Rose Companions

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Enhanced Beauty

I want our garden to resemble a natural environment as much as possible but the roses don’t seem to quite fit.  I try to incorporate roses in the garden anyway.  I love roses and I think any garden without roses is not a complete garden.  Any readers who don’t like roses and think that they are a pain to take care of, please do not take offense.  It’s just my personal take on it.

There are periods, before the roses bloom in late spring and in between blooming (for the re-bloomers) when there are nothing to see but green leaves.  I need plants to give some color to the trellises and the area adjacent to the rose bushes.  There are a few plants I found that work well for our garden and make the garden look more natural.

The first choice, as recommended by many professional gardeners, is Clematis.  They intertwine with rose branches and flower here and there between them.  For mid-spring, Clematis ‘Crystal Fountain’ is really lovely.

Clematis ‘Crystal Fountain’ blooming right next to the Rosa Rugosa ‘Foxi’ and Paul’s Himalayan Musk on the trellis, that was still budding

Clematis ‘Betty Corning’ takes the trellis next to the Rose ‘Eden’. It blooms for months if deadhead. It’s also lightly fragrant.

Clematis ‘Belle of Woking’ with Rose ‘Knockout’ and peony

White peony with Rose ‘Knockout’

Peony is another good companion for roses. Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten the name of the white one above.  But the flowers large and quite fragrant.

This peony came with the house so I don’t know the name. I just divided them and tucked them here and there.

Iris is also a good rose companion. This one is right next to the Rose ‘Jewel Topaz’ which is still budding.

A new wave of rose buds have started to emerge now, not as profuse as in late spring.  I’ll keep seeking rose companions and in the meantime, the echinacea and garden phlox are in full bloom.

 

 

Summer

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Roses

I didn’t expect to stay away from posting for almost a month, time flies.  With the weather swinging like a pendulum, I find myself spending more time getting the garden in order.  By the end of the day I was too exhausted to do anything else.  But I can’t let summer passes by with out posting about roses.

The rose bushes in our garden are doing well this year.  With rain early on and cooler than normal temperatures, it’s a perfect combination for roses.  The first round of blossoms are just about to fade and just in time for the arrival of the heat and humidity.  Now it’s time to snip off the spent flowers and feed them again.

They present their representatives, below, to vouch for the caretaker that has kept them well fed and healthy.  That is why she has been MIA for a month.

‘Eden’ bloomed profusely this year and the flowers are big enough to weigh the branches down as well.

Rugosa rose ‘Hansa’ is my favorite. It’s a fast grower, produces plenty of flowers, re-blooms and is extremely fragrant. And, the honeybees love it too.

‘New Dawn’ covers the whole trellis, with red ‘Blaze’ and pink ‘Knockout’ peeking in on the sides

‘Heritage’ is also highly fragrant and re-blooms. I may have to move it to a new spot, away from the invasion of the Summersweet

‘Zephirine drouhin’ has a very interesting pink color and re-blooms throughout the season

 

Good Year For Bluebirds

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Starting Their Second Brood

I think the Bluebirds are getting more comfortable with our garden now.  They no longer leave us during winter.  We provide roosting boxes, food and water in heated birdbaths when nothing much is around in winter and we help with guarding their nesting box during their breeding season.  Since they have become our resident birds, they have started their nesting early.  Last year they had two broods and this year they have already started a second brood while still feeding their chicks from the first brood.

They started the first brood in April. Once the female lays eggs, we start to monitor the nest box weekly to make sure they are fine.  Four out of five eggs hatched with the 1st brood.

May 7th – not much feathering and eyes still closed

May 14th – They are much bigger and have feathers. This was our last photo because we don’t want them to fledge too early

We stopped checking their nest box when the chicks have full feathers.  If they fledge too early, out of concern for their own safety, they could become other birds food.  So we don’t want to stress them with visits.

May 30th – The female tends to one of the chicks in between building a new nest

A couple taking a break from feeding the chicks and building a new nest

June 4th – The first egg in a new nest-second brood

Two of the babies from the first brood perching on top of new nest box

Male keeps his eyes on his chicks and the new nest too

The second nest is right by our vegetable garden and the green pole is only a couple of feet from the front of the nest box.  Hopefully there will be another three or more chicks from the second brood.

Tree Peony-Nishiki

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Getting More Beautiful Every Year

We weren’t able to enjoy our tree peonies in the last two years as it was either too windy or too much rain which brought down the flowers as soon as they opened up.  This year, though we had a lot of rain, there was a brief period without and it coincided with the tree peony blooming. Not just us enjoying the flowers, the bees were also busy collecting pollen from them.

The flowers are so big, they weigh the branches down a little

Each flower is around 7-8″ in diameter

We have only two tree peonies in our garden as they grow very large and don’t like to be moved once established.  The ‘Nishiki’ has been with us for 10 years and is around 3.5 feet tall.  It usually produces around 15 to 20 flowers each spring.  We look forward to seeing how many flowers it will produce each year since it produces more flowers as it gets older.

One on top of the other

Close up

Looks beautiful even when it’s fading

It’s a flower that’s worth growing.  It’s not fussy and doesn’t need much attention, however, it’s a slow grower.  The beauty of the flowers make it worth the wait.

New Hives

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Starting Over Again After Six Years

We still can’t figure out what happened to our honeybees.  They were gone, without a trace last winter.  There was plenty of honey still stored in each hive but just a few dead bees in there, most of them were young bees.  There was no foul smell in any of the hives and the frames looked clean.  After six years of tending them, they were gone in one season.  We also haven’t seen very many wild bees lately either.  So far just some Carpenter bees and Mason bees.  Not even a Bumblebee.

We think we might have been hit either by the CCD (Colony-collapse Disorder) or Zombees (Apocephalus borealis) but it could be anything at this point.  As discouraged as we are we won’t give up.  We received three new packages of bees to start over with.  The first two came in mid-April but we had to keep them in their boxes for a few more days after we received them.  The weather wasn’t on our side to hive them, either raining, too cold or to windy.  We sprayed sugar syrup on the screens a few times a day to keep them well fed while they remained confined.  We were finally able to hive them on April 23, freedom at last.

The first two packages, we were so happy to see them

Anxious to get out

Poured them in the super after attaching the queen box. I kept the corrugated sheet under the base to keep them warm since the weather is still on the cold side.

Added a top tray feeder filled with sugar syrup. I adapted this tray feeder by adding fine screen mesh on top of the floating bars to prevent bees drowning. It works very well.

Two new hives. I left the empty packages in front of the hive so the bees that are still in the box can find their way to new home

We did the first inspection of these two new hives ten days later, May 2nd.  Each hive had freed their queens and built comb.  Both top tray feeders were empty.  There was some pollen as well.  We couldn’t see the queens but didn’t want to stress them further by searching for her.  Over all there are good signs that they have settled in to their new homes.  We removed the top tray feeders and changed to bottle feeders instead because they had built comb between the feeder gap and inside one of the feeders.

It’s a beautiful sight to see on the first inspection. Bees are busy building combs and some pollen.

Very busy at the entrance

It’s been raining almost everyday with the temperature hovering a little above 50°F on the days that we are home.  As a result, since the 1st inspection, we haven’t have a chance to check on their feeders again.  I think we will have to continue feeding them until the weather condition is improved.

The third package came in on May 5th and I was able to hive them that evening.  This particular package is much calmer than the first two, maybe because they weren’t in confinement for a long time like the first two packages.

The third hive

Hopefully these three new hives will survive the season.  My fear is not just the CCD now but the commercial elimination of mosquitos and ticks that is encroaching into the neighborhood.  Any sensible person knows that spraying insecticide will not just kill mosquitos and ticks but all insects that come into contact.  But advertisement and convenience seem to trump commonsense.  So we set the new hives further inside our property and will keep our fingers crossed.

Primrose

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Beauty With Low Maintenance

When crocuses and daffodils start to fade, primroses take the baton and continue running, coloring our garden.  I’ve been planting different colors of primrose in our garden for the last few years and continue to look for new colors every year.  There are many types of primrose but not many are hardy enough for our USDA zone so my choice is a little limited.

What I like about primrose is that they are pretty and low maintenance.  Once I put one in the garden they tend to thrive being fed only once a year, in spring, and with a little mulching.  The only potentially deadly problem for primrose, at least in our garden, are the slugs.  Since they are low to the ground and tend to like moist soil, it’s easy to reach for the slugs.  They can make a clump of primrose disappear in a few days.

Our previous neighbor gave us a couple of these primroses a few years ago. Now we have a large clump.

Close up

Tiny & bright yellow

These yellow primroses are large and much closer to the ground

Shocking pink with yellow contrast

White

Multi colored

The orange and purple striped ones were devoured by the slugs.  The green one is still budding, not yet open and we’re hoping the slugs miss it too.  For a couple of weeks or so, we have a very welcome primrose color all over our garden.

Migrating Birds

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They Are Back

Around this time in spring we prepare a welcome mat for the migrating birds, both the ones that come to stay for a season or just passing through.  We clean the birdhouses that were left out during winter for cold night roosting and set them back up.  Plenty of food is put out as well and we make some effort to insure the feeders won’t get emptied by larger birds like the Mourning doves, Grackles, European Starlings and Blue Jays by using weight sensitive feeders.  Grackles and Blue Jays manage to work these feeders anyway by bouncing up and down.  But we don’t mind since they can’t really land on the feeder blocking small birds from getting on.

We take our cues from the plants and trees in the garden.  We put oranges out when the cherry trees blossom; that is when the Baltimore Orioles (Icterus galbula) start to show up.  We put sugar syrup out when the Columbine starts to bloom.  That’s when Ruby-throated Hummingbirds reach us from the south.

Arriving on the same schedule are the tree Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor). They’re looking for nesting boxes now.  This year is much harder for them since the Eastern Bluebird beat them to nesting, having eggs now, get very territorial.  They don’t want any neighbors, even when the closest box is 20 feet away the male Bluebird still chases any bird who has the temerity to stray too close.  Also House Sparrows that try to nest in every box in the yard.  It seems like an uphill battle for the Swallows but they still try and we do our best chasing the Sparrows to give them an edge.

A pair of Tree Swallows checking one of the nest boxes.  They have not yet picked one.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) has also arrived.  Generally we only see the male at this time of year.  Some years they will stay through the season but some years they just pass through.

A male Rose-breasted Grosbeak enjoy chipped sunflower seeds and peanuts

A male Baltimore Oriole enjoying oranges

I know that the Baltimore Orioles are here, aside from the cherry tree cue, we can hear them.  They haven’t come down for the oranges yet.  Above is an image captured last year.

 

Eastern Bluebird

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The First Family To Settle

Spring is a very active season for birds.  I can tell that spring is really coming when the male American Goldfinches shed their winter coats and the male Cardinals are no longer willing to eat together.  The same thing goes for the Eastern Bluebirds which no longer flock together like they do in winter.  There is also their singing.

The first pair of birds that took up residence in our garden this year is the Eastern Bluebird.  After picking and choosing among several nest boxes in the yard, they ended up at the same one the bluebirds nested in last year.  I’m not sure that it’s the same pair though, since a flock of them stayed with us this winter.

Male Eastern Bluebird staying on top of the house they picked

The female keeps her eyes on it from the tree above

Their new home

Once the female has started to lay eggs, the male become very territorial.  A Tree Swallow who just migrated back, checked the nest box for availability and was immediately chased away.  As aggressive as the male bluebird is, he’s no match to the House sparrow.  We have to diligently monitor all the nest boxes in the garden for signs of the House Sparrows.  So far we have been successfully hosted Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, House Wrens, Chickadees and Tufted Titmouse in our nest boxes by monitoring the House Sparrows attempts.

April 16: three beautiful blue eggs

April 22: five eggs

She rarely leaves the nest now

Hopefully most of the eggs she’s caring for now will make it to adulthood.  We’re happy to see more and more of them each year and to know that they are comfortable enough to stay with us year round.

These are the one’s that use the nest boxes.  The one’s that prefer to build their own nests like the American Robins, Chipping Sparrows and Song Sparrows have already picked their spots in the foliage.  I’ll have to check on the Robins next time I have a chance.  Last I checked, they had just finished building their nest.

We are still waiting for the Grey Catbirds, Baltimore Orioles and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to come back.  The wait won’t be much longer because the Cherry trees have started to blossom and the Columbine is starting to bud.

 

 

Earth Day

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With Respect and Gratitude 

The Earth gives us sanctuary and sustains us in all things.  Aside from being a provider, she is also a designer, inventor and teacher among many other things. She is kind but can never be tamed.  That last is quite likely what saves us all from ourselves in the end.

Here’s some of the great beauty she gives us….

Crocus, after hiding below the surface of the earth for most of the year, tells me that spring is finally here

Primrose

Hellebore

Sand cherry blooms much earlier than other cherries in our garden, with a lovely honey fragrance

Columbine catching a rain drop

Thank you, Mother Earth

With Respect and gratitude

Garden And Poetry

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April: The Most Poetic Month

I find April to be a very uplifting and romantic month for me.  Leaves sprout and start to unfurl, seedlings are pushing themselves through the soil to the surface and early flowers are blossoming.   Birds sing loudly to make their territory known and start their courtship.  Some birds have already built their nests.  Aside from these life-affirming activities, the Academy of American Poets also designated April as a Poetry Month beginning in 1996.

Many great writers and poets have taken an interest in nature.  Many of them are favorites of mine such as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, John Donne and who could forget Shakespeare and Rumi.  There was even a book on Shakespeare’s Gardens published last year that I immediately ran out and bought.

The Poetry month also reminds me of my mother.  We would go out to the market on the weekend in search of plants invoked in poetry to add to our garden.  I still do now but mostly the most fragrant ones.  What flower is more apt for the Poetry month than the Poet’s Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum).

Poet’s Jasmine buds just about to unfurl in the evening

Fully open Poet’s Jasmine that perfumes our garden at night but lasts only a couple of hours after sunrise

I grow them in pots because, as tropicals, I can bring them in the basement during winter

And the ode to it by Thomas Moore (1779-1852)*

Twas midnight-through the lattice, wreath’d

With woodbine, many a perfume breath’d

From plants that wake when others sleep,

From timid jasmine buds, that keep

Their odour to themselves all day,

But, when the sun-light dies away,

Let the delicious secret out

To every breeze that roams about.

Walking through a garden, any garden, relaxes me and raises my sense of marvel and my envy of nature.  Nothing can duplicate what one has seen at that moment even just an hour after.  Nature gives us art, poetry, philosophy and most of all is life sustaining. Those who understand these facts will always try their best to preserve nature, but those who don’t will always try their best to destroy nature for profit.

Ruining the environment doesn’t stop at the border and the effort to slow this self-destruction rests on our shoulders, the ones who love nature and see poetry in every path we take through nature.  As Shakespeare put it ‘One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.’ (Troilus and Cressida, Act 3 scene 3)**

Have a Happy gardening and reading in the garden.

 

*From Ode to Flowers: A celebration of the poetry of flowers by Samuel Carr, 2013

**From Shakespeare’s Gardens by Jackie Bennet, 2016