the garden visitor

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A few weeks ago I looked out to see a newly fledged Eastern bluebird hopping around my terrace. It was alone. Normally when bluebird chicks fledge, they fly to the highest branches of the nearest tree and remain there with other members of their brood for a couple of weeks, while the adults continue to feed them.

This fledgling did not.

As a bluebird monitor, I had immediate concerns. I grabbed my camera and captured these rare shots through my storm door. I hope that you enjoy them.

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So tiny in such a huge environment…this female chick contemplates her next move…notice the size of her feet!

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This chick raised a ruckus to attract its parents, who wondered why this babe was not high in a tree with its nestmates.

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While waiting for the adults to feed it, this chick wanted a nap. After all, these birds go from hatching to flight in merely 18 days. Quite a feat. I love the feet.

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After a short flight to the terrace wall from the bench, this wee one nearly fell into the birdbath. What a face. Some mornings I wake with this same expression.

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Gathering gumption, a few minutes after this shot, she managed another flight across the turf to the deep shrub border, where it landed on the ground not in a tree. Both adults were at her side during flight, another spectacular sight. I surmise that this miracle fledged too early and was not strong enough to gain altitude. Fingers crossed.

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Before vanishing into the wild, this chick preened itself. I do hope she survived. She appeared to have an attitude which I hope serves her well during her lifetime.

Life is precious, and I am reminded of this every day as I witness the creatures and beauty that surround me daily. The difficult part is simply observing, as I can do nothing to change a situation like this. I must permit nature to take its course and be content with not knowing.

How glad I am to have this brief moment with my tiny garden visitor, and now this observation with my trusty camera allows sharing with you, my followers.

Have you witnessed a miracle this summer? Do tell.

Copyright © 2017 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

what blooms this week

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Despite challenging August temperatures and humidity here in central Virginia, these beauties are awash with blooms and deliver a lovely scent. Enjoy!

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This is the second year for these hostas. They were shared by a garden friend who has spectacular specimens in her town landscape.

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Hosta close up. Pudgy bumblebees straddle these blooms while gathering nectar at the base of each flower, providing food for them and daily entertainment for moi.

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Hostas and clematis create a WOW! factor in an otherwise quiet August landscape.

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Second year for this clematis. It appears to like this thirty-foot long split rail fence. Although it was recently attacked by hordes of Blister Beetles, I managed to send these chewers to the “swim to eternity pool” (AKA bucket of soapy water) where they will reproduce no more.

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Twice-blooming Huldine clematis will soon cover the cattle panel arbor above one raised bed. Pretty, yes?

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Gifted hostas live well here at Swallowtail Cottage and stems sway at 48″ tall. WOWZA!

Formosa lily from Tufton

And I cannot omit the Formosa lily here at Swallowtail Cottage…the seed came from Tufton, a property once owned by Thomas Jefferson. The fall pods below make a splendid winter show…the seeds are stacked like plates within these shimmering jackets.

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Formosa lily self sows, is easily established and becomes a perennial. Care for seeds?

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Lastly, I must show off my Sakata (a Japanese seed company) Lilliput melons. This year proved to be a banner year, despite fungal issues on the leaves.  These personal-sized melons take their time, yet I eat half of one per day now and smile with every juicy bite. I will spare you the image of the silly looking chicken wire circled melon patch. Hopefully I will harvest melons up to frost. Thanks to P. Allen Smith for the trip and the seeds. www.pallensmith.com

As a steamy Virginia summer wanes, this was a decent growing season, despite my weekly grumbling whenever I headed out to mow turf, or pulled relentless weeds, or captured those Blister Beetles and Red Velvet Ants (AKA cow killer, ouch!).

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Charlottesville, yes Charlottesville, Virginia, USA is my town, population 150 thousand (town and county), and both she and her residents are resilient, despite recent controversy, hostility, loss of life, and world-wide news coverage. Fortunately, I find sanctuary here at Swallowtail Cottage, merely eight miles from town.

Which reminds me:
The enduring wonders of nature assure me that peace is found when I take notice. Many years ago I coined a phrase:

there is a fine line between order and chaos.

May you all be safe in the world, walk that fine line, and take notice of beauty while feeling her embrace.

Copyright © 2017 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

 

porch envy

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Summers are hot and sticky here in the south, yet these images help me dream of a caress from a slight breeze, the whirring sound of hummingbirds, distant calls of barking tree frogs, while tall drinks with chunks of ice quench the thirst. Scroll through these designs…which ones are your faves?

 

 

Posted from a hot and humid morning in central VA.

 

timing is everything

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Peony season ended yesterday with the last stems going home with market shoppers. Over 700 stems were harvested this year, despite crazy spring temperature swings.

2015 Peony city market May

abundant peony harvest 2017

I thought every blueberry flower was frozen during a late March freeze and I fully expected a ruined harvest. Behold, a few weeks ago fruit formed and swelled although I rarely saw a pollinator.

So begins another harvest challenge..wild birds appear to be especially hungry this spring and despite my efforts to foil winged and four-footed marauders, I regularly notice clever catbirds, robins, and one blasted squirrel climbing under the tulle, metallic ribbon, and whirligigs. “Ha!”they say. “On berries we will gorge!”

O'Neil blueberries

O’Neil blueberries beginning to ripen

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Despite tulle, mylar ribbon, whirligigs, and a fake snake, the wild visitors snack

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This image of a resident female American Robin collecting nesting material reminds me to be thankful for my arms, hands and fingers. Robins engineer elaborate nests cemented together with mud…all carried in their mandible.

Now I will share images of what’s blooming here at Swallowtail Cottage this month.

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A clever newbie to my garden nectars upside down on the Red Hot Pokers. I think it is an Northern “Baltimore” Oriole or a Rufous-sided Towhee. Can you identify?

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Another newbie to my gardens…Apricot Fudge lily…much showier the second season. No scent, and oddly shaped…what do you think?

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Ahh, the persnickety Foxtail lily…an underperformer added two seasons ago. Five bulbs were planted. One died this spring and only two others bloomed. Not enough bang for the buck…Does anyone know the secret to growing this beauty?

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The patch of rescued iris has tripled in just three years and is awesome early on.  Despite my efforts, this patch is now riddled with fungus and I am not sure if I will be forced to remove all of them. Any suggestions?

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This mass of flower power is on top of my cattle panel arbor over one raised bed. I am told they are fragrant, yet being on top, they are out of whiff range. As the prolific climber continues its path over the top of the arbor, I will sniff when flowers are within range. This is a Huldine clematis planted two years ago. Second season is impressive, yes? And I read it will bloom twice per season. Yeah!

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This is the cluster of flowers from one bulb found in the grocery store (set of three) called a Mediterranean Lily. All three bulbs have produced a sturdy 36″ stem every year for the past three, and these flowers last for weeks when cut. They remind me of a chandelier.

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And this is the Fake Snake who scares no birds away from my blueberries…when soaked the package states it will grow to 48″. Despite heavy rains since installed, this Fake only writhes and swells in bizarre places.

Oh those blueberries!

Therefore my 2017 hopes of blueberry bounty are dashed…this photo was taken a few years back when times were different. Yes, timing is everything…

Here at Swallowtail Cottage, in zone 7a, the first nesting season is now complete for the Carolina chickadees, Eastern bluebirds, and Northern cardinals. The three-week old cardinal chicks have found my feeders and entertain me with their antics. Sadly, one cardinal chick appears to have wing issues end I think it cannot fly. I shall monitor the situation as it visits the feeders and will contact the Wildlife Sanctuary for advice.

I regularly chase off the Brewer’s Blackbirds, cowbirds, and jays who invade my feeders and terrorize the new resident chicks. Tufted titmice continue their quiet routines, one Ruby-throated hummer visits the feeder frequently, House and Goldfinches continue to annoy me, Carolina Wrens are scarce, Brown Thrashers are beautiful and elegant, the occasional Chipping Sparrow makes an appearance, and my beloved Red bellied woodpeckers astound and delight. I envy their ability to fly, yet rejoice in the fact that I have arms, hands and fingers…

Happy and bountiful spring to your, my followers. I always enjoy hearing from you.

Diane

PS. WordPress just informed me that this is my 200th post. Shall I continue or retire?

Copyright © 2017 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

pies and peonies

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Saturday’s market began as a quiet, misty morning. Following many days of rain, the variation was agreeable. Being Mother’s Day weekend, I took many pies and buckets of fragrant peonies, conditioned all week-long for prime time.

Early sales were unremarkable and I was beginning to fret. Then a high school friend of my older sister and trusted real estate broker in this area arrived to collect the KLpie and peonies I reserved for her as a gift. After battling breast cancer, endless chemo, and reconstruction in the past three years, her cancer has returned with a vengeance and she told me in a phone conversation that she is terminal. This morning her walk was strong, her eyes bright, and she greeted me with a warm hug and a joke about the side effects of medical marijuana. That was an emotional visit. She is the mainstay of her large family and will be greatly missed by family, young grandchildren who will never know her sense of humor, and all who know her.

Later I noticed a couple who I recognized from television. I have never seen them at market before. They were the parents of a Virginia Tech student who was brutally murdered after a UVA concert in 2009. When the remains were finally discovered in a field south of town, the family had closure, yet the mother has never stopped petitioning for her foundation Save the Next Girl. Today the mother was dressed head to toe in black and looked so profoundly sad. When they passed me for the second time, I reached for my clippers and trimmed a few of my prettiest peonies and caught up to her. Not knowing what I would say, all that came out was, “we have never met…” and I choked up, gave her a hug and walked away, but not before she said, “God bless you.”

Returning to my booth with tears in my eyes, I quickly spotted the owner of the restaurant where I sell my KLpies. He was with his new wife and their one month old daughter, who slept snugly at her breast. He is a big fan of my pimento cheese and came for another tub. Why he did not spring for a sleeve of my beautiful peonies, I do not know. After they walked off, I grabbed another bunch of my peonies and caught up with them. She was delighted and he seemed touched too.

Back at my booth again, a three generation family arrived asking details about my KLpie. Following my spiel and their purchase, I noticed the rather frail elder in the group was clearly disengaged. I pulled out a pretty single flower and walked to her and said, “happy mother’s day!” Her face lit up, she nearly blushed, and the entire family grinned from ear to ear.

I ended this day of intense sales of pies and peonies at noon. In fact, when I later counted my till, this was the largest grossing day in my entire seventeen years at City Market! And I cannot remember a more emotional one.

Simple gestures reap great rewards and today I was reminded of this rule. I recuperate with a warm heart and hope that my gardening and kitchen efforts made a small difference in the lives of those who I encountered.

I am blessed to know health, the simplicity of routine choices, and delight in greeting the wild birds who have sanctuary in my gardens.

The Best Key Lime Pie on the Planet 2009

2015 Peony city market May

Copyright © 2017 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

words cross centuries

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“I never had any other desire so strong, and so like to covetousness, as that one which I have had always, that I might be master at last of a small house and a large garden.”

– Abraham Cowley, 1618-1667, English poet

step by step

Copyright © 2017 By Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

April brings flowers and…chores!

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If you are a homeowner, April not only brings spring flowers, but lots of chores…check out this link below…just click the photo:

 

Yesterday was the second time I mowed this month…and edged, and weeded.  Sadly, it appears that I will be fighting wild violets again this year in the turf…Boo! Although violets (not the edible violas or Johnny Jump Ups) are pretty, they will spread rampantly and kill all turf in its path. I learned the hard way…last season. I am not a fan of turf, yet since I own 3000SF, it must be cared for. Since the use of chemicals is taboo here, one must be extra clever to stay ahead of undesirables that blow in and take root.

idea for rear turf garden 2015

I dream that my gardens and turf look like this, yet alas.

My neighbor’s field is awash with wild violets and the explosion of seeds manages to permeate my stand of thick cypress trees and attempts to conquer my tidy gardens. Last year I resorted to drastic steps. Did this fix the problem? One stroll into the turf last week, showed a healthy stand of the dastardly plants…all abloom and happy. Oh how lawn care products lie!

Three years ago, I nicknamed my house “the needy box.” This month marks sixteen years here (where does the time go??) and always, always, there is something to do. Can one actually divorce one’s home? IF so, I want one…a divorce.

IF I continue to stay, most of my major improvements since 2001 will need a redo beginning in six years. I admit, I am not ready, willing, nor is my pocketbook. “I ain’t in love,” as some country song wails. With real estate currently a seller’s market, I regularly fantasize about moving, even catch myself steering the car into new parts of the county…looking for eureka! Yet the dilemma remains…where to? Little real estate remains affordable in the US (under 300K), and regional taxes or health care deficits can take a bite out of the relocation dream.

When I shop for converted warehouses around the country, they are there. But who wants to live in the snow belt? If the warehouses here in my area are ever converted, they will become, as most other real estate here, half-million dollar abodes.

So for now, I remain on my little half-acre, not far from town, where birds, flowers, quiet, and sunshine are regulars. Deep in my soul, I wish for continued inspiration and stamina. Today, the growing season begins again…in central Virginia, zone 7a.

Let it be gentle.

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A rare daffodil in my gardens…Thalia

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This is Honeymoon, a fringed tulip which customers fight over at market

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And this is a newbie to my gardens…Akebono, a Japanese double tulip. I had high hopes for this beauty, yet the stems don’t seem to support the peony-like blooms.

So I am off to open closets, vacuum velvet and linen draperies, wash cabinets, and polish silver whilst thinking of Cinderella when she “…wakes to find sunshine bright and all the meadows white…”

What does spring look like in your part of the world?

Copyright © 2017 By Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

Kudos, followers

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I see from my stats that my followers are reading through the thing about challenge…great! Remember to click “older posts” too as there are about a dozen thing posts…

Now that we are on the cusp of spring, I submit another blog post regarding how to shop farmer’s markets…enjoy! Mining older posts are a good thing, right?

https://dianelasauce.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/how-to-shop-at-your-local-farmers-market/

Posted early on Sunday, or it was early before the time changed…who likes time change???

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This tulip is called Honeymoon. Pretty fabulous, yes?