D is for Daylilies

My favorite flowers in the garden have to be the daylilies.  I started my collection with the standard Stella D’oro, and they continue to be the most productive plants.

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I have divided them numerous times, shared them with countless neighbors and friends, offered them up to the Garden Club for our annual May Mart flower sale, and I still have more to divide and conquer.  I simply cannot bring myself to destroy any, so they keep on reproducing!

One of the best features of the daylily has to be (in my own opinion) the ease of which they grow.  I do deadhead them, simply to encourage more blooms.  The plant’s purpose is to produce seeds, so the more you frustrate that attempt by removing spent flowers, the more the plant tries to reproduce by producing more flowers.  Simple.  And by late summer, many of the leaves around the base have turned brown.  Easy to remove and actually revitalize the appearance.

And they come back, year after year, even in my snowy part of the world.  And the first plants start blooming in late May, with the final show ending sometime in late August.  If you are lucky, you get a second blooming period.  No muss, no fuss.  Reliable.

A few springs back, I attended the May Flower Sale at Phipps Conservatory, which just happens to be located right across the street from where I work the day job.  I was astounded by the multitudes of varieties that the local chapter of the American Hemerocallis Society (aka American Daylily Society) had on display and for sale.  They had catalogs of all different varieties, too numerous to even count, picture albums that included the names of each.

I had some variety in mind, and naively thought I would be able to locate it in their catalog.

When I first started collecting Daylilies, I created small name tags to keep with the plants.  But these tags have been long-lost and faded, so now I really don’t know what I have. I make up names for them, and continue to Google daylilies just to try to identify them.  Diploids, tetraploids, (something to do with chromosomes, sounds too technical) throat color, petal shape, height – so many ways to differentiate.

The latest one I (thought I) ordered was called Coach’s Fast Break.  This was the picture of what I thought I was ordering (on the left).

And this is what bloomed (on the right).  A quick search on Google, and I think I have Coach’s Braided Angel.  Surprise!!

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Can’t wait for this summer’s daylily show to begin!

 

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C is for Compost

I really want to be successful at composting – I really do.  I’ve tried a few times, and lost interest once it became too much work or (more likely) had to be thought about too often.  In my latest attempt, the ingredients turned into a great attraction for fruit flies, which caused me to send the “kitchen scraps” ceramic container to the deck.  Where I promptly forgot about it.  And where it eventually cracked – ceramic does not do well in the winter around here.

With my current attempt, I’m thinking through the details before I step one foot into that, well, wasteland.

Here’s a Recipe for Compost.  A pretty easy way to remember it is by color.

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Right now, I have an abundance of leaves that I’ve raked up from the yard and shredded with the lawnmower.  Funny side note – none of these leaves came from trees in my yard!  Thanks, neighbors!  I also can prepare some newspaper by shredding it with the office shredder.  So there’s my brown stuff.  I will keep my extra brown in a covered pile beside the composter.

The green materials seem to be easier to come by.  Kitchen scraps (including egg shells, coffee grounds, tea and tea bags) will be saved and stored in this handy-dandy trash can I picked up at WalMart.

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I have biodegradable plastic liners from a former composting attempt.  I read somewhere that you can freeze these scraps so they are available when you need them.  Not sure about the practicality of that, but it’s an idea.

Yard scraps (grass clippings, weeds that have not turned to seed) can be stored behind the fence, out of sight and out of smell range, hopefully.

I have a composter that tumbles.  It’s very easy to turn, and makes compost in as little as 4 weeks.  Or so I’m told.

composter

I have added layers of ingredients – 2 inches of green + 6 inches of brown then sprinkle with some water – to the composter .  You aren’t suppose to fill it up, so I made 3 layers.  I also added a scoop of soil that contained a few earth worms from one of my flower beds.  Those worms will get the process started.  Be sure to save a scoop of finished compost to add to your new batch, again, with a few worms.

Now I will need to turn the composter once a week.  So I will add a (yet another) reminder to my smartphone to remind me to turn the composter.  Turn it Tuesdays!

It’s a little disappointing when you open the composter and find this itty bitty amount of compost, but I have used the small amounts to amend a few of my borders.  It does feel pretty special to turn waste into something so useful.

And bonus – it’s free!

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My “C” entry in the A-to-Z Challenge. 

Chugging right along!

 

 

 

B is for Butterfly Garden

 

Being the great avoider of housework that I am, I’ve managed to find yet another way! Pokemon Go® – I’m searching for a Butterfree.

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Butterfree

In the meantime, I’m planning to address a very neglected part of the yard this summer.  Overgrown dumping ground will become a Garden for the Butterflies.  After the monarch attempt a few years back, I’ve been thinking of ways to attract them to my garden on their way to Mexico.

There’s a  small garden center in Unity, PA called Friendship Garden that specializes in native plants.  I learned about this place a few weeks back when our garden club speaker, a master gardener from the Latrobe Area, informed us.  He encouraged native plants, but at the same time, did not criticize our love and hopes with the exotic tropicals we adore.  Native plants have formed symbiotic relationships with native wildlife over thousands of years and therefore offer the most sustainable habitat. A plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction.

Some plants that attract the pollinators include Purple Coneflower (echinacea), Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Butterfly Flower (flor de mariposa).

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My big plan was to start these from seed.  I still may, but upon careful inspection of the directions on the packet, my plants won’t be blooming this summer.

Coneflower seeds that would have naturally fallen from the flowers in the fall would have a much better chance, as these seeds should be planted 12 weeks before the ground freezes.  Ditto with the Butterfly Weed.  There seems to be some hope for the Butterfly Flower.  I will be starting them all, but will have to be patient for the bloom show.

I was able to snag 2 milkweed plants from the Friendship Garden.  I’m hoping that the Common Milkweed will attract monarchs.

Now for the work of clearing brush, moving rocks, and creating the space.

Here’s hoping all this work gets done before my plants die!!

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My B entry for the blogging challenge from A to Z.  Trying hard to keep it up, wishing I had started these entries in March, not going to make excuses!  Keep on blogging!  I think I can, I think I can . . .

A is for Azalea

As a child, I remember stalking the neighborhoods while riding in the car with my dad, looking at the first blooms of the season, noting how lovely (or not) the azaleas were this year.  Strong, deep pink puffs of lovely on each neighbor’s lawn.  As though the strength of the winter had somehow affected how beautiful the blooms would be.  Was it actually all Mother Nature’s doing?  Or perhaps the length of time since we seemed to have seen the final blooms of fall had something to do with it.

Dad always had the bright pink varieties, and when I started planting at our first home, I loved the pale pink.

 

 

My white azaleas came with the house.  Two really fine specimens that don’t seem to care if I forget to prune them, or if I do remember to prune them but at the wrong time.  Last year, I did get to pruning them right after they bloomed, which is the recommended time to prune.  The blooms for the following year are set a few weeks after the blossoms fall, so it’s best to prune shortly after the blossoms have fallen.

I have to tell you, though, that the years I did wait until even the end of summer did not ruin a great show come spring.  It may be that my specimens are just so big that there are layers of potential blooms, and I only cut off the top layer.  I really don’t know, but I have never had a disappointing azalea show.

There’s so much that actually goes into a “good year” for the azaleas.  Let’s explore!

Weather

Azaleas do best in warmer temperatures.  I live in Zone 6a, and the azaleas do very will even our hard winters.  They prefer part sun rather than direct sun, but mine do well on my west-facing front border.  They are situated very close to the house, so that could be the reason they survive our winter.  Just know that they need that part sun in order to bloom.

Soil

Azaleas love an acidic soil.  A good mulch of shredded pine bark will naturally seep acid into the soil.  And if you like to add a boost, some Holly-Tone will always be a good addition.  Wait until after the flowers bloom, otherwise you will be feeding and encouraging the greenery.  Keep the mulch about 8 inches from the base of the plant.

Pruning

As mentioned above, any necessary pruning should be done shortly after the flowers have dropped.   Don’t risk cutting off next year’s flowers by waiting until much after 2-3 weeks.  Not only will you cut off next year’s flowers, you risk stressing the plant with any midsummer trimming.  When the flowers start wilting and turning brown, that’s the perfect time to prune.

 

Propagation

Those new sprouting stems that show up after the blooming period are perfect to cut for startings.  Strip a few of the bottom leaves off and put the stem in a glass of water.  Keep the node from where the leaves were under water for a few weeks and you should have a nice rooted stem.

My large azaleas have some smaller branches underneath that sort of lay on the soil, and those branches root without my even trying.

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Here’s to a month of Blogging from A to Z! 

Am I up to this challenge?  Stay tuned!

L is for . . .

Oh, I don’t know.  In like a Lion, out like a Lamb.  In like a Lamb, out like a Lion.  Here it is, the first day of Spring 2018, so Let it Snow!  Makes sense on some level, I guess.

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Get ready, friends!  It’s time for the annual Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge!  Every day in April (except Sundays), join the fun and create a post based on a letter of the alphabet for each day.  Are you up for the challenge?  I’m not sure that I am, but I will try!

I plan to blog in the ‘Nature/Outdoors’ category, with the theme of Gardening (surprise!)  I will try to stick with flowers in my garden but may have to slip into the realm of vegetables in my garden.  Or maybe weeds . . .

Grab a month of April calendar, map out the alphabet on each day, then choose your topics for each day.  That’s the fun part!

Now get writing – that may be the hard part!

A brief walk

I decided to dodge a few raindrops and take a walk down the side yard today to visit the late winter flower patch. I have seen so many snaps of snow drops and helebores these past few weeks. So many of my blog friends live in climates that are just a bit warmer and ahead of mine, I always know what to look forward to in a few weeks.

I trimmed away some of the old leaves from last year, and look what I found hidden underneath!

Peppermint Ruffles

Peppermint Ruffles Helebore

I’m glad the tag survived again so I know these little flowers are called Peppermint Ruffles, and I’m glad I decided to move these helebores a couple summers back. They weren’t blooming, and were in a very shady spot. They are still in a shady area, but now get partial sun. They really responded to the new location.

My snow drops have not spread much. I get the same two blooms but it’s still very exciting. I’ve seen some established snow drop gardens that look spectacular, truly look like fields of snow on grass. I’m going to have to get a few more bulbs, or really amend the soil they live in. It’s all about that soil, you know!

The crocuses have been blooming for about 2 weeks now. My favorite February blooms. I’m always surprised by them, but my TimeHop has proven that these guys arrive every February. They are still a very nice surprise.

Crocus

Early Bloomers

Along with the flowers were plenty of hairy bittercress. This weed appeared a couple of years ago and have been popping up very reliably. Seems early this year, but we have had a few balmy weeks. These guys are itchin’ to grow. Best to get out there and pull them up before the blooms go to seed.

Hairy Bittercress

The seed pods snap and let those seeds fly everywhere. Really quite a nuisance.

It did feel good to get out there and pull some weeds. There has been so much rain this year, the ground is very sloggy (is that a word?), so those weeds come right out!

The Homeless Have Pets, Too

I saw a post on Facebook yesterday, a small video of a homeless man and his dog.  The dog caught my attention first as there is a special place in my heart for pit bulls.  So misunderstood.

The video took me back to a hot summer day just a few weeks ago.  On my way home from work.  He caught me so off guard, he was situated right in the middle of a traffic island.  The dog lay right beside him and he (the man, not the dog) was playing a banjo.  A banjo!  His case was open, ready to accept the loose change that might buy him a burger at the McDonald’s right there.

It was the dog that really got me thinking.  I never really considered that the homeless might have pets.  But of course they do.  And with the little that this man had, that dog did not look to be starving.

The light turned green before I had a chance to think of something I could have done.  I think I had a $10 bill in my wallet, but the light was green and I had to move on.  All the way home, I thought of how I could go home, grab a baggie of MilkBones, and take that $10 to him.

I thought of the dog a few more times that evening.  After checking on my own dog, I drove back up to the stop light.

But he was gone.  I haven’t seen him since.

I hope his dog likes listening to banjo music.  I know I do.

PS – When I visit with the dogs at the shelter, it’s always so wonderful to find an empty kennel and a sign proclaiming “adoption pending” – last week Irma and Maria found their furever home!  Congratulations, ladies!!

Harvey, Irma, and Maria

Three names of three storms that hit the US this past year, 2017.  Storms so intense that those in the path either board up to ride it out, or run.

The pets in the path of these storms were also in peril.  I cannot imagine the anguish that must be felt, the desperation that has to be lived, the utter unthinkable thoughts of leaving a pet behind when faced with the challenge of survival.  How?  I don’t ever want to know.

But what I have learned is that there are people who are willing to do whatever they can to help these helpless souls who become victims through no fault of their own.

Speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves.  It’s the motto of our local animal shelter that put out the call.  Who answered the call.

The Facebook page allowed us followers to witness the rescue of 12 little souls who were transported to the Pittsburgh area in the hopes that our shelter could take them in and find them temporary if not furever homes.

The shelters in Florida were packed as a result of taking in extra dogs from Texas and Hurricane Harvey.  Then came Hurricane Irma, and more room was needed for the inevitable influx of abandoned pets in the wake of this natural disaster.

The shelter volunteers loaded the van with crates and took off to the county airport to meet the 12 dogs they promised to rescue.  And they were met with 16.  How could they turn away 4?

The Southern 16.  A story of survival.  And with these extra 16 dogs to care for, the word was out that the shelter needed help.  It was something I had thought of doing so many times, but for one reason or another, just never did.  Timing is everything, a friend once said.  And the timing was now right.  I found 2 hours of my week to help out at the shelter.

I have to tell you that those two hours a week are some of my favorite.  Walking into the shelter on Thursday mornings, knowing those pups are so happy to see me, if not just for the opportunity to empty their bladders from the long night!  They know they are getting a nice long walk, and then back to the shelter for breakfast!

This shelter is a no-kill, and I’m amazed at how quickly some of these dogs get adopted out.  Animal Friends is very particular and careful to adopt the dogs out to the perfect homes.  There are still 3 pups from the Southern 16 hopeful to find their families soon.  Until that time, we will continue to love them while they are here.

Oh, and the dogs that find their way to the shelter seldom tell us their names.  We give them temporary names.  Three of the Southern 16 were given names of Irma, Maria, and Harvey.

Irma and Maria are still waiting.

Irma n Maria

My name is Maria, and this is my pal Irma.

 

Elaine’s View

It’s been quite awhile since I spent any time in the garden that I call Elaine’s View.  Elaine lives in the house next door.  A few years back, I gave her a hard time (in a teasing way) for letting the garden on her side of the driveway pretty much go to pot.  I reminded her that I stand in the kitchen looking out at her driveway while I do the dishes.  It would be nice if I had something colorful to look at!  She obliged, and really got that plot in order.

I haven’t really returned the favor lately.

Our houses are side by side, facing west.  So the way the shadows fall, my side of the driveway is north-facing, and extremely shady.  Her side of the driveway is south-facing, and very conducive to lovely flowers.

I finally decided to investigate some shade loving plants, and I put some effort into creating what turned out to be a very nice shade garden.

I found some Jacob’s ladder, some Solomon’s Seal, a few hostas, a few ferns.

And just when I thought the border looked pretty darn good, the new A/C unit was moved and now sits right smack in the middle of the plot, and I have to start all over again.

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Any suggestions on how to mask that beast?  It looks like a focal point of Elaine’s View.

I don’t want to impede the work it does to cool our house, but if it this unit can be fenced in or blocked somehow, I’d be a very happy camper . . . er, gardener!

Any thoughts?

 

It’s a Wild Life

I’m going to take it as a compliment that wildlife seems to be exploding in my yard this year.  Just a few weeks ago, my wisteria became a temporary housing development for a family of robins.  I can’t believe how quickly this little nest of eggs became a little nest of baby birds.  And they are on their own, not 3 weeks in total.

Last evening I was out tending to a border along my fence when Willis discovered a family of baby bunnies right on the edge of the lawn.  I had no time to teach him to be gentle, that these little creatures were not playtoys.  They did sound like little squeaky toys.  I prefer never to hear that again.

It’s not unusual for rabbits to make their homes right out in the open like that.  The more I thought of this location, the more I realized that predators usually won’t attempt an attack right out in the middle of a yard.  At least that’s the excuse Mr. Google gives for this seemingly careless choice of location, Mama Bunny.

It was surprisingly well hidden right in plain sight!

This isn’t the first time that Willis has brought my attention to some bunny friends.  However, mama moved that nest shortly after his last discovery, or so I choose to believe.

Speaking of that wisteria, I really need to get that vine under control.  Here’s hoping there’s not another family hiding within!

Postscript:  Our little family of bunnies got flooded out of their home shortly after this post was penned.   Thanks to our local Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for the quick call back (on a Friday evening, well after regular hours.  These people are the best!)  They guided us through a rescue effort, and I know that we did all we could to provide these little guys shelter until the Mama Bunny came back to take care.  We tried to save them, but Mother Nature had other plans.