Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Grounds at Edison's Home




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While we were in Ft. Myers, we visited the grounds at Edison's home. We did not go in the home as we had seen the house and workshop before, but we had to go by and say hello to the banyan tree. I believe it is the largest one in the US. There are larger ones elsewhere. India has some that cover acres of land.
The garden had been decorated with butterflies made by school children and was an interesting project. I really liked the metal tree with butterflies attached.
The green fruits were on a papaya tree that was only about 7 feet tall. It seemed an incredible fruit load for such a small tree.
The bougainvillea is pretty impressive also. My tiny little potted ones in the greenhouse were sad when I told them about how big and happy their family members are in Ft. Myers. It made me feel like I was keeping mine in a cold dark prison.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Trip to Sanibel Island

I have recently returned to Alabama from a trip to sunny Florida where it was cold, windy,overcast, and misty/rainy. I suppose I should have known better than to go south during spring break. Although the beaches where I was were not exceedingly crowded, I suspect the reason was the weather. But in spite of the weather, it was a lovely trip and was nice to be with all the family, and share some time away. We stayed in a condo just steps from the beach, we ate at the original home of Cheeburger Cheeburger (Yum for those chocolate key lime pie milkshakes), ate a meal at the Mucky Duck (Once is all we could afford), and cruised around looking for alligators which we never saw. We took the ferry from Pine Island over to Caya Costa State Park and spent several hours trolling the deserted beaches for sand dollars. (Found about 5 or 6,none of which were perfect, but were still good finds.)I managed to get my feet sunburned (a first for me-it's usually my nose). My nose sailed through unscathed due to diligent use of spray sun block (A new thing for me-I thought you had to slather it on) as well as a very wide brimmed hat. We found lots of shells, but not a lot of big ones. We found so many in fact that we were only able to bring a fraction of them home, but then, the joy is in the hunt anyway. I will post a few pictures later but will try not to run on forever like I did about Hawaii.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tucker House in LaFayette

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This is an old house. I have no idea how old, but I remember it for more than 50 years. It looks like a castle and I always imagined that it must be castle-like inside too. I have never been inside it, but I consider it to be a landmark in LaFayette, Alabama. It is on the US 431 heading North out of LaFayette, on the left.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Camellia Professor Sargent

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When I first planted camellias the deer tried to eat them up. At last I moved my two remaining plants closer to the house and barn and that seemed to work. through the years they just get bigger. the one by the barn is in full bloom now. It looks like a rose, only better.
Camellias prefer acid soil, so the South is a good place to grow them. They are shallow rooted and benefit from mulch until they get large enough to shade their own roots. This is another beautiful winter bloomer. I like to pick single blossoms with short stems and float them in a glass bowl for the dining table. I also have several flower shaped vases that hold them just right to show off.

Saturday, March 20, 2010



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Before I ever grew a Hellebore I imagined that they could not be grown here in the southeast, and certainly I had never seen any for sale. I had only admired them in plant freak magazines. One day a few years ago while cruising through the plants at Home Depot, I saw one and snatched it right up. Over the years (maybe 5/6) mine has grown and become quite a nice plant. Another smaller plant has come up beside it, from seed I guess. And I did find another one a few years ago. I can't understand why they are not grown more.
Hellebores are deer resistant. I have never had a deer bother mine at all. Occasionally a slug or snail will munch on a leaf, but that has never been a real problem either. They are drought tolerant after they become established. They bloom when little else is blooming. (Mine started in January.) The flowers last for months and come in all shades of pink, purple, and white. And they are evergreen. the only place they fall just a bit short is the flowers do not smell very good.
Like a peony, hellebores are incredibly long lived. The planting hole should be prepared like you expect it to be there for a while, because it will. They can be divided but I doubt I could ever get up nerve to split a beautiful plant.Propagation is best by seed, although it can take from 6-18 months.
I purchased some seed this spring and intend to try my own propagation.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Perfect Yellow Bell

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I saw this Forsythia the other day when I was driving through LaFayette. I was simply stunned by its symmetry. My own forsythia looks nothing like this. Every one I have ever seen was a scramble of stems sticking out every which way. Beautiful, yes. Cheerful,yes. Symmetrical, no. How did it come to look this way? Maybe it was all pruned off and all the stems came out at once. Maybe some magic formula was followed like pruning out one third of the old growth every year. Maybe I will just stop one day and ask.
Pruning one third of the stems to the ground each year is called renewal pruning, and should be done as soon as the bush has finished blooming. Flowers come on the old growth and at this time it is easy to tell the new growth and leave them as they will not have flowers.But this still produces a riot of unruly stems.
But whatever you do, do not prune a Forsythia into a box or ball shape. It destroys the natural grace of the shrub. And it is the result of a stymied mind.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hyacinths To Feed The Soul

If thou of fortune be bereft,
And in thy store there be but left,
Two loaves, sell one, and with the dole,
Buy Hyacinths to feed thy soul
~Muslih-uddin Sadi

My mother loved hyacinths. She said it reminded her of when she was a girl. I never asked her what it made her think of. I imagined that it was the first flower a boy ever gave her, picked carefully from his Mother's flower bed. Maybe it reminded her how she would lie in the dead leaves beside the fragrant clumps and inhale the sweetness til she felt giddy. I will never know for sure what she meant, and she did not seem to want to elaborate. Now the hyacinths just remind me of her.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Daffodils are my Favorites

I may have said this before, but whenever I die, I want you all to buy daffodils and plant them in remembrance of me and the goodness of God in giving us a beautiful earth. As a child I loved to gather them by heaping handfuls and I still like to. Except now I like to see them in my yard, too. So I am torn. There are never enough daffodils.

A few days ago a woman about my age stopped by and asked me if she could dig up some of my daffodils for her own yard. I was pretty taken aback. But I just said that the reason i had so many was I planted them every year. She asked where I got them and I said I bought them. it turned out she was as charmed as I am by daffodils but she did not know where to get them or when. I explained that they are sold in the stores in the fall, usually October. She seemed a little piqued with it all; I guess she wanted to strike while the iron was hot.

Many people do not think about the bulbs quietly growing underground while the trees and all the rest are loosing their leaves and appearing to rest. I say appearing to rest because trees actually grow in winter. But that is another subject. So many things in nature are not what they first seem.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hula Hoop Video

I promised you that you would get chance to see this Now here it is!

On another note this rain is completely beyond anything pleasant. Six inches since night before last- about 36 hours. Now the prediction is for more tomorrow. The jokes about boats and paddles no longer sound funny.
But all the rain and these warm temperatures have really started to hurry things along. The daffodils are opening up so fast I can almost see them and the butter and eggs are carefully opening a petal or two.
Somehow February always lulls me into thinking I have plenty of time to start seeds and cuttings and get my yard cleaned up and the beds ready for plants. Then! blam!Spring is here and I am behind. Again. Those cold rainy days make me want to snuggle up under a quilt and read and have soup and hot cocoa, when I should be starting seeds. but then the greenhouse is too cold and when I have started seed in February they often do not germinate. I suppose they rot. I keep the greenhouse as cool as I can and still keep the tropicals alive because the gas is so expensive.
My big news is that my website is up and functioning.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hula Hoops in Alabama

In Tia Chi class we were discussing the current craze in hula hoops in California. They are being used for weight loss and exercise. The next meeting Francis brought in 2 hoops she found in the barn that her kids had used years ago. I remembered how when I was in my teens I could keep that hoop going for hours. It was effortless. So I got the larger of the 2 hoops and gave it a try. It made one round and promptly hit the floor. A couple of people could do it (the skinnier class members), but most of the rest would not even try they were so sure they couldn't do it. Francis let me take the hoop home with me to practice.
Practice did not improve me much, so I went online to try to find out why I could not hula any more. I watched a YouTube instruction video, but that did not help. At last I uncovered the information that probably I was too big (read fat) and needed an adult size hoop. Apparently, the larger the hoop, the easier it is to do. A hoop should reach somewhere between the navel and the nipples to be correctly fitted. Ebay had several and after careful study (I thought) I ordered one. I waited with bated breath for about 2 weeks and was beginning to think I had been snookered.
Yesterday a box about 4 inches deep and 18 inches long arrived by FedEx. When I saw the box, my heart dropped. Uh-oh. What had I done?? But it was a hoop that fit together in sections (fluorescent sections, I might add. It was also wavy. How come I missed that detail?. Additionally it was a weighted hoop weighing 2 pounds and the instructions said it was for teenagers who wanted to lose weight. (Teenagers??) It also said that it might make you sore the first couple of days. (And how long are you supposed to do this per day?) Also be careful not to bruise yourself on the wavy bumps inside the hoop. Well, that was almost too much information.
I proceeded to put the hoop together. It went nicely till the last section that made the circle complete. Try as I might, I could not get it together. I guess I used up all my umph on the other sections. fortunately someone came along and helped me get it together. I waited till he left then took it out in the yard to give it a try. I did not want to break up housekeeping by trying it in the house.
I can do it!!! Well, once I made it go around 16 times! I quit for the day on that high note. When I can get some help to film me, I am going to post a video on YouTube so you can see how a white headed old lady can still hula.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Two Old Jokes

These two jokes were told to my Aunt Zubie by her grandmother, Joanne Lett Hubert, as long ago as 75 or 80 years. It's safe to say these jokes may be at least 100 years old. still Pretty funny.

Two jokes told by Granny Hubert (Joann) to Aunt Zubie Daniel

A country man goes to town, goes in a restaurant and orders 6 eggs for breakfast.
The waitress asks, “How do you like your eggs?”
He replies, “God, how I like’em!”

Early one dewy morning a lady was out feeding her geese when a man ventured by. The bottom of her dress was wet from the dew. The man said,” Good morning , Miss Drabble Tail. How do you sell your geese?”
She answered, ”Good morning, Mr. Kiss My Ass. Fifty cents apiece.”

Monday, March 8, 2010

Big Grub

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Last fall I dug up this guy in my yard. It was as large as my index finger. I wondered what it would become, and I put it in this bucket along with some soil so I could keep an eye on it. And of course I forgot it. The other day I rediscovered the bucket but the creature was just a brown shrunken thing. Either it froze in all our cold weather or it dessicated. If it had been in the ground, it would have burrowed deeper and escaped both.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Groundsel Tree




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Groundsel tree (not to be confused with the herb groundsel)is a woody shrub of the sunflower family that grows up to 6-8 feet tall. It is that white blooming shrub that you see blooming in the late fall and early winter in waste places and cut over areas. I first saw this shrub growing along Interstae 85 on our frequent drives to South Alabama. I guessed all kinds of different plants till I got a close look at it and knew I never had known it before. Interestingly enough, groundsel has moved inland from coastal areas through recent years.
It is no good for forage for game animals and it is toxic to livestock. It is sometimes seen in over grazed pastures, where it is the only thing left untouched. Groundsel tree does provide cover and nesting sites for birds, and insects that visit the male flowers attract songbirds.
Groundsel trees begin to produce prodigious amounts of viable seed when they are only 3 years old and the seed is scattered by the wind. The plants are dioecious, meaning that there are both male and female trees, and both are required for seed to set. However from the speed of their spread, that is not usually a problem.In addition to the competitive seed tricks already mentioned, groundsel tree can set seed in shade, does well in all kinds of soil and tolerates salinity.It survives in wet or dry soil and resprouts after fire. The fact is, it is a wonder anything on earth grows except groundsel. It is a problem in Australia where it was used in earlier days as a horticultural shrub and escaped.
The first groundsel I saw at my place was in a red clay area beside the road. I cut it down and painted the stump with round-up. Around the same time I began to see it in the clear cut area across the road from my house. I believe the seed may have arrived there on the harvesting equipment, just as I suspect that may have been the source of the climbing fern that I have talked about before. I think harvesting and planting equipment should be thoroughly washed before a new site is entered. The USDA requires used farm equipment imported to this country to be washed at the port before it is allowed in. this is to control anthrax and other diseases. I hope one day forestry practices will start to do the same when they change sites and I hope it will not be too late. Once a plant has established and started to reproduce, it can hardly ever be eradicated.
Even though groundsel tree is a native species, it can still become a noxious weed. I confess that I have cut the flowers for arrangements when most other plants have given up the ghost. They are pretty. But that only shows that there are redeeming virtues everywhere.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Sibley Center at Calloway

Where's the water??? 

During the months of January and February Calloway Gardens had free admission. I made it over just before February was over. They were cleaning the pools and fountains at the Sibley Center, and this blue heron was confused by it all. He was not getting much response to his questions to that swan statue. He is almost the color of the statue, so that had I not seen him move, I would have thought he was a statue, too. I am sure the gardeners do not appreciate his poaching.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Critter Trials

  Around Christmas time I began to have wild critter problems. Something came into  the screened porch and clawed into the bag of dog food. This may seem awfully bold, but I have a hole cut in the screen so my Chihuahua can go in and out as she pleases.   I moved the food to a chair, but the critter found it there, but ultimately I was able to keep it safe by employing a metal can for storage.  There never seemed to be any food left in the dog dish in the mornings. A couple of nights when Dora was barking her shrillest, I turned on the porch light to see an immature possom streaking for the doggie door. Later I noticed there was also a possom sized hole in the screen in another place where there had previously been a small slit in the wire.
  This shrill barking and chasing something in the yard became a nightly thing that I was tiring of. I borrowed a have-a-heart trap and set it with dog food as bait. Night after night the dog food would disappear but the trap did not trip. One night I surprised a mouse by the cage. Maybe it was squeezing through the wire cage or maybe it was just not heavy enough to trigger the trap. I think it was a field mouse as it had those round cute little ears. But it was a greedy little dude because no matter how much dog food I put in the trap, it was all gone in the morning. I began to think about the mouse that recently invaded  my cabinets and wondered if it had come in the house by scooting in an open door. This thought made me more anxious to rid myself of the mice, as well as the possom. I baited the trap with Decon and it disappeared also. After about 4 or 5 days, the mouse did not return for any more treats.
  But still, that possom was out there , getting on Dora's nerves, and her barking was getting on mine. Some one suggested baiting the trap with peanut butter, so I stuck a big glob on the trap lever. It sat there for days, but last night, I caught him. Dora was carrying on so I rose from my bed to silence the chatter. I decided that I needed to get the cage off the porch or else none of us were going to get any sleep, and I certainly did not want to deal any further with that possom then.
  As I hauled the possom-in-cage out the screen door, somehow I allowed the trap door to open a bit and that possom started out. I slammed it against the porch railing and trapped it, but it was clear to me that unless I was willing to try to squeeze that possom to death, it was going to get away. So I released my hold on the cage and he was gone in an instant. Dora took out across the yard after it, but we all knew that possom was gone. (By the way, it had grown quite a bit since the first time I saw it. Dog food agrees with possoms.).
  Now you would think that possom would give us a wide berth for a few days at least. But no. It was out there tonight in the bushes, and Dora screaming shrilly. Again.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mauna Loa

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I think this is Mauna Loa. The new snowfall can be seen on the top of the mountain. The observatory on Mauna Loa is the site where carbon dioxide measurements have been made on a continual basis, hourly, for the last 51 years.These measurements show the cycling of CO2 in the atmosphere in direct relationship to the seasons. In the winter when the trees are bare of leaves in the Northern hemisphere, the concentration of CO2 goes up. In the summer, the concentration in the air goes down. In the 50 years of measurements the concentration rose from 315ppm to 385ppm.
Could a global warming trend be the cause of our especially wet and cold fall and winter? Well, maybe.Warmer temperatures do produce more snow.
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