Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Dog Days of Summer

The unrelenting temperatures of high nineties is discouraging much gardening. Fall cannot get here soon enough. Right now it's still in the high 80s at 8 pm at night. Can't wait for the cool weather and being able to leave the windows wide open for cool air to flow through the house. The garden always looks long in the tooth in August and early September. Everything's wilted and appears baked. Checking in on what's doing well or not so well in the garden, I discover that the five coneflowers I planted are not faring well. Three are already dead.

I love coneflowers. They're leaves are scratchy and their heads hurt if you lean down to fast and end up smacking your nose onto them,  but oh do they put off such a sweet scent. No garden should be without their perfume, particularly early evenings. And the white version, Virgin, glows at dusk. But unfortunately this plant, along with Marigolds and Lavender, seem to be plants that I am destined to be unable to grow. I suspect the sprinkler system has a lot to do with it. Guess I'm just going to have to accept that this and stop buying them annually.
Did I mention it's miserably hot here? At 10 this morning Yertle waddled over to his "pool" for a short swim. I was so surprised to see him climb into the dish that I quickly ran for the camera to document it. In the five weeks that I've had him, this was the first time I saw him soak and drink out of the pool. It was so cute to see him climb into the center, sink down with his head underwater for a bit and then come up and almost sigh with relief. I'll have to go look for a larger drainage dish next weekend so he can have a larger "pool" to soak in. Now if I could only get him to eat something besides the dry Iams cat food.
This lovely hardy hibiscus survived the winter despite part of it dying off. It was such a nice suprise to find it blooming along the back fence where much doesn't want to grow, other than the morning glories, which I love but have had to pull out because they keep strangling everything. Too bad the hibiscus doesn't have any scent.
Turk's Cap should do well here... theoretically. The one I planted two years ago did not survive the winter. And the two I planted this month are already dropping leaves. I saw a huge clump of them growing on the east side of Rudy's Barbeque this weekend, so perhaps I'll get lucky and mine will flourish. Course, there's that tricky problem with the sprinkler system again.
The Ruella, thankfully, has prospered in the spot it was planted in two years ago. Planted along the west side of the fence, one 6 inch pot has expanded to about two feet long and a foot wide and stands over three feet tall now. It's such a beautiful shade of purple and I'm hoping to plant more of them around the yard next year.
This plant has proved to be such a great surprise. Three years ago I found this little 6 inch pot at either Lowe's or Home Depot, can't remember which, with a few brillant red flowers. The tag read "Flame Acanthus, Hummingbird Bush" [or Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii]. There was even a cute little hummingbird icon on the tag, something I had not seen before, or since. The bush has grown a bit beyond the 36 inches the tag promised and is covered with blossoms. I haven't seen a hummingbird on the plant but dragonflies and bees don't seem to mind it at all. I'd love to plant more of these if I could find it again!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Turtle Tales

You hear things about turles growing up. They're slow as molasses. They're favorite thing to eat is bugs. They're reptile like and have no personality. You can't train a turtle. Uh huh. Well, Yertle really isn't a turtle, he's a land tortoise but that's a mouthful to say and tortoise doesn't rhyme with his name "Yertle." He does have beady red eyes and his head kinda slides out like a snake, particularly when he just "pops" up out from beneath a flower bush. But he's turned out to be such a amiable little fellow. He's probably only 2-3 pounds at the most, just barely wider than my hand. And yeah, that little sucker can book it across the yard. Turtles are slow my foot. I have to say when he's waddling away on his tiny little legs and swaying little tail he's pretty damn cute.

Well, he showed himself after a week of hiding in the back yard and freaked me out when he started to "race" toward me instead of away from me. I was so surprised I shrieked and ran inside, but then quickly returned with a little cat food. He practically threw himself at the food. I thought his kind was suppose to love snails and bugs but no, he loves the Iams cat food I gave him. Those small pellets are almost too big for him to get into his mouth but he manages to crack them in half to swallow. Which is good because I REFUSE to give the hymlich (sp?) manuever to a reptile. Even one with a cute little waddle.
He now regularly has a bad habit of just popping up and startling me when I'm in the garden. And he now always comes to me. By the time I dash back into the house to get him something to eat he's usually half way across the yard heading for the back door. He remembers me and knows I have cat food. This past Saturday I thought I'd give him a choice of things to eat - a selection about half the size of my palm consisting of diced up cucumbers, bananas, a little roasted chicken and the cat food. Wanna guess what was the only thing he wanted to eat? So much for my hopes that he'd wipe out the pill bug population that torments me annually. It appears to be cat food or nothing. Gotta give him props, he must know Iams is some pricy cat food. [in this photo you can see one of the food pellets, it's pretty small stuff so that gives you an idea of how big he is.]
Sunday morning I'm chilling in kitchen enjoying breakfast and perusing the sales ads. My cats are sunning in their cat tree and on the window ledge enjoying the scents of the outdoors. At 9:30 am it's not yet hot enough that the windows have to be closed for the AC. Basil, who's half tabby half Siamese and a major yappy pants, gets excited and talks up a blue streak. His brother's head is moving around too but he saves his vocal cords for either begging for food or calling for his brother to play chase. After a few times of yelling at him to shut up I finally walk over to see what's got his knickers in a twist. Expecting a bird I burst out laughing at what I saw on the other side of the window. There's Yertle, halfway on the small patio, playing stare out with the cats. He had came to the back door for breakfast! If he ever starts knocking on the door I'm packing his butt off to the Jay Leno show for one of his pet segments with Jack Hanna. [pictured above is Basil, who was finds Yertle a very peculiar "bird" roaming around in his back yard]

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Herb Circle

Well a month has past since my last post. I've been dealing with a shoulder injury that has prevented me from doing much work in the garden, plus it's so miserably hot as well, so the inclination to do much gardening has not been there. With a month of images to post I thought I'd start with the herb circle. Early last fall, an article in one of my gardening magazines caught my eye. It showed a small bed divided into triangular shapes using bricks. It was beautiful. Figuring on trying it on a smaller scale, I cleaned out the very small circular bed a co-worker helped me put in. First, it needed something in the center to serve as a focal point. Glancing around, I quickly realized that my favorite bird bath with dragonflies would fit the bill and placed a cement paver underneath to stablize it. Some rocks for drainage, soil and sedums quickly filled up the basin. Some rocks dug up in the garden were placed around the plants to add more texture. Don't the sedums look great? I love the feel of running my hand over them. [too bad two of the three have now almost bitten the dust since I planted them. Two weeks of rain came down after they were planted and I guess their roots got water logged. bummer. At least the Dragon's blood one is still alive... so far anyway.]
I was going to originally divide up the circle into pie pieces with rocks but being such a small bed it seemed a waste of planing space. Also, the herb circle soon became part herbs and part temporary bedding space. Several divided plants ended up here - a bunch of Stella D'Or daylilies, Coreopsis, Shasta Daisies, and Gallardia. All of these seem to really enjoy the bed because a year later they've spread and some of them have been move to other beds in the garden. The herbs I planted this spring, on the other hand, are hit and miss. The catnip is doing well. The Genovese Basil and Thai Basil wanted to go on life support a few times but finally seem to have taken root. The three different types of parsleys and the dill were quickly found by the caterpillars and eaten to ground level. I actually had expected that and was willing to sacrifice those rather than the other plants in my garden. And the butterfly population has gone up this summer. And if those little buggers would stay still long enough I'd have non-blurry images to prove that! The two plants that are really struggling are the lemon balm and spearmint, which is odd. Both should be doing well in the heat and dry dirt. But then, killing plants that are supposedly "easy growers" and "the plant you can't kill" seems to be my speciality!


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