Welcome to my Western Pennsylvania garden. Join me on a "Walk Down the Garden Path".

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Leaves, Freeze, and Eye Pleasing

I have been waiting patiently this year for our trees to be at their peak color in order to photograph them to share with you and as part of Dave's Garden Blogger's Fall Color Project.

Of course, you never know when peak is, until it is past. Add to that the fact that I don't think our trees are in top color form this year, I think due to the extremely dry conditions for the past several months, and you have me waiting and waiting for the event that is not coming. I have been taking pictures over a couple of days and have not thought them to be as stunning as in past years (the leaves OR the pictures).

I also took some pictures this morning after a very hard frost and maybe a few snowflakes ?!? The lighting has helped make the leaves seem on fire but they are falling fast now. You could just hear them crinkling against one another as they drift to the ground. The maple closest to the house, which is always last to turn and drop, is still holding tightly to her leaves, but the other maples are shedding them quickly, as if the last couple of cold days have convinced them it is time to call it quits for the year and go into winter mode NOW.

So, here are some photos from around our house taken within this past week. Enjoy!

Finally, this Mum just starting to bloom added a nice surprise to my brisk morning walk.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Meeting at a Crossroad

As garden bloggers our paths cross every day on the internet superhighway. But it is not very often that our paths can cross on actual highways. I was very fortunate to be able to cross paths with two garden bloggers recently, Tina from In The Garden and TC, The Write Gardener.

This meeting was arranged because Tina was going to be traveling to Maine from Tennessee via Pennsylvania! Since she and her family, yes I got to meet Mr. Fix-it and her son Jimmy too, were going to be passing through Western Pennsylvania around dinner time, we made plans to meet at a Bob Evans not far from the highway. TC drove down and I drove over and wham-o, after fighting a bit of rush hour traffic, there were three garden bloggers face to face.

Here's the best picture I have from our meeting. That's TC, Tina, Me, and Lillian.

I was last to arrive to the party, with Lillian the days of getting out of the house quickly are gone. Then it was like Christmas as we all began to exchange little gifts. Tina made me one of her now famous stone markers and brought two gooseberry plants for me to plant in my garden. I will treasure these gifts and think of her each time I see them. TC brought us each a copy of "Tough Plants for Northern Gardens" by Felder Rushing. He wrote the forward for this book and was kind enough to inscribe it for each of us. This book is excellent and will be a good reference in the years to come. I brought some off shoots of my Century plant for both Tina and TC. Each went home with a tiny baby one and one that was a little larger. My original Century plant was a pass along plant from my great aunt and I am happy to continue it's legacy of giving.

The next order of business was the group photo. There were several taken with various configurations of garden bloggers and family. The parking lot had lovely trees filled with berries which made a great backdrop. Of course it was a feat to get everyone to stop chattering away in order to smile for the camera!

We eventually made our way into the restaurant and sat down for lively conversation on all subjects and a good meal to boot. The time just flew by and to tell you the truth I can just remember snippets of conversation, it all happened so quickly and there were often several conversations going at once. Of course there was plenty of garden talk and blog talk, but there were other topics as well. However, we couldn't keep Tina and her family too long because there were still many miles to be travelled that evening and more the next day. And Lillian was ready to be rambling about the restaurant and that is nothing but trouble.

One observation I would like to make about meeting fellow bloggers in person, is that it gives a voice to their blog that wasn't there before. When I read Tina's and TC's blogs now, it will be more personal, and I will hear their voices as I read the posts. Tina and TC, I am so glad we were able to meet and have even a short time to get to know each other a little better beyond the garden and the blog.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Veggie Garden Update ~ October 2008

I had all the good intentions in the world to get this posted yesterday, to coincide with other veggie garden updates, such as those posted by Tina at In the Garden and Frances at Faire Garden. However, it was probably the last nice and relatively warm day we are going to have here in Western Pennsylvania for a while and much time was spent outside finishing up some tasks, some of which were necessary for this post, by the way. In fact, the rain has started and it is not to get out of the 50's degree wise here for the next several days. And yes, we have had our first frost and it did a great job at killing almost everything that was left in the garden. Although a few things close to the house did survive and there are still plants in the garage waiting transport to their winter homes in the basement. They won't have to wait long because the low of 27 degrees F tonight will force their journey today, rain or no rain.

So in my day of tidying up, first was to pull all the carrots and beets. Not that there were many and not that they were big. The deer had munched the tops so often this summer I was surprised to find anything grew. But there is a small amount which will be used quickly and enjoyed none the less. Lillian was very helpful with this task, as she loves to dig in the dirt, although she also likes just wandering about in the garden picking up bits of sticks and leaves.

The parsley did survive the frost and I will probably cut some of that today to bring inside. I don't know if it will survive the low we expect tonight and it looks so good right now.

Other things which were harvested a few days ago included the rest of the eggplants (this there were a lot of) and a few little peppers. I see some fried eggplant sandwiches and some eggplant parmesan in my future, yum.

On the inside, there is one lone kumquat ripening nicely. Not that one can do much with one kumquat other than gobble it up and wish there were more :) But wait, what is this growing in the kumquat pot, is that a pepper plant ? with a pepper on it ? The deer didn't find this one! Since you are probably wondering why there is a pepper growing with my citrus, let me explain. The kumquat came to us from my husband's parents when they returned home from Florida in April. Apparently the seed was in the dirt and grew and we just let it. We are going to be transplanting the kumquat soon and will split the pepper off and try to winter it inside and see if we get more peppers during the winter. Unlikely with our lack of good sun, but maybe it will be a good start for next year's crop.

So that is it for the harvest. Time was spent removing tomato cages, stakes, fences and posts meant to deter the deer which didn't work, and rototilling the gardens. Thoughts of next year are already bouncing around through our heads. For one thing, we will win the battle with the deer next year. I am tired of lousy yields after all my efforts. I have already bought Liquid Fence which is supposed to work. I haven't opened it yet but it is said to really stink. After it dries, humans can't smell it but the deer still can and they don't like it. I'll be letting you know how that works out for us.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Woo - Hoo, I Won!

I was so excited when Fern at Life on the Balcony contacted me earlier this week and told me I had won her October contest for guessing how many cilantro seeds she had collected. You can see the picture of the actual seeds in my post from last Friday which also included my guess of 98. Well, I was only off by 2 - the actual number being 96.

The excitement of winning continued when my wonderful prizes arrived.
First was the book "Big Ideas for Small Gardens" by Emily Young and Dave Egbert.

Second was a $10 gift certificate to Renee's Garden where I can buy all sorts of cool heirloom seeds for next year!

Thanks so much Fern, I really enjoyed your contest!

Fern's going to be running a contest every month for the next several months, so be sure to keep an eye on her site. You might be the next winner. And even if you aren't, she always has great tips for small space / balcony gardening. This is a great site even if you have a large space, for what is a large space but a collection of smaller spaces.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Garden Blogger Bloom Day ~ October 2008

It seems like the trees are putting on more of a display then the flowers here as I walk down my garden path, but I was able to find a few blooms. Let's start with these Mums with the pretty yellow centers peaking through.

Next we have this pretty plant which I forget the name of and I have lost the tag as well - (I'm sure someone out there knows it!). It has very pretty white flowers right now and has survived the summer's drought.

Here is a wildflower area where I just sprinkled seeds this spring. A few Cosmos and Zinnias have survived the deer. Maybe it's all those weeds that have deterred the deer of late.

One lone Coneflower bravely blooms. He's probably wondering where all his other Coneflower family has gone.

And the Honeysuckle is blooming again, putting out some sweet perfume.

Finally, one of the indoor plants, a cactus, is showing a nice white and prickly bloom.

For more of what's blooming around the world, visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens for Garden Blogger Bloom Day.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Odds and Ends

There are several bits and pieces I wanted to post about today, so I thought I would just combine it all into one post.

First off, I am so excited my snake catcher actually works!!!! Yesterday, while working in our little garage (a.k.a. The Snake Pit), my husband spotted a little snake along the wall. Wanting to relocate him to elsewhere so we could continue our cleaning up I ran for the snake catcher, yet unproven. It took just a few minutes with my husband helping to 'herd' him and I was able to lasso him and move him outside and away from all buildings. While the snake catcher actually did work, it could use a few improvements. For one, something to keep the rope from going all the way up in the tube in the case of a miss. Also, even when I had the snake gripped fairly tight (I didn't want to pinch him in half!), he was able to slide about in the rope. But for the most part it was a success, for the snake was relocated fairly easily which was the point.

Secondly, I had been getting some of the inside plants which had summered outside, ready to be brought back indoors for the winter. This involved giving some a haircut and general grooming.

And for others, like these Century Plants, a major overhaul and cleaning out of the offshoots was necessary for aesthetic reasons.

Thirdly, I would like to report on the progress of our little garage. The roof work is complete. On the inside we removed the ceiling boards and old insulation, opening the inside up to the rafters. This was necessary because it was in this ceiling space that birds and snakes lived (probably not in harmony) and it was a big mess. It's much nicer now that it's all open and it's not like it's heated anyway, so the loss of the insulation is not a big deal. In fact, before we tore the ceiling down, we weren't even aware that it was there. Next step was removing a wall of tile which had been adhered to the back block wall at one time. It had since separated from the wall and needed to be chiseled apart before it fell down, causing injury. The space between this tiled wall and the block wall was one of the main places the snakes lived. We found several snake skins when we removed these tiles. With the tiles removed, we found several mortar joints in the block wall which needed to be replaced, so that was the next task. Which catches us up to yesterday, when I was painting the previously unpainted block (what was behind the tiles). We plan on painting the entire inside but wanted to get a primer on the unpainted block first. I used up some primer I found in the basement, leftover from another project and I was able to get the back wall and part of one of the side walls covered. There will be more painting this weekend.

These are the tiles removed from the back wall.

Finally, Fern at Life on the Balcony, is having a contest to guess how many cilantro seeds she collected this year (see picture below). My guess is 98. Click on the link to her blog to find out how you can enter. She is giving away some nice prizes and I hope I win!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Arboretum Walk and a Rarity

For my final post on Hershey Gardens I wanted to share some photos of the magnificent trees and conifers on the grounds. While I do thoroughly enjoy the flowers and perennials, there is something special about the trees. Maybe it's the years and years of growth which have made them the magnificent heralds of the natural world. When I think of my own property and how I would like this tree or that tree, I am thinking of the tree at a mature stage, not the stage it would be planted at, and I am always a little sad thinking of the time which must elapse to reach my vision. But this should not deter me from planting trees, for just as life for us is a wonderful journey, so is life for a tree. And to see that tree grow over the years and be able to look back and remember when it was just planted, or only this big, is as rewarding as enjoying the mature tree itself.

But I digress, and must get on with the short pictorial tour of mature trees on the grounds of Hershey Gardens.

These first two photos are of the Fragrant Snowbell, Stryax obassia. I was intrigued by the yellowish fruits that it had. After reading a little about this tree, I found out that it has beautiful, white, fragrant flowers on 4 to 10 inch long racemes in late spring or early summer. It is not noted for it's fall color or it's insignificant (to some) fruits.

This is a Variegated Juniper. Some may not like the yellow in it, thinking it not looking healthy, but I don't mind and think it adds some brightness in what would otherwise just be green.

I really liked this Weeping Beech, Fagus sylvatica 'Pendula'. It was trained and draped over the walkway. I imagine it as a secret hideaway on a hot day.

Grab your tissues, there is more weeping. This time a Weeping Norway Spruce, Picea abies forma pendula 'Inversa'. That is all one tree, with it's branches falling like tears on the ground.

Yet another weeper, but so attractive I think. This is the Weeping White Pine, Pinus strobus 'Pendula'.

I just liked how the composition of this shot turned out. Very geometrical.

Another composition shot which is very inviting to me with the various shades of cool green.

And finally, the rarity you have been waiting for since being teased by the title of this post. This is the "Mother tree" of all Cryptomeria japonica 'Dense Jade', or for those of us who prefer English subtitles, the Hybrid Japanese Cedar v. Dense Jade. All Cryptomeria japonica 'Dense Jade' can have their ancestry traced back to this tree. There can only be one "Mother tree" to a whole new variety. I had never heard this term before, so my trip was a learning experience as well. Now that's a family tree. This tree was transplanted in Hershey Gardens in September 2006. It looks like it is enjoying it's new home.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Garden Through A Child's Eyes

Hershey Gardens has a wonderful Children's Garden area which has 32 themed garden areas and a seasonal Butterfly House. We allowed Lillian to explore this area out of her stroller, although I did carry her most of the time in the Butterfly House so she wouldn't grab the butterflies that were covering the flowers.

The gates to the Children's Garden set the tone with these whimsical sculptures. I wouldn't mind these ants at a picnic.

And this has to be one of the happiest bees I've ever seen. Just look at that smile!

Inside the Butterfly House this butterfly asks "Are you my Mother?"

Please note, although they do provide an butterfly identification brochure for use while in the Butterfly House, I was holding Lillian in one arm and snapping pictures with the other. So I will refrain from identifying any of these flying beauties. I'm sure I could take the time to look up the names on the internet, that goldmine of information, but for me, just enjoying the pretty pictures is enough. At least for now, maybe someday I will look them up and identify them all.

Lillian was getting ready to grab this one, I had to race over and scoop her up to prevent butterfly homicide.

While I am just showing the Butterfly stage of these delightful creatures, the whole lifecycle was represented. Several volunteers staffed the Butterfly House, ready to explain anything about the various stages of the lifecycle or help identify the various species.

Outside the Butterfly House was this fountain area with striking cannas and fountain grass.

Here is the fountain. It was great fun watching the ball spin in the ever changing vertical stream of water.

One of the themed garden areas was the River-Banker's Picnic secluded nook. I just loved these "toad stools".

The other themed areas include a pretzel maze made of not too difficult hedgerows to navigate. The path was brown tile with large pieces of quartz - the salt of the pretzel! There was also an Alphabet Boarder, with a plant to represent each of the twenty-six letters. The Spa-Tacular Garden has a claw foot bathtub planted with all sorts of soothing varieties. And one of my favorites was the Botanical Tunes Garden, complete with giant xylophone and floor chimes to jump on.

This Children's Garden is a delight for children of all ages and a must see when visiting Hershey Gardens. They do close the Butterfly House in the fall though. None of the butterflies are harmed, they are allowed to live out there lives in this butterfly utopia and only when none are left, is the structure taken down so it isn't damaged by the Pennsylvanian snows.