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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Friday, July 29, 2011


With all of the harm that we humans have (generally unintentionally) done to other varieties of living things, it's nice to run across a species that uses us for its own purposes. It's even nicer when that species is cute, helpful, and generally cheers us up. The species under consideration today is the Carolina wren.

For the last few days, a wren has been hanging around the shed that opens off our carport. The house's previous owners never bothered to put a door on the shed, and while we have intended to, other projects (fixing the grading so that rainwater doesn't run into the basement, repairing a foundation crack, . . .) have come first, and the shed has remained doorless. Given that not much ever happens in our neighborhood, we haven't worried about theft of our yard tools. We didn't think about the shed becoming a nursery.

But a large wren has been perching on the broken Adirondack chair (surely we'll get that arm replaced before the summer ends, won't we?) and generally fluttering around that end of the carport, often with something in its beak. I've been scanning the white pine next to the carport for signs of a nest, but never found one. This morning, however, going into the shed for a spade, I heard brief panicked cheeping, looked up, and there, on the ledge where the roof meets the top of the wall, was a small nest made of grass and twigs. No babies were visible, but I wasn't about to get out the ladder to check. As I've glanced over throughout the morning, the wren (no clue if it's male or female) has been making repeated trips into the shed, bearing insects.

It turns out that Carolina wrens have found all kinds of nesting spots in human-created habitats. They cheerfully (of course, I'm anthropomorphizing here, but wrens look cheerful) utilize hanging baskets, ledges, mailboxes, gardening boots left outside, and evidently,anything that provides a little shelter and will hold one of their small, cup-shaped nests. Some birds documented on the Sialis (not to be confused with the drug) website used an open window to nest in a bathroom, to the consternation of the human inhabitants of the dwelling: http://www.sialis.org/nestscarolinawren.htm

These noisy little birds consume quite a few harmful insects, sing prettily, and give us something to smile about. I for one am glad that they have found us useful.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Dog Days

With temperatures in the nineties for what seems to forseeable future (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a teeny bit), I am reframing my frame of mind by focusing on good things that require heat in order to flourish. For one thing, some of my favorite summer flowers don't seem to take off until the weather gets too steamy for my comfort. (I was shocked to read a few years ago that many English gardeners lusted after rudbeckia, which don't do well for them because the summers aren't hot enough.)

Admittedly, they've been blooming for a while now, but this does seem to be the year for rudbeckia of all types.

Rudbeckia joined by butterfly weed is a happy summer combination.
The enthusiastic ratibida keep coming.

Cup plant is now coming into its own,    

with last year's bottlebrush buckeye finally blooming

and, as usual, the Joe Pye weed taking its own sweet time for the buds to open. Maybe it's not hot enough yet.
Something to look forward to in August.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A counting of blessings

      Some weeks the world just keeps sending you blessings, and this has been one of those weeks. First off, the visit of friends from Bulgaria necessitated the hosting of a rather large party at our house, which necessitated scrubbing the house siding in preparation for an outdoor concert by the band in which my husband plays. (The siding REALLY needed scrubbing, so this was a good thing.)

Because we needed to set up equipment outdoors, the fact that we had no rain that day was a good thing.
      The day was, however, a little warmer than was strictly pleasant, so late in the afternoon a slightly different cohort (as is the way of open house-type gatherings) moved into our music room, which we finally were able to get air-conditioned. Given that the room is oriented to the southwest, air-conditioning was also a good thing.
      The existence of this cool spot meant that we could have more hours of music with musicians of different cultures, styles, and generations, a very good thing.

Then today brought delightful surprises in the garden. A scraggly little volunteer that I've been watching proved to be a native lobelia, exact species yet to be determined.

 Asclepias curassavica decided to bloom,
   as did this monarda, both plants acquired only this season from Hazy Hollow Herb Farm.

      To add to the blessings of the week, yesterday brought rain but no downed trees or power outages to our neighborhood, and on this mid-July evening, I am contemplating heading for the dresser for socks because the air has cooled off so much.
      How lucky can one woman get?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

More delights of the TBG

I did venture over to the sunny borders of the Toledo Botanical Gardens on my last visit and am glad I did. I had been looking forward to the June flowering of the rose garden but was disappointed. It's possible that I have become too fussy about roses, preferring either highly scented old varieties or David Austin's wonderful big cabbage-rosy blooms, but nothing in the formal rose garden enchanted me. The hedge of white rugosas at the entrance to the formal English borders, however, was another story: dozens of chest-high bushes,all bearing tissue-papery blossoms with that unmistakeable rugosa scent. Rose-lovers' heaven.

Then, in the secret garden, was a plant with a secret. Looking toward the rudbeckia patch at the end of a walkway, I saw what looked like a giant caterpillar draped over a black-eyed susan. But the brown growth was no caterpillar.

No, what I saw was a rudbeckia with what seems to be a double seed head forming. There were actually several plants in the bed with the same odd formation, so I wonder if we'll be seeing "Crazy Daisy" rudbeckias marketed in a few years.
Then, crossing the bridge to return to the garden entrance, a glance at the lake island revealed a blue heron: not an uncommon bird, but one of surpassing elegance.

It was a good walk in the garden.