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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Garden Mysteries

When a backyard birdwatcher sees this on the patio what does it tell her?

That the brilliant Bullock's Oriole has been drinking at the Hummingbird feeder again. Since his bill is so much bigger than the Hummingbirds bill, he pulls off the little yellow mesh pieces from the feeder and drops them on the ground. As of this evening only 2 remain on the feeder and I haven't been able to find the other 2. In past years he just dumped them beneath the feeder but this year I found one way out in the middle of the back driveway and the other on the sidewalk in front of the back sliding door. Maybe he has figured out that if he doesn't take them far away, I will just pick them up, clean them, and reinstall them in the feeder. Mrs. Oriole also eats at the feeder, but I haven't seen her as often this year. When the young birds fledge she brings them to the hummingbird feeder also.
So far, Mr. Oriole has refused to pose for me, I hear him and hurry to see him on the feeder, but all I get to see is the feeder swinging back and forth. When I do see him, he is too far for me to get a good photo, so I borrowed this one from the website for Birds of Washington State. Photo by Jerry Rome.

According to an article in the Pueblo paper earlier this week, we are having a much larger migration of Ladybugs in the area than usual, probably because the weather has allowed for more aphids (Ladybugs' favorite food) than usual. I knew I had seen quite a few in garden, but was really amazed when I sat down beneath the blooming Catalpa tree and looked up at the under side of the large leaves. There were red Ladybugs everywhere. I've never seen that many in one place before. The red really popped against the green leaves. So, of course, I had to run (walk really, I am not able to run any more) to the house for my camera.

Now my mystery is: In the past I have used a product, recommended by my nursery, that is watered into the ground under the trees and shrubs infested with aphids, it goes up into the sap and kills the aphids when they suck the sap. If I use this now will it also kill the Ladybugs when they eat the aphids? I know that insecticidal soap will kill the Ladybugs as well as the Aphids. I only want to get rid of the aphids, not the Ladybugs.

Years ago, before I realized that this tree was so attractive to aphids, they caused the leaves to shrivel up and turn yellow and fall off, which was a real mess, not to mention all the sticky stuff they exude dripping, and the ants crawling all over the tree (the ants "farm" the aphids so they can eat the sweet sticky stuff.)

If anyone knows how I can get rid of the aphids without killing the beneficial insects, I would love to hear from you.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day _ June 2009

On the 15th of each month a group of gardening bloggers post photos of what's blooming in their gardens. We manage to have blooms, even in winter, with some of us resorting to house plants when the ground outside is frozen and dead looking, but really only sleeping. Check out participating blogs at May Dreams Gardens.

Now that June is here, Toad Haven is looking quite lively and colorful; and with the long, light evenings, I am able to garden at that time when there isn't a thunderstorm. It is often too hot during the middle of the day.
The above photo is of Lavender, California Poppies, and Feverfew in the 2 years old Dooryard Garden. It was designed to be a Lavender garden with the golden poppies and white German Chamomile, but, the poppies came up and took over while the Chamomile never germinated, so last year I transplanted a couple of Feverfew plants to provide the white; I've never had the Feverfew grow so tall before. I'm now going to try seeding the Chamomile in other parts of the garden. I am quite fond of Chamomile tea, plus I love the look and fragrance of the plants.
These are Goblin Gaillardias blooming in the midst of the poppies. This is a great native plant for our hot, dry climate.
This is a prairie Globe Mallow that happily seeded itself between the Dooryard Patio paving stones and the landscape timber edging the Dooryard Garden. When we moved here there were a couple of these Sphaeralceas growing in the middle of the seldom used back alley. I loved them and wondered if I could transplant them and get them to grow in the garden. Then this surprise popped up when I was constructing the patio and garden and I couldn't force myself to pull it up, even though it was in an inconvenient place. It gets so top heavy that I have to tie it up so it doesn't sprawl all over the patio and garden and I trim it back after the first big bloom, it keeps putting up small branches during the rest of the summer.
This section of the Lilliaputian Prairie border has Stella d'Oro Daylilies, Ice Plant, Coreopsis, and Yarrow blooming. I wish the purple Veronica would bloom a little earlier here. Although I appreciate the self seeding surprises of native and some garden plants, that healthy dandelion is not appreciated and will be cut off down in the root.
The veggie garden in it's raised beds was planted late this year, due to my health challenges and the weather, but it is beginning to take shape with some transplanted plants and some seed. I am still in the process of making a new 8 foot square garden divided into 4 smaller squares ( I was greatly influence by the book "Square Foot Gardening" a number of years ago, but am not always planting as intensively as that book teaches. I hope that means I am not as compulsive as I used to be.) This new bed will be seeded with corn, pole beans and pumpkins (living succotash).

I wish this was a clearer photo of the Eggplant blossom, they are so gorgeous! I grow them as much for the blossoms as for the eggplants.
These blossoms are on one of the various tomato varieties I planted, while there is a label in the bed, I am not going to try to go out in the dark and check it. Especially since my right leg is still black, blue and purple from ankle to knee from 2 falls I've had in the garden in the last 3 weeks. Gardening while dragging around oxygen apparatus, a garden cart, and tools, gets frustrating at times, but I will not give up my gardening!

Here are bell pepper blossoms and even a small pepper.

I fell in love with Marigolds when I was a small child and still can't have a garden without them. I put them around the vegetable beds to discourage bugs; however, since they were one of the first things gobbled up by our grasshopper plague a few summers ago, I have been known to doubt that they are effective, but it's an old habit I can't give up. I love the smell of the Marigolds on my hands after I touch them, so I am a faithful deadheader.

I hope there are many lovely blossoms in your gardens of life.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Peony Fields Forever

Here is one of my favorite local sites at this time of the year. This gentleman grows the Peonies to sell to people to decorate graves on Memorial Day. It is one of the few flower fields left in the area. Before WWII there were many kinds of flowers, as well as vegetable, fruits and apple orchards in the area. It started in the 1860s with the pioneers growing food for the miners in the mountains. A dear departed friend of mine told me of working in the flower fields in the Lincoln Park area of Canon City. I was amazed when he told me that they were packed in crates and sent in refrigerated railroad cars to Chicago.

When I was growing up in the Rocky Ford area, further east along the Arkansas River, there were many fields of Zinnias being grown for a local seed company. Some fields were all one color and others were in a mix of colors. I'm not sure if the seed company is still in business and farmers still growing zinnias down there. Maybe I should do a research field trip later this summer to find out.

That area is losing a lot of farms due to the irrigation water rights being sold to big cities like Colorado Springs and Aurora. It doesn't look like the same place when I drive along the old, once familiar roads, and find the former fields going back to prairie grass and the farm houses that we and our family and friends lived in are no longer there. This is one of the reasons that I am a missionary for native, low water landscaping. I resent farms being dried up so that people can have their large, water slurping blue grass lawns, that have no business growing in a desert. I love my native Blue Gramma Grass lawn, my mini prairie. It takes one fourth of the water and only needs to be mowed a few times each summer. Why don't people understand that an attractive landscape that needs less work and less water is the way to go?!!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

June is Busting Out All Over!

I always sing that old song in my mind on June 1. All my life I've been a singer and sang as I did my daily tasks. Unfortunately, since being on oxygen for a few years, I am no longer able to sing, just croak. It is very disappointing, but I do keep my surround sound radio on all day, tuned to listener funded classical station KCME from Colorado Springs, and can sing along in my heart. Sometimes I just have to croak out loud from the joy of the music.

It appears that we are moving away from years of drought to a more normal climate (I hope, I hope, I hope!) for this area. I did hear that La Nina has disappeared and that could be the reason. We had about a week of upslope moisture, that we normally would have had in March; and now we are having sunny, warm mornings, and then clouds and afternoon thunderstorms. That was the weather pattern when we moved here 22 years ago, then around 2001 we started into the extreme drought pattern that has left us with hot, dry, windy weather and caused water shortages and wildfires. I am celebrating the return to the rainier weather, even though that only gives us between 12 to 14 inches of moisture in a year. It sure beats 5 to 7.

Today, between the late afternoon sprinkles and black clouds and the late night rain, I managed to transplant various types of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and marigolds into a couple of the raised vegetable garden beds. I was finishing up at 9 o'clock when it was almost completely dark. When the rain started late tonight I was so happy that I got them in when I did. I noticed that there was some new snow up on the bald top of Greenhorn Mountain, but there really doesn't seem to be any danger of freezing nights any longer. It was too dark to take any photos, but some will be forthcoming.

The second Peony plant, with lots of buds, has bloomed out in a darker rose color than the pink plant with only one flower. I am so happy that after all these years of pampering they finally bloomed. As I drove to and from Canon City today, I noticed huge, old clumps of Peonies blooming in so many yards; mostly pink and white doubles, but there were a few single blossom plants as well. The reds bloomed about 2 weeks ago and have already shattered.