Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bluebird Fledgling's

My bluebirds fledged a few weeks ago but until a few days ago I didn't know if it was successful or not. I tried to watch where the parents went, but didn't spot the babies anywhere. Finally at the end of last week I was sure I saw one and today I saw two of them. There were 6 eggs in the nestbox so I hope there are more, but I'm so excited to have a few make it.

I spotted one sitting on a feeder this morning and.......

another one up on the roof.

I hurried out with some mealworms and sat back and waited. Sure enough, they showed up and started feeding their young.

It looks like the males do most of the feeding, but in the females defense I think she is busy building another nest in the same box. So hopefully there will be another nesting.

Any left for me?

So much fun to watch!!!

Friday, May 25, 2012

I've got the Blues

Blue flowers that is.

Blue flowers are some of the most highly sought-after flowers in the garden and it certainly is one of my favorite colors. Although a lot of flowers are labeled "blue"  what I call true blue is a relatively rare color.
Here are some of my favorite blues. I'll cheat a little and include a few of the purple-blue flowers too.

Blue Flax

Blue Flax is a lovely, airy plant with blue-green foliage and true sky blue flowers. Buds open shortly after sunrise and last just part of the day depending on how sunny the day is. Each bloom lasts only a day but the plant is loaded with new buds for the next day.



Another gorgeous blue flower is Nigella.....
aka as "Love-in-a-Mist"

Nigella is an annual that self seeds and blooms in varying shades of light blue to a darker periwinkle color.. The plant has lacey fern-like foliage and a unique mist of fennel-like bracts surrounding the flower.

Bluestar Amsonia
A rather uncommon perennial, Amsonia has powdery ice blue star-shaped flowers that bloom in clusters on tall stems. This plant takes full sun to part shade and turns a beautiful golden yellow in the fall. A very low maintenance plant it deserves a place in my garden.

Veronica Georgia Blue
This is a great ground cover or edging plant. It forms a nice mat and doesn't get invasive or out of control. The flowers are a beautiful cobolt blue and resemble Forget-Me Nots. This ground cover does a good job of blocking out weeds and does well in hot, dry conditions. Also pretty in containers.

Veronica "Crater Lake Blue"
I love the intense blue color of this plant but bloom time is very short. Most Veronica's prefer full sun but will tolerate a little shade.

Siberian Iris
A more purple blue flower but it has a blue center so I'll include it here.

Baptisia Australis
Or more commonly known as Blue False Indigo, is a standout because of it's striking blue colors. It's a member of the pea family as you can see by the resemblance of it's foliage and flowers. It takes a few years for this plant to get established and start blooming but it's worth the wait. Blooms are followed by 2-3 inch long black seed pods giving this plant another interesting element.
Do you have a favorite blue flower?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cades Cove Part 2

A few weeks ago I did a post on our favorite place to visit in the Smoky Mountains focusing on the historical buildings preserved in Cades Cove. In this post I will show some of the scenery in the cove.
The best time to drive through the cove in my opinion is early morning or evening, two or three hours before dusk. We give ourselves plenty of time because we stop here and there just to soak in the beauty.
Something we have not done is horseback riding but there is a stable here if you like to ride.
An excellent way to see the Cove is to bike the eleven mile loop. Bring your own or I think they can still be rented there. The best time to do that is Wednesday or Saturday morning May-September, they close the road for vehicular traffic until 10:30. That gives bikers the road to themselves for a few hours. One time we did this we counted 100 deer, after that it was just like yeah, there's another one.

I love the low-hanging clouds that envelop the mountains after the rain has passed.....

and the early morning fog that lingers in the valleys.

Foggy Morning on Hyatt Lane

Dawn in the Cove

Judging by this Coyote's behavior, he's been fed. Feeding animals in the Cove or anywhere in the Park is illegal and can result in a fine of $5,000!! It's sad but a lot of animals that are fed eventually end up being moved from the park or euthanized because they lose their fear of humans.

We see bears frequently in the Cove, but I still have not been able to capture a great photo. It's always too far away, too dark, hidden in tall grass or up in a tree. Plus whenever there is a bear, it creates such a jam of traffic by the time we are able to get to where the bear was, it's gone. Nevertheless, It's always exciting to catch a glimpse of one. The most we ever saw in one night is twelve.

Why did the turkey cross the road?

This picture and the next few are taken at our favorite scenic pulloff in the cove. Wouldn't you just love to have a cabin right here? I would!!

 I'll take these rustic split rail fences any day over barbed wire.

Abram Falls
A five mile round-trip hike leads to Abram Falls, named after Cherokee Chief Abraham who's village once stood several miles downstream.

Cades Cove Sunset

My next Smoky Mountain post will be our hike to Gregory Bald to see the Azaleas.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A few favorite Hostas

Hostas have become my favorite perennial in my shade gardens. They come in many colors, sizes and variations and are very easy to grow and maintain.  If there is one con about hostas it would be that the deer and slugs love them as much as I do:(
I think they are especially beauitful after a rainfall so after the rain today I took a stroll through my garden and thought I'd share some of my favorites with you.

First Frost
Every year the AHGA (American Hosta Growers Association) select a hosta as "Hosta of the Year".  Plants awarded HOTY are not necessarily the latest or the greatest hostas, but are chosen more for their performance and availability in all areas where hostas are grown.
 First Frost has blue-green leaves with a yellow margin that fade to white by summer and was added to my garden last year.
First Frost was named the 2010 HOTY.

It's hard to pick a favorite hosta but June comes as close as possible. June has blue-green margins with chartreuse centers. The centers will turn white if it gets too much sun, so keep it in shade. This hosta stays small and compact, so it's perfect for a shady border or edging. HOTY in 2001.

HOTY 2000. Sagae has large heart-shaped leaves with wavy edges and prominent veins. This hosta has bright green leaves with a gold margin but later the leaves will turn to a frosty, silvery-gray-green with white margins. Another beautiful hosta!!

Paul's Glory
Center leaf is yellow in spring, white in summer with a blue-green margin. This was HOTY 1999.

The leaves on Paul's Glory are just starting to develop a seer-sucker texture which gets more prominent as the summer goes by. 

Zounds has beautiful gold foliage and really brightens up a dark spot in the shade garden. Zounds is one of the last hostas to emerge in the spring and is a very slow grower. I have had this one for at least 5 or 6 years and it's barely grown. I did move it to this spot last year because it wasn't doing good where I had it, and I do think it looks better this year.
Heavily puckered  heart-shaped leaves provides texture and contrast to other plants. 

Striptease has  unique coloration with it's dark green leaves and chartreuse center, and has a distinctive white stripe between the center and the margin. This is another great hosta and was named HOTY 2005. This was a new hosta in my garden last year.

Abiqua Drinking Gourd
This hosta has gorgeous blue-green  foliage and is one of the more unusual hostas I have. The leaves are cupped upward and actually hold small pools of water after a rain...hence the name.

The thick puckered  leaves on this one makes it slug resistant. The thicker and heavier the leaf, the less appealing they are to slugs.

Christmas Tree
This hosta is one of the fastest growers and one of the oldest hostas in my garden. I divided this one a few years ago when I thought it was getting too big, but now I prefer to just let them grow and only divide if I want another plant.

Spilt Milk
This is new to my garden this year and has unique coloration with blue-green leaves that are streaked and speckled throughout the leaf. I think the spilt milk effect will get more prominent as the plant gets bigger.

Well.... that was more than a few hostas but it's hard to choose, and I have to include one more here in my favorites.

Blue Mouse Ears
Blue Mouse Ears is a charming little hosta and was HOTY 2008. It has thick blue-green rounded leaves and it's slug resistant.

Miniature hostas work great in rock gardens, containers or fairy gardens. Surrounding them with rocks in the garden draws your eyes to them as they tend to get "lost in the crowd".
In the future I want to add more miniature hostas to my collection. I think they are just adorable.