Monthly Archives: May 2012

Our very own Angry Bird

Meet the latest in the cast of characters that make life here in the Burrow so wonderfully  wacky . He is a nestling/fledgeling grackel ( I think) whom we have affectionately nicknamed baby Huey. As you can see by his girth, flying is not his specialty. He has falling and plopping mastered, and he  can hop( kind of ) to low branches when he feels like it. Huey is grumpy, a sour puss and  angry at the world and he  is making me miserable.

Yesterday Huey  thumped out of the plum tree where he was born down into the driveway below ,then proceeded to waddle into the garage bay where I was standing. Huey decided that this space was now his own and began to squawk loudly at me. I tried to reassure him that I am a bird lover, providing  food, shelter, and a lovely space for all creatures avian, and in return quite enjoy the antics and entertainment they provide, and was no threat to him. Huey thought otherwise. When I tried to leave the garage he really  worked up a ruckus and then proceeded to lunge at my ankles and toes trying to peck me. Really.

The whole thing was quite ridiculous and any neighbor that may have passed by while I was trying to reason with an angry bird at my feet must have thought me insane.

Last night Huey tumbled  to the bottom of the flamingo willow near the front porch where Faith and I were brushing the dogs. He launched into a tirade squawking and yelling and generally upsetting everyone including his father ( I say Father because any MOTHER would not let he rolly polly unable to fly fledgling out into the world like that, AND he probably had some splainin’ to do when the Mrs. returned).

We went inside to stop all the drama.

This morning as I went out to leave, there was Huey, behind my car blocking me in the driveway. Huey did not care that I had an appointment, did not give one whit. He stood his ground and when I went in to grab the camera and snap his photo and , he did this alarming 360 degree exorcist like head spin so he could hiss and squawk at me without moving his chunky little body. Things just keep getting weirder around here all the time.

 

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Patience Pays Off

Lots of things in the garden take patience. Plant a seed and time seems to stand still , then poof! one day you have a plant. Many things here take their sweet time getting established ( like our lawn) due to the poor soil and the combination of the lack of water , baking sun and ever present drying winds. Shrubs grow millimeters a year, perrennials clump out after eons, and trees, well trees seem to make time here go actually backwards.

Four yeas ago I finally hunted down a tree I had been longing to add to the front of the house. It is a red horsechestnut aesculus x carnea ‘Briottii’, and my desire to grow one canme first from having a horsechesnut tree in our yard grownig up (although it was white) and second  because the blooms on this sucker are just unreal . Long red spires opening atop those huge palm looking leaves, very cool.

AND the hummingbirds go crazy for them as they have long tubular flowers in their favorite color,red.This tree is not usually available in local nursery trade, and although I looked around I could never find one to buy that was at least 4-6 feet. I had to resort to an online order , which meant shipping, and a very small sapling. I happily planted it in it’s new home and sat back to wait for the first blooms. I knew it would take a little while to get going , but little did I know the obstaceles that would stand in it’s way to tree-hood.

The first year I had to relocate it,(I can’t remeber why now) and it suffered a setback from the transplant. The second winter voles got at the roots and things looked very iffy. Following that , the rabbits gnawed a significant hunk of bark off the bottom and it looked like the effort might have been an total loss. The arborist looked at the poor thing and just shook his head. But I was insistent it could be saved and dutifully kept the grass from growing any where near its base, and gave it lots of compost and water, and put a wire cage around it to keep the critters at bay.

This spring very early on I saw buds and was ecstatic, which quickly took a wild swing to sheer panic when I realized how early everything had leafed out and/ or set buds due to an unseasonably warm spring. I asked one of  the horticulturists , Joanne, at Tower Hill if she thought a frost would kill the buds . Tower Hill has, by the way,  a very large very beautiful specimen, and she said she did not know and only time would tell. She reassured me that all it would loose was the blooms and the tree would be fine, which is all well and good on a older tree from which you have already had many nice years of blooms…BUT NOT FOR MINE!!!!!!

I babied that sucker for the last three weeks, monitoring the frost warnings like a lunatic, and wrapping a sheet around the tree, several times in 4o mph winds which was ridiculous and borderline lock-em-up crazy and……………………………….

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Look at that will ya???? Isn’t it awesome!

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Alliums to the rescue

This spring ,because of our unsolved bunny troubles, much of the plant list here in the Burrow is getting a serious look at to see what is worth protecting , what will be left to fend for itself, and what will be added to fill out the places where the damage is not only daily but devastating.

I am letting self seeders like ‘Husker Red’ penstemon and amaranth go crazy as they are filling many holes left by the critters, and to date remain untouched. In the fall I added lots of peony,iris, and fuzzy or  gray foliage plants,which also are ignored.

But , the new golden children  of the garden are the alliums. These easy to grow members of the onion family have the most interesting flowers on tall sticks raised high above the foliage. I planted ‘Purple sensation’ an early bloomer in many spaces and it has thrown out  cool purple flowers that are like small fireworks displays. I also grow a swirly  curly leaved variety , allium senescens , that blooms later .

Chives, also an allium, have been growing in the rock garden for 10 + years, adding a texture contrast to the iris, and never even get a nibble.

My newest trick, and one I am kind of proud of for its ingenuity , is to plant chives circling the new clematis plants. So far, so good. Up until now I have been placing plastic grow tubes over every vine, and removing them later on in some areas of the garden and leaving them all season long in the parts of the yard that border the rabbit entry areas. Plants in these few areas will get eaten constantly and to the ground .In one place after trying a great variety of things I have just decided to settle for mulch and garden art instead of plants as nothing is safe. (They have even taken to gnawing on large shrubs, biting off branches and leaing what they don’t finish on the ground.) But the chives and allium they leave alone. I am gald for now that the allium family has stepped up to help me out and hope it continues, these voracious eaters have challenged many a move  I made, eating lavender and other herbs, sprirea bushes to the ground, and even daylillies.

The  gallery that follow is all the rest of plants that are strutting their stuff on Garden Blooggers Bloom Day  hosted by May Dreams Gardens. The  list includes, lily of the valley, geums, alliums, jacobs ladder, various azeleas, the groundcover mosiacs out front with ajuga , moss phlox and dianthus spcs,cranberry bush viburnum, columbines , armeria, mossy rockfoil, catmint,Bloomerang and species lilac, verbena, honeysuckle ‘Major Wheeler’, the start of the bridal wreath spirea,and by the end of the week there will be many iris in full bloom too. Pictures are labeled (lazily) if you hover over them.

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Well behaved Lily of the Valley?

Being easily amused as I am, the sun-tolerance of some plants (or lack-thereof) and their willingness to completely abandon their reputation as garden bad guys in the face of it cracks me up. Like a bully brought to his knees by a cane wielding grandma,my garden thugs are kept in line  by the sunny- sunshine.

Here in the Burrow we are all about the sun-sun-sun. Trees are allowed if they are on the small side and are  pruned  yearly to maintain sunny borders full of happy sun loving plants. If you come to visit, lather on the sunblock and wear a hat.But that does not stop me from introducing the odd shade plant or two.

The first shade lover to go in was ivy, yes hedera helix. I like it for flower arranging, pressing and as a ground cover. (Before I forget, let me tell you this …..it can infiltrate woodlands via seed carried by birds. The trick is to let it only grow on the ground, once it gets growing  vertical it will fruit, so in my garden it gets whacked back off the fence any time it gets the smart idea to climb.) Tough a plant as Ivy is to manage , it is much easier when it is growing in what amounts to less than 10 square feet of shade bordered  by blazing sun. Like a vampire, the ivy stays hidden back from the light lest it incinerate and after 15 years has yet to creep out of it’s allotted space.

Ditto the lily of the valley. When I was deconstructing my Grandmother’s side yard a few years ago for a driveway to go in, I took little bits everything she was growing to have here in my gardens. The lily of the valley had run rampant over her whole side yard,  barely  held in check from world domination by the very prominent and drying roots of a massive old pine tree.  It was brutal to dig out even a few pips, but I did ,and relocated them to the very small shaded spot under a juniper in my back garden, where they remain 10 years later. Like the ivy they dare not tread out into the sunlight, and happliy exist and flower in their little copse, with no designs to take over the back 40 at all.

In case I was not clear , I will further emphasize the FULL sun part of the full sun garden here. It is not part shade, no dappling, or even shadows. Sunflowers grow tall straight and true. No plant leans over to catch some rays, or fails  to bloom in the darkness. I think in any part sun scenario, I would ,like so many other gardeners I know, be cursing the day I ever brought the lily of the valley home ( even if it is the cutest little thing and sweetly scented too) and gnashing my teeth and wailing over the ivy that ate the yard.

In the last few weeks I have been asked repeatedly if I know how to get rid of lily of the valley by poor gardeners who are inundated with the stuff. Well, sun is the answer. Not my kind of sun as as that may be excessive for those of you who own large trees, but solarization, which is covering the plants( after you cut them back as low as you can )with clear  plastic cloth in the heat of the summer when the sun is at its strongest to essentially cook whatever is underneath. If  you think the sun is not strong enough where they are planted then cut them back and cover with black plastic cloth ,and then mulch or dirt on top of the cloth  until they die from not being able to photosynthesize. Too much sun,or the  complete lack of it , either will do the trick, time consuming but effective.

In the tiny areas here that are part sun/part shade I grow much more well behaved specimens of solomons seal, hostas, heuchera, epimediums, bleeding hearts and ferns.Last fall I resumed my shade experimentation with a few plants of corydalis, another shade plant known for its aggressive tendancies.Time will tell if it stays politely in the area I gave it, or bravely starts to go where no sane shade loving plant dares to venture.

 

 

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