Sunday, October 30, 2011

Knowing when persimmons are ripe!

It is common knowledge that the American Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana
is ready to eat AFTER the first frost. If you try to eat a persimmon too soon the bitter taste of tannic acid will leave a terrible taste in your mouth. They are quite tasty when ripe. Our trees were planted by birds. Anyway last night was the first frost, another frost is expected tonight, no damage noticed in the garden.

We lit our jack-o-lanterns this evening and I went out to put out the candles. I heard a rustling in the bushes. Then saw this possum in the persimmon tree by the deck.

Notice the tiny persimmon just over it's head. Guess possums know exactly when to eat persimmons, or did we learn this from the possums?

Happy Halloween Everyone!

 These are pumpkins we carved at a pumpkin carving party yesterday. I carved the scary castle with the ghost above. And Meg carved the ghost saying 'Boo' below.
 Hope the possum waits a few days before it eats our jack-o-lanterns!

It reached 59 degrees today, some bees were out and about, yesterday it was colder and rainy no bees came out. Our cold frames, two of the three are covered  to keep leaves and acorns out at this point. All the seeds Meg planted last week are coming up.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Camellias Planted!

Last Sunday I attempted to plant the new 3 gallon camellias, but my back went out on me. I was hurting real bad for several days. Yet I pushed on and took it very easy and by Thursday I was much better. I still have minor twinges but they are manageable.

Our three year old Camellia sinensis is blooming, it is a tea camellia. It has just been hanging on ever since we planted it, so seeing flowers on it was really nice. This plant has a long way to go before we can pick tea leaves off it it.

Three years ago we bought Camellia Sasanqua 'Tsumaorigasa' Our plant died this summer... But it produced seeds last year and we harvested some of them, but don't know if the seeds I planted germinated. Yesterday I found what looks to be a seedling next to the dead tree trunk, it could be a sprout, I'm not sure. Still excited to see our first natural camellia seedling in the garden. Camellias can be different than the parent plants, so we'll have to wait and see.

Camellia Sasanqua 'Moon Festival' our first bloom about 4 inches wide.
Not the best photo, it is pinker than it looks here.

Anyway yesterday I planted a 3 gallon Camellia Sasanqua 'Leslie Ann' and today I planted a 3 gallon Camellia Sasanqua 'Moon Festival' in the front side garden by the wooden fence. Meg and I cut down 3 Eastern Red Buds hanging over the garden, blocking sunlight. We also cut down a 6 inch Black Jack Oak, hated to take it down but that garden needs more sunlight.

I also managed to plant the 3 double hellebores I purchased weeks ago and 4 camellia seedlings sprouted last winter. I'm worried what I thought were camellia seedlings we dug up in Wilmington at Sharna's might not even be camellias, the leaves seem very thin when compared to the camellias I grew from seed. I have a new batch of seeds from her garden to sprout this winter too.
 I read somewhere about camellia apples, maybe NeilJean's blog. Never seen one before. Here is one from Sharna's garden in Wilmington, NC. Below is a freshly opened up seed pod. Now is the time to look for seeds on camellias. It might take 3-5 years before you know what the flowers will look like, so your garden would be full of mysteries for years... Sprouting camellia seeds, I wrap them in a wet paper towel and seal them up in a ziploc bag and wait 4- 8 weeks for them to sprout. I change the paper towel after 4 weeks.

The cold frames are all planted now, boxed but not covered yet. We'll have arugula, rainbow, carnival and nantes carrots, mesclun and gourmet lettuce, curly and lacinato kale, spinach, watermelon radish,  scarlet radish, Swiss chard and purple top turnips. We now have 2- 6 ft x 8 ft and one 6 ft x 10 ft cold frames. Two of the frames have lots of acorns falling on them, so we'll cover them before the oak leaves fall.

Meg planted a new kitchen window herb garden, with my help from the rototiller. She planted Saint John's Wort, Rue, Sorrel, Suchon and Yarrow. She brought these plants home from the Chestnut Herb Nursery at the Southeastern Women's Herbal Conference last weekend. She also planted seeds including chamomile, California poppies and echinacea. We had some Elephant garlic left over from some I bought this summer so she planted 3 cloves and some onion sets too.

I know I posted a photos of this fall crocus in a recent post, today they were open to about 5 inches wide, very cool.
Lastly this night blooming cereus had two blooms mid week during a cold and windy night. I have never seen one of these still open in the morning, but then again they usually bloom during the heat of summer. The cold air must have kept it open. We had acorns falling 40-50 at a time, it sounded like we were in a war zone! The acorns hit the roof, roll down and hit the deck and sometimes hit the metal railings.

Huge news, Meg agreed to cut Bubba down to 6-7 foot tall today. Bubba was a 14 foot tall avocado tree she planted from seed. Bubba for the past 2 years has been too big for our living room during the winter, leaning over more each year, it was nearly 90 degrees so we cut it off. Growing side ways, this year it grew several new limbs straight up and nearly 4 foot tall so we felt the new growth would take over.

The bees have been active and friendly, still bringing in pollen packets. I witnessed a small orientation flight today. I also noted lots of new bees just learning to fly clinging to the side of the hive, it was chilly so I think they are OK. Last thing this afternoon I saw a Worm Snake under the Leslie Ann camellia, doubt we'll be seeing any more smakes this year. Worm Snakes are less than a foot long and they eat slugs!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My angry bees!!!

This is a two part post today. If your not interested in bees just skip to the gardening portion of this post.

Today I did an inspection of the bee hive, the bees got very angry. Below is a video of the bees when they were angry. I got stung in the back of the neck twice, it took more than two hours for the pain to go away. I'm sure it could have been a lot worse.

 Here is two photos from the honey super on top of the hive. You can see some brood and capped honey. I even found a bee emerging from this frame.
 Below is what the top on the main brood box looked like after I opened it, lots of bees! The deep box that was on top of this was very heavy with syrup/honey, I did not even look at one frame in it, the bees were too upset by the time I wanted to look.
 Likely 8 out of ten frames looked like this in the brood box, no complaints.
 On this frame I saw the blond Italian queen several times but never managed to get a photo of her, the bees were pretty mad. I did see fresh eggs, lots of larva and capped brood. Pollen stores were OK, not as full as I'd liked to have seen. Honey/syrup perhaps 90 pounds plenty enough for winter. I saw maybe 12 beetles and no beetle larva, which I feared I'd see lots of. I did see my first bee with a mite on her back.
The bees chased me away three times before I closed up the hive in haste. I had maybe 20 bees climb into the smoker and cook themselves they were so actively flying all about. I'm sure anyone in the yard would have been stung, never seen my bees this mad. I was 50 foot from the hive relighting the smoker and the bees were swirling all around me, three times they did this. After everything was sealed up maybe 20 minutes later I was attacked by a bee in the front yard, the hive is in the back yard. So my bees are healthy...

 Here are two kinds of fall crocus blooming in the garden. The one below will you look at those antlers! The third kind of fall crocus we have was in my last post Saffron Crocus, it is done, the rains did it in.

 Gourds, the flowers are Megs gourds, you can see our only tiny gourd this year, so sad. Above is two swan gourds I picked up at a garden center nearby, these are 15- 8 inches long pretty big.
 I took this Japanese Anemone photo this morning, I did not even notice the crab spider on it.
 Below is Leslie Ann our newest camellia, need to find a place to plant this beauty.

Last thing I'm 100 % behind the protests on Wallstreet, this makes me one of the 99%. I know many of you might think I'm crazy, I have joined Occupy Durham, I was the 15th member to join. If your interested in learning more see what Senator Bernie Sanders has to say about it. Full coverage can be found on this page with lots of videos and op-eds. I really think it is time for change. Did you know in the past 30 years middle class America (republicans included) their income has grown 21 % not adjusted for inflation. Do you know how much the richest 400 persons income went up? Are you thinking 50% or 100%, no not even close. Sit down and take a deep breath, are you ready scroll down?

1600 percent!!
Yes 1600% and they get all the tax breaks and have loop holes. Please watch Elizabeth Warren's video talking about corporations and taxes.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monarchs and saffron crocuses

This past weekend we spent in Wilmington, NC. Meg and I visited Airlie Gardens and spent some time on the beach at Fort Fisher. Then we decided to take the ferry over to South Port. While waiting for the ferry I looked for migrating Monarchs. I found 22 Monarchs hiding from the wind and nectaring on Eastern Baccharis, Baccharis halimifolia. Baccharis is ready just in time for the Monarchs as they pass through.
I tried to video tape 7-8 Monarchs on Baccharis but did not move quick enough. Below is a video of Common Buckeyes on Baccharis. Bad news in walking across the field my sandals found the sand spurs which were also ready to deploy from the plant. Later I removed about 100 sand spurs from my socks. Next time wear hiking boots.

 While in Wilmington we bought two new camellias. One I have seen in bloom Moon Festival and awesomely huge crinkled pink/red bloom. The other camellia Leslie Ann featured in the above photo, the blooms are about 2 inches.
Got home tonight and Meg showed my our Saffron Crocus. Last year we just got foilage, this year these beautiful blooms. see the red saffron strands...

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Oh yeah...I like

Last November I received some Japanese Anemones from Holland. They came as root pieces, not much to talk about, so I  planted them in the garden. Yesterday the first blooms from Japanese Anemone 'Serenada Pink'
 Just two blooms and I'm hoping the other one 'Jobert' will open soon.

I have been excited about Occupy USA and the fact the news is covering it. I plan on joining Occupy Durham first chance I get. Here is one of many articles that really inspired me.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Asters and Sunflowers

Today I found out that the exciting new native plant Meg brought back from Jones County NC was not what we thought it was. It was labeled Narrow Leaf Sunflower Helianthus angustifolius. Granted I did not know the Latin name for Swamp Sunflower. Just a while ago I looked it up only to find out Swamp Sunflower has another name Narrow Leaf Sunflower. Our garden has huge clumps of Swamp Sunflower already.
 Above is Swamp Sunflower which I got from a friend many years ago. This clump is 3 foot in diameter, massive and grows to 12 foot tall. Below the the Narrow Leaf Sunflower(aka Swamp Sunflower) just added to the front garden months ago, oops. Who is going to tell Meg?
Meg brought this aster from her place. It grows to over 6 foot tall and the butterflies love it! Best part is it is very hard to kill, most asters crap out on me. Same aster different lighting with a big mosquito on it.  Does anyone know what this is called? 

We bought a 6 pack of sweet potato plants and planted them in the garden. I have not grown sweet potatoes since I was a young man, here is the harvest from 6 plants.
Some news from the garden. This morning was pretty cold in the low 40s, the bees were inside the hive this morning it was the first time since I got them I could not see any bees at the entrance.

We had a Monarch flying about in the yard today, first I've seen here this fall!

Hey I saw a sign along the road today RedDog Nursery was having a plant sale. I followed the signs and found a house with a tent with lots of flowers. Those of you that follow this blog know I'm taken with hellebores. Well they had doubles, 2 year old beautiful doubles for $8 I purchased three of them. These are from Terranova Nursery, the ones I got are Cotton Candy, Painted Doubles and Amber Gem. I'm sure if I'd order any one of these online I'd paid more than $24 with shipping.

Oh and this is my 300th post on this blog, can you believe it?