Saturday, May 8, 2010

House Guests....

of the Finch Variety.

So, I'm a little late doing some things this year. It was the middle of March before I was ready to take down the holiday wreaths from the front porch. It was still cold and I was feeling festive, so what's an extra six weeks or so?

Unfortunately, by the time I got around to taking them down, I discovered that neighborhood finches had built in the wreath. Actually, it's a great location, location, location - protection on two sides and a roof, railing for parental perching, and good sight lines to nearby trees. Perhaps as importantly, it had been recently redecorated (in November), so nothing needed to be done, except to bring in a twig or two.

If I were a finch, I would have given it serious thought. Not being a finch, I was a bit excited to see that we would have feathered babes to watch over the spring months. But then... nothing. As quickly as it appeared, the parents left. I assumed that their financing had fallen thru, or that Fannie Mae had rejected their application, or one of them lost his/her job. You know how it is in the housing market these days.

Today a workman commented on my bird's nest. Guess I need to point out that two more months have passed and I still have not taken down that wreath... but I am planning to.... soon!

"Yeah. They built it and then never used it."

"No. I mean the one in the top." The one in the top??

And, there it is. Too high for me to see without a step stool. A nest and four little ones. How could I not have heard them? Now that I know they are there, I hear them a lot! I keep the door open most of the time for light in my office, and so that I can see the outside, and yet they were a complete surprise.

There are four of them. Look hard. Number four is right in the center of the pile, with his eye half closed, but you can see the yellow on his bill. They are nearly ready to fly, so but for a 6'3" visitor I would have missed them completely. They are nothing special - just house finches, but what a nice surprise to enjoy for a few days. Mom and dad are none too happy about our discovery either!

And, I have made myself a promise to take down the wreath just as soon as they are gone!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Way to End the Week!

What a perfect day! Low 80's, low humidity and enough breeze and cloud cover to make for a classic spring day. I managed to finish two work projects by early afternoon so I could adjourn to the garden for a while, but things never work out the way you plan, do they? As much as I craved diggin' in the dirt, real work was calling my name. In the form of sealing the deck.

Mitchell bought a power washer several years ago and finally got it working this spring, so has started deep cleaning the decks - we have three. Only the smallest was ready to re-seal, but it had been "naked" for a couple of weeks and we don't have rain in the forecast for a few more days, so sealing was the name of the game. It really wasn't hard, didn't take too much time, and I was outside enjoying the day, so all in all not really a bad alternative.

Then, you know of course that the required activity after sealing any deck is sitting on another deck with a Friday libation. Hopefully it's champagne, but a good margarita will fill the bill if that's all you can round up! And of course, time to enjoy the garden.

The peonies are in full bloom now with more coming every day.

New iris open daily, and the current delight is the evening primrose. I planted it as a filler two years ago and it has come into its own this spring. Taller than I expected it has filled every nook and cranny with pale pink blossoms. If you look hard you can see the mini rose that is blooming just beyond the primroses, as well as a couple of geraniums and some Japanese iris.

There is also a stray yellow iris that came from.... well, somewhere. I will move it in July when I create an iris bed. We removed a shrub last fall and have a "bare"spot this time of year - just to the right of the bird bath. Serendipitously, I have a bunch of iris spread all around the garden and a neighbor who has offered to trade for some different colors, so I plan to pull them all together into a bed of mixed colors. It will fill the void before the hibiscus grow up and fill the space later in the summer.

So much accomplished and the weekend hasn't even begun!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

May Flowers

The heat is bringing on more blooms every day. On April 30th this lovely lady made her appearance. She's Paeonia 'Scarlett O'Hara' and the first red peony I have ever had. She was one of those end-of-the-season sale purchases last fall that I will love forever. I have actually cut all of her flowers for the house. They are simply too pretty to leave alone in the garden! The rest of the peonies started blooming yesterday, but I haven't had a chance to photo them yet.

They are a full two weeks early - like just about everything else. They are a reliable Mother's Day bloomer in this part of the world. They also guarantee rain. It never fails that they get full of blooms and heavens open dumping gallons of water on them and beating them down to the earth. It's always a battle to try to get as many of the first ones cut and in the house as I can before the downpour!

This gorgeous Indian Hawthorn is the other addition from last weekend. Known more formally as Rhaphiolepis indica 'Elenor Tabors', it's an evergreen shrub about three and a half feet tall and very full. We have two that were a house warming gift, so hold a special place in our hearts. They bloom reliably, but need to be trimmed early in the fall before they set all their flowers for the next spring. Learned that lesson the hard way!

Every day is a new adventure in the yard. Just wish I could find a bit more time to enjoy it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Guest Gardens in Portsmouth, Va.

While Mitchell sat thru a seemingly endless meeting on Friday afternoon, I took an impromptu walking tour of Old Towne Portsmouth. Altho we get to that area a couple of times a year, I had not visited Old Towne in nearly 40 years and had never walked it. It looked like the sort of place where I would find nice little gardens tucked here and there - and I was not disappointed.

Old Towne dates to Revolutionary times and is located on the Elizabeth River which leads directly into Hampton Roads and the Chesapeake Bay. Like Old Town Alexandria (Va.) and Georgetown (D.C.) and Boston and Philly and lots of other cities on the East Coast it was originally side-by-side brick townhouses with small yards in the back. It is still partly that way, but there are many places where the single family homes have been replaced with larger structures - a former hotel, apartment buildings, and bed and breakfast inns, plus a church or two. It's full of little courtyards and interesting nooks and crannies. And, of course, flowers.

Altho it was a hot afternoon and I stupidly forgot to carry a water bottle, I had a great time just wandering the streets and peeking into side yards to see what was happening.

It's the end of azalea season, so they were everywhere providing everything from soft pastel pinks and lilacs to the garish cerise and reds. The prettiest ones were the ones that climbed over some of the old wrought-iron fences.

Several places I found climbing roses that were already in full bloom, like this gorgeous red one that climbed up the porch column and on across the porch roof. This was apparently a private home, altho I saw several others climbing pergolas and porches at an inn.

This mini-park was behind an apartment building and apparently done privately. It stretched nearly the full depth of the block with mostly flowering shrubs along both sides and a series of circular beds in the center, each with some sort of focal point - a gazing ball, a fountain, a piece of sculpture. It was not only beautifully kept, but a shady, cool oasis from the hot afternoon. Unfortunately, there was no bench to sit so apparently the gardener wants one to enjoy, but not for too long!

I did not get photos of the two "best" gardens. At both homes the gardener was out working and I spoke briefly with each one, but felt odd about asking permission to photograph their gardens. But my favorite sight was this:

In some ways it think it sums up the popularity of gardening in Old Towne. Wish I had thought of it first!