Rain, Rain, and more Rain

Over the years we’ve noticed that it rains early in the season, but, then, drought starts and continues until fall. If we have rain at all, it’s very little – less than an inch per rainfall. For a variety of reasons we don’t add water from hoses, etc. This means that only the toughest of the many hundreds of plants we’ve planted have survived in our garden. I’ve been taking inventory of what plants have survived and the total is a lot more than I thought.

I hope to make a list of plants that have survived with little or no rain over the past 30 plus years.

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You Can See All Of Our Current Photos Now!

Links to all of the Current Photos are now available under the last Current Photo shown. Take a look.

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Today is July 10 and it’s time to update our current photos. Daylilies are in bloom now so take a look at some of our lovely flowers on our “Current Photos” page.

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Plant a Tree!

Carbon emissions —– greenhouse gases —– global warming —– carbon offset credit —– etc.

I’ve been hearing and reading so much lately about these subjects. I understand that the world must reduce its dependence on fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse effects on our planet and find other ways to produce energy.

While we are in the process of doing this (which will take many years, if not decades) why don’t we take the initiative and plant trees and shrubs as well as other plants on our own properties to help reduce carbon emissions in our atmosphere? Trees and shrubs (and other green plants as well) take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and through a complex chemical action called photosynthesis make sugar for food and release oxygen into the atmosphere. In effect, plants scrub the air clean for us.

The major reason for the increase in greenhouse gases is the use of fossil fuels. Another reason is the reduction in the world’s forests. To help overcome the reduction of forests throughout the world, homeowners, farmers, and businesses should make a commitment to plant trees and shrubs on their properties.

Of course planting trees does more than just the one important job of reducing carbon in the atmosphere. Some other very important things that result from increased vegetation are:

* Reduce heat islands in cities. Haven’t you noticed how hot it is on the sidewalks outside your place of business. It was sometimes bad enough that I didn’t want to walk to the bus to go home! Widespread planting of appropriate trees in a city can decrease local surface and air temperatures by several degrees.

* Proper planting around homes and buildings directly cools the interior of homes and buildings, decreasing air conditioning costs and peak energy demand. Trees and vegetation cool the air by providing shade and through the evaporation of water from their leaves. Shade reduces the amount of solar radiation transmitted to underlying surfaces, keeping them cool. Shaded areas can be up to 20 degrees cooler than the temperatures of unshaded surfaces. These cooler walls decrease the quantity of heat transmitted to buildings, thus lowering air conditioning cooling costs. Cooler surfaces also lessen the heat island effect by reducing heat transfer to the surrounding air.

* Vegetation helps with stormwater management. During rain the ground can become saturated and turn excess rainfall into runoff. Stormwater runoff problems, such as flooding and polluting of open water bodies, are worsened by the large amounts of water-resistant surfaces in urban and suburban areas. Trees and vegetation can help reduce the runoff problem by decreasing the volume of runoff. Researchers found that evergreens, conifers, and trees in full leaf can intercept up to 36% of the rainfall that hits them. Because groundcovers like Pachysandra terminalis (Japanese Spurge) can absorb water they also help reduce runoff. 

* Trees and vegetation can help reduce noise.  They also provide shade from harmful ultraviolet radiation, particularly in playgrounds, schoolyards, and picnic areas. In addition, trees and vegetation increase property values, as several studies have shown.  Community gardens and neighborhood parks help reduce physiological stress, aesthetically improve an area, and provide an habitat for birds, animals, and insects.

How to choose a tree?

Choose low-maintenance native trees to maximize carbon absorption. The tree should also be appropriate for the site. Of course, the larger growing trees are best as they absorb more carbon, but it is better to plant an appropriate tree than one that will not survive long in the site. American Forests magazine list the Common Horse-chestnut, Black Walnut, American Sweetgum, Ponderosa Pine, Red Pine, White Pine, London Plane, Douglas Fir, Scarlet Oak, Red Oak, Virginia Live Oak and Bald Cypress as examples of trees especially good at absorbing and storing carbon dioxide. An article in that magazine advises to avoid trees that require a lot of maintenance, as the burning of fossil fuels to power equipment like trucks and chainsaws will only erase the carbon absorption gains otherwise made.

Ultimately, trees and other vegetation of any shape, size or genetic origin help absorb carbon. Most scientists agree that the least expensive and perhaps easiest way for individuals to help offset the carbon emissions that they generate in their everyday lives is to plant trees…any tree, as long as it is appropriate for the given region and climate.

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Spring 2008

What a wonderful spring it has been!  The winter was somewhat rainy with very little snow. I think the plants, including all of the potted plants, enjoyed the rain. The plants just burst out of their winter sleep with such exuberance. They were all so beautiful, with lots of flowers and large leaves. Some of the hostas showed some torn foliage which I think is due to the cool temperatures. Their leaves unfurled late but they have put out so many new leaves that the torn leaves are not so noticeable.

Even though the two Chinese peonies are in a part shady site, both of them put on a splendid show with the large, frilly leaves opening in the morning and closing up at night.

Our area has a lot of Yoshino cherries and they were beautiful beyond description. Even our “Akebono” did very well with its flowers staying pink instead of turning white as they normally do.

There has been so much new growth on our trees that the trees are loaded with soft limbs that hang almost down to the ground. The “Dancing Peacock” Japanese maple will have to be pruned and I think several others will need pruning as well.

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Hot and Humid

pentas.jpgHot and humid. Those are the keywords that describe the weather this week. Hazy also can be used because of the air stagnation. Hot and humid is it. I woke up today at 7 a.m. and the temperature is already 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Whew! It’s the kind of day that you really appreciate your home and the air conditioner cooling the home’s air.

I feel sorry for all of my plants having to stay outside in this wicked weather. Some plants like it hot as long as they get enough moisture. Pentas or Egyptian Starflower comes to mind as an annual (tender perennial?) that does well only when the days are very hot. It just sits there as a small plant through June. Late in June it starts to awaken and starts growing into the full and beautiful plant that it is. Egyptian Starflower comes in white, pink, and various shades of red. My favorite is the bright red color. I like to grow one plant each in three different containers, putting the containers close to each other but at different heights. Each plant does very well in a 10-inch pot. Pentas is not as common as Pentunia but it is well worth the extra work to find this plant.

Hummingbirds are attracted to Pentas which is the first reason why I bought it and I have seen hummingbirds enjoying its nectar. The main reason why I buy now is because I just like how well it does in our hazy, hot, humid summer weather. What a nice, easy-care plant

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A Visitor to our Garden

<p>We put down some bird netting on top of our hostas to protect them from the Honey Locust debris that falls this time of year.  It’s a big job cleaning the hostas’ leaves after the flower debris has fallen and hardened so I thought the bird netting would keep the leaves clean.</p>

<p>The bird netting did not work and I took my time removing it. When I finally did, I found a snake twisted in one of the pieces. It was badly twisted into the holes in the netting and could not get out of it. I pulled at the netting and shook it hoping to release the snake. He only hissed at me because he didn’t like be jostled around. I don’t blame him. </p>

<p>I thought what should I do? I didn’t have the know-how to grab his head so I could control him and cut the netting from him. He looked to be at least three feet long. He was black and I thought he might be a black snake. I didn’t think he was venomous but I could see he had very sharp, very pointed fangs. </p>

<p>I decided to call my county’s Cooperative Extension Service. I thought that they must know of some snake handlers in the county that would be willing to help. They gave me several phone numbers. Most of them were commercial establishments that would haul the snake away for a fee. I just wanted to have the netting removed. There was one name on the list–Betty Acks who is a master wildlife rehabilitator. Her phone number was now a fax number. Through Google I found her email address and sent her an email asking for help. I also called and wrote emails to several other people as well.</p>

<p>About 30 minutes later I received a phone call from Betty. She now works out of Garrett County in Maryland but she said to call our county’s animal control and they should help me. Animal Control–why didn’t I think of that? Animal control is for picking up stray animals and not releasing a snake from bird netting I thought. So, I called the number given to me by Betty, and someone was dispatched to our home the same day.</p>

<p>I nice young man came and easily captured the snake and released it from the netting. This snake gave a good rattle which was very deep in pitch, not at all like a rattlesnake’s rattle. He said it was a garter snake and they live in gardens such as I mine. It’s strange, though, I didn’t know the snake was there. I never saw or heard him as I worked in my garden. </p>

<p>For a while at least, I think I will be a little more careful when working in the garden. I won’t lie down on the ground so I can look up at the sky and through the limbs and leaves of the trees. I’ll also be more careful when walking through the pachysandra ground cover which I have guite a lot of. When I’m working outside I now know I have one more friend besides all of my bird friends that eat the sunflower seeds we put out year-round, the squirrels, and hawks. Now I know I have a garter snake too. I think I’ll call him Harry.</p>

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Where have all the mockingbirds gone?

Since we bought our property 35 years ago the main bird resident has always been the mockingbird. What a bird it is! It’s personality is aggressive, loud, noisy, dangerous to humans when nesting, and totally king of its domain.

Being mere humans we have had to put up with its constant singing, aggressiveness, and bravado for a long time. The mockingbirds allow no insect-eating birds to build nests anywhere near their own nests. Early on, we’ve had beautiful bluebirds build nests in our bluebird boxes. They are small, shy, and definitely don’t have a dominant personality. I believe they lasted maybe two days in their boxes with the mockingbirds constantly dive-bombing them whenever they came out of the boxes. The bluebirds decided our property wasn’t safe for raising their children and moved on. What a shame for us.

We feed birds year-round. We especially enjoy watching the cardinals bring their offspring to our feeder, showing them how to crack open and enjoy the sunflower seeds we provide them. We’ve watched many birds, including chickadees and tufted titmice, do the same.

Since last year things are different. There are no mockingbirds in our immediate area. The mornings are quiet without their warbling. Actually, we’ve heard them warble in the  middle of the night in early spring. Last year I didn’t actually notice their disappearance even though they were not here. This year, though, I have noticed the lack of mockingbirds.

Now we have cardinals making nests on our property for the first time in 35 years. What a great joy that is. They are building nests in our hemlock hedge and in our clematis trellis next to the house. We’re getting smaller birds, too, nesting in the burning bush and the hemlocks. It’s wonderful to know that these birds feel comfortable enough to build their nests here.

What a relief that we will not have to worry about being divebombed anymore by mockingbirds as they protect their babies in the nests. They have sharp beaks!

Another thought has struck, though. Why aren’t the mockingbirds here? What happened to drive them away? Did all of the mockingbirds die or did they just move on to other areas? I wonder. 

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Garden Designer

I started this weblog at least a year or two ago but I never kept it up because I didn’t know what to do with it.

 Now I know!

I love gardens. I love plants. I love garden design.

It was so beautiful outside today. It was nice and cool for a mid-May day.

Most of the beautiful spring flowers–dogwoods, early azaleas, daffodils, bulbs, and cherries have already bloomed and I enjoyed each and every one. Spring is just too wonderful for words. At about this time my garden slows down a little bit and some of the less showy plants start to show their beautiful leaves and/or flowers.

It’s now time for iris (the old German iris are the ones that I love) and I no longer have the beautiful, fragrant Iris ‘Pacific Panaroma’ that I once had. I dug them up one year after blooming, as required. I gave some away and didn’t keep any for myself. At the last Horticultural Society of Maryland meeting, a fellow member was giving away some dark purple iris that were originally from his grandmother’s garden. I took one nice clump and gave away the rest to someone else since I don’t have that much sunny space left in my garden. I must plant it soon or it will die. Maybe I will plant it tomorrow.

As you can see, I now know what a weblog is for–to get all of those thoughts rolling around in my head down on “paper”. This isn’t exactly “paper”, but it is close enough.

It’s a great life!

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