Garden Visitors

My little raised bed hosts more than a few vegetable plants. It’s impossible in St. Louis to have more than three foot square without squirrels. Ditto for rabbits and chipmunks in my neighborhood.

And then we have the ones I encourage: earthworms and bees.

Plus our feathered friends — birds both colorful and plain. Some dine on insect visitors. A few prefer the earthworms. And buds and seeds deposited by the wind make a tasty snack for others.

I’m glad some others stay away. (Or at least hide well enough that I never see them.) I did capture some of these reptiles in a larger, non-living format at the botanical garden. They look at home here. They, and their living relatives, would not fare well in my densely human condo complex.

Participants at 2015 Lantern Festival

Participants at 2015 Lantern Festival

 

Quite Quiet

All you’ll hear out of me is a slight rustle of my oval, glossy leaves in a breeze.

Pardon me. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Quince. First name Flowering.

Flowering quince

Flowering quince

The amateur photographer in charge of this blog missed my blossoms. April. That’s when I’m at my showy best with bright pink (some close relatives tend to orange) double blossoms.

Do you want me to show off even more next year? Then give me a light trim after the last blossom is gone. Until then I’ll stand quiet as part of a hedge or background to sun loving flowers in front of me. I’ll even look good under a window with my 3-4 foot height. (That’s where the periodic pruning assists.)

Once I’m established in a spot I’m good to go with decent drainage and moderate water. And I’m useful for filling in a spot in the garden alphabet too!

Ball! Ball! Strike!

Thump. Thump. Thump.

It’s a rather steady beat. Not musical. For a moment I’m puzzled. Then I remember — batting cages.

One of my common morning walks takes me along the edge of a recreational business. My mind always put the bowling alley at the top of the list. The mini-golf course contains American Southwest figures and a small waterfall visible from the sidewalk. Signs advertise sand volleyball leagues.

And the batting cages.  Of course, this is St. Louis — home of the best baseball fans in the nation. (Most patient are Cubs fans — but that’s a different story.) And fans, especially the younger ones, like to imitate their heroes. Practice, practice, practice. And since you can’t always find a pitcher whey you need one — some mechanical genius invented the pitching machine. The cage around it soon followed.

This is a test.

This is a test.

Pink and Purple

Red and white. And many shades and combinations between.

Popular Pentunia

Popular Petunia

Are you seeking a readily available annual to give color to your garden from June (May in some places) until October? Take you pick of colors at any store selling garden supplies. They’re likely to have petunias by the six pack or the flat.

Are you short on space? They do well in planters and hanging baskets. Simply place in a sunny spot, mind the water, and enjoy. Pinch off exhausted blossoms to encourage more blooms.

Petunia also furnished the name for a popular pig, you remember, Porky’s Pal, Partner and at times the brains of the episode. (Okay I showed my age again. Do they ever show Porky Pig cartoons?)

Appetite Enhancement

Sunshine. Fresh air. Two items inclined to lift a person’s spirits and make it easier to smile.

Exercise is known to increase your appetite. The unfortunate thing in my case is that encourages me to eat more calories than the recent exercise expended. Yes, this is where self-control and discipline are called for. May I have a second helping of each? Please.

It’s a good thing that usually when I walk past this establishment it has not opened for the day. I’d be tempted on a day like this to pause, loiter for a drink, add a sandwich, and feast on a good dose of people-watching.

Inviting place to gather with friends.

Inviting place to gather with friends.

Oooo…Octet

Octagon = a geometric figure with eight sides (the shape of  STOP sign)

Octet = a collection of eight – objects, singers, performers

Today we feature an octet of ORANGES —

Temporary Octet

Temporary Octet

Humans have enjoyed oranges for centuries. They are mentioned in Chinese literature as early as 314 BC. (Or BCE for the super political correct.)

If Americans want to visit an orange grove to see this evergreen, flowering tree in person, they should include Florida or California on their itinerary.  They are also grown in smaller numbers in Arizona and Texas. And if you desire to leave the United States, I suggest Brazil. Seek out the warmer portions of these places, where water is available, and land suitable for farming.

In English the fruit was named long before the color. The word orange in reference to the yellow-red hue did not appear written until 1512 — recent for a word — old for an ancestor.

The octet pictured above is broken now. The scent and the simple act of handling the fruit to pose it tempted my appetite. But that is okay. The vitamins, fiber, and liquid in the sweet fruit combine for welcome nutrition.

So toast your neighbor with a glass of orange juice in the morning and picture rows and rows of stately, green trees with each swallow.

 

 

Apples and Evergreens

Decades ago the fields of this little portion of Western Wisconsin were filled with oats, hay, and corn. Large barns sheltered dairy cows while smaller buildings housed hogs and chickens.

Times change. Farms consolidate, incorporate. Soybeans replace oats and a percentage of the hay acreage. A new generation supplements farming with other employment and tries new crops.

In the fictional village of Crystal Springs, two of these alternate crops are apples and evergreens.

It isn’t easy to establish a new apple orchard. A large, early hurdle is obtaining the land. Hiding Places focuses on one particular June and Linc Dray’s dilemma.

What’s more peaceful (or boring) than tending a Christmas tree farm in January? Laura Tanner agrees with you — but finds much more — including answers to a year long mystery among the winter beauty of Starr Tree Farm.100_3525

Titles available at: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Crimson Romance

Never Nasty…Always Nice

Go ahead. Twist your nose and and say it. NASTURTIUM.

Curbside Attraction

Curbside Attraction

We begin the second half of the alphabet of living things with N = Nasturtium.

When I lived in a climate cooler than St. Louis, but not as harsh as Wisconsin, I sowed seed in a protected area between the house and sidewalk one spring. For the remaining years which we lived there – three or four – it was a long time ago and the memory gets full – they planted themselves. Very low maintenance.

Are you planting a rock garden? A collection of herbs? Need a splash of orange blossoms? This is a good candidate.

Do you have a toddler? Or pets? No panic. Leaves, stems, and blossoms are edible. Expect a pepper flavor in addition to the burst of color and distinctive leaf shape it you add them to your salad.

 

Left Behind???

Accidents happen. Unexpected. As a wise friend reminded me — that’s why they’re called accidents.

Statistics (if I remember correctly) point out that many of them occur in the home. Kitchen mishaps. Falls. Another large portion involve traffic. Cars. Trucks. Motorcycles.

Several days ago, I found evidence of a traffic accident. In addition to the small, shattered pieces of plastic next to the curb there was this rescued piece – carefully unplugged from its usual location and propped against a utility pole. Is it hitchhiking?

Left? Or perhaps the Right?

Left? Or perhaps the Right?

Make Mine…

Milkweed for Monarchs!

Butterfly Food

Butterfly Food

This is the future. Currently the sturdy milkweed plants are in blossom, attracting a host of pollinators — including monarch butterflys.  In the cycle of life the butterfly eggs will hatch into tiny caterpillars which will munch on the leaves and grow to multiple times their original size.

We call it a weed. This is one plant which can wear the label with pride. It’s a sturdy thing, likes sunshine, and serves as a necessary host to one of the more beautiful, delicate migrants of North America.

Even florists appreciate them. The seed pods which are green in the photo — when they mature and release their seeds on silky parachutes they leave behind a husk that ends up adding shape and depth to many dried flower arrangements.