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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Monarchs - The Next Generation and a Bird Rescue

I had been looking forward to getting out in the garden and tidying up the milkweed.  It's looking scraggly and it's covered in aphids and other unidentified blobs.

I thought I was all done with caterpillars now and could trim off the yucky bits and have time for some new growth and blooms in time for the fall migration.

Shows you what I know.

Earlier in the week, when I was putting out birdseed, I noticed a tiny little caterpillar, not even half an inch long.  As I looked around, I noticed more of them.  I couldn't get photos at the time because it was early morning and the light was bad.

But I was able to get some photos today.  They've doubled in size already and are looking quite healthy.  They don't seem at all worried by the amount of "crud" all over the leaves they are steadily munching on. 

The earlier caterpillars were all in the front garden, but these are in the back.  We may have more out front, I didn't check yet.

This particular milkweed (below) is a different variety to most of the others in the garden.  It has yellow flowers when it's blooming, while the others all have red/orange flowers.   Can you see how many caterpillars there are on this one plant?

I circled some, but I may have missed some.

I have a HERD of caterpillars grazing in my back yard! 


Remember my recent post, Serendipity?  Well yesterday evening, Serendipity struck again.  While I was refilling the bird baths in the back corner of the garden, I kept hearing fluttering behind the Savannah holly.  It sounded like there was an injured bird back there.

I squeezed in as far as I could and didn't see anything, so I went back to filling up the bird baths.  Then I heard it again.  Definitely an injured bird, I thought.

I so squeezed in there again and, ignoring the prickly holly, moved some branches out of the way and suddenly I saw what was making the noise.  A bird was stuck!

At first I thought it was stuck in the cleft of two branches. But then I realized there was a little metal plant stand back there I'd forgotten about and the bird  had apparently got caught in the leg of the stand where it narrowed. 

Without thinking, I slipped my hand underneath the bird and lifted gently till I was able to cup it in my hands and carry it to safety.

It was a juvenile female cardinal, her beak not yet turned orange. I don't know why I happened to be wearing my gardening gloves to fill the bird baths but I'm glad I was because this frightened young lady showed her gratitude by chomping down on my thumb and forefinger. The gloves saved me from some painful bites!

I was concerned she might have injured a wing and was considering my options as she settled down and just sat in my hands while I talked to her.  My husband came out to see her too and would have got the camera for a photo but just at that moment, she decided it was time to move on.

She started fluttering in my hands and I didn't want to hurt her by holding on too tight, so I opened my hands and she took off and flew to the Vitex tree.  At the same moment, an adult female flew in from the left and joined her in the Vitex -- obviously a worried Mom.

The little one sat in the Vitex for a few minutes, preening her feathers and then they both took off and headed to the hedgerow in the fields behind our house.

I'm so glad that, once again, I had been in the right place at the right time. 

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

An Unexpected Gem - Minack Theatre, Cornwall

On our recent trip to England to visit my family, my husband and I also took the train down to the "West Country" to visit two friends I have known since childhood and with whom I have kept in touch over the years.

One of them now lives near Penzance in Cornwall, and as she was showing us around the area she loves so much now, she took us to Minack Theatre near Porthcurno, Cornwall.

As she drove us on the winding country roads through villages and farmland, my friend explained that Minack Theatre is a world famous outdoor theatre, built right into the side of the cliffs.  

Audiences watch daytime performances with a beautiful backdrop of the sea and nighttime performances under a canopy of stars in the night sky.  

It's literally a Theater Under the Stars.

What she didn't mention was that it is also very well known for its sub-tropical gardens. As you walk from the car park down to the theatre, you walk through the most incredible rock garden, right on the side of the cliffs, filled with a stunning array of succulents and other sub-tropicals.

I wouldn't have thought they would do well on the southern coast of England, but they were definitely thriving.

There were quite a few people visiting and just strolling around the gardens. They probably get just as many people coming to see the gardens as they do to see performances.

Lots of the plants were labelled, such as the Euphorbia resinifera in the photo above.  

But many weren't and I have no idea what this lovely white flower with deep red marks in the center is -- can anyone help? The bloom is reminiscent of my Rose of Sharon, but the actual plant was completely different.

This beautful pink flower with dark centers and veining is another one I don't know.  It had a low creeping habit and certainly seemed to like its spot there.

If you plan to visit Minack Theatre (and I recommend it if you are ever in that area of the country), you do need to be fairly mobile.  

After you've spent a pleasant afternoon strolling down through the gardens to the theatre, and possibly even acted goofy on the stage for the benefit of the webcams that operate during the day, don't forget you have to go back UP again!!

That's a LOT of stairs!!

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Garden Craft Projects

Early last summer I posted about how Eric and I had snuck in to the vacant lot next door to us and lopped some saplings so we could use the wood in craft projects and, in essence, keep the spirit of the little thicket even though the thicket itself would be gone.

I never got around to showing you what we had done with some of the wood, so I thought I'd share a couple of photos with you.

Remember the old grill that we repurposed to a planter last summer?  Well I thought it might be nice to add a trellis of some sort to it.  So I used some of the saplings to build a rustic trellis.

At first, we had the planter by the dining room, but the plants in it really suffered when the sun came round to that side of the house.  So I moved it back against the bedroom window, where it gets more shade, so the plants aren't getting cooked every afternoon.  I think they like it much better.

The other little project completed so far is this macrame owl.  I was big into macrame back in the 70's and when we went back to England on vacation in May, I noticed mum still had the little brown owl towel holder I had made her.  

I also remembered a larger owl I had made that she used to have hanging outside.  I decided I had to make one of those for our patio.

Here he is.  The two branches are cut from one of the saplings from the thicket next door and he came out exactly the way I hoped he would.  Pretty good since I was going from a 40 yr old memory and didn't have a pattern! He's hanging over the outside light on the patio, out of the rain.

We've got plenty of wood left and my husband plans to make a platform bird feeder for me, similar to one my dad has in his garden. 

He hasn't given me a project completion date yet.... 

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Garden in July

While June was an exciting month, with all the Monarch caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly action going on, I'm rather disappointed with the garden in July.

Looking back through photos from this time last year, it does seem I had more blooming in the garden then, in spite of the drought.

This year, the Vitex already bloomed and is now a mass of seedpods that need trimming off.  Trouble is, since the tree is about 18 feet tall now, I can't get to most of it.  It will have to do it's own thing and hopefully bloom again later in the year.

I've been worrying about the Rose of Sharon, that was star of the garden last summer.  The one that bloomed so prolifically last year has put out about two blooms so far.  However, when I took a peek at it yesterday, I noticed it has a lot of buds on it, so hopefully we'll see some flowers soon and out little hummingbird visitor will have some natural nectar to drink.

There *are* some things blooming in the garden - you just have to look for them.

This Cat's Whiskers plant, Orthosiphon aristatus, is a new addition. I planted it in the island bed this spring and it seems to like it there.

I adore the blooms, which really do look like cat's whiskers (and I should know!) Apparently butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted to it, but I haven't noticed much activity on it yet.

We have three crepe myrtles - two in the back garden and one in the front.  The two in the back are in full bloom with (thankfully) no evidence of that sooty mildew that young crepe myrtles are plagued by.  The one in the front, that the builder put in, looks pathetic and I'm considering ripping it out in the fall and planting another.

The veggie garden is doing okay.  This basil smells wonderful and is covered in blooms.  The tomato plants have given us quite a few cherry tomatoes and we've had a few tiny carrots as well.

We had thought the pepper plant wasn't doing anything, but finally it's getting some buds.  The cucumbers had us puzzled for a while.  They had lots of blooms but no fruit.  We assumed we weren't getting any pollinators for some reason and determined to help them along by pollinating ourselves.  That's when we noticed there are actually very few female flowers on them.  Hmmmm.

Once again this year, the "Midnight Lace" sweet potato vine is blooming. I've never seen blooms on the light green variety though.

Another plant covered in buds is the white Texas Star Hibiscus (no action on the red one yet).

The bud was opening yesterday and when I looked out after this morning's rain storm, I saw it was fully open. It got beaten around a bit by the wind and the rain, but I think it still looks beautiful.

Before I go, I thought I'd share a couple more Monarch photos with you.  The first one, I didn't even realize what I was taking a photo of last week.  It wasn't until I downloaded the pics to my computer today that I realized I had photographed a Monarch butterfly emerging from its chrysalis.

We counted 8 hatched chrysalises around the house.  There's one more still to come, on the fence in the back garden.

Here's one of "our girls", resting on the front window sill before taking off to parts unknown.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.