Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cutting down the banana tree

Yesterday evening I decided it was time to cut down the Zebrine Banana tree! We were expecting our first hard freeze, the pond this morning had ice covering half of it. This dwarf banana is not supposed to be hardy in our area, zone 7.
Here is the banana before I cut it down in the weedy patch that just goes crazy during the heat of the summer. Wish I could make it a 3 season garden at least, instead of just a spring garden.
The stump shown here is at least 5 inches in diameter. The trunk and leaves must have weighted 25-30 pounds when I carried it to the brush pile. So easy to cut I was amazed, two strokes and it was done.This was planted from a 1 gallon pot in May!

I filled a recycling container with leaves and set it over the stump, then I added more leaves around it. Not sure if I killed it or saved it, time will tell I guess.

Our house and dried up pond taken last evening. See the dried up Johnson Grass, that is usually in the water. Another out of control plant as you can see. The cold frames are seen on the left of this image.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The leaves are down what now?

Most of the leaves are down, some stubborn oaks have not finished yet. I'm wearing two jackets and sitting out on the porch, 48 degree right now and sunny.

We are leaving the leaves on the grass this year as nature intended all along! So many of us rake or blow them away removing nutrients intended to help the soil. The blower people can really annoy people like us who just want to enjoy our gardens in peace, we have no blowers here but most of the neighbors do.

Just finished mowing the leaves for the third time, mulching them in. The leaves are mostly chopped up and mixing into the sparse grass in our lawn. We will have to rake up and compost the leaves in the gravel driveway, garden beds and walkways.

The soil here has a lot of clay and it opens up with big cracks during the dry spells of summer so we are hoping the leaves will help the soil if this is done every other year. Every other year (last year) the red oaks dump endless scores of acorns here. If we let the acorns stay then they sprout up everywhere. We are always fighting to keep the forest from taking our little green spot in the woods.

In a little while I'll be planting more daffodils, I think I've become a plant collecting addict. Meg thinks so at least. For weeks I've checked brent and Becky's Bulbs waiting for the bulb clearance sale. Thanksgiving night I discovered the 50% off sale and ordered another $50 worth, would have been a $100. Beside me is $50 worth of bulbs I purchased at @#$%mart, I believe I'll return some of them.

The bulbs to be planted today are:
24 Narcissus 'Replete'  (donations to: Susan G Komen for the Cure)
24 Narcissus ' Pink Charms' (donations to: Susan G Komen for the Cure)
30 Crocus 'Jeanne D'Arc'  (white)
40 Muscari 'Deft Blue Mix' M. armeniacum, M. album and  M. latifolium

Not sure but given I've ordered these bulbs from Brent and Beckys, we will likely have at least 30 different daffodils growing in our garden!

Narcissus ordered 10 of each Actaea, Delibes, Falconet, Fruit Cup, Lieke, Odorus flore pleno, Sailboat, Silver Chimes, Sir Winston Churchhill and Sound.

Crocus ordered 10 of each chrysanthus 'Gipsy Girl', sieberi 'Firefly', tommasinianus 'Ruby Giant', vernus 'King of Striped' and versicolor 'Picturatus'

Speaking of crocus, the fall crocus last blooms were on Thanksgiving day. Fun things seen on Thanksgiving day my first Zonkey (cross between a donkey and a zebra) and 3 Brown Creepers on the oak tree next to our porch these tiny birds climb the tree trunks by circling them as they climb, hard to see if you are not looking.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Trip to Camellia Forest Nursery

Today I drove over to Chapel Hill to see what camellias Camellia Forest had. I knew they had Lady Clare and it has been big on my list. They offered about 10 different camellias on sale but I decided on others instead. It was a nice day and even a few butterflies were flying. Remarkably I saw a female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail nectaring on camellias. Once I got home I checked and the late date for NC on Eastern Tiger Swallowtails is November 23 in Orange County (same county), so it was 3 days before the late date not a new record. Also seen was a Red Admiral on the hummingbird feeder at the nursery.

Here are my picks today ones that are going in our garden. Above and below is Camellia sasanqua Pink Butterfly it was introduced by Camellia Forest, so it is a local cultivar in fact! This plant was in a 3 gallon pot and clearly 4 foot tall covered in buds and 4 inch blooms. I had another option instead of this one Moon Festival which has slightly larger blooms but they are crinkled, it was huge in a 5 gallon pot out of my price range.
Here is a close look at the Camellia japonica 'Lady Clare' I bought. It is about 2 foot tall and has 6-7 buds on it. FYI that bud is big yet half the size it'll be before the flower opens. Lady Clare has a huge deep pink bloom.
Camellia Forest also grows primroses and hybridizes them. I bought this whitish one below
and a blue one that is not blooming yet. These are proved hardy in our area.

Below is the Red Admiral found on the hummingbird feeder. In our area if you leave out your hummingbird feeder you might get an overwintering hummingbird. Usually in the summer we have only one hummer the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, but in the winter we(not me) have had 7-8 different western hummers visit our feeders.

Below are some of the other camellias that caught my eye today.
A species camellia puniceflora with 1 1/2 inch white with pink edges. Might have to get this one in our garden.
Here is Camellia 'Mieko Tanaka' Loved the way these 2 inch blooms opened up so far.
Below is Camellia 'Yobuko Dori' these blooms are just under 3 inches I believe.
Below is Camellia sasanqua 'Pink Serenade' beautiful 4 inch or so blooms!
From our garden Crocus speciosus today. We should have 4 blooms in the morning. Sherry this is not the saffron crocus, I planted the saffron crocus in our garden about a month before these were planted, one visitor remarked they bloom bi annually, we just have leaves coming up, just like after  the blooms of spring crocus.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Japanese Anemones the dirt on them.

I just yesterday received my Japanese Anemones from the Netherlands Bulbs Direct. I purchased 3 Anemone 'Jobert" and 3 Anemone 'Serenada Pink', these came as root starts, the Serenada Pink actually had 4 root starts and looked a lot better than the Jobert. I paid $20 for ther whole lot with free shipping direct from the Netherlands.

Last week I stopped at Southern States and purchased one gallon Anemone "September Charm" for $10 or $11. This plant is shown below.

See the white in the root ball? That is shoots of new plants must have been dozens of them inside the roots. I believe it was Di that said these are very aggressive, look at those monsters!
Here I pulled off the new shoots that want to become new plants. I planted them on either side of the big plant.
Above is the Anemone Jobert I paid $10 for.
Above is the Anemone Serenada Pink I paid $10 for

I guess when Meg says buy local I should listen to her more often. Usually I do. But I was thinking I was getting a good deal.

Look what opened today and just planted a few weeks ago Autumn Crocus, Crocus speciosus from the Terrace Shop at Duke Gardens. I planted 25 of these and it looks like we'll have 3 blooms tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The cold frames!

Finallt here are some photos of the cold frames we built on Sunday afternoon.

We had a windy night last night with a small bout of lighting and thunder. I was worried about a tornado as the rain came into the screened porch from two directions.

After the rain last night. These window sashes were pulled out of an old house in Durham. These really need to be cleaned up and repainted with hinges added. It does not get so cold here to kill the Swiss Chard planted inside this. Last winter Swiss Chard wintered over only to be deer food. This frame should prevent it from being deer food. No money was spent on this project, the concrete block were left over from our addition and the 2 x 4 is a warped left over.

All three cold frames from yesterday before the rained dropped a lot of leaves. That mess between the two cold frames is what is left of the Swamp Sunflower.

Curly kale inside the PVC hoop house. I spent $18 buying the 1/2 inch PVC pipe and 3/4 inch conduit straps. The lumber in front was the concrete form for the floor at the opening for the door of our basement. The door is shown in the back of this photo. Meg promised to set this down in the dirt better and add straw to insulate it later when it gets cold. Only problem here is the path is in the center as we did not consider making a frame over this when we planted the greens. The size of this is 6 ft x 10 ft.

The portable CPVC hoop house. I used CPVC on this because I gathered some 1/2 inch CPVC at the free shed at the landfill and it bends a lot easier than the 1/2 inch PVC. It is covering some salad mix and rape.

My little car after the rain storm last night. All those lovely maple leaves!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Black Widow in the Laundry Room!!

Yesterday when Meg got up she found a Black Widow spider in the laundry room. They are common around here though we have never found any in the house, likely came in on the recycling bin. I removed him and let it go outside. Many of you might ask why I did not kill it? As a nature photographer nature might never be interfered with, it is my way. BTW Black Widows are poisonous but not much of a threat when they are minding to their business and you are minding your own business.

We built 3 make shift cold frames on Sunday. One of CPVC piping that is light and 30" x 96". Another was the freebee one we used 4 old window sashes placed on left over concrete blocks (Swiss Chard). The last one I used some leftover 2 x 8s and bought 7 pieces of 1/2" PVC pipe and 24 conduit straps, it ended up being 6' x 10' and about 5 foot tall. All the plastic was left overs from handyman projects too!
It was dark by the time we finished building cold frames so I do not have any photos of them yet.

Everyday for the past four days we had seen this Chinese Praying Mantis on the screens of our porch.
The art studio tour was fun! I bought an original water color of a Trout Lily, it was small 5 x 7. Realized today that my avatar is of a Trout Lily... 

Given I'm on the new mac the work flow for creating photos until I get it figured out it terribly slow. Trying Gimp it seems ok but finding the image to put in it in Iphoto with 400 other images pretty well sucks. at this point.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fall Underway!!

Last Sunday I visited Duke gardens again! Here is the famous red bridge. The light was too bright yet I managed this photo with help in my editor to compensate.

I have a new computer a macbook pro my first mac! Not exactly found a photoshop replacement, nor do I want to pay the big bucks to buy it again..... My Photoshop CS program is 5 years old and cost something like $600+..

This is a Japanese anemone called Honorine Jobert I looked it up on the net and found that a few local nurseries might have it.  I visited the nursery in Carrboro and purchased September Charm.  Then I found the Holland Bulb company has Honoring Jobert and ordered 3 plants and another 3 anemones direct from Holland I expect them any day. A great deal 6 plants $21 and free shipping hoping I wasn't scammed.
Several posts back I complained about missing the gingers in bloom. Above is ' Elizabeth' Never seen it before, wow! Below is the hardy White Ginger, it takes a lot of room but the fragrance is wonderful!

Below are buds on our Hellebore niger purchased last spring, 8- 10 buds in all! The nursery in Carrboro also had one plant with buds like these!

We are going on the Orange County art tour today, visited 5-6 studios last weekend, hope to do a posting on some of the cool stuff seen on the art tour.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Checkered What?

Last night it was down in the low 30s, I heard reports of freezing rain this morning when I was at the Hillsborough Farmers Market. Nothing look frosted though. Tonight we should have our first hard freeze, the banana tree will tell the whole story in the morning I guess.

All day it looked like a winter day being mostly overcast with lots of dark moving clouds. I met two friends for a nature walk in the Butner Gamelands at 1 pm. We did not expect to find much in the way of butterflies as it was lucky to be 50 degrees most of the day. My friend Owen is on top of mushroom identification and has been doing mycology for many years. So we looked in the woods for mushrooms, no exciting finds in the way of mushrooms other than two kinds of puffballs.

Roger found this uncommon to rare butterfly a female Checkered White  featured above and below. Here in North Carolina there is no place you can reliably find the Checkered White, out in the western US it can be very common. It was so cold that it let us pick it up. Normally with my little Canon G11 trying to get a close up of this butterfly would be impossible. Once the sun came out (for 10 minutes) it spread its wings and flew away.
Below is a Common/White Checkered Skipper when the sun was out I saw maybe 20 of these little guys. Never have I photographed both butterflies with checkered in their names on the same day. The cold was the only reason I was able to get my G11 up close to this busy skipper.
This mustard in planted in 20 ft rows for maybe a mile, in the fall this can be the place to find butterflies near Durham. Like our Carolina Blue skies?
Always a treat on a cold day, a male Autumn Meadowhawk perched carefully on a gate pipe. It was so cold it took 5-6 landing attempts before it obtained a resting place. Two of these were seen only by yours truly today, the other landed on my breast pocket while walking along.

We also found some cool oak trees, Swamp Chestnut Oak and Overcup Oak. The overcup acorns always make my day when I find them.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Fall or springtime?

Meg saw an Eastern Redbud tree in full bloom last week. I found these snowdrops in Chapel Hill at Coker Arboretum on Sunday. Ok isn't there a fall blooming snowdrop?

Remember the Golden Fragrance Muscari I planted last fall? Well I planted 10 muscari plants and right now I have 10 sets of 3-4 inches of leaves coming up.
Above is a photo from Saturday of our Zebrine Banana tree. We have had some near frosts thus far. I'm thinking the first freeze I'll cut it down and place straw over it and then a huge plastic tub over that to protect it from the winter. Hard to believe in May this plant was in a gallon pot., those upper leaves are at least 3 foot long perhaps a meter long.
This is an hybrid tea rose called Rio Samba from the rose circle at Duke Gardens last week.

Does this not remind you of a funny little guy jumping? From our garden the Rosebud Saliva.

So far this is the best fall color photo I have taken in our parts this fall. The pond at historic Ayr Mont in Hillsborough, NC