Sad day on Wisteria Lane

On my way to the car this morning, I strolled past the robin’s nest in my wisteria that now holds 4 eggs!!

At least it held 4 eggs yesterday.

Last night while lying in bed, I thought of the nest.  Thought I should take a picture of the 4 eggs, just in case they hatched soon and I would miss my chance to record them as eggs.  But it was late, too dark for good pictures, it will wait for tomorrow.

And  now the eggs are gone.  The nest was EMPTY when I went out this morning.  I am so sad about this.  I was looking forward to watching the birds hatch and grow.  But I guess my railing was just too exposed, and those bright blue eggs must have been a tasty treat for some unknown predator.  I have no idea what creature would have done this, but our neighborhood has its fair share of large black crows that I’m very suspicious of.  There was no evidence of what visited the bird family, no pawprints on the steps, not even a speck of shell left behind.  Just the nest.

I glanced over at the fence and spotted momma.  She was just watching me look at the nest.  Not sure if birds have emotions, but I imagine she’s pretty sad too.


A purpose for the wisteria

This weekend was filled with all sorts of outside activities – watching Son #2 playing baseball, watching B playing softball,  swimming in the pool (I am so glad we opened it in late April), and building a gazebo.  And I realized that we humans weren’t the only ones so busy.

My wisteria has become the home of a bird family!

We noticed last week that a nest was being built, but I really thought it was too close to our steps that we use every day to get from the deck to the backyard.  We went out on Sunday, removed the nest, and look what I found yesterday morning!

Those robins are very persistent.  Now you must understand, this wisteria is growing up the railing of my deck, which connects the deck to the yard below.  Not the most desolate location for a nest.

We will do our best to give this family some privacy, and hopefully the momma bird will be patient with us for using our steps.  What’s really cool about this location is how close we can get to it.  Other nests have been built under the supports of the deck, but we can’t really see what’s going on in there unless we look through the boards of the deck.  Not a very clear view.  But we will have a close up view of this family.

I’ll keep you posted on our new borders!

Bloom Day – May 15, 2012

As per my usual, I’m late with my May 15 posting of Bloom Day for the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day!

Here’s what’s bloomin’ in my yard this month.  The clematis climbs the mailbox trellis.  The spiderwort is my personal favorite – this photo really doesn’t do it justice, as the blooms look electric in person.  Methinks it may be time to divide this one, but timing is always an issue.

The chair is a ‘new’ addition to my front yard.  I rescued it from the curb of a neighbor on trash day!  I really just want to document how it looks each month.

What we have heeah – is failure to communicate

Lost in thought on my way to town this morning.  Most mornings, I get in the car, say my morning prayers, and flip on the radio to quiet the drone that are my racing thoughts.  Some mornings I don’t flip on the radio and actually listen to the thoughts.  I keep a notebook in the car for these mornings, because the thoughts are really worth noting and I’ll forget them all by the time I enter the parking garage.

Notes from this morning included “wisteria”, “trumpet vine”, “english ivy”, “evening primrose”.

One evening last week, I coerced my daughter to join me at the middle school for the annual Greenfest.  One of the new events at Greenfest was a perennial exchange.  I was so excited – I went straight home from work, dug up two of my favorite perennial specimens, and lugged them off to the Greenfest.  B does not share my enthusiasm for gardening, which really saddens my heart.  But she was equally excited about the food displays. :/

At the perennial table, I traded my stemless evening primrose (oenothera triloba) for a fern.  This is one flower I can hardly wait for each summer, as the kids love watching the buds bloom each evening.  Just at dusk, they race outside, trying to guess how many flowers will bloom tonight.  And if they are lucky, they get there just in time for the show.  You can actually watch them open!

stemless evening primrose

And I donated my Love-in-a-Mist (nigela damascena), which is actually an annual, but it self-sows, so I made it work.


They will probably not like it after a couple of years when they can’t figure out how in the world it shows up everywhere – even in the cracks of the walkway!  But it’s such a pretty blue flower, I forgive it for its aggressive nature and pull the ones that just don’t belong.

Back to my list – my list of aggressive plants that I have tried despite the voice of experience.  When I first bought my wisteria and shared the news with Alice (my favorite gardening friend), her reaction was “oh my”.  What?  Well, just make sure it has some good support.  It can bring down a small house.  Of course, I’m training it up the stairs of my deck, along the rail.  Hopefully, the rails are strong enough to hold it.

I’ve also been told of how difficult it is to grow wisteria in my part of the world.  Maybe that’s another reason for Alice’s concern.  I know I came close to enjoying the plant in bloom this year, but the weather just did not cooperate.

Trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) – the first time I saw it was at the beach house in North Carolina.

trumpet creeper

The flowers were gorgeous, orange and long.  The seed pods are enormous, and should probably have told me something about the plant.  I have tried 3 times (unsuccessfully) to start these vines on my fence, but the ground must be too moist.  I have since read horror stories of having to bring in a backhoe to dig out the roots of this extremely invasive plant.  (I did check on it yesterday, and it does appear that the vine may have taken root, finally.  Now the question that remains to be answered – did I make a mistake here?)

I’ve told my English Ivy story, and Alice actually warned me about that one too.

She gave me my first sample of evening primrose (not the stemless variety) and told me I’d have to keep it at bay, as it could take over the entire garden.  She was right on all counts.

I really have to applaud the new principal at our middle school.  He is really encouraging the students to be good stewards to the environment.  He spearheaded this Greenfest a few years ago, and the program continues to grow each year.  He brings in local nurseries, a bee keeper, an etymologist, a Penn State Master Gardener, and has demonstrations that each class puts together – similar to a science fair.

The perennials that were donated will be planted in the courtyard (which for 25 years has had nothing but grass growing in it).

Ivy Outlaw

I remember the event like it was yesterday, when in reality, it must have been about 15 years ago.  We had just moved into our new house and I was sprucing up the yard with a few plants I bought at the local nursery.  This ivy was call Hedera helix, or English Ivy, and it was just three tiny plants.  The first year, it lulled me into a false sense of security.  It did it’s job very well, spreading slightly to cover a bare patch between the Driveway Sideway garden and the sloping garden I have yet to name.  But like all things that are left to fend for themselves, I lost track of where it was going and what it was doing.

Fast forward about 5 years, and not only is the bare patch completely covered with ivy, but the wall was obliterated, the emerald arborvitae was sporting an ivy skirt, and the concrete block of the house foundation was growing green.  I knew at that moment that I had to keep a better eye on that ivy.  I also understood the term “invasive” when referring to certain overbearing plants.  In fact, I’ve since read that you really should avoid planting this ivy because it is so hard to contain.

This was also the year I discovered that Poison Ivy likes to hang out with its cousin, English.  Hmmm.

Fast forward 10 years (to yesterday) and I’m in total disbelief as I try desperately to re-own the wall.  I’m pulling ivy out by the root, and this stuff is tough.  Each piece of ivy has a root system that defies logic.  This root grabs on tight to whatever is in its path, and it just keeps climbing.  Not sure what kind of moisture it’s extracting from the concrete block foundation and the stone wall, but it’s thriving in places that no living thing should be able to thrive in.

It’s not easy being green . . .

I really do my best to reuse, reduce, and recycle.  I gather the newspapers and bundle them, I sort the plastics, cans, and glass for our bi-weekly pickup, break down the cardboard boxes for the pickup.  The biggest problem with all of this preparation is, where in the world do you keep it before disposing?  This is the one thing that sabotages my efforts.

The Hub is very good at throwing things away.  He’s always been that way.  His mother used to tell stories of dumpster diving for homework assignments way back in the day.  So for me to expect the pile of newspaper stashed under the buffet in the dining room to be there come recycling day is a pipe dream.

Since the recycling has to be segregated from the everyday trash, I have separate bags next to the trash can specifically for the recyclables.  My kitchen was built in the days before Earth Day, so there’s not much room for an extra trash can.  The recycling bags hang on a cabinet handle – not very attractive.

And speaking of bags, I have a very nice collection of reusable grocery bags that never seem to make their way to the grocery store.  They adorn the trunk, even make their way to the back seat on grocery day.  Then their location crosses my mind as I’m checking out at the grocery store.  Our grocery stores use those thin plastic bags, and they do offer a recycling service for those.  Of course, there are bags of plastic grocery bags hanging out in the trunk, just waiting for the day I remember to take them and their friends, the reusables, into the store with me.

A beautiful surprise

I walked outside to get the paper yesterday, and on my way back to the house, I glanced over at my newest garden.  I planted it last summer, moving a few of the plants from other locations in the yard where they really weren’t happy, and making a new playground for them.  Making these moves in the late summer can be a tricky thing.

There was something white waving to me as I approached the house.  Was it a tossed paper that made its way to my yard?  Closer inspection revealed a new flower!  Three tiny irises were out and showing off!  I swear I was expecting yellow irises.  I thought I remembered transplanting some yellow ones that didn’t care for the shady location I had them in.  But these were beautiful white with a bit of yellow inside.  I have no idea where they came from, but I know I transplanted them last fall.  Apparently, they were so unhappy wherever they were that I don’t think they ever bloomed.

Then again, they may have been in a location of the yard that I don’t see that often, and if they did bloom, I missed them.  But I didn’t miss them this year.

When I create a new garden, I do try to keep a garden log of what I’ve done.  And I know I made a map of what I planted – just where did I put it?  The element of surprise is one of my favorite parts of spring!

Surprises to you!

The grass is indeed greener

I work at a university in Pittsburgh.  It’s not THE University of Pittsburgh, but it’s VERY closeby.  While the Pitt campus is virtually all concrete sidewalks and streets, the Carnegie Mellon University campus is very green.  In addition to luring some of the brightest students from around the world, CMU is very good at growing and regrowing lawns!

It’s amazing how many times I’ve seen them out patching bare spots.  Last summer, they replaced some underground structures right in the middle of a lawn called “The Cut”.  It was a mess, with half the lawn destroyed by the work.  It was eventually replaced with sod, and you can’t even tell where the work was done at this point.  This was a major re-establishment of green, but I’m more impressed with the smaller areas that are repaired every year.

Especially around this time of year, we start putting on our best face as the alumni and parents will be here shortly for carnival and graduation.  The flower beds will be planted and replanted just prior to commencement.  But the grass.  Ah, yes, the grass.

I’ve been watching the process, and it doesn’t look that hard.  Along the sidewalks throughout campus, there are plenty of corners that get trampled and the grass gets destroyed.  It looks like they mix grass seed with compost or some growing medium and toss that on the bare spots.  That’s it.  No muss, no fuss.  There is a sprinkler system that runs at night, so maybe a little fuss.

This inspired me.

I went home last evening and found 3 bags of grass seed – all unopened!  A quick look around the shed and I discovered a half bag of peat moss and a few bags of garden soil.  My former vegetable garden has mounds of good soil, and I scooped a few shovels into the wheelbarrow.  Mixed in the peat and bagged soil – doesn’t mixing dirt just feel soo good!!  I tossed in a bag of grass seed, the one that says it’s for shade and sun – I hope they know what they are doing!  I then proceeded to fill in the bare spots around the pool, around the deck, around the walkway.  A little water every night, and I’m hoping the lawn will look as professional as the CMU lawn.

Well, a girl can dream, right?

The garden carpet . . .

I was watching a replay of ‘Dancing with the Stars’ with my daughter last night.  I’m not really sure why I like that show, but I really enjoy watching it with B.  She’s a dancer, so there’s a good reason for her to like it.  She recognizes the different steps that go into each dance, she can identify what is really hard, what just looks hard, and when they make a mistake.  I just see some very attractive people wearing very colorful and shiny costumes.  I find myself focusing on their feet, for to me, if you can move your feet that fast and not step on your partner’s, you are a great dancer!  And there lies the reason I quit taking ballroom dance lessons – it really hurts to have your foot stepped on!

So in the middle of the recording, we sometimes forget to FF through the commercials.  That’s why we DVR everything we watch.  Well, that and the fact that our house of 5 rarely agrees on what is considered a ‘good show’.  How did my dad ever tolerate my Friday night obsession with “The Brady Bunch” and “The Partridge Family”, the ‘good shows’ of my early youth?  So the commercials were playing when one started and I must have started smiling, because my daughter observed, “You really like this commercial, don’t you?” and the truth is, I love that commercial.  It’s a Home Depot commercial where a lady steps into her basement and pulls out a carpet, proceeds to her backyard, and shakes the carpet over the bare yard.  The carpet is full of flowers, shrubs, pavers for walkways, a full blown garden carpet!  And I’m LOVING this commercial!

I want a garden carpet!