Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sunny This and That

Yeah baby, I know you're just lusting after my new dirt right now, aren't you? Funny what a smidgen of sunny weather will do to a gal.

I've had the outline for two new beds down all winter. But it's been too darn wet to do any digging. Finally after several days in a row of no rain, the soil in this bed was ready for sod removal (the other bed is in the back where the neighbors' yards drain through, so it won't be ready for a while). This seemed like a relatively small bed being just 4' x 24' but when it came to digging, I pooped out quicker than I expected. Fortunately my hubby was nice enough to help me finish the job. Then I splurged on some lovely soil in order to be sure the bed was well drained. I plan to move some plants from the back here and have purchased some others online. It'll be a sunny flower and ornamental grass bed. I have high hopes!

Anole sunning on rocks

Last weekend was mild and sunny which brought out all the animals, including me. This anole was in his element.

American Goldfinches

The goldfinches have been swarming the feeders. Although this photo makes them look mild mannered it's been a veritable free-for-all. And it's not just the goldfinches (of which we could have 20 to 40 at any one time). The woodpeckers (downy and red bellied), cardinals, white breasted nuthatch, and house finches are helping to create the melee. Those of you who have goldfinches at your feeders in the spring and summer may note that these little guys are not very yellow. Of course that's typical since they're not ready for breeding just yet but I do wish the bird websites would include some of these types of photos for those of us down south. Just when the males start turning their stunning yellow color, they fly north.

I'm forcing some more branches indoors. A couple weeks ago a very large branch from my neighbor's Bradford Pear broke off. So I took clippers in hand and clipped a few smaller branches. They're finally starting to bloom, probably two weeks before the trees outside start. I recently read that instead of hammering the ends of the branches to help them take up water, you should just cut a slit or two into the end. Good to know.

We've got some cold but sunny weather in the forecast so my blogging and reading of blogs may be curtailed. You know how it goes for gardeners!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Bloom or Two for GBBD

Flowering Quince

It's truly slim pickins here on this Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. I'm assuming that might be the case around the country as well, what with the weird weather everyone's been having (unless you live in Vancouver, maybe you have some blooms up there??). A couple weeks ago I posted a photo of some branches of Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles sp.) that I was forcing indoors (seen here). The blooms indoors are much lighter than what you see outdoors, as evidenced above.

Flowering Quince Bush

Many people commented that they wanted to try growing one of these at home so I wanted to show you all what the bush looks like. It's really fairly non-descript, much more so when it's just leaves and no blooms. I wish the bush would bloom all at once but you can see above that it doesn't. Mine has never developed fruit although I hear you can create a nice jelly from it. As the branches on the bush mature, they develop some nice one inch long thorns. Not much fun when you're trying to remove the privet that grows up amongst its branches in my case! The good thing about it is that it's fairly drought tolerant, grows in just about any soil, and blooms for a couple of weeks. The bad thing? It's just not that pretty when not in bloom and there's those nasty thorns.

Prostrate or Creeping Rosemary

The only other plants blooming in the garden are the rosemary's. Back in January they were blooming as well but the hard freezes put an end to that. Now it's up and at 'em again. I have two kinds, the prostrate or creeping rosemary seen above, and the upright kind seen below.

Upright Rosemary

Hopefully you can see the subtle differences in the two blooms. I haven't seen the bees yet. Probably too cold for them.

Agave filifera

I had to sneak one last snow photo in. The snow from last week is long gone but it was a thrill while it lasted.

Be sure to visit Carol's blog to see links to more of what's in bloom around the world!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Snow, Southern Style

View from back door this morning

Last year at this time I had camellias blooming, daffodils poking their heads out of the ground, and pansies and alyssum blooming away in pots. This year is a different story. January's hard freezes have stifled the blooms. And now the great snow of the South has arrived, bringing us probably close to 4 inches of the white stuff. Not much by some standards but huge for us. It even caused the university to close a day early for the Mardi Gras break. Who'da thunk Mardi Gras would be preceded by a snow storm? (And the Saints to win the Super Bowl? Some here in Louisiana are saying h*ll has frozen over!)

Back yard square beds - can you find them?

So far the snow has actually been delightful. Except for one thing...

Collapsing pop-up greenhouse

The type of greenhouse I have is portable, easy to pop-up, and apparently easy to collapse under snow. Definitely not recommended if you live in an area where it snows regularly.

Female cardinal on rock

I've already done one bird count for the day. The birds have swarmed the feeders. I hope you can see the little cardinal above.

Snow burdened climbing rose bush

The snow made many things look different. I love how the climbing rose bush looks.

I think the neatest snow covered objects were the trees. It was a true winter wonderland. But the sun is out now and soon this will all be like a dream. Onward through the snow.
This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Get Ready for the Great Backyard Bird Count

Eastern Bluebird

The Great Backyard Bird Count is coming! This coming Friday through Monday, February 12 through 15, the 2010 backyard bird count will occur. If you've never joined in this fun activity, you really should. It takes as little as 15 minutes of your time or you can count as long as you want. All you have to do is set aside 15 minute chunk(s) of time and count what type of birds you see at your feeder, your park, your farm, your favorite nursery, wherever you want. The website (click the link in the 1st sentence) has info to help you identify the birds, track the birds, see what others are reporting, etc. Why is this activity so important? Well here's some info from the website that explains it.

"Your counts can help us answer many questions:
  • How will this winter's snow and cold temperatures influence bird populations?
  • Where are winter finches and other “irruptive” species that appear in large numbers during some years but not others?
  • How will the timing of birds’ migrations compare with past years?
  • How are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?
  • What kinds of differences in bird diversity are apparent in cities versus suburban, rural, and natural areas?
  • Are any birds undergoing worrisome declines that point to the need for conservation attention?"

One male and two female Eastern Bluebirds, I think

I've been very excited this week to see some Eastern Bluebirds scoping out my new bluebird nest box (these photos were taken from my second story window). This is the first time I've provided one and it looks like they're right on time. I don't know if they'll ultimately choose this box or not but I feel great that they're even considering it. So what I want to know is if the male bluebirds deliberately court more than one female at a time. It looks like the two birds on the racoon protector are females. I guess it doesn't hurt to cover all the bases!

I hope you join me this weekend as I report on the bird happenings in my backyard.

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Forced Flowering Quince

This long, dreary and very cold winter has me looking for tiny signs of spring. A couple weeks back I pruned the Flowering Quince and brought some of the trimmings inside. Here it is blooming in my dining room only with much lighter blooms than what it's doing outside.

Inland Sea Oats

The Inland Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) is starting to pop up causing me to dither about whether or not to cut the old stems off. Are there more hard freezes in the offing? Well even if there are, it's growing now so it probably won't hurt to cut them off. I'll do that this weekend.

New growth on chives

After the "Artic Blast" of early January the autumn transplanted chives looked horrible. Although I was tempted to leave them as is because of future freeze risks, I just couldn't stand the look of them wallowing in their sad bedraggled state. So I cut them back and now the dark green of new growth is poking through. Any light freezes to come will be okay (they've already gone through a few).

Cardinals and one Junco keeping the lawn free of leaves and seeds

There has been tons of activity at the bird feeders. Sadly we had only a quick fly-through by the American Goldfinches. In "normal" years they arrive at our feeders in early January and stick around until about mid-March. This year I had a quick siting of them last week, about 10 of them, and then they were gone.

White Breasted Nuthatch

I took this photo through my kitchen window of this White Breasted Nuthatch on the tree because he was just frozen there (not literally). All the birds had disappeared momentarily but this guy hung on completely motionless. I didn't spot any nearby hawks so I'm not sure what was going on. Which reminds me, don't forget about The Great Backyard Bird Count going on February 12-15. Click on the link on the right of my page for more information on how to participate. I hope to add this little nuthatch to my count this year for the first time. And for the first time, no goldfinches!

New firewood - willow oak logs

In contrast to the poor folks in Texas, Oklahoma, and elsewhere who have been pruning ice-damaged trees from last week's ice storm, we finally had the tree trimmers out to do a little rejuvenation on some of our older trees. First order of business was trimming some of the lower branches from our Willow Oak (Quercus phellos). This will allow more light to a crape myrtle as well as some beds. Below is the newly pruned oak and the crape myrtle to the left.

Willow Oak, Quercus phellos

We also wanted to lighten the load on our old and potentially dying pecan tree.

Pecan tree on left, red oak on right

We've lived in this house for five years now and have been babying the pecan tree for almost that long. It was never in good shape but it provides some great shade in that part of the yard. So a few years ago we had a red oak planted about 10 feet in front of it in hopes that it would take over shade duty when the time comes to remove the pecan. In the meantime we keep removing limbs in the pecan to lighten its load and prevent it from keeling over.

Red Oak, possibly a Shumard (Quercus shumardii)

Here's the lower part of the red oak. It's grown very tall in a few short years! I have such high hopes for it that I think this may be the pecan's last year. I better plan accordingly for the back "shade" garden!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.