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Saturday, July 26, 2014

On Nest Watch

In 2010 and 2011 we had Carolina Wrens nesting in one of the container plants on our patio.  I was even lucky enough to be sitting out on the patio drinking my morning coffee at the exact moment when the fledglings left the nest.  You can read my post about it, and see my photos at The Empty Nest.

That was an experience I will never forget!

However, with all the construction around us, and the loss of habitat on either side of us, it's been a long time since I heard the glorious song of a Carolina Wren.

Imagine my surprise when, a few weeks ago, I started hearing that unmistakable song.  Could there be a Carolina Wren around again?

I was thrilled to see movement out on the patio and after watching for a while, I snuck outside with the camera.

This time, they chose to nest in the decorative watering can, seen on the right of the photo.

They spent the day come and going with mouthfuls of pine needles to make their nest.

This photo was taken early in the process.  They kept going until the nest was nice and deep.

I know that wrens typically make two or more nests and then select the one they want to raise their family in and unfortunately, we haven't seen them in a couple of weeks.  

The nest, although now complete, is empty.  This could have to do with the fact that I, in my clumsy efforts to get a peek and a photo, disturbed momma twice and flushed her from the nest, or the fact that the metal watering can might get too warm when the setting sun hits it.

While they have been gone, I rearranged the shelf a little bit and moved the watering can back, so I could set a decorative (empty) bird feeder in front of it to block the sun. Hopefully that will prevent it from getting too hot.

I was woken up by the familiar song of a wren this morning, after two weeks of nothing.  I can only hope that means they are back, or perhaps another pair.  

I will resist the urge to go take a peek, and possibly disturb them again.  Wish us luck!!

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Happy Belated Pollinator Week

OK, so I'm a few weeks late in officially recognizing National Pollinator Week, which this year was celebrated from June 16th - 22nd.  But I saw a post of Facebook yesterday asking, "Where are the bees?"   The poster lamented the fact that they had no bees in their garden and they were worried about the consequences.

My iPhoto library helps me keep a record of when I see things in the garden and last year, I seemed to have a lot of carpenter bees and bumble bees in the garden at the end of August and into September.  Not so much in July.

So as I was taking a stroll around the garden this morning, I was pleased to see there were a few bees out there. 

The cucumber vines are covered in flowers and we've already harvested some good sized cukes. This little honey bee seems to be making sure that we get some more cucumbers later in the summer.

 This is better than last year, when we had lots of flowers and not one single cucumber.

Further along on my garden stroll, I noticed some bumble bees on the zinnia - nothing like the numbers we had last August, but it's early days yet :-)  

After a five minute stroll with my camera, the sweat was pouring off me. and that was the end of my foray into the garden for today! I'm glad I was able to find some bees, and hopefully our garden is suiting them and they stick around for the rest of the season.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Garden in June

We've seen some extremes of weather so far this June.  We've had plenty of blisteringly hot and humid days -- those days I neglect my garden chores and take refuge in the air conditioned comfort of my office/studio -- and we've seen plenty of torrential rain. 

Take yesterday, for example.  The sprinklers had run in the morning as they always do, so naturally we had a downpour in the afternoon.  Not a long downpour, but heavy enough that water couldn't get down the downspout fast enough and was overflowing the gutters.

 But it didn't last long and before we knew it, it was hot and steamy outside again.

I'm not saying I haven't done any work in the garden recently.  I have, but I've had to be choosy about when I do it. Evenings would seem to be ideal, as the garden cools off as the sun goes down.  But for some reason, (could be all that aforementioned rain) the mosquitoes have been BRUTAL this year.  I made the mistake of staying out last week and was covered in itchy mosquito bites.

So I've been getting up early on the weekends to get my gardening in.

One of my recent tasks was to replant a volunteer Rose of Sharon. The original shrub was one that I brought cuttings of from my previous house. It's doing great here up against the wall, but the Southern Wax Myrtle is crowding it out a bit.

Just in front of it (see the black arrow in the center of the photo) is a seedling about a foot tall.  I realized it couldn't stay there so I looked around to find somewhere for it to go.

Further along the garden wall is the perfect spot.  It will have room to grow and as an added bonus, it will hide the ugly cinder block wall (see below)

I also planted some summer color in the new island bed, in the form of pink Pentas, white vinca and purple Angelonia augustifolia "Serena" series. The bed still looks bare, compared to the happy chaos of blooms in the other one, but I hope it does well this summer. 

For next year, I'm planning to divide the daylilies I have in the other island bed and move them to this one, so I'll have a happy chaos of blooms in both of them next year :-)

I've never planted sunflower seeds - not because I don't like them, but because it appears I don't have to!  I feed the birds by putting seed along the supporting rail at the top of the fence.  That allows more birds access, and also keeps the seed out of the range of the sprinklers (I noticed when I moved in that hanging feeders always seemed to get soaked by the sprinklers). 

 One unexpected bonus is that I get volunteer sunflowers where I don't expect them.  Isn't this a beauty?

That's all from me today, but keep a lookout for an update later in the week.  I'm on a nest watch at the moment. It appears we have a pair of Carolina wrens building a nest in a decorative watering can on the shelf on the patio.  I'll try and get some photos to share in my next blog post

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Wildlife Update

Earlier this week I turned my Wordless Wednesday post into a "Wildlife Wednesday" post and included this photo of a corner of the garden.

A couple of people spotted the little visitor at the bottom of the photo -- a field mouse!

Here's a closer shot of him/her.  I seem to have at least two in the garden. One has dug a little burrow in the whiskey barrel container down by the wall.  Another one has burrowed into a hanging basket of fuschias.

I had been a little worried about them because we had such torrential rain last week I feared they might have been drowned.  But this photo was taken since the storm, so at least some of them are okay.

Now I have a dilemma -- This whiskey barrel needs to be replanted for the summer - the pansies I had in there have long since passed their prime and need to come out.  I'm reluctant to do any digging in case there are any babies down in the burrow.

I suppose I could get a few pots with annuals in and sit them on top of the whiskey barrel for a bit of color without disturbing the mouse family. Or is that taking "gardening for wildlife" a tad too far?

What do you think?

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Wildlife Wednesday

I was going to make this a Wordless Wednesday post, but decided to make it a Wildlife Wednesday post instead.

There's something in this photo other than the volunteer sunflower just coming in to bloom, the tropical milkweed, the rampant spearmint and the last few blooms of the Star Jasmine.

If you can see it, post in the comments below. (you can click on the photo to see a larger version if necessary)

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Friday, May 2, 2014

For the Birds

As the garden has started coming back to life this spring, it has pained me to see that the weeds have been coming back much quicker than the actual lawn.  

A few years ago, I would have been quick to treat the whole yard with a good dose of some sort of weed and feed, but since I'm attempting to be a chemical free gardener, I have resisted the urge.

It pleases me then, to look out in to the backyard and see birds pecking around and eating the seeds off the myriad weeds out there in the lawn. It reminds me of why I'm doing what I'm doing :-)

Interestingly, the front lawn is more or less weed free, apart from some patches of clover (which the bees LOVE), which makes me wonder if most of the weeds I'm seeing in the lawn in the back are actually sprouting from birdseed which has fallen from the fence and wall where I put it out for the birds. 

Still, I suppose as long as the weeds are green, and we keep them mowed, I can live with them.  And the Home Owner's Association will be happy because the front yard is mostly St. Augustine turfgrass. 

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Homemade Tomato Cage by Jayne

Last year Eric and I were disappointed that the tomato cage we purchased disintegrated half way through the season.

We thought we had got a sturdier variety of cage this year, but it's already starting to come apart.

Looking around at the various designs available, we didn't really see anything that we felt would hold up under the weight of a healthy harvest of tomatoes.

I started getting an idea of how we could build our own cage, using half in PVC pipe and various connectors.

I have no idea where the idea came from, it just seemed to me that it would be a) inexpensive and b) sturdy, so I started playing around on paper and came up with some plans.  Perhaps I was an engineer in a former life?

It was easy enough to build -- I made it myself with just a measuring tape, a hacksaw and a rubber mallet.  I built it "in situ" around the tomato plant in the corner of the garden bed.  The original cage we bought is still there too - we'll have to cut the parts of it that haven't already come apart to get it out without damaging the plant.

The final design was a little bit different from the original plan, but that's usually what happens when I make something - it's gets "finessed" along the way :-)

The finished cage is 12" x 16" and about 3 feet tall.  It's legs are securely sunk into the ground under the raised garden bed.  It's not going anywhere!

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.