Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Campfires 101: These pictures represent lessons I have learned recently, and would like to pass on...not that I am an ameteur. I have gone tent camping for years, even considering myself an outdoors person. But on this occasion, I had brush to burn, and burn I did! Lesson #1-just because you have a large fire pit, you don't have to fill it. (I began to realize this while the fire was still kinda small.) Lesson #2-dry pine branches, especially with needles intact, burn very well/hot/quickly. This lesson swiftly followed the first one. Lesson #3-when a hot fire gets large, and there are live tree branches overhead, they may actually catch fire, too! Luckily, this did not actually materialize, but my mom's voice was echoeing in my head as I moved back and looked up, "You be careful now, you know you can catch live trees on fire, too." Lesson #4-try not to be home alone when you learn these valuable lessons! Needless to say, my campfires are much more modest and quaint from here on out-please forgive me Smokey Bear!

The large-leaved plant in this old tub, ligularia "Desdomona", was given to me by my mom this spring, and it's taken to container life quite nicely (probably because this is slow to drain, and they like moisture). Not sure if it will winter over in here okay, but I'm going for the gusto....mostly because I still have 3 more specimens if it fails. I'm blessed with freakish good luck with container survival though...the hosta to the left of the gnome is in a enamelware/metal basin only 6" deep, and it has survived very well for 4 years. (No mulching whatsoever either, except piling on snow when I shovel the pathway.) Anyhow, we'll see if Desdomona makes it. As for the gnome....well, I have been heard to claim a "sort-of aversion to kitsch"-with "sort-of" being key, because, well his lantern lights up at night...and, well I just couldn't resist. Now, the plastic bunnies, turtles, and frogs scattered elsewhere are another story.... ; )

Holiday Weekend Project 2006: This "okay but unassuming" hosta border by the screen house is gettin' a makeover this weekend! I'm gonna dig out an official border edge, shake all the weeds/grass out of the dirt, amend the soil with manure, clay, earthworm castings and shredded peat, add a couple more small hostas toward the front, and finally border it with something...rocks, bricks-I'm just not sure. "After" pictures to follow...wish me luck...

Monday, August 28, 2006

Kudos to my friends at Plant Delights nursery! This gorgeous blue hosta, "Frosted Dimples" was planted just last fall, and look at it now! It was nice-sized when it arrived (like all the plants I get from them), but I certainly didn't expect this kind of rapid sucess! I mean, I live in zone 4 people! These folks really know how to "feed my frankenstein"!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

"WOW" moment of the day-putting around tha garden today, and all of a sudden-oooh! What the heck is this?! My caladium is sporting a flower that looks like Amorphophallus/Voodoo lily of some sort! Anybody else ever see a caladium do this? I even have a couple more of this same kind around the yard, and they are not doing THIS! Why, I can barely contain myself! : )

Rainy today, which is a very good thing....but when it's not, I've been very excited about all the wildflowers along the road lately-this is a beauty I found a couple weeks ago. It's called Fireweed, growing about 5 feet tall. These were very lovely, a large group en masse. I collected some seed, but they are very tiny and attached to fluff like milkweed seeds. I just hope I can get them to plant where I want, and not blow around (there's that "control" thing again...ha). I tell you, it's all I can do do keep focused on any destination without pulling over to admire, photograph and try and identify something. Just when many folks feel a sense of loss for their cultivated gardens "winding down" for the season, I catch the "fever" for these wild things!

Friday, August 25, 2006

I wanted control...I got anarchy. I wanted stability...I got chaos.....*sigh*....good thing I have a relaxing hobby. But why gardening? When I think about it, there's really no control or stability in the gardening experience-all you can really do is try and just hope for the best. So of all the spare time activities, why the heck did I choose this? I've been pondering this lately, due to the state of the world currently, and my own life more recently. I like to delude myself that I'm not a control freak...but I usually like to have a plan of some sort in most things, and am quite happy being single and "captain of my own ship". So why do I garden, when my best laid plans ritually go awry, and "having a plan" is just laughable. I believe it's the exercise of learning to live with the unexpected, to realize that having little or no control over the outcome is actually okay. For example...with my job and lengthy daily commute, I often cannot keep up with weeding, and refuse to use chemicals to assist the process. But from the "weeds" I'm often blessed with amazing volunteer wildflowers-especially since I feed birds (they bring seeds in on their feet and in their droppings). So I've learned to relax and just wait to see what materializes during the season, pulling only things I'm certain to be weeds. And how about the disappointment (even rage) when a plant you are really excited about and nurturing ever so carefully along is decapitated by some #@#&* varmint?! I've even learned to be patient and relax about that, also, by taking a page from the "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger" book. My lazy streak helps here-by not immediatey replacing the mangled plant with something new, I've discovered that often the absent top growth causes the root structure to go into "survival mode", and the plant often returns bigger than ever-if not that same season, the next year. And when stuff actually does die off, I've learned that there's a lot of satisfaction in seeking out plants that don't need so much TLC to survive. In fact, if I put more effort in amending my soil (with horse manure), the plants have the "tools" to care for themselves-as well as increasing beneficial bugs and amphibians to thwart bad bugs. (This makes my lazy me very happy-less work in the long run!) I guess to be reminded that letting go of control is ultimately okay in the garden, translates some peace to other aspects of my life as well. But I find the biggest benefit is feeling more connected to the earth and the rest of the "natural world"...feeling the wind, watching the birds and animals, realizing we are only part of the earth-not the rulers or controllers. That no matter what kind of crap comes out of the TV, something really big and important is going on outside, in the natural rhythms of the earth...and it's very rejuventing to plug back into that. It makes everything else seem very small and insignificant...especially the tribulations of everyday life. Wow....I feel better just thinking about it...think I'll take a walk outside at lunch today-even if it's still raining...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Yard Is Alive-with the sound of froggies! I can hardly take a step without a frog of some kind jumping-they're everywhere! Bad news for the bugs, but great news for me-I think they're really cute!

Speaking of cool stuff in the woods...this is called "Indian Pipe", and it's considered a wildflower, although it looks like a mushroom or something. The National Audobon Society book calls it a "saprophyic, perennial herb lacking chlorophyll." It goes on to say "the roots of these plants grow in close association with fungi, from which they receive all of their nutrients and water". They call them "indirect parasites". I found these growing not so far from my driveway, initially 2 years ago. They dried up, and did not reappear until this year, in smaller numbers. I wonder if rainfall makes a difference, as last year was a lot drier. I just LOVE this time of year for all the awesome wild things growing and blooming everywhere!

Monday, August 21, 2006

More of this neat orange stuff...reminds me of "gak" from Nickelodeon.

Speaking of lichens.....this gooey, orange stuff on the branches lying in the woods is cool, too. I'm not exactly sure what it is, maybe a slime mold or something, but I like it nonetheless! Guess I'm kind of a freak like that, I basically enjoy anything that grows...especially if it's low maintenance!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I Like Lichens! This was the title of a segment on a show called "Indiana Outdoors" that I used to watch when I was a kid. It only took one viewing of this segment to make me realize that I indeed do like lichens. I'm told you can eat some of them too...but I'm scared to be poisoned (what a dumb way to die). So I just admire them from afar, and sometimes take prettier ones inside as decorations (weird, I know...I have various rocks all over the house, too). This time of year is really good for finding this stuf, so when I get tired of garden chores, I like to take a stroll "into the wild", where I won't get sidetracked spontaneously weeding and can just relax and observe (although these lichens were in my garden). Fungus among-us!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Pretty things come in small packages...I never make a habit of lying on the ground to look up at my flowers, and hosta flowers tend to be taken for granted (by me, anyhow). So the other day I decided to stick my camera down in front of some blooms to get a better view.....kinda cool! My digi is a bit antequated-so I cannot see if my aim is off on a screen or anything...but it creates an odd, "chipmunk's eye-view effect"...funky!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

~~~Water Garden 2006, Part Deux....although my plants still aren't too impressive, they have caught the attention of this mink frog. I've found him happily floating around daily for the past week or so-and I'm kind of amazed he found this spot, since these old wash tubs are about four feet off the ground! Guess where there's a will, there's a way!

*****Of course, along with gardening, fishing is a vital component of my happy life...here we have my friend, Bogart, reeling in a very nice sturgeon. It was under legal keeper size, so of course we released it-but frankly I would have wanted it released no matter what. These fish are too cool to kill as far as I'm concerned...very pre-historic-looking, and probably not that tasty, anyway. (I tend to prefer panfish, perch, and walleye-bass and everything else gets set free.) I even caught a dogfish later that evening, and although Bogart said it was a "trash fish" and should be murdered, I insisted on releasing it....it can't help being ugly! I must admit, the older I get, the more I respect the lives of other creatures. Not to say that I'm against hunting though...to me, it's a necessity of proper stewardship of the environment. After all, we have crowded out so many natural predators, as well as replacing existing flora with fattening, tasty crops (for deer, especially) that population control is vital. Heck, I have been in a deer vs. auto accident 5 times in 8 years living up here...they are so plentiful I've come to regard them as "long-legged rats"! Pretty to watch, but rats just the same. Anyhow, the fishing is a great time, and this river is pretty darn clean where I'm at...so yeehah!

I just LOVE this daylily-"Chamonix"...I ordered it from Oakes Daylilies, and they gave me 3 fans which were huge...awesome! I shared with my mom and sister, and the plants all bloom profusely! These people really know their daylilies!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

This "Cream Gentain" is one of my favorite wildflowers! The "Fringed Gentain" and "Closed Gentain" are both purpleish and native here...this white form I purchased from a native wildflower nursery. It seems to grow better for me than the other two, although I really like the look of the fringed variety

Monday, August 07, 2006

Water Garden 2006-it beagan optimistically enough; a couple plants that actually wintered over (outside!) from last year, a couple new purchases, and my hopeful heart. As you can see from the second photo, the tub to the left had to be drained of it's rapidly decaying goo...and the tub to the right looks pretty green, too. But, out of desparate optimism (and a mean lazy streak), I let the thing go to see what might take place. Well, lo and behold, about a week ago-signs of LIFE! Now even I'm not naieve enough to actually dare to believe my puny water lily may actually flower...but I am definately lazy enough to wait and see! ; )