Thursday, December 30, 2010

Project: Vision Board

What exactly is a vision board? Supposedly it is an affirmation of your vision or dream, goals, future. It is a means to activate the laws of attraction and help your vision become a reality. I thought this would be a nice project for the new year. A resolution in vision board form. I read (and do apologize but I can't remember where exactly) that you should hang your vision (or dream) board in a place where you will look at it every day (affirmation) for one whole year. I have hung mine in my "office/studio," directly above my desk.

I began by taking a stack of old magazines (of which I have many - another good thing for the new year - purge the old magazines!), and cutting out pictures of things I wish to be mainstream in my life. You can also do this, or draw your own, or include real photos.

My focus is of course, on my garden. My garden is a constant source of joy for me. I want my garden to be a backyard retreat for me and wildlife. My dream would be to somehow make my means of living and my passion for gardening one in the same. Another goal of mine is to learn more about herbs and their medicinal properties. I would love to grow, store, and use my herbs for consumption and other remedies – herbal concoctions. I also love to cook and entertain, and would love to be better at it, using my garden as the main ingredient and the setting. And last but not least, I really enjoy painting and would love to have a mature garden as a constant source of inspiration. If I could make some of my living by painting, that would be a dream come true, too. So, these are the things I concentrated on in making my vision board.

What would you focus on? If not a vision board, why not a vision of your garden? You could create the garden of your dreams. In the process of creating a vision board, you may encounter a few surprises about yourself or your garden, and that is another purpose of this project!

I used simple poster board as a backing that you can purchase in any arts and crafts store such as Michael's or Hobby Lobby (in the USA), etc. I glued the pictures on it using Elmer's All Purpose Glue Stick. I used two sheets of poster board because I have a BIG vision. These I taped together with packing tape. My theme developed with the picture of a tree trunk. I thought I would place this in the center and have "branches" of all the things I wish to have unfold and develop in my life.

I've included some inspirational quotes, images that inspire, words that offer encouragement. Truth is I made this vision board extra large so I couldn't possibly ignore it!

I  hope you will try this project – whether you focus on your dreams and goals, or just on your garden. It is easy and fun. It is also inspiring and surprising.

Happy New Year to you! I hope that it brings you something new, something old, health, joy.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Going Native: Holly By Golly

I confess I don't actually have this plant growing in my garden yet, but I will be ordering it for spring delivery. Aside from decking halls, holly is a valuable plant for wildlife. Where I live, hollies associated with the traditional decor of Christmas are not quite hardy. They are also usually European in origin. But the Common Winterberry is native, and it is a holly though it will lose its leaves. In fact its leaves don't resemble the usual toothy shape of holly leaves at all, but the berries, oh the berries, DO - they appear in bright sprays of red come winter.

Photo by Stefan Bloodworth
And the berries are what the birds relish. Robins tend to stay the winter here and would much appreciate dining on some winterberry. Other birds known to eat winterberry include: Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher, Cardinal, Cedar Waxwing, Chickadee, Northern Flicker, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Song Sparrow, and Wood Thrush. There are over 40 species of bird known to eat its berries. These shrubs also provide cover and nesting sites.

Common Winterberry (also called Black Alder) is the host plant for Henry's Elfin Butterfly.

My holiday decor has inspired me to write about holly. My decor tends to reflect the magic of the Northern woods. It has confirmed yet again my decision to include Winterberry in my new woodland edge border.

The spot I have in mind will receive unobstructed Southern exposure but will eventually have a canopy of mature Serviceberry and Dogwood trees. The soil tends to stay moist. I will most likely end up planting a cultivar such as ILEX verticillata Oosterwijk. The native Common Winterberry is often not sold sexed. Female Winterberry requires a male to produce berries. There is also a gold colored berry cultivar available, ILEX verticillata Winter Gold. Wouldn't it be nice to have both colors? I am pretty certain there is not a nearby male for pollination. So if I buy three plant cultivars, I can be certain to have two females and one male for pollinating. If I had more space, I believe I would buy five plants of the Common Winterberry to ensure that I would receive both sexes.

Photos above belong to Bluestone Perrenials but were slightly edited.
So, there is yet another dilemma to going native ... true native species, or cultivar? Just how native are you? I believe these cultivars will still offer wildlife value, so in my garden they go.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Flaming Black Stripe

3 oz dark rum
2 tsp molasses
4 oz boiling water
lemon twist
cinnamon stick
ground nutmeg

Dissolve molasses in your favorite mug with a bit of boiling water. Add the stick of cinnamon and lemon twist, then fill 'er up not quite to the top (leave room for rum!) with boiling water. Pour on the rum letting it float on top. Here's the fun part – ignite the rum, let it burn for a few seconds and then give it a stir to put out the flame. Add a dash of nutmeg and enjoy! (Single serving.)

This year's Christmas card brought to you bloggers. Merry Christmas to you and all, and here's to the new year! Hope you enjoy.

The mug featured in this painting was handmade by John Arnot, St. Lawrence Pottery.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What's (Not) Growing

Well, this picture sums it up I think. I just read somewhere that by leaving your beans (legumes) to over winter, more nitrogen will be added to the soil. Too bad I didn't read that before I dug mine up. Marigolds and cilantro are over wintering, however, as I didn't get quite that far in my clean up. But I kept eating the cilantro right up until the first snow. Garlic is tucked in the third raised bed to the far left. A few parsnips are buried in the one far right. A few carrots, behind that. My chickens are doing really well despite the snow cover. This past season's worn out gloves wave hello. Someone thought it would be fun to dig one up as a Halloween trick but I wasn't scared.

Would you be?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

In Search of Blooms

With temperatures dipping to 5° F this week, I know there is nothing blooming outside. I didn't even purchase a poinsettia this year. I had to scrounge for a few measly blooms and even then I'm a day late for participating in gardener bloggers' bloom day hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens the 15th of each month. It's a challenge to participate this time of year for some of us!

This shamrock is already thinking spring. Good little shamrock!
This Christmas cactus is really a Thanksgiving cactus and these blooms have already faded.
Sad, very sad. I do like this one because the blooms are almost white.
I don't know what the name of this plant is and I can't seem to get a good shot of the
little pom pom-like blooms, but I'm desperate here.
I don't know the name of this plant either (in the same pot as the one above), but it has
been blooming for several months. I had it outside during the summer (ah, summer).
I transplanted most of my violets just recently and some are not too happy, but this one is.
Her blooms are edged in purple ruffles.
So, there you have it – dark, somber pictures in a winter mood. Let's hope some of my orchids decide to bloom for next month!

Monday, December 13, 2010

December's Featured Bee

Last but not least, for the month of December the 2010 North American Native Bee Calendar features the Cuckoo Bee, genus Nomada.

Cuckoo Bees emerge in spring and early summer. Bees of this species are cleptoparasites – meaning they lay their eggs in the nests of other bees. Their offspring will then feed off the provisions that were stored and provided for their hosts. Females will hunt for, and detect the specific scent of, ground nesting Andrena species. Because females do not have to forage for their own young, they lack specialized hairs for carrying pollen and are most likely seen flying along the ground hunting for potential host nests.

Cuckoo bees are small bees with a thick cuticle to withstand attack from their hosts. They often have wasp-like features and coloring. Newly hatched larvae have specially shaped jaws for destroying their hosts.

To view images of Cuckoo Bees, click here. (Control or apple click to open the images in a new tab or window).

Favorite nectar sources of Cuckoo Bees include erigeron (fleabane) and grindelia (gumweed).

There you have it – a year's worth of native North American bees. Hope you enjoyed.

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's That Time of Year

... and my window boxes are decked out once again. Once again, I took a trip to our local dump for free greens. This year I have quite a combination with some cedar and blue spruce. I even lucked out with some beautiful juniper berry, but (sigh) no Winterberry once again. I will be planting some come spring but then I probably won't have the heart to cut some for myself. Maybe I'll find a big patch one day on a country road where there's enough for me and the birds. I've also been collecting some big pine cones and saving pine cone sprigs from wreathes, etc. so I tuck these in, too. And once again, I'm sure I'll find the blue jays' peanut stash come spring. Here's how they turned out.


I actually have two live blue star junipers in these baskets at our entry way that I will plant out front in Spring. (Underneath the moss is some bubble wrap which has successfully insulated mugo pines over the winter our first year here, so I'm thinking these will also be fine.)

This one rests on a marble table by our front door.
This one rests on a picnic table by our back door.
I've had this iron wall basket for years. I can't even remember where I purchased it but I would purchase it again! Come Christmas it greets our visitors at the back door with fresh greenery instead of a traditional wreath.

A classic cedar window box. I leave silver dusty miller among the greens.
Pine window box on my garden shed with metal dragon fly ornament.
Well, I hope this post leaves you in the spirit for a good window decking. Fa la la!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hypertufa Trough Update: Moss

Some of you may remember reading my post in July "Project: Hypertufa Trough." I posted my mother's planted hypertufa troughs but not my own. I have been collecting mosses all summer through fall and these I have transplanted into my trough set in partial to mostly shade, in a section of my new woodland edge border.

My trough is square. I love mosses and wanted to grow some in a special way so as to be a focal point and appreciated up close. I am not an expert, but will give you a brief overview of mosses. Mosses are a "living sponge." There are two types: clumpers or ball mosses ("top-seeded"), and spreaders ("many seeded"). Clumping mosses are perfectly at home among pavers or on rocks. Spreading mosses are happy growing in your lawn and will put up with light foot traffic.

My moss was collected from: my driveway, my garden, and a couple of state parks. Please note that I do not collect plants from the wild. The moss I collected from the state parks was mostly the clumping variety and had already been "kicked up" by visitors and was not likely to survive without replanting. You can propagate moss by collecting and sowing spores. Moss spore can be stored in wax paper in the refrigerator for years!

You can also "blend" moss to cultivate a larger area. Here is a blender recipe:

2 c water
2 c chopped moss
1/2 c beer or buttermilk (hmm, I usually have beer on hand over buttermilk)
2 tsp gel powder (water absorbing polymer crystals or powder sold at garden centers - helps to retain moisture while moss is establishing)

Blend lightly - a couple of pulses will do. Do not attempt a moss smoothie.

You should water newly transplanted or blended moss every couple of days while it is establishing. You can also literally glue clumps of moss with white or hot glue to rocks to get it to grow. I may try this with a couple of big rocks I just acquired.

So far, so good. All my moss transplants seem to be doing well. We'll see how they survive the winter. I hope that they take over this trough!

I will attempt to identify the mosses I've collected - this is my best guest based on reading and photos. If you are reading this and are a moss guru, please correct me if I'm mistaken.

1. Cushion Moss, Dicranella heteromalla (collected from my driveway in a very shady spot)
2. Juniper Haircap Moss, Polytrichum juniperinum (a favorite of gardeners in Japan)
3. Silver Ball Moss, Leucobryum glaucum (most easily recognizable and very drought tolerant)
4. Feather Moss or Log Moss, Hypnum imponens (very common lawn moss)
5. Silvery Sidewalk Moss, Bryum argenteum (most common - think sidewalk cracks)

My source for this post includes a book I own entitled Native Ferns Moss & Grasses by William Cullina.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gobbly Gook

Gobbly gook translated: bad photos of wild turkeys at Grass Point State Park. I just happened across these wild turkeys yesterday. They were not cooperative, in fact, downright elusive, the moment I slowed down to take their photos - they "melted" into the woods - eerily stealth-like. We all know why - can't blame 'em.

"You turkey! Now all I have is bad photos!"

I think these guys will avoid the Thanksgiving dinner table.

On the "iridescent" side (as in very bright), I found a beautiful turkey feather! I added this to my little collection in my shed - feathers, cocoons, honeycomb, pine cones, etc. To my dismay, the next day my turkey feather was gone! I searched the shed and found the tip on the floor. Hmmmm, a squirrel (?), seems to have bit off the downy feathers - can't say I blame 'im - would make for a very warm winter nest. At least I was left the beautiful, iridescent finale which I have attempted to capture - not quite succefully - in these photos.

But just look at the detail - okay, maybe not so much (bad) detail - but how the color changes in the light. It is truly a gift from nature that I am thankful for - even if it's been bitten in half.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving - quaint, peaceful, quiet - in a sense of place close to your family and friends and among natures' gifts.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Going Native: Eastern White Pine

Last year in late Spring I chanced upon an Eastern White Pine, Pinus Strobus, at Lowe's wrapped in burlap. As I said, it was late Spring and not an ideal time for planting burlap-wrapped roots, but our Spring in 2009 was cold and behind schedule so I chanced it. For the sale price of $25 I brought home a beautiful, young Eastern White Pine. It was on my list of native plants to purchase and I could now check it off. Its tag even declared it a native.

Here it is in 2009 soon after planting.

Here it is this morning in Fall of 2010. As you can see it made it and has grown substantially in just one year's time. The Eastern White Pine adds one new row of growth each year. It is the tallest conifer in the Northeast - but I have made room for it on my small village lot.

Fall is the time when the Eastern White Pine sheds its old needles. You may see some of the needles turn yellow.

Buds for next year's growth all tucked in.
The Eastern White Pine dominates the views on the St. Lawrence River. The skyline is made of their wind sculptured forms. In the open landscape their tiered, whorling branches will spread horizontally. In dense, protected forests they grow tall and straight. During colonial times, their tall, straight trunks were sought after to use in building ship masts.

View from Grindstone Island looking towards Canada.
View of Goose Bay in the Fall.
The Eastern White Pine provides food and shelter for many forms of wildlife. According to Douglas Tallamy (author of Bringing Nature Home - an excellent book I own and recommend for anyone interested in habitat gardening), the Eastern White Pine is favored by 203 species of moths, butterflies and insects! All those insects mean food for birds. The cones are also eaten by many birds.

Young cones on Eastern White Pine at Wellesley Island Nature Center.
Many birds of prey will use the Eastern White Pine to build their nests. Here, that may include a Bald Eagle, Osprey or Great Horned Owl. I would be extremely thrilled if any of these magnificent birds chose my pine to nest in given a few years. Looking up the trunk of this local, mature White Pine, I can see the appeal.

I guess mine has a few more years to go. Utility poles and channel markers are modern substitutes. I wonder if this pole was made from the Eastern White Pine?

This osprey nests each year at my friend's family camp on Grindstone Island.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What's (Still) Growing

If only I had that hoop house up as planned! (Sigh.) It will have to be another day. Regardless, I am still harvesting from the garden. The swiss chard is just non-stop. Though slightly damaged by heavy frosts, the leaves underneath are still as crisp and tasty as ever.

Peek-a-boo carrots, I see you. Will still be using these for soups even if snow falls.

I still have several good dinners of brussel sprouts. I think I will be picking the remainder of these in the next few days, however, before the snow falls.

There may be a parsnip under here! The nasturtium-gone-wild sort of took over and shaded the parsnips. But after several heavy frosts, the nasturtium is now compost and a few parsnip surprises were uncovered.

I just love arugula. I wonder if this will survive the first few snows? I'll keep on eating it as long as it keeps on keeping on.

Hmmm, it might be nice to have some sunflower seeds for snacking. Did the birds leave me anything?

Luckily, I picked all my green tomatoes before the heavy frosts. I was going to keep them in paper bags or newspaper - something I read somewhere - to see if they'd ripen in the cellar. But they never quite got as far as a bowl on the counter. They began turning red anyway and I thought I should take a picture before I ate them all. They taste just as fresh as ever. Ah, there were more ... sort of reminds me of Christmas.

Can you believe my neighbor is already all lit up for Christmas? What happened to Thanksgiving?

Monday, November 15, 2010

What's Blooming

Although we have had an incredible Indian Summer, snow is forecast. What little blooms are left will soon fade until Spring. I'll enjoy what I can right up until the bitter cold end.

This mix of plants, mostly begonias, was brought inside early but seems to be perfectly happy in front of this stained-glass window.

It seems the annuals are out-blooming the perennials. Out front alyssum is blooming among the gourds and bluestar in this basket.

In this basket, the asters are still holding their starry little heads high.

Snap dragons and violas pop in full color among the rocks and fallen leaves.

Along the drive rose mallow and California poppies are still unfolding blooms.

Along the edge of the potager, calendula refuses to go to bed.

This honeysuckle has been blooming since early spring. I look forward to the day it climbs high into the porch lattice work. The hummingbirds should dip into its teardrop blooms while I'm sitting in my great grandmother's rocking chair very nearby. Well, that's what I'm hoping for anyway. Its blooms now stand out against its leaves darkened by the cold.

The catmint is barely singed by the heavy frosts.

Orchid frost lamium seems immune to frost and cold, and continues to bloom beneath this blue spruce.

Though this obedient plant is scorched by the cold, its leaves now a dark, beautiful purple, it obediently blooms.

Panicum switch grass 'Dallas Blues' is now in full bloom and a brilliant gold.

And finally, a first time bloom on my miscanthus 'Morning Light' now three years old.

Bloom Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens the 15th of each month. Visit Carol's blog to see who else is blooming and be sure to add your blooms to the list.


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