Friday, July 31, 2015

Henri Matisse in the garden

My earliest education on color harmonies in the garden was influenced by seeing gardeners passing along plants to each other, tucking the plants into whatever spot was available, and admiring (and unashamedly bragging on) the individual color when each plant was in bloom.  When I got my own place, I decided to be a little more uppity about the placement of plants.  Landscape design has its appeal, even if it doesn't come naturally to me.  I planted white spirea beside the red Japanese maple.  I put pinks and whites and blues together.  I put a yellow daylily by the purple coneflowers.  You get the idea.
However, despite all my effort for harmony, I ended up with daylily 'Final Touch' blooming next to phlox paniculata 'Robert Poore.'

As Daddy would say about things that don't go as planned, "Ain't THAT a sight?" 
But, there is no doubt a way to appreciate the colors together, and I think I've found a way.  Years ago I bought a book, The Perennial Garden: Color Harmonies through the Seasons by Jeff and Marilyn Cox.  I enjoy referring back to it from time to time.  In the section on color harmonies, they describe a particular perennial bed which borrowed its color scheme from a Henri Matisse painting.  If you look up Henri Matisse on the internet, you will notice descriptions about his use of color which include words like expressive, dissonant, and unmodulated.  The garden bed in the example had red and hot pink dianthus next to lavender dianthus and "fleshy apricot" iris which, in turn, was next to dark burgundy iris which was flanked by blue and white aquilegia.  There you go!  Now, whenever I see my pink and yellow daylilies (which from a distance look peachy) next to the hot magenta phlox, I lift my chin a little higher and whisper to myself, "reflections of Matisse."
Of course, if I had to tell you my personal favorite color, I'd probably adapt a line from a folk song and say "greens and blues are the colors I choose," though at times I am loath to narrow it down.  I saw this blue damselfly on a blade of green grass in the garden yesterday.  Now that is a pretty color scheme if I ever saw one!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

End of the beetle season

I can tell when the Japanese beetle season is through.  The white crepe myrtle finally has a chance to hold its blooms without them being ravaged every day.  The deep pink crepe myrtle, which blooms later than the white, is in full bloom as well.  Very lovely on a hot, humid day.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Got a little aerobic exercise today

When I mowed the back yard last week, I had a lot of clippings from where the grass had gotten high.  I raked the clippings into a dozen little piles yesterday.  I deliberated on whether to put them on the compost pile or not because some of the grass was already going to seed.  I decided I would put them on the compost pile.  I was in the process of collecting my little piles of grass clippings and piles of weeds today when I heard the UPS truck coming down our street.  (I have a neighbor who keeps them in business.)  Well, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I had received a book in bad shape and needed to send it back.  A friend had graciously printed a return label for me, Amazon had sent me a replacement book, which I received yesterday.  I only needed to box the damaged book and find a UPS drop off.  There is a drop off box that wouldn't be too far out of the way when I run an errand to Walmart.  My other option was to catch the UPS driver while he was in the neighborhood.  (I considered titling this post "fat woman catches brown truck.")  I had the book boxed, labeled, and ready to go.  When I heard the truck, I tore around the house and up the front steps.  Alas, I had earlier gone out the back door, so the front storm door was still locked.  I dashed back down the steps, around back, in through the back door, down the hall and into the office.  Then I flew out the front door, fully intending to trespass across the yard next door.  Amazingly, the driver was not yet back in his truck.  By that point I was getting winded and decided if I missed him, I missed him.  I slowed to a fast walk as I took a shortcut through the yard of the vacant house next to mine.  As he was starting to pull out of my neighbor's drive, I waved with one hand and held my box up with the other.  I hurried across the street and handed him the box right through his open door.  "Can you take this for me?"
"Let me see.  Yeah, I can take it."
I had to go inside and drink some lemonade and catch my breath before I finished my yard work.  When I checked "take book by UPS" off my "to do" list, I put TWO check marks and a SMILEY FACE!
This is what my finished compost pile looked like.  (I put some pokeweed in amongst the other stuff to add a little more green.)
Between building up the compost pile and running after the UPS truck, I think I got a pretty good workout.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


My older brother is quite the peach farmer, and he picked some peaches for us.  Darling husband picked them up for us.  (They weren't too far from his regular route.)
I cut up some for us to eat fresh and to some I added a little half and half for dh and ds to eat in the mornings.
I put some in the freezer.

I got a little adventurous tonight and made a peach-mango salsa.  In my eagerness, I picked the first two banana peppers before they were completely mature, but, no matter, they went into the salsa anyway.
I even made a pie (with a store-boughten crust--oh, how the mighty have fallen!).
Peaches have to be one of the best flavors and aromas around.  Life is good when you're eating fresh peaches.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What WERE they thinking?

There never seems to be money in the budget for books, but I finally ordered a book from Amazon that I had been wanting for a while.  I also ordered a bird feeder to replace the one that was ruined by the hail.  I'm not sure what was going through the mind of the person who packed the order.  A large metal bird feeder and a book were dumped into the same carton to bang around against each other as the carton was undoubtedly bumped, jostled, and tossed in transit.  The only packing materials were two thin pieces of brown paper.  There wasn't even a packing list, which is a bummer because we were waiting on the packing list to send to the insurance company for reimbursement of the bird feeder.  What a hassle! 
Here is what the book looked like, and, no, it was NOT a used book.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Buzzard drying its wings

As has happened frequently over the last few weeks, the heat of yesterday afternoon brought a thundershower.  After the shower, I noticed a turkey vulture drying its wings.  There is a rugged pine that stands out from the others behind my neighbor's house.  I think it had a deer stand in it once upon a time, so it might have been left when some of the other pines were cut.  The vulture was using that pine as a perch.  I took a few pictures.

 I moved a little closer, but by that time the buzzard had folded its wings.  I waited...
I guess it was finished drying its wings and wouldn't oblige me by posing.  Oh well, there was a teddy bear cloud in a different direction that was fairly begging to have its picture made.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Weeds and green growies

Basic green shrubs like Japanese hollies that are frequently used as foundation shrubs are sometimes referred to as green growies.  They don't add a lot of excitement; they just provide a constant green.  When I was a youngster, somehow I got the idea that we would have it made it we only had a birdbath in the middle of the front yard and some foundation shrubs.  My tastes have matured a little, but I do have foundation shrubs.  They came with the house.  I guess I have "arrived."  So for 20 years my son and I have pruned them.  We moved the ones in front of the porch to the end of the house, and we lost a few--to black root rot, I think.  I pruned them myself this year.  Darling son is too busy with other things.

Besides pruning, I've been doing some weeding.  Believe it or not, I'm still finding bits of siding, shingles, tar paper, and roofing tacks in the flower beds next to the house.
I weeded around this daylily.  It's so pretty!  (I still have a little more grass to pull up there.)

I've spent quite a bit of time the last few days trying to weed the area near the camellia and the coneflowers.  I have removed enough Japanese stilt grass and Asiatic dayflowers to make two big piles of weeds.   


 I have also removed a tremendous amount of poison ivy and Virginia creeper.
Look at this huge root! No, it's not from the camellia, not from the nearby willow oak.  It's Virginia creeper.  Who would have guessed it could develop such a humongous root?  I guess I will try to dig some of it out.
(I managed to get a little poison ivy on my arm.  Thankfully, I have some store brand anti-itch cream.)  There is always plenty of weeding to do.  I can never stay on top of it.  This morning as I weeded some, I listened to a little airplane flying around overhead.  I wondered if the pilot had made quick work of his weeding chores with a shot of weed killer or a zap with the weed trimmer early in the morning so he could be done with it and get up in the air.    

Friday, July 17, 2015

Fledgling bluebird

I've been watching the activity at the bluebird house recently.  Just yesterday, I could see the parent birds taking food to the birdhouse and removing fecal sacs as they flew from the birdhouse.  Today, I saw both male and female flying back and forth from the maple to the crepe myrtle and calling.  I figured the fledglings had left the box or were getting ready to. 
This afternoon when I stepped outside, I saw a bird in the mulched area.  It looked like a fledgling.  I got my camera and watched as it took a wobbly flight to the neighbor's pine and perched itself on a knot on the trunk.

Papa Bluebird was vigilantly following.  You can see him perched on a limb of the pine.
Soon after I took the picture, the fledging flew to the edge of neighbor's wooded backyard.  Safe travels, little bluebird!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bell pepper, tiger swallowtail, volunteer coleus

Yesterday, I picked the first bell pepper.  This is a red variety, and I really do like the flavor of a ripe bell pepper, but I was afraid the bugs would get it if I left it in the garden.  I planted the pepper plant on May 19.  It was in a little biodegradable pot that could be put right into the ground.  Fifty-six days is not bad for growing a pepper.
I also caught a picture of a tiger swallowtail on the coneflowers.  The coneflowers have had a banner year.
Here's an update on the pot of volunteers.  If I get a chance, I'll separate the plants.
(My camera doesn't capture purple colors very well.  In researching on the web, I've found that problem is not uncommon with my kind of camera.  It has to do with the white setting, but I don't know if that is something that requires a technician to change.  So the petunia really doesn't look in real life like it looks in the picture, but it does still clash in real life with the coleuses.  Until I have a chance to separate them, though, I will just refer to them as a "riot of color.")

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mountain mint is teeming with insects

I have a little patch of mountain mint, and I'm always astounded at the variety and sheer number of insects busily gathering nectar when it blooms.  I stepped out this evening and noticed 8 or 9 buckeye butterflies.  One was sporting a little more blue on its wings, so I had to go get my camera.  Here's a sampling of the insects I saw this evening.  Of course, the garden spider was smart to set up shop where so much food is available.



Thursday, July 9, 2015

Love finding info and inspiration on the internet

My friend Jack mentioned in a comment on my last post that the info about squash vine borers was new to him.  That is what I love about the internet.  In looking up info about borers, I found a couple of websites that were beneficial to me.  One had excellent information but was for gardeners farther north where there is only one generation of vine borers per summer.  Apparently we have two here in NC.  This website was very informative and relative to the timing of the borer life cycle in NC.

This website was good, too, though the timing would be for Minnesota gardens.  I usually find information that is put out by public university extension services to be good quality info.

And while I'm mentioning websites for info, I'll also post a few blogs that I visit regularly for inspiration. This is one of my favorites.  Lots of inspiration for organic gardening and self sufficient living. This is another favorite.  Recipes and lots of info on gardening.

I'll confess, I love the pictures on this blog:  I do get inspiration, too, but mostly I get pleasure from looking at the pictures and dreaming.

The only drawback is being tempted to spend too much time researching and not enough time actually "doing."

Well, I'm off to hang the clothes on the line and maybe do a little mowing if it's not already too hot.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Down with the vine borers!

The other day when I tried to remove the vine borers, I had covered the sliced squash vines with soil.  Today, when I saw that there was more damage above the soil line, I knew I had not gotten all the borers.  One vine was beyond saving, but I tried to save another.  I did find two borers.  Here you can see one on the tip of the paring knife I used.  (The larva was about 3/4" long, just estimating.  The one I found in the vine that was collapsed was a bit larger.)
In the background, above the tip of the knife, you can see the squash vine with its stem laid open, exposing all the borer damage.  I covered that with soil.  (Sorry the picture is foggy; it was so hot and humid outside that my camera lens fogged up.)
Well, that's three I know for sure that I've killed.  I got two little squash off the vines today and cooked them in the microwave in a little water with butter and freshly ground black pepper.