Thursday, June 9, 2011

Senna Alata Update

My little Senna Alata (the Candlestick Plant) is growing by leaps and bounds.  Soon I think it will be large enough for me to plant it in my parkway.

I'm told it will be a 4-5 foot plant by the end of summer... wouldn't that be amazing?

Seed Giveaway: Cosmos Diablo

Last year, a neighbor gave me some seeds for the little orange wildflower called Cosmos Diablo.   I planted them, and they took off.  I gave some seeds to a friend who lives in an adjacent neighborhood.  I mailed some to my friend in Minnesota.   They continue to be very prolific -- I can gather about a tablespoon of seeds every couple of days.  So --!  If you want some, let me know and I'll be happy to mail some to you for free.

They like full sun, and the bees love them!  Once they sprout they require very little attention, and they spread easily.  I'll be planting some in my backyard soon.

A few garden notes

Eight of my 10 asparagus plants are up!  A couple of them are as high as my elbows!

And I have a few baby cucumbers!  I found them this morning.  I was getting worried that I was once again going to have a plethora of blossoms that just don't produce -- my cucumbers, yellow squash and zucchini are positively covered in blossoms, but so far no fruit -- until I saw these -- so maybe I'm just impatient!  (Yeah, whatever, keep those comments to yourself... lol)

This is my first year of trellising my cucumbers -- not exactly sure how it is going to work if the fruit gets really heavy.  I'm contemplating slipping knee high pantyhose over them and tying them to the trellis...  Have you trellised cucumbers before?  Did you have any issues with it?
And, my sunflowers are now officially taller than I am.  No signs of the heads yet, so presumably they are still growing taller:

The birds will love them...

Speaking of birds, this week I've found 2 baby birds in my yard who had shuffled off their mortal coils*.  They look like they probably fell out of their nests, because there is no way they were old enough to being trying to fly.  One was a sparrow, and one was a blue jay.  Sad to see.


More on Rue...

You are probably weary of reading about the giant swallowtail caterpillars on my rue, but --!!  It's shocking to me how many there are, and how fast they are growing, and, well.... how unattractive they are.  That's terrible to say, isn't it?  I'm just gonna say -- they look like bird poop to me!  They do turn into beautiful butterflies, though.

I'm also still just sort of amazed at how true to form it is that this plant is a host for the swallowtail.  I seriously didn't have it in my yard more than a couple of days and there were eggs on it.  Just sort of blows my mind.

How many can you see?  I counted 8.

A Friendly Face

My best friend in Minnesota sent me a yard ornament -- I can't recall the occasion -- and I've been waiting for the perfect place to hang it outside.  I was going to put it on my fence, but my next door neighbors say they are going to replace the fence, and I didn't want it to get broken.  Instead, I decided to put it on my potting table.

It will be a happy reminder of my friend every time I see it! 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Rue and the Giant Swallowtail

I watched a Giant Swallowtail butterfly moving intermittently from leaf to leaf last week on my two Rue plants.  Now I see that she was laying eggs.  Here are a couple of photos that I took this weekend when I planted the rue plants into the ground along my walkway:

Here's what the caterpillars will look like...

Poor little guy, not the most attractive... but great camo, right??

And, finally, the butterfly:

I expect to see a lot of these -- I hope I am right.

Snake Puzzle, a/k/a ??

Last weekend my next door neighbor told me about some great yard art she saw near White Rock Lake.  This weekend we loaded up in her car with morning coffee and set out to find it again so that she could show me.

We found it, and it was in a great front yard -- so many artsy things!  The piece she wanted to show me was pieces of tree bark that had been threaded to hang on vertical pieces of wire like a wind chime.  As we idled at the curb, the owner saw us and came out.  He said he called the wind chime, "Barking Up the Wrong Tree."  Clever.  He also had a huge globe hanging high up in a tree, and a tiny plane on a string orbiting.  In the parkway, which was huge, he had some miniature figurines of cattle in a stampede of sorts.  He said at first he and his wife were worried that they would be stolen, but instead, to their surprise, people starting adding to it.  He said they now do morning garden walks to see what is new each day.  That's sort of fun.

He had a lot of a plant that I grew up with, that we called Snake Puzzle, because for entertainment we'd take it apart, and then assemble it back together.  I asked him what it was and he knew the real name (which I can't remember!) and then asked me if I wanted some!  Heck yeah!  He started pulling up chunks of it -- and put them all in a big ziploc for me.  He also gave me a few slips of a groundcover that has purple flowers on it.  I planted that outside my pedestrian gate.  (And forgot to take a photo...)

Here is the "Snake Puzzle" planted in front of my back steps:

He says it will spread, too, so that will be cool.  If you know the real name of this plant, please let me know in the comments!  Normally they stand completely vertical, but these got a little droopy during the transplant.  This plant really reminds me of my childhood and makes me realize how easily we were amused.

He offered me a full garden tour, front and back, but I didn't feel like I had time, plus we had a dog in the car and it was hot.  I'll probably stop by there again, though..

June 11, 2012:  It's called Horsetail, among other things...

No Fear...

The squirrels are very persistent in trying to get to the seed in my livingroom window bird feeder.  Their antics and acrobics drive the dog positively mad.  

But this guy!  Dude!! Have you no fear??

The thinnest piece of 81 year old glass is saving you from a 70 pound dog!

A Splash of Color

A summer or two ago I visited my sister in Wisconsin/Minnesota and we did a day trip to Madeline Island.  The only way to get there is by ferry, and there are shops and restaurants to putter around in.  There are residents as well, who live there year 'round.  It was beautiful.  One of the areas on the island was a botanical garden.  I saw some really cool planters made out of corrugated pipe -- and thought, "Hmmm.  I could make those, and they would probably be inexpensive."  Time passed, and now I'm working on my backyard, and I remembered those planters. 

So, now I have the pipe:

I did some research on what type of paint adheres to galvanized metal.  I learned that you have to use a special primer -- one especially for galvanized surfaces.  I got different answers at just about every paint place I went to, but I eventually bought a gallon at Sherwin-Williams.  The lid was very dusty...

Next I borrowed my neighbor's power sprayer and cleaned off as much debris as possible from the pipe.   There was a brief consideration of leaving them natural -- the more organic look -- but I really had my heart set on a big splash of color to pull the eye to the back of my yard.  I used a brush and painted two coats of the primer on each -- it was more surface area than I had anticipated...

 Now the fun part -- the color!  I decided I wanted one planter green (to match the yoga platform design) one an eggplant purple color and one tangerine orange -- my favorite color.  I was using spray paint for an even coat, and for $1.99 I bought a snap on trigger for the spray can so that I didn't wear out my pointer finger with the spray nozzle.  Money well spent! 

Here's a photo of two of them with primer, and two of them painted:

I sprayed two coats of color on each one -- and set them in place:

The lavender in front of them has really grown!
I haven't permanently set them yet -- I'll want to dig them down into the ground a few inches, and the purple one I'll want to dig down a little deeper so that it's a more staggered height compared to the other two.    I like that they are imperfectly shaped, and aren't perfectly straight -- and when I do set them permanently I will likely try to "lean" them a bit.  I also am goign to spray on a coating of UV protectant high gloss to protect the color and finish.

I have a bag of rocks at the bottom of each one for stability, and I'll put some type of lightweight filler on top of that so that I don't have to use SO much dirt to fill them.  And then the fun part; choosing plants to plant inside each one.  For now I'm content to get used to seeing them there, and to let that visual settle in my mind before I add plants.  I've had lots of ideas about the plants -- tall spiky ones, or trailing ones that would overhang the sides... I can't decide.

As for the fourth one, it's still just primer white.  I can't decide where it will go, and until I know where it's going I can't choose a color.  It may even end up in the front yard... who knows...

I love the happy splash of bold color they've added to my yard...!  You can even see them from the street, though my side gate:  Happy.

Yeah, um, about that glove box...

Back in April I posted ( about a project I was working on.  Here is the next part of the story...

It first involved a Craig's List ad offering these for sale for $50:

After many emails and telephone calls with the seller -- for the purposes of this story -- "Bruce"  we agreed that he would cut them into 4 dissimilar lengths for me for $20 a cut.  He gave me driving directions and we made arrangements for pick up and payment -- which also took an inordinate number of communications.  I was beginning to realize that maybe Bruce doesn't regularly have interaction with "outside folk."

Red and I loaded up in his truck and began a road trip west, past Fort Worth.  After we got off the main roads, turn by turn the directions took us down roads that systematically became narrower, then gravel, then just plain dirt, and rather... desolate.  We laughed about Bruce's suggestion that we come the previous day, which would have put us there after dark...we never would have found our way there, much less our way out... 

We were instructed that Bruce's place was at the end of the road -- the last house.  Just before we got there, we passed a rebel flag, snapping proudly over a dusty dirt driveway.   As the road ended, we came upon a metal gate with a padlock.  Bruce said he wouldn't be home, so he had given me the combination to the lock.  I hoped that any neighbors who saw us wouldn't appear, guns blazing as I opened the gate.  We were clearly interlopers.  Oh, and there would be dogs that Bruce "thought" would be friendly.  I suggested maybe milkbones in my pocket?  Oh yes, that would probably a good idea.  Skippy.  Milk bones* I can handle.

Red rolled to a stop and I hopped out and went to the gate, unlocked it, and figured out which way it would swing to let Red drive in.  He pulled in, and as he did, the dogs went mad, barking.  As instructed I closed the gate behind the truck so that the donkeys wouldn't get out.  Yes, donkeys*.  As it turned out, the dogs were terrified of humans.  I threw the milk bones out and spoke soothingly to them but they were having none of it.  They crawled under a trailer and and old car and watched.

Here's where we were, and the prize laid before us:

I can only imagine where that road continues to...

A closer view...

Really, they had potential.  I observed that Bruce didn't really get it when I told him repeatedly that I did not want them to be matching lengths -- I really wanted a short, medium and long one, and then the fourth one I didn't really care what length it was.  But, communication with Bruce had been challenging, and this is what I got.  They will work.

As we were loading them in the truck, the donkeys decided it was time to see what was going on.  I, of course, think I can be friends with all animals --

Look at how HUGE his ears are!

Sort of cute, although decidedly in need of a bath.  Then there were two -- and together they were a little nippy*:

We got the truck loaded, and then I needed to leave payment.  On the phone, Bruce told me that I would see an old pick up truck near the pipe, and I suggested that I could leave the cash in the glove compartment.  His response?  "Yeah, um, well, the glove box isn't really working properly."  ??  Isn't working properly?  All it needs to do is open and close...?  Red and I totally laughed.  I said, well, how about I tuck it under the floor mat?  That was acceptable.  Here, payment is made:

I sensed that perhaps the glove box wasn't the only part of the truck that wasn't working properly...

We reversed the gate procedure, and skedaddled down the dirt road, past the rebel flag, onto the gravel road, to the asphalt road, and finally back onto the freeway, headed east -- bounty in the back.  We made a fun afternoon of it, stopping in feed stores and tack shops -- places I haven't exactly found in Dallas.

* What I should have had in my pocket was carrots.

Next up?  Getting the project started.