This is the moment!

This is it!  The moment we had dreamed about all winter, the time of year I convince myself that all that winter is worth it!

The flower show in full swing, and it’s time to focus on the moment!

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I took a spin around the yard a few weekends ago, as I realized I have not updated the Daylily Collection Page in quite a while.  I now have 28 varieties!  That is really not a lot, considering the thousands of varieties that exist.  But it’s quite a lot for my small yard!  They all take their turns.

So in my Zone 6A garden, the daylily show lasts from mid-June and is still going strong here in late-July.  A few are “second time around” bloomers. I noticed the Stella d’Oros are reblooming, as are the Happy Returns.

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They are usually among the first to bloom.

On one of our nightly walks with Willis, I noticed a really striking bright orange one in the neighbor’s garden.  I was trying to decide how I would gather a few seed pods to start one of my own.  The next day, I was clearing the weeds from the sideways driveway, and I could not believe it.

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I actually have the very flower I was coveting!  I really don’t remember planting that one.

Each year, it seems I choose a new favorite.  This year, this purple one strikes me – it’s so unlike any others that I have.

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Reflections

Well, I didn’t quite make it to the end of the A-to-Z Challenge, but there’s always next year!  Don’t I sound just like a gardener there!

This being my first attempt at the challenge, making it half-way really gives me a goal for next year.  Somehow, the challenge really ‘snuck’ up on me.  I think that if the reminders started coming sooner, I may have had more time to prepare.  I know for next year, I will be starting my posts well in advance of the start date.  Trying to keep up with posting daily, and still have time to hop around to other blogs in the challenge, is just a bit overwhelming.  And you really don’t realize how overwhelming it will get until you’re in the thick of it!

My stats page proved that participating in this challenge brought traffic in numbers I have never seen before.  Over 120 visitors and over 350 views – quite significant for g4t! And for only a half month participation, that’s not bad!  I did get to meet a few other garden bloggers who I may never have met otherwise.  So all in all, it was worth the half month of stress!

I’m going to have to come up with a really good theme to tie in to my gardening blog, again, thoughts for next year! One thing is for certain, I have a new respect for the bloggers who do it every day, challenge or no!

A-to-Z Reflection [2018]

 

Whew! Time to breathe!  Now let’s get that weeding done!!

Nostalgia to grow on

There are some flowers that really take me back.

Al’s wife, Pat, the neighbor on the other side, planted some 4 o’clocks a couple of years back.  Their daughter, Pamela, had found the plant at a small garden shop somewhere between her house and theirs.  Pat swore it was one plant that had miraculously bloomed in about 5 different colors.  I kept quiet, knowing full well the chances of that were slim at best.

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Orange, yellow, pink, pink striped yellow, and deep pink.

Pat insisted I take a bag of the black seeds she was saving for me.  A bag full that was enough seed to last for, well, a good number of years if not the rest of my life.  I have had that bag of seeds for about 3 years now.  Finally, last year, I planted a few seeds.  I was hoping for yellow.  But when it did bloom, it was the deep pink.

 

Deep pink.  The very color my dad used to have.

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Loved gathering the black seeds from his 4 o’clocks.  Never mind the daddy-long-legs that seemed to love the plants as much as we kids did.

 

Along with that bag of seeds, Pat also shared an equally large bag of marigold seed.  Not sure where she thought I was going to plant all of these seeds.  But last year, I also had marigolds growing along the sidewalk, between the liriope.

 

Orange and yellow they were.

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I used to take marigolds over to grandma’s house to plant on her birthday.  May is such a super month for a birthday.  I only did this for about 4 years, before we had to sell the house and move her away.  She always said how much she loved the marigolds.

I really hope she did.

 

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What is a Master Gardener?

Only a couple of the members of my garden club are Master Gardeners.  I always thought I wanted to pursue this status, but honestly, was never sure what it actually means.  It sure sounds prestigious.

In the United States, a Master Gardener usually refers to a person who has completed a course of study conducted by the county extension agency office in cooperation with the land-grant university of the student’s home state.

A land-grant college or university is an institution that has been designated by its state legislature or Congress to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. The original mission of these institutions, as set forth in the first Morrill Act, was to teach agriculture, military tactics, and the mechanical arts as well as classical studies so that members of the working classes could obtain a liberal, practical education.

The Morrill Act (Land-Grant Act) signed into law by President Lincoln in 1862, gave each state a grant of federal land within its borders for the establishment of a public institution to fulfill the act’s provisions. At times, money was appropriated through legislation such as the second Morrill Act. A key component of the land-grant system is the agricultural experiment station program created by the Hatch Act of 1887. This Act authorizes direct payment of federal grant funds to each state. The amount of this appropriation varies and is determined by a formula based on the number of small farmers there. Each state must match a major portion of these federal funds. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers land-grant funds and the coordination of land-grant activities on the national level.

Many of these institutions are among the ranks of the most distinguished public research institutions, and all share the same tripartite mission of Teaching, Research, and Extension.

Each state has an extension service that provides the general public with state and county information regarding local agricultural regulations and resources, land and pasture management information, etc.

These resources may be referred to as a cooperative extension or county extension agency.

Depending on your area, you can usually find resources such as free factsheets for growing all sorts of plants and animals, hotlines for pest, disease and general gardening questions, locally produced television programs, and Master Gardener programs (typically organized by the extension service.)

I live in Pennsylvania, and the Land Grant University here is Penn State.  The Penn State Master Gardener Program is administered at the county level where recruitment, training, and volunteer service occur. Master Gardener trainees are required to participate in a minimum of forty hours of basic training, score 80% on the final exam, and fulfill 50 hours of volunteer service.

You can learn more about the Pennsylvania Master Gardener at https://extension.psu.edu/programs/master-gardener.

M

 

M is for Master Gardener . . . wanna be one?

 

 

Ladybugs – One of the Good Guys

Think you know your ladybugs?  They are a welcome guest in the garden, and the reasons are many.  They are a friendly beetle and help battle the bad vermin who feast on the plants of our gardens.  Here are a few things you may not know about ladybugs.

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What do the spots on a ladybug really mean?

Many people believe that the number of spots on a ladybug represents how many years the ladybug has lived.  The spots are actually a defense mechanism that warns its predators to “don’t eat me, I don’t taste very good”.  Ladybugs live through 2 or 3 summer seasons, so those spots really have nothing at all to do with their age.

They can’t all be girls, right?  So what’s with the name?

According to National Geographic – Kids, the name “ladybug” was coined by European farmers who prayed to the Virgin Mary when pests began eating their crops.  After ladybugs came and wiped out the invading insects, the farmers named them “beetle of Our Lady.”  This eventually was shortened to “lady beetle” and “ladybug.”

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What do ladybugs eat?

Most people like them because they are pretty, graceful, and harmless to humans. But farmers love them because they eat aphids and other plant-eating pests. One ladybug can eat up to 5,000 insects in its lifetime!

What’s that?  Did this bug just pee on me?

I remember capturing ladybugs when I was young, holding it gently in cupped hand, singing to it to fly away fly away home.  Then looking and realizing there was a yellow liquid on my hand.  When threatened, the bugs will secrete an oily, foul-tasting fluid from joints in their legs.

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Do ladybugs have any natural enemies?

Birds are ladybugs’ main predators, but they also fall victim to frogs, wasps, spiders, and dragonflies. Ladybugs lay their eggs in clusters or rows on the underside of a leaf, usually where aphids have gathered.

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L is for ladybugs . . . but don’t fly away yet!  This alphabet challenge is almost half over!

It’s a Knockout! (Rose, that is)

Knockout roses.  I have always wondered what that meant.  I don’t have any roses in my garden, even though I have tried.

For some reason, I always thought that Knockout Roses were really knock-off roses.

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Knockout Roses were introduced in 2000.  Many people assume that Knockout Roses need absolutely no care at all – no water, no fertilizer, no pruning.  That’s really not true.

 

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They do require water and always benefit from from occasional fertilizer.  And like any other plant, an occasional manicure keeps the shrub in shape.

Perhaps not a rose for cutting, these roses look spectacular in containers and in borders.  Definitely going to add some color, by way of the Knockout, to my garden this year!

K

Moving right through this alphabet challenge!  

 

 

Japanese Painted Fern – It’s the J Word

Like so many of the plants in my garden, the Japanese Painted Fern was a toss-off from Alice’s garden.

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Before she moved away, I could count on receiving numerous buckets of plants each summer as she divided her plants and rearranged her gardens.  Her yard was no bigger than mine, but the variety of plants she cultivated was impressive.

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The Japanese Painted Fern (athyrium) is a lovely, showy piece that loves shade.  It looks great with shade loving plants like hosta and astilbe (white flowers above).

It’s a small fern, so you will want to keep it closer to the front of your shade border.

Japanese Painted Fern at the Pond

photo by alamy.com

It is easily divided, so you can tuck it in numerous places for a showy touch of color.

J

 

Challenging time with this letter today.  Had to laugh when I googled “garden terms that start with J” and the returned search was “empty”

 

 

Iris Care Basics – I is for Iris

Irises are fairly easy to grow, and with the right conditions, will give you year after year of late spring color.

 

Do iris flowers need sun or shade?

I have told the tale of my first iris experience, and learned the slow way that iris do enjoy the sun.  After 2 years of lovely greens, I finally moved my plants to a sunny location, and wala!  I chose the perfect location since iris appreciate 6-8 hours of direct sun daily.  A well-drained soil is important as well.

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yellow iris

What kind of fertilizer should I use for iris?

Fertilize in mid to late April with bone meal, superphosphate, or a fertilizer low in nitrogen such as 6-10-10 (see my discussion of organic fertilizers here).  Fertilizers high in nitrogen tend to cause bacterial rot and lush, but weak, foliage growth. When selecting fertilizers for irises, be sure that the 2nd and 3rd numbers are bigger than the 1st.

What do you do with irises after they are done blooming?

Once all of the flowers have wilted, cut back all the flower stems to the base of the plant.  Cut out any brown or damaged leaves.  Once the leaves start to yellow in the fall, you will want to cut the leaves down to about 6 inches.  My dad always cut them back to form small fans, probably because they just look better that way.

How do you divide irises?

To divide your iris, start by lifting the clump of iris plants out of the ground with a spade or fork.  If possible, lift the entire mass out whole, but if you are unable to do this, carefully break the clump into smaller parts and lift these out.

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Beverly Sills

 

When should you divide irises?

The best time to plant and transplant rhizomatous iris is late July through September. Iris loves the heat and drier weather of summer and the summer dividing will reduce the incidence of bacterial soft rot. Most rhizomatous iris should be divided every three to five years.

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variety unknown – my baseball mom surprise

 

I

 

Trying to stay ahead of this game is nearly impossible!  But the I’s have it today!

H is for High Hopes

As bloggers, we all like to write, and we love to know that someone out there likes what we write.  I do my best to not obsess over the stats page, but every once in a while, I do head over there just to see if anyone is watching.

Surprisingly (actually, amazingly) I do have some activity almost every day.  The surprise is that I am anything but consistent with my posts.  I know, I really need to stick to a better schedule, blah blah blah.  I do have an editorial calendar, and I do a pretty good job at ignoring it.  Just like the daily cleaning schedules I so diligently look at, and admittedly ignore.

I have no idea who pops in every day, but I really do appreciate that look, because it keeps me coming back.  Wouldn’t want to disappoint my anonymous fan.

Funny story.  A few years back, I got a notification that someone had reposted one of my posts.  I was so excited when I clicked to her blog, a college student who thought MY blog was the berries!  She loved my content, loved my voice, really made me feel like, wow, I’m not so old after all!  There are young voices out there who are figuring out how to garden on a college student budget.

I was impressed to say the least.  And she was impressed with me.  I followed her blog back, heck, she was a fan!

But as suddenly as she appeared, so did the end of the semester.

Seems her blog was an assignment.  And class was over.

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I still have her blog on my followers list, if for no other reason but to read the glowing review she featured on my blog.

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Hope this post isn’t considered cheating, as I did slip a bit from my promised theme.  Sometimes, a little side-tracking does good for my writing soul.  Consider this my side-track.

And no, you didn’t miss my “G” entry.  I’m still working on it!

Four Tips for Attracting Feathered Friends to Your Yard

There are many ways to attract fine feathered visitors to your garden.  Creating spaces where birds like to visit is easy, and just takes a few considerations.

Here are four proven ways to attract a maximum number bird species to your yard.   Not only will you get to see them, but you also will be helping them on their long migration journeys or to get through a cold winter. A well-stocked yard or deck, following the advice below, can help hundreds of birds to be healthier during the year and can help dozens survive a tough winter.  How cool is that?

1. Bubbles and Drips

Birds certainly need water, but they may not always know you have made it available. This is especially true of spring and fall migrants who are just passing through. The best way to “advertise” is to let them hear the water by using a fountain pump or a small drip hose.

Drippers, small fountains, bubblers and misters are very popular with our feathered friends. They are reasonably inexpensive and are available online and at most bird supply stores.

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2. “Smorgasbird”

Different birds eat different things, so it helps to offer a variety of food types. Native plants that provide seeds, berries and insects are the best and most natural way to offer food for wild birds. You can supplement that with feeders. Here are some tips:

  • Black-Oil Sunflower is the most popular bird seed and attracts a variety of birds to your feeder.  Blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, finches, nuthatches, and sparrows love it.  New to backyard birding?  Black-oil sunflower seeds are a great place to start!
  • Thistle or Nyjer is a small, high quality, seed that goldfinches love. These birds have a beautiful gold color and they are a pleasure to watch along with their cousins, the red-hued house finches, and bright-colored buntings. Thistle seed requires a special bird (finch) feeder with smaller holes,
  • Seed mixes are popular for beginners because they attract many different types of birds.  They can be messy though because birds pick over unwanted seeds and toss them away.  “No-mess” seed mixes, that have been de-hulled, will cut down on the mess below your feeder.  They are more likely be picked up by ground feeding birds, such as doves, juncos, sparrows or even squirrels.
  • Suet is basically a cake of animal fat and is a healthy source of protein for birds, especially in the winter months.  When food is scarce, suet may be a lifeline for many birds in your yard. Suet is often mixed with some seeds and served through suet cages.
  • Nectar is sugar water and requires what is called a hummingbird feeder.  Hummingbirds are the most notable nectar-loving birds. They are a pleasure to watch in your backyard.  The increasingly rare oriole is a fruit-eating bird that also enjoys nectar.
  • Smorgasbird: there are many other types of food that you can feed birds. Many birds enjoy peanuts, peanut butter, cracked corn, millet, apple pieces and oranges.

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3. Litter-Bugs

There are a large number of bird species that stay on the ground to feed and seldom, if ever, land on feeders.  They will often gobble up seeds that have fallen from the feeders and others will scratch around in small piles or mats of leaf litter you can place around the yard.  This leaf litter is a natural habitat for many insects and gives insect and grub-eating birds such as robins, towhees and thrashers, hours of quality snack time.

4. Havens and Hideaways

If you watch how birds approach most feeders, they will first sit in a nearby bush as a “staging area” and then fly out for a quick snack on the feeder.  They will then return immediately to the relative protection of shrubbery or trees.  So placing feeders relatively close to some “safety cover” will attract more birds.  Keep an eye out, however, for neighborhood cats.  They like to lie in wait in vegetation that may be too close to the feeder.   Allowing a few feet between a cat hiding place and a bird feeder will give the birds time to react and get away.

Birds also attract other birds.  These curious creatures listen for activity in the area and like to see what is going on.  For them, your yard will be like the local restaurant you can’t wait to tell your friends about.

The main thing about attracting birds to your yard or deck is to let it happen over time and enjoy it.  As birds begin to find your place you will be amazed at how many you see.  Remember to keep up with the food and water supplies, especially in the winter when you can help dozens of birds survive the cold.

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Be good to our fine feathered friends, for a bird could be somebody’s mother . . .