Saturday, December 19, 2009

Western Australia Sea Shells

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These are shells Hannah collected on the beach in Western Australia (Perth). There are several different kinds with the large cone type and the small abalone ones being the most prominent. I do not know the name of any of these, but they are definitely different from the Gulf of Mexico shells. However, these shells were only on the beach one day and after that, other types were more abundant. Reminds me of one Christmas years ago when my mother-in-law and I went to Gulf Shores and the whole beach near the state pier was littered with dime sized sand dollars. I defy you to find a whole sand dollar at Gulf Shores on any given day. It was serendipity.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pot Person Faces Winter

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The pot person is ready for Christmas with her Poinsettias and hat and scarf.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hebetude and Gallimaufry

I subscribe to Word of the Day. Recently there have been several words that really interested me. Sometimes you can learn a word and its definition but still not understand it. Hubris is such a word for me.
Hebetude is mental dullness or sluggishness. Is that the way you feel when you are rolled up in a soft warm blanket with your eyes closed in front of the idiot box? Or is it caused by sitting in the early spring sunshine, leaning against the barn door? It might be caused by being so tired you can't think. I think a lot of the email fwds I get are generated and passed on by people with this condition. Not that there aren't good ones.I recently got one of pictures of the Northern Lights that really piqued my interest. But they are like handsome princes, I guess. You have to kiss a lot of toads.
Gallimaufry is a hodgepodge or confused jumble. Maybe gallimaufry causes hebetude. Or are they related some other way?
This causes me to want to rusticate, to find solace in my place in the country. I just hope the internet can reach me there.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fossil Collecting

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In July I was lucky enough to be invited on a fossil hunt and I really had a great day. With the help of some other folks I came home with quite a load of beautiful stuff which I still need to preserve some way. But, this picture is the place we collected from. It is an abandoned coal mine near Birmingham, Alabama and it has amphibian trail fossils. This is apparently very rare. I found one or two, but nothing I would definitively say was an amphibian trail. I did get some seed fern fossils and some other plant fossils that I was well pleased with.
In the fall of 2008, we visited our daughter at Cornell and she took us on a whirlwind tour of the surrounding area. One of the places we went was a fossil mine that had marine fossils. I think I could really get into this fossil hunting.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hunting Heron

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This is another of my Sanibel Island pictures from the past year. it stood completely motionless staring at something I could not see in the grass. We watched it for at least half an hour as we were looking at some other birds in the area also. The intensity of it's concentration certainly should be rewarded, hopefully with a morsel of food, but I never saw it get anything.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rabbit on Fossil Trail Sanibel Island

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My definitive killing frost happened December 7. Wipe-Out!!
Cold and miserable days make me take refuge in looking at some of my Sanibel Island pictures taken over the last year. This is one of a rabbit happily munching beside the road. This was taken in Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve where a road had been constructed out to a power line tower. The tower was built on a pile of rubble that had been dredged up for the purpose from the surrounding water covered area. It must have been covered with water for a long time because the whole road and base for the tower were made from fossilized shells. This rabbit is in no way connected to the fossils except it just happened to be there.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pine Cone Angels

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Here are some more homemade decorations made with the ubiquitous pine cone. Hot glue a hickory nut or a buckeye to the top of a pine cone. The wings are made from a short piece of ribbon with wire edges. Twist the ribbon in the middle to give more of a wing shape and hot glue to the back. The arms can be make out of any number of things. Twigs would work. I used chenille stems, pipe cleaners, and even the beads on a string that come on rolls like ribbon. Hot glue under the wings or attach arms to the wings and glue on as a unit. A halo can be fashioned from the bead strings. I put stars in the hands of my angels but anything small will do, or you could put hands together as if they were praying. A piece of Christmas card could be fashioned into a hymn book. These make a cute table decoration, a tree ornament, a package decoration, or a gift to a friend who loves nature.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Three Reindeer

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I got these homemade reindeer several years ago at a flea market. I keep them in the barn when they are not in use so that the weather does not take as bad a toll on them. That does not stop the bugs, though. There is always a pile of sawdust under them when I bring them out each year. If I had to store them in the house they would have needed treatment for bugs at the beginning. Perhaps a dose of wood preservative would have worked. Neglecting the wisdom of storing these reindeer at all, I put a bow on them and set them out each year, and they make me happy. As they approach the end of their useful lives, their legs are unsteady and have to be propped just so, but they can still stand unless there is a very high wind or a real deer bumps into them. The arrogance of a large rack is gone with only one small broken branch to tell of former glory. Even the fawn is not so frisky anymore. But, they are still with me to celebrate Christmas. Sometimes when I pull into the driveway, I still momentarily think they are real. They may be like the Velveteen Rabbit and after they have been loved for a very long time, they become real. Maybe that is what they smell on the North wind.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sloe Plum Ready for the Holidays

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Several years ago I decorated my sloe plum with Christmas balls. I had seen this done on a similar small tree at the Botanical Garden in Chapel hill, NC. It was stunning with snow all around. Because the tree has thornlike fruit spurs, I leave the decorations on all year. Also because to me it seems an unnecessary task and I like to see the balls. They are especially nice when the tree is in bloom. At any rate I usually add a few every year, as the older ones fall or become grimy looking. I am working on an idea to put some in the top of the tree without getting my eyes stabbed out.
I originally got this tree from seed collected at Allen's Mill in Chambers county, Alabama. I have to trim it every year to keep it from becoming a hazard with low growing limbs, but in the last couple years, it is becoming more erect and my trimming job has decreased.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Reusing Last Year's Wreaths


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With all the talk about the economy and saving money, I wanted to show what ole' skin flint did this year. Last year I received two stunning evergreen wreaths. After the holidays I hung one on the garden fence post, and covered and kept the other one in the attic till this year. After a year in the elements, the one on the garden post was beginning to show its age when viewed up close. But at a distance it still looked good to me. I spiffed it up with a little green spray paint and added a red bow. The one that spent the year in the attic was in better shape and white spray pant over it lightly made it quite attractive with a red bow and some Jackson smilax.I don't know how many more years these will last, but for this year, it looks pretty. I am thinking about digging out a can of spray snow and touching the greenery with it. Then again, maybe not.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Kousa Dogwood in the Fall

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My Kousa Dogwood grows taller and nicer every year. It keeps it's leaves to the bitter end and is now in full color. I searched everywhere for one of these and have now had it about 5 years and not nary a bloom on it in all that time. Those who have grown them say to be patient, that the spring show will come and it will be worth the wait. In the meantime, there is this beautiful fall color. It really shows up like Christmas decoration behind that Rododendron.
I think I will give it a little lime. I read that it grows best in a soil pH of 6-6.5. Hummm. I guess this old red clay is a bit more acidic than that.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Best Christmas Lights

Someone sent me an email fwd with this in it. Now this is worth seeing. I think I may have seen it last year, but that did not decrease my enjoyment of it this time. Thanks for sending it along.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bear/Cougar Film

I am very interested in animals and I suppose I anthropomorphize them, but I enjoyed this. It may be all staged (I especially wondered about the whimpers from that bear) but I still enjoyed it.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Aristolochia frimbriata


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This is an unusual Aristolochia or Dutchman's pipe. Some of the members of this group are very unruly and try to take over the earth, but this one , fimbriata, is much smaller and less aggressive. I can vouch for the hardiness of this little beauty, too. I have grown them for years in pots that were too small, starved them for fertilizer, planted them in the ground and forgot to water in drought, you name it, but they have never failed me and they cling to life with a tenacity that is almost frightening. They grow easily from seed, but of the two I have in the ground, neither has reseeded in the 3 or 4 years I have had them there, so I am not expecting them to become a menace. I think they show off most effectively in a hanging basket because of their small size. Mine generally get no longer than 18-24 inches and may have several stems sprouting from the woody looking underground part.
They become dormant in winter in both pots and the ground, but spring back out as soon as it warms up. Of course the ones in the greenhouse sprout out first. I think I may have gotten my original seed from the American Horticultural Society's seed exchange.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tropical Pitcher plants



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These are the 3 kinds of tropical pitcher plants that I grow. I can name them no further than to say that they are all Nepenthes. Sometimes you can find something exciting in the Mean Place (Wally World) and that is where all 3 of mine came from. There are 3 things that you should know about growing tropical pitcher plants. They are:
Do not let them get dry or the cute little pitchers will be the first to turn brown, followed quickly by the whole plant. Do NOT fertilize. When watering, water not only the root mass (which is quite small and fragile), but also water the pitchers. They should always have a fair amount of water in them. Do not let any of this water get on you however, because it stinks to high heaven. I guess a watery mess of rotting insects could not smell sweet. These plants can trap plenty of insects in the greenhouse, and need no assistance in getting prey. This is the reason they do not require fertilizer. They digest insects and get what they need from the insect bodies. They are not fail proof on catching insects though. I have seen holes chewed through the pitcher walls where something escaped, probably a bumblebee from the size of the hole. These Nepenthes are not for the casual gardener, and certainly are not house plants. However they are beautiful in a sort of erotic way. If you like them, you should visit the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. They have a huge collection in the conservatory. And of course you won't want to miss the orchids there either.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Arum Italicum for Beautiful Winter Foliage


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This is Arum italicum and it is a wonderful foliage plant. It retains these gorgeous leaves all winter. In spring there will be white flower spathes followed by gorgeous red berries. I started with 3 bulbs and over the years they have multiplied into fairly large clumps. I moved them once and apparently left behind a bulb or two and those have developed into a nice clump also.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

November Greenhouse Flowers

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I have some nice blooms on a Phalenoposis (moth) orchid right now and several Thanksgiving/Christmas cactus blooming. there are a couple of Streptocarpus in there, too.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Azaleas in the Fall?


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My azaleas are blooming and I notice that lots of other people have them blooming also. This probably means that these plants will not bloom or at least have only scattered blooms next spring.

Monday, November 30, 2009

About Crows

The crows in their gatherings have been especially numerous and remarkable this year. I decided to check out why and this is what I found out.
Crows congregate in winter mainly to roost and the size of the congregation can be as small as a hundred or tens of thousands. An hour or two before dark, they congregate in a staging area where they call, chase, and fight. About dark they move to the night roost. There may be safety in numbers or there may be other reasons for these normally solitary birds to roost together. One involves conveying information. For instance,if a crow has had limited success foraging that day, it may want to watch which direction the best fed and crows are heading in come morning.
The crows usually stop congregating to roost in March and this is when breeding season starts. It takes about 4 months to select a mate, build a nest and raise the chicks to independence. This generally means that only one brood will be raised in a season. The unmated juveniles frequently help their parents with caring for the eggs and young.
Crows generally mate for life. The exception seems to be if the crows are mating for the first time and the nesting fails.Successful nests occur about 50% of the time and in rural areas, crows usually can fledge 4 out of 5 eggs originally laid. Juveniles do not breed in their first year; in fact females may be 4 to 6 years old and males 5 to 6 years before they form a pair bond. Crows live a long time- the oldest one known lived 29 1/2 years. In the wild they probably live 17-21 years.
When we were children my brother got a young crow somehow. He was always off in the woods if he was not doing chores. My uncle told him if he split the crows tongue it could talk. He did it and the crow died, maybe because it could not eat.
This is one of my favorite poems and it just happens to be about crows.


Crows startle the clouds
with grievances never resolved
and warnings blurted into thin air.
Once in a while, the cries of all those who tried to survive
pour from the funnels of their throats.
No wonder we never really listen.
Like most animals, crows tell the truth:
working hard to penetrate our tiny tubular ears,
they cackle on telephone lines while we watch TV.
Once I did listen to a crow, but even when I had heard
his whole story, there was nothing I could do.
Next, I thought, I'd have to listen to squirrels and coyotes.
I like to think I deal with my share of rotten truths
but I couldn't bear to kneel down in damp grass
and listen to the hedgehog or the mole.
Judith Barrington

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Still Angel Trumpets Left

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This is my last angel trumpet for the season (2009) The whole plant has not been killed yet, just the top has been bit. But still, I am sure this is the last Hurrah for this season.

Friday, November 27, 2009

November Has Beautiful Leaves



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There are still beautiful leaves in my yard, but I am expecting it to all be over in the next few days. The top picture is the blueberry bushes. They turned out in a nice combination.
The second is a dogwood that still has a few leaves. This dogwood escaped the ax a few years ago when all that talk about a fungal disease called anthracnose was going around. Advice was if you had a tree with the disease you should get rid of it pronto before it spread. This tree lost several limbs and I was feeling pretty sad about it. It was a mere chance seedling when we built the house 25 years ago. I left it because it was a dogwood and it was growing next to a stump that looked like it was going to be there a while. I hesitated and further reading turned up the suggestion to prune the affected limbs and see how that worked out. So with the passage of a few years, the limbs stopped dying, at least so frequently and it survives to bloom and fruit beautifully every year. Maybe it was not anthracnose at all, or maybe it was...
The bottom picture is a yellow bell, Forsythia. It is as beautiful in fall foliage as it is with spring flowers, and almost the same color. I am vexed when I see how some people trim Forsythia into square and ball shapes or just shear off the top of the shrub flat. This destroys the natural lovely draping shape of the shrub. Better to save yourself some work and enjoy the cascading branches filled with yellow flowers in spring. If your shrub is in a row or crowded by other shrubs so that it is not shown off to it's best, no problem. Stick some cuttings in the ground where you want a new shrub and step back. You may have to water if it turns dry but this will produce another lovely yellow bell in short order.The only care I ever give mine is to cut the similax vine out of it as well as any dead or damaged stems.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Franklin Tree in the Fall

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This is my Franklin tree in the fall. I should have taken the picture before most of the leaves fell, but you can see it has beautiful leaf color in addition to those beautiful flowers in summer. I am proud of this little tree,not only because I grew it from a mere seed, but because I had bought $30 twigs twice and they had died. I kept this one in a pot for several years but it was getting so large I thought it should go in the ground. A little research turned up the fact that the Franklin tree often succumbs on land that has had cotton grown on it, due to attack by a fungus. I eventually procured some fungicide and poured it all around and in the hole where the tree was to go. This is the beginning of its third year in the ground and it seems happy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Metasequoia in Alabama


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I have 5 Metasequois in my yard, one planted 3 years ago and the other 4 have been in the ground for 2 summers. We used to talk about our house being called The Oaks, but in years to come, somone may call it The Place Where the Metasequoias Grow. Or it might be called the Bald Cypress Homestead, as the 2 trees are so easily confused to the untrained eye. In fact, althought I am growing Dawn Redwood, I state that emphatically simply because I purchased them as such. The trees will have to be older before I can make a definite ID on them.
Metasequoias have cones that open and disburse the seed, bald cypress have cones that crumble. Metasequoia is said to grow faster and have more buttressing and fluting of the lower trunk. Both have beautiful fall color. As you can see from the color here, the orange/brown color is quite different from our other fall colors.
I expect these trees to grow from 180-200 feet tall, and they are already growing quickly.
My original acquisition of these trees was based on their romantic history. It was known from the fossil record by 3 species, but was thought to be extinct until 1944 when one was discovered growing in a temple garden in China. Most of the current trees originated as seeds from this tree although a small grove was also discovered. Trees in temple gardens are carefully tended and this may account for the discovery of another living fossil, the Gingko, also in a temple garden.
I like to think of these trees "lifting their leafy arm to pray" long after I can no longer lift mine.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving Thanks

Of course the sermon today was on being thankful,and the list included all the typical things:family, job,nation,home,friends,and nature. I started thinking about some of the smaller things that I am thankful for. The first that came to mind was coffee. Just to get an idea about how wonderful it is, all I have to do is skip one morning. maybe it is addiction after all. But I like it also for the aroma and taste. I often have coffee with friends and that adds an extra dimension to it.
I am thankful for beautiful sunsets. I see more of them in the cooler months and I suppose that is why it seems to me there are nicer sunsets in winter when the air is clear. Typically when I see a beautiful sky, a wave of peace and calm sweeps over me and I feel safe and loved.
I am thankful for my health and I realize that the luck of the draw has been with me so far. When it is my time I want to go suddenly, no lingering, while I am digging a hole to plant a tree.
I am thankful for my mother and the life she lived in front of all. Her love never wavered, and her hands reached out to help, even when the only thing she could do was to fold them in prayer. I am thankful that she was with me so long.
I am thankful for the animals. Maybe God put them here to remind us of how we should really live.They live in a different kingdom , but we should not fool ourselves into believing they are that different from us. They have many of the same feelings as we do and we can often see it in their eyes and their behavior. "When you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me."
I am thankful for tub baths and a warm (or cool) bed.
I am thankful that I was born at this time in history, and not some time before or after this. This is a good time, maybe the best there has ever been or will be.
I am thankful that I see as well as I do, and I am glad I have been able to receive care and appliances that help me see better, if not perfectly. Often when I see something beautiful, I try to remember it in case there ever comes a time when I cannot see. There is really nothing that compares with a water droplet hanging on a twig and reflecting the world in its surface.
Take some time and reflect about the little things that make your life so fine. Then tell the ones who help make it so.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


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This is a Cuphea and I have forgotten where I got it,but I do know I have had it for several years. It is a hardy thing as I do not pay it much attention until it flowers. And it is a late bloomer, giving some variety to all those mums. The Cuphea has many members and a big variety of forms. This one resembles one I grew several years ago as a potted plant which was called cigar plant. The flowers were smaller and orange with a red tip (cigars).Apparently the deer do not find it too palatable as they just tasted a few flowers on the end of the bloom spike and moved on. I also have a cuphea know as bat flower that has the purple tube and two large (compared to the tube) red ears or wings on the end. See one here
This one does not grow as well for me, perhaps disliking my careless ways toward it and seems to get smaller every year.
Mexican heather is also a member of this group.
For a look at some of the diversity of this group put in Cuphea in the search engine and look at images.
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