Monday, April 21, 2014

Good-bye Polar Vortex....Hello Spring????

     Webster’s dictionary defines winter as: the coldest season of the year, between autumn and spring, astronomically from the December solstice to the March equinox in the northern hemisphere.

     That may be the official definition of winter, but as for me, and probably for several of you reading this, it doesn't come close to defining the kind of winter we have had this year. We have experienced a Polar Vortex, wind, snow, dead car batteries and robo-calls cancelling school, but on the bright side, the extreme cold may reduce the stink bug population.

     Spring is defined as: the season after winter and before summer, in which vegetation begins to appear, in the northern hemisphere from March to May.

Again, this definition does not seem sufficient. Spring officially began a month ago, but with March coming in like a lion and out like one too, Mother Nature isn’t playing fair this year. Again, there is a bright side: they have added ten minutes to each school day rather than taking away from Spring Break.

     The winter may have been harsh and spring has taken its sweet time arriving, but it’s better late than never and from the looks of things, spring may actually be here to stay.

     It is time to turn this page on winter, or better yet, tear it out and rip it into tiny pieces, and try not to complain about the heat come July.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My Kingdom For A Blowtorch

     I have received a number of interesting birthday and anniversary gifts from my husband, over the years.  One year, I got a laser level, which the husband uses to shoot elevations for his jobs.  Another year, I got a miter saw, which the husband uses to cut boards when he installs synthetic turf.  And yet another year, I got a high powered pressure washer which had so much power I actually gouged the wood on my porch pillars, so now the husband uses it to clean customers drives and patios.  I have been strongly hinting for a blow torch, but to no avail, either because the husband has no use for one, or he is afraid I will actually use it.  And I would.

     I have this great desire to create yard art from scrap metal and some of the ideas will defiantly require a blow torch and a welding gun.  So if my husband is reading this, I need both!  The idea started when we were driving in the mountains and came upon a house with large and incredible structures made of scrap metal.  One piece was an abstract flower, another was a very large cactus and yet another was some four legged beast which I won’t bother describing because I would not do it justice.  But it was the totem pole made from an oil drum that sparked my desire. 

I have been envisioning some of these fantastic pieces dominating my garden, which may be another reason I have not received my blow torch.
     I have a birthday coming up in a few months and an anniversary a couple months after that.  If I have not received my blow torch for either of these, there is always my husband’s birthday.  Why hadn’t I thought of that sooner?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Catch You At The Rapture

  If you are reading this, chances are that we will all survive another near-death experience when it comes to world ending events.  Mankind has managed to evade the Rapture hundreds of times, with some of these predicted events predating the birth of Christ.  From Nostradamus to 1960’s psychic Jean Dixon; from mass murderer Charles Manson to Marshall Applewhite, who instructed followers to have rolls of quarters for the spaceship vending machines after they were saved from earth’s destruction.  So why think the Mayan’s are any better at predicting the end of the world then these other geniuses.     
     Needless to say, come Friday morning, I will wake up and my garden will still need pruning, there will be leaves to remove from the base of the shrubs, there will be stubborn weeds still growing and in need of pulling.  There will still be mulch that needs to be spread, plants to be relocated or divided, a pond to be cleaned.  My vegetable garden will still need to be tilled and prepped for spring and seeds will need to be ordered. 
     I’m not planning on cancelling any garden magazine subscriptions nor will I fail to renew any of my certification licenses.  Besides, how can the world come to an end when I still have so much work to do?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Not Feeling The Muskrat Love

      Many years ago, The Captain and Tennille singing duo, had a hit song called ‘Muskrat Love’.  They sang about a pair of muskrats twirling and doing a tango and jitterbugging in muskrat land.  I hated that song then and even more so today!     
      One of our customers called because they were experiencing drastic water lose in their pond and the water was very muddy.  After some rock moving and poking around, we found very large holes in the thick rubber liner of the pond.  Muskrats!  A muskrat had decided the pond was a perfect place to call home and proceeded to dig through the liner and create a burrow with several entrances.  This is a disaster, and I thought groundhogs were bad. 
One big hole

A second hole
A third hole...
there are more but I got tired of posting them
I am getting quite the education about muskrats.  They are the largest member of the microtine rodent family and spends its life in aquatic habitats.  Adult muskrats are usually 18”- 24” in length with large males reaching 30” long.  The average weight is around 2 ½ pounds and those big males can reach 4 pounds.  Females can produce 3 to 6 litters per year and 5 to 6 kits per litter are not uncommon.  They are capable of remaining under water for 20 minutes.  They are known for their damage; chewing boat motor wires, burrowing into floating boat docks, burrowing into earthen dams, which can lead to collapse, and of course the above mentioned atrocity  to our customer’s pond.
    It is trapping season so the homeowners can set out some traps and try and catch this aquatic devil.  I have seen several recipes online for ways to grill, roast and sauté muskrat, which I may pass on to them.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Stink Bugs And Elections

What is up with all the stink bugs?  I think it may be connected to the 
political elections this year, but that is just a personal observation.   I have been finding them everywhere; on window screens, in drawers, in my knitting, living and dead ones on every window ledge and even one in my shower. 
Stink Bug
     So why so many this year?   It may have to do with the early spring we had this year, allowing for two generations of stinks bugs to grow this season.  Expect more of the same next year.  Each female carries 10 egg sacs with up to 28 eggs in each sac. 

Wheel Bug
 But help may be on the way in the form of the wheel bug, a type of assassin beetle, which if possible, is uglier that the stink bug.  There is also a tiny Asian wasp, which controls the stink bug in China.  I’m sure I’ll be writing about those future infestations one day…the cycle just continues.  
Asian Wasp

      The best way to handle these bugs is to seal your home’s cracks and openings, repair screens and hope for a cold winter.  If you vacuum these bugs in your house, change your bag that day because stink bugs live up to their name.  I have heard a solution of water and rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle is one way to kill them and spraying your screens with a mix of water and dawn detergent is suppose to repel them.
     Stink bugs may be with us for a few years.  Elections have consequences and so do mild winter.     

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Don't Judge A Plant By Its Name

Tricyrtis hirta is a wonderful perennial with an exotic, orchid looking flower which goes by the common name, Toad Lily.  Such an unfortunate name, for such a beautiful plant.  

     Toad lily is a valuable addition to a shade garden and is one of the few that bloom so late in the garden year; the flower, making its appearance in September and October.  The creamy white flowers, often in clusters, which open to purple-spotted petals with centers resembling pieces of chenille, are borne on arching, hairy stems which reach 2 feet on height.   It is 
the spotting on the petals which attribute to the amphibian name.   The clumps will grow in size each season and can be divided after three to four years.  I plant mine among my hostas, and appreciate the unique blooms as the rest of my garden starts to fade for the season.  Flower varieties range from white, tinged with lavender to mauve and the spotting can be muted to intense.  There is even a yellow variety which I will hunt down for my garden.
     Toad lily is an elegant plant with a rather in-elegant name, but no matter what it is called, still a wonderful find for a shade garden in fall.

Friday, August 24, 2012

This Means War.....

     Three years ago my husband installed a 28’ long stream which cascades into a small pond.  This stream is at our nursery and serves as a visual for customers interested in a water feature.  It is also a place where I can grow our plants to show customers what that small plant they just bought will look like in a couple of years.  It is also my favorite place.  I never get tired of the sound the stream makes, and the sound changes as you travel around the area.  The water lilies are always beautiful and the cattails sway in the breeze.  Frogs hop into the water as I near it and dragon flies dart about.  But my fish are my pride and joy.  They are just dime store goldfish, bought with the intention of replacing them with expensive Koi, once I was sure fish would survive in the pond.  Over the past three years I have become attached to my cheap fish and this year they rewarded me with some new additions.  About a half dozen of the fastest ones avoided being eaten and are now large enough to swim with the big boys. 
     Last week my spot of paradise was disrupted when I walked outside and found a Blue Heron standing in the middle of my pond.  Yelling and waving my arms I chased the bird away, though I must admit, I was very impressed by its 6’ wing span.  I ran to the pond, relieved to see that my three large goldfish were still there, but not sure about all the babies, as they move around so fast.  The Heron has returned a few more times and I have repeated the same actions mentioned above.  One of us is going to win this battle and I have every intention of being the victor, just not sure how I plan to do it. 
     This Heron has no idea who he is dealing with.  I have previously spent a summer dealing with a family of groundhogs, who turned my garden into their personal ‘all you can eat’ buffet bar, so there is no way I’m letting this bird stake a claim on my pond.  Let the battle begin.