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 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: