Hyacinths and Ivy in a green Mason jar, surrounded by a sprinkling of sea glass. I brought a few in to have an up close and personal encounter with not only the gorgeous lavender blooms, but also to enjoy the strong fragrance that fills the kitchen as they mature. I hope they will keep on blooming all through the week.
I could interpret last week’s sixty-degree temperatures as a sign Spring is on the way, but I have lived through many seasonal changeovers, and I know that even though twilight is coming later every day, the hope of Spring arriving early is just folly and there are still weeks of Winter to live through.
I have grown the yellow tulips from bulbs I purchased in Autumn. Past attempts at forcing them have been mixed. I have kept them bare and in a cold place, forcing them in water. This year I planted thickly in terracotta pots, about six bulbs per pot, and left them outdoors on the porch for several months. I wasn’t sure when I should bring them in, but the tulips themselves told me by thrusting leaves above the surface. I bring one in each week, and this pot is my first success. It is a bit leggy, but grand just the same. I support the overgrown stems with small twigs in the soil. I like the seasonal look they give, and even though thin, they support the leaves and stems perfectly well.
There are loves throughout my life that have been questionable: people, habits, places, some friends. But my love of nature and the pollen-gathering creatures God has made is not a choice I feel will diminish or ever be deemed debatable. I don’t remember the exact moment in time I took this photo, but when I came across it today, it immediately brought back the spring/summer rush I feel when I grab my camera and run straight for the garden bed and insects gathered there.
The hum of bees is the voice of the garden. Elizabeth Lawrence
There is nothing motley about the pollen sprinkled across the bumblebees, in fact it seems ethereal, dusting the bumblebee’s fur/pile with magic.
Bumblebees have round bodies covered in soft hair called ‘pile’, making them appear and feel fuzzy.
Nature – Check out this article for amazing facts about bumblebees!
The sweet bumbler hangs on and collects pollen from lavender bee balm (Monarda fistulosa), a dependable perennial in my summer garden. Bee Balm blossoms are my Flower of the Day.
At least 65 years plus in age, my birdbath still holds water for my backyard birds. It mimics the full moon that has been gracing February’s cold night skies. It first belonged to my maternal grandmother. I remember being nose-high to its edge, peering over the rim at the silvery reflections. It resembles a crystal ball. Strange, I am considered a reasonable person, but I have no desire to know the future, near or far. I gaze into it to remember the joys of the past.
There is nothing fancy about the Sea Grape. I love the plant/bush because it reminds me of the first time I vacationed in Jamaica. We traveled there with my son and daughter-in-law, her parents and sister, and it was there we first heard the news that a new grandchild was on the way. Sea Grapes bordered the walkways of the Runaway Bay Club Caribbean. They grow wild all over the island nation. I fell in love with them at first sight. Thick leaves, with red veins intersecting the two halves; I began to dream of how to grow one at home. Unfortunately, transporting seeds/plants from one country to another is prohibited. I was out of luck. Eventually, I did order some seeds online from Florida, but they never sprouted.
Flash forward to Sanibel Island, Autumn 2021. I once again found several sea beans on the beach. I soaked them, planted several, and a few grew for me. Oh, Happy Day, it turned out one of those sprouts was a Sea Grape.
Sea Bean – Drift seed, a seed of any of a number of tropical plants growing in coastal areas, the seeds of which are found floating upon ocean currents, by means of which the seeds are dispersed.
The Sea Grape has thrived, although it grows slowly. The newest leaf it developed is the largest so far. Sitting beside the plant is a teacup of shells also found on the Sanibel Island beaches. We were horrified by the hurricane that slammed into this area in October 2022. We keep track of the progress being made in rebuilding, and we will certainly visit again and support the community as soon as possible.
I subscribe to this wonderful shell seekers YouTube channel. This video shows both South West Florida beachcombing, and some of the devastation on Fort Myers Beach. If you miss summertime, and are in a state of winter-induced torpor, this video is a good way to dream of warmer days.
The woods that border my neighborhood is a cherished retreat for me in all seasons. Of course, today’s first frosting of snowfall prompted me to grab my camera and head outdoors. I managed to zoom in and get a close-up for Cee’s Midweek Madness Challenge.
On the path before me a robin rustled among the leaves for insects. As I captured his image, I realized the woods was alive with a large flock of robins.
The robins are drawn to our woods by the native holly trees growing tall beneath the canopy of larger oaks, tulip trees, and sweetgums. I stood for quite a while, taking photos, an easier task than usual as there were dozens of birds all around. I stayed in one spot, and they soon perceived I was no threat. One few so close overhead, I was sure his wing must have grazed me as he swooped by.
It was a curious morning; the wintry frosting of snow belied the springtime sparkle of the sun. Half of the surrounding view shouted, ‘Spring,’ but the cold air and flurries adorning the foliage sagely disagreed and whispered, ‘Winter.” I felt myself in a natural sanctuary, blessed by the song of the birds, the brilliance of the sun. The atmosphere around me was aglow with one of my favorite colors, a light-infused ethereal green. I added my voice to the praise and thanksgiving, “Thank you Lord, this is one of my best days.”
A few of the friendly flock of robins. Amazing to see so many on the first day of February, 2023.
Though my orientation hadn’t changed, my feet exactly on the same stretch of ground from where I photographed the robins, I somehow captured the image of a new bird with my lens. This photo is part of Skywatch.
The Longwood Gardens Conservatory boasts a gorgeous display of orchids. Not only can you view hundreds of varieties, you can also gaze out upon the ongoing construction of Longwood Reimagined in the Orchid room. There are many signs on the grounds, and articles available on the web, that apprise visitors of the future gardens and buildings. It’s quite exciting to imagine myself walking in these structures in the future.
It’s been a long time since I have posted one of my vintage postcards. This one has entranced me for a week or two. I found it in a local Antique Conglomerate, in a box with many others, marked at just fifty cents. Oh my! What a bargain. It is postmarked September 1903, with the image of Edward VII on the half penny stamp. The ephemera I hold in my hand is just a few months shy of being 120 years old.
The age alone makes it a worthy treasure, but for me, it is always the written message, the address, the speculation over the person who picked out, wrote a message, and sent the card, Then, of course, next is wondering over what the person who received it thought of the correspondence. If you are like me, perhaps you too would come up with a whole story around the short message and names.
The postcard is in great shape. I tried to square it up for a photograph, and realized it wasn’t going to happen; the bottom is two to three millimeters less in width than the top. Comparing the date with the opening of the hotel I see it was probably one of the first images taken and sold as a postcard of the location.
Now for the fun part: the messages. The writer of the card had a lot to say in a small space and also used the front. I love the mention of the canaries. I wonder what the L stood for in the name. Was L a man, or a woman? I also wonder what the first name of Miss Young might be…
Eyemouth is a beautiful coastal town about fifty miles from Edinburgh. The word ‘Fruiterer’ means just what it sounds like, a seller of fruit. The recipient might have had a grocery shop, or small stand on High Street. ‘It’s a nicht one,’ is Scottish for night.
This postcard was very clear and easy to read. Other postcards I have are sometimes near illegible. At those times I take a photo of the postcard and magnify it on my computer, creating larger optics to better read the message.
My take on the messages:
Edinburgh 16/9/03 Front: Dear Miss Young I have just found time to send off the P.C. you requested me to forward. Hope it will find a space in your album. L. Tait Along the side: ___own Production” Could you sell any Back: I send this just for a “Lark” and hope your Canaries are getting on, & that you don’t miss the one I took home. Its a grand whistler. “Its a nicht one” Address: Miss Young Fruiterer High Street Eyemouth Postmark: Edinburgh 10:30 AM SP 13 03
Vintage postcards are a great way to break up the tedium of winter weather and staying indoors.
Mid-Week Monochrome #120 – My mode of transportation yesterday, out in the woods, searching for robins. I am hoping to combine several of my photos into a watercolor painting. Recently, I captured a few moments on video of this happy robin bathing in a swamp. There was a sweet magic in the moment.
Here’s a sampling of the hanging baskets in the Longwood Gardens Conservatory yesterday. It’s hard to capture the size/scale of the flower baskets. To say they are large is an understatement.
Some of the plants are: Cape-primrose (Streptocarpus), Anthuriums, Cinnamon-Wattle Acacia, Bromeliads.
My favorite walk was along the acacia passage. The Cinnamon-Wattle acacias were in bloom. The fragrance was incredible. There was definitely a feeling of enchantment present as we gazed down the corridor. Periwinkle is one of my favorite colors, and the combination of the streptocarpus with the soft yellow of the acacia was stunning. The streptocarpus are part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.
I also had some moments of inspiration. I don’t know if this is a hanging basket of some type for displaying flowers, a light fixture, or something totally unique to my imagination. I am determined to create better hanging basket arrangements this year for the porch and outdoors and this will be my artistic muse for the project.
As we walked within the walls the soft winter sun outdoors illuminated everything inside with a glow of Royal Silver. I wish I could somehow capture and copy the indescribable atmosphere in a watercolor painting.
Here’s a silly self-portrait of us in the conservatory; a visual description of our joy. It’s a little distorted, the mirror had a funhouse quality, but it still captured our happiness in being in a place filled with flowers and fragrance.
What a beauty! My husband and I went on a meadow/woodland walk over the weekend, on an intense search for praying mantis pods. We found three.
Over the course of the past two years, I stopped putting the mantis pods about the gardens because the hatched mantises might eat what I loved: butterflies, ladybugs, and hummingbirds. In fact, in my error, I think I even carried away from the yard a mantis pod or two. Big mistake!
When did I realize I had made the bad judgement call? A week or two ago, trying to get a jump on eradicating insect pests without using chemicals, I gave earnest thought to why my plant foliage had suffered constant assault during the past two summers. In short, sawflies, and other insects who devour foliage, have bamboozled me! The sawflies have been the bane of enjoying the garden beds. The hibiscus, and especially my roses, become the victims of their larvae stage munching. The rose leaves begin to resemble stained glass as the insects eat and grow larger. I have tried to handpick the pests off, but with dozens of rose bushes, it is impractical. I wondered anew why the problem has been impossible to control and realized the infestations coincided with me banning mantis pods from my gardens. We went on the mantis pod hunt a few days after this light bulb moment.
Within twenty minutes, half a mile from my home, we found three pods in the weeds bordering a dirt road. We knew there were probably hundreds more we didn’t see as they are well camouflaged among the beige and brown grasses. I don’t feel bad about moving them. The border grasses and wildflowers edging the road are considered disposable and are frequently mowed. We probably saved the pods from the whirling destruction of mower blades.
Praying Mantises are often themselves the victim of predators. Several on the predator list live in my yard or frequently visit: spiders, bearded dragons, lizards, chickens, snakes, hawks, owls, cardinals, scorpions. I would add large toads to the list and other insect-eating birds.
I love the soft pink of these dime-sized blooms on my Crown of Thorns, the color almost a copy of cotton candy. The plant lives outdoors on the screened-in porch for five months of the year. Through the Autumn and Winter it delights me with flowers when everything outdoors is dormant. No coddling needed, the plant is easy to grow and maintain. This beautiful flower is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.
I was going to title this post ‘Silent Saturday’ but then realized I couldn’t stay quiet about this beautiful moon. The photo was taken with my Canon camera, zoomed in, and with a flash. I have no idea, other than I was blessed by the Lord, how I managed to capture this image. I took several photos, all were fuzzy and indistinct, and then this one turned out perfectly. Reminds me a bit of life, so many aspects can be blurry, and then suddenly, crystal clarity when it matters.
Initially, I wasn’t interested in a moon photo, but went outdoors to find Jupiter alongside the moon. The planet didn’t disappoint and was glowing large in the sky. I have an app on my phone called Stellarium, and it shows me the position of stars in my area. The view is fascinating. More info here: Stellarium.
Moon watching has its roots in my youth. On a summer night, July 20, 1969, I watched with millions of others as Neil Armstong took that first step on the moon. I have never lost my love for gazing at the moon. I wonder if neighbors think I am crazy, for often, I am outdoors in the moments before dawn in pajamas and robe, taking photographs of the moon as it sits low on the horizon. Since they can’t read my mind, perhaps they are looking at me out their windows a bit askance.
We revisited Cedar Lake over the weekend. I posted about this place in February 2022, and meant to showcase it again on the blog in its Springtime glory and spectacular Summer abundance, but somehow, missed my window of time and once again am writing a piece when all the growth has fallen away. Whatever the season, it is a perfect place to revisit and blog on Jo’s Monday Walk and Skywatch.
If I had visited when undergrowth was growing wild and lush, I would have missed this sight. “Look, through these trees,” my husband said, pointing the way. I didn’t see much at first, but then saw the gleam of sun on a living creature.
I zoomed in with my camera, and since the doe was resting, and unafraid, I was able to take a good photograph through the twiggy protection around her. She must live in the park, accustomed no doubt to many people walking by her on the criss-crossing paths. Can you see her eye?
Further along the path we saw some robins, hanging around long after the first frosts. They never leave our area to fly south; they Winter over here, finding berries and other fruits. I need to remember to place a bit of fruit on the platform birdfeeder and maybe draw them in.
A few mallards swam within a small pond hidden in the woods. There are creeks, small ponds, and larger bodies of water every hundred feet or so in the park surrounding the lake. A perfect spot for a ‘Water, Water, Everywhere‘ post.
Cedar Lake and Washington Lake Park, Sewell, NJ, is the setting for this post.
I love birdwatching of all types, seabirds, raptors, backyard birds, all fascinate me. We live in an area where I can seek out all three. Years ago, I had a secondhand platform feeder I enjoyed filling and watching. This year, my husband bought me a new one for my birthday. I love this view of the inner roof with the Sapphire blue sky above it. Somehow, it reminds me of the ceiling in my grandmother’s church, the memory is decades old, but still so sweet. I hope the birds feel a sense of ‘sanctuary’ here too.
It took a day or two, but the birds have found the feeder. Typical of brash birdy personalities, the first to hover and land were the blue jays. Yesterday, I saw a couple small birds, a redpoll finch, and a junco. The same afternoon, a curious squirrel dug beneath the feeder, but thankfully didn’t climb up.
We are so pleased with this beautiful hand-crafted birdfeeder. You can read the link on the tag if you want to visit the builder: great product, prompt delivery, wrapped/shipped safely.
I think the ‘extraordinaire’ in my title fits this lovely vase of lilies. The bouquet is still going strong 10 days after the purchase of the flower stems. Most of the buds were closed when I brought them home, but a diagonal cut along the bottom, a bit of flower food in warmish water, and several lilies unfurled within 24 hours. Arranging each stem opposite another, giving the vase a turn before continuing on, creates an intricate design aspect through the glass vase rather than a bunched-up mass. Today, I cut away the first of the faded blossoms. There are still many flowers left in bloom, and a couple of promising buds still ready to burst. The fragrance is strong and distinctive of lilies.
You might be wondering why the open blossom is missing the dark anthers that are within the bud beside it. I learned this tip while taking classes on floral design: lily anthers are staining. If the pollen dust on them touches clothing, table coverings, or upholstery, the stain is usually impossible to remove. As the lilies open, I remove the anthers and dispose of them. I love the way they look, but I know from experience, remove them.
If you like the ‘freckled’ appearance the pollen gives the petals, gently tap the anthers over the petals before removing. Be aware though, even this small amount of pollen can cause a big stain.
I love my new ‘My Pillow‘ slides. I wore them in the storm-drenched grass this morning, and found they are still equivalent to walking on top of clouds when the conditions are wet.
What I love about the product: super comfortable, basic design and colors, excellent support, ease in walking, true-to-size. I like Mike Lindell and admire the fact that he is not afraid to speak the truth and supports conservative values. I’ve bought several of his products over the last year for this reason.
What I dislike about the product: not made in the U.S.A., the smell of the slides was horrendous when I opened the plastic-bag package. The shipping was not free and added a large amount to the total. Today when I went to the website I found the sandals are being sold for an even lower price. Bah!
I can’t change the fact that they are not made in the U.S.A. What I did change was the terrible smell that clung to them when I took them out of the plastic bag they were stored/shipped in. I used a diluted amount of dishwashing soap, washed/scrubbed them well with a soft rag, rinsed in hot water, and then placed them outdoors in the sunshine for a few hours. Anyone who has bought any type of rubber shoes will know the smell I am speaking of, and how repulsive it is. My fix worked, about 75% of the odor disappeared. I think the last bit of smell will work its way out as I wear them.
If the tomato cage and bell didn’t give you a clue to actual size, this bird would appear to be just a common bird perching on a wire. Not so, the hummingbird in the photo was very annoyed with me. I disturbed its meal of delicious nectar.
Hummingbirds have visited our yard since Spring. I had a nectar feeder, but when it gets hot, and my flowers begin to bloom, I take it down. The feeder is glass, the liquid inside becomes quite hot. Besides being a possible burn problem, the heat contributes to the nectar going bad. I change the contents every 48 hours, but I don’t trust it to stay pure when the temperatures rise.
Firecracker flowers are a perfect shape for a hummingbird’s tongue.
The cardinal vine flower is trumpet-shaped, another perfect feeding blossom for the hummingbird.
Cardinal vines are climbers, they wrap their quickly growing stems around anything within reach. I usually have to cut, rather than pull, them away from their support. The vines have the strength of steel filaments before the growing season is over. The vines against the sky are part of this week’s Skywatch.
Blue Salvia is another flower that draws the hummingbirds to our garden. I know, in a few weeks, they will have their last sip of nectar in my gardens, but I am already thinking of what to plant next year to bring them back again.
I wonder how I have never before noticed this beautiful plant in my local nursery. Perhaps this is the first year they have offered it, or maybe the quantities are limited and they are quickly bought by those who, like me, adore finding a unique specimen. I know I would have walked right by it if it had no bloom. The leaves are typical of so many common flowering plants, and on their own not that attractive.
I potted the plant instead of planting in a garden bed. I want to bring it indoors and keep it growing through the winter months. One annoying problem is the plant came with a load of mealy bugs. Yikes. I have been painting them with rubbing alcohol, but they are still winning the battle. I might have to resort to systemic insectide, always a last choice for me. I don’t want to lose this beautiful flowering plant.
Square Foot Gardens are a terrific choice for gardening in small spaces. After planting Square Foot plots for several years I gave them up to grow a beautiful rose garden. With food shortages looming, and prices skyrocketing this Spring, I decided the time was right to grow a few vegetables again. I didn’t want to dig another garden into the yard, and wanted to try something temporary. I’ve combined Square Foot with container gardening and it is growing well in the first days of June.
The garden needed a border; the largest expense was the fencing. This keeps the area neat and also helped in laying out the proper measurements. Dollar store buckets, two and a half gallons, were an inexpensive choice for the containers. I created drainage holes by thrusting my spading fork once into the buckets as they sat on the grass. The holes were perfectly spaced, and my lawn aerated a bit too. Garden fabric cut large enough to cover the area keeps the grass from growing up between the pots. Filling the buckets with a mixture of organic container soil and vermiculite was easy using the wheelbarrow to mix it.
Swiss Chard, Kale, and Bok Choy have been very plentiful. Steamed with carrots, mixed with a little butter, and ladled over Jasmine Rice, oh my, so delicious.
The tomatoes already need watering every day, their stems appear more like small tree trunks than normal sized garden plants. I have them in the back of the gardens, braced against trellises for support. Small palettes between the plots keep the grass down also. I’m growing a large variety of vegetables to take note of how each plant performs. Too early to know what will succeed as of now, but the green beans, four plants to a bucket, are getting small beans after flowering. I’ll update as the summer progresses.
So far, the only antagonist to my garden joy is the yellow squash. There have been many flowers, and several small squash, but all developed blossom rot. I’ll read up on this problem and apply what might help. If I find a solution that works I will post the results. Here’s a photo of another squash, white squash, I am hoping it will perform better.
PS Between the time of writing the first draft of this post, and now, the small green beans grew large enough for a first tasting. Delicious! Food grown in a dollar store bucket: an achievement that might come in handy if the world keeps spinning toward higher inflation and food shortages in the future.