Tuesday, September 29, 2009

ABC (Almost) Wednesday: K

It's almost Wednesday once again, and this week we have come to the letter K, a challenging one for my usual gardening references.

I suppose I could show you my Knockout Roses, which have finally begun to bloom again after surviving an attack by sawflies early in the season and the voracious munching of Japanese beetles the rest of the summer. But the photo isn't that good--any sunlight seems to turn these deep red blooms into a fluorescent pink in a photograph. But this is the only flower in my garden that begins with the letter K.

The operative K word around here the last few days has been Kerchoo, but I don't think my red nose or a pile of used Kleenexes would be particularly appealing. And, since I am getting better anyway, let's turn to some other areas for appropriate K words.

What is more appealing than a cute Kitten? This is Jessie, an orphan at the Humane Society where my granddaughter and I volunteer several times a month. I am happy to say that when Granddaughter and I returned to the shelter yesterday, Jessie had already been adopted.

As had Willow, a bloodhound mix, and her brothers. Puppies never stay long at the shelter, which has a high rate of adoption. With a face like this, who could resist this sweetie? The hardest part of volunteering for both of us is not coming home each week with a new pet:) If you are considering adopting a pet, think about adopting an older pet. They are the ones who stay the longest at the shelter, yet they offer so many advantages over mischievous kittens and puppies.

Speaking of mischievous puppies . . . this brings me to another joy in my life, Kids, specifically, Grandkids. All of the grandkids love to come to Grandma's house, especially to visit with Sophie. Even though littlest Grandson looks a bit hesitant here, he has learned how to say "No" to Sophie and enjoys her sloppy puppy kisses.

And while we're on the subject of Sophie, I have never mentioned one of her proud accomplishments. We have attended three different sessions of dog training since April, and in early August Sophie received her AKC Canine Good Citizen Award. This is a national test, comprised of several different areas which must all be performed satisfactorily in one test session. The Canine Good Citizen means that Sophie responds to various commands, such as "sit," "stay," and "come," and treats strangers and other dogs politely. I am very proud of her; however, the test did not include avoiding chewing up pens, ripping up carpet, or unstuffing stuffed animals. I guess there's only so much a girl can learn at one time:)

K is also for Kindness. One of the benefits of blogging has been getting to know so many wonderful people here. Garden bloggers, in particular, are always willing to share not only their knowledge of plants and techniques, but also in many cases the bounty of their gardens. Last week I was thrilled to receive a package in the mail from Gail, who knew I had admired her "Perfectly Pink Phlox Pilosa" for a long time. These little plants may not look like much right now, but next summer I'm hoping for a glorious show of pink blooms in my Butterfly & Friends garden, along with a few Penstemon X and Iris Cristata, also sent by Gail.

I've mentioned in other posts about some of the seeds I've received from other bloggers. But I've neglected to mention some other goodies shared by garden bloggers, including several starts of Cinnamon Fern, given to me by Lisa of Greenbow earlier this summer, as well as some Siberian Iris sent by Marnie this past spring. And just a few weeks ago, Tatyana, who I've only recently gotten to know, kindly sent me foxglove seeds and some seeds from her gorgeous red poppies. Monica, who actually visited my garden while I was away in Oregon, also gave me a lovely chocolate Joe Pye weed that is the perfect addition to my Butterfly Garden. Thank you to all of you for sharing these with me and making my garden a more beautiful place.

How beautiful a day can be
When kindness touches it!
--George Elliston

For more views of the letter K, visit the ABC blog, hosted by Mrs. Nesbitt.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

ABC Wednesday: The Portland Japanese Garden

On my recent trip to Oregon, I had the opportunity to visit the Portland Japanese Garden. Opened to the public in 1967, the garden has been described by a former Ambassador of Japan to the U.S. as "the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan."

Situated on 5 1/2 acres above the city, this magnificent garden can be reached via a free shuttle or a short climb up stone steps. If you are able, the walk through the Antique Gate and up the steeply ascending pathway is worth the exercise to give a glimpse of the beauty that lies within.

Several vantage points within the garden provide panoramic views of the city of Portland with Mount Hood in the distance.

While the garden was designed to be as authentic as possible, over time it has evolved, incorporating more plants native to the Pacific Northwest. You will find a magnificent example of a Japanese maple like the one above.

But you will also see the tall black pines surrounding the garden, providing a dense canopy of shade.

"Japanese gardens have an ancient history influenced by Shinto, Buddhist, and
Taoist philosphies. Upon entering a Japanese garden the hope is to realize
a sense of peace, harmony, and tranquility."

"Three primary elements are used in every Japanese garden design: stone, the "bones" of the landscape; water, the life-giving force; and plants, the tapestry of the four seasons. Other important elements include stone lanterns, water basins, arbors, and bridges."

Antique pagoda lantern given to Portland by its Sister City, Sapporo, Japan.
Stones at its base are in the shape of the island of Hokkaido.

The Portland Garden includes five different garden styles--the Flat Garden, the Stroll Garden, the Tea Garden, the Natural Garden, and the Sand and Stone Garden.

The Natural Garden takes the visitor down the hillside along small streams and waterfalls. Ferns, trees, and mosses grow in their natural state here.

Besides the authentic Moon Bridge (not pictured here), the visitor can walk across the Zig Zag Bridge past beds of ferns and iris.

The element of water is represented throughout the garden, most dramatically by the Heavenly Falls which rush into the koi-filled Lower Pond. In front of the falls are seven paving stones representing the Big Dipper.

The Sand and Stone Garden is the most abstract of all the gardening styles. Most of us would think of this as a "Zen Garden," but the proper name is Karesansui, meaning "dry landscape."

The sand is carefully raked to suggest the sea.

Near the Flat Garden is the Poetry Stone, which is inscribed with a haiku:
"Here, miles from Japan
I stand as if warmed by the
Spring sunshine of home."

I have visited several Japanese gardens over the years, including a newer garden on our local university campus, but I've never seen one as large or as beautiful as Portland's. While it's not a gardening style I would ever attempt at home, a Japanese garden always inspires awe in me. Walking through the gates, one cannot help but feel a pervading sense of peace and serenity.

"This is a place to discard worldly thoughts and concerns and see oneself as a small but integral part of the universe." *

* All quotes taken from the brochure provided to visitors by the Portland Japanese Garden.

For other topics on the letter J this week, visit the ABC blog sponsored by Mrs. Nesbitt and the ABC Team.

An update on my last post: Our local radio station has come to the rescue once again. The mystery swarms of bugs have been identified as soybean aphids. Apparently, our cool, wet summer provided an ideal breeding ground for them this year. And incidentally--note to Monica--their favorite place to breed is in buckthorn:)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mish Mash Monday and a Veggie Update

I'm a little late for this month's Vegetable Garden Update, sponsored by Tina at In the Garden, but that seems to be the story of my life lately--always a day behind. Looking on the brighter side, though, it does give me a chance to add a few other odds and ends for a mini-Mishmash Monday, the brainchild of Monica the Garden Faerie.

The big news in my vegetable garden these days is not good news. Those tomato plants that once were so green and prolific have fallen victim to tomato blight. I had a similar tragedy last summer and vowed to keep a watchful eye over them this summer and spray them at the first hint of wilt. However, they were fine in mid-August when I left for Oregon, but by the time I got back many of the leaves were turning brown with others showing the tell-tale spots of more wilt to come. I purchased some fungicide, but after consulting with tomato expert Hortense Hoelove and her alter ego Carol, I decided it was too late to do anything about it.

Fortunately, there are still many ripening tomatoes on the plants that can still be picked. Shown above is the spoils from one such picking a week ago. (In case you're wondering, I was hanging out clothes on the line beforehand and didn't have another container with me; I wasn't expecting such a bounty.) Hubby and I have eaten enough fresh tomatoes to boost our antioxidant levels, there is enough juice in the freezer for the winter, and now I'm making tomato sauce. The only thing I'm really sad about is that I didn't get to try any tomatoes from the one Cherokee Purple plant I had. It, too, has been hit by the blight and looks especially pathetic; I would have included a picture of it, but I couldn't crop out the weeds:)

Elsewhere in the veggie garden, things are winding down, but there is still harvesting to be done. For once, the zucchini did not get infested with squash beetles, and my one lone plant is still blossoming, promising a few more fruits before the frost hits.

The green peppers have done very well, and I was surprised to find this nice red one yesterday. Bell peppers will turn red if they're left on the vine long enough, but usually mine spoil or get eaten by bugs before they make it this far. I don't grow many peppers even though they're chock full of vitamins, simply because my sensitive stomach doesn't tolerate them well. But this red pepper is so tempting I think we may have fajitas tonight . . . with a Pepcid for dessert:)

Overall, I would have to say this year's vegetable garden has been a success, largely due, I'm sure, to the regular rainfall we had up until the last few weeks. Besides tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini, we've had carrots, onions, and my first ever crop of beets. But the best producer, by far, has been the green beans. This morning I went out to the garden, debating whether to pull the plants, their leaves either brown and withered or peppered with holes made by hungry grasshoppers. But then I noticed more beans on the plants--I eventually picked a large saucepot full of fresh green beans!

You will also notice in the photo above one green tomato. No, I don't usually pick green tomatoes, but I have an occasional helper in the garden . . .

. . . Husband thought it would be cute to show littlest Grandson how to pick tomatoes. Grandson thought it was indeed fun, but even more fun was to use the tomatoes like baseballs. Sophie quickly picked up on this game, chasing down the fly "balls" and now often picks a few to entertain herself when her little buddy is not around. Here she's chewing on an apple that fell to the ground, but she's just as likely to have a tomato in her mouth. Needless to say, the tomatoes she picks never make it into juice for the freezer.

And now for a few Mish-Mash odds and ends . . . On my last post I showed a photo of a small black caterpillar. Several of you identified it as the first instar of the black swallowtail caterpillar. Once again, you bloggers have come through with great information!

Here's a closer look at the little fellow. I've been checking the fennel and parsley nearly every day and have found they're full of caterpillars in various stages.

This guy must be in one of the next stages, because he's about half the size of the full-grown caterpillars. And if you compare him to the large one in the next photo, you'll see less black and more green as they mature.

Ah, the things we learn from blogging!

And speaking of bugs, the last two nights we have had swarms of some tiny little flying insects.

It's difficult to see here, unless you enlarge the photo, but the little white dots are swarms of tiny creatures with nearly transparent white wings.

They also liked my petunias, covering the leaves and forming a rather sticky, web-like substance. Again, you can see these much better if you enlarge the photos.

I checked out a few websites, but still have not been able to identify them. Any ideas?

Although it may seem I have been very busy in the garden, I have a confession to make--other than watering containers and picking tomatoes or looking for photogenic insects, I have really neglected the garden the last two weeks. Oh, I have excuses--we had a new roof put on the house, and flying shingles and pounding nails don't make for tranquil gardening time. Or I could blame it on the fact that I have been substitute teaching once again, too tired in the evening to do anything too strenuous. No seeds have been collected, no weeds have been pulled, and no (I can hear the gasps now!) bulbs have been ordered. But this week, no excuses! Time's a-wasting--tomorrow is the first day of fall!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

ABC Wednesday: Bugs and Blooms

Yesterday, on the 15th, I posted many of the flowers that are blooming in my garden for the monthly Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. But plants are not the only thing living in my garden; a closer inspection reveals another thriving living community perfect for today's ABC letter of I--Insects.

Every one of my flowerbeds is virtually humming throughout the sunlit hours with the activity of the pollinators, without whom there would be no flowers.

Honeybees, the most well-known of the pollinators, are difficult to capture for this amateur photographer as their wings are in constant motion.

Often times the photo of a small bee is pure luck, as I try to capture an image of a bloom only to discover later while downloading the photos that a little winged creature has been caught as well.

Even more difficult to photograph than the honeybees are what we refer to as "sweat bees," which is a name applied to many different bees, all belonging to the family Halictidae. They tend to hover over a bloom and move quickly from one to another, so I was amazed that this photo turned out well.

The bumblebees have to be my favorite, though. Their size makes them easy to spot as they go from flower to flower, sipping the nectar. They are much more accomodating about posing for a photo as well.

Not every insect is welcome in my garden, however. I forgot to include a photo of my Knockout roses on my Bloom Day post yesterday; they are finally beginning to bloom again after an early bout with sawflies and then the ravishing by the Japanese beetles. Now that the beetles have finally left, they are recovering enough to bloom once again . . . but wait a minute, that's another Japanese beetle! Doesn't he know the rest of his clan has left for the summer . . . I think.

I'm also not too fond of grasshoppers, which can destroy foliage not only in the garden, but in large numbers can also cause destruction in the nearby fields of corn and soybeans.

I am no expert on insects and certainly cannot identify all those I see. These resting on a black-eyed Susan appear to be some kind of wasp, but I'm not sure. When it comes to wasps, I don't get too close to investigate:)

Nor can I identify these two insects. Hmmm, do you sense a theme here? No wonder I have so many insects in my garden!

Another mystery bug . . . alone, this time:) Rather blurry, but I am hoping that someone can identify it for me. It was the most brilliant shade of blue.

This is an insect that I can identify, and one that is more than welcome in my garden--the praying mantis. Last year, I had a whole community of different types of mantids in my garden and became fascinated with these "good bugs." I learned a great deal about them, which you can read about in a post I did last summer if you are interested in knowing more. This year sightings have been few, a phenomenon I can't explain.

With some insects, it is easier to find the trail they leave behind. These shells of the cicadas look like some kind of prehistoric predators, don't they?

Not every insect has wings, and not every plant in my garden is planted for its show of flowers. The butterfly weed, Asclepias Tuberosa, is host to many butterfly larva, including the Monarch butterfly. Although I have seen Monarchs floating through the trees and the gardens here, I have yet to get one decent photo of one. I do hope this caterpillar is a Monarch and that I will have more adults coming to visit.

Other plants grown primarily for the butterflies are parsley and fennel. This looks like a swallowtail caterpillar, which prefers the fennel.

Another tiny caterpillar I discovered in the fennel is this little black guy with the white stripe. This is when I really wish I had a supermacro feature on my camera! Perhaps someone recognizes him as well.

Aside from the bees, my favorite of all the insects, of course, is the butterfly. For whatever reason, they have been scarce this year, although the garden is thick with yellow sulphurs and cabbage whites right now.

The spotting of any unusual butterfly or moth is cause for celebration and a reason for the photographer to go running about her garden trying not to squash a flower while trying to get one good still photo.

Many flowers are also chosen here because they attract the butterflies. I have been so pleased with the colorful blooms of the cosmos planted this year, but I'm just as happy that the bees and moths like this one enjoy them as well.

Finally, I leave you with one butterfly that has made fewer than its usual appearances here this year--the Painted Lady. It posed quite daintily for me atop a zinnia, another plant that is a butterfly magnet.

For those of you reading this today who aren't gardeners, perhaps you can see another side to my obsession with gardening--it is not only a place of beauty, but also a sanctuary, and a place to observe so many of the small miracles of life.

For other ABC posts today, you might want to visit the ABC blog or our hostess, Mrs. Nesbitt.