Thursday, July 24, 2014

Slugs, woodchucks, and other gardening conundrums

A brazen woodchuck went across the front of the house this afternoon, undoubtedly heading toward the beans, as I was reading on the couch (looking out).  Woody, our Golden is totally uninterested, of course, but I managed to rouse my gardening companion to help chase the woodchuck back into the forested ravine behind our house.

I'm annoyed at the herbivory (that this one) has done on my beans this summer.  While we were away, there's definite evidence of leaves and vines snipped (only the beans, at the point -- parsley and greens were earlier in the summer).

These are raised beds in the FRONT of our small house in the mountains, but it's definitely in an urban area, and really, woodchucks?  by the driveway?

Raised beds in May, 2010 (they're a jungle at the moment); click to see and read more about them
My other current gripe is slugs on the tomatoes.  OK, after last year, I'm glad to have abundant tomatoes, even if my variety is limited to Cherokee Purple, Indigo Rose, Better Boy and Sweet Million, with a couple of San Marzano struggling along. Hmm.  This is nothing to complain about.

But, as the big Cherokee Purple and Black Krim start ripening (the San Marzanos, too), the slugs appear and start burrowing out holes.  Yuck.  Time to harvest!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Nocturnal symphony

Coming upstairs to the main floor just now, I was surrounded by the nocturnal symphony, of field crickets and other night-singers.

It's loud, and in full swing now.

A new neighbor, across the street, was marveling last night about her first sighting of fireflies when she came east.  Add to that the night songs, and we have everyday magic.

Bumblebees and other flower visitors are coming to the Liatris and Echinacea that are in flower now, and hummingbirds are visiting the jewelweed (Impatiens) that's just starting to flower.

Nice to be home in the Carolinas (in the mountains).

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Gardens, nurseries and pollinators

As a gardener who favors native plants, pollinator-friendly plants, and generally "plants that work for a living," I always enjoy visiting gardens that support flower visitors, whether they're cottage gardens full of nectar- and pollen- rich plants from wherever, or native meadow gardens.

I loved visiting Chickadee Gardens, Scott's garden, and Joy Creek Nursery, especially because of the abundance of flower visitors.  I took lots of photos in each of these places - here are just a few.

bumblebee on Dahlia
bee on Eryngium of some kind

Joy Creek nursery view

honeybee on Agastache

bumblebee visiting a Penstemon cultivar

bumblebee and Monarda cultivar

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Exploring the Columbia River Gorge

I loved these photos that my gardening companion took, while on one of the wonderful waterfall hikes along the Columbia Gorge and then at Trillium Lake, in the Mt. Hood National Forest.

Visiting a waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge
May we all enjoy these great places for many seasons to come!

Checking out the wildflowers on the dam at Trillium Lake
This one was at Trillium Lake, on the flanks on Mt. Hood.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Nocturnal symphony and fireflies!

At home in the Southeast after a wonderful trip to Oregon, visiting fabulous gardens during the Garden Bloggers Fling, and having a week prior to explore some of the mountains and the coast -- what's striking me this evening (as I've started looking through my MANY photos of gardens and natural areas) are the night sounds this evening -- out the open windows.

It was quite warm here today, but we're off again in a couple of days, so turning on the mini-split doesn't seem necessary, especially as it's cooling down again tomorrow.

The nocturnal symphony is in full swing.

Field crickets, tree frogs, and cicadas are producing a wonderful "welcome home" night song -- which isn't part of the experience of western states.

The flashes of fireflies are part of the the gallery forest view, too.  Magic.

I've brought back with me so many visual memories of remarkable gardens, big and small, packed with special plants from all over the world.  I love the amazing artistic flair and aesthetic qualities in these gardens.

But I'm really glad to be home, too, in the Southern Appalachians, with the tree frog and cricket seranade.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Traveling in Oregon

It's been a lovely circuit back along the Columbia River, visiting more waterfalls along the way, tracing some of Lewis and Clark's journey, and spending time in Astoria,  before heading south along the coast.
TS botanizing at Trillium Lake

Upper Horseshoe Falls

Friday, July 4, 2014

Returning to the Pacific Northwest

It's been over 40 years since I spent the summer in a National Forest camp on Mt. Hood, outside of Portland, Oregon. I was part of a an NSF Summer Research for High School Students program (run out of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.) It was an amazing summer -- tough in some ways, but remarkable in others. It solidified my love of nature and the outdoors, for sure, coming from my home base in the Texas hill country then.

Mt. Hood
What I'm reminded of (aside of the frustrations of doing a blog post on an iPad!) is how soul-satisfying it is to return to a place after four decades to find a beautiful trail through an relatively undisturbed forest to a magical waterfall (admittedly, the ones closer to the highway are more disturbed, in terms of vegetation.) An update: switching to a laptop did wonders, in updating this post!

TS photographing waterfall
My gardening companion was thrilled. He's spent a lot of time recently on waterfll hikes, and to see some of these wonderfully moss- and algae- and vegetation-rich falls in the NW is a treat.Traveling from Portland up the Columbia River toward Mt. Hood today, and hiking along lush Pacific lowland forest trails to wonderful waterfalls and seeing familiar plants (from long ago, and grad school days, too, when my research loop took me up this way, too), reminded me, yet ago, of the green thread that has connected my life since childhood.

A magical day, ending up at Timberline Lodge, an iconic memory from my teen years, which continues to be an historic treasure on the slopes of Mt. Hood.

I couldn't get Blogsy to play nice with the new Picasa nor did it seem to like iPhoto, that's for sure... at least on the iPad.  Here are some (finally posted) photos thanks to my gardening companion's laptop!


Clintonia  relative

Trail through an old-growth forest on the flanks of Mt. Hood

Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters (from Timberline Lodge)

Thursday, June 26, 2014


It's always a joy to see fireflies -- here in the Carolinas, it's June when we see most of them. 

I don't know that much about fireflies -- just that the males flash to attract mates; the periodicity is meaningful; and different species flash at ground level, mid-level, and up in the canopy.

We had a colleague years ago who studied them in the Smokies. He'd head off in June to lie on the forest floor at night and do counts and monitoring. (He had been a city dweller before we knew him, so he seemed an unlikely person to be doing this kind of research!)

Fireflies are definitely seasonal, and hmm, a quick google search brought up this; clearly fireflies are impacted by human disturbance as so many other organisms have been.

But they're still relatively common in the Eastern U.S. and elsewhere in humid areas of the world, apparently.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Poison ivy, Virginia creeper, and other condundrums

I've been allergic to poison ivy since childhood, so I'm very familiar with how to identify it and avoid contamination.  (I'm crazed about making sure our dogs - over the years - haven't picked up the urushiol from the leaves on hikes, etc. -- and if they have, it's always been bath time!)

So, it's with some humility, and annoyance, that I'm suffering through the worst case of poison ivy that I've had in years.  Most unwelcome, although happily it's not all over my face (that's the worst!)

The saga started about a week ago, with weeding Virginia creeper seedlings in our front woodland border.  There were LOTS of them this year, so I was glad to have the opportunity to pull most of them up, before they covered the woodland wildflowers that we're nurturing!

But, Virginia creeper seedlings can often have 3 leaflets as the first set of true leaves -- this photo from another blog illustrates this nicely, and we've seen seedlings like this in our garden, too.

They're "ringers" for poison ivy.

So, as I was blithely weeding Virginia creeper, I must have also pulled up a poison ivy seedling, or two, as well, thinking it was Virginia creeper.  And, unfortunately, even though I washed my hands after coming back in, I didn't do my usual thorough washing up (immediately) that would follow a potential poison ivy exposure.  We've been so thorough about trying to eradicate poison ivy from our landscapes, I wasn't even thinking about the potential for seedlings.  Hmm, since in a former life I did research in germination ecology, I should have thought about this!

Lots of (native plant and other) seedlings have become established this year, after a very good fruit production year last season.

Here's a comparison of Virginia creeper and poison ivy, from another blog called Identify that Plant.

Virginia creeper on the left, poison ivy on the right
So, I have bad patches on my arms, with secondary patches elsewhere.  Nothing too dreadful, but much worse rashes from the direct contact than I normally would have (from secondary contact).

A cautionary tale, for sure.  With itchy arms to show for it.

For those of you that are interested in the dermatology behind the reaction to the oils, this is an excellent explanation about contact dermatitis.
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