Saturday, December 08, 2007

Yeah, I've been sick...

...for three weeks. But now I feel better. And I'm way behind on getting ready for Christmas. I hurried to put out this gardening Santa I found at a garage sale last summer. Besides holding a topiary tree (not something I'd carry around) he's also got a wicker watering can, a shovel and ....what's that...a hoe! This gardening Santa was obviously meant for May Dreams Gardens but since I don't live next door to her to pass it on, he'll have to decorate my table.
Before I got sick I put up a few lights on the back patio, and while I was at it, I decided to tie up my Skyrocket juniper so the winter snows won't break the branches down. What better way to tie it up than with a string of twinkle lights? Protection and decoration all in one.

It snowed a little bit. The squirrels were busy scavenging on the ground below the feeders.
Oh-oh, let's get out of here, the big guys are coming!
Only a flock of magpies would make the squirrels scatter. They are pretty big birds.

The magpies, like the bluejays, pick up and "weigh" each peanut to see if they're getting the heaviest one with the most nutmeat inside. Picky, picky, especially since they'll end up eating everyone of them.

I couldn't get more than a few magpies in one picture. But there are about twelve of them that strut around the yard looking for peanuts I've flung out in the grass. Oh, look at all the leaves that have come down since I did fall clean-up. Those will be there till spring.

The bluejay doesn't usually take a back seat to any other bird, but this one is biding his time and waiting for leftovers.
Meanwhile, my neighbors wanted to know if they could decorate the Blue Spruce in my front yard. They have one too, but it's too tall and they'd have trouble stringing the lights unless they had a bucket truck, which they don't.

Looks nice, huh? But every time they turn it on, it trips a breaker and all their lights go out. I guess you shouldn't string 15 sets of lights together without expecting that.

The color of the sky rivaled the lights on the tree. What a dramatic sunset.
Now I'd better go decorate my own Christmas tree.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A day late and a bloom short

Actually, I'm more than a day late - since I've never participated in Garden Blogger's Bloom Day before. In the summer, I'm just too busy sitting on the porch looking at the garden to run around cataloging everything in flower. And I catalog at work all day anyway. I content myself with looking at all the other bloggers' blooms. So I figured November would be a piece of cake - the only blooms I have are dessicated. Like this poor Siskiyou Pink guara hanging its head in the grass, with only a few stray leaves to keep it company.

But wait, here's something that still has a breath of life in it - Homestead Purple verbena.
And a couple of miniature white roses, flanked by their dead cousins.
This is all too morbid, let's check inside the house and see how the carry-over plants are doing. This fern and a few others of its kind live on the patio in the summer, providing a lush background for the Pink Flamingo. This one has to move soon, it's in the Christmas tree spot.
I'm not keen on variegated leaves but I bought this Calathea because the undersides of the leaves match a pot I own. This is the only sunny window in my house and in the morning this plant reminds me of the view inside a kaleidoscope. I liked it better outside and I think the plant did too.

I predict this fern won't make it through the winter. I'm getting really tired of picking up dead, dry leaflets off the carpet.

The bamboo is looking none too happy. I don't know what's the matter with it. Probably a lack of humidity like all the other plants I brought indoors for the winter.
And this behemoth in the kitchen skylight is really annoying me. There's one like this hanging over the basement stairwell too. Do you know how hard these are to water? I need a solarium, or a greenhouse. A conservatory would be lovely. Heck, I'd settle for a big bay window. I need to get lucky and win the lottery.
Speaking of luck, it's run out for this gardenia. Remember I paid $1.00 for it at a garage sale? It had two blooms and I certainly got my dollar's worth out of smelling them. I brought it into the house before the first snow and it proceeded to get spider mites. It's back outside. The weatherman says the second snow is coming for Thanksgiving. This gardenia is history, just like the turkey will be on Friday.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veteran's Day

A veteran ancestor from Civil War times...

....and a grandchild whom I hope grows up in peacetime.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Piece of cake

Most of my leaves have fallen. There was a cold front that moved through with some fierce winds a few days ago that sent Mother Nature's tattered leaves swirling down. Today was sunny and warm; a good day to attach the mulcher to the mower and hit the back yard. Here's before -

And after.

I love those crispy leaves, but they can't stay - at least not in their present state.

Shredded by the mulcher, they'll decompose slowly into my grass.

This tree is my top shedder. Lots of leaves...

Gone. Shredded. While some of my neighbors raked and used their blowers and piled up the black leaf bags on the curb, this took me the same amount of time that I normally spend mowing the grass, and I get to reap the bounty of mulched leaves enriching my lawn. I was back in the house watching reruns of Project Runway in no time.

This look will never hit Project Runway, but as promised, here is the ghost of Mary Queen of Scots. Fortunately, she and her head were reunited after death. Note my nametag which I wear everyday at work. It normally says Mary so I just had to add Queen of Scots and no one asked me who I was supposed to be. Handy.

Looking rather serious, but you would be too if you were a ghost. Though you can see she was reunited not only with her head but with her little dog who was in the folds of her skirt as she was beheaded. There was a bit of splashback on her poor Skye Terrier (err, 20-year-old Pound Puppy I found in the basement).

Here's what I got for my trouble. It is a lot of bother being beheaded.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Confessions from Halloween

Remember the fire in the backyard at Sweet Son and Darling Daughter-in-Law's house? The grandchildren were afraid of the burned-out parts of the yard until their mom spruced up the remains of the juniper bush for Halloween. Cool, huh?
Now, on to my confessions. What is it about people who toil in offices that makes them dress up like kids on Halloween and go to work? It's a tradition at my home away from home. One year I was a lion tamer, and not a very good one, as evidenced by the bloody scratches on my face. When you pressed a spot on their paws, the lion and tiger growled and their eyes glowed green. These scared the grandchildren.
Another time, I went as Sacajawea. Bird Woman, get it? I carried that damned bird around all day.
It was more fun being a cowgirl. My stick horse whinnied and moved his head up and down to the theme for The Lone Ranger. Never thought I'd get sick of hearing the William Tell Overture.
The Gypsy fortune-teller did a lot of business another year. My "crystal ball", when rapped smartly, made eerie noises, glowed, and gave answers to questions.
My farm wife costume featured a clucking chicken in a basket. When set on the floor, and a button was pressed, she made agonizing clucking sounds, and laid eggs. The grandchildren love this toy. Oh, I had my gardening clogs on.
I found a Chinese coolie hat at a garage sale so I had to play the part. The hat was really hard to keep on my head, and it kept landing on my computer keyboard.
Last year I was just about out of ideas so I came as a tourist just off the plane in Hawaii. I actually own those glasses and use them occasionally. I told you these were confessions.
And what's on for this year? It has something to do with a Mary Queen of Scots costume, a small stuffed dog, and some fake blood. Remember, she was beheaded. I may not post a picture of that one or visit the grandchildren on my way home. Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Average first snow date...

...was two days ago. I haven't really been holding my breath. But waking up this morning I could exhale, and then go turn the furnace on.

I think the contrast of the white snow makes my recalcitrant Amur maple leaves look a little redder than they really are, dont' you think?
Trick or treat? I'll say "treat" - it's moisture anyway you look at it.

Last spring I planted a Skyrocket Juniper in a big pot at the edge of the terrace. Yesterday as I was doing some preparation for winter I was trying to decide whether I should wind some twine around its branches to maintain its shape. Thanks to this snow, I find the answer is yes. I want it to look like a skryrocket, not a snowy starburst. I think I'll wind some white twinkle lights around it. That will still keep the branches pointing skyward, and I'll have a leg up on Christmas decorating!
I spent part of the day putting garden ornaments into the garage out of winter's way but a bunch of ornaments junk stays out all year on the somewhat sheltered table and shelf on the back porch. But look closer.... These two House finches found it somewhat sheltered also.
In typical Colorado fashion, the sun soon came out and the birds hit the feeders again.
Joined by their buddy, the Red-shafted flicker. A handsome fellow, and happy for some suet.
Happy October, or as we are calling it here, "Rocktober". In honor of the Colorado Rockies baseball team, heading for the World Series. It will soon be Snovember.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Flame in fall

What gorgeous fall color. This is a Flame Amur maple and I bought one two years ago for my front yard. But mine doesn't look like this.
No, it looks like this. Does that look like "Flame" to you? Where's the bright red leaves? This is the second autumn I've eagerly awaited a fiery display of crimson, only to have my hopes dashed.
I even planted a Burning bush near it a few weeks ago to give it some encouragement. I found a specimen with a bright red leaf on it at the nursery. That should help, right?
Umm, no. The one red leaf fell off immediately and now there's only a handful of sort-of-reddish leaves. The Flame maple couldn't care less what its neighbor is doing.
It taunts me. A few russet-colored leaves is the extent of my fall brilliance. I've asked everyone what the problem could be. I'm told it takes warm, sunny but dry days and cool but not freezing nights to bring out the color. We've had that kind of weather all fall. It seems the real problem is that not all Flame Maples are created equal. I have an underperformer. The lesson is to buy the tree in the autumn when you can see what color the leaves have turned. Well, no one told me that while I was buying my tree in late spring.
I'll just turn my gaze to the backyard which doesn't pretend to have any red leaves, just lots of on-the-ground leaves. I'll get to them in a couple of weeks. Besides, I like to see leaves swirling around. What's more evocative of the season? (Besides red maple trees). After Halloween I'll get serious about raking them all up.
Some real flames in fall were an unwelcome surprise at Darling Daughter-in-Law and My Sweet Son's house a couple of miles away. The electrical transformer on the power pole blew out and threw sparks all over. Which quickly ignited the backyard. Juniper bushes are not only highly flammable but threw flames high enough to scorch the top of a 40-foot tree in the next-door neighbor's yard.
This was a 6-foot privacy fence. The firemen stopped the flames just short of the house.
Darling Daughter-in-Law surveys the damage and decides that, except for the immediate terror of getting my Five Adorable Grandchildren to safety, this was a fairly efficient way to clear the back half of their property for a vegetable garden. Only a mother of one-year-old twins, a three-year-old, a five-year-old, and a six-year-old could react with such equanimity.

So much for flames in fall. Give me only red trees without the flames...please.