"One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it brings."

Thursday, December 31, 2009

December end of month view.

Time for my end of month view already, and this month it's the end of the year as well. We are definitely ready for the beginning of a fresh new year around here. I love that feeling of starting new and the excitement of the year to come.
This month things don't look all that different from the last month. We've had quite a bit of cold and wet weather off and on through out December. It's been so busy inside here I've barely been outside.

It may look dead and bare in the picture, but under the Japanese Maple there are signs of new life popping up all over the place. The Hellebore has new growth sprouting and this new one may even have a few blooms later this winter.

The Violas are doing their best to bloom, as soon as they recover from one icy blast of weather they try with all their might to get the blooms to open. I hope they get a chance soon!

Bulbs are starting to sprout too. So far I see no evidence of squirrels digging any of them up.

The Heucheras have held up to the all the weather thrown at them. Here is 'Crimson Curls' sending up lots of new growth.

Daphne odora has many buds getting ready to open. Last year they took over three months to finally finish opening and then it wasn't a very good show. Hopefully this year they have a better display. I did read on a blog recently though about a myth not to show any pictures of them in bloom or make a fuss about them, because they just might up and die then. I'm not going to take any chances :)

The Camellia japonica 'Kumasaka' is covered in buds, but probably won't bloom for a few months. I still like checking to see that they are growing.

I hope by the end of January we'll have a few flowers to show, but who knows it could also be covered in snow then.

I want to wish everyone a very happy and healthy New Year to you, your family and your gardens!
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Busy as a bee, hand pollinating lemon blooms.

We have some new indoor blooms here and do they smell heavenly! I woke up Christmas morning to find that the Meyer Lemon tree that I brought indoors had it's first bloom opened. What a great surprise! I've been trying to take good care of it since it is the first time I've overwintered one. It had been a gift from the California in laws last March and to be honest I didn't take very good care of it for the first several months. Towards the end of the summer I re-potted it and since bringing it in a few weeks ago I've put coffee grounds around the base of the plant as a nitrogen fertilizer and have allowed the soil to dry some between waterings. The Littlest Gardener has helped me mist it since it's very dry inside right now with the heat on.

Here are some of the delicious smelling blooms.

More yummy flowers.

I realize the word tree might be a bit of an overstatement for this plant, might be more like a Lemon "shrub". It has many open flowers and lots and lots more buds growing each day.

I had mentioned in an earlier post while reading up on the care of indoor citrus that since there wouldn't be any pollinators indoors we'd have to hand pollinate. From what I could find on hand pollinating a small artist's brush was the best thing to use, although I found one person that suggested using a finch feather. We decided to go with the paintbrush. Here you can see the brush being carefully brushed against the pollen in the flower.

And look who my little bee is... The Littlest Gardener was very excited to pretend she was a bee. I told her how bees pollinated the flowers by visiting different flowers and carrying pollen from one flower to another. She worked very intently on making sure she got to each flower.

I'm sure each flower was pollinated as if an entire hive of bees had been on the little tree. I figure this is our little indoor winter experiment. If we get fruit it will be very exciting, otherwise it was a good lesson on how important the different pollinators are in the world.

I did read that some people hand pollinate the flowers regularly until the flowers are spent. My little busy bee and I will keep you posted on how our lemons do. Until then I will be stopping by regularly to breathe in the wonderful smell of lemon blossoms.
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Monday, December 28, 2009

Too early to plan? Never!

I realized I hadn't taken any front yard pictures for awhile. I think because the flowers have finished and I haven't quite perfected my "winter interest" I thought garden pictures wouldn't be very interesting. But then I started thinking about my Spring plans and how I've already started a to do list. The second week of winter isn't too early to start planning for Spring is it? I didn't think so.
The front yard is one of the areas I plan to start working on first, mostly because I can do it by myself. The main plan is to get rid of more grass and make the flower beds bigger.

This is the butterfly garden I enlarged last year. Of course now I wish it was bigger and so I will be pulling it back another foot or so. (Remember those hanging pulp pots belong to my neighbor, and still drive me crazy :) )

In this corner of the garden it looks a little wild and full of bare sticks. This spot is to the left of the butterfly garden and looking in from the street side. The birds seem to love this area now and are always hopping around looking for food. Hopefully this will be the last year of having that patch of grass. Some of it will be removed to enlarge the flower beds, the rest will be a stone courtyard to sit and enjoy the front garden from.

The bed I built for my impulse buy of Rose 'Gertrude Jekyll' was really never planted, I'm working on my plan for here. Since it's close to the front entrance I've been planting many fragrant flowers in the other part of the bed here. Peonies, roses, lilies and lavender are some that add a nice scent to the air.

Looking down from Gertrude's bed I'm not very happy with the line I created. This was done during one of our very hot spells last summer and I think I must have been delirious from the heat to think this looked good. My plan is to connect the the closest point to the white stone area to the right of the birdbath. I'd like to have one soft curved edge instead of the crazy zigzag that's here now.

The other part of the front yard we are not decided upon is the area of grass between the flower bed and the sidewalk. This would be the only grass left in our yard. Do we leave it so the kids can play on it? Do we add flower beds in it? Do we rip it all out? The only thing we have agreed upon is that at some point there will be a white picket fence around the edge of the front yard.
Have you been out doing your Spring planning yet?
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Have a Merry Christmas!

We'll be busy for the next several days celebrating Christmas with our family, but I wanted to say Merry Christmas to all of my blogging friends!
I thought I'd share a few of our decorations.

The tall snowman was given to us by my Dad years ago. He has given my sisters and I a new Christmas decoration for our homes each year. The winter planter was done a few days before the freezing weather, not much happening with it now. This time I added more perennials and a dwarf Pieris in this shady porch area.

I had fun trying out the settings to figure out which took the best night time pictures and showed the actual lights instead of a blur. Now I have no idea which setting ended up working, oh well...

A view of the tree looking in through the front window. I always go outside and see what it looks like. Each year my Mom buys each of her grankids a new ornament. I also buy the girls a new one each year, when they are older they will already have lots of ornaments to decorate their own tree with.

I won't be around very much for the next week between the winter break from school and our indoor project. We will be re-tiling the shower in one of the bathrooms. Fingers crossed this will be our first project without any complications.
Those of you with snow, send some our way. I'm being held responsible for the lack of snow by my girls. Apparently me buying toboggans this year is the reason it hasn't snowed in the Seattle area yet.
This was (and is) one of my favorite Christmas songs and reminds me of my sisters and I gathering around the TV to watch "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" when we were growing up.
Have a Holly Jolly Christmas!

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Bark

We have been busy, busy, busy here making lots of candy. I'm usually not much of a cook but when Christmas is here I love to make lots sweets. So far we've made: Magic bars, Rocky Road fudge, Peppermint bark and molded chocolates. But, I think the easiest and my favorite is Winter bark.

Not this type of bark, but it looks like some sort of insect finds it tasty.

Still not it, although the Spotted Towhee seems to like sitting on it.

The Red-breasted Sapsucker likes this type of bark, but not my idea of a treat.

The squirrel would probably enjoy the peanuts, but he's already been stealing the bird food, so no extra treats for him!

This is the Winter Bark I'm talking about. It is so easy and a great candy to share with friends. Sweet Pea and the Littlest Gardener helped me make 2 batches of it last night.

Here is the recipe found on Martha Stewart.com:

8 ounces white chocolate - melt in double boiler
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate - melt in double boiler
1 1/2 cups salted cocktail peanuts

Add the peanuts to the melted bittersweet chocolate and stir until they're all coated. Then spread onto parchment or wax paper lined cookie sheet.
Next drop spoonfuls of the melted white chocolate over the bittersweet/peanuts. Using a skewer or toothpick swirl the white chocolate through the bitter sweet chocolate. Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours. Then using the tip of a regular knife break the bark into pieces.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

December pond - our poor fish.

I was so excited today when I woke up. I could see it wasn't raining and I was anxious to get some nice pictures of the pond. Yesterday I had planned to do my monthly pond post, those plans were changed however when I discovered our own indoor waterfall. The hot water tank in the garage was leaking all over the garage floor. So, the plan of going to the nursery with the Littlest Gardener and my mom for lunch was quickly changed. We were very lucky that we were able to have it replaced yesterday and could all have nice hot showers today.
After walking the Littlest Gardener to school I went outside to see birds and a squirrel enjoying the pond and the feeders nearby.

Doesn't this look like a nice view to see? Such nice lighting today!

As I got closer to the pond I noticed the water looked very cloudy, no plants were knocked over so I knew it wasn't from the raccoons. When I looked closer I noticed I couldn't see any fish! I was so sad, especially when I found some colorful scales on the edge of the pond. It had to have been a heron. I've seen one once a year ago in the pond, but no fish were missing. A couple of weeks ago the Littlest Gardener told me there was a flamingo on our deck. As I rushed to see what she was talking about I saw a huge heron fly away.

During the icy weather I saw heron fishing along a slough close to our house and thought it seemed strange. There are nesting grounds very close to here and that's usually where we see them flying to. In order to give the remaining fish some added safety I found a crate and put a brick on top of it and put them in the pond. I just feel awful about this. These fish were like pets, many we had for 3 or more years. We lost the 2 Koi and I can't even think about the others that were hand picked by my girls. They will be brokenhearted when I tell them. I know this is nature and how things are, but we've never had a loss of fish like this before.

As if sensing my sadness the little hummingbird that's been faithfully visiting stopped to rest right next to me and just sat there. It really made me feel better.

Here she is at the feeder before she left. I've been able to leave the feeder out at night now that it's not freezing. One morning as I reached out the window to hang it back up I noticed the hummingbird sitting on the trellis about 3 feet from me, just waiting for her food.

Sweet Pea also asked me to invite people to see her blog. She's actually had it for quite awhile, but doesn't post very regularly. She took some hummingbird pictures recently and yesterday posted the pictures. I'm amazed at how easily she goes about writing her post and loading pictures, etc. Her blog is called Gardening with Sweet Pea.
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - Full of Promise.

Our record breaking freezing temperatures have finally gone, and while it's still very cold it's so nice to not see everything frozen. I was very concerned that many plants wouldn't survive the weather, but amazed as I went outside to see that many of those plants were tougher than I thought. The Hellebores and Pansies are already lifting themselves up off the ground. Many plants have buds that continued to swell despite the cold temperatures. Primroses still have buds on them and don't look like they were damaged by the cold.
Instead of being depressed over the roses and fuchsias and other flowers that were frozen in their tracks, I felt really happy about what was still there and not that far from blooming. I even managed to find a couple of blooms. So while not the showiest of months, the December garden pulled through with a couple of flowers to make 12 months in a row of blooms outside!

Daphne x transatlantica 'Summer Ice' has quite a few flowers still on it, and a good amount of buds as well. This has been blooming since April!

A lone Pansy bloom. As you can see every other flower in the two window boxes were killed from the freeze, this one is standing proudly .

Inside Paperwhites are still blooming.

Another African Violet has begun to bloom too. It's amazing how easily they grow if I remember to water and fertilize them. In the past I've usually forgotten to water them until it was too late.

Sarcococcas and Hellebores aren't far off from blooming. I'm pretty sure that they'll both be ready for January's Bloom Day. Indoors the Lemon tree is getting more and more flower buds, and many are close to blooming, can't wait to smell them.
Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is hosted the 15th of every month by Carol of May Dreams Gardens. Visit her to see what she's got blooming as well as what other gardeners from all over the world have.
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Snow clouds? and Thank you!

The skies here during the sunset caught my eye tonight (or should I say late afternoon since it was around 4:30 pm). It was like a pink and purple leopard print across the sky. We have a chance of snow predicted for tomorrow, and all day my girls have been asking if we thought it would snow. Often times the clouds just look like "snow clouds" but today for most of the day it was clear blue without a cloud in sight. Thinking about the clouds made me remember learning about the different types of clouds when I was in school and how fascinated I was with them. I still love looking at the clouds now, to me there's nothing prettier than big fluffy cumulus clouds on a blue sky. I found an interesting website that shows different types of clouds and the possible weather that could be forecasted by them.

So what's your opinion? Stratocumulus? I have no idea, but it sure was a pretty sky. Hopefully we'll see some snowflakes falling when we wake up.

Something else I could never have forecast were all the friends I'd meet through blogging. Recently I won a giveaway from Darla of More Family and Flowers. The package arrived yesterday full of lots of goodies. Darla still has lots blooming in her Florida garden so if you need a flower fix, go visit her.

The Littlest Gardener couldn't wait to put on her shirt that Darla made. She made one for the Muscle too!

It felt like Christmas going through all the treats. Thank you Darla!

And a special message to Darla:

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Fertilizer Friday - Success inside.

Since the weather has been so cold I've barely been outside other than to and from the car. I guess it's good that I've been busy with getting ready for the holidays because I haven't had time to miss gardening. I realized last night that I hadn't even looked at a garden magazine or book in over week, for me that's a long time. I know once Christmas is over though the countdown to Spring will be on. Every year on December 26th I start waiting for it to hurry up and be Spring.

These sad Pansies represent how the majority of my yard is looking now, the Carex 'Prairie Fire' in the center looks great though. I didn't even bother to look around the front yard since it doesn't see much sun during the Winter months. The Hellebores are still flat to the ground and no chance of them blooming early like I thought they might.

A frozen Water Hawthorn flower. You can see a fish that was resting under the ice nearby in the upper left corner.

I don't think the waterfall has ever been this frozen. The way the water runs through the ice is really pretty looking though and at least the fish are able to get some oxygen still.

My very little Meyer Lemon tree is by a sunny glass door now. It's gotten several flower buds on it since I brought it in. I've been reading up on citrus trees indoors and came across something I probably wouldn't have thought of on my own. I'll need to hand pollinate the flowers with a paintbrush since we don't have any bees inside to do the job for me. I've never overwintered a Lemon tree so I'll be doing lots of reading to make sure it survives inside.

I mentioned my very slow to sprout Amaryllis. It finally started to sprout a few days ago. I forgot to keep track of which bulb was which when I planted them so it'll just be a surprise when it opens.

Tootsie hosts Fertilizer Friday each week. Visit her to see what blooming other places around the world.
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