Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Bunny Wars - Soft and Easy!

So, it's obvious, the little voles can't be eating ALL the green that's going down, and the evidence >>>

leads me to believe they are teaming up with the rabbits. It appears that the voles eat the roots and stems, and the bunnies eat everything from the ground up! It is so frustrating!!!

Now, don't get me wrong - I love the bunny rabbits, I mean, who wouldn't love these cute things???

(bunny photos courtesy of Flickr)

Awwwwwwwwww, aren't they sweet!?! Of course they are, and I love them! For two summers I fed and watered babies who were living under our hedge. The hedge is gone, but the bunnies aren't, and that's fine, because I know a secret!

The secret is this - rabbits will NOT cross a white line - HONEST! So, I put some flour (the baking kind) in a bottle and draw circles around my tender plants, like this >>>

I've used this method in years past, and it works! The bunnies love my lemon verbena when it's young and tender, but once it's toughened up a bit, they don't bother it, so it's just a matter of drawing my little circles with flour (or cornmeal or corn starch, or whatever you have) and they eventually get washed away with the rain. In the meantime the bunnies stay away from the plants, and I don't get angry at them. And I wouldn't want to get angry with the bunnies, now would I???

The voles, well, they are another matter entirely!

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Proof is in the Pudding . . . or something like that!

My Dad - April, 2009

Eating his favorite meal - Homemade biscuits, gravy, sausage and cheddar cheese.

Remember I told you that last Thursday was my birthday, well, it wasn't a day full of fun and games - believe me! I had to go take my dad to visit his urologist and have the catheter removed that he had surgically inserted a few weeks ago. After our visit to the doctor, once we got back to their house, I made them sit in the car where we would have no distractions, and I broached a few topics.

The main topic being the fact that if they kept stressing me out with their constant bickering, complaining and my mom's calling me every 15 minutes to complain about every little thing, I was going to have a heart attack from stress, and then where would they be??? As far as their care, I am IT! My mom's 83 y/o sister takes her to get her hair done or to the grocery store, and my dad's sister (just 7 years older than me) takes him to get lab work done or to get his hair cut, but anything else falls to me.

My brother, who is 6 years younger than me, is absolutely no help and he only comes around when he wants something, but since he's taken until there's not much left, he doesn't bother so much any more! And personally, I'm glad he doesn't, because I wouldn't trust him to do what was best for OUR parents!

That said, today we had to go have blood drawn for blood work for the kidney specialist. We did that and came back home, and my mom and I left my dad at home and went to visit 2 local, 'home grown' nurseries to buy a few little things for our gardens. When we got back, oh, about 2 1/2 hours later, my dad said he hadn't been able to urinate except for a trickle, and should we maybe go see somebody. The urologist wasn't in their town today, so off we went - back to the ER!

It was amazing! My dad didn't grumble and complain nearly as much, and was prepared to spend the night! My mom complained a lot less this time, and didn't have a single pity party until right before the doctor showed up to tell us that my dad was going home, but we should see the kidney specialist as soon as possible. (His kidney function is failing, but I don't know to what extent yet, should find that out when we visit him.)

So, all in all, FOR ME, it was about the least stressful ER trip we have ever had, and I was home before 10 pm - but just barely. On the trip home, it was so lovely that I rolled the window down, cranked up the radio and just took my time. Traffic was light, the breeze was cool, the moon's little sliver of a crescent hung over my head, and Rascal Flats sang their newest song 'Here comes goodbye', as well as Brad Paisley's newest hit, 'Then'. The trip home was smooth, and relaxing.

Now, I'm not crazy enough to expect this to last forever, and I do understand that my attitude could have helped a little bit, too. But it sure was nice not to have quite as much bickering and fussing going on for a change!

Time to shut this thing down and get some rest. Tomorrow is another day, and even if we don't end up having to go to the kidney specialist, I still have tons of laundry to do, the dishwasher to unload, and a passle of plants outside that need to be planted. (Oh, and let's not even talk about the plants that have already been eaten overnight! Where's that vole poison!!!)

Blessings, Becky

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Update On Yard Work

Good Morning! It's a gorgeous morning here at Camellia Cottage! The birds are singing and the sky is blue, and it'll be very hot before we know it, so I need to get outside and back to work. It's hard when I'm sore in places where I'd forgotten there were places!!!

We got one (flower) bed finished yesterday, and another one begun. I'm sorry I didn't get befores, but these beds were in such bad shape, I'm not too sorry! I didn't get nearly everything done I should have last year because my dad was in the hospital a lot and there just wasn't time.

Here are a couple of picture of the (almost) finished front bed, under the living room window >>>

My husband bought the mulch, and got a terra cotta dyed mini bark mulch. It's not what I would have chosen (I like more natural colored stuff), but with the terra cotta colored stepping stones, it really matches the brick around the front porch, so it's all good. This is a fairly large bed, and I need to get in and out to water and maintain the plants, so I really like the addition of the stepping stones.

This is a close up of the rock garden. I want to get some thyme and oregano to plant in among the rocks. There are already heucheras and a few other things in there.

Iris, foxglove and monarda (bee balm). The monarda was dug up from my aunt's yard, so it's a little droopy, but it will be fine when the roots get a taste of good soil and fertilizer!

My friend, Fay, gave me this angel years ago, and I had it out in the back yard, but I love it here now. I just move the trellis here from another spot in the garden this year, and planted a couple of Earnest Markham clematis my mom gave me, and a hyacinth bean on it. What you can't see is that there's a 1 quart capacity hummingbird feeder hanging right above it. Hummers LOVE hyacinth beans! That's the Key Lime Pie Heuchera in the left foreground.

This year I've concentrated on three things:
  • Most everything has to be bird, butterfly and/or bee friendly
  • Most everything has to be perennial - or comes back year after year
  • Many different colors, textures, sizes and shapes of plant matter

My favorite colors of blooms are pinks, blues, purples and whites, but I add a little red, orange and yellows in the mix, too.

Well, I need to get dressed and back out in the yard. Check back in in upcoming days and see what's going on here at Camellia Cottage! Blessings, Becky

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What I'll Be Doing This Weekend . . .

Raking leaves from flower beds . . .

Pulling weeds from same beds . . .

Planting new perenniels . . .

Fighting voles!!! See the damage they are causing to my prize hostas . . .

Digging Holes . . . . .

Fertilizing . . . .

Watering . . .

Digging up, dividing, and re-planting established perenniels, like these daylilies . . .

Note - the white stuff to the right of the daylily is the shells from safflower seeds. There is a feeder hanging just above this plant!

Here are some things I've already planted . . . . .

Pineapple Sage - a true performer in the garden!

Black and Blue Salvia - see the hostas the voles are eating??? Oh! And does anyone want any spearmint plants???? I pull them up by the trash bag full several times a year and put them in the garbage!

Heuchera - Peach Melba

Now blooming!!!

One of my two (identical) new bird feeders!

Vole Holes >>>>

Yesterday I spent $16 for a 10 pound bag of 'mole/vole repellent'. I'll let you know how it works, because obviously the traps are NOT working! The varmints are licking the peanut butter coated traps clean nd never once tripping them!

And things I still have to plant >>>

Pin Cushion Flower - it was almost dark when I took this - it looks like I spent tons of time clearing the background, doesn't it!

Heuchera (Coral Bells) Key Lime

Heuchera - Midnight Rose (My Favorite!)

And all of this >>>>>

A fairy rose, peach colored flowering quince, English dogwood, sage, parsley, thyme, dill, oregano, fennel, basil, hyacinth beans, moon flowers, heavenly blue morning glories, black and blue salvia, foxgloves, hollyhocks, more pineapple sage, gaura, dianthus, and who knows what else is in there! Oh! and on the newspapers, the goodies my aunt gave me yesterday - lemon balm, monarda and shasta daisies!

So, if I don't get back for a couple of days, please know that I'm having fun 'playing in the dirt'!!! Have a great weekend, doing what you love most! Blessings, Becky

Thursday, April 23, 2009

April 23rd

Happy Birthday to ME!!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Critters - Slimy and Winged, Furry and Feathered

As I sit here typing, I'm watching a pair of house finches and a pair of cardinals fighting over one of my feeders. All four can't fit on it, and it appears to be a battle of wills! And if I lean to the left, turn my head to the right, I see the finch feeder, and the goldfinches are back. I haven't seen any out there in about three weeks, but today they have returned. Every time I look out there I see 6 to 8 of them fighting over the 4 holes on the feeder! Oh, and now one of them has decided she had rather have safflower seed - well, maybe not! I haven't seen much of my hummers the last couple of days, but I've got fresh nectar made and ready for their feeders, so maybe that will help.

The feathered critters are so much fun to watch, and I love to keep food out for them. But there are also the critters I DON'T like! Like the one I found as I was cleaning out from around my blazing star and Japanese iris the other day. It was a big old salamander! Black with white/grayish spots. Yuck! I also can't stand snakes. In my opinion, the only good snake is a DEAD snake!!! You can tell me all you want that they eat other critters, but I just don't care!

Then there are the furry ones - I've told you about how I hate for the squirrels to eat from my feeders! I didn't buy that expensive seed for rats, and that's all a squirrel is - a rat with a fluffy tail! But today, well, today I found something worse than the squirrels. We've got VOLES!!!!! I saw a pair of them tunneling out from under a rock lining the sidewalk, and when I got out there and looked, I found holes all around my beautiful hostas, and evidence they've been enjoying a feast!!!

Voles are fast breeders and voracious feeders. They can kill a green lawn in no time by tunneling through and eating the roots. They especially love hostas! So, I did a little homework on the internet, then ran to WalMart and bought a few supplies! Mouse traps and castor oil! I set mouse traps with peanut butter right beside the holes, then covered the hole AND the trap with an upside down 5 gallon bucket. That will keep other - good - critters from eating the peanut butter and getting killed. Then, I took the castor oil (voles hate castor oil, but then who doesn't!!!) and drizzled it around my hostas and down into the holes they had dug around them.

This should send them to the holes to where the tasty peanut butter is, and SNAP! One dead vole!

Now, I hate killing cute furry critters. But I hate things eating on my pretty plants even more!!! So we'll see who wins this battle as time goes by.

So, what is your worst garden enemy??? And how do you get rid of it???

Blessings folks, Becky

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chattanooga Nature Center and Reflection Riding Arboretum and Botanical Garden

As I told you in my last post, on our last day in Chattanooga I kind of took the 'vacation' mode into my own hands and kicked it up a notch. After the visit to The Barn Nursery we headed for the Chattanooga Nature Center (CNC), and Reflection Riding Arboretum and Botanical Garden.

The two being side by side made the trip a double treat, and we enjoyed them both. They are located at the foot of Lookout Mountain, and along the banks of Lookout Creek. You can read up on it at their website, so I will just share with you some of my favorite pictures from our visit.

This is the 'tree house' and is built around a clump of trees. It appears to be built almost entirely from reclaimed lumber, windows and columns, and is just adorable!

Hubby just loves a swing! Note all the different shapes and sizes of windows - fun!

Sweet shrub in abundance!

Lily of the valley everywhere!

(Side note - I went out and checked on my two LotV plants last night, and finally, after 3-4 years, they have multiplied and made one little baby - I'm such a proud grandma! Maybe I won't move them this year after all!)

Woods Poppies - mine are lovely right now, too!

I'm not exactly sure what this is - it was a shrub, though. I thought maybe it was buckeye? Correct me if I'm wrong, please!

And the following are pictures taken on the 3 1/2 mile ride around Reflection Riding. Enjoy!

Wildflowers in abundance! I loved the soft carpet of these little beauties!

Native azaleas, aka honeysuckles. The fragrance is amazing!!!

More lily of the valley, and soft, pretty ferns!

The Gazebo at Siren Pond - there was a hummer visiting these pink azaleas, but he was shy!

A bamboo garden, with rooms inside - a great place for children to play!

A tiny wild iris - only about 3 inches tall, and the blooms were almost that big across. I want some of these for my garden!

A gorgeous trillium. I have seen yellow and white ones, but never one this color - it's so beautiful!

More native azaleas. Heavenly!

Pink Dogwoods.

The pond.

Assorted colors of azaleas.

Now, oddly enough I didn't get any pictures of Lookout Creek. It was very full after all of the rains they had been having, but it was very picturesque. Because of the creek, and the ability for members to canoe the creek for free, using the center's canoes and equipment, we joined the CNC. The membership fee is $60 per family, and since we'd paid the $7 per person entrance fee, they deleted that from our membership fee. We are looking forward to visiting in a few weeks and canoeing Lookout Creek.

This visit was definitely one of the highlights of our vacation, and we look forward to visiting both facilities many times in the future. Thanks for joining me on this tour. Blessings friends, Becky