Friday, October 31, 2008

Amazon Lily of the family of Amaryllis

Posted by Picasa

This is a member of the Amaryllis family and is known to me as Amazon lily. I believe I started out with three bulbs but they have multiplied greatly through the years and now I have many overflowing pots of them. They are lightly and pleasantly fragrant,and are a welcome sight in the winter when they typically bloom. They bloom in response to warm temperatures followed by cooler temps. But they can also be triggered to bloom by allowing them to dry down a bit and then watering. This is what happened to this one blooming in late summer.
These bulbs are not hardy and must be kept in a pot or else dug and brought inside for the cooler weather. The leaves can be eaten by slugs, so I try to keep a sharp eye out for that sort of damage. They have also been bothered occasionally by mealy bugs but a good wash off with soapy water gets rid of them for a while. Once you have them, I don't believe you can ever completely rid your plants of them. I recommend jettisoning any plant that gets them. But there are some things that are just too good to toss, and this is one of them.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Posted by Picasa

Wednesday morning brought the first frost at my house. It wasn't the killing frost because there are still plenty of things that were not hurt. The tops of the angel trumpets were bit back and the South African foxglove was killed. The tip top of the Thunbergia (Blue Sky Vine) was hit, but the lower parts and most of the blooms are still okay. Because of the oak trees which still have their leaves, I have a lot of protection. Last year the killing frost came on November 8.
But back to Gompherea (globe amaranth).It is an easily grown annual that loves the heat and humidity of Alabama summers. The only thing that has ever bothered them at all was grasshoppers taking a few bites of the leaves. They make great additions to dried arrangements and are also very useful in wreath making. They come in several colors: pink, lavender and the fushia which is the common one seen here.
If you want to dry some, better pick them now while there is still time. They can be harvested all through the summer and you can get quite a bunch off only a few plants. Bundle them and hang them upside down to dry. I do this in my attic and in a couple of days in the heat of summer they are dry. They need to hang upside down or else the flower heads will sag as they dry. This is what happened to a couple of flowers near the bottom of the bunch.I dried them in a vase and added to the arrangement.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cissus species


Posted by Picasa

After checking back over my entries, I see that I have not regaled you with the beauties of one of my favorite plants, Cissus discolor. These can be grown in a hanging basket, but to my mind they are far more attractive displayed against the bark of a tree. One of these is a red oak, the other is a pecan. The silver, dark green and purple leaves shine through the hot days of summer and into fall. The underside of the leaves is a beautiful maroon. From a pot at the base of the tree it frequently grows 15 feet to the first limb of the tree and onward. After some initial help getting started to climb, it is able to scoot on up by using red tendrils to grasp the bark.
Cissus discolor will not overwinter outside here in zone 8, but one of the easy to love features of this plant is that it goes dormant overwinter, even in the greenhouse. This means it needs little water and no other care except to be kept from freezing. After it is reliably warm again, it springs forth from dormant buds along the stem. Just before frost, which may come this week,I harden my heart and cut it off at some manageable point, usually 2-3 feet above pot level, and take it to a corner of the greenhouse.
In the second picture you see a succulent looking vine clinging to the bark of the tree also. It is about in the center of the frame.This is a Cissus quadrangularis, also known as Veld Grape. Who would believe these two plants are the same genus? I have never seen either of these plants bloom, so that would tell the tale. Extracts of C. quadrangularis may be used to treat obesity and blood sugar levels as well as promoting heart health. It hales from south and east Africa, India, and Arabia. I grow this strictly as an oddity. I don't think it is all that beautiful.
Both plants root easily from cuttings made when the plants are actively growing.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ruminations at the Clothes Line

Posted by Picasa

Two giant hickories stand sentinel behind my clothes line, and sometimes, especially when the wind blows, they speak. And to tell the truth I find what they seem to be saying pretty troubling. They creak in a way that seems to imply that they are not as sturdy as they seem and that although they hold me no ill will, they might just fall on me someday. I have tried over several years to see what might be causing the creaks, but I do not see any limbs rubbing or anything else to account for the noise. I think that the noise is coming from deep inside the trees (or tree- I don't know if it is one or both).When they give out these warnings I often think about which way to run if they start to fall, but I know I am kidding myself.
Why don't I move the clothes line or simply use the clothes dryer? I could have the trees cut because if they fall, at the very least they will smash the barn. But the trees are probably as old or older than I am and I can't bear the thought of my paranoia ending their lives. I like looking up at the trees in all seasons and appreciate their shape and colors against the sky. I dislike the idea of paying for something that is free so I shun the dryer except under duress.I like the way line dried clothes smell and moving the line would be a lot of trouble not to mention work. And unfun work, at that.
Maybe this explains why people who live in California with the threat of the Big One, just go on about their business. If they really worried about it or thought the Big One might come any day, they would move somewhere else. I guess they just enjoy their scenery and don't want to go through the hassle of finding another job.
However this does not explain why homeless people in the frozen north don't just get on the road and hike south. You know it has got to be easier to live under a bridge in Florida than New York.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fall Spiders


These spiders are really numerous around my place in the fall. I would like to avoid them and go about my business and let them do likewise. Unfortunately, we seem to have the same ideas about where would be a good place to go. I am constantly running into their webs. There is one path I use a lot between 2 cedars and some of my plots. There is always one there. Must be a good spot for catching food. Another place is the open door of the old greenhouse, which is where I got this picture. There is also usually one with a web between the back porch railing and the flood light. I guess that is a buggy place, too. Wiith so many bugs about, I am glad to have their services. Please though, don't get on me!
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 25, 2008

What's blooming now: Sasanqua



I have had this bush for about 15- 20 years. It rewards me for leaving it alone with these beautiful light pink blooms every fall. When I planted it, I never envisioned it would be a tree, which goes to show that before you use a plant for a foundation planting, you should check on the size it will be when mature. Although even when you know it can be hard to visualize. But I am not sorry anyway. I planted it beside the porch and especially this time of year when it blooms, I think of my friend who was with me when I purchased this. I think how our friendship has grown sturdy and beautiful through the years, just like this Sasangua. A lot of my plants bring to mind dear friends.
I prune this after it completes it's bloom (if I remember to do it on a sunny warm day). That's about it. My dogs through the years have found a wonderful respite from the heat in the cool earth under it's shade. Brown Thrashers also like to scratch and pluck through the debris that accumulates under the bush. I wonder what is so wonderful under there?
Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 24, 2008

Coping with Health Changes in a Parent

Mother had a stoke 18 months ago, and all of us who love her as well as she herself, have been in an uneasy, sad dance trying to understand what is happening at any moment and what might happen next. Some days she is clear and seems like her old self except that she is unable to walk or move herself very much. She also has use of only one hand, although she sometimes makes reference to her “old” hand trying to help the other one. Other times her reality becomes so mixed that we are left abandoned as we reach out to connect with her. Her reality may be parts of dreams, the past, the present, and even television. This is the part of her condition that is hardest to deal with. She seems to believe in the future and that she will be there in it, as she has always been. She talks about saving things as she might need them later. I suppose this is an ingrained habit that came from growing up in the depression. She talks about her car and where she might need to drive to.
These ramblings and recitations bother my sister more than me, but I find them disturbing also. I would very much like for Mother to be the person she was before the stroke, but I know that is not likely to happen. What bothers me about it most is how can she stand her life? How horrible to be dependent on someone else for everything! She can feed herself but that is about all. I have wondered if these strange experiences she has are a way of escape for her. She frequently “goes” places at night or says she spent the night somewhere else. Perhaps the Lord has made an escape for her from something that is just too hard to bear.
Meanwhile I look on and wonder if the same fate awaits me down the road. Surely one of our best blessings is ignorance about what the future holds. If it is bad, we would worry about it. If it is good, it would ruin the surprise.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver is a favorite poet of mine. And this poem may be my very favorite of all her poems.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Strawberry bush or Hearts-a-Busting

Posted by Picasa

I have had several mentions of Eunonymus americana lately, so I decided to add a bit more info than I did in the last post of this shrub.It is a thin shrub with green stems but this time of year it is very unusual looking with it's upside down baskets of strawberries. Hearts-a-busting with love is another moniker for this native shrub. I think it is well worth growing even if you do have to protect it from deer.
If you want to grow it from seed, the seed should be planted outside as soon as they are harvested.They require both a cold and a warm period to germinate and this is done easiest by letting Mother Nature take over.
If you want to try cuttings, take softwood cuttings in July/August, stick several in a pot and keep moist. They root like a house afire.
It is native to practically every state east of the Mississippi as well as Texas and Oklahoma.

Monday, October 20, 2008

What's Blooming Now: Asters and Coleus


Asters are blooming everywhere now. In flower beds, on roadsides, the edge of the woods, they seem to take on a special stand out quality once you see one or two. they seem to be everywhere. This time of year you could close your eyes and guess the name of a flower and aster would make you right most of the time. They come is all shades of blue and purple as well as white. They make great fillers for fall arrangments. This one blooming in my yard is a pass-along plant. My mother got it from Mrs. Davis and then passed a clump to me. It seems to grow equally well in sun or part shade. It withstands drought and still blooms in fall.

Posted by Picasa

A pleasant change from the ubiquitous fall mums are the many kinds and colors of Coleus. By this time of fall they are at their best in size and color. The new varieties do not go to seed as much as the older ones did and maintain their thickness right on through the season till the first tiny frost hits them.The one in the top photo (with the red and yellow leaves) is the variety 'Alabama'. I have grown it for several years and it out performs all others for me.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What's Blooming Now: Moonvines


Even though it is late for moonflowers, mine got a late start so I am glad they are blooming at all.Moonflowers typically start in high summer and continue till the seed production causes them to cut back on flowering.These fast growing vines have heart shaped leaves, but their real beauty is the stark white flowers which open in the early evening. When the humidity is low enough, they open so quickly that you can see the movement. They frequently shake the vine as they burst forth. They are said to emit a sweet fragrance as they open but I have never experienced this. Frequently the bloosoms open so far above ground that it is hard to get close enough for a sniff. I usually train these up nylon cord on the west end of the porch so that they provide afternoon shade in the heat of summer. They have no trouble reaching the roof,10-12 feet .
Sometimes the seed will volunteer where they dropped the summer before because this vine is an annual. Usually I collect some seed to make sure I get some started when I want them, that is , early. Moonvines have a hard seed coat and that may be the reason so few seedlings volunteer. When I am ready to plant the seed, I start them soaking in hot water (from the faucet, not boiling) and leave them overnight. By the morning the seed coats are beginning to loosen and I plant the soaked seed where I want them to grow. I water for the first few days so that they do not dry out again which would kill the seed. In just a few days you will see the large coteledons spring forth and they are on their way.
It is nice to sit on the porch after supper and watch them open in the twilight and sip a mint juliep. Actually, forget the mint juliep. That is the worst tasting drink I ever had (I think).
Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 17, 2008

Dora, the Explorer


Dora is ready for halloween. She has on her black coat,her halloween scarf, and her eyes in this shot make her look like something from the X-files.
Posted by Picasa

This is Dora on squirrel alert.

Yesterday we were coming down the driveway with Dora happily looking out the open window. A squirrel crossed the drive and as quick as a flash, Dora leaped from the open window. I screeched on the brakes, afraid I had run over her, but she bounded off quickly after the squirrel.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Invasive Plant: Old World Climbing Fern

This is Lygodium microphyllum, a new threat to woodlands and shrub borders in Alabama. I took this picture in my mother-in-law's flower bed in south Alabama. The first time she saw it at the edge of her woods, she started using it in flower arrangements and table decorations. She thought it was beautiful. So did I. Now it has started to wrap things up similar to kudzu. The fronds can grow to 100 feet, easily overtopping trees. It shades out understory natives and mature trees alike. The mats of old vegetation, called rachis, allow fire to climb to the tops of trees that would not ordinarily be bothered by fire.

The plant spreads by spores,the reproductive method of ferns, and since the spores produce a small plant that is easily overlooked, it can become a pest rapidly.Spores can be spread by wind, birds, footsteps, and tree harvesting equipment. It also spreads by resprouting almost anywhere along it's length from a leaf. typically the lower fronds are vegetative while the fertile leaves with spores sprout nearer the top end of the plant.

This summer I saw Lygodium microphyllum across the road from my house on some recently cut over land. I believe that it must have arrived on the harvest equipment.If you are having trees harvested, please stipulate that the equipment must be cleaned before it enters your property.

Invasive Plant: Clerodendrum bungei

These 2 pictures are of Clerodendrum bungei, also known as rosy clerodendrum or peanut butter plant (because of its odor, although I think this is a misnomer). The top one I snagged from the internet and the second is one growing in the edge of my woods. The first time I ever saw this plant growing was at Westville, and I asked some of the women who were working there about getting a cutting of it. They looked at each other and smiled and then offered that they all had plenty around their houses that they would be happy to give me cuttings of. It should have clued me in. Several years later I actually bought a plant and set it in my flower bed. It had a hard time getting started (luckily), but then started to spread by suckers underground. It took about 3 years to eradicate if from the bed,but in the end persistence, roundup, pulling, and digging got rid of it. Except. At the last I relented, falling prey to it's lovely flowers. I planted a piece in the edge of the woods and wished it luck. It did not need luck. All it needed was opportunity.
Over the course of several years when I busily ignored the patch, it spread mightly.
One day I noticed some lovely pink flowers in the edge of the woods, and have been using roundup for 3 years on it now. I spray around the outside working my way inward. I still have a patch about
8 feet across, and the suckers are easy to escape notice as they run out to find new homes and start other colonies.
I'm working on it though. Some mistakes can't be redeemed, but I plan to pull this one back from disaster.
It is claimed that the flower is pleasantly fragrant, but I have never been able to get past the
odor of the leaves, which to me is badddd...
A few years ago a friend pointed out to me a large patch growing in Auburn. But by then it was too late: I already had this Clerodendrum's number.
I hear that people plant it in a place by itself and mow around it to control it. but my advice is: DON"T.
It grows well in both shade and sun, likes a good bit of water but is drought tolerant. Does this sound like an invasive waiting to happen? At my house in poor soil it grows to about 4 feet tall, and is a rich dark green. Lovely, huh?
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Economic situation

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. - John Kenneth Galbraith

Any disagreement?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Big Pig

There are pieces of Americana everywhere and surely this one deserves a special place of honor. It is on Highway 14 between Tallassee and Notasulga. They say the barbeque is good, too.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

More Gardens of Niagara Falls

These white flowers are fall blooming anemones. I tried these a couple of times but each year when the flower stalks shot up some larvae proceeded to chew them to nubins. So I was pleased to enjoy these. These are much larger than my plants ever got, but mine were pink. What I saw of them.

These 2 pictures are of a Clerodendrum tree. It was very fragrant, and I was glad to meet it in person. Steve Thomas told me he had one that I assume is like this or similar and he reported it as invasive. I know that Clerodendrum bungei, the rose clerodendrum, is very invasive. I made the mistake of planting it several years ago and have been trying to keep it sprayed out with roundup ever since. It also smells bad to me. Maybe I will post a picture of mine one day and label it the Monster that Devoured the Understory.
Posted by Picasa

Gardens of Niagara Falls Canada in October

Posted by Picasa

The gardens of Niagara Falls, Canada were wonderful. The gorge was bordered by a walkway that afforded a superb view of the falls and river. Next to walkway was the road and across the road were beautiful gardens, and perfectly maintained. The plant above is a mystery to me, so if you know what it is, please tell me. It appears to be a thistle, but it is certainly huge. The second picture gives a better view of the whole plant.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Niagara Falls in Early October

Posted by Picasa

Having just returned from my first sight of Niagara Falls, I can tell you it is a powerful sight. I know everyone who has ever been there has returned with photos approximately or exactly like mine. The first picture shows the power of the river and the event horizon as the water rushes out of sight. The second picture shows the Lady of the Mist ploughing her way into the spray created by the fall. I was freezing even though I had on most of the clothes I had taken along. The wind was terrific and the dampness and temperature in the 40's made for misery for someone who had just left a sweaty southland. Even though these pictures can't do justice to the sight, maybe they will remind you of what you have seen or make you want to see it.
The last picture is of the American section of the Falls. Altogether not nearly as impressive as the other side-the horseshoe part of the falls.
I had the most expensive breakfast there I ever had $21+, but gee, the view was beyond compare. So, if you go, take a wheel barrow full of money or just do what we did: see the free stuff. A walkway stretches along the river and that is the best view of all. Some motels and restaurants also provide a bird's eye view that can be enjoyed without paying. The evenings have a light show of both falls and it is quite beautiful, although I think the plain white lights may have been best.
Over the next few days I will be regaling you with some of my favorite things from a great trip.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Garden Sculpture


These garden sculptures were at Granny's Bloomers in Warm Springs. Note that chickens are bigger than sheep. But hey, it is so cute. Let's not be realistic and spoil things.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 3, 2008

Painted Lady


On a recent outing to warm Springs, GA. I saw this gorgeous house. It looks like it belongs in Disney World, made for the Magic Kingdom.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Mug Microwave Chocolate Cake

I received this as a fwd but thought it was good enough to pass along. I made it and was really surprised at how it rose up. But it turned out okay. made it 2 times now and think it is pretty tasty. The good thing about this is even if you eat it all, it is not as much as a whole cake or pan of brownies!! I like to look on the bright side.

1 Coffee Mug
4 Tablespoons Flour (that's plain flour, not self-rising flour)
4 Tablespoons Sugar
2 Tablespoons baking Cocoa
1 Egg
3 Tablespoons Milk
3 Tablespoons Oil
Small splash of Vanilla

3 Tablespoons Chocolate Chips (optional)
Some Nuts (optional)

Add dry ingredients to mug and mix well.
Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.
Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla and mix again.
Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes on high.
The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed !!!
Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.
EAT !!! (this can serve 2 if you want to share !!! )

And why is this the most dangerous cake recipe in the world?
Because now we are all only 5 minutes away from Chocolate Cake
at any time of the day or night !!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Spider Lilies


Spider lilies are blooming everywhere now. It seems late to me but I have no data. The lateness may be due to the fact that we had virtually no rain in September. I started to see spider lilies blooming along the road about a month ago but they have popped up everywhere now.
These long lived perennial bulbs survive at old homesites and along roads where soil has been deposited in the road building process. They do however resent a couple of treatments. They do not like to be moved and may take 2 or 3 years to recover. The other is that their folige should not be mowed till it dies back in spring. The flowers pot up when no foliage is visible and this accounts for one of their names, naked ladies. The flowers are followed by striped leaves which persist through the winter before dying off in the spring. The bulbs frequently squeeze themselves out of the ground when they become crowded. I usually just take the loose bulbs that are lying on top of the ground this time of year and plant them somewhere else.
These red flowers make a stunning attangement with fall blooming aggeratum (blue).
Posted by Picasa
Blogging tips
Blogging tips