April 18, 2012
I have “beware of dog” & “caution: stinging insects” signs outside my garden. Now I’m thinking I may need to add “beware of bird” signs as well. This spring we have a new resident hummingbird, and he isn’t afraid to tell us who owns the place.
If he thinks he’s alone in the garden, he quietly flits from Ribes to Manzanita to Maple sipping nectar and checking for tasty aphids. But, the minute he realizes anyone else is in his garden, his peaceful, charming nature is immediately transformed into that of a warrior sentry.
He chirps and dives at the dog, driving her mad. In return, she barks and jumps straight into the air in hopes of catching him, which of course she never will. Then, when he spies me doing anything in his garden, he focuses his chirping and diving in my direction. And, smarty that he is, if he sees my camera, he immediately flies away or ducks behind a leaf only to return the moment my camera is stashed back into its case and I’ve refocused on pulling weeds or harvesting greens.
That is, until this morning, when he dove into my face as I was photographing rain-drenched flowers. He treaded air just long enough for me to capture a quick snap of him beside his Vine Maple, which will open a banquet of tasty flowers today or tomorrow. And then he was off, headed back to the other end of the garden to begin his daily harassment of the poor, frustrated puppy.
I think he needs a girlfriend. Maybe then he’ll chill out.
Or, maybe not.
September 27, 2011
The Cornus genus encompasses a fantastic array of plants ranging from the minute, spreading groundcover C. canadensis to yellow & red, shrubby, twiggy C. sericea to a number of trees that have been cultivated in landscapes around the world.
When I was in horticulture school, struggling to memorize common names, botanical names, bloom time, size, disease and all those other things that go with each plant we learned, I often had to make up crazy stories to keep things straight. Its strange how the brain works — make up a convoluted, nonsensical story, and suddenly information sticks. Now, whenever I see a dogwood tree — especially a Pacific dogwood tree — my brain kicks into gear with the crazy memorizing story tool I made up.
And that’s exactly what happened when we rounded a bend during our hike around Lake Siskiyou just below Mount Shasta where we camped for a few days recently. There, on one of the shadier slopes, not many feet from a stand of Manzanita in hot baking sun, were a number of Cornus nuttallii — covered in coloring clusters of this year’s fruit beside naked flower buds for the coming spring and clothed in leaves showing first hints of red fall color.
How’d I know it was actually C. nuttallii? Well, key ID study from school told me so. And, my crazy little memorizing story helped as well.
Fair warning: if you read on, you may never look at a dogwood tree quite the same again.
Once I’ve determined a tree is indeed a Cornus, the story begins to tell itself in my head…
Cornus nuttallii…that’s the one that comes from the Pacific, like California, where all us “nutty” people live. Yeah, nuttallii…okay, and those crazy, nuttii people in California well, they run around naked (aka naked buds) in all that warm California sunshine. And, yeah, they’re the ones that bloom first in spring — flower power…San Francisco…yeah, nuttii people running around naked and leading the way of the flowers.
I think I’ll leave it at that. You really don’t want to get the whole Cornus florida and Cornus kousa stories. It just gets worse from here on out. I may be just a little bit crazy. But, really, I am pretty good at my plant ID — whatever the cost in getting me there.
Oh, and no, I don’t run around naked all winter. I’ll leave that to the natives — um, to the native plants that is.
March 18, 2010
Thought I might take a week off from writing about the bees did you? Despite not going on and on about them, I’ve been watching them daily as they go about their business.
Today, when I arrived home from a long day working with various of my garden coaching clients, I found someone parked in my spot. Corky was here checking on the hives!
After parking in the middle of the alley with my hazard lights on to indicate I wasn’t moving anytime soon, I headed toward the honeybee hive, smelling smoke along the way. I knew Corky must be smoking the bees (maybe there’s an official term for this, but I haven’t learned it yet). Sure enough, I found him geared up with the hive open for his inspection.
The official word from the man who knows. Per Corky: “These are happy bees. They’re nice and docile, too.” Thank goodness for that given his bare fingers amid all those little stingers! It’s hard to tell in this photo, but you’ll notice the hive is shaded while Corky’s back is in the sun. The displaced bees began to seek the warmth of his jacket, settling in comfortably until he closed up the hive and left them to return home with pollen to share.
Bob and I had noticed in the last several days that the bees had adjusted their flight patterns, no longer shooting directly at us as they left the hive. They were no longer trying to land on us every time they came outside. We felt they were acclimated. Corky agreed.
He reassured me that a few dead bees is okay. They are being born and passing on all the time. He also explained that they can get sick with a form of “Montezuma’s Revenge”. He was glad to not see much of that about and taught me what to watch for in that department. He was also happy to see them buzzing in the Manzanita where I’m pretty sure we saw the first of the hatching orchard mason bees. But that’s a post for another time. Stay tuned for all the buzz!
March 15, 2010
Wow! It’s March 15th again – the Ides of March? I’m ruled by Mars, or so the horoscope says, so let’s celebrate with images of the beauty of spring marching forth. Enjoy!
February 15, 2010
I spent the past several days in the San Francisco Bay Area visiting friends and attending a fun – if surreal – college reunion. While I was there I soaked up the warm, sunny weather.
I woke each morning to dynamically varying views of foggy Mt. Tam. Brilliant yellow Acacia trees had both my allergies and the hummingbirds riled up. Camellias, a wide range of bulbs and many other flowers were decorating gardens. While visiting Orinda, the first California town I ever actually lived in, I spied blooming winter Daphne and stole away for a deep whiff. The visit was lovely and heart warming in so many ways.
Departing for home, we exited the Rainbow tunnel on our way south toward the Golden Gate Bridge in the jumbo Marin Airporter. The day was fairly clear and the high bus seats afforded us an unparalleled view of the scenery — a place truly home to me. It was hard to leave NorCal; each time I do, I bit of my heart always stays behind.
This morning though I was reminded why I love to return to Seattle. I awoke to a heavy blanket of fog; bouncing off this grey, misty background were an array of super-early bud breaks and bright spring flowers in bloom. I exited by back door to the greeting of hot cocoa aroma from our Azara. And, this afternoon, as the sun begins to set, I’m gazing beyond my garden to the majestic Olympic mountains in the distance.
In addition to all the great things in bloom in the garden, I noticed so many that are on the cusp of joining in the spring bloom: Acer triflorum breaking bud with tight flowers ready to go; Ribes sanguineum just a few days from opening drooping pink flower clusters; many other hellebores have lifted their heads above the soil and will open soon; epimedium desperately in need of cutting as hairy flower heads lift from the base, Sarcococca, Camellia and Witch hazel wrapping up for the season; Viburum carlesii buds swelling; Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ showing hints of blue; Bleeding heart risen from the soil with clusters of flower buds dripping from tender tips. And, in the greenhouse perhaps no flowers, but a burst of leafy green goodness in the form of cabbage, cauliflower and kale thriving in the 70F heat inside. It is time to play catch up and start seeding. Oh, and yes, it’s time to weed — the shotweed is perhaps ahead of every other plant I have!
Curious about the really pretty plants now blooming in the garden? Enjoy the photos that follow: