Sunday, May 29, 2011

Project: Moving the Seven Sisters

I have pondered which is to be preferred: A brand new home on a bare lot with a perfectly clean palette on which to create your own gardens just the way you want. Or to take over an established garden with shape and design, the hard and expensive work done, trees, shrubs, spring bulbs, perennials planted, a mature lawn, and gardens shaped and planted.  Such is the Garden Spot, but it seems that we are spending our gardening energy undoing what the previous 4 owners did to the Garden Spot, trying to make it our own. Today we removed the evergreen spreaders in the front of the house and then dug up the 7 cedar trees on the patio. Now I have two fresh palettes to plan and plant. We transplanted the trees to the back of the property where we are trying to create more of an nature habitat. One at Onez asked her followers what they would be doing this week-end to celebrate World Environment Day. I would like to think that for gardeners every day is dedicated to the environment as we do our best to improve our bit mother earth. For us here at the Garden Spot, we find our joy in the habitats that we are trying to create.

Before our work began, I spent quite a bit of time taking pictures of these little warblers that were feeding on one of the snowball bushes on the north side of the house. I spied them from the bathroom window, so the pictures are not as sharp as they should be. We will have to dig out the snowballs bushes, for, as you can see, they are rather diseased. Non-the-less, the bushes seem to attract the little warblers. I also "chased" a bullock's oriole all day, but couldn't seem to get a decent picture. Once we spotted the orioles at the feeder, we put out grape jelly and orange wedges. One male kept returning, but I just couldn't get a good picture.

A female Virginia warbler (vermivora virginia), one of the little warblers that migrates through northern Colorado, feasting on a snowball bush. 

Her companion. He is quite colorful. I took these two pictures out of the bathroom window

Today's first project: remove these spreaders from the front of the house.

Well, that wasn't so bad, was it? A clean slate now. 

Clementas that is hidden behind the bush. It is supposed to grow to the top of the trellis. 

Now for the Seven Sisters.

These cedars have been transplanted to the back of the acreage where we are trying to create more of a bird habitat. And that is how we recognized World Environment Day at the Garden Spot, something that we try to do each day. 


Friday, May 20, 2011

Rainy Days, Chores, Shopping X3.

Today the sun finally broke through. We have had a week of rain, 4 inches or more. The weather lady labeled our winter as a drought. La Nina has had us under her curse. Essentially, La Nina--currents off the coast of Mexico--brought record snow to the Colorado Ski Country,--good for them-- and dry winds to the eastern plains--miserable for us. We had .6 inches of moisture in January and less in the months that followed. May, however, has had enough moisture to make up the deficit--in just a week. So it is soggy around the Garden Spot, but the lawn is emerald green, the hay field will grow lush, and I don't have to water for a few days. Oh. More rain for next week. Then in June, Ma Nature will get grumpy and have hot flashes that will last through September.

The head gardener went fishing for the week-end, so I have to do his chores. No matter. While I am an English professor, I have fuzzy math skills, but this equation works for me: 3 days of fishing X 3 days of chores= 9 days of shopping and dinner out with friends.

Sun Dance answers to his call for breakfast. 

He waits patiently while I figure out how to open the stall door.

 Rolled Oats, Granola, and Hay. 

 The Ladies aren't too sure of Me.

But they come out anyway.

Because the Garden Spot looks like this. . . 

. . .I am doing this.

Hope everyone has a great week-end. I am off to Denver to shop X3! 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gardening with Duct Tape

Most of the vegetable garden went in yesterday. We still have a couple of pepper plants and potatoes left, along with all of the seeds: lettuce, carrots, red beets, cucumbers, and squash zinnas, and cosmos, and whatever else we decide we must have.

I finally got around to cleaning up the center garden.
Today's Gardening Tip: I saw grasses in a Greeley shopping center taped up ready to be cut back. 

Works petty good. 

The last of the daffodils: Manley.

Cleaned the bathroom today and freshened it up with fresh cut lilacs. What a treat.

And that was my day.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Easy Keepers: African Violets

We had two days of rain this week, bringing two inches+ of badly needed moisture. A good thing. However, we are not able to get the garden planted because it is just too muddy. We went to garden centers last week and bought our plants and seeds, but today we have our little granddaughter's first ballet recital and it is cold and threatening more rain, so the garden will have to wait. In the meantime, I wanted to write about keeping African violets.

I love African violets. I have kept them for years, and despite their reputation as being difficult keepers, they really are quite easy to grow. I bought my first violets from Zelma Gregory. She was the librarian at the high school where I began my teaching career way back in 1970. She had a passion for the beautiful little plants and virtually taught me all I needed to know to keep healthy plants. She had every flat space in her little 3 bedroom bungalow covered with violets (counter tops, beds, tables), and she even had lights set up in the basement where she had more growing under florescent lights. She had leaves set in little plastic cups growing babies, propagating new plants. All plants were named and she seemed to have a story for each one. Zelma passed away a few years ago at nearly 100 years old, but her collection lives on for a dear friend, her former student and retired teacher, took over her collection and carries on her work. I have yet to visit him, but I may just get around to seeing him this summer to add to my present meager collection.

Despite their reputation as difficult and hard to keep, following simple little life-style requirements will keep African violets happy and healthy:

Light: filtered light. Avoid, direct sun which will burn their leaves. I keep mine in my bedroom in an east window with a sheer curtain filtering direct early morning sun. They do quite well in a northern window or under fluorescent lights in offices, as well. They loved my west kitchen window too, but the grand kids kept knocking them over. So now they are out of a high traffic area in a peaceful, tranquil bedroom.

Water: Tepid, not cold water. Water from the bottom to avoid root root, but only enough to keep them from standing too long in water. They don't like soggy feet; water weekly or more often if your house is dry, as mine in Colorado tends to be. Cold water will make their leaves spot. Add violet food weekly, too. 

And that's about it. 

However, African violets are not disease or problem free.  They will get mites, root rot, limp leaf, and a variety of other ailments, some of which are curable, others are not. This violet suffered from what I will simply call limp leaf. It's bottom leaves were weak and droopy, so I moved it to the kitchen, thinking I would just throw it away. I stopped watering, waiting for it to totally croak, but it just wouldn't let go. So I pulled it out of the soil, cut off the roots, pulled off the limp leaves up to the center crown that seemed healthy, and put it in water to re-root it. As you can see, it is growing a healthy new root system. Soon I will re-pot it, and it will be blooming by the end of the summer.

I inherited these two poor specimens when we put my mother-in-law in a nursing home. Violets can grow long and leggy, which doesn't affect their ability to bloom, but they are rather unsightly and top heavy. They will also grow suckers. Mrs. Gergory said to use a sharp, pointed knife or tooth pick to remove the suckers, which will grow and mature into full plants, even blooming, as grandma's did. The plants become over crowded and will eventually crowd each other out and die. Grandma's violets separated into two nice healthy plants, both of which have blooms. Once they stop blooming, I will divide them, cut down the stem, re-root, and re-plant.

I buy my violets anytime I see a pretty one, which these days is not often. The ones in the garden centers are often neglected and just don't look healthy. I will buy only when they have a new shipment. And the super market often times has them on special, but they are too commericalized and all look the same, yet I succumb. My favorite place is a little store in Englewood, a Denver suburb, The Violet Showcase. This guy has been in business for over 3 decades. He has the most beautiful plants at every stage of development and so many varieties and colors that it is hard to decide which one (s) to take home. He also sell canaries, another passion that I must resist.

I don't do very well at keeping house plants because when I work, I just don't have the time to take good care of them, but despite their bad reputation, African violets for me seem a bit forgiving. I will forget to water them, see their leaves drop, moan, apologize, and bring them their favorite vitamin water and they perk up. If I can keep them, so can you. I have rambled on quite enough about my favorite house plant. Sometime I will discuss how to propagate violets, which I used to do quite successively.

What's your favorite house plant?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I'm Back. Spring Semester 2011 is officially over. The students have packed their cars and headed home. The residence halls are empty, the classrooms quiet, and my office is cleaned, the light is out, and the door is closed. I read 75 research papers on everything from banning steroids in horse racing to human trafficking,  to vaccinations for children. I learn so much from these college freshmen. They are an amazing group of young people. Now I have the entire summer to recharge my batteries, languish in the garden, watch the birds, and play in the dirt. Here are a few of my favorite things that helped me get through the last weeks of school.

One of the first travelers to stop by for a few grubs, bugs, and worms: the green tailed towhee. A handsome fellow he is.

Favorite new daffodil

Favorite bush: Pink Flowering Almond

Favorite mini daffodil: Minnows

Granddaughter's Favorite Fairy Friend. 

She's reading her favorite fairy tale

Favorite mini iris. I dug a small clump from the old house before we moved. Third time I have transplanted the little iris that originally came my husband's grandmother's garden. 

Look at the little women now!

Finishing touches on the chicken coop: wire around the bottom to keep Mr. Fox from digging in.

The girls like being outside. It took them a while before they really decided they could go outside. We bribed them with cantaloupe rinds. 

And now it is time to get some serious gardening done.

Just a Hint of Spring with a Dose of Cuteness

It's not safe to say that Winter has made his exit. He's still hanging around waiting to surprise us. We know the routine: freezing ...