Sunday, February 27, 2011

Green, Red and Gray- Canoe Trip

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On Saturday two of my friends and I drove 3 hours southeast of here to paddle the Lumber River 11 miles down stream to Boardman, NC. I rode with Roger in his homemade 25 year old cedar strip 18.5 foot canoe. The cedar strip canoe was a delight to paddle and when we ran into the Lumber River Canoe Club we got lots of comments on what a cool boat it is. Roger and I had paddled this section of the Lumber river 3 weeks short of a decade ago. He had noted the greens from the mistletoe, the reds from the blooming maples and grays of the Spanish Moss in the paddling guide book we use.

The weather was nice around 60+ degrees and mostly sunny in the morning and a bit cloudy in the afternoon.

Green(mistletoe), Red(maple flowers) and Gray(Spanish moss)
This is Jan is his kayak, he just paddled under that downed tree. The Lumber River has lots of obstacles to paddle under around or pull your boat over. This trip did not require any pull overs, thank goodness.
A view of the Lumber River, when I first paddled this river back around 1990 it was not registered as a National Wild and Scenic River. 81 miles of the river was designated National Wild and Scenic River on September 28, 1998. The big tree near the center is a Bald Cypress full of catkins.
Here are two members of the Lumber River Canoe Club we just happened to see them on one of their weekly outings.
Red maple in bloom as seen from the canoe.
Spanish Moss and Mistletoe.
Bald Cypress knees in the water.
The lumber River State Park has lots of camp sites on the river this was the second one we passed. The camp sites are free and have a huge fire ring, room for 4-5 tents, a 2 picnic table shelter, river deck, trash can and lantern posts. And as you can see an easy landing for the canoes.

Close up of mistletoe berries!
This is a crooked Bald Cypress tree, with lots of cypress knees on the right of it.
Does not look like much does it. Think again in summer those are Marsh Mallow bushes I think or some other kind of hibiscus. We saw loads of these all the way down the river.
Jan  and his reflection in front of Bald Cypress trees.
A blockade of cypress knees. On the right is a knee at least 2 meters tall!

Oh, we hoped to see at least one butterfly on this trip, we failed on that. Today in our yard the first butterfly of the year, a Mourning Cloak gave an appearance in the front yard and driveway.

Friday, February 25, 2011

More Hellebore Additions and Wind

Today it started out windy and with gusts up to 40 mph. Later it was 72 degrees and nice. I had business at Chapel Hill City Hall, the hellebore beds in the woods by the parking lot were in full bloom. Nothing very exciting, whites, pinks and dark pink, still lovely to see. I noted 4-5 camellia bushes not been planted very long, looked like ours flower buds not so happy looking.

Yesterday I stopped at Southern States, they had another just unloaded 150 hellebores. I was wanting only one until I saw the Corsican Hellebore, I had seen Catherine's on her blog Gardener in Progress. The Corsican Hellebore (helleborus argutifolius) grows on stems up to 3 foot tall and it was $7 less than the HGC hellebores.
What can I say Helleborus Ericsmithii 'HGC Winter's Song'. This is a gallon pot, covered in blooms. You can see the seed pods forming on the upper left blooms. Can't get over the upright blooms on this one. So now I have three of the Hellebore Gold Collection (HGC)
Corsican Hellebore (helleborus argutifolius) Maybe it'll bloom next year. I have only seen this plant at Duke Gardens.
 Our first daffodil

Our sixth crocus to bloom this year  Crocus 'Pickwick'.
Now for the wind. Here is what I found when I got home this evening. The plastic is covering the garlic and onions.
Mustard greens on the left, Rape in the middle and mixed lettuce on the right.

In the morning I'm going canoeing in a cedar strip canoe on the Lumber River unless we do the Black River instead.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hellebores Starting & Yard Art

Looks like our hellebores are opening up! Several plants have one or two flowers open right now. Below iare some photos of ones that would photograph, I did not post the white or pink ones as the blooms are not quite ready.

 This is an hellebore we moved from Meg's yard, last year it had about 50 blooms! This one was staring at me when I walked up.
My newest hellebore HGC 'Pink Frost" Love this photo! I was at Southern States today, the three end caps of these HGC hellebores were GONE! Jane has my number when the next 200 come in, yes 200! She has ordered Swirly Skirts, I told her I want one. Guess what I have a two year old plant tagged Swirly Skirts in the garden which has never bloomed, duh!
HGC 'Silver Moon'
One of the big plants we were given in the fall of 2009.
Here are some hellebore babies, got them coming up everywhere!

The rock irises are at peak right now!

 Our 'Crimson Candles' Camellia is just starting to light the candles! I added compost around all the camellias and hellebores yesterday afternoon.

Last Saturday we went to a yard art show and I bought this 3 foot spider for the garden! Meg wants to put a spider plant in it.
Got carried away at Southern States and picked up this copper colored gazing ball, it looks red here. Makes the setting sun look pretty cool huh?

News from the bird feeders. Yesterday we had a new visitor to the suet feeders, a Yellow-rumped Warbler. And we had two Brown Creepers on the oak tree near the suet feeders, previously we'd only seen one.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bottle Chapel at Airlie Gardens

Many of you that read this blog know we am planning on building a bottle wall in our garden. We hope to make it pretty cool. I have been collecting all kinds of bottles.

Working on a design concept to create the 'installation'. My thoughts on building it are as thus:

The concept as of right now is a half circle(arc) about 4-5 foot tall and maybe 10  foot long. This will be build down the embankment of the pond and I plan on fastening a small arced deck to sit on over the water on the pond. We will need steps down the the deck also. To the left of this will be another slightly curved retaining wall about 4 foot high and 15 foot long.  Good news is I'm getting ready to tear out and rebuild a deck into a custom screened porch for a customer and should have lots of 5 year old treated pine to build the deck with, recycle is the name of this project.

Build a sand box and set the bottles in it to figure out the design. Or build a 2 x 8 frame and cover it with fabric or chicken wire and cut holes to set the bottles in the design.

Next clean the bottles to be installed after the bottle design is set.

Then dig footers and hand mix my own concrete with re bars sticking up for strength.

Install some type of temporary guide system so the wall goes up where we want it. 

Then make my own mortar and start building the wall.

The bottles and mortar will need to scrubbed clean and smooth each day after building.

Here are some detail photos from Airlie Gardens  to give you an ideal of what we are aiming for. The design will be ours of course.
 Here is half the swallowtail design, the sun was too bright to show both sides of the wings. I don't have near as many blue bottles as this has or square clear bottles either. The red in the eyes are red glasses, not bottles.
Here is a close up of the wizard faces. I really don't know if they are wizards, I just think they look like wizards. See the clear bottle at the top center with the long thin neck, I have a bottle like that.
At the left of the doorway is a tree, it is lit up from the sun too. I doubt given the hieght of our wall we'll be able to do a tree, blueberry bush maybe.
This is a shrine inside the bottle chapel, I have a tall bottle like on the left.
The back side of the butterfly, lit by the sun.
Very cool huh?  I do not have any red glass at all, one amber/orange rectangle bottle is the closest thing I have to red.
Note all the bottles are pointed down this way no water gets inside them to freeze and break them.
I've several long blue bottles like these. I was at the recycling center yesterday and found 4 blue bottles. Was leaving with 3 blue bottles and this woman emptied her bin and I saw a long blue bottle making 4 for the day! Sometimes it is weeks before I find a single blue bottle.

See the water inside the big blue bottle, a hard freeze and it'll be broken.

Can you see why I want to build us a cool bottle wall?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Vegatable Garden Planting

Sunday was beautiful! Around lunch Meg and I worked on the veggie garden. I had picked up a scoop of compost at the local landfill the day before so we were set.

My first chore of the day was to plant the two new hellebores. Meg and I stopped at Southern States Saturday and picked up a Helleborus x Ballardiae ' HGC Pink Frost' to go with the Helleborus x ericsmithii ‘HGC Silvermoon. After planting these two hellebores I added compost around most of the other hellebores in the woods garden. I also found hundreds of baby hellebores around most of the larger plants.

I cut back the spirea bushes in front of Meg's office window so she would have a better view of the new bird bath.  The spireas have not looked very good for a long time, hopefully pruning will bring them back. Not seen any birds at the new bird bath yet, the old one had a Song Sparrow in it today. We have a pond so water is pretty available here.

We worked the vegetable gardens beds and added a good bit of compost to each bed. Planted Arugula Purple & White Kohlrabi, Cosmic Purple Carrots, Tonda di Parigi Carrots (round carrots), Broad Fava Beans, Sugar Snap Peas, French Breakfast Radishes, Giant Red Mustard Greens, Mizuna Mustard Greens. Everything we planted except the Sugar Snap Peas is new to me!

Here is a garden map of what is planted out back so far. Click on it to enlarge. The garden is curved, it was easier to make the map without the curves. 

Now for the newly opened crocuses.
Crocus sieberi "Tricolor"

 I think this is Crocus 'Flower Record'

 Meg had just watered the garden, hence the puddle.

Above is Crocus vernus 'Jeanne d'Arc' we planted these last fall.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Great Backyard Bird Count

This morning I took 45 minutes after breakfast and did the Great Backyard Bird Count by walking around the house and yard looking and listening to the birds. It was barely jacket weather and partly cloudy, a good time to look for birds. The website did not say if you could count birds by calls, they always do on the many Christmas Bird Counts I have been one in the past.

Here is the list which the GBBC mistakenly listed us as Durham County, our Post Office is in Durham County yet we live in Orange County. I could not find a way to correct this county error. A good list of 25 species of birds were found during my 45 minutes counting. While working in the yard later I saw 2 Pine Siskins on a feeder, heard a Mourning Dove and Pileated Woodpecker. I was happy to see 2 Hairy Woodpeckers and 2 Golden-crowned Kinglets during the count

Canada Goose1 heard calling
Turkey Vulture2
Red-shouldered Hawk1 heard calling
Red-bellied Woodpecker4
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker1
Downy Woodpecker2
Hairy Woodpecker2
Northern Flicker1
American Crow4
Carolina Chickadee4
Tufted Titmouse6
White-breasted Nuthatch3
Brown Creeper1
Carolina Wren1
Golden-crowned Kinglet2
Eastern Bluebird1
Pine Warbler1
Chipping Sparrow1
Song Sparrow1
White-throated Sparrow35
Dark-eyed Junco15
Northern Cardinal8
Purple Finch8
House Finch1
American Goldfinch20

We planted in the vegetable garden today, stay tuned (ok stop back then)for a report of what
was planted. Three new crocuses bloomed and I planted another new hellebore.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Watering in Winter!!!

For weeks now the weatherman has been reporting that we are in a severe drought. It is true we have 1/4 inch cracks in the soil right now. For the past two weeks I have watered the beds each weekend. I have never had to water in winter EVER!

The rock irises opened up yesterday in the 75 degree heat. It was just one yesterday, today it is three. I always have looked forward to these opening up. The yellow crocuses are nearly done can you believe that?

Daffodils and other crocuses are poking out, one daffodil has a bud so far. Most of the newly planted bulbs are not even poking out yest, except for a large crocus that we should be seeing in a week or so. I did find a daffodil bulb on the ground that did not get planted.

Here is a look at the greens in the cold frames.
 Curly Kale, eating all we can of this, it is yummy! This is maybe 1/6th of the beds.

 My favorite greens, mustard greens!! Your are looking at maybe 1/4th of the bed, I have another bed that will be ready when this is done.

Rape, maybe 1/4th of it the bed. Weird name yet the greens are very tasty and it thrives well here.

Looking at a flicker just above the suet feeders, not seen him on the suet, but suspect he is eating it. All the suet feeders were empty this morning. Going to get a trailer load of compost from the landfill today, might help a little with our on going droughts here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New additions for the garden

Today I walked over to Southern States after eating lunch at the local food co op. All I wanted was suet for our birds. Thought I walk by where they have camellias, instead I was drawn in by several displays of hellebores.  Usually I tend to stay away from trademarked nursery plants, I just don't care for the the principal of trade marking plants. Anyway I picked up one gallon hellebore that is trademarked.

Helleborus x ericsmithii ‘HGC Silvermoon’ What I liked about this one is all the flowers were so upright with reddish green foliage.

This hellebore is from my customers yard in Carrboro, NC. I believe we have lots just like this one in our garden not yet blooming.
Here is my first camellia seedling! Those leaves are just over 1/2 inch long! There is another plant seedling that should have leaves in a day or two. Now if I can keep it alive for 3 years or more to see the blooms.

I mentioned recently that I  thought camellias were sprouting in one of the hellebore beds. Instead there are lots of baby hellebores sprouting.