Annual Easter Lily Rescue Campaign

This time of year the grocery stores and garden centers are filled with potted Easter Lilies.  They will be purchased and presented as gifts to mothers and grandmothers throughout the US at Easter Dinner.

A week later the lilies will have bloomed, their petals will have fallen off and they will be left neglected and forlorn like a prom queen with tear-smeared mascara all over her face and her high heels in her hand sitting on the steps of the gym while her date makes out with the girl that came in second.  They will be placed  in a shopping cart at the front of the store with a “Reduced for quick sale” sign in front of them.

In an effort to recoup their losses the stores will frequently mark them down to absolute pennies rather than throw them in the trash can (which, unfortunately, will be their fate if YOU do not rescue them).  Last year Food Lion gave them away for nothing, knowing that the canny gardening knew their worth.  Which is why I walked out of the store with ten of them.

Easter lilies are simply a form of Asiatic Lily that has been “forced” to bloom at Easter (rather than the more normal early summer).  There is a healthy, happy bulb in that pot with the Rabbit sticker on the side of it and the jaunty “Happy Easter” plastic pic, and given the chance, that healthy, happy bulb will give you flowers for years to come if you would only give it a chance.

So, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go out and rescue as many pots of “dead” Easter Lilies that you can.  They are a good and worthy cause, and they will reward you in spades next year if you just bring the sorry looking stalks home and plant them in a sunny spot in your garden.

Easter Lily Rescue Teams are GO!

Who Me?

Ellie Wyatt (one of my male cats, yes I know Ellie Wyatt is not a male name but it is a long story and does not bear repeating here) wandered over to the bird cages this evening and sat on the back of the recliner and watched.  I looked over at him, “Ellie Wyatt”  I said in a stern voice “No”.  He looked at me and seemed to imply that he was doing nothing more but sitting on the recliner and minding his own business, so he stretched, yawned (as cats do when they have been “caught”) and wandered over to me.

Shortly thereafter I noticed that he had gone back to the bird cages but now was sat on the window sill (thinking he was out of my sight) where he was observing the birds with an assassins eye.  “Ellie Wyatt!”  I called, whereupon he immediately turned his head towards the display cabinet obviously trying to convince me that he was doing nothing more than admiring the collection of decorative tea pots that are in there. 

It occurs to me, as it often does, that cats, with their obviously superior intellect, honestly believe that humans are stupid, and when they are caught in a clear ruse, they are quite surprised that they have been out foxed by the “stupid upright creature that provides the food”, it never ceases to amaze them that sometimes we know what they are up to.

Yellow Peril

It is Spring in North Carolina and unfortunately for many of us in North Carolina that means only one thing.  Pine Pollen.

The Pine Trees are blooming, and as a result they are pumping an inordinate amount of pollen into the air.  It covers everything, cars, buildings, roads, plants, and if you stand still long enough you.   You cannot go outside and breath without breathing the pollen into your nostrils.   The allergies kick in, your nose gets blocked, your eyes gunk up, and as the pollen count gets greater you wake in the morning and your eyelids are literally glued together.

We have been promised rain this week, as of yet we have not seen it.  Still, if rain arrives it will wash all the Pine pollen into the roads in veritable yellow rivers.  This week is not the peak, that is coming next week or so, which will result in the glued up eye lids.  I cannot complain of course, it is simply a fact of nature that trees need to reproduce and they will do what they have to do.

I can guarantee you that I will not be washing my car for a while.

There is no point.

Sing a song of sixpence…

I am currently under siege, having been visited by a marauding army of blackbirds, namely Grackles, Red Wing Blackbirds and Cowbirds.   Thankfully this invasion will be short lived, as my experience tells me that they are simply flocks that are heading back North having spent the winter with the snowbirds in Florida.   Notwithstanding the fact that they will be gone once they have stuffed their bellies full at the Britty All-you-can-eat Buffet, they are currently eating me out of house and home and really ticking off my resident birds.

Let me be clear here, I do not begrudge them the food, I know when I put out food for the birds it is an invitation to all birds, regardless of their attractiveness, I just wish that they would not behave like so many thugs at a Soccer Game, and I can understand how frustrated my local bird population is.  It is a bit like showing up at your local Mom and Pop diner for breakfast on Sunday Morning and discovering that it has been taken over by a gang of Hells Angels who insist on bitching about the service, slapping the waitress on the rear end, and smoking in the non-smoking section.

You don’t like it of course, and you sit there quietly trying to eat your breakfast, while keeping your head down and pretending to be inordinately interested in the menu, knowing that eventually the Hells Angels will get back on the road and you will not have to see them again until next year.

I must say I will be glad when they don their helmets, get on their bikes, and sod the hell off to wherever it is they are going.

Not so stupid after all

This weekend the air was filled with the sound of the newly awakened Carpenter Bees buzzing around and bumping into things.  I have always thought of Carpenter Bees as being the rather stupid cousins of Honeybees and Bumble Bees.  If the Carpenter Bee were at a family reunion it would be the one handing its beer to a Bumble Bee cousin while saying “watch this”, and then doing something so utterly monumentally stupid and Darwin Award worthy that it ended up getting a million hits on Youtube.

I have formed this impression because for whatever reason Carpenter Bees bump into things, a lot.  A sunny afternoon in my garden will reliably consist of the sound of the Carpenter Bees buzzing overhead and then immediately flying face first into the vinyl siding.     Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz-thud Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz-thud Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz-thud.  Without fail.   I often wondered if perhaps their eyesight was not what it should be and contemplated a “Seeing Eye Dog for Bees” movement (for those in the UK Guide Dogs for the Bees).  Of course dogs would be unworkable, perhaps smaller bees, or even the odd mosquito or two could be trained to lead around the Carpenter Bees (goodness knows it would be nice to find some actual use for a mosquito).

This weekend however changed my thinking about Carpenter Bees.  As I wandered around the garden I noticed that the Carpenter Bees were feeding heavily on the Carolina Jessamine.   I watched them for a while, marveling in the fact that they were not actually bumping into things but seemed to have a purpose.  What was most interesting however was the fact that with their fat bodies they could not access the nectar of the Jessamine flowers the traditional way so they employed a rather neat trick of piercing the base of the flower with their proboscis and then slurping up the nectar from inside the flower.

You can see from this bloom that had dropped off the vine the two very obvious piercings where the Carpenter Bee had harvested the nectar.

This of course has a brilliant advantage over all those smart college attending Honey Bees and Bumble bees in that the Carpenter Bees do not need a flower to open in order for them to access the nectar,

So whilst the Honey Bees and Bumble bees are patiently waiting for the day of the family reunion, Mr. Stupid Cousin Carpenter Bee has broken into the meeting hall and drunk all the beer.  Brilliant!

When its Spring again, I’ll bring again…

Much to my delight the first of my tulips bloomed this weekend.  A deep red with a black throat.  I am always delighted to see them, as tulips do not do well in this area and while back in blightey they will return year after year, and eventually form large colonies, here in North Carolina they are, as I heard someone describe once, “like chocolate, the pleasure is fleeting”.  Of course the leaves will return for years and years, but I am lucky to see flowers for more than a couple of seasons.

The rest of the hyacinths are now in bloom almost in spite of my inability to get them in the ground before January.  

As is the wisteria that clambers merrily over my roof much to the delight of the bees and other pollinators.

The pretty pink Oxalis that came with the home when I bought it is also in bloom.

I love these so much, and they are easily divided, so I have moved clumps of them to various parts of the garden.

One of the things I love about gardening is that once you find something that works, you can plant it, ignore it, and it will reliably come back year after year.  Two of the stalwarts of my garden are Daylilies and Canna.  Both behave like rampant weeds in this area and constantly provide more and more plants to be moved around and spread about the landscape.  Lemon Balm (a member of the mint family) is another one that I can rely upon to provide me with many, many plants that can be used to fill in blank spots as the season progresses.  Not only does it expand by its root system but it also readily self seeds here.  It is tough as nails, can tolerate pretty much anything (including being walked on on a regular basis which is why I allow it to sprout in the gaps in my patio pavers as it releases a wonderful lemon scent when the leaves are crushed) and it is of course free.

Another of my favorite “freebies” is Autumn Sweet Clematis.  It is wild around here and I have it coming up in various places in my garden.  It also readily self-seeds and I am constantly moving seedlings from the lawn to the base of trees where it can merrily clamber up and scent the air come September when it is a mass of white blossoms and is a favorite of the pollinators out there.  So what is blooming in your neck of the woods?

When Mother Nature goes bizarre

Last year shortly after the Hurricane of all Hurricanes the relentless Irene went through the area we spent several weekends cleaning up the debris.  As well as cleaning up much of the tree damage my husband took the opportunity to cut back several of the Japanese Privet trees that had become overgrown and were beginning to interfere with my ability to a) hang out laundry and b) grow vegetables in my vegetable garden as they were blocking the sun.

The limbs were placed in a pile in an out-of-the-way place in order to be turned into mulch once my husband, you know, actually took the chipper/shredder I bought him out of the box.  In any event, they lay there all winter and as I walked by them this weekend I saw something that totally blew my mind.

Here is a photo of one of those limbs, the cut end, not a single section of this limb has any contact with the soil, not a single tiny branch has any contact with the soil in order to feed the limb.

This is what I noticed when I walked by it.  The limb is leafing out.

Now, let me be clear here, I followed the cut off limb from the base all the way to the leafing out branches and it was the same limb, there was not some odd optical illusion whereby a cut off limb was somehow tangled up with a growing plant, in fact at one point I picked up the cut off limb and waved it around in order to convince my DH that I was not in fact delusional.

I suppose if anything it is a clear indication that given the opportunity that a plant will do anything in order to survive, that the survival instinct is so strong, even in a “dead” branch that there is nothing that can overcome it.  I was quite amazed.