Follow the Foot Prints!

My snow-covered garden ready to “tell” on its visitors. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My snow-covered garden ready to “tell” on its visitors. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Follow the Foot Prints!

There are many reasons to look forward to cold, snow-covered days. They are great excuses to “rest” after a busy gardening and beekeeping season; it’s a good time to catch up with reading and I enjoy a cup of tea curled up in front of a fireplace with a purring cat in my lap.

There’s one other reason and one that is part solving a mystery with a dash of fresh discovery. That is walking through my snow-covered garden and spotting the different foot prints in the snow, which confirms my regular visitors.

These look like squirrel prints along with some birds on the right. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

These look like squirrel prints along with some birds on the right. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Although I can’t tell the difference between the different winter birds, those foot prints are the easiest and most fun to follow.

In the following photo, can you find the deer print?

The bird prints are easy to spot, even on rocky ledges. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The bird prints are easy to spot, even on rocky ledges. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

As much as the individual foot prints are fun to follow, I like to find the intersection of prints and try to imagine what happened at that point.

When I watch my garden from inside my house, I sometimes spot birds running into each other and squirrels chasing each other through the garden, even in snow. Their combined foot prints, however, don’t mean they were in the one spot at the same time.

Let’s see, I see squirrels, birds, rabbits and maybe raccoon prints in this spot.

Now this looks like a traffic intersection, how many different prints do you see? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Now this looks like a traffic intersection, how many different prints do you see? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

If they were all in the same spot at the same time, however, I imagine it would look something like this:

One more conflagration of foot prints, so easy to see in the snow. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

One more conflagration of foot prints, so easy to see in the snow. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

By checking the foot prints, I have also found some interesting trails. I didn’t know some of my birds like to winter over some of my hydrangea bushes, or how much many of these creatures circle my small front pond. Seeing those foot prints inspired me to make more of an effort to give them water in nearby bird baths.

Being outside after a snowfall is also quite quiet and beautiful, completely changing the look of my garden covered in a blanket of snow.

And one more set of prints that mar the white landscape. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

And one more set of prints that mar the white landscape. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

If you haven’t had a chance to walk through your garden after a snow storm, do it safely if you can but give it a try. You may be surprised at what evidence you see of what is visiting your garden!

Charlotte

Blooming Bulb Garden

One of my bulb gardens in bloom at a friend’s office. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

One of my bulb gardens in bloom at a friend’s office. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Blooming Bulb Garden

Most years in fall, when spring bulbs are on sale, I pick up a few bags and make bulb gardens to share with friends mid-winter. Usually by early to mid-February those of us who live in Missouri are more than ready for spring and a little bulb garden offers the promise of more flowers to come.

This past year, I used crocus, small daffodils and tulips in my bulb garden, the bulbs layered so their roots could get nourishment as they grew. After watering and covering the bulbs with new potted soil, I wrapped them in a metallic wrap and placed them in a refrigerator to chill for 3 months.

Once the tips started to show, I started to pull them out and share as gifts for Valentine’s Day.

Usually the crocus bloom first, followed by the daffodils and tulips.

Here is how they look as they are getting started:

Bulbs after 12 weeks of cold getting ready to grow. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Bulbs after 12 weeks of cold getting ready to grow. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Once warmed up, it doens’t take the bulbs long to get growing. I place them in an area where they can get sun but not directly, and away from heat sources so that the heat doesn’t dry out their soil.

My bulb garden growing but not yet in bloom. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My bulb garden growing but not yet in bloom. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My crocus have bloomed in my pot, now waiting for the daffodils and tulips.

Daffodils bloom in my kitchen pot garden between potted begonias. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Daffodils bloom in my kitchen pot garden between potted begonias. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)


Another way to bring on an early spring is to add a floral quilt on your bed, like Pink Applique Tulips. These tulips last as long as you have the handmade quilt on your bed and no watering required!

Charlotte


Nap Time!

One of the squirrels in my garden enjoying winter sunshine. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

One of the squirrels in my garden enjoying winter sunshine. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Nap Time!

Sometimes I feel like I’m living in an animal house, or at least in the middle of a zoo. Being a National Wildlife Federation certified wildlife garden, I do encourage wildlife to feel comfortable in my one acre limestone hillside garden.

There are small ponds for water. Bird feeders with a variety of treats and oak trees comfortable enough for homes.

One such tree is located outside my den. I can see it from the house and often start my morning looking at it out of my den windows. Over the years, hand-raised Robins have serenaded me from those tree branches. I have had an owl perched on one of the top branches and, most recently, watched a squirrel nesting.

The squirrel nest is nicely tucked between tree trunks. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The squirrel nest is nicely tucked between tree trunks. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Squirrel nests in Missouri are easy to see, especially in winter. With leaves off trees, the pile of nests are easy to spot. Most tend to be built towards the top of trees, at least in my garden.

My best guess is this is the largest of the 4 native Missouri squirrels. The fox squirrel, also known as the eastern fox squirrel or Bryant's fox squirrel, is the largest species of tree squirrel native to North America.

It has very sharp claws, a muscular body, and a long, fluffy tail. The most common fur color for a fox squirrel is reddish-brown, but color can vary greatly from overall pale gray to black with white feet. The fur on its belly is always lighter in color than the rest its body. Often a fox squirrel will have reddish hairs tipped with brown.

These animals are most often found in forests with open understory, or in urban neighborhoods with trees. They prefer to live among oak, hickory, walnut and pine trees, storing nuts for winter. They shelter in leaf nests or tree dens, but will sometimes make an attic their home if they find a way inside.

This particular morning we were enjoying a sunny day with temperatures a little warmer than usual.

As I peeked out of my den window, there was a squirrel, also enjoying the warm sunshine.

Shsssssss. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Shsssssss. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Grey squirrels are frequent visitors to my garden. This one has apparently decided my garden is a good place to nest. And rest!

Charlotte

Burgundy Hellebores

These burgundy hybrid hellebores popped up and started blooming almost overnight.

These burgundy hybrid hellebores popped up and started blooming almost overnight.

Burgundy Hellebores

How appropriate to be featuring this lovely perennial on this last day of winter. Burgundy hybrid hellebores, also referred to as Lenten roses because they tend to bloom around Lent, are one of the last winter-blooming flowers. These literally just popped up in my garden this past week.

The actual flower is inside the burgundy-colored sepals surrounding the center.

The actual flower is inside the burgundy-colored sepals surrounding the center.

The flowers of hybrid hellebores are actually the long, slender yellow filament-looking segments inside the burgundy-colored sepals. As the sepals mature, they loose some of their color but not their shape. This year I am going to try to save the sepals at the end of the season and see if I can dry them for my wreaths.

The one challenge in enjoying these lovely plants is that the flowers on the plants actually droop. To be able to see, and photograph, the flowers, I have to lean over and try to catch the flowers from a less than comfortable angle.

This is how the hybrid hellebores appear in the flower bed, with the sepals hanging down.

This is how the hybrid hellebores appear in the flower bed, with the sepals hanging down.

Even without being able to see the droopy flowers I can spot the plant in the flower bed when it is in bloom. Sometimes it's the only green showing up in the whole area!

Sometimes its easy to overlook hybrid hellebores in a garden bed.

Sometimes its easy to overlook hybrid hellebores in a garden bed.

Farewell winter, it was a long, snowy one!

Charlotte

Yellow Lenten Roses

Isn't this stunning? If it just wasn't so hard to take a picture of it!

Isn't this stunning? If it just wasn't so hard to take a picture of it!

Yellow Hellebores or Lenten Roses

They're finally blooming, my little collection of hybrid hellebores purchased at the end of spring the last few years. Some were without tags but I recognized the plant by their large, speckled leaves.

I found some hellebores last week at our local garden center for $20 and was in a bit of shock, forgetting for a moment that I picked up mine on sale. The garden center manager reminded me they have always been on the pricier side and come in a wide range of colors and shapes.

Hybrid hellebores get their common name from the rose-like flowers that appear in early spring around the Christian Lent observance. The "Lenten Rose" blooms are similar to poinsettias in that the colored sepals protect the true flowers inside. The wonderful advantage of adding these perennials to any garden is that the "blooms" last for several months and the foliage stays green for most of the year.

My hybrid hellebores are in partial shade in rich, moist and well-drained soil. The biggest challenge enjoying the flowers is trying to see, and photograph, the downward-facing blooms so I have them planting along the gentle curve of my hillside. It does make it a little easier for photography but I can't say it helps very much in terms of seeing the flowers, I still have to get down to eye level without exposing myself to my neighbors.

I add mulch every year to their flower beds and noticed that their crowns are now buried. I may have to lift them later, or move the mulch out from around them so the crown is back to soil level.

In year's past, these have started to bloom late January to February, this is the latest that they have started. I tried out my thread snips to cut back the old greenery during a warm January day when I was looking for some sign of life. I will be adding compost to this area this year to make sure the plants have enough nourishment while they are blooming.

Here are my yellow hybrid hellebores all blooming in a bunch on my hillside.

Here are my yellow hybrid hellebores all blooming in a bunch on my hillside.

If you have a chance to pick up any hellebores on sale, jump on the chance. Regardless of the variety and color they may be, hellebores are a wonderful addition to a late winter, early spring garden.

Charlotte

First Signs of Spring

Snowdrops  galanthus  have popped up around one of my tiny front ponds.

Snowdrops galanthus have popped up around one of my tiny front ponds.

First Signs of Spring

For the past 15 years or so, what blooms first in spring is now a surprise, with no two years the same and no two plants or flowers appearing in any semblance of order. As winter wanes in Missouri, it seems appropriate this year to have snowdrops galanthus popping up around one of my small ponds, a last winter hurrah before spring officially arrives on March 30.

Not so fast, though. In the hardiness zone where I live, we can still have a blackberry winter as late as early May. Snow has been known to grace Easter and many daffodils have popped up only to be covered in white snowy blankets.

This year, the snowdrops have company, my early yellow daffodils. They are not big, or splashy. These came from an abandoned home site that was 30 years old when I moved them a good 30 years ago. Once the regular daffodils start blooming, the small early daffodils fade in stature and presence but, to me, they hold a special place for being the first ones to bloom.

You can pick the unopened buds and place them in water in a flower vase to enjoy the new blooms inside. Don't mix them with other flowers because daffodils have a toxin that make them inedible, and therefore safe, from wildlife. The toxin, however, will quickly wilt any other flowers you try to mix with daffodils unless you let the daffodils drain for a good day in a separate vase first.

The first early daffodils have started to bloom, a sure sign spring is just around the corner.

The first early daffodils have started to bloom, a sure sign spring is just around the corner.

I have this first vase of spring daffodils sitting where I can easily see them. As I was admiring the bright yellow color, I spotted my painted gourd bee also appearing to look at the flowers.

Daffodils are not a major nectar and pollen source for native or honeybees although I periodically will see bees flying into, or out of, the flowers. The large flower "noses" do invite a visit.

This little painted bee is keeping an eye on the blooming buds, just as my outside bees are doing!

This little painted bee is keeping an eye on the blooming buds, just as my outside bees are doing!

It won't be long before my real honeybees outside will join the bumblebees and other pollinators flitting through the rest of the flowers blooming in my one-acre limestone hillside garden. Then I will know it really IS spring!

Charlotte

Snowflowers

Autumn Sedum "Joy" covered in snow was the inspiration for my calling them snowflowers.

Autumn Sedum "Joy" covered in snow was the inspiration for my calling them snowflowers.

Snowflowers

You don't know about snowflowers? That's okay because they only "grow" in my hillside garden when it becomes magical after a good snow fall. 

If you've ever walked through a garden after a snow, you will see trees, shrubs and flower beds transformed by ice and snow hanging onto the remnants of blooming flowers and stems. I deliberately leave my flower stems uncut so birds can enjoy the seeds in winter. After seeing them covered in snow, I now say I leave them uncut so that I can also find more snowflowers.

A border of mums turns into a white snow-covered hedge of small snowflowers.

A border of mums turns into a white snow-covered hedge of small snowflowers.

After a good snowfall, I like to walk through my garden and try to recall what plant is sitting under the blanket of snow. Sometimes it's easy to spot the original plant, like the Autumn Sedum "Joy" that transforms itself every season. In spring, it's low to the ground sprouting in the shape of rosettes. By summer, it's a 2-foot succulent plant with pink flowers. By fall, the pink flowers have dried and turned a burnt orange, providing the perfect landing spot for snow to stick and become white caps on the orange base.

These mint plants alter entirely once covered in a sprinkling of snow.

These mint plants alter entirely once covered in a sprinkling of snow.

Sometimes I don't know what the original plant was, like these perennial mints that take on a whole new look once covered in snow. I know they are a mint because the stems are square and hollow but I haven't made much progress in terms of identifying what kind of mint.

I live in USDA's hardiness zone 5b, which is North America's gardening belt. We had a parched fall so the snowfall is a welcome sight to help replenish the water tables and hopefully end the fall drought.

One more snowflower, this one on still-green leaves of my white tree rose. Love the pop of green peeking out from under the white tops, the tree rose looks like it still has white flowers.

One of my white tree roses covered in snow. This one kept its leaves even after the first snowfall.

One of my white tree roses covered in snow. This one kept its leaves even after the first snowfall.

Snow changes my whole garden. I look forward the morning sunshine after a snowfall, the whole landscape changes.

The front of my garden covered in snow. When the sun shines, the garden is magical!

The front of my garden covered in snow. When the sun shines, the garden is magical!

Another advantage of having a snowy garden, with snowflowers there is no watering or weeding required.

Charlotte

Winter-Blooming Daffodils

These daffodils are blooming a good month earlier than they should be.

These daffodils are blooming a good month earlier than they should be.

Winter-Blooming Daffodils

There really is no such thing, winter-blooming daffodils. There are species of daffodils that bloom early, in the past sometime mid-March, depending on weather. A good rain, even with cold temperatures, could coax greenery out of the ground long enough so that sunshine would bring a bud to the surface.

This year, traditional blooming patterns are kicking off the year even more unpredictably than they were last year. Hellebores, which usually start blooming mid-January were not setting bud until a month later. Daffodils, which don't bloom until mid-March, the beginning of spring, were nodding their bright yellow heads a month early, which inspired me to call them winter-blooming. That was also confusing because although mid-February, temperatures were in the 60s, breaking yet another record for the warmest recorded days.

Ok, I'm not loosing my mind. According to the National Phenology Network, "spring continues to arrive three or more weeks early – now making an appearance in Missouri, West Virginia, and the southern parts of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Washington DC is 22 days early."

USA National Phenology Network has a simple mission: "We bring together citizen scientists, government agencies, non-profit groups, educators and students of all ages to monitor the impacts of climate change on plants and animals in the United States."

Nature's Notebook, a citizens involvement program, is quantifying what gardeners and beekeepers have been doing for years, collecting observations and comparing notes. In the case of spring-time, they are suggesting this trend will continue:

"By mid-century, early springs and late-season freezes will likely become the new normal, which may result in more large-scale plant tissue damage and agricultural losses."

Let's hope we also will continue to have winter-blooming daffodils. Hard to think of spring without lovely yellow cheery daffodils.

Charlotte

 

 

Yellow Hellebores in Bloom

How about that, the mystery hellebores are yellow doubles!

How about that, the mystery hellebores are yellow doubles!

Yellow Hellebores In Bloom

I picked up these wonderful perennial winter-blooming plants on sale a couple of years ago. Because they were on sale, I didn't know what they were in terms of color, I just knew they were hellebores and I wanted to add more to my hillside Missouri garden.

Hellebores are very interesting perennials. They bloom usually in the middle of cold midwest winters. their flowers the only blooms within miles. The flowers are actually leaves protecting the center stamens were the seed pods grow, usually appearing by late April.

This year, my established hellebores didn't start to bloom until mid-February, which is about a month later than in the past. The rest of my garden is also a bit off schedule. I have bulbs growing a good three weeks ahead of schedule with the exception of crocus, which in the past have bloomed on Valentine's Day, February 14. I have half a mind to give up trying to guess when something is going to be in bloom except that I have bees and I keep track of what's in bloom to track their food sources.

Although my hellebore plants were close to where they were picking up pollen substitute, my bees were not showing any interest in the budding flowers.

I am glad to finally find out what color these mystery hellebores on sale are. It's a nice surprise to know they are yellow double hellebores and will fit right into my spring landscape along with all of the other yellow daffodils and tulips.

That has a nice ring to it - spring.

Charlotte

 

Bluebirds at Front Porch Waterfall

The first bluebird, and robin, take a drink out of the waterfall off my front porch.

The first bluebird, and robin, take a drink out of the waterfall off my front porch.

Eastern Bluebirds at Front Porch Waterfall

One of the things I enjoy doing during winter is watching birds, especially after a snowfall. Curled up in a chair at my front living room window, I can observe the birds in the feeder and woodpeckers visiting several nearby suet stations.

On this particular day, I was walking by my front door when I observed through my glass door window that my little front porch waterfall was also a busy place. An Eastern bluebird was joined by my first robin of the year, both enjoying a drink from the water still running in spite of the cold temperatures.

I was happy to also see another two robins join them. Having hand-raised and released a number of them in my garden, I assumed these were the descendants of the birds I cared for many years ago. Robins, like many birds, return to their birth grounds to raise their young.

More bluebirds show up at my front porch waterfall at Bluebird Gardens.

More bluebirds show up at my front porch waterfall at Bluebird Gardens.

Bluebirds are a staple in my garden. I encourage birds because they help keep the insect population in check, part of my non-chemical bug patrol.

Eastern Bluebirds Identification

According to the Cornell Lap of Ornithology,  the Eastern Bluebird is a small thrush. The brighter birds are males, a combination of bright blue with a burnt orange breast. Blue in birds depends on the light. Males often look plain gray-brown from a distance. Females are grayish above with bluish wings and tail, and a subdued orange-brown breast.

Eastern Bluebirds nest in tree cavities and old woodpecker dens. They feed by dropping to the ground onto insects. In winter, they perch on fruit trees to eat berries. I have also seen them eating berries off the smooth sumac.

I tried to take pictures with my small digital camera through the door glass but my phone worked better. Not the best pictures but you can still get a sense of how many bluebirds were enjoying the water.

Up to nine bluebirds showed up at my waterfall at once to get a drink.

Up to nine bluebirds showed up at my waterfall at once to get a drink.

When temperatures are in the single digits, it's hard for birds to find a water source, which makes my waterfall a popular spot.

Bluebirds are a sign of happiness. I like to think this many bluebirds on my door step are a good omen for the year year ahead.

From all of the bluebirds and I, happy new year and may this year be one full of happiness for you, too!

Charlotte

Milk Jug Greenhouse

This milk jug is protecting a little rose start at the corner of one of my flower beds.

This milk jug is protecting a little rose start at the corner of one of my flower beds.

Milk Jug Greenhouse

It's easy to assume that when someone says "greenhouse," we all imagine a large, house-like structure with glass walls and maybe a tray of plants sitting in a corner.

One of my favorite tiny "greenhouses" are plastic, one gallon milk jugs. I also use clear plastic water bottles the rest of the year but for winter, the opaque gallon milk jugs work quite well.

After cutting the bottom out of the milk jug, I store them stacked on top of one another until I need them, usually close to the first fall frost. Most of the time, I get delicate plants and seedlings insider to winter over but not always. This past year, I had rose starts I was worried about so I deployed my carefully collected milk jug greenhouses.

After making a little trench around the rose starts, I placed a milk jug into the trench and covered it back up with soil so the milk jug would not fly off. 

When the soil around it was dry to the touch, I watered the rose start through the milk jug center.

As temperatures hit single digits, I peeked inside to make sure all was well. So far, so good. 

Will be interesting to see if once spring arrives, the little rose start has survived winter in its little individual greenhouse.

Have you tried to use milk jugs as plant covers?

Charlotte

 

Impatiens Patiently Blooming

Even if I don't have impatiens any where else in my garden, I have some in this pot.

Even if I don't have impatiens any where else in my garden, I have some in this pot.

Impatiens Patiently Blooming

For someone who likes to say she doesn't plant many annuals in my Missouri hillside garden, I sure find myself writing about them. Maybe that's because the few I do have stay with me for a long time. I mean a VERY long time.

Take these pink impatiens. Even if I don't have impatiens any where else in my garden, I usually splurge on a sale and pick up a little start for this pot. It's always on it's side, that's the way I like it, as if it turned over one night and the flowers grew spilling out of it.

The year part of the garage was being repaired it was a contest between the contractor and I on who would get to the pot first. The contractor insisted on setting the pot straight, I would set it back on its side. Not sure the poor impatiens knew that year whether they were literally lying or sitting up straight.

This year, they bloomed beautifully outside and I didn't have the heart to leave the plants outside. Having an extra hanging basket available, I snuck the impatiens in the basket and gave them good diffused light in my dining room. Some years they do well with the transplant, other years they don't.

This year, they have been blooming continuously there ever since.

Pink impatiens have been blooming continuously inside ever since in a hanging basket.

Pink impatiens have been blooming continuously inside ever since in a hanging basket.

With this kind of success, I will keep transplanting impatiens inside every fall and keep taking my chances.

Who wouldn't enjoy having these lovely flowers blooming inside all winter and maybe even take them back outside when all danger of frost is passed?

I have been lucky enough in the past to pull some impatiens through that far. Let's see how well I do with these.

Charlotte

Buds Too Soon!

Apricot buds late December 2016.

Apricot buds late December 2016.

Buds Too Soon

There was a time in my life when a warm day in late December was a gift. Not that I don't appreciate being able to spend time outside in sunshine so late in the year. What I don't like to see is the ongoing record warm winter temperatures coaxing buds out of my compact fruit trees like my apples and apricots way too early.

Missouri's weather in 2016 continued to break records all year. It's been part of a trend I started to notice in my garden in the 1990s, slowly at first. In the last decade or so, record hot summer weather has been more frequent, impacting plants, trees and wildlife.

The top part of plants and trees have withered in the punishing heat. I have tried to keep roots soaked, hoping to pull them through the harsh conditions. Wildlife have also been impacted. Twice in that decade squirrels and birds have turned to my fruit trees for food and moisture.

Now this winter so far, weather has turned unusually mild. Bulbs are starting to pop out of the ground far too early; most need between 8-12 weeks  of cold before they can grown greenery and buds to bloom.

More importantly, my compact fruit trees are also showing significant buds forming. Once cold weather sets in again, those buds will freeze and another season will go by without flowers, and more importantly, pollen for my bees.

Four-year old compact apricot tree forming buds late December due to warm weather.

Four-year old compact apricot tree forming buds late December due to warm weather.

If these conditions are setting in on my fruit trees, I wonder what is happening to commercial fruit producers who have much more to loose than I do.

For once, I find myself wishing winter would stay cold for a solid few weeks so my fruit trees stay dormant.

Charlotte

Signs of Mum Life

New growth is starting to appear under my mums.

New growth is starting to appear under my mums.

Signs of Mum Life

What I wouldn't give for a cold front and some snow, I was thinking as I walked through my Missouri hillside garden the day after Christmas 2016. The temperature was again close to 60F, unseasonably warm for Missouri in December. Usually the temperature is closer to freezing.

Trying to look at the bright side of our rapidly changing climate, I decided to take a look at how the chrysanthemums I had planted in October were doing. Most were gifts from a friend who had shared a stash of yellow and darker light brown ones - I like to think of them as honey-colored - we both planted at the end of the growing season. Or what we thought was the end of the growing season.

Once established, mums are perennials that help repel unwanted insects. The first year, however, their roots have to be kept moist until they have a chance to be established.

Remembering the number of days I had dragged gallons of water out in cold weather to pour over the plants, I wondered how successful I had been. I had not stopped long enough in those cold days to peek to see if there was any sign of life.

Even now, in warm, sunny weather, I didn't remove any of the dead flowers and branches. Those serve as as protective cover, if we ever get winter back.

Peeking through those dead branches, there was what I wanted to see, little green ruffles at the center of the plant. Roots are getting settled in. 

So far, so good.

Charlotte

 

Dried Orange Slice Christmas Tree Garland

Dried orange slices strung as a garland through a Christmas tree.

Dried orange slices strung as a garland through a Christmas tree.

Dried Orange Slice Christmas Tree Garland

Did you ever string popcorn for Christmas tree garland? 

I did many years ago. I decorated a small outside cedar only to watch wild turkeys dragging the strung popcorn off as a treat the next morning.

I thought about those wild turkeys when I saw this lovely dried orange slice garland on a Christmas tree at the Henry Shaw country house at Missouri's Botanical Garden, St. Louis.

With Christmas trees staying up all year, or being transformed into Easter home decor, these dried oranges add nice color.

Oranges are a favorite treat of one of my favorite summer garden bird visitors. Luckily Baltimore Orioles have migrated by December or those dried orange slice Christmas tree garlands - or whenever they are used through the year - wouldn't have a chance!

Charlotte

Settle Down, Winter!

Ice coats tree branches in my back yard at the beginning of winter.

Ice coats tree branches in my back yard at the beginning of winter.

Settle Down, Winter!

Winter has been late in coming this year. Not usually an issue for me personally but worrisome for my bees because they have been enjoying record warm weather and consuming their honey stores, food they store to eat over winter.

Spring-flowering bulbs also depend on 12 weeks of cold weather to set their blooms, and frankly  I'm tired, I could use a break to catch my breath, do some reading and get ready for another growing season. I haven't had that stretch of cabin fever yet, unexpectedly warm days keep popping in enticing me outside to get yet another chore done before cold weather supposedly sets in.

Record cold temperatures dipping below zero started off this first week of December but will end the week at Christmas with the forecast with temperatures in the 60s, not a normal Missouri Christmas day by any means. Sunny days are good but the temperature swings are all off. 

So winter, now that you are officially here, please stop toying with us and settle in to stay cold enough to keep us inside reading for awhile. gardeners depend on that, too!

Charlotte

Nom-nom-nom....

These little plastic garden dragons where a gift from my brother many years ago. They make their way around every garden season, sometimes munching fall leaves or mid-summer, dining on impatiens.

For years I moved them into a storage space over winter, only to bring them out in spring to keep my spring garden full of tulips daffodils company.

Garden decor like this are wonderful gifts. In addition to adding whimsy to the garden, they are a wonderful memento of the person who gives them.

This past fall, I forgot to bring my little dragons in so they spent this winter outside. They are not any worse for wear; I found one of them as I was filling my bird-feeders, the little open mouth apparently taking in newly-fallen snow.

Hummm, at this rate, getting rid of all of the snow on my garden could take awhile!

Charlotte

Dueling Woodpeckers

So cute, downy woodpeckers enjoying suet feeding stations right outside of my living room window.

The chair faces the garden so I can easily pop in for a few minutes and watch my feathered garden visitors.

In winter, many birds show up that I don't see in summer, not just because of leaves on trees but because this is not their summering spot.

During winter, one of the main visitors are woodpeckers, although they are in the garden all year around removing insects from tree barks.

Birds in a garden help to keep insect populations in check but not right now, everything is still quite frozen so suet is the next best thing.

Charlotte

What a lion!

The saying goes something like "March comes in like a lion" and did it ever in 2015.

In Mid-Missouri, we ended up with at least seven inches of snow over a sheet of ice, encouraging us to stay home where it was safe and warm.

The snow was a welcome layer of insulation and a source of moisture. Our water tables are still quite low and need to be replenished through snow and other precipitation.

The best part?

The saying goes on.

"March comes in like a lion, leaves like a lamb."

Something to look forward to, for sure!

Charlotte

Mystery Guest Solved

It's snowing February 16, 2015 in the Missouri Ozarks, a wonderful day to be tucked in at home with a pot of homemade soup on the stove and a pile of favorite bird books nearby.

It's also one of my favorite times to watch my garden and see what visitors come in and fly by.

One of the mysteries I wanted to solve was what birds have been using my tiny ront porch outside my front door. Over summer, I found shelled sunflower seeds scattered under my swing. Then earlier today, I saw several birds flying off before I could reach a window.

After tucking a camera in my pocket and waiting for calm to resume, I caught this bird comfortably settled on my porch swing.

Do you recognize it?

It's a mourning dove, with the most beautiful feathers when it settles in the sun. There is a bevy of them usually in my garden, sometimes just roosting on a tree limb outside my living room window.

Of course, as my brother David would suggest, but then again, maybe this bird isn't the one that has been on my deck...

Charlotte