Thursday, April 29, 2010

Shopping!

The local Big Box was having a sale on annuals and perennials and since I'm on their mailing list, I found out about it before the fliers went out in the mail tomorrow. I thought I could score some good plants.

I picked up some annuals for my planned containers. I've never planted these - and to be honest, I've never heard of them - but the price was right and the foliage was pretty. Here's hoping the flowers look just as good

Lobelia

Dianthus
I needed some mulch so I took a stroll around the rest of the greenhouse - as if I wouldn't have anyway. :) They also had some Azaleas marked down so I picked up a 'Crimson' - looks more hot pink to me.

Flaming Azalea
Azaleas are very common up here in Maine but not this shade. In fact, I've only ever seen one of this color in a yard in all my meandering around the state. I prefer it to the light purple that most people keep.

I also picked up a couple of rose bushes - nothing special but I need to replace the two that were eaten over the winter. I can only hope they don't fall to the same fate.

White and Yellow go good together - it sorta rhymes
 And last, my garden staple.

Merry Marigolds
They may be stinky, but they're good at keeping the deer away. I've only had trouble with deer once and that was last year before I had a chance to put out the Marigolds. These are also my husband's favorite garden flowers. He loves how bright and cheery they are and the fact that they stay that way all season long.

I'm going back later this weekend to pick up a few Hosta to fill in the empty, weedy spot between the Lilac bush and Phlox bed and a few plain terra cotta pots. Yes - I will be breaking out the paints again to liven them up. And yes, I know I should have bought them BEFORE buying the annuals to go inside them, but the sale was a surprise. I'll just have to keep the soil moist and hope they survive until Sunday.

Now that I've spent a few bucks it feels like the planting season has finally begun.

I can hear it now - frost warnings state wide. Ha!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Is it a bee?

A few posts back I showed you how I made my Lady Beetle rock (whom I did name Alfie - thanks Deborah!). Today, I'll show you how I made Beatrice, the Bee.

First, I found an oval shaped rock. Unfortunately, I chose one that was rather rough. Painting it took much longer than it should have because I had to make sure to get paint into all the little dips and crevasses. Also, this caused double drying times between steps.

Beatrice and Alfie Beginnings

Once that had dried, I painted it yellow. If you're wondering why I didn't just paint it yellow first, painting over white brightens the color.

Bright Yellow Makes for a Happy Bee

Once this had dried completely, I painted the black stripes.

Will the horizontal stripes make Beatrice look fat?

Finally, I painted the wings and Beatrice's face.

Happy Bee
The transparent nature of the wings was achieved by painting the outline and veins, letting it dry for about fifteen minutes and then painting inside the lines with a dry brush to spread the white paint that was still wet. I didn't wait long enough on the left wing and had to dab at it with a paper towel, which caused that hole. I'll know better next time.

When she was completely dry (and after I painted some pupils into her eyes) I sprayed her with lacquer and set her outside with Alfie.

Sun Bathing Insects




 This isn't their final location. I'll place them where ever I think some color and interest are needed. And in Alfie's case, where ever there's a severe lack of sarcasm.

Allsop Firefly Solar Garden Art with Glass Calla Lily

Monday, April 26, 2010

Can you spot the Andrews Sisters reference?

Today's Weather: 65 degrees F, currently sunny, showers possible later today

This weekend was another beautiful weekend, despite the rainy forecast. This year, the forecasters have been consistently wrong. Maybe I should just stop using the Weather channel for making any kinds of plans.

So, since I was feeling better, I was able to do some work in the garden. I'm still cash poor at the moment so I worked on my existing Phlox bed next to the detached garage.

I've tried several things to make this area look better. I put up some fencing one year, but did it too close to the plants so that by the end of the summer the fencing was pretty much invisible. It also didn't help with the dandelion problem at all.

Last year, I just lined it with rocks. Again, I placed them too close and by the end of the summer - yes, they had also disappeared.

So, this year, I lined the bed with some plastic liner AND the rocks - but I made sure to pull it back.

So, here's how it looked before:






And here's a couple of 'after' shots:






I'm still not completely done. I need to pull the grass and weeds around the Phlox and then mulch the area. I know I'll probably never be able to completely rid myself of the dandelions inside the bed, but hopefully I can stunt their growth.

Yeah, I know. But I can dream, can't I?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Under the Weather

Today's forecast: 64 degrees F with a 50% chance of afternoon thunderstorms

I haven't been feeling well the past couple of days which really bites because the weather has been halfway decent. Sorry for the lack of posting - I just haven't been doing anything in the garden for a few days.

I do have a question for all you Blotanical.com users out there. How do you 'use' the site? Is it just a place to find other blogs, or does it have other uses? I'm pretty net savvy but I find it difficult to navigate that site. Any tips would be appreciated. :)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spring fell asleep again

So, you hear this from everyone: If you don't like the current weather, just wait a few minutes because you live in (fill in the blank with wherever it is you're living.)

I think we all need to realize that weather is just a crazy, fracked up thing no matter where you live. Always has been and is even more so nowadays.

Doesn't stop it from pissing me off, though. Just a few days ago, I took this picture - in fact, it was Thursday, April 14th. That was just two days ago:

How nice. Spring is here and leaves are growing.
 This is how that same exact location looks right this second:

Screw you, Spring! I'm stayin'! - Love, Winter
This does not make me happy. No, it's not really cold enough to hurt any of the flowers that are growing, but it's just depressing. I mean, look at this pathetic sight:

Leave me alone. I'll sulk if I want to.

Poor little Emo flower. All alone and now being snowed on.

The Hostas look even less happy, but that fits their name, doesn't it?

We sprout early for you for this?
It wasn't even supposed to snow here. We were only supposed to get the rain. Ugh. Maine in April.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ups and Downs of Gardening

Today's Weather: Sunny with a high of 53 degrees F

As I mentioned a few posts ago, our smoke bush recently had some cosmetic surgery (aka Pruning). I promised the after picture, so here it is:

I need a new barber


Yeah, it's not even half of what it used to be, but it could have been much worse. Last year a ton of new growth came from its previous pruning so hopefully it will do the same thing again this Summer.

In better news, do you see that yellow dot at the base of the Smoke Bush? No? Well, here's a better view:

One is the loneliest number...


'So what?' you ask? It's only a daffodil. But what's interesting about this daffodil is that it's the first time any of them have actually flowered in over ten years. As you can see behind the flower, we always get a lot of Daffodil leaves, but never any blooms. I was rather stunned when I saw that one had actually developed a flower.

Does anyone know how I can get the others to do the same? Do they just need to be dug up and separated? They were planted probably over twenty years ago and I was told they used to cover a large part of the yard, including where the Smoke Bush now resides.

Also developing flower buds is the Lilac Bush.

Future Purple Flowers


I always associate Lilacs with my grandmother so it thrilled me when I realized that this was a Lilac Bush when we moved in five years ago.

Nothing smells better on a sunny, Spring day than the fragrance of Lilacs.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Weekend Craftiness

Today's Forecast: Mostly Sunny with a high of 53 degrees F

This past weekend was windy, mostly cloudy (for half of both days) and just a bit too chilly for me to work outside (save for some quick weeding) but I was determined to do something for the garden this weekend. (It's the only thing keeping me sane lately).

So, I decided to try my hand at rock art. Here in Maine, there is no shortage of interesting rocks. I use them for many things throughout the year. And while many of them are beautiful in their natural state, I thought it might be nifty to spruce some of them up.

So, for my first try, I decided to take one of the pretty gray ones and add one of my favorite bugs - the dragonfly. I think it turned out pretty well for my first try. It will be used to weigh down our little plastic table that tends to fly away if there's even the slightest of breezes:



I used some metallic paint to catch the sun. You can kind of see it here in this picture but it's much nicer 'in person.'

My next project was a big, fat lady beetle. Our house gets many of these beetles during the Fall and Spring so I had plenty of models to choose from.

First, I painted a big, round rock black (which was a mistake - never paint OVER black. Takes too many coats)


(Ignore the white rock - that's for another project I haven't finished yet).

Then, when that dried (which is pretty fast when using acrylics) I painted on the wings:



If I do another lady beetle in the future, I'll do it in the opposite manner - I'll paint the whole rock red and then paint the black over that, but I digress.

I added some eyes to the front - which looked pretty damn creepy at first:

Look into my dead, soulless eyes


When this all dried (and after a second coat of red paint) I added the dots and did some more work on the eyes to make him a bit more friendly.



I see what you did there


As you can see, even with those baby blues, he's still somewhat of a smart ass. That's all right. I'm sure his little all-knowing grin will garner him more attention.

I still have one more step - I need to get a sealer of some kind. I don't want his paint flaking off after all that work.

So, what do you think his name should be?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Still too cold

Today's weather: Most cloudy until around 2:00 and then sun, sun, sun. Too bad it was still in the lower 50's.

Got some more garden work done today. I didn't think I was going to be able to. When I woke up, it was cloudy, very windy and cold. So, I gathered some rocks and washed them so that I could use them for some craft projects.

But, the sun finally came out and I was able to do some early weeding. I always wait too long and end up having to spend several hours weeding. This year, I'm determined to not let that happen and pull the weeds as I see them. Today, it only took me 15 minutes to pull what has already sprouted.

And, in the process I found that my Iris bulbs have started leafing. I guess I'm not going to move them after all. Not this year, anyway.

Also, a Clematis vine I planted last year that did absolutely nothing is already bigger than it was by the end of the summer last year - about two inches. I bought it cheap and figured it was a dud. I'll let it keep growing and see what happens.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Plant Discoveries

When we moved to Maine in the winter of 2004, I noticed the large bush next to the house. It was taller than me and without any kind of foliage I couldn't tell what it was.

As the seasons changed, I began to think that the plant was dead. It was April and no sign of life had made any kind of appearance on this brown, twiggy thing.

But not long afterward, it finally woke up and by the end of the summer, it was one of my favorite plants ever.

Smoke Bush - 'Daydream' variety


I've only seen two Smoke Bushes (Cotinus coggygria)in my life and I feel fortunate that one of them is in my own yard.

In the Summer of 2008 we had a pretty bad storm one night and the next day we found that a huge limb of our Maple tree had split off from the main trunk and, even worse, that the Smoke Bush looked as if a giant had decided to use it as a chair cushion.

We (meaning the FIL and his trusty chainsaw) pruned it and we tied it up, but to no avail. It still looked squashy and sad. Fortunately, the pruned branches produced a ton of new growth so we knew the plant itself was healthy - but we could only keep half of it off the ground.

Today, the chainsaw came out again and the FIL is doing cosmetic surgery on it as I type. Who knows what it will look like when I get home tonight. I do know that he's not getting rid of it, but I doubt it'll ever look like this picture again for a very, very long time.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Meet the Pets

Since I'm sure they'll be showing up in pictures every once in a while - they're both pretty hammy when it comes to cameras - I thought I should formally introduce you to the most important members of our family.

First is China, our beloved Pooch:

My favorite picture of China

We adopted China on December 7, 2002 and she's been our baby ever since. Despite being a wee bit neurotic, she is the best dog I have ever met. And that's not just bias - I've worked as a Vet Technician and a Kennel Worker for a Humane Society. I know dogs. ;)

We think she's a Boxer/Shar Pei/American Staffordshire mix but her look has been described as a Chihuahua with an overactive thyroid gland. Whatever she is, she's beautiful and she can get almost anything she wants with those big brown eyes.

As for Zoe, our cat, well, she's not perfect but we do love her:

Queen of the Grocery Bags

We adopted Zoe from a Maine shelter in August of 2007. She was very sweet at the shelter and she still is - when it suits her needs. Otherwise, she's a demon cat from hell. Okay, okay, she's not that bad, but she is pretty crazy, which I suppose is normal for cats. Fortunately, she likes China and there have never been any fights between the two.

Zoe is the only brown cat I've ever seen personally which is sometimes troubling because she makes both my husband and I crave chocolate.

They have their own blog (you'd be amazed at how well they type). If you're interested, here it is: The China Cabinet.

Busy Weekend

Today's Forecast: Party cloudy with a high of 65 degrees F - AKA "Perfect"

First, an explanation about the layout of this blog: I'm trying to make it look good AND function properly. I preferred the way it looked before - with the nice background image, etc. - but it made the blog so damned slow. So, I kept the same layout but went with a different background scheme. Hopefully for those of you who visit the actual blog, the improvement will be noticeable. For those reading through an RSS feed - it probably won't make any difference at all. :)

Now, onto this past weekend. For those of us up here in New England, wasn't it beautiful? Sunny, warm, a nice breeze - perfect outdoor work weather and outdoor work was what I had planned.

You see, over the winter we 'wrap' our old house up by banking the base of the house with bags of leaves. This is to help insulate and stop drafts. It works, but when Springtime comes - oh my god, the house looks awful. I mean, look at this:

Or this:

Ugh. It's so ugly. Fortunately, any Mainers driving by know the purpose of all that mess, but still, as soon as I can, I get out there to make our house presentable.


And this year, I was driven. It usually takes me a couple of days to get all those bags piled up. Good timing was on my side this past Saturday - which is a very rare commodity in this house - and the FIL came by to say that he'd by by later with the trailer to haul the bags away so he could compost the leaves in the big family pile. Yippee!

So, for seven hours straight I dragged bags, raked loose leaves, taped drainpipes, pulled dead rose bushes and generally made the place presentable. Check it out:



And as an added bonus, I found that the moles hadn't devoured EVERYthing. They left me my Hosta and a few Day Lillies. My Iris tubers are still there, although gnawed, so I might be able to save them. I am going to move them, however. Passers by could never see the white flowers against the white house, anyway.

Hostas Peeking Through

Day Lilly Sprouts
As for Sunday, it was a restful day. We had a turkey dinner with the extended family and then watched movies until bedtime.

Now, onto the more detailed outside work and then....FLOWERS!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Leaning Hyacinths

Today's Weather: Absolutely gorgeous - sunny with a high of 64 degrees F.

So, here's one of the Hyacinths I purchased a few days ago.

They seem to be doing well - they're opening up and they smell terrific - but they're all leaning. The pot came with two stabilizer sticks but the third is leaning over so far I'm afraid it's going to fall out of the pot.

I've never seen Hyacinths lean before. Anyone else out there have this problem?

Boldly Beautiful Hyacinth Bulbs