grow to be 3 feet or taller. Butterfly weed does NOT grow that tall. It’s possible that at the point when I planted everything I knew that and knew what I was doing. 🙂 I must have ordered them because I wanted to support the butterflies. 🙂 That’s actually ironic, because I NEVER see butterflies over in that part of the garden. I guess they don’t like marigolds.
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I KNOW that I bought, planted and HAVE the Agastache foeniculum (anise hyssop). I’ve posted pictures of that here. I also know that I planted things where those 2 huge weeds are growing. I’m waiting to see if they flower – it looks as if they might. But they are NOT false starwort by any stretch of the imagination. Here’s the bottom line – they will flower and I’ll decide whether or not they stay, or I’m going to pull them out.

5 Hours

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After the Pruning

This weekend the weather was GLORIOUS! No humidity, low 80s, sunshine – just perfect weather. Beginning on Friday afternoon I began psyching myself for waking early on Saturday to go out and tackle the evergreens in front of the house, which were in desperate need of pruning. I got up a little before 7:30 am, fed the cats, cleaned their litter boxes, and headed out to tackle the pruning. My husband left, came back, left again, came back. When I finally finished all I’d hoped to do, and bagged the evidence, I’d been out there for 5 hours, utilizing 2 different step ladders. Even as I type now, I feel the strain in my muscles. Ouch.

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Before the pruning

On the other hand, although my body feels battered and bruised, the hedge and garden are looking extremely fine, in my opinion (does anyone else’s opinion matter for this???). I even tackled the willow bush along the driveway so that I can pull my car further up without fearing for the paint job. No pictures of that so you’ll have to take my word for it. Would I lie to you, honey? Now would I say something that wasn’t true? *grin*

I spent several hours on the hedge alone – getting the front, top, back and sides. I usually try to do this in the spring, before the flowers are growing, so that it’s easier to clean up the cuttings. I had to keep moving the large step ladder around the dahlias, trying not to damage them. I did at one point lose my balance anyway (on the ground, NOT on the ladder, go figure) and ended up falling on one of the dahlias. 😦 Thankfully I only damaged a piece of it, not the whole plant. There will still be flowers. I don’t use an electric hedge clipper. I use manual loppers and take my time to step back a distance and see what I’ve been doing. My goal is to take the top down sufficiently far to allow air and light to come into the front sun room under the awning, without losing the privacy we get from the hedge. I’d estimate I took off at least 8 inches from the top. I also pruned the little golden arborvitae a bit – took a bit off the top and the side by the golden rod.

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After – look there is yard art!

I also trim the front and sides to give room to the other bushes and flowers there. The one side was reaching out to the andromeda bush and the other side was into the potted plants along the front walk. Perhaps the ‘ickiest’ part of the pruning is the back – clearing a path between the hedge and the house. That’s where the spiders hang out. Ick. Yes, yes, I KNOW they eat bugs. But I don’t like them or their webs touching me. *shudder* I go through first with a broom to clear anything like that before I start cutting. I had a lot of encouragement from the butterflies. Both the black swallowtail and the monarch butterflies were flitting about.

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Before – hedge over the bottom of the awning.

Once I finally got the hedge under control, and took a few cuts at the forsythia on the corner of the sun room, I worked on the willow bush along the driveway. I’d hacked it back in the winter when we were due for a huge wet snowfall. I learned in the past that huge, wet snowfalls cause the willow to bend all the way into the driveway and until we clear that bush, we can’t move the cars. It’s been a wet spring and the willow has flourished. I also trimmed up the pots along the front walk, and weeded them, and removed the ones that were done for the year. I was doing my best “energizer bunny” imitation. 🙂 I am delighted that FINALLY the canna lilies in the front pots are blooming. Sure took them long enough. I still see very little evidence that the ones in the other pot will flower. 😦

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Behind the hedge and weeded container pots

After all of the pruning is done, then comes cleanup. Had I seen any evidence of the teenage boy who supposedly lives next door, I’d have tried to hire him to do get the debris into the big brown lawn bags. But as is usual this summer, there was no sign of life there, so I bagged 4 brown bags full of debris. Ouch. Anyway, I think it’s looking fine now, and there is air and light in the sun room. You can see the metal heron between the bushes. Even the metal & rocks art sculpture can be seen. Pruning the rhododendron and tying up the forsythia will have to wait til fall. I’m not sure my muscles will recover before then. 🙂
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Office Creativity

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Some days in the office, as the clock ticks towards 5 pm, and the air is quiet and still with everyone out on vacation, I raise my head and look about me to gaze upon the kingdom. I keep 2 live plants in my cube, and some silk plants as well. My coworker Bill probably does a better job than I of keeping the live ones in that state. He’d pointed out to me the other morning that one of them needed pruning. As I gazed about I saw the plants and realized that they needed more than pruning. They need support and they really need more soil in their pots. There wasn’t much I could do about adding dirt at that point but I thought I could at least make them stand upright.
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My office appears to be empty of anything useful in staking a big plant. No rulers, no sticks, no rubber bands, no string – pretty much nothing that can be utilized as garden implements. Where there is a will, there is a way. I can be very determined.
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I was ransacking the drawers and shelves trying to find something string-like to tie the plant together. Nothing until… AHA!!!! Look at THAT!! A PHONE CORD! It was huddled in a corner of my desk, doing nothing, feeling neglected and useless. It was meant to work with a headset but the headset was missing a vital part, so nothing ever came of that project. A phone cord is long, pliable, and strong. But how would I pull the looped cord so that it pulled the plant upright? I have THUMBTACKS!!! Hmmm. The pressure from the plant will probably pull out a thumbtack, and I’m not sure if the tacks will hold the thick cord. Bingo! I have lots of twisty ties from cables in my desk. Make a loop with the twisty tie and tack THAT to the wall. And use LOTS of thumbtacks. Even so, additional reinforcement would be good in case thumbtacks begin popping out of the cubicle wall. Scotch tape. I have tape. One last touch – the binder clip to keep the knot in the cord. *grin*

Now if I can only remember to bring in some potting soil.

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Focus on the Positive

Some days it’s just very very difficult to remain upbeat. On those days I look for the brightest possible spot and stare there, whether literal or figurative. This morning’s bright spot award goes yet again to the mandevilla. 🙂 Look at that plant grow!! Not sure where it thinks it’s heading – I may have to string some rope to support that top tendril.

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Making Do On the Lunch Hour Walk

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I like to get out and take a walk at lunch when possible. I’ve done that at every location I’ve ever worked. Before my current location, I worked in a very nice office park. There was a lake, the lake had turtles, wading birds (crane, egret, whatever it was), lots of green grass, pebbled paths for pedestrians, and of course wonderful coworkers (I have to put that in – I know some of them read this *grin*). Not only was it lovely right in front of our building, but I could walk through the trees behind our parking lot into another area with paths and trees. It really made for a lovely stroll.
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Well, nothing lasts forever. It wasn’t wedding bells that broke up the old gang but cost efficiencies. First they told us we should/could all work from home and they closed the office. (I don’t LIKE not having a place to be with my coworkers so I kept nudging and nagging until I got an assigned desk in a new location, close to my home.) Shortly after they kicked everyone out, they decided that everyone had to be co-located. I was already relocated, but the rest of my group would be relocated to another state. As you might imagine, by now most of them have relocated to other companies or retirement.
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I, however, continue to work and continue to come in to the office (a lot, if not always). I still like to walk at lunch when the weather and my schedule permit. But the current scenery is a far cry from that to which I’d become accustomed. (Speaking of cries – remind me to come back to THAT.) As you can see from the photos, I walk around the parking lot. Yes, I walked around the parking lots before as well, but they were surrounded by lovely trees and green grass. This parking lot is surrounded by fences and warehouses and storage facilities. The parking lot itself could serve as a set for a post-apocalypse movie. I mean – LOOK at the plant above. Doesn’t that look as if it has been exposed to some kind of radiation? It certainly does not convey an image of health and serenity.
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One of the neighboring facilities is a warehouse with large openings for trucks to back in and unload. Unearthly pterodactyl-like screeches sound irregularly from that facility (okay, I don’t KNOW that they are pterodactyl-like sounds but they sound the way you’d THINK a pterodactyl would sound). The sounds are triggered by sensors in order to keep birds from flying into the warehouse. I have no idea how effective they are as bird-deterrents but they enhance the post-apocalyptic sensation wonderfully. I debated recording it for you but that required more patience than I had. 🙂 Not to mention that I didn’t want to stand around too long and become pterodactyl lunch. Maybe they aren’t recordings.
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But still, I get outside and I do get to walk, and there are some interesting leaves. In the spring there is even a row of day lilies along one of the sides of the building. I have no idea what trees are shown in my photos. I know that one of those things looks exactly like the enormous 12 foot tall weed growing outside my dining room window. I usually try to pull it before it reaches the berry stage but I gave up on weeding this year. Can any of YOU identify it? I don’t know what the fern-y tree is either, but I like the pretty orange things on it (seed pods? leaves?). I walk up and down the aisles of the lot, looking at the cars, trying to find attractive distractions. To date my best distraction from the walking and the post-apocalyptic blues has been YOU – I write posts in my head until I get back to my desk! Thanks for reading!!!! 🙂
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I Haz Butterfly!!!

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I went out to water the plants in pots yesterday when a large dark something darted across my vision. It was a BUTTERFLY!!!! One I’ve not seen here before (I have seen Monarchs and white moths). It was huge and beautiful and it was flitting about checking out all the flowers! My garden strategy seems to be working for attracting butterflies and pollinators. YAY!!!!! It hung around for awhile on that dahlia (I guess IT didn’t mind the dark color). I had to leave so I don’t know how long it stayed, but it gladdened my heart for sure!

And PLEASE don’t tell me it is a moth, even if it is. 🙂

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Mandevillas Climbing High

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The mandevillas are LOVING this summer. Either it’s the weather or I bought superior plants this year. They have both reached the top of the 8 foot poles and are still growing. Not only are the vines and leaves growing, but both plants have been putting out an abundance of flowers. I love it! I think maybe next year I will find more room and plant more of them – maybe build a wall of mandevillas somewhere.

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The little canna lilies I planted way back in April in the pots have been very disappointing. I am FINALLY seeing one of them put up a flower shoot, but the others have only leaves, no flowers. The hibiscus has also disappointed. 😦 I’ve been putting hibiscus into the front pots for several years now, and I’d say this is the worst crop ever. I can’t even blame the deer this time – I’m not seeing any evidence that they’ve been chomping. I guess they are disappointed, too.

This green plant highlighted against the brown canna leaves is (supposedly) butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). It’s very tall, but I don’t see a single hint of a flower anywhere. I’m pretty sure it IS what I planted, since I have 2 of them, exactly where I think I planted the butterfly weed. IMG_1501I can’t imagine this plant being at all appealing to a butterfly. I’d almost think that what I thought was the Bolton’s Aster False Starwort was the butterfly weed except that does look like pictures of the aster. If the weather ever cools down sufficiently for me to get out there and weed, maybe I’ll be able to figure out what that plant is. For now I’m calling it butterfly weed. So there.

I do love canna lilies, mandevilla, hibiscus, and gladiolas. They are so bright and cheerful. I’m disappointed in the colors I picked for the dahlias this year. They seem to be very dark, and they are getting lost against the bushes. Most of them have not yet flowered so perhaps I planted some light ones as well. *smile* I really don’t remember what I planted. I just go crazy buying plants and shoving them in the ground and hope that it will look good later when they bloom.
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