Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Challenge Took Me Back To Quiet Valley

I received a neat challenge from Jo,  The Good Life, to post the eighth photograph from my eighth album. Thanks to digital cameras and laptop computers, this was not as difficult as I first thought. I just hoped it would be an interesting picture. Of course, I knew in all probability it would be botanical- or grandchildren- related. I was thrilled it is this picture of my grandson, taken in June, 2004 when he was three years old. He is examining a hen and her chicks at Quiet Valley Historical Farm located near here. This is a working farm where you can learn about Pennsylvania's agricultural heritage. People there wear period dress and reenact the life of the family who lived at the farm in the 1760's. It is a great place to visit with kids!

I hope you don't mind, but I am going to 'kill two birds with one stone' so to speak, and make this post (with the hen and chickens) my entry for today's  Camera Critters. Camera Critters is a great Saturday meme which I hope you will check out. You can click on the picture in the sidebar to go there.

In preparation for this post, I took a 'critter walk' around our property. I had a few surprises ...

I was thrilled to see the purple-martin house is occupied this year by a pair of purple martins, instead of the dreadful starlings that usually nest there. 

The female martin was collecting straw to make a nest ...

... while her husband stood guard on the tractor shed roof -

He watched as she took each piece of straw and twig inside the house ...

... and later, while she was working inside, he sat on his front porch and rested (no comment). 

I saw two other critters resting in the sunshine. My miniature horse, Dude, and his companion, Billy Goat, were fast asleep. 

I was going to let sleeping critters lie, but they heard me approach, and thought I was bringing food.

I was pleased to see the three-legged deer at the edge of the top field. She has survived another winter! The local hunters have a code not to shoot her, but we are always afraid some outsider will bag her. It was probably a hunter who caused her to lose her leg in the first place. She has been visiting our property for the last three years.

I was returning to the house when I say this ruby-throated humming bird resting on the pasture fence.  (Sorry the picture is a bit fuzzy - I couldn't get very close and my camera's zoom is not the best).

The little hummer was darting back and forth to the sweet, pink honeysuckle on the arbor and the flowers in the hanging baskets newly placed outside the garden room window.

I hope you enjoyed this critter walk with me. 

Now I have to fulfill the rest of Jo's 8 x 8 challenge and pass it on to eight more bloggers. I hope they will accept the challenge, then give it to others:

Town Mouse
Muscari Musings
Eden, Ever After
Gardening With Soule
Gwirrel's Garden
Gardenless Gardener
Vintage Garden Home
Crystal Coast Gardener

Those of you who live on this side of the pond, have a wonderful Memorial Day. I wish everyone a great weekend.

Your friend in gardening, 
Pam x

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

'A Taste of England' for May's Monthly Garden Bouquet

In my dining room hangs a large print of a bluebell woods in England. The picture once graced the walls of my office before I retired. It helped relieve the stress of my job. My mother gave it me as a reminder of my favorite English flower. I would gaze at that painting and dream of creating a bluebell woods here in Pennsylvania. When I retired,  H.H. and I made a Woodland Walk. I decided to line the path leading to the entrance of my woodland garden with bluebells. I researched English bluebells and found them online at Brent and Becky's Bulbs. That was three years ago, so following the 'sleep and creep' years they are finally 'leaping'. Hooray, I am so.o.o happy!
The bluebell woods painting
Not quite like the painting, but I love the effect they create
as you cross the bridge to enter the Woodland Walk

The little wooden bridge spans a dry creek constructed to stop storm water from flowing down into our basement. Last month, Diana of Elephants Eye wrote a post about her creek which she calls Apple Creek. Her enchanting story prompted me to give ours a name ... Bluebell Creek. Thanks, Diana!

This morning I had tea under an arbor

My mother says the bluebells are over in her part of England. 
But for a little while I can enjoy my English bluebells, 
as I think about her and 'home'.
This post is my entry for May's Monthly Garden Bouquet hosted by Noelle at Ramblings From a Desert Garden.  Thank you, Noelle, for this opportunity. Be sure to visit Noelle's blog for more May bouquets!

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

'Ants In Your Pants' for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

This is the first time I have participated in Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. I feel it is a wonderful way to document what is blooming in ones garden each month. One of my most stunning blooms is the peony located next to the fountain in my cottage garden. The ants absolutely love it. I counted 7 on the bud, below. Ants do not harm peonies in any way, so there is no need to do anything about them.

There are pansies and violas blooming in containers and borders all over my garden:

Primroses and forget-me-nots brighten the cottage garden:

I planted colorful perennials in a tub near the steps to the deck:

My grandmother called these sweet williams 'gilly flowers'.
I always think of her when I see their sweet faces:

The rhododendron is about to burst into bloom:

The red azaleas at the front of the house:

The yellow honeysuckle is flowering on the arbor.
My daughter gave me the unusual cone-shaped container,
filled with pink geraniums, for Mother's Day:

On another arbor are pink honeysuckle:

These are the last of my lilacs to bloom.
Unfortunately, I don't know the name of the variety:

English bluebells greet you at the entrance to the Woodland Walk:

The bluebells are blooming along the banks of Bluebell Creek:

In the Kitchen Garden, the chives are displaying pretty pink flowers:

There are blossoms on the Wild Cherry trees:

The purple flowers of the ajuga are very striking, I think:

Finally, I found this blossom on a wild raspberry in the Woodland Walk:

Thanks to Carol for hosting Garden Blogger's Bloom Day. Don't forget to head over to Carol's blog and check out what is blooming in her garden and in gardens all over the world!

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I love teaching about gardening, especially at The Older Adult Learning Center of our local university. But I am ashamed to admit I do not always practice what I preach in my community gardening programs. I feel it is time I fessed up. They say that confession is good for the soul, so here are some of my gardening sins. I will first state what I teach, and then tell what I actually do:

  • Give each plant the conditions it needs to thrive. We often describe this as putting "the right plant in the right place." However, I seem convinced I can defy Mother Nature. That is why I planted the two spirea (in the picture above) in the shade garden. I wanted to introduce a shrub with light colored leaves, as I thought I had too much dark green there.  I know very well that spirea needs full sun, and the shade garden is ... well, shady. The shrubs looked great when I took this photo (this morning), but I am afraid they will have very few blooms. I'm glad to say the climbing hydrangea on the fence behind the spirea, and the deadnettle in front, are doing very well because THEY have the conditions they need. Likewise, the bleeding heart (below) is very happy this year, since I moved it from deep shade to the part shade it prefers.

    • Rotate your crops. I am pleased to say I do this faithfully with my vegetables. I have a four-year rotation system that ensures diseases are not passed on from year to year. Unfortunately, I do not always remember this with my annual flowers. I planted zinnias around my wall fountain (in the picture below) every year for several years, resulting in zinnia leaf spot disease each time. Now I find new places for them each year. Choosing more disease-resistant varieties helps, too.

    •  Label plants when you put them in the ground. This is important for its location as well as its name. When there is no marker, I sometimes forget in the spring and have been known to pull out new growth thinking it is a weed. In the summer, when someone is admiring the plant, I am saved embarrassment by having its name right there. The old memory is not what it was.

    I think this is Hermerocalis "Chicago Apache", but there is no marker ,,,,

    ... and is this Hermerocalis "Chorus Line?"

    • Don't buy by impulse!  The consequence can be great, but it can also be a disaster, such as the obedient plant that is spreading profusely and taking over my world!  But who could resist this cute Chinese celandine poppy?...

    Fortunately, I found a great spot for it and it works ....

    • Clean and sharpen your gardening tools every year. I have this on the Fall Tasks list for my students, and I tell them if not accomplished then, it must be done in the spring. Oops! I just butchered a rose bush with blunt cross-secateurs. Fortunately, HH came to my rescue with a new pair.
    • Put peony supports in place before the plant grows too tall. Hurray, I did not miss the window of opportunity this year ....

    • Get a soil test. You can purchase a kit at your local Extension office (ours are $9 each) and the resulting information is invaluable. So why don't I do this? I will quickly change the subject ... please call it "soil" not "dirt." This is an American foible that I am sometimes guilty of myself. Remember ... Soil is the substance you grow plants in; dirt is the substance behind my refrigerator.

    This is by no means the end of my list, but I think I have incriminated myself enough, and have probably lost all credibility with my students. 

    In conclusion, here are some new bloom in my garden, today:

    Bridal veil spirea

    Sweet shrub

    Lily of the Valley

    Wishing you a very happy May!

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