Friday, January 30, 2009

A Little Color

Things are starting to wake up around the garden and I’m concerned that the cold weather may wipe out a few things and we may lose some spring blooms. I noticed yesterday the Bridal Wreath is putting out its spring growth. I also found a few blooms.

The Carolina Jasmine is full of Buds. This actually isn’t planted in our garden, but it grows on a common fence. Jamie and I are the ones that take care of it. I have a interesting story to tell sometime about this Jasmine.

Carolina Jasmine

The Japanese Magnolias are also putting out buds for new blooms. I think this one is ‘Jane’.

Japanese Magnolia

The Forsythia is also starting to burst into bloom. The shrubs never even completely lost the foliage this year, they’re still covered in red leaves.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Desert Island Plant Challenge

Shirl of Shirl’s Gardenwatch has proposed a challenge for us. If you were on a desert island and you could take three plants what would they be? Food plants are already available.

My first choice is Black Eye Susan because they remind me of my childhood. They grow wild where I’m from and as a child I use to pinch the flower heads off and drop the from an old wooden bridge into the creek. They would spin as they fell like little helicopters.

Wild Blackeye Susan

My second choice is Orange Jasmine. I love the scent and could smell it for hours on end. I’m afraid we may have lost this one to the cold this winter.

Jamine Tree Bloom

Last but not least , I would take my grandmother’s rose. It has survived for generations and every time I see it I think of her. As children we would chase each other around her house and I always managed to snag my arm on this rose. Funny that I should have such fond memories of something that has caused me to shed so much blood.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

15 Tips for a S.A.D. Gardener

Seasonal Affective Disorder is more than just the winter time blues. In a nutshell, the lack of light during the fall and winter causes a decreased production in serotonin, which makes you more likely to be depressed, increases melatonin that makes you want to sleep more and also lowers your body temperature. (Which I now know is the reason my temperature had been 97° the past couple of months.) Research at the Mayo Clinic indicate that both males and females can be affected by this disorder and while females are more likely to have it, men seem to suffer more severly from it. All in all, it just makes you feel like crap. This is the first year I’ve had it in a long time and I’m happy to say I’m feeling much better these days.

I know I’m not the only one that feels this way during these months, so I have a few tips to share with you, that may make you feel better. Some of you have a lot more winter left than I do and maybe you can benefit from what helped me. If you have or are suffering from S.A.D. I highly recommend that you click the link above and read more about it. I guarantee you will learn something you didn’t know.

I think when we are at our lowest; our perception of our environment is completely different from what others around us see. We live in a world where we only see the early darkness and everything is brown and gray. It doesn’t have to be like that, but you have to work at it daily until it passes.


That being the case let’s get started.

1) Get motivated. If the weather will allow it, bundle up and go outside for a little while. If you can’t find a weed to pull or a section of lawn to rake, then just walk around the yard and see if there is something interesting to see. Maybe, you will notice that there is a little more color out there than you originally thought.


2) So it’s too cold outside? Maybe you are like Joy and it is -17° where you are. Bring the outside in. If you didn’t plan ahead, somewhere in your town is a grocery store that has a floral section in it. Buy some live plants! Go to Wal-mart, Lowes, and Home Depot… somewhere you are going to find tiny pots of garden to stick in your house.


3) Make sure your house is well lit. In the daytime, open all the blinds and curtains, let the light in. If you have a lot of cloudy days, then be extra certain to take advantage of the sun when it comes out. In the evening, light every dark corner with some light. Use those lamps you have sitting around, they’re for more than decoration you know. If you are concerned about the electric bill use 25 or 30 watt bulbs. Every place that is visible to you should have light and the rooms you are in most often, lots of it. It may be artificial but at least it’s light. Darkness is a vexation to the spirit.

4) Get up and watch the sunrise. Scout you out a place to see the sun come over the horizon. If you have to get in your car and drive a mile to get there, that’s fine too. You are motivated and out of the house. As the sun starts to peek at you, take time to think about all the things that you are blessed with and give thanks for having them in your life. Live with an attitude of gratitude.


5) During the winter months you aren’t digging, pushing wheel barrows and all that labor you normally do in the garden. You need to exercise, for your health and the endorphins. It makes you feel good; I need to practice what I preach on this one.


6) If you feel really bad, go see your doctor. What are you waiting for? Why be miserable when you don’t have to be. There is no shame in taking medication for a few weeks to help you get thru it. Your quality of life is being diminished and you don’t get those wasted days back, they are gone forever.

7) Stay warm, nobody likes to be cold. Wrapping up in cozy throws when you are reading or watching television gives you that snuggly feeling that everyone loves. We were born from warm cozy places, it’s what we know from gestation and it is one of the first sensations we experience.


8) Eat comfort foods that warm you from the inside out. Remember, your core temperature could be lower than usual and this will help warm you up. Drink hot cocoa with marshmallows and/or drink your favorite herbal tea. Pamper yourself, you deserve it.

9) Fill your home with beautiful shiny things that reflect light and enjoy the rainbows you create.


10) Call old friends; make all those phone calls you couldn’t make when you were busy in the garden this past growing season. I like to fill a tub with hot, hot water and soak in it for 40 or 45 minutes while I chat on the phone. If you are metaphysical in belief toss some salt in there and leach out those negative feelings while you are chatting to someone you care about.


11) Talk to God, whoever you consider him or her to be. Tell him how you are feeling, ask that you learn any lesson that you are suppose to get from the experience and ask for the strength to see it thru. There is a divine intelligence and legions of angels or spirit guides to help you. But, I personally don't believe they interfere with your free will unless you ask for their help.


12) Bake bread, cookies and cakes. Fill your house with scents that remind of you of childhood and the treats that you would soon receive. Whatever you make for yourself, double the recipe to share with a friend or neighbor. It feels good to give and I promise you, it will make their day.


13) Working in nature is a spiritual thing; I don’t care who you are or what your religion may be. When you aren’t gardening your soul is missing the experience, it has been in your blood, since creation. Think about those last two words… Prepare yourself to be more connected when you re-enter your garden in the spring. The Celestine Prophecy has been a favorite book of mine for several years, but I actually enjoyed the movie more. Take a night with a friend and watch it.

14) Get a hobby that involves bright colors, preferably with gardening as the subject matter. It distracts you from your woes and makes you focus on something else. Plus, you get that same sense of pride from the completed project that you feel when you finish that new flower bed. It’s even better if you are learning something new.


15) Last but not least is what I crudely refer to as “garden porn”. Those garden magazines and seed catalogs are a wonderful thing. You can live vicariously thru the photos, all the time planning new spring and summer projects.

Garden Porn

I realize this is a long post and if you are still reading, you are very dedicated or either suffering from S.A.D. yourself. Just remember, you may be unable to control the onset of the disorder, BUT you are in complete control of how you respond to it. Spring will be here before you know it, I have it on very good authority.


What? You are still here? Get off the computer and get motivated!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Look, Ya'll! Look!

After four weeks of patiently waiting, they finally found us! I don’t know what they are... but they found us! They weren’t in our bird book that we have or if they were I couldn’t identify them. Sorry about the fuzzy pictures, I’m going to clean that window today.:-) Yay! I'm tingling with excitement!



This one looks like he’s sulking… Hey buddy, you’ve got a steady supply of food, suck it up and get over it.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm Seeing Red!

Over the past few months Jamie and I have forged an unexpected, but wonderful new friendship with a fellow blogger. Phillip at Dirt Therapy and his partner Michael are two of the most kind and generous souls that have graced my path in a long time. Several weeks ago, Phillip sent Jamie and I an amaryllis potting kit to provide us with some winter color. It’s finally started to open the blooms.


Here in central Alabama we are able to plant amaryllis in the ground and this is the first time we have ever potted one to enjoy the indoor blooms. Had I known that we were going to delight in the process as much as we have, the entire windowsill would be lined with them at this very moment. In fact, we have enjoyed it so much that we are actually actively searching for the perfect table for that window and we intend on filling it with these beauties again next year. Each day we both found ourselves checking to see how much the flower stalks had grown. Amazingly, from the time we left for work in the morning until we got home we would notice growth for the day in the measurement of 1 to 2 inches. That’s pretty amazing if you think about it, I don’t think we would have ever noticed it, had it been growing outside. The flower spikes reached almost 2 feet tall. If you’ve never grown Amaryllis indoors like this, next year at Christmas time when they put them out for sale, I highly recommend that you treat yourself and a friend to the experience. I promise you, it’s a shot of sunshine for your soul!


Sunday, January 11, 2009


Yesterday morning I woke up around 4:30 hearing this voice in my head that said, “Randy, go watch the sunrise.” Well, I usually get up around five and sometimes I sleep to six on the weekend if I’m tired so I just rolled over and went back to sleep. At a little after five o’clock I was ready to get up. Following my regular routine, I stumble to kitchen to feed the fish and then turned around half dazed and walked down the hall to feed the fish in the room I’m in now. In the back of my mind I’m still hearing this little voice saying go watch the sunrise. Well, I glance out the window and it was terribly overcast and I didn’t see how there can possible be any sunrise, but I decided I would go after I have my coffee. Besides, at this point it’s still almost an hour before the sun will be up anyway, and in the past I have driven to my favorite spot and seen some pretty spectacular sunrises. With the way the little voice in my mind was chattering away, surely it is going to be some kind of deeply spiritual experience this morning.

Well, I get there and sunrise time comes and goes, but I see no sun. I look to the sky and I think surely there must be some reason I felt drawn to come. What is it that I am suppose to witness this morning?


Before I know it over an hour has passed and I’m still waiting to have some great revelation. While nothing has happened, I do find myself feeling a greater peace of mind than I have had in quite sometime. I feel almost intoxicated as I stand there looking at everything around me. I could tell I was having one of those moments where you commune with nature and you feel really connected to everything around you. You know what I’m talking about, that exhilarated feeling you get when you realize how wonderful it is to be alive. I get that feeling sometimes in the garden. You know, we were designed by our creator (who ever you choose that to be) to feel that wonderful awareness all the time. We get so caught up in the day to day activities we don’t take enough time to find that in ourselves. Your five senses can absorb all aspects of your environment, but only your soul can feel what I experienced yesterday. That being realized I was ready to return home, even though my precious sun, that I have missed so very much never decided to appear to me. The sky seemed to be getting ever darker and I knew rain couldn’t be far behind.

Golf Course

I was just getting into my truck to leave and I heard that little voice again. This time it seemed to whisper only my name. I glanced back over my shoulder and watched as the heavy dark clouds separated. This is what I saw, the clouds were filled with so much light their edges looked like pure gold. Call me crazy if you want, but somehow I felt that moment was created just for me.


When I got home I had another surprise waiting for me. Look! Something besides a town wren was eating at the feeders. This is not the best picture, but it was taken thru a dirty window from fifty feet away.


The cardinal drew me outside and I while I was there I started piddling in the yard. It’s wasn’t too long before Jamie joined me and we got a lot of things transplanted, removed and cleaned up before the rain came in for the day. All in all, yesterday was a good day.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Is It Possible For Birds To Be Snobbish?

Through out the last couple of months I’ve seen people posting so many pictures of birds. Marnie of Lilacs and Roses has so many wonderful photos, she inspired me to place more feeders with a larger variety of foods. I’ve never used suet cakes before, but I see people using lots of them and I know finches are supposed to like thistle seeds, so off to the local pet store Jamie and I head. The first thing I pick up is a new feeder to fill with thistle seed. I think to myself, oh this is a nice one; I could just use the sock that came with the seed… No this one is much more attractive so I’ll get it. I’ve seen birds sitting on the window ledge before, eating little critters that have gotten trapped in the screen, so I’m thinking if I hang it here surely they will come and we can see them thru the kitchen window.


Shopping around for Suet cakes I made certain to get a nice variety. Blueberry, Peanut butter and some other fruity one were my selections. At first, I hung one from the Jasmine arbor and placed the other two outside the computer room window. Since we spend a lot of time in that room, I thought that would be a good place to put them. Well, a week went by and not a sign of a single peck on the Suet. I figured since I’ve never fed birds in the front yard before they must not like the location. Jamie moved them around to the back yard and placed them by the bird bath. Could you have a more perfect spot? Wash up before dinner and a little water to chase the food down. He even got a nice little shepherd’s hook to hang them on… over two weeks later and still not a single peck on the cakes.


The only feeder that seems to be getting any action is the one on the back side of the garden. It’s filled with wild bird seed and all we ever have there are a dove or two and tons of those little town wrens. I even put one of the suet cages up by these feeders, still no takers. Do you see how much lower the seed is on the left hand side compared to the right? Now look in the neighbor’s yard at the large shrub.


All those little wrens that are eating the seed make a mad dash across the fence line to that one feeder then back to the bush again. The entire process takes about five seconds. If I didn’t know better I would think they are looking down their little beaks at our food. If they are going to eat our food the least they could do is hang around a little while in our yard, that‘s just rude. Our garden was once full of all kinds of birds, I wonder where they all went. After the first week and no birds, I took a little walk thru the neighborhood. I was checking the power lines and looking in bare trees for birds, the entire trip I was only able to spot one mocking bird. It’s as if they are all gone. Anyone have any suggestions?


Saturday, January 3, 2009

We Are Being Visited By a Goddess

Yellow  Iris

Iris was the messenger of the Zeus and Hera. Her father was a god of the sea and her mother was a cloud-nymph. She is also called the goddess of the rainbow because that was the trail she took from Mount Olympus in the heavens down to earth. Iris was created from a combination of sky and water and both are represented in the passageway she travels when a rainbow is seen. In addition to her task delivering messages, she also lead recently departed human women to the afterlife via her beautifully colored pathway. This flower was a personal favorite of the goddess and was planted on the graves of females to help her identify them so they would have a speedy journey to heaven. Hence, the blooms became known as the Iris flower.

It’s no surprise to me to find the un-named yellow iris blooming in the picture above. It blooms every single winter for some reason and never seems to show any blooms during the spring or summer. I find that extremely unusual, but I rarely question why it happens anymore and I just accept the fact that it does and I am grateful for it.

The big surprise this year is ‘Ice Wings’. This iris is ending its second year in our garden and this is the first time it has ever bloomed. When the buds first began to appear they were the most unusual shades of blue, they are reminiscent of the color the interior of the house was once painted and it was called Ice Blue.

Ice Wings2

‘Ice Wings’ is a border Iris and is very short in stature. It’s grown a very nice clump so I think it’s safe to say it spreads quickly which is a plus; even though it was slow to blossom. This particular plant transforms its flower buds from pale blue to white which progresses as the bloom begins to open. It also has a nice green colored throat.

Ice Wings1

I knew we had planted this Iris, but I was certain it was no longer in the garden. The tag for it had been blown from its original location, so there was nothing to identify this clump of foliage. How nice to find out it survived. The next question is, will it on bloom in the winter like the yellow one does or will it provide us with another show of blooms in the spring? Only time will tell.

Ice Wings3

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Look What I Did!

In and effort to help me fight the winter time blues I’ve been trying to think of as many ways as I can to bring my love for gardening indoors. I’ve tried to do house plants, and we do have some, but for some reason I can NEVER remember to water them. If it weren’t for the vigilant efforts of Jamie they would all surely perish. You would think that seeing them every day I would have no problem remembering to give them a drink. I do good to remember to (I started to say water the fish, the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet) feed the fish. At any rate, I’ve been searching and thinking of things to do.

Well, Christmas came along. I’m sure you have all experienced the same dilemma, there never seems to be enough money to buy everyone a gift that you would like to buy for. If you buy for your sister Suzie, you have to buy for your sisters Elsie, Paulette and Daisy Mae, and what about their husbands? If you come from a broken family, you may have eight sets of grandparents if your parentals have remarried. It’s the same with work; it’s a never ending cycle of if I get this one I have to get that one. So I started thinking if I had a craft I could make gifts for them all through the year and it would be much better than a store bought one anyway. So I set out to decide what to learn.

I thought, well if I’m going to do this it will have to be something that involves bright colors and I should be able to incorporate my love for our garden in with it. The first thing that popped into my mind was the tattered old flour sack pillow cases that my mother has tucked away in a drawer somewhere. The older ones of you that are reading this probably know what I’m talking about. A large portion of my mother’s dresses were made from flour sacks when she was a little girl. Somewhere in the house are two of the prettiest bags you have ever seen. One has a yellow rose border on it and the other has red roses on it. We used them as pillow cases when I was a child. So I decided, that’s what I can do, I can embroider pillow cases, towels and what have you as gifts for Christmas. Who wouldn’t love that? I use to be amazed at the hand stitched designs on those old pillow cases. No one does that anymore.

Well, I don’t have a clue how to embroider or cross stitch. I’ve never done anything like that in my life. Off to Wal-mart I go to find me a book, thread and stuff. It turns out they have little kits there to teach you how to do those and other things. AND, they have looottttttssss of garden themed stuff! Perfect! Well here is my first little project.


Last night, right after the stroke of midnight I completed my first cross stitched garden scene. I’m so excited. I know it’s a simple thing to do, but I’ve never done it before so I am very, very proud of myself. The next one I do will be a very difficult one that is 16 by 14 inches. I will probably be working on it forever, but I really enjoy the bright colors and bringing the garden to my lap. Before I start that big cross stitch project, I’m going to do a little embroidery kit that I bought the same night. For the remainder of the winter and on those summer months it will be too hot outside, I will be working on next year’s Christmas gifts!


The only thing I don’t like about the little project above is the humming birds have X’s for eyes like little cartoon characters that have been knocked unconscious. Jamie says we are going to frame it since it is my first one. :-) Okay, I have to go prepare a New Years Day lunch for a few guests. I’ll post the embroidery project when I start on it, if that is something you all would like to see. I hope everyone has a wonderful day.