Thursday, January 31, 2013

Getting Back Into the Groove

The rain has stopped, temps are back to normal and I'm starting to get back into the gardening groove.  In my last post I mentioned that I'm trying a new pruning (to me at least) method on the grapevines, so I thought maybe I should show you some pictures.
Cane pruned
Spur pruned
I also mentioned that there was a new gal in the garden and that she was entertaining suitors; here are the latest ones.

I also found this little guy "hanging around" on the front porch.

The greens made it through the freeze unscathed; I harvested a big bunch on Tuesday and used them in an escarole and cannellini bean soup.

On the floral front, last year's hollyhock also survived the freeze and is getting a good jump start on Spring, last year's tulips have started to break through the ground and I planted 100 gladioli today at lunch.  I shook the corms up in a bag to mix the colors and I should get an interesting palette when they start to bloom.  As previously noted, the 'Minerva' amaryllis has sent up another bloom stalk, this one's 18" tall and has 7 blooms on it!

Tulips emerging
'Minerva' reblooming

Monday, January 28, 2013

Crazy Weather

We've had crazy weather this month, first the "Big Freeze", followed by a week of record or near record highs in the 80's and then 5 days of rain during which we received nearly 2", which is almost a quarter of our annual average of 8.64".  All this has made it difficult to do much in the garden, but I did manage to prune the grapevines and I'm trying spur pruning instead of cane pruning in hopes of increasing yields; I left one vine cane pruned so I can compare results.  I also planted some chrysanthemums in the window box outside my office window to add a little pop of color.

One of the amaryllis on the front porch finally bloomed and I'm still hopeful that the others will follow suit.

There's another new resident in the ever growing troupe of gnomes and this time it's a single gal, so all of the bachelors have been coming a courting.

She's been serenaded
She's been showered with gifts
She's been read poetry by moonlight
And she's been offered a ride around the garden
Who will she chose?  Check back to she who else comes a courting and then she who she chooses.

After 4 days of rain, finally a rainbow to signal it was almost over.
Looking east from the backyard
Starlings against a backdrop of color.

Lastly, I finally got a picture of the Cooper's Hawk that's been terrorizing the backyard feeders.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The "Big Freeze of '13"; Casualties and Survivors

From Friday the 11th through Wednesday the 16th, we experienced the worst cold spell in 35 years, with temps in the low 20's for 8-10 hours each day, and even plants that were covered didn't fare that well.  Some will surely recover, but may need a severe pruning once all danger of another freeze has passed and some may perish.  Let's survey the damage in the front yard first:

The cannas that were blooming before the freeze now look horrible.
Despite the outward appearance, they will survive.
The red salvia doesn't look good, but will hopefully come back, if not, I have seed.
The Eureka lemon took considerable damage, but it should recover, though this year's crop may be affected.
The Anna apple is semi-deciduous, and looks like it'll drop more leaves than usual, but on the plus side, the chill hours should help produce a larger crop.
The grapes are dormant, as is the Ein Shemer apple and neither appears to have suffered any damage.  The irises, hyacinths and the day lily also seem to have come out unscathed, as did the potted plants on the porch and those planted up against the house.  Now on to the side yard:

The habaneros were covered, but still sustained considerable damage, though not enough to kill them.
The lettuce looks like it made it through just fine and I think I'll have a salad with my lunch tomorrow.  The plumeria and the avocado were moved to the front porch and will be put back in the side yard tomorrow afternoon.  Now on to the backyard:

The succulents in the wheelbarrow garden suffered a hard freeze and may have to be replaced.
The birds were fueling up against the cold and I went through 40 lbs of mixed seed and 10 lbs of nyger during the freeze.  I had 6 lovebirds one morning, lots of hummingbirds and the sparrows and finches were never too far from the feeders, roosting in my neighbor's grapefruit tree when they weren't eating and squabbling.

6 lovebirds out-muscling the other birds at the feeders.
One of many Anna's Hummingbirds to visit the feeder.
How many finches do you see in this photo?
While it was freezing outside, it was a pleasant 72 inside and the paperwhites continue to bloom, as well as an African violet and an orchid; the Minerva amaryllis has a couple of seed pods developing and another bloom stalk has come up.

Lastly, yet another gnome has taken up residence in the hen 'n chick planter.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What's New at Mr. B's?

Gnomes continue to move to Dove Manor, as it seems the word is out that we're very inviting here at Mr. B's, as evidenced by the recent arrivals.  

Cheesehead gnome arrived at Christmas.

The Nilsson brothers, Olaf and Sven made themselves at home in my office.
This trio set took up residence in the hen 'n chicks planter.

I've been forcing bulbs and this 'Minerva' amaryllis and vintage pot of paper whites are the result.

The birds have been flocking to the feeders in near record numbers, and this video gives you an idea of the feeding frenzy that takes place each afternoon immediately after I refill the feeders.

Lastly, here are a couple of unusual color morphs seen at the feeders recently.

A hypermelanistic House Finch

The lovebird on the right has bright yellow "shoulders" and white wing tips.

2012 in Review

Now that 2012 has come to a close, it's time to reflect on my successes and failures in the past year.  This blog has grown to almost 5000 pageviews, with readers from 71 countries, all of whom hopefully found it entertaining and informative.  The "Cult of Larry" has grown and for the first time, I produced an official Larry the Scarecrow calendar, unfortunately to less than rousing interest.

In the garden, I added an Ein Shemer apple tree and hope to get my first crop in 2013.  Speaking of apples, this was an off year for the Anna tree and it only produced about a 1/2 bushel of fruit.  The grapes produced for the first time and I harvested about 10 lbs of deliciously sweet grapes. Once again the cucumbers failed to produce, so I'm going to rely on the grocery store for them from now on.  I got the first lemons from the Eureka tree and they're just about ready to pick.  The habaneros and Takanotsume peppers both produced well and continue to do so.

I started feeding birds in 2012 and had 15 different species, including 5 species of doves, 2 species each of cowbirds and finches, lovebirds and 5 other various bird species.  I'm going through 20+ pounds of mixed seed and 7+ lbs of nyger seed each week and am spending $60-$70 a month, so it's not exactly a cheap hobby, but one I really enjoy.  I'm participating in Project FeederWatch and have averaged 11 species during each 2 day observation period.

I didn't get anywhere with the planned east side yard gate, due to lack of time and a bum knee, but the knee should be repaired soon and I plan of getting the gate done shortly thereafter.  I lost all of the daffodil bulbs, either to rodents, bugs or rot and the tulips weren't especially impressive, especially after seeing them on my Baltic trip, so I'm giving up on them.  However, the Gladioli and Dahlias did well, so I'll be planting even more this year.  I lost some plants due to watering issues, so I need to expand my automated watering system to include the trees and all the planters.