Monday, September 07, 2015

Fall Cleanup

I've been spending a lot of time in the garden recently, doing some major Fall cleanup.  The weather has been wonderful.  Relatively clear, but cooler.  Perfect for cleaning out weedy and overgrown areas before Winter hits.

I keep thinking I should have my camera, for some dramatic Before and After photos, but I tend to garden like a butterfly, flitting from place to place, not sure where to land and do some serious work.  And by the time I'm into it, I don't want to stop to find a camera, and I've already ruined my Before photo.

Today I started cleaning the underplanting around my Davidii involucrata tree, and I needed to step inside to flip the laundry, so I brought the camera back for a somewhat Before photo :
I'd already cleared an area, but you can see to the right and left of it, the succulents planted there had been overtaken by a creeping grass.  From my reading, I believe it's a type of creeping fescue.  A beautiful grass with a fine blade, and an ability to creep by underground runners to fill all available space.  Which is fantastic for lawn, but a disaster when it overtakes my garden areas.

This particular underplanting, I know I've weeded it diligently several times during the summer, trying to pull the clover and grass and other weeds from between the succulents, but have not been able to get ahead.  So today was the day for more decisive action.  I removed the grass and succulents and moss, and sorted it out, the moss and weeds into a large garden bag, and the succulents into little piles :

Then I replanted the succulents, and watered the whole area well:
Tree with handmade ceramic totems and succulent underplanting.

By Spring, I expect it will be established, and with much less grass growing through.  Although I don't think it will ever come back to the original design from 4 years ago.  Clearly, some of the plants dominated while others quietly disappeared.  Part of the design is covered by small everbearing strawberry plants.  But unlike other weeds which spring up unplanted and unwanted, these ones are welcome almost everywhere they chose to spring up, because they supply me with a fresh supply of tiny strawberries all summer and fall.  I can always find a small handful of these sweet treats when I visit the garden :

Here's the tree and underplanting from another angle, showing my ceramic totems :
Davidii involucrata (dove) tree with handmade ceramic totems and succulent underplanting.
...and :
Davidii involucrata (dove) tree with handmade ceramic totems and succulent underplanting.

Speaking of treats, I picked my last apples today, from the top row of my espalier tree :
Apple harvest.

They are not 100% ripe, the seeds are still a bit light, not dark, but I see too many apples chewed into, and the numbers are dwindling as the squirrels have been carrying them away.  Look at this beauty, this is the biggest apple in the bunch :
Apple from my espalier apple tree.

I did leave one apple for the ants, who looked like they were enjoying it :
Espaliered apple being enjoyed by ants.

No danger of running out of areas to clean up, either, if the good weather continues.  Look at the grasses coming through tiles of our giant outdoor chess board :
But as with everything in the garden, it can wait.  I'll be back.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Convergence of Passions

It's great when one's passions complement each other.  Like my current obsessions with creating pottery and gardening.  There is nothing better than being able to use a piece of pottery, not just admire it on a shelf.

Like these Japanese anemone, which I was fighting back in a section of my garden today, where it's spread too far.  It looks great in contrast with my handmade ceramic vase :

That same vase came in handy for displaying crocosmia which I was also cutting back a few weeks ago :

This crackled vase (the effect achieved with sodium silicate) looks pretty natural holding back some ribbon grass which I was also fighting back in my garden.

I have a number of platters which I use to hold fruit on my countertops.  This large swirly one is the most practical, and here is holding pears and asian pears from my garden :

That same platter is also great for floating camelia flowers, which tend to fall off their stems too easily if displayed in a vase :

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

End of My Mole Problem (Beware : Graphic Photos)

I mostly live by the motto "live and let live".  So I have mostly tolerated the mounds of soil pushed up by the moles around my yard.  But when they moved into the lower (level ball-playing) yard last year, and pushed up gallons and gallons of soil, leaving the ground uneven, I finally bought gas bombs (the kind you light up a fuse, stick into the mole hole, cover up, and it releases a poisonous gas into the tunnels).

A few weeks ago, mounds started appearing in the lower yard again.  One morning I thought I saw one of the mounds moving, so I ran over to check, but no sign of movement.  So I dug up the entrance to the tunnel and inserted a gas bomb.  A couple of days later, I could see another fresh mound.  So my gas bomb has not been effective.  Then we were away last week, so I was not able to follow up.

This morning, I looked out on the back deck, and was surprised to see this :
Dead mole on the porch / deck.

Moving in closer for a better look :
Dead mole
Dead mole.

Other than one foot which was removed, the mole looked to be rather untouched.  Just like a rat I had found on my back deck years ago, also appearing to be more asleep than dead.  I am sure it is again an offering from one of the cats which prowl through my yard.  I'm surprised, since I have not really seen any cats recently, and I don't imagine why any of them would feel the need to leave an offering for me, but anyhow, I'm glad they may have solved my mole problem.

In the yard, I can see where they dug up the entrance to the mole tunnel, to find that creature :
Thank you to my mystery cat, for solving my mole problem, at least for now!

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Another Big Haul of Plums - Second Part of Harvest

I thought that since we picked two days ago our first big batch of Japanese plums, that it may be harder to find as many ripe today.  But that extreme sun and heat that we've been having lately in Vancouver resulted in quick ripening.  So I hauled about the same amount again today :
Methley Japanese plum harvest.
Standing on the bathroom scales, it looks like we got about 37 pounds of plums today.  So about 70+ pounds so far.  Surprisingly, there are still a lot of plums left in the tree.  We've probably picked 2 / 3 of it now.  So the total may be about 100+ pounds of plums this year.

Wow!  What a little over-achiever this plum tree is.  I hope to treat it well, and this happy relationship can continue for many years.  Soon I'll need to start learning some plum recipes.  :-)

Lavender and Echinops Dried Flower Harvest

After our big harvest of Japanese plums, it was a nice and fragrant treat to harvest the long stemmed lavender, Lavendula grosso.  Although this year, the plants again flopped over, and many of the stems were bent, and only good for harvesting the flowers for potpourri.  But I got a few good bunches of the long stems to share with family and friends who enjoy them.
Long-stemmed lavender, Lavendula grosso, as a dried flower and potpourri.
Since the flowers are clean and 100% organic, they could also be used in cooking.  In the past, I've made lavender jellies and even lavender ice cream.  But I don't have any plans for that this year.

I also decided to cut the globe thistle, Echinops bannaticus.  It makes a great dried flower, if cut before the little spheres burst into flower, and become a magnet for bumblebees.  I cut the ones at the front, next to my driveway, and leave the bit patch in the back yard, where I can enjoy watching the bumblebees.
Globe thistle (Echinops bannaticus) as a dried flower.
Although the stems are very sturdy, the stem at the flower head is soft, so they either need to hang upside down, or lay flat on the counter until dried.  The little globes in the bottom right of the photo were from the side shoots.  Those can be useful for a small dried flower arrangement, too.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Big Haul of Japanese Plums - First Part of Harvest

One of the fruit trees which has overwhelmed me with its success is our young Methley Japanese plum tree.  Here is last year's harvest (below), and here are my comments from last year, as well as photos of the inside of the plum, which is sweet and juicy and very blood red.  With that rich colour, I'm sure they would make amazing juice.
Modest Methley Japanese plum harvest.

This year, I've been munching plums for a couple weeks now, and finally, with my 14-year-old's help, climbed the ladder and picked about half the plums, which were ripe.  I don't mind letting the birds and wasps have many of the plums (there were many pecked / partly eaten ones), but it would be a shame to let too many of them drop to the ground.  So here we are, with about half of this year's harvest :
Good harvest from my Methley Japanese plum tree - and this is only half!

Not a bad haul, for a tree we've only had for about 4 years now.  Here is the poor tree about 2 weeks ago, with the plums weighing down the branches so they form a weeping shape :
Japanese plum tree full of fruit.

It might be hard to see, but here is a typical branch, from a couple weeks ago :
Japanese plum tree loaded with unripe plums.
The branches were loaded like that from trunk to tip.  Pretty amazing.

As far as my other fruit trees, not so much success.  My italian plum which bore a lot of fruit last year, but had come down with some disease, put out flowers and even had some miniature plums forming in the Spring, but I don't see any now.  None!

My young peach tree gave me so much joy over the past few years.  Here is last year's harvest (below), and see my blog post for more details.
Memories of a beautiful little Frost peach tree and harvest.

Well, this year it put out a LOT of pink flowers, but then didn't follow up with any leaves.  At all.  It looked like it had finally given in to a disease which left many of its tender branches broken and oozing.  It looked really quite painful.  So I continued to water it, and hope, but finally a couple of weeks ago I realized it was not coming back, so chopped it back.  I hope to replace it next Spring.  So sad.
Remains of a dead Frost peach tree and birdhouse (and garden totem)

My little Morello sour cherry tree was purchased in 2008.  Here he is, the following year, showing good potential for fruit production :
Young Morello sour cherry tree.
Funny thing is that he never really grew very much.  And he continued to have the same weird pattern, fruit along the branches, and leaves at the tips.  Except the branches grew longer, so it looked even weirder.  Then last year, something (I suspect a raccoon) broke off the top half of the tree one night, leaving only 1 long branches and a few tiny side branches.  I decided to keep him, and see what would happen this year.

So this year, something again broke the main branch (perhaps crows this time), leaving it pretty much a skinny trunk and some tiny side branches.  I don't think he's worth saving now. he looks pretty pathetic, I will probably replace him next Spring also.  And will try to dig out the hole and add a lot more good soil, while we're at it.
Broken sour cherry tree.

But all is not lost.  My Bartlett pear, which was suffering for many years with a disgusting fungus infection, is doing much better this year, and looks like it may even bear a crop of pears.  Over this past year, the trees behind us were taken down, opening up more sun, and I spent some while removing the moss and lichens from the branches, and even sprayed it before leaf-out this Spring with a homemade mixture of dishsoap and vegetable oil and water.  Any or all of those things seemed to help.

The espaliers are also doing very well, all 3 of them.  And my dear "David" (Davidii involucrata) tree is forming a nice shape :
Beautiful young Davidii involucrata tree (dove tree).
Here he is flanked by two garden totems, made from my ceramic pieces.  If you want an amusing story of how the first totem became an apartment, read this post from May 2015.  When I went out there a couple of weeks ago to install the second totem, the ants and soil had made it all the way up to the top piece.  Pretty weird and amazing.  I wonder how long it take for them to full inhabit the second garden totem?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Garter Snake in My Garden

I was ecstatic to see a small garter snake in my garden yesterday.  I couldn't have snapped a photo if I tried, since I only saw him as he was darting from my gravel walkway (where he presumably was sunning himself) into the greenery.  So this photo by Dr. Tom Titus of a Northwestern Garter Snake (Thamnophis ordinoides) from this University of Oregon page, is probably the closest to what my snaked looked like.  He was brown with bright yellow stripes down his body, and no sign of the checkered pattern that some garter snakes seem to have.

I have been musing whether this could be the same snake as I spotted in my garden quite a few years ago now.  Or maybe an offspring of that snake, since the colors look the same as I remember them.  I guess I'll never know, the the Garter Snakes of Canada page by Simply Wild Canada seems to indicate that in various species, their lifespan is long enough that this could be the same snake.  However, it also mentions that they may travel long distances, so this would tell me that it is not likely the case.  Either way, it was fun to discover a snake in my garden, and I hope it won't be the last time.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Prettier in Pink, and More Spring Flower Photos

That tree peony bloom is still getting bigger and fuller and more beautiful.  Here it is today :
Beautiful pink tree peony.

It's not the largest tree peony bloom I've seen, but then again, I haven't needed to prop the branches to support the blooms either, so I'm really happy with the size of it, and the colour.
Beautiful pink tree peony flower in the garden.

I like this pale helleborus flower, it has faded from pink, and is developing a seed pod.
Beautiful helleborus flower in the garden.

Pretty heart shaped leaves and cheery yellow flowers of my Epimedium.
Beautiful heart shaped leaves and yellow blooms of epimedium in the garden.
...complete with a monster lurking underneath.
Epimedium with yellow flowers and a rock painting lurking in the heart shaped leaves.
I am really impressed how these painted rocks have held up, we must have painted those about 8 years ago.  Then sealed them with several layers of clear acrylic sealer.

These fern fronds look like they're having a conference.  I wonder what they are discussing?
Fern fronds emerging in Spring.

Finally, one of my favourites in my garden, my little Cornus canadensis (bunchberry) :
Cornus canadensis or bunchberry in the garden in spring.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pretty in Pink

I love this time of year, when something new is blooming every time I visit the garden.  I am fortunate to be able to view my pink tree peony (I am too lazy to look up the name, which I have recorded somewhere) from my kitchen window.  A few days ago, a bud began to swell, and was quite large when I left for work yesterday.  When I returned home, the flower was open.
Beautiful pink tree peony in the garden.
How gorgeous is that?

I have another tree peony, with pure white blooms, but I managed to plant it so that it is hiding behind a bush, and not visible from the kitchen window.  So I'll need to visit it often, to make sure I don't miss the blooms.

Beautiful pink bleeding hearts.
I love my bleeding heart, which after a number of years, is finally taking hold, and produced a lot of blooms this year.  I like this branch.  It made me think of hearts, and love, and how it can be up and down sometimes.

Today it suddenly turned to rain, after a long (more than a week) stretch of dry warm weather in Vancouver.  So now it feels more like Spring again.  I'm glad for the garden, I think it needed a bit of watering.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sidewalk Slime Art - Why Not?

Today I thought I would be planting my new Cherry Cheesecake Rhodo, and applying moss killer to the lawn (so I don't sink into wetness up to my ankles when walking through it).  But instead, I ended up connecting up the hose, and pressure washing the side walkway and driveway.

I say "pressure wash", but I don't really have a pressure washer.  But our builder did provide us with a high pressure hose bib, which is almost as good.  It doesn't clean as thoroughly or effectively, but then again I don't need to fear losing control and losing toes either.  So every 5 years or so I hire a professional, and the other years I just spray down the concrete myself, mostly to remove the sand and dirt, but also to remove the build up of slime.

I know my family doesn't care or appreciate the work I do in the yard, but every so often I wish they would at least notice.  So today I had a thought that I could leave a small section of slime, so they could at least see the "before and after".  Then I had a more creative thought, to leave it in the form of our company logo, so when we have our summer BBQ and invite everyone from our company, they would also be able to see it.  Next thing I knew, I was blasting the company logo on our sidewalk, just inside the gate, so not visible except to real visitors.

That went so well, that I followed it by a flower :
Sidewalk slime art - design by pressure washing.
...then another flower :
Sidewalk slime art - design by pressure washing.
...then some paw prints, so people wouldn't think I can only do flowers :
Sidewalk slime art - design by pressure washing.
...then some more flowers :
Sidewalk slime art - design by pressure washing.
...and finally a question mark :
Sidewalk slime art - design by pressure washing.
...since I'm sure when people see this, this will prompt the question "Why?"

The answer, of course, is "Why not?"  Why can't I have a little fun with this?  After all, if we ever get tired of the designs, we can just blast them off with the hose.  So no harm done.

Sidewalk slime art exhibit - slime on concrete - design by pressure washing.
I'm naming the whole sidewalk decoration "Why the HE77 Not?"  Since after all, isn't life meant to be enjoyed, not taken so seriously?

I then proceeded to clean off the driveway.  But I found that the new hose sprayer gave me such a precise spray line, I ended up with lots of visible lines all over the driveway (as in the photo just above also).  So I suspect I may be criticized for my poor cleaning, if anyone notices at all.

When I got to the city sidewalk, I was planning to just wash down some of the dirt, but accidentally sprayed a white line through the grime.  Oops, now I had to follow it up some real cleaning, but as with my ceramics, I decided that perhaps where I lack in skill, I can make up in creativity.  After all, my kids are still teens, and the family next door (who will walk on that bit of sidewalk more than we will) has 3 girls, all school aged, so maybe somewhere in the whole group, there will be at least one of them who notices and smiles.  Or maybe I'm just fooling myself, and I will be the only one smiling, but at least it's visible from my livingroom window, where I can enjoy it.

Sidewalk slime art exhibit - slime on concrete - design by pressure washing.
I've named this sidewalk slime art exhibit "I Was Here".  I think it fits nicely with the neighbourhood, since we are close to a greenbelt, and have lots of wildlife (coyotes, skunks, raccoons and more) walking through our yards and even on our sidewalks.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Photos from Palermo, Sicily

Working my way through the vacation photos, these are some of favorites from our day in Palermo, Sicily, Italy.  The two things which stood out from the day were the beautiful stonework and sculptural features almost everywhere, and the crazy driving.  Here are a few photos of the driving.

Driving in Palermo Sicility Italy.
From inside the taxi, you get a bit of a sense of the lack of driving lanes, it seemed that cars were just cramming in wherever they fit, along with quite a few horse drawn carriages.  A bit like China, except in Palermo the roads were narrower, and there were no bicycles mixed in with the vehicle traffic.
Traffic in Palermo Sicility Italy.
I wouldn't enjoy driving in a place like this.  It was more enjoyable to walk, where we could find sidewalks to stay out of the traffic ourselves.

Our first attraction was the Palazzo Reale o dei Normanni.  It was a beautiful palace which turned out to also be the home of the legislature / parliament, so we were restricted in how much we could visit.

I loved this huge entranceway to the Palazzo, which looked like an enormous door.  You can see the real door (dwarfed in comparison) at the bottom right.
Grand door at the Palazzo Reale o dei Normanni in Palermo Sicility Italy.

There were lots of motorcycles parked at the Palazzo.  It seemed these were the vehicles of choice of the government representatives.
Motorcycles parked at the Palazzo Reale o dei Normanni in Palermo Sicility Italy.

Inside the Palazzo, we found the Cappella Palatina (Palatine Chapel), which was another attraction we had on our list.  It was very gold inside.
Inside the beautiful Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicility Italy.
Inside the beautiful Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicility Italy.

Around the inside perimeter, it had the most illustrative summary of the book of Genesis which I've ever seen...
Inside the beautiful Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicility Italy.
...starting from the story of creation, Adam and Eve's fall into sin...
Inside the beautiful Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicility Italy.
...Cain and Abel...
Inside the beautiful Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicility Italy.
...Jacob who was to become Israel...
Inside the beautiful Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicility Italy.
...Noah's Ark...
Inside the beautiful Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicility Italy.
...the Tower of Babel...
Inside the beautiful Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicility Italy.
...Abraham entertaining angels, and all sorts of other good stories which one could identify if they spent enough time studying the photos.

Inside the beautiful Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicility Italy.
I'm not sure who this represents, but I liked this funky carved stone post.  I just cann't get enough of all the carved stonework in Europe.  We have nothing like that here in Vancouver.

I noticed this rat carving on the door, for AJ.  It's an animal which is not often featured in carvings.
Rat carving on the door to the beautiful Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicility Italy.

Intriguing thorny Ceiba tree near the Palazzo Reale o dei Normanni in Palermo Sicility Italy.
Just outside the Palazzo, I was intrigued by this tree with a very spiny trunk, and dried fruits hanging in the branches:
Intriguing thorny Ceiba Speciosa or Ceiba Pentandra tree near the Palazzo Reale o dei Normanni in Palermo Sicility Italy.
From my Google search, it seems it is a Ceiba tree, but I'm not sure if Ceiba Speciosa or Ceiba Pentandra.  And now I realize that I already posted these photos, but now I am enjoying them again.

There was another cathedral just a block or so further, so we went inside, and I took a few more photos:
Beautiful cathedral in Palermo Sicily Italy.
Beautiful cathedral in Palermo Sicily Italy.
Beautiful cathedral in Palermo Sicily Italy.

We really have nothing like this in Vancouver.

Stone statues outside a beautiful cathedral in Palermo Sicily Italy.
Good thing we retreated to our ship every evening, so my neck had a chance to recover from all the looking up.  Just so much to see  in every direction.
Beautiful stonework statues on a building in Palermo Sicily Italy.

There were some ordinary buildings too, like this one.
Typical building in Palermo Sicily Italy.

...and some familiar faces, too.  Fun.
Pinocchio theatre advertisement in Palermo Sicily Italy.
Overall, a very enjoyable day.
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