Friday, April 29, 2016

Travel views from the guest room. . . . . . . . . .


 It was rather late last night when I took these photos in the guest room.
In fact, I was lounging on the bed with my phone close by, looking about
 and thinking of all I'd done during the day to prepare for our upcoming trip.
 I'd brought out the trusty collapsible clothes rack, set it up and hung clothes
 I'd like to take but gradually editing. Actually very few clothes for this journey
 because I'm limited to one small piece of luggage and a backpack.
 I then did a dry run to see if, for this casual but lengthy trip, I could get
 everything into a small 21" (carryon size) suitcase! 
Yikes, it won't be easy, but it will be much better when it comes to traveling
 the length and breadth of IRELAND's countryside. . . . . on trains, buses, 
or with a private driver, for three long weeks!
Car rental in Ireland is not kind - or even available to some travelers for those
 of us who have reached the golden years - and driving those narrow winding
 roads on the wrong other side is something we no longer enjoy.



I rarely take photos with my phone. For some reason these came out
surprisingly clear even under chandelier lighting, so I thought I'd use them to
get started and share my journey back across the pond yet again.

Love this vintage secretary purchased several years ago, already painted,
 from SuzAnna's Antiques. . . . . .it stores a lot of my travel odds and ends.



Here's 'the rack', my favorite way to organize packing. . . . . . later I'll share better
 photos of the actual really minuscule pile of clothes I'm taking. Don't be shocked by the
 jeans you can just see hanging here. I never travel with jeans however this time
 I will, and I'll tell you why!




Close to midnight on the clock! Must away and forget the consternation  
of packing. There may have to be several dry runs for this trip. 
I'll update later - we leave in less than two weeks.
Travel to green, gorgeous, and often wet IRELAND - my first time there.
A challenge for sure, but very worthwhile I hope.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Empty Nesters. . . . . . . .


I had a feeling that today would be the day!
Yesterday evening we relaxed with a glass of wine on the front porch, 
admiring our gardening efforts, and watching the parent chickadees
 feeding their offspring above our heads. 

As mentioned before, Carolina chickadees are such amazing tiny
birds who are extremely attentive parents. Not knowing how many 
babies were there, but thinking there had to be several keeping them
working on non-stop food distribution, we just hoped we'd see the 
excitement of the fledging young, but realized it would be a hit or miss 
occasion.

Today, waking just before 7AM to brilliant sunshine, and birdsong, I dashed
 to the dining room windows, camera at the ready, to check the nest box. 
At first thought this bird was a parent bringing breakfast, then I realized it
 was a baby chickadee probably thinking about moving out and leaving home!

After watching it pop in and out for about 5 minutes. . . . . . . . 

. . . . . . . . . little claws appeared, first one . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . then the other, and in one whoosh it flew right out of the box at lightning
 speed toward a tree in the side garden.
And there I was, for the past week, worrying and wondering how in the
 world those tiny birds would get out of the box and, when they did, would
 they fall down onto to spiky hydrangea bushes and be injured! Who knew
they fly so well immediately. 

Hearing more excited chirping from the box, I knew there were siblings, so woke
Bob and he joined me on the porch. . . . . . . and for next 45 minutes we sipped 
our wake-up coffees, and me poised with the camera until my shoulders ached. 
I took 89 pix of birds sticking their heads out the hole etc!!!


In between fledging babies, one of the parents came back and forth with small
 bits of suet from our feeder, offered a quick taste then flew off with some still
 in its beak - must have been tempting the baby to follow. The other parent was
 probably waiting somewhere in the trees where the babies seemed to be headed. 

I noted that the first bird to leave took the longest to make up its
 mind - "should I stay or should I go?"
The next THREE, oh yes there were FOUR total stuffed in what must have
 become a very crowed and hot box by yesterday (the temperature outside
 reached the mid-80's here), made their moves quickly. Two more headed 
to the trees, but the last one flew up on our roof, bobbed all the way up the
shingles to the crest, and then flew to the trees to join the others.

This has really been a busy week in our garden for birds. We've also had 
four baby Carolina wrens appear - don't know where the parents put their
 nest this year, but they were teaching the cutest babies to look for
food and fly from branch to branch on the fig tree (wrens apparently hop
 about for a while before really flying any distance). The only birds remaining
 close to the cottage we're hoping to see fledge, are the nuthatch family in
 our large birdhouse, and with this very warm weather I'm sure they will be
 moving out any day also.

We do feel blessed to be sharing our garden with so many beautiful birds. . . . 
and now a new generation will be arriving at our feeders.




Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Healthy Orange Glow. . . . . . . . . . . .



I picked up a bag of really juicy oranges at Aldi this past weekend - eight perfect 
lovelies for a total of $1.98, a true bargain. 
Can you imagine all the work involved to get these citrus fruits to my kitchen.
 The TLC given the trees in Florida and California, praying for good growing
 conditions over many months, harvesting, sorting, packing, shipping hundreds
 of highway miles before displaying them in the retail store . . . . . all for me, or you,
 to enjoy at such a low price!

Bringing home real oranges sometimes requires spending a little time
 squeezing because there's just nothing better than a glass of fresh juice.
  I never drink the juices in bottles or cartons but indulge myself when
 fresh oranges look as good as these.
A huge thank you to citrus growers everywhere, you are appreciated for
all your hard work to bring us beautiful fruit.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Freshening up with the Eastern Bluebird. . . . . . . .



The birdbaths were cleaned and refilled by me before the rain arrived
 on Friday afternoon - then later they were topped up by nature in some
 really heavy downpours on and off during the night.
I love watching birds bathe, they seem to truly enjoy plunging in, flapping
 their wings, sitting on the rim for a few seconds then hopping back in and
 repeating their showering in wild abandon. Then it's up on a tree branch to
 dry off and preen those precious feathers. 
Some of our larger garden birds are real bathers, especially the American Robin
 and Brown Thrasher, in fact the robins will often show up as soon as they hear
 the water from the garden hose.
On this day, after I filled all the baths, who did I catch enjoying the waters?
  A little female Eastern Bluebird splashing merrily, then flying up to a branch
 looking rather damp and bedraggled, but probably feeling much cleaner.
Although I've yet to see bluebirds nest in the box on the potting shed wall
 (they apparently don't like that spot), I like to think she has a nest and a family
 hidden somewhere in my garden - I have seen her with her mate often - and 
perhaps on this particular afternoon was taking some much needed personal
 time to freshen up during her busy parental chores.


As long as there are bluebirds, there will be miracles and
 a way to find happiness ~ Shirl Brunnell 1934-2005 author of "I Hear Bluebirds" 


Saturday, April 23, 2016

A mountain of mulch. . . . . . . .



It all worked out just fine on Thursday. The cedar wood chip mountain was 
dumped gently at the top of the driveway late morning.
The sun was out, the breeze was gentle, and the rain showers forecast
for the afternoon stayed away.
Granddaughter Jasmin's boyfriend Kevin showed up and worked with Bob for
 about four hours. I helped by pointing where to dump and spread. . . . . . . . and
 then with the general clean up later. Bob and I showered and crashed on the
 porch with a drink at 7:30 pm - followed with a late for us supper and watched a
movie. We were exhausted as it was almost a seven hour garden job. We
won't need to repeat it for a couple of years as cedar chips hold up well.
Yesterday it rained a lot, heavy downpours accompanied by thunder 
and lightning. We were so glad we managed to complete the mulching job 
whilst the weather was fine.
Today, and for the entire weekend, it will be beautiful with sunshine 
and 75F - my kind of perfect weather before humidity and mosquitoes arrive.


Have a great weekend.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The very cool white azalea. . . . . . . .


. . . . . . . meet my last azalea to bloom, the beautiful 
Mrs. G. G. Gerbing, Rhododendron indicuma pure white 'sport'
of the George L. Taber azalea, the pretty pink one I showed here.

This white beauty is a vigorous grower and profuse bloomer given the
right conditions. My 'G.G.' is just a few years old and has some 
catching up to do to reach the heights of 'George'. Both can reach 6-8 feet
 tall and 4-6 feet wide.

This time honored variety is the standard for white Satsuki azaleas.
 Blooms early and abundantly in medium, single pure white flowers. 
Dense foliage on a spreading shrub produces a versatile landscape candidate.
 Ideal for urban landscapes. A natural in Asian-inspired gardens.

I couldn't resist cutting a few to enjoy indoors.
Still gardening non-stop.
Today awaiting delivery of 10 cu. yards - a small mountain - of cypress wood chips. 
Every couple of years we refresh the entire back garden walkways and 
natural areas with these nice looking chips making walking clean and comfy.
 Hoping a certain granddaughter's boyfriend will arrive later to assist Bob in
 'moving the mountain' as my back will no longer allow that part. 
I'll make the tea and serve healthy homemade carrot muffins.

And today ~ a very happy 90th Birthday to
 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Chickadees are very busy. . . . . . . . . . .


Carolina chickadee bringing a tasty breakfast morsel to its babies this morning.

You may remember this post where I shared the pair of Carolina chickadees
 cleaning out the little nesting box hanging on the front porch last month.

It's now obvious that mom and pop have a new family, and
that the eggs have hatched. Sadly, I can't see inside so have no idea how many 
nestlings are tucked in there, however, by the sound of the "feed me" cheeping when
 the parents arrive with food, there are several. Chickadees usually lay 5-7 eggs
 and have 1-2 broods per year.

Here a parent is doing a little housekeeping by removing poop! Clean little 
birds - the wrens do the same - whereas finches never do housework and
leave behind very messy nests when the babies fledge.

I can now sit outside on the porch very close to these birds and watch 
their comings and goings close up - they don't appear to be nervous at all.

These parents are quite amazing, flying back and forth non-stop with grubs, 
worms, flies and other delicacies. Would love to see the baby birds fledge, probably
will happen later this week, but it's hard to know exactly when so I may miss the 
joyful occasion. I just hope the little family remain safe and I can enjoy even 
more sweet little Carolina chickadees in my garden.

The busy garden this morning.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Snowballs in Spring. . . . . . . .


. . . . . . . on the Chinese Snowball bush (Viburnum Macrocephalum) which is now a tree!
It's so tall now and probably has reached its mature height of 
around 10 feet. 
Below, I've added a full professional description of this fun shrub
in case you are interested in adding one to your landscape. You can grow it
successfully if you are in zones 3-8 here in the US. I am in 7 and have found
 this shrub low maintenance and easy to grow. Mine was a tiny potted
 one - rescued from the sale area at the end of Summer - from a garden center
 about 6 years ago.

 Many hours were spent this weekend cleaning out the gazebo and other
garden areas. We worked much of Saturday and Sunday in perfect weather
 and truly enjoyed it. Yesterday, around 5 pm, on the front porch, still dirty, tired
 and thirsty, we nibbled on chips and guacamole, sipping Rosé, watching the
 Chickadees coming to feed dinner to their offspring in the little bird house
 right above our heads.



Early this morning - when I took these photos - I grabbed my coffee, garden file,
 a notebook and pen, and spent a beautiful hour, still in my robe, going through
 notes on what needs to be accomplished today and through the remainder of
 this week to complete the Spring garden chores prior to indoor Spring
 cleaning. . . . . . . . . and then waving goodbye to it all!  Yes, a big trip coming
in May!

 Growing Zones: 3-8


Growing Zones 3-8This plant is recommended for zones: 3-8
(green area above)
You are in Growing Zone: 7
Mature Height:
10-12 ft.
Mature Width:
10-12 ft.
Sunlight:
Full to Partial
Drought Tolerance:
Great
Botanical Name:
Viburnum macrocephalum 'Sterile'
Does Not Ship To:
AZ

THE ORIGINAL SNOWBALL BUSH

An amazingly 'SHOWY' addition to any landscape; the Viburnum Macrocephalum, more commonly known as the 'Chinese Snowball Bush', is beautiful and easy-to-grow. The flowers emerge a striking lime-green in late spring and gradually turn to snowy-white in mid-May; they retain their green color for several weeks before turning to cream and then to white. 
At full maturity, the 'Flower-Balls' resemble brilliant white pom-pom's, reaching up to 8' wide. The 'Chinese Snowball Bush' will bloom in mid-spring for weeks on end.
The Viburnum Macrocephalum is a sterile plant (producing no fruit) so all of its energy goes into blooming and . . . Does it ever!!! A relative of the honeysuckle, the 8' flowering clusters are made up of an abundance of delicate 1' flowers. The clusters resemble the blooms of the Hydrangea plant. 
Best of all, this particular variety will provide a longer & more profuse BLOOMING SEASON than any other plant in its family. The foliage of the 'Chinese Snowball' is a brilliant dark green with 2'-4' leaves that have a 'saw-toothed' edge; they are stunning against the stark white of the flowering clusters.
The 'Chinese Snowball Bush' can be trimmed to any size or shape; it can be sculpted into shrubs, hedges, borders and trees. Cut it back after flowering and prepare for another round of blooming; this incredible plant blooms on both, old and new wood. 
The Viburnum Macrocephalum is an extremely hardy variety that is resistant to bacterial leaf spot and powdery mildew, unlike its' relatives. If you are looking for an incredible 'point-of-interest' for your landscape, you have found it in the 'Chinese Snowball Bush'.
  • Insect & Disease Resistant
  • Showy Clusters of 'Flower Balls' (up to 8' wide)
  • Repeat Bloomer
  • Carefree
  • Provides Bountiful Cut Flowers
  • Deer Resistant
  • Non-Invasive Root System
  • Heat & Drought Tolerant
  • Attracts Butterflies


Forgive me getting behind with comments dear friends - will
catch up soon when the garden requires less of my time.

Our friend Nelson wishes me to thank you for your generous 
prayers and good wishes for his recovery. Four surgeries so
far to repair his shattered leg - going home today but will
 require more surgery in about 2 weeks.

Have a wonderful week.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Come into the garden. . . . . . . .









pril:  late afternoon in a North Carolina garden. . . . . . . . . .


Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were
 voices instead of colors, there would be an
 unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night. 
~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke~


The leaves reach out like bright green hands and already tiny figs are
 appearing on the Celeste fig - the main harvest will come in the heat of late Summer.

Afternoon shadows are cast across the garden - this view below is looking
westward - the setting sun is sometimes just visible through the trees. 
It is now so green everywhere, almost hurts your eyes - photos definitely 
don't require any color tweaks!


Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.
~ Virgil A. Kraft ~


The arbor needs painting - the entire cottage actually - all will have to wait
 until Autumn because I haven't the heart to cut back shrubs and 
 vining jasmines both here on the arbor and climbing the front porch.


We had a little work done this past week. The gazebo needed a few new screws,
 the deck steps some new wood, and if you look to the mid-left in the above photo,
 the new low stone wall will hopefully divert water runoff from the sloping land
 behind us. This is becoming a problem in heavy rain storms as our grass and topsoil 
are being eroded and the water pools around the gazebo and under the deck.
Always something requiring attention it seems.


Variegated Solomon's Seal already blooming - I love this perennial.


Acer palmatum 'Dissectum' - the bright green Japanese maple. 

Purchased several years ago, it was a very small version in its little pot.
These are expensive trees! No idea it would do this well, although I have given
it a lot of TLC over the years. I've lightly pruned it a couple of times but think
it will require more work come late Autumn when the leaves have fallen and
 the central wood can be seen more easily. Overcrowding there can cause poor
air circulation making the tree prone to fungal diseases. Pruning these trees 
is almost like an art - many rules to follow in order to keep it healthy, shapely,
and looking beautiful.

Visitors are nesting in the birdhouse.
The White-Breasted Nuthatch family now includes squeaking babies. 
(Click below for more on this cute bird)
The mom and dad, sitting on the roof or a nearby fence, squawk at me if I get close.

I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would
 always greet it in a garden.
 ~Ruth Stout~

I have to agree, I feel exactly the same way!
Just wish I still had the stamina and strong back to spend an entire day
 working in the garden - these days it's a little at a time.
Speaking of which, we are heading out in our gardening gear this morning.
After picking up supplies such as mulch, a few plants, and packets of seeds
yesterday, there is work to be done. Most of the pollen is over hopefully so
 lots of washing down of outdoor furniture, cushions also.

I must away - hope your weekend is wonderful.

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