Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Floral Wreath Workshop

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of attending a hands-on Scandinavian-inspired floral wreath making ("Every woman a goddess") workshop offered by Catherine Dale of the Land Conservancy (TLC), held at the Eagles Estate in Burnaby.

My mom first heard about the workshop, and brought along her mom who is visiting from the Okanagan. I brought along my daughter, so we ended up with all 4 generations of us ladies, which is already a special moment in itself. Then add to this moment some bright flowers and berries, mix it with good company (Catherine and I are old friends - although I would have to qualify that neither of us are actually old - who hadn't seen each other for a number of years), and then place this in the setting of a restored historical house on 1 1/3 acres on the upper side of scenic Deer Lake, and the result was almost magical. (Click any of the photos for a closer view.)

4 generations of beautiful ladies
Here we are, all 4 generations, sporting our floral arrangements.

my daughter with her great-nana
My daughter is fortunate to have a great-nana (now 89 years old). I hope the Lord grants me the opportunity to one day meet some of my great-grandchildren. (Although I had only 2 children myself, I already tell mine that one day I am hoping for lots of grandchildren!)

Doesn't my Nana look like a Queen with her floral crown? Very distinguished indeed.

my daughter with her grandma
My grandma decided to make a larger wreath, so hers became a flower necklace for the photos.

with my daughter
I got this photo with my daughter at home, before we hung up our wreaths to dry. The flowers were quite wet when we started our wreaths (it had been raining for a few days already), and perhaps it was a bit early in the season for the hydrangeas, so the crowns are looking pretty curled and wrinkly, but the ivy still looks fresh. I suppose one could use silica gel and dry any flowers. We'll see, but there may be some life still left in it.

For anyone inspired by these photos, the technique was actually fairly simple. We started with a length of common ivy, wrapped maybe twice around (try it on for size if you are aiming for a crown), and scotch-taped together. Then we used a spool of black sewing thread, tied and knotted to start, then wrapped around and around to secure each bunch of flowers or berries, in turn. For a fuller arrangement, you could go around twice (although we didn't). To end it, cut the thread and tie and knot (it's a bit awkward with only one end of the thread), and then separately take another piece of thread and tie and knot it again securely.

The flowers Catherine gathered included a few colours of hydrangeas, mini roses, lavender, mountain ash berries, and tansy (pretty yellow, but not sweet smelling). My mini roses are much past their prime this year, but I'm already wondering about an all-rose flower crown next season, if I can find the time.

Thanks to Catherine for an enjoyable Saturday morning, and for a great floral craft experience. We look forward to the next workshop! Here we are, with Catherine:

Friday, July 20, 2007

Garden Glimpses : Mid July 2007

This afternoon we had a short reprieve from this week of rain, so I went out and filled a clear garbage bag full with weeds and trimmings. I also snapped a few photos, like this daylily from my friend Lily, which cheers up the back garden, near my compost bins:

This daylily from my father-in-law, Hemerocallis "Kwanzo", a beautiful triple orange, is a great contrast to the purple Campanula sprouting next to it:

Daylily Kwanzo and CampanulaI was happy to spot this fuzzy bumblebee on the purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea):

Bee on coneflower
Here's that bee from another angle:

Bee on coneflower
The purple coneflowers are so photogenic, I can't resist including another shot:

Purple coneflowers
The purple coneflowers are great plants for the garden. They are perennial, don't need staking, don't spread throughout the garden, don't seed themselves liberally, and they are gorgeous, especially in mass plantings. I have a few small groups of 3 or 5 plants, but I am hoping to continue to add to my plantings, with the precious offspring I find on occasion, and starting more from seed.

This sunflower (Helianthus giganteus) seems to be taller each time I look at it. What a delight it will be when the flower appears!

Giant sunflower
The sunflower, as well as a small row of tomato plants, grow near the post between my espalier apple and asian pear trees.

The espaliered asian pear has produced a number of vertical shoots lately, so today I trimmed it down again. I prune out these shoots about once a month during the growing season. Since it has set fruit already, I feel confident to cut these shoots, and hopefully redirect more of the tree's energies into the fruit. Here is a pic before the pruning:

Espalier asian pear in need of a trim
I know I posted a similar shot last year, but I love this cheery Liatris underplanting of my Fuyu Persimmon tree, which seems to still be trying to settle in (and then I hope it will surprise me with noticeable growth, and one day, some fruit!):

Persimmon and liatrisAnd finally, my garden moment was sponsored today by Simmons:

Sweet moment for Mom
I was feeling very tired myself this afternoon, so I took a small rest at 2PM, which was ended before 3PM by a phone call (an automated recording, of all things!). My 8 year old daughter, who had fallen asleep on the bed beside me, continued to sleep. When I came downstairs, I found my 6 year old son asleep on his new mattress, which is still wrapped in plastic, on the living room floor (waiting for Daddy to finish assembling the new bed, which he did tonight). Amazingly (just short of miraculous), they continued to sleep until almost 7PM, so after finishing work at 5PM, I had lots of time in the garden to weed & take photos in peace!!!

Here is my son in his new bed, new mattress, new sheets. This is a big improvement, since his feet were already touching the bottom of his crib-sized bed!

New bed
On that note, I am going to close off, and head to bed myself. 'Night!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Cool Bug Discovery : Ten-lined June Beetle

I was out walking with my neighbour Navdeep late last night, when we spotted a really neat beetle on the sidewalk. I had to bring it home to show my kids, so I picked it up, and carried it home in a paper cup I found. Here is a photo of it in the small "pet" cage we have, for keeping and observing various small creatures we find on occasion (double-click image for closer view):
Ten-Lined June Beetle
My research indicates that this is the Ten-Lined June Beetle (Polyphylla decemlineata). Apparently, it lays its eggs at the base of conifers, where the larva (grub) lives for 3 to 4 years, eating the roots of the tree. Then it emerges as an adult, mates and returns to the soil to lay eggs. The adults feed on the foliage of conifers (e.g. pine), so I plucked some pine needles and dropped them into its cage.

Since dropping him into the cage, he has remained pretty much motionless, with his feet slightly curled (i.e. not standing, just lying on its belly). So I was afraid this morning that he would already be dead before the kids could see him. It looked like it, until I reached into his cage, and picked him up, and he moved a little. Then later in the morning, I took him out, for some photos on my hand:
Ten-Lined June BeetleThen on my daughter's grasshead (which she made at school) - doesn't Mr. Grasshead look surprised?
Mr. Grasshead with New Bug FriendThen suddenly the beetle started moving around, and before I could put the camera down, flew to the top of my kitchen cabinets. I climbed a chair to retrieve him. So there is still some life left in him. Here he is reaching skyward just before flying off.
Ten-Lined June Beetle before Flight

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Chafer Beetle Dance - Too Close for Comfort

Sometimes you make a discovery you wish you never had. Last night was one of those nights.

I was out visiting the garden at twilight, and noticed something buzzing about my Rainier cherry tree. Earlier in the day, I had discovered a chafer beetle resting on a branch, and had wondered if I should pluck the little bugger out of there and squish the life out of him, or drown him in the potty, but being bare handed, I decided I would just let him be for the time being.

In case you don't have European Chafer infestation in your neighbourhood, let me provide a layman's summary of what you're missing. The beetle, which is brown, oval and slightly smaller than a honeybee, lays its eggs under the lawn in summer. Then the grubs, which are ghostly white and a disgusting curled up C shape, overwinter under the lawn, completely unknown to the poor homeowner, eating away the roots of his grass. By spring, the grubs are big fat and juicy, and irresistible to crows and raccoons, which rip up chunks of the grass (which has already been weakened by the grubs by all their munching on the roots), to get to the juicy grubs, and leave the lawn a clumpy, unsightly mess. Serious infestations require starting the lawn again, from seed.

There is no real known prevention (although keeping the lawn healthy and not trimmed too short supposedly help), nor effective treatment (except perhaps some nematode treatment which requires very specific timing and conditions for them to be effective in killing the grubs). So the infestation spreads throughout the city, leaving random spots of mangled lawn behind.

So you guessed it.... Last night I realized that this buzzing was a chafer beetle, buzzing about the top of my cherry tree. Then I noticed another, and another. I looked toward my plum tree, and the same buzzing about there. In the neighbour's yard, too, near the top of each small tree, there were a couple of beetles, buzzing around in a mating dance.

I had read about this mating dance, high up in the tops of trees. But our trees are only 6' to 8' tall. So there were the beetles, buzzing around directly in front of me. I didn't know whether I should reach for my camera, or a fly swatter, or what. But as I stood, wondering, disgusted by these little creatures, the mosquitoes decided it for me. I retreated into the safety of the house, already stinging from a few bites.

It is interesting... if these had been ladybugs, or dragonflies, or some other creature welcomed in my garden, the whole experience would have been quite enchanting, perhaps even romantic. I would have braved even the pesky mosquitoes to capture some memory of it on video camera. But instead, the thought of these little beetles frolicking in my trees, so they could come down and lay eggs, so their disgusting offspring could destroy my lawn, tainted my view of this spectacle.

On a happier note, the dragonflies - which are my favourite friend in the garden - have returned in full force to our yard this summer. On most days, I can spot one or two darting about the lower yard, and a few more darting about the upper yard, but today I saw more than a dozen at the same time, darting in every direction. I can only hope that they caught a few chafer beetles while they were darting about.
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