Monday, July 28, 2008

Embracing Weeding

This morning was cloudy and cool, perfect for working in the yard. The weeds were beginning to take over the flowerbeds, so I decided to embrace weeding today. If you're curious about how to embrace weeding, click on the hyper-link and read Carol's post.

Under the right conditions, weeding is an enjoyable and very relaxing task for me. It had rained during the night and the weeds were easy to pull. Definitely the right conditions for weeding cool, cloudy, rain-soaked and quiet. Of course, before I began working, I had to check things out and take a few pictures.

The zinnias are beginning to bloom. This is one summer flower that I absolutely must have in my garden. So easy to grow from seed and the butterflies love them.

The 'Lady in Red' salvia is beginning to bloom as well. I saved the seed last year and sprinkled them on the ground in the spring. They are doing very well and before too long I should have plenty of these red flowers for the hummingbirds.

The hydrangeas are still pretty small and only one of them has blooms and this one only has two small clusters. I may try to move them in the fall to see if I can find a location where they might be happier.

The rain-soaked Japanese maple.

I think this is a wild geranium.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who regularly reads my blog, but I garden mainly to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. I love flowers and would grow some of them regardless, but the thrill of gardening for me is the sight of some little creature enjoying the fruits of my labor. I usually plant parsley to attract the black swallowtail butterfly to the garden. It is a host plant for the caterpillar. This year I added fennel for the black swallowtail butterflies, it too is a host plant.

I was delighted when I noticed the caterpillars munching away on the fennel today. The parsley is right beside the fennel, and I didn't notice any caterpillars on it. Maybe they prefer the fennel. I'll definitely be adding this for them from now on. Besides, I love the smell of fennel!

The small butterfly weed plant is blooming beside the fennel, hopefully soon I'll see the newly emerged black swallowtail butterflies enjoying these blooms.

I was standing at the kitchen sink last evening and noticed a cedar waxwing in the tree. I quietly slipped outside and took pictures. This was only my second time to see one of them here.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hanging In There

I went to Cool Creek Park a few days ago to walk the trails and observe the birds and wild life from the nature center. They are having summer camp there and lots of little hand prints were on the glass, in fact, it was nearly impossible to get a picture from the windows due to the smudges. This was the only window shot that turned out even half-way decent. There was a hawk sitting in a nearby tree and the squirrels were laying low and the bird activity came to a screeching halt.

This squirrel picture reminds me of our situation right now, as we are just hanging in there waiting to see what happens next. Right now, things are looking very good. My husband has had two job interviews that have gone very well. He also has a couple of other interviews lined up for next week. We are hoping to hear something positive in the next week or two. Please continue praying.

(You can click on the pictures to enlarge them!)
I sat outside yesterday morning trying to get pictures of the hummingbirds. Every time I would lay my books aside and pick up the camera they would zip away. They were so fast! They are such curious creatures! As I sat on the swing one of them flew right up to my face to check me out. I wish I could have gotten that picture! Amy, From High And Dry commented a few days ago that one had done the same thing to her husband. She said, "Would you believe that tonight my husband had a hummingbird fly right up to him and hover in front of his face, about an inch from his nose? They looked at each other for a bit and then the bird flew away. Amazing! Wish I'd been there to see it." That is exactly what this one did to me, Amy.

The bumblebees are interesting to watch on the petunias; instead of going inside the flower, they go to the base and cut the flower.

When I stepped outside yesterday morning there were several ducks in my back yard. I guess it is the momma duck that frequented my yard early spring. She came back and brought her young with her.

Crossing the street and heading back to the pond.

The goldfinches are enjoying the sunflowers. They'll soon be feasting on the large sunflowers that are about to bloom. They were scarce for a while, so I'm very glad to have something during the summer that is drawing them to the yard. Usually in the fall they eat the seeds from the echinacea, cosmos and zinnias, so I rarely deadhead my flowers.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Butterflies and Hummingbirds

Early yesterday morning I sat on the swing reading, well, I sat on the swing attempting to read. It was kind of hard to read with a hummingbird close-by. This one was very busy guarding the feeder and was flitting around chasing all the birds away. It didn't even want the sparrows in the yard. Here is the shot before cropping...

and here is the shot after cropping.

I'm beginning to see more of them now, usually they come early in the morning and in the evening.

Another sunflower bloomed by the birdbath. There have been several of these already and they all seem to bend towards the water as if they are gazing at their reflection.

Last year I tried so hard to get a good picture of the delicate flower on the sweet potato vine, but never could get one. I don't know why it is so hard to capture. I still can't get a good closeup shot.

Yesterday was a very good day for butterflies. I saw monarchs...

a painted lady...

and the red admiral.

I think something was wrong with this bumblebee. It never moved away even though I had my camera within inches of it.

I went to Cool Creek Park a few days ago and saw this posted on the bathroom wall, I thought it was fitting for today's post.

The bee is not afraid of me,
I know the butterfly;
The pretty people in the woods
Receive me cordially.

The brooks laugh louder when I come,
The breezes madder play.
Wherefore, mine eyes, thy silver mists?
Wherefore, O summer's day?

Emily Dickinson

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hummingbirds are Finally Here!

Others commenting on my blog have told me that dragonflies and damselflies eat mosquitoes. As I read more about them I found out that the nymphs eat the mosquito larva. We have three ponds in our neighborhood, so I'm sure they are well fed this year. We've had so much rain that the mosquitoes are pretty bad which probably accounts for the large number of dragonflies and damselflies this summer. After seeing so many pictures of the dragonflies on other blogs last year, I wanted to get a picture of one too. I don't think I ever did. If you remember, last year we had drought conditions, so that may have been a factor in the decreased numbers. I've had plenty of opportunities to photograph them this year. I'm very happy to share my garden with these beneficial insects.

The hummingbirds have finally arrived and I'm beginning to see them more frequently, in brief moments, as they zip by.

I just happened to be outside with my camera taking Garden Blogger Bloom Day pictures yesterday when this one came by.

Once they get used to seeing me around, I'll raise the window and sit beside it and photograph them up close. I did this last year and loved being so near them.

I can't imagine summer without all of the bumblebee activity.

The catbird and the robin were singing at the same time, right there together, in the top of the tree. They did not make beautiful music together, let me tell you. The catbird makes a sound somewhere between a crying baby and a very loud meowing cat in heat. I think they were trying to out sing each other.

The goldfinches have already started eating the seeds from the sunflowers. It's funny, because I don't recall ever seeing them eating sunflower seeds from the feeder. I have thistle/nyjer feeders and that's the seed they usually eat.

This is one summer critter I can definitely do without.

Another summer pest that is not welcome here at Robin's Nesting Place, is the dreaded Japanese beetle. Everyday I go outside and pick them off the plants. They seem to especially love the roses and the purple sweet potato vine and are destroying them. Last night I was sitting here at the computer when I felt something on my back, I reached down my shirt to see what was scratching me and I felt a Japanese beetle on me. I can handle it fine touching them with my hands, but for some reason the thought of one of them on me freaks me out. Thankfully no one but my husband was in the room, so I came out of that shirt really fast. I hate when that happens!

I'm seeing the bunnies all over the neighborhood when I walk in the evenings. I think they are so cute, in other people's yards! This one, however, was in my yard, still munching on the burning bush. So it is not cute! Well...maybe just a little bit.

Thank you to all of you who mentioned that my RSS feed wasn't working, I'm not sure what happened, but we've been having some computer issues lately. I hope I have corrected the problem, and that it's working for you again. Please let me know if it isn't.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Garden Blogger Bloom Day

Another late Garden Blogger Bloom Day post. The garden here at Robin's Nesting place is just beginning to be at the stage where I enjoy it most. That time of year when I see butterflies, bumblebees, hummingbirds and lots of blooms! I agree with Carol, from May Dreams Gardens, (who is our wonderful hostess for this event), that it is much nicer to have too much rain than not enough. Last year we were having drought conditions and it was not pretty. Much better this year!The hostas are in bloom now. I caught the dragonfly on this one yesterday.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~A thirsty sunflower~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I have volunteer sunflowers all around the yard.

The carpet rose after being cleared of Japanese beetles.

The pansies are still hanging on but are beginning to wither.

I have a lot of purple coneflower this year. I can usually find a bug, a bee or a butterfly on them.

I'm not sure what this is. Could it be purple loosestrife?

The Russian sage is blooming. I love the fuzzy texture of this flower.

Rose of Sharon
The balloon flowers that I grew from seed are just beginning to bloom. Most of them were eaten by the pill bugs after they were planted. I salvaged these by placing them in a planter. I'll wait until fall and hopefully they will be mature enough by then to survive.

Black-eyed Susan

Here's my complete list for July:

Purple Wave Petunias
Purple Cone Flower
Salvia 'Purple Rain' and Red
East Freeland Sage
Verbena (pink and purple)
Verbena Bonariensis
Balloon Flower
Butterfly Bush
Gerbera Daisies
Russian Sage
Veronica Speedwell
Anise Hyssop 'Golden Jubilee'
Rose of Sharon
Black-eyed Susan
Wild Geranium
Butterfly weed

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Summer is Here!

Summer is in full swing around Robin's Nesting Place. A few volunteer sunflowers, (compliments of the bird feeders), are beginning to bloom. Most of them are small and insignificant, but this one was a beauty. I also planted a variety mix that is growing fast and will be blooming soon.

The butterflies have finally arrived! I've been watching for them for several weeks and was beginning to wonder if they were avoiding my butterfly garden.

The Monarchs seem to prefer the coneflowers.

I'm not 100% sure if this one is a comma or a question mark butterfly, but it looks like a comma to me.

The liatris is blooming.

The bumblebees and wasps are plentiful here this year. I don't mind the bumblebees and will get pretty close to get a picture. They are always so busy they don't seem to notice. The wasps, on the other hand, are given wide berth.

I have several projects that need to be completed. I moved a few plants and have holes in the butterfly garden. I bought some topsoil a few weeks ago to fill the holes and never got around to doing it. I'm a little concerned about using this top soil. Can you imagine the weeds I'll have in my garden?
Along with summer comes the pests. Thousands of Japanese beetles have descended and are devouring the sweet potato vines, roses, and birch tree leaves along with other plants and leaves. One of the arborvitae was covered with small bagworms, which seems to to be their plant of choice. Last year I got really interesting pictures of the worm.

I hope these are not the eggs of the bagworm. I'll be keeping a close eye out for this arborvitae, just in case. Thankfully it hasn't been to hot and we've had plenty of rain, so I've only had to water plants a few times.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!