Wednesday, April 26, 2023

The Rites of Spring!

On Saturday afternoon the skies turned black and thunder rolled. The house went dark. The heavens opened and Nature raged around us. Punishment came to mind. For what, I've no idea, other than perhaps to remind us we are small and weak in many things, and that there is something much bigger and stronger out there always at the ready to knock us down. Strength is a power I find harder to have and hold onto as I age, both physical and emotional. As the water rose around the back garden I wanted to cry as I watched the small river split in two and torrents of rainwater race down each side of our property, washing away everything in its path, pooling into a pond by the gazebo and then flowing down the driveway to the street.

Of course it's calm now and oh so green and lush with leaves and blooms. Gentle New Dawn pale pink roses clamber up the back fence, along with nameless red and deep pink ones, so thorny it's best to leave them than try to pick them. The heady perfume of blooming yellow Jasmin bowls me over as dusk approaches and I stand poking my head into the now huge expanse of vine covering the side fence, intoxicated in a good way. Then I visit the other also huge mass of white Jasmine on the back fence where the raging water came through, and sniff again that lovely fragrance.  

We've given up trying to stop the water ourselves, it's a job beyond our capabilities. It flows under the fence from the neighbor's sloping land behind us. It's really just a major problem in severe rainstorms, however today a 'land solutions' professional will hopefully show up as promised to look at the problem and give us some ideas as to how to rectify it!

This morning. . . . . . . . . green and glorious, however there's news on nesting birds. Despite all I said earlier about keeping the finches away from the Boston ferns on the front porch, guess what happened yesterday. While we were both away from the house for several hours, a pair of finches started constructing their nest in one of the hanging baskets! We considered removing it as there are no eggs yet, but felt it was really a wicked thing to do after all those flights back and forth with building supplies! Nests are pieces of art, woven and constructed with love and hard work.

   The finches have chosen us and we should feel grateful.
We do feel grateful as we are big time garden birders.  
So, they can move in and start a new family. 
Obviously they didn't read that NOT FOR RENT sign!!!

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Earth Day 2023 - Arbor Update!

Last evening I made a discovery while back under the arbor.
A tiny pale broken egg was on the ground under the arch. As I was
 looking at it, a noisy squawking House finch flew out above my head!

Within a few minutes I was balancing on a step stool trying to get a
 clear photo of the contents of a rather lovely nest of woven twigs
and grasses. How amazing little birds are when it comes to home
building with just a beak.
Inside there were three eggs, two pale blue-green finch eggs
 and what I'm certain is a Brown-headed cowbird's spotted egg!

Arrow marks the finch nest location

Female Brown-headed cowbird . . . . . . .

. . . . the only parasitic bird found in the Carolinas, she lays all eggs
in host birds' nests, leaving others to raise her young. Some birds 
reject cowbird eggs, but most raise them, even to the exclusion
of their own young at times!

This is a Female House finch, one of many, including males,
I've chased off of my hanging ferns on the porch. As mentioned in
the previous post we do not put out the FOR RENT sign as they
are messy and we like to sit on the porch. The arbor location is
fine, the birds picked a good place, and hopefully I can get more
 photos later - I really would like to see if the egg count increases.

Enjoy the lovely moments of this special day when we are
surrounded by our planet Earth's beauty and Nature's bounty.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Time for linen and gardens -

Officially it's not Summertime quite yet, but it certainly feels
 like it here with temps in the high 80's all week.  
It's an excuse for a brief 'fashion post' which I haven't done in some time.

My wardrobe changeover is underway!  
My heavy sweaters, coats, jackets are gradually being cleaned/washed
and stored away. . . . . . . and the linens are hanging in the closet.

I've purchased a new, slightly loose cut - the style this year - cream
 linen blend blazer/jacket. Very comfortable, doesn't wrinkle too much, 
and I wore it out to lunch on Wednesday over a tan/cream striped tee
and khaki loose cut cropped trousers. 
I love neutrals and stripes in case you don't know!

I also pulled out a pair of sandals and so enjoyed airing my
 toes after months of socks and boots!

Haven't worn a straw hat yet but have a couple at the ready for
bright sunny days, especially when gardening . . . . . . which
I'm busy doing a lot of lately.

This week the ancient John Cabot Canadian rose has gone a little
 berserk and is clambering up the arbor to twirl with the trumpet vine. 
Pink with orange was not planned but actually looks very colorful.  
Let's face it, anything blooming in a garden is a gift, all colors are
 lovely with a green background!

I've planted several large pots of herb seeds, also little peat pots
of hollyhock seeds which I hope will germinate and grow 
where planted later.  

This week I also shopped for the annual hanging Boston ferns
for the front porch. I don't buy the largest as they grow fast and
 soon fill out with a little TLC. 
Already I'm gently shooing away the finches - as soon as they see 
a fern swaying in the breeze they think of building a nest. We
 allowed that to happen some years but they are such messy
 little birds and we'd prefer they move in elsewhere, away from
 where we often sit outside!
Feeding and watering the birds keep us busy enough! We don't
want to be grandparents to their offspring - especially since 
the scary visit a few years back when the five foot long
 fat black snake came to the porch looking for finch eggs in the
 baskets. . . . . . and scared me half to death as it slithered silently
 across the wicker chairs where I was sitting!!! Despite not being a
 venomous snake I still never want to see one that close again.
I'm shaking just writing about it!

The weekend weather here will be mixed - full sun and a high of
 84F today, with rain tomorrow and then back to sunshine and a little
 cooler on Sunday.

Enjoy your weekend.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Raining today - Ireland comes to mind!

It's a very wet morning here and I'm taking a breather from the garden.
  I didn't have anything ready to post, however looking through my drafts, 
I came across this one from a 2019 trip to Ireland which I never completed
 or posted. It feels right for a rainy day such as this.

The county of Sligo can enchant you.
It's steeped in history and mythology, with a creative tradition that lives 
in the music, art, poetry and expression of its people.
We took a bus from Derry/Londonderry to Sligo as there was no train
 service to transport us from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland. 
It was a wet but picturesque journey on the way to Galway.

Quaint small towns and villages were just visible through the streaming bus
windows as we traveled along the Wild Atlantic Way. The countryside 
appeared as miles of green and yellow carpeting rolled out across the
 hills of Donegal and Sligo counties. Now and then the sun would peep
 out from those clouds, and several rainbows brightened up the views.

The town of Sligo, pop. 20,000, straddles the Garavogue River where it meets 
Sligo Bay. It’s known for its literary heritage and rugged countryside. 
Ruined medieval Sligo Abbey has carved tombs and a 15th-century altar. 
Sligo County Museum displays memorabilia of local poet W.B. Yeats, paintings 
and Stone Age artifacts. The Model is a contemporary arts centre featuring
works by 20th-century Irish artists. 

I do recall acquiring a thirst on the bus while the rain continued to
soak everything in sight. Of course in Ireland one doesn't have to stay
 thirsty for long! Perhaps that was why we found warmth, comfort, 
interesting talk with locals, and had such a fun time at this 
interesting historic pub. We even returned later for live music!

Though we've seen almost all of Ireland we want to return. It truly is
one of the most beautiful islands in the world, and it's history is
 amazing. Bob still wants to do more searching into his family history, 
his father's side coming from Castleisland, County Kerry. 

I definitely want to see the West coast again, listen to music in
 Galway City; walk again on the Cliffs of Moher; go back to the
 Dingle Peninsula to look out at Great Blasket Island (whose history
 fascinates me); eat some of the world's best seafood chowder at
 Quinlan's in Killarney; then head south and raise a glass with the
 locals on the waterfront down in Kinsale on a sunny day as we
 enjoyed last time. Then of course back to Dublin, that great city
one can never tire of wandering through.

Have you visited Ireland - or better still, do you happen to live there?
Perhaps you have some Irish stories to share with us.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Garden Questions?????

“As the seconds of our lives tick away,

you have to realize

that life needs

to be

an adventure.”

No, I'm not back in Sicily where I took these photos, but would love to visit there again some day! Your garden may not seem like an adventure in distance as it's right outside the door. . . . . . .but it can be, and trying new plants might be part of the vision, especially in springtime.

Has anyone tried to grow this giant Mediterranean fennel (Ferula communis), common name Giant fennel or Meeting Seed? It was spectacular on the Sicilian hillsides. I've never seen it growing here in the US but perhaps it does in the UK so you wonderful British gardeners may know of it. I know it can grow very tall, looks quite stunning and is so bright in the landscape.


This superb and spectacular giant from the Mediterranean has dark green leaves, divided many times into delicate, feathery segments. The enormous flower-heads contain countless tiny, bright yellow flowers in early summer. It makes an enormous hardy tuber in time, and can make a spectacular addition to a wild garden, border, shrubbery or on a pool margin.

OK, what happened to my beautiful yellow/pink Peace rose?  For many years this rose bush has grown and bloomed in the front porch bed, with lovely healthy green leaves and many flowers often lasting until Autumn. Sadly it has now disappeared and in its place has appeared a common red Knock Out.....yes that rose seen everywhere these days! Could my Peace have been propagated by grafting onto one of those easy to grow roses? Will I never see another yellow flower?  

This morning, a view of the now blooming red rose.

Have a good day. I'm sowing seeds, including Mammoth Russian 
sunflowers - will be interesting to see if they survive hungry
 deer and squirrels this year! 
All part of the adventure, haha!!!

Monday, April 10, 2023

Let them eat cake - or grubs!


Easter tea time was a success, especially as my cake turned out well.
It has been many years since I'd made a real layer cake.
The lemon curd and vanilla buttercream filling went well with
 a real tea pot of freshly brewed Darjeeling.

What's so special about this tea?
Darjeeling Tea is the only tea in the world to get protection
 under the Geographical Indication (GI) trademark
It is said that these teas are the highest elevation produced teas
 world over and it is the altitude that creates an ideal environment
 for the tea plant.

Yellow tulips and mini-carnations brightened tea time and will
last for the week ahead.

Oh yes, have been meaning to tell you the latest 'bird news' from the 
garden. Went to check that we had cleaned out this box of
last year's nest. . . . . . .opened the side and out flew a chickadee
who was on a beautiful soft mossy-lined nest. I almost fell over but did
 a quick check and there were no eggs. Now a week later hopefully
 there are some eggs - they lay 5-7 - but I won't disturb her again.
Maybe we'll have a new family in the garden soon.

 A Carolina chickadee bringing a juicy grub to babies in another
 nesting box on our porch a few years ago.  
Love these busy little birds.

Doubly lucky here after that non-stop rain of Friday and Saturday - gosh
 it was so wet and cold. Yesterday, and now today, full sun with clear blue
 skies, and it's warming up again.  
The grass grew inches over the weekend - busy garden work ahead!

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Music for a rainy day -

It's Easter and, as always, I get that feeling of childhood days preparing and
celebrating another special Christian holiday. It was different back then but
my memories are still very clear.

This morning I'm listening to English music I love so much,
Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Fantasia On A Theme By ThomasTallis" 
and "Fantasia On Greensleeves" with Sir John Barbirolli. 
 In my mind I clearly see pictures of the Spring landscape I grew up in, 
the coast of Devon, Dartmoor tors, rolling dairy farms, banks of yellow
 primroses, thatched cottages and storybook villages.
 This music makes me quite homesick but also brings me joy. . . . . . and
 always hope that I will get home 'one more time.'
Of course several more times would be even better!

It's turned quite cold again here and those early sunny really warm
 Spring days have disappeared. We are remaining close to home as rain
 is falling all day. Tomorrow we hope to celebrate Easter Sunday in
 sunshine. . . .and I will enjoy choosing which Easter bonnet to wear!


Friday, April 7, 2023

Good Friday in the Rain -


A wet and chilly Good Friday here...........but everything looks washed clean
 in time for Easter Sunday celebrations.

The Mystery of Faith fresco by Ben Long 

St. Mary's Episcopal Church, West Jefferson, North Carolina

Thinking of you and wishing you a blessed Good Friday - 
praying that the Lord keeps you, your family and 
loved ones in his loving care always.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Arrival of April -

My favorite azaleas, George L. Taber, are now blooming - and I have several. 
Most have been in the garden many years and are huge. I prune lightly as
 soon as the blooms die back as this plant sets new buds for the following
 year around August. This beautiful shrub grows to a height and width
 of 8 feet, so gets quite large!  

The George Taber Azalea has a rounded, upright shrubby growth habit. 
Grow this azalea in USDA plant hardiness zones 7-10. Has slight cold
 hardiness but grows best in the southern United States. It is sun and
 heat tolerant.

Did you know that azaleas can live a long life if planted in the right place
 and given some easy TLC?  Azaleas are not high-maintenance plants
Attention to pruning, watering and a winter blanket of mulch are all that's 
required. Follow these easy maintenance tips to keep your azaleas healthy, 
and find a location with the right amount of sunlight. I add some fertilizer in
 early spring and the plants stay green year round which is a huge plus in
 the garden. I have other azaleas, different colors, all beautiful, but this is
 definitely my favorite.

Azaleas are not the best indoor flowers as they drop their blooms
 quickly, however I cut a couple of stems to add to these LIDL tulips
 and mini carnations purchased on Friday for the weekend.

After a long overnight drink - the flowers, not me - I arranged them
 adding some greenery from the garden. A couple more days and the
 tulips will grow and flop a bit. I love when they do that!

Yesterday we experienced ongoing high wind gusts which were somewhat
nerve wracking. . . . . . . .especially after seeing the awful damage caused
 by the tornadoes across the US south and Midwest.
Our prayers go out to all the people who have lost dear ones and/or 
their homes and businesses. 

I did a little garden work Saturday morning but was not happy beneath large
 twigs falling from the surrounding oaks, and clouds of pollen. We had a little
 rain which helped settle the pollen somewhat, but the gusts continued for
 hours. Then the glorious sun came out late afternoon and things felt better.

This Sunday morning is cool, breezy but brilliant sunshine lights the garden
and I need to venture forth once it warms up. So much requires attention
 and one can only stare out the window at waiting bags of mulch for so long!

Are you a gardener? If so, what are your least enjoyed garden chores?