Wednesday, September 26, 2018

More Late Bloomers

In addition to the Japanese quince and re-blooming iris, another resident of the garden is getting ready to bloom -- the Paulownia!

The squiggly twig is growing up. It formed a Y-shape. I was a bit concerned that it might split as the branches got bigger, but the trunk is sturdy. This shows the strange way the leaves grow: curly edges eventually straighten out. It's hard to tell from this angle, but the tree is about 30" tall.

Here are the buds. I thought the blooms are supposed to be pink. The buds seem to be yellow. Guess I'll have to wait until they open to know.

Raked up the mulch from the grass and pulled some weeds this morning. Too hot and muggy to do much more.

My friend from Missouri is coming to visit next week. Her garden always looks pristine. I'm torn between simply apologizing for how rough my garden is and handing her a pair of garden gloves.  😏

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Splish, Splash, I was taking a bath ...

Well, not really taking a bath, but there was six inches of splish-splashing happening over night. A fair amount of lighting and thunder came with it. This is nothing compared to the devastation in the Carolinas, but was something of a surprise after several days of predicted rain that didn't materialize.
The gauge reads 6" exactly. 
The mulch was soon -- the grass is so soggy that there's no walking on it right now. I bought some edging that rests on top of the ground, held in place by spikes -- no digging a slot or pounding into the rocky dirt -- but it may be some time before it can be installed. It is only 1-1/2" high, so this deluge would have over-topped it, had it been in place.
The mulched area in Buddha's realm turned into a wading pool. Buddha got a new coat of paint a few days ago. He was safe in the garage in the spray booth during the storm. 
It is too wet to get to the back of the yard to see what damage may have occurred. I don't think much, as it is a more rugged, less manicured area.

I know I promised pictures of the new screened porch, but my heart's not in it. I'm disappointed with the quality of the work, capped by the skylight leaking last night. :(  I do like sitting out there. :)

Friday, September 14, 2018

A Confused Iris

This morning I spotted an iris in bloom and buds on the Japanese quince bush. Really? In September? Go figure.

The hummingbirds are still coming to the feeder, but not as many as a few weeks ago. I believe migration has begun. 

It has taken a month, but the screened porch is nearing completion. Just a few minor items that should be taken care of today. Can't wait to get the indoor-outdoor rug down and furniture set up. Photos to come. :) 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A Construction Emergency?

Nick the Builder and his crew came last Friday and took down the gutter pipe and prepped the existing fascia boards to accept the rafters for what will be the new roof on the screened porch. I expected them around 9 am, but they rolled in around noon and worked until 7 pm. They left with a promise to be back at 9 am on Monday. Well, they arrived closer to 11:30 am, but at least they got the bulk of the framing up.

I'm already in love with it and was eagerly awaiting their arrival this morning (Tuesday) when I received a text. They "might" be able to get here in the afternoon -- a construction emergency. Emergency? Short of a building collapsing on somebody's grandmother, I'm having a hard time imagining the shape of a construction emergency. They didn't get here this afternoon. They left several large saws, nail guns, tool boxes and other stuff here, so I'm assuming they meant to be back this morning. Whatever the emergency, they were not fully armed. Am hoping they'll be back in the morning, but not counting on it.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Front Yard Cries for Attention

Our front yards are mowed and generally tended by a lawn service, the cost of which is included in our monthly home owners assessment fee. They mow, edge, prune bushes, and spread pine straw where required. In general, they maintain what the builders provided when the homes were built. Any additions, like a different kind of mulch, ground cover, trees, etc., are the responsibility of the home owner. The trees were planted by the builder, but somehow they aren't covered by the maintenance program.

So, when I discovered an army of caterpillars* greedily devouring my oak tree yesterday, I hit the panic button. Soon discovered that the tree people I found on line were eager to remove the tree, but none of them would deal with the caterpillars. So, this morning I hied over to Walmart and bought a bottle of Sevin Ready-to-Spray pesticide and a pair of long-handled loppers and went on the attack.

The caterpillars very conveniently had arranged themselves in bunches. It appeared from the previous damage that they started at the end of the branch and ate their way to the trunk of the tree before moving on to the next branch. I say convenient, as it made a relatively easy job of spraying several at the same time. One cluster was well above my head. I was afraid I'd have to climb a ladder to get to it, but the spray stream was strong enough to hit it from the ground. Sorry this photo is so blurry, but I wasn't eager to get closer, so this is a blow-up.
The caterpillars appeared to die almost immediately, as all movement stopped. I was afraid they'd come raining down on my head, but they stuck to the stem of the leaf they were eating. Tomorrow I'll get out the long-handled loppers and prune away the branches with the most damage. They are all fairly small in diameter and down low.

I would have done it this morning, but I tackled another bit of landscaping instead.
The area beneath the tree has a faux brick edging that is supposed to contain the vinca ground cover. Nobody told the vinca, and it crossed the edging and was heading toward the driveway. The lawn service trimmed the bush that you see here, but ignored the vines, so I'm assuming that's outside of their purview. 
I attacked the vinca and the knockout roses that are under the dining room windows.
The roses had been reaching out over the sidewalk, putting visitors in jeopardy as they approached the front door. And voila! The faux bricks have reappeared!
Compare this photo with the before photo above. The clippings from this side and the other side of the flower bed filled a large plastic yard waste bag.
This side of the flower bed was also overgrown with escaping vinca. The greenery in front of the tree is balloon flowers past their bloom. I deadheaded them, so that part also looks better. The holly bush at left was trimmed last week by the landscaping crew. They ignored the Knockout roses. I cut back the bushes on the right, but the ones in the middle still need attention. I wasn't too eager to push my way in among the thorns to reach them, never mind a mild reluctance to encounter a snake or two in all of that greenery. 
So much for the front yard. As we segue to the back yard, do you see that white rectangular item in the open garage door? It's a bundle of shingles for the screened porch. Yes! Construction has begun. Nothing much to see so far. The material are all stacked on the patio, and the gutter has been taken down and the initial framing for the roof beams are up. Come Monday morning, Nick the Builder assures me that they will be framing it up.

I added a second hummingbird feeder in the back yard. It took the little hummers about 20 minutes to find it. Both feeders are busy from dawn to dusk. The numbers appear to have increased. Apparently, if you feed them, they will come. :)

Still dealing with the pigeon situation. Some friends suggested that a plastic snake would scare them off. One said a piece of electric cord on a window sill was enough to scare away the birds. Not having a fake snake in the cupboard, I used what I had on hand -- a black bungee cord.
I put it down at dusk one evening. The next morning the pigeons were stomping around as usual. It didn't faze them a bit. I'm a bit leery of using a fake snake, as if it does work for the pigeons, it may scare off the smaller birds, too. 
This entry is getting a bit long, but I have one more photo to share.
The rain clouds were the lovelies shade of pink at sunset the other night.

*Did you know that a group of caterpillars is called an army? I learned that today!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

August Update

Between the heat and the rain, the garden is growing well. Do you recall the dead zone in the center of the yard? Look at it now!

Thanks to Kelly Landscaping Management, the Bermuda is filling in nicely. The brown areas on either side of the island are some stubborn fescue that was doused with herbicide last week. There is more fescue scattered here and there, but it will be dealt with when the Bermuda goes dormant in the fall. [Click the photo to see it larger.]
I think I need to suggest to Jody that he check his mower's setting. The grass looks like oversized corduroy ribs.

I figured out what to put in place of the two Rose of Sharon bushes that died. A bottle tree! Unless the toxic ground contains something that will eat iron, it should survive very well. I bought the bottles as a set with the tree. It needs three more large bottles at the bottom and a small one on the very top.

The bottle tree can stay outside in all but freezing weather to add a flash of color to the island. 

Another area of the garden that is suffering a bit is the planter under the bird feeder. The marauding pigeons really are destructive, flying rats.
All three lavender plants started out the same size. Something is nibbling on one of them to the point that it is much smaller than the other two. And the blossoms disappear from the larger ones. If it's not the pigeons -- which I've seen pecking and scratching the plant -- it must be the rabbit I spotted a week or more ago. Haven't seen it since, but rabbits can be sneaky.

There were some purple flowers between the raggedy looking white ones. They disappeared completely. Pfft! Gone! Must have been especially tasty. Some plants are touted as being deer resistant. Would be nice to find some that are rabbit resistant.
On the positive side, a couple of volunteer impatiens plants have popped up.
Had no idea there were flowers in this mulched area. The appearance of this lovely pink impatiens is a pleasant surprise. Side note: I have the spray paint for Buddha, just haven't gotten around to doing it. On the agenda for this coming week.

Another impatiens appeared about 2/3 of the way to the back fence. No photo.

This paulownia is growing well, but not at all like the one that grew in our Missouri garden. The two that were planted behind the island got pulled up today. They were nothing but dead sticks. No sign of a root system. That mark the demise of all three plants from the Nursery Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoken. *sigh*
The leaves on this paulownia uncurl as they grow, and they are slightly fuzzy. The tree seems to want to form branches, too, unlike the Missouri tree, which send up a straight, single trunk with  branches farther up, and had very smooth leaves. This one has two branches in a Y-shape, and the trunk is very short, even stubby. Have no idea what it will be when it grows up!
The hummingbird feeder is a very busy spot. I haven't taken a traffic count, but no matter when I look at it, one or more hummingbirds appear. There's plenty of nectar for all, but they spend a good deal of time and energy chasing away rivals. I think it is time to get a second feeder. I find myself cooking up batches of sugar & water nectar a couple times a week. They go through about 3/4 of a cup a day.

Can you imagine the size of the tummy of a creature the size of your thumb? Just think how many sips it takes to consume that much liquid? Amazing!
This feeder has a cup on top for water, meant to deter ants and other crawlies out of the goodies. Keeping it filled was a real chore until I got out the Lysol disinfectant spray and soaked the brace and fence with it. Haven't seen an ant since, and that was a couple months ago. Whatever it is in the spray that they find distasteful seems able to withstand our torrential rains.

With the heat and humidity, I find that I need to give the feeder a good cleaning each time I refill it, as black mold grows quickly. It gets a good scrubbing with an old toothbrush, especially around the yellow faux flowers at least every other day. 
Speaking of rain, the rain gauge registered four inches this past week. It was good to see the sun yesterday and today, but the humidity ... ugh.

The big news is that on Tuesday work will begin on the screened porch! Can't wait to be able to sit out there and enjoy the flowers and bird friends. Yes, even the pigeons. :)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Ten Days Later ...

Since the past post, ten days ago, there has been a burst of color and growth and a trip to the dark side.

The color has popped on the crape myrtle. The flowers appear to be pink in the photos. In real life they waver between pink and coral, depending on the degree of sunlight and cloudiness. It's lovely in any hue.

The growth spurt was enjoyed by the healthy paulownia. It is now taller than its red flag, and its new leaves are getting larger and larger. Dinner plate sized leaves are a feature of the mature tree.
Notice the Emerald Green soldiers. Jody told me not to water them. I haven't turned the hose on them once, despite deprivation being contrary to my instincts. They are growing nicely. 

About that trip to the dark side ... almost all of my life I've held artificial flowers, especially plastic ones, in contempt. However ... after throwing out the deader than dead marigolds that had surrounded the statue, I surrendered. The ceramic pots will only accommodate 4-inch flower pots, which dry out quickly. With the heat we have been experiencing, keeping up with them was next to impossible, hence the death of the marigolds, and thus a trip to Hobby Lobby and the purchase of a stem of silk flowers and a large block of florist foam.

 Three of the four living Rose of Sharon bushes are beginning to bloom. The fourth is the one that experienced the miraculous recovery. I don't see any buds on it, nor do I expect to see any. It gets full marks for simply surviving! The other two bushes do seem to be dead. The leaves they had have gone from withered green to brown. Will leave them in place for the time being.

On a separate topic: did I mention I'd like to screen in the little patio outside the back door? I ran my idea past one of the members of the Architectural Review Board, who wasn't thrilled with my idea to use a sheet of corrugated polycarbonate for a roof. I thought it would let in a lot of light. He thought it would look tacky and fly away in the first set of strong winds to come along. So I went back to the drawing board and emailed a new set of plans to the fellow who will be building it for me. I expect the estimate to rise dramatically, but the end result will be very nice.