Plant Journal – Summer

I’ve been remiss posting garden pictures and really prefer not to have  a physical paper garden journal, but to have my notes readily accessible online. So, I’ll be writing a bunch of posts with the name beginning with Plant Journal. Photos are more for my record than any “ooh, let’s frame this” kind of thing.  Until I catch up, they’ll be out of seasonal order (say next one might be Spring instead of Fall).Calamint Marvellette b
This is Calamint Marvelette Blue (Calamintha nepeta, aka Clinopodium nepeta aka lesser catmint aka dwarf catmint – take your pick). It’s a 2016 Gold Medal Fleuroselect winner. Ground cover Verbena’s flower and feathery leaves are visible on the right and upper right. Calamint is a dwarf  and technically a shrub. This is its first year from seed from Park Seed. It’s advertised as “offers much brighter blue blooms than the species, which is a pale lavender” but all my blooms have been a light lavender although the spot it is growing in gets shade after 2pm (so it’s not sun bleached).  I’m beginning to wonder if Park’s seed is Marvelette or somehow crossed with the species. At first I was disappointed as the blooms are teeny and mine has more of a progression of blooms up the stem than the all-at-once effect shown in Park’s photos. Supposed to only reach 8 inches high, some of my flowering stems are about 12 inches. But, it’s a very neat mound of a tiny shrub that I’m starting to think could be quite useful.  Next season I’ll see if some of it can handle my sunnier beds.

Calendula Fiesta z
Remy’s Sample Seed shop had included Calendula Fiesta Gitana, a Fleuroselect Bronze Medal winner, as an extra in my seed order and I’ve grown it for a few seasons now. Mine’s always the yellow (orange is also available). It stays compact (under 12 inches) and neat. The pollinators love it. But, it gets pretty heat stressed by early July in my dry sunny bed and starts to look  pathetic. I’ll be adding a note to my recurring Google calendar to just rip it out once it starts to look bad as it doesn’t really recover even with additional water. But, it’s easy from seed so I’ll treat it as a spring / early summer annual. 

Calibrachoa z
Like people, plants have dominant genes. Well, for Calibrachoa – the dominant appears to be pink. I’ve only ever purchased it in Terra Cotta but this is what I have growing now. It does beautifully in the bed with afternoon shade. This one’s a ground hugger, nice and low. Could be the voles, as it’s not handling the full sun bed by July.

Coreopsis Presto b
One of my new little gems that I LOVE is Coreopsis Presto (height < 8 inches).  First year grown from seed from Park Seed again. I’ve been searching out dwarf plants as I live in Northern California and fires can be a problem. Smaller plants with more space between them = less fuel = safer here. That’s a young variegated Liriope coming through it that I’ll move once cooler weather settles in. Coreopsis usually handle my full sun beds with brilliant vigor so I plan to purchase even more seed (it’s an F1 hybrid) to start additional plants this year. Hoping they can help me out in the ‘late summer chopped everything back’ horrid looking space I endure July through September here. This variety was awarded a Fleuroselect Gold Medal.

Echinacea b
I’ve plunked these in with the summer photos – but it’s early summer. Everything was chopped down to 8 inches in July and hasn’t rebloomed. Seed for the Pow Wow Echinacea was shared with me and I don’t know if that plant comes true from saved seed (most hybrids do not). Mine has stayed under 24 inches (good) and although the petals recurve it’s not as pronounced as the species (also good in my book). My main complaint is that it didn’t rebloom. Asked another Master Gardener here and she also finds the Echinacea don’t rebloom as well as say Rudbeckia or Coreopsis. I’ll leave it but won’t be propagating more. Its color does blend beautifully with the Lychnis coronaria (aka Silene coronaria) Rose Campion. Rose Campion is a prolific re-seeder, problematic in areas with easy growing conditions, tough enough to survive and flower here (a plus). Self seeding is reliable enough that I simply yanked out and composted the tall specimens in July, just banging the seedheads about.

Hibiscus syriacus lavender
This photo is more pink where my bloom is actually lavender. I’m thrilled with the light purple as I don’t want any more pink in the garden and have been searching out white and purples. Luck was with me as Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon, will often revert to pink from seed saved from many different color cultivars. When I grew this from seed, I had trouble finding any information about growth rate. Here it flowered this it’s second summer and grew about 2 1/2 foot tall. I’ll try some of these planted in the ground next season but also keep a few more protected in pots.

It turns out I’ll need at least one additional post to note what I want to capture regarding summer growing. The vegetable garden didn’t do as well as I’d like – my main note for next year regarding veggies  is to plant more Sungold cherry tomato as that one excelled. Off to write more posts, so stay tuned. 🙂 

Shine a little light

IMG_0437Decided to join the fray and tackle my own set of Mason Jar Solar Lights using Walmart 99 cent solar lights (folks also use Dollar General and such lights). The bottom just pulls off the purchased lights easily. For Mason Jars, Classico spaghetti sauce comes in a mason jar – although where and when you got it means a different size jar. The grocery store has the new smaller one on the left above and the standard mason jar lid no longer fits that narrow one. The middle is the size it was forever and the big ol one on the right is a new bigger size in the Costco 3 pack they started last year – wider jar but still fits the basic mason jar lid.

I’d spied a few versions running about on Pinterest and tweaked the concept to get something I like. For a good tutorial, start with the This Old House version. I can never let anything be simple enough, so instead of the acrylic they used, traced the solar charging cell’s top square opening on a piece of paper, cut that out and drew it on each lid, then dragged out my Dremel tool to cut into the lid (with my handy safety glasses as I don’t need bits of metal in my eye, thank you very much). I just cut an opening – if you don’t go really slow there are sparks, so after I had an opening in the lid I used my meal snips to cut out the rest of the square. Spray painted the lids black.

Got out the E6000 glue and put a bit around the inside of the lid where the square cut is – I want to glue the lights but not get the glue over the solar panel. Craft wire is wrapped tightly around then lid, then heavier copper wire from Lowes (#6, the same that I used for the bird feeders) makes a lovely hanging loop. Pliers will help you get that loop tight and clean looking AND you do need good wire cutters to cut through the number 6 copper.

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I decided to leave the plastic light covers on to refract the light in the jars.13331116_1363113813704185_7424668232788152522_n

Pretty metal hanging hooks complete the look.

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I LOVE how bright these lights are at night! And, they are solar!! I have them on every other fence post and can now see across the yard easily even in the wee hours of the night (remember, rural here – we have a few bears, rather large mountain lion and other critters – if you hear a noise, so much safer to peer out than step outside with a flashlight!). Only one was dull and shut off earlier than the others – for the 99cents, I just replaced it. The next step I may need before the winter rains is to go over each one and coat the edge of the cut lid with a bit of outdoor silicone – otherwise, with a wet winter they could end up with a bit of sitting water in that spot. This is one project I highly recommend to those of you who enjoy crafting.

This post is participating in Unknown Mami’s Sunday in My City – pop on in to see what other folks are up to when they have a bit of time off. 

Finches have Found the New Feeders

Goldfinch
I made a few bottle feeders after seeing them over at Rebecca’s Bird Gardens. Amazon sells the small plastic Gadjit base and Lowes (and other hardware stores) sells the #6 copper wire I used. Rebecca’s uses #8 – but it’s even thicker and I would never have been able to bend it, luckily I’m a fan of the #6 look.

Feeder-1

People also use the feeder bases with plastic soda bottles (great kid’s project). If you go that route, the added benefit is you just toss the bottle when it gets dirty and put the feeder base on a new one. It comes with a hook you can attach to plastic bottles. They fit almost all glass screw top bottles as well – just not wine bottles as those are a wee tad bigger. I bought a few Perrier in glass just for the bottle ☺. Black sunflower seed or niger attracts the smaller birds. I’d planned to hang some charms/beads on the front to brighten them up and so that the birds would find it easily. Now that they’re found the green, I don‘t have to worry – they’ll recognize it moving forward. Was a tad concerned when I first hung it up as they took awhile to discover it. Now, they play musical chairs with various birds rousting others to get a spot on the base. Thinking that glass paint might be fun to play with on the next one. For both the charms and paint I’m holding off a bit to see how dirty they get. Birds tend to poop all over whatever they’re hanging out near, so if the feeders get covered, I’ll leave them plain glass for simplest cleaning.

Lesser Goldfinch b-1

Rebecca has found blue and red glass bottles that I’m lusting after. I’ve searched my local stores and not found anything in those color bottles. If anyone knows what you can you buy in them – please let me know in comments.

American Goldfinch-1

I’m still no bird expert – but I think I have both the Lesser Goldfinch and American Goldfinch hanging out here. The Lesser has the headcap all black (with that black eye with no white around it) and the American more of a black mask.

Lesser Goldfinch-1

This post is participating in Unknown Mami’s Sundays in My City.

Hummingbirds are Hanging Out

Green neck 3

Still on my hummingbird kick. They’re starting to let me get closer. I *think* this is a Rufous. The neck can look brown when the sun doesn’t catch the feathers. Oh, and I’m finally playing with watermark PRO. Thumbs up at this point, very easy to use.

Rufous Easter Yellow 2

This is a Rufous – when the sun hits the male, his iridescent-red throat shimmers.

Rufous Easter

A whole cluster of the migrating Rufous are doing their best to own all of the feeders.

Green neck 2

Not sure what’s up with the green shimmering, green is not mentioned on the sites I use, which is why I’m not sure if the top photo is a Rufous (Cornell University’s All About Birds).

Hand Feeder-1

Been training them to eat from a handheld feeder – they don’t always wait for me. So far, Anna’s are the only ones who’ll use the handheld when I’m holding it. The migrating ones are a bit more skittish (of me, they’re not at all shy about attacking the Anna’s). I’d seen this one, Birds and Blooms handheld hummingbird feeder how to, and immediately ordered some glass test tubes on eBay and replacement glass flower feeder tubes. Having fun with it.

Anna's Easter Blue 2

The Anna’s do manage to get to the feeders. The just aren’t allowed to camp out as long.

Anna lg

Saved the best shot for last. Don’t you just love those itsy feet hanging on to the edge of the glass flower? 

Check out the other photos people are sharing over at Unknown Mami’s Sundays in My City.

Feisty!

Rufous

Rufous Hummingbird

I’m not a bird watcher by any means, but where I can, I do try to figure out who the visitors are in my neck of the woods. With our severe California drought, gardening for wildlife and putting out food and water can make a difference. I rely on the info from Cornell Ornithornology’s All About Birds easy website.  For instance, if I want to attract, feed or figure how to help out our local goldfinches or western bluebirds – I can put that into search and all kinds of wonderful info (including sounds, birds that look similar, favorite foods, nesting habits and a range map) comes up.

Rufous b

This also tells me that the current bully at the feeders, the Rufous hummingbird, is “The feistiest hummingbird in North America. The brilliant orange male and the green-and-orange female Rufous Hummingbird are relentless attackers at flowers and feeders, going after (if not always defeating) even the large hummingbirds”.  And, it lets me know that they are migrating (if only I could tell my poor harassed Anna’s that these transients should soon be gone, they just need to hang in there!). I’m enjoying the Rufous as I do only get to see them for awhile each year and, so far, the Anna’s are holding their own.

Anna close female

Anna’s Hummingbird female

Anna close

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna flight

Anna’s Hummingbird male

Feeder

Feeder Quarrels

With my Master Gardener hat, I’ve been sharing a great deal about birds and butterflies on our Facebook page. I’ll see if I can’t make some time to create a few posts on the topic and share them here.

Early Spring

Just sharing a few shots from (too) warm California. Sadly, the National Drought Summary lists my county in Extreme Drought Conditions (the worst that can be assigned). The occasional sprinkle makes us forget that we’re not out of the woods and the warmth, ah the warmth: “the precipitation fell mostly as rain instead of snow, so the mountain snowpack in the coastal ranges remained dismally below norma … mid-February snowpack snow water content ranked in the lowest 5 percent of the historical record at many stations throughout Washington, Oregon, California, and Utah ..Persistent well-above-normal temperatures continued to melt the snowpack ..” The snowpack is where we’re supposed to get water from as the year goes on. For nerds like me – this map is updated weekly: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?CA

Texas Hummingbird Sage

But, this warmth – with slight drizzles – is keeping plants like my Texas hummingbird sage – that should be an annual here and have fed the compost pile – alive and well. The curled leaf is even a tropical Canna – green! Remember, I live in the mountains, egads.

Verbena

My little potted verbena on the front landing (pots= one zone colder usually without the insulation of the earth, front landing has NO cover) has also not stopped blooming at all since fall – I love it, but it’s scary.

Petunia

For folks who know plants, can you say Petunia in the mountains in February? (ok, so it’s March 1st, but the photo was February) Granted, not the best shot, this one is velvety purple and I’ve never figured out how to get the color right in shots – the color is close so I don’t care that my fescue blue grass  is popping in.

Daffodil 1 Daffodil 2

The daffodils are a bit more in keeping with the season although the local Ironstone Vineyard that plants them EVERYWHERE usually advertises the bloom at our St Patricks event 3rd weekend of March, so we’re a tad early here as well.

California feeds the nation – so everyone head out and do a rain dance for us, with a special number for whoever you consider the Queen of Frosts!

Stop in and say at over at Unknown Mami’s Sundays in My City.

UC Master Gardener Conference Marketplace

Dig Plants

The Master Gardener statewide conference has a Marketplace where counties can sell to fundraise for their group and its projects. My group was pretty busy when the sign-ups came out, so I volunteered to “just do it” and make all items plus run a table (yes, I am a bit nuts). It’s been a few months of nose to the sewing machine when I’m not working.

Embroidered Avant Gardener apron

I’m posting this a tad backwards – this week I’ll have more detailed posts on making the items – but my Sundays in My City friends will appreciate simply seeing the end results and being spared all the bloody details.

Turquoise Crazy mug rug

I’d been stitching up mug mats / mouse pads with a garden theme …

Black and white canvas Cafe Apron

Cafe aprons that are great for farmer’s markets and plant sales with their nice deep pockets …

Black and white cafe apron

Binding their pockets ..

mg beginning to look organized

Crafting earrings and ornaments from machine stitched lace and tatting plus beads, then carefully packaging..

MG FSL Lace Ornaments

and stitching more ornaments (the off-kilter loops were fixed) ..

MG fall fruits apron lined pocket

Lining apron pockets and matching designs ..

Embroidered Tree Hugger Bag

Of course, stitching only my favorite designs (so having a green tote/grocery bag for me with this one!) ..

MG Buttons on floral cotton apron

Adding buttons to hide where the ties connect to the apron …

Machine embroidered cupcake mug rugs

Creating more mug rugs for a cupcake theme silent auction basket ..

mg cupcake apron

And finishing pot holder and stitched matching towel to adorn the cupcake apron in that silent auction basket ..

mg I dig plants embroidered apron

Finishing the canvas aprons (oops, did trim that thread after the photo) …

mg Embroidered Avant Gardener tote

Finishing the canvas totes, getting everything packed and to the conference …

MG Marketplace table Front

Making signs, snapping a few pics mid set-up ..

MG Reception at Tenaya

And then mustering the energy to enjoy our wonderful reception with my fellow Master Gardeners at the Tenaya Lodge ..

UC Master Gardener Conference Yosemite

Joining 650 other California Master Gardeners for informative sessions over 3 days..

Heims at UC Master Gardener Conference

And make it all the way to the closing Horticultural Humor presentation, plus demanding drive home through circuitous mountain roads. Believe it or not, I am happy I did it. Haven’t challenged myself craft wise other than the annual mad Christmas push. Raised oodles and oodles of money for my group – a lot of their funding goes to the school gardens they run across our county. And, finally – best of all- I had a fantastic time at the conference itself.

Be sure to stop by Sundays in My City to see what kinds of things that global group spend their time doing.