Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Winter Wonderland

I woke up to a winter wonderland this morning:

This is what I missed so terribly living down South; seasons. There is just something about watching summer turn into fall and waking up with the crisp morning air and the changing colors of the leaves against deep blue skies which then give way to clouds, dark days, rain, sleet, and snow.

Sure, it occasionally snows in Austin, but it always gives way to 70 degrees and melted snow by noon (OK, except that one time where it snowed all day, but it was still 70 the next day). I missed the socked in, power outage, cuddle up in a sweater with a cup of hot Market Spiced tea and a good book kind of snow. The kind that lends itself to giant snowman making:

And buries the dormant veggie garden and it's ever watchful owl in snow:

As well as the garden squirrel that watches over my potted plants:

The kind that turns a green forest white:

And makes a succulent pot look like a snow cone for several days:

And turns skeletal remains of annual flowers into frozen lollipops:

The kind that drives the year round residents of Puget Sound, the Anna's hummingbird, to make trips to the feeder every couple minutes to keep up energy:


This is the kind of winter I have missed for so long, where even in the winter the region is blanketed in green, occasionally concealed by white. 

The winter solstice is just around the corner and the dark,stormy months of winter will begin slowly marching towards the rainy days of spring. But, there are a few more months of winter yet to go and I plan to enjoy every minute of it. I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to move back home to the Pacific Northwest.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bloom Day - Nov 15th, 2012

November Bloom day and I actually have blooms to show off. Even though we have had a few freezes, the plants right up against the house are still blooming, including the hanging fuchsia (OK, so I cheated a little and put the fuchsia in the pop-up greenhouse the days it froze, but it's back outside now that it has warmed up again).

Here's the hanging fuchsia. It's still attracting hummers every day so I try and keep it out as much as possible:

The hardy fuchsia is also still blooming and attracting hummers:

The dragon wing begonia is still flowering! This plant has been super for me up here in the PNW and the hummers also love this one:

I also have a blue mist flower blooming:

Pineapple sage is still blooming and smells strongly of pineapple, hence it's name:

The geranium is still blooming. I did pick off a bunch of moldy leaves and move it under the eaves where it stays dry. It seems to really like that:

The abutilon keeps on flowering and attracting hummers. This one flowered all through winter for me in Austin, we'll see what the PNW result is. For now, this guy just won't quit:

This purple salvia I recently picked up on sale is still flowering:

The Guara is still flowering as well:

And last but not least, this nifty creeping campanula (bellflower) continues to send out pretty purple bell shaped flowers:

Happy Bloom day everyone!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Anna's hummingbirds - year round residents.

Here on the Puget Sound, the Anna's hummingbird is a year-round resident. Two of them have been fighting over the feeder and this pineapple salvia today even though it is only 46 degrees outside:

I'm surprised this salvia they are fighting wars over hasn't froze back yet as we did have a freeze two nights in a row, but I do have it in a pot on the deck in a sheltered area between 2 sections of the house. It must stay warmer here creating a micro climate. That's a big plus for the hummingbirds since their favorite flowers are still going strong:

Here's the Anna's hummers. I observed many females in the spring and summer, but very few males. This is one of the females that is frequenting the feeding this November:

Here is the male. I have been seeing him quite a bit since October. I'm not sure if he had moved up into the hills during Spring and Summer and has moved back down now that it is Fall, or if he has been here all along and I am just seeing him more now that I have many flowers he likes and he is spending more time in our yard as a result:

Anna's male hummers have gorgeous pinky red heads, but you can't tell from this angle. It was difficult to get a good shot of this guy's iridescent reddish-pink feathers since there wasn't much sun to reflect off them today. I'll keep stalking him until I get a shot of them shining in the sun.

All these hummers are very busy lately keeping fueled up in the chilly, rainy, Pacific Northwest fall/winter climate. They like to perch in the birch trees and fly down for drinks from the feeder. One of the theories on why these guys do so well in the winter up here is that they include a larger number of insects in their diet along with nectar. They will also eat sap from holes made by sapsuckers and eat the insects that are attracted to this sap.

As recently as the 1930's Anna's hummingbirds range was only into California, but as the climate has changed and as people have planted nectar friendly flowers in their gardens, the range of this hummer has expanded all the way up to Vancouver, British Columbia.

I'm really enjoying having these guys year round. In Austin, we had ruby throated and black-chinned hummers until September when they would vacate for warmer climates. The Rufous hummer would then show up to winter with us from about October to January when they would then take back off to the west coast. We have the Rufous hummers up here in Spring and Summer. I wonder if any of these are the ones wintering in Central Texas?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Creating a Secret Woodland Garden

I've got a big woodland gardening project going on right now. This is how it began back in the 5 acre wood:

Grams: "So, see that area in the woods there? Where there is a big clear area and all the trees fell down? I want to put a secret garden there."
Me: "That area where all those fallen trees are and covered in salal? (looking at impenetrable wall of salal hiding a good 15+ fully grown fallen fir trees)
Grams: "Yep. We cleared that once 20 years ago, but it's all overgrown. I want it right there."
Me: "How big do you want this thing?"
Grams: "Oh, you know, just from the edge of the trees over there to the trees over here."
Me: "So, what, a 40-50 foot circle?"
Grams: "Yep, that sounds about right"
Me: "OK. Um...Where do you want me to start?"
Grams: "I dunno, maybe about here (pointing to thicket of brush, blackberry brambles, and twisty fallen treebits)" Just start making a trail in right here and then we'll see what we have once it is cleared out"
Me: "Okee-dokee".

And so it began. This is actually a really brilliant idea. Brilliant, I tell you. I LOVE this idea. I think it is awesome. But while I am cutting my way through the forest, I am silently cursing Grams for this. But it's gonna be AWESOME when it's done. It's just......so much work. Thank God for the muscle-y husband and Gramps with the big-ass chainsaw.

We've been working on this the last couple days from dawn to dusk. Actually, we have gotten a whole helluva lot completed in 2 full days. We busted through brush, cut out 10 or more fallen trees and burned up 2 giant piles of brush. Here's what it looks like so far:

This was once an impenetrable thicket of salal and fallen trees. I'm lining the entire space with logs from the fallen trees to define the woodland garden area. That middle bit there is a huge nurse log/rootball covered in ferns and other woodlandy bits. We decided to keep it and make it the center piece of the garden:

A closer look at the moss and ferns:

The left area of the garden is pretty much cleared out:

There were all kinds of completely rotten logs in this area and I just broke them up into bits with the pick axe and raked them across the ground after I completed some leveling of the forest floor. It makes a wonderful natural mulch for the floor of the garden.

The log that sits across the left area in the photo above became a bench. We cut it off on both ends to make sure it was safe. The root ball was still attached and those can randomly flip the tree back up and kill you if you aren't careful and the conditions are right. We had one flip back up earlier in the day on us that was down the hill a bit after we took all the load off of it by pulling other trees off it and trimming it down. (We were aware it would flip back up, so stayed quite clear of it until it did so on it's own. Now it's a nice woodpecker tree). Clearing forest is not something to be taken lightly.

Here's the natural log bench:

Behind the bench I will be planting some rhodies. This is a true woodland garden and there are deer. Lots of them. That means no deer salad plants like hosta, heuchera, or iris. But deer don't like rhododendrons as they are poisonous; they might stomp on them, but they won't eat them. So those will go in the space behind the bench here:

I'll be tucking ferns in here, there, and everywhere. I made a flower pot in this corner where the logs meet and moved one of the ferns we pulled out into this space:

On to the right side of the garden. This side is still a huge work in progress:

As you can see, there is a wall of salal still being cut through and several big logs to cut and move:


The house terrier, Tabby is having a great time. She caught a vole and tried to eat it while we were working. Gross:

The entrance and exits to the garden are in progress. Here's the entrance. I'm thinking of lining it with solar lights, but not sure if it would get enough sun to really make that effective. I'll have to test it out with a couple solar lights and see what happens:

Here's the exit. The plan is to put in some stairs in this spot with some old concrete blocks and sand we have lying about:

Many of the logs we have been cutting up have groovy fungi on them. I placed these next to the back entrance. They can stay here, slowly become nurse logs, and grow more fungi, therefore becoming more nifty looking as they age.

Here's a bit more fungi on a log placed in the center fern garden:

So that's where the woodland garden creation is right now. This weekend Gramps will be taking down several widow makers (dead trees looming over the garden space) and we'll get those outta the way. Once that is done I can work on cleaning up the rest of the space, and planning where to put woodland plants and other garden features.

Today is rest day. My muscles are tired and I need a break. Plus, I need to do some wash:

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

There is nothing more fun than growing your own pumpkin patch. When I was growing up we always had a huge display of jack-o-lanterns all from pumpkins grown in our backyard garden. The neighbor kids would come over, we would all pick out some pumpkins from the garden to carve and we would have a big ol' pumpkin carving party. Sometimes drills and saws were required for the big 100 lb'ers and that was the biggest blast! Power tools, wheeee!

This is the first year I have had enough space to grow pumpkins in a long time, not to mention the freedom from those dreaded squash bugs. The garden produced several pumpkins this year even though I got the seeds in a little bit late. Here's the harvested haul. As you can see, some didn't quite ripen up, but that's OK. There's always something fun to create with a green pumpkin:

Here most of them are all carved up. There were 13 in total (perfect Halloween number!) and it took 2 days to carve them all. This is what was created on day 1. Most were original creations, the two on the left were from printable templates:

The kid created this nifty 4-sider:
This guy requires an up-close shot since it's hard to see his gourd-impaled head in the dark shot. The kid stated that 'that gourd must have had some pretty good momentum to get stuck in his head like that'.:

Here they are on the porch:

Day 2 the last few were carved up. A cat from a template, but we added a moon and stars:

It really comes alive when all lit up:

And a zombie pumpkin with a cauliflower brain. An old wire hanger cut into pieces was used to secure the top pumpkin and the brain in place. Red food coloring and pumpkin guts provided the bloody effect:
All lit up:

Happy Halloween everyone!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Deck Cover Fabulousness

We have an uncovered deck area just outside our room that we wanted to use as an extended outdoor living area, but it needed a cover since it rains a bunch up here. The solution?  The hubs ordered this Kookaburra waterproof sail shade and attached it with eye hooks to anchor points on 3 corners of the house and a giant pole we made from part of a big leaf maple that had been cut back earlier this year. Then he strung twinkle lights all about it and around the pole.

It turned out awesome:

It reminds me of the outdoor spaces in Austin that we left behind. I love it! I'm thinking of painting the pole blue.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bloom Day October 15, 2012

It's October Bloom day and in true Pacific Northwest fashion, it is pouring and windy outside today. Fall has finally arrived and it's storming in like a pissed off mountain lion.

Even though it's nasty outside, I still have lots of flowers in bloom, but I'm sticking to the ones potted up on my deck so I don't have to get drenched to take photos.

The begonias are looking fabulous. The dragon wing begonia I brought with me from Austin really love the maritime climate and are just gorgeous:


I also now am able to grow tuberous begonia and they are looking spectacular:

Some yellow ones:

More yellow:

Some pink ones:

Another plant I'm so glad to be able to successfully grow again are fuchsia and they love this weather:

Here's the one that had a zombie revival from what I thought was a dead for sure after a million degree summer but came back in winter in Austin and traveled to the PNW with me to live a glorious new life:

Also brought from Austin and loving the maritime climate more that I ever dreamed it would is firecracker fern. It's blooming crazy right now and still attracting Anna's hummers even in mid October:

I'll be moving this to the pop-up greenhouse shortly, but am leaving it out as long as possible since the hummers enjoy it so very much:

Another one that really has been doing well that was a surprise to me is the Kangaroo Paw. It keeps blooming away:

The geraniums are still blooming beautifully. A pink one planted with fuchsia:

A purplish ivy geranium:

A bright red one:

The purple dahlia is still blooming:

As is the purple-stripey petunia that seeded iteself into the garden that I dug up and put in a pot so I could see it up close every morning:

The guara keeps on blooming. I like this one because it reminds me of Austin *smile*:

And I shall close out this bloom day post with the labuffarosa rain lilies that just keep on keepin' on. I had no idea they would love it so much up here:

Happy Bloom day everyone!