Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Well, after a bitterly cold weekend, and a Monday with low humidity, a front moved in last night. And it brought enough moisture with it that threatened flurries turned into a dusting. And more points further north. I'm just happy it fell as snow and not ice. Ice bad.

I'm trying to prioritize the remainder of the garden. Money's about to get tight and I'm taking a vacation with my mom in May, which mean time is going to be tight. Something's gotta give, and it's bound to be my container gardening. A week without watering on an extremely sunny deck is a bad thing. They will be fried.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Spring Stirrings

Impulses are moving right along. Nelumbo in her blog The Garden Blog (of a gal growing Southern) has wonderful scientific rational to plant all those different varieties of the same flower. The entry talks about how insects see different segments of the rainbow and what is wonderful for some is the bane of others.

This weekend, I also got a belated birthday present. Attracting Butterflies and Hummingbirds to Your Backyard. I'm having lots of fun reading it!

And, there seems to be a flower bud on my Hibiscus. Whee! This would make the first time it's bloomed since I moved to Maryland.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Crazy Weather

So, yesterday morning, there was one last patch of snow in my yard, which was barely enough to fill a pint of Ben and Jerry's. Then, sometime after I got to work, snow squawls moved in. Made a mess of the morning rush hour. By the time I got home, I had to shovel slush off of my sidewalks. I was fearing a freeze. I didn't need to worry. It stayed warm all night. With a really low dew point. The slush is disappearing and making fog. A really dense fog that will stick around till after the morning rush. >_< And all they were predicting was a chance at flurries and drizzle. ARGH!

Then again, I might be miffed because this weather makes my sinuses go crazy, on top of this mild stomach bug I've got. :/

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Birding Glare

Over the weekend, I discovered that it really needs to be an overcast day to properly birdwatch. Oh, I can see birds in full sun, but the colors are so washed out, that they are hard to identify. Even the blue jays. It might be easier when the leaves are on the trees, but I somehow doubt it. That's full sun exposure back there. Saturday was a beautifully overcast day, so I was able to spend hours peering at the birds. Sunday with it's harsh sun, hurt my eyes.

I also notice that the birds aren't eating all the seed of late. They're leaving some of the thistle seed till the next day. Which is decidedly odd. Maybe the neighbor is putting more seed out.

Or maybe it's a good idea that I made a mistake at the grocery store last night. Tomorrow I'll run out of seed again, so I picked up a 7 pound bag. But I wasn't paying attention, this is the mix with guarenteed 60% sunflower seeds. Maybe the birds will like this better.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

GBBC Update 2


Two chickadees.

Confirmed the titmouse, there might have been two.

A second woodpecker that wouldn't sit still so I could see his head.

A third woodpecker, either a downy or a hairy woodpecker.

Two more doves (up to 5).

Sunday:(birds of note)
7 grackles

1 hawk in a tree

Saturday, February 18, 2006

GBBC Update

A second male cardinal has been spotted.

The third mourning dove put in an appearance.

And the woodpecker is a red-bellied woodpecker.

Loads of house sparrows,

The Great Backyard Bird Count

Well, this weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count. I'm not a good bird identifier, but I thought I'd take a peep. The bird seed was put out last night, so I wouldn't disturb the birds when I woke. It was a little rough going, since the hawks in the park have been enjoying the thermals the past couple days. There were at least two of them circling today. It keeps the little birds in the trees at the back, instead of at the feeders. But then again, my binoculars can focus on the trees, and not on the deck.

The excitement, the blue jays ran off 4 "black" birds, probably grackles. I spotted the little junco clown from December's snows, and his buddy. There has been this "tiny fairy-like chick-a-dee" type bird I've been seeing the past week was. I got a good look and he was blue! What was also cool, was 4 female cardinals in my yard at once, three of them on my deck! The one on the bird feeder was defending her "territory"! I spotted a robin in the trees! They stick around and don't migrate, but they become secretive berry feeders in winter.


resident flock of 20-40 assorted sparrows
2 hawks (type unknown)
4 grackles (?)
4 female cardinals and just 1 male
resident flock of 6-12 blue jays
1 red breasted robin
2 juncos
1 male blue type bird
2 of the 3 resident doves
1 woodpecker that didn't stick around long enough to get seen through the binoculars and identified. Red on head.
possible titmouse sighting, but he wouldn't stick around for the binoculars either

I also need to get a stepstool for the bathroom. The bathroom overlooking the backyard has curtains that just go across the middle, so I generally peep out there. But it's just a little too high, so I end up standing on tiptoes the entire time. This isn't a bad thing for a minute or two, but I spent a lot longer than that this morning. I'm trying to walk out foot cramps now.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Yo-Yo February

Yesterday, the high temperature was 65. Overnight, the temperature was 56. I could really get used to that. All the snow in my yard is melted, except for the piles created by shoveling out my car, but they'll be gone by the time I get home. There was a nice friendly wind this morning, heralding the arrival of thunderstorms in the metro area later. Unfortunately, after hitting the 60s again this morning, that system is going to plunge temperatures into the 40s this afternoon, continuing down into the 30s by tonight. This weekend is going to be cold again. *sigh* Why can't it stay warm?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


One of the nice things about my new neighborhood is that I can see the stars at night. Aa anyone who has had to deal with the orange glow of city light pollution will tell you, that is a very special thing. I'm not sure why it is that dramatically different than 5 miles away at the old place, where I was lucky to see Orion if it was very clear. But it is. No nasty orange glow. Maybe the state park filters out the worst of it. All I know, is that I have a beautiful night's sky to watch.

Which of course sends one scurrying for a sky map. All of these "new" constellations to identify and even if you do remember those, there are the planets to identify! Your Sky has great sky maps. It customizes the maps for location and time. Which certainly helps with setting and rising stars. And if you don't know your longitude and latitude and happen to live close enough to a city, it will let you pick a nearby city to search under.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Hold the Salt, Please

After cleaning the car, there was a little late falling snow, which didn't do much more than ice up everything. But which really had me thinking maybe I should have treated the sidewalk. But it is so hard to find a de-icing product that is garden and environment safe.

The standard product, rock salt/sodium chloride, is very harsh and corrosive. But it's hard to find products that don't use it. Experts recommend products composed of potassium, magnesium and/or calcium chloride. However, they do put quite a dent in the old wallet, even if you supposedly use less of them. And a lot of supposed "alternative products" are really rock salt in expensive packaging. Which means that you have to be very careful to read the fine print. The general rule of thumb is 90% alternative, and just 10% rock salt, since you can't seems to escape the bugger.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Lincoln's Snow Storm

So, I've gotten my exercise for the day. We had about 6-7 inches of wet snow. I'm not quite sure about the amount, though. I didn't get out to measure it until later in the afternoon, and there had already been a significant amount of melting. A friend of mine was nice enough to come over and shovel the worst of my walks. That just left digging out my car. Which was a lot of work. Six inches of wet snow is a lot to move. But fortunately, the snow plow didn't bury my car.

But it was a good packing snow. Not that there will be many snow sculptures around. Temperatures were on the warm side this afternoon, and a good strong sun. There has been a lot of melting going on. The roads are completely clear. So, aside from ice tomorrow morning, this snow won't really impact the commute. Yippee!

We also had some ultra rare thundersnow last night. I was up at some ungodly hour of the night and saw the lightning flashes.

Oh, and happy 100th post!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

What Crazy Scheduling!

So, here we are at the beginning of the big snow storm, snow is already starting to fall, but not really laying yet. And there is a commotion out front. It's the guys to fix the siding! Sheesh. And they didn't bring a big enough ladder! So, they had to climb onto my porch roof, then haul the ladder up there, then have one of them sit in the window and hold the ladder. *rolls eyes*

But it's all fixed. Still, deciding to come out on a day when the blizzard is coming is a crazy time to pick to do it!

Friday, February 10, 2006

v. Autumnalis

All around the DC Metro area, there have been cherry blossom sightings for the past couple weeks. Which, to a region in love with our Spring Cherry Blossom Festival, this was a troubling sign. Doubly so to gardeners who know what cold does to plants that start early, only to get hit by a late cold snap. Very troubling.

Fortunately, the National Park Service took the time to explain. The cherry trees that we're seeing blossoms on are a variety called prunus subhirtell var. autumnalis. This is not the Yoshino cherry trees lining the Tidal Basin which attract so many visitors. Autumnalis is a species that always begins to bloom before the others. In fact, according to the NPS website "[d]uring warm periods in the fall and early winter, they will open sporadically and then fully flow the following spring."

Further more, the National Park Service goes on to state that National Capital Region Chief Horticulturist is checking on the cherry trees at the Tidal Basin daily. And he reports that no cherry blossom buds are in any of the five stages of bud development. Whew. I was worried there for awhile.

But then again, the snowfall forecast keeps inching up the totals. As of this morning 4-7". Ugh.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Early Bloomers

Well, with vague threats of snow being issued for Saturday, I finally got out and photographed my early blooming plants.

This is the unidentified evergreen shrub by my shed. There's another one that is also blooming, but I couldn't get decent pictures due to the light.

And I have three areas of spring bulbs popping up! Two out front. One is by the front step under the holly bush.

The other out front is at the down spout near the neighbor's house. This is on the other side of the rhodedendrons.

In the back, around the corner from the flowering evergreens, the last patch of bulbs is popping up. I'm glad I was lazy last fall in preparing this patch of ground. I was going to turn it over. That would have been bad!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful...

Well, maybe not that frightful, the forecast is calling a chance of flurries a long shot. But it is frigid out there. With the windchill, they are talking temperatures in the teens. Brrr, quite a change from last week's 60s.

The temperature change can be best described by what happened with my birdseed plate. My feeder consists of a cheep plate that I pour birdseed in. Sunday, I was lazy and just threw bread crumbs on the deck, so when I went out to refill it Monday morning, the rain from Saturday was frozen solid. So, since I can't put anything in an iced over plate, I turned the plate upside down, while spreading the seed directly on the deck. I figured with highs in the 40s and the amount of sun the back deck gets, all would be de-iced. But no, this morning, I found a mound of ice beneath the plate. Fortunately, enough melting had occurred that the ice was not stuck to the place. But still, that's chilly!

Oh, and when I got back from class last night, I found my new West County gloves waiting for me. They worked! On the drive into work this morning, I wasn't trying to warm my hands up at every traffic light! Gah, I need better circulation.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Pine Boughs

Saturday I started to cut down my Christmas tree. I realize it's a bit late, but the tree is still green and drinking water. And it's a nice tree, so I like having it around. But mindful of the fact that cut trees don't last forever, I started removing bits and pieces. The cut pieces went into the turtle aquarium. Something fresh and green and nice smelling. Zeppe really likes the branches. He actually came out of his little house and "dug" into the branches.

I'm about to start some nasturtium seeds. I lost a plant out of the turtle aquarium, and I figure instead of buying another little foliage plant, I'll see if I can grow some nasturtium in that pot. The problem with plants in there is that they always get torn up.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Cattail Fluff

Yesterday was beautiful after the morning rain let up. 60s in February. So wonderful. And in the bright afternoon sun, the air was filled with cattail fluff. There is a retention pond near the parking lot at work, and it is clogged with cattails. And yesterday they were sending their seeds into the air. Really nice.

Today is reain, rain, and rain. It is even supposed to get cool enough at some point to mix in a few flakes, but they won't stay. Well, except up in the mountains.

I keep forgetting to mention that last Sunday I potted up some snake plant cuttings. These are definitely going to my brother this time. Then again, I said that about the other cutting I rooted.

I need to get out with a camera tomorrow and take pictures of the flower bushes and the spring bulbs. And maybe some pictures of the siding. That still isn't fixed. :/

Friday, February 03, 2006


So, I've been surfing the seed catalogs trying to decide on a variety of sunflower to buy for my garden. I finally got to the point where I was reading descriptions, when horror of horrors, I find that most of the varieties are "pollenless"! I had to blink at that one. Why would anyone want pollenless sunflowers? I certainly don't. I want to feed butterflies and bees. And I also want to feed the birds, would they actually produce seeds?

So, I hopped on the internet and found a good article about sunflowers. Basically, "pollenless" sunflowers were developed for the cut flower industry. The pollen of the sunflower is very messy and stains everything, which is detrimental to a cut flower. And as feared, the seeds are very small or non-exsistant.

Which means that pollenless sunflowers are worthless to me. Unfortunately, they are some of the prettiest on the market. Bah.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Spring Bulbs

Given the state of the garden when I was doing my fall clean-up, I had decided that there were no spring bulbs. After all, there was no foliage that matched. And it certainly didn't appear that the pervious occupant did any gardening clean up. And since I was still waiting to see the color of the rhodendrons before planting flowers out front, I didn't poke any in.

So, imagine my surprise when I noticed some strange green shoots sticking up under my holly bush when getting the mail yesterday. My first guess would be daffodils. Other than that, it could be anything. It's still early and there are no buds on the plants yet. But I guess I'll have spring bulb pictures soon!

Edit: Ewwww, maybe I won't have spring bulb pictures if they take too long. Looks like regardless of what Phil will say, winter is going to show up in the next six weeks. :(

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Native Flowers

I admit that I'm not the best person when it comes to native plants. I've got plans for the the stereotypical pansies and petunias and maybe some marigolds. I'm a big fan of lantana, which is a giant garden pest in a lot of regions, but thankfully, it doesn't really like the snow, so I don't worry about it getting out of hand. Even my plants that I'm putting in for the benefit of butterflies are not from the region. I've got designer snapdragons and even my asclepias that I'm buying is the butterfly weed, which is more from the prairies than Maryland. Same with the beebalm.

To be honest, I'm just tickled pink that I don't have to get myself killed stopping the car on a busy exit ramp to harvest the few milkweed pods I can find growing in the wild, but can rather buy "designer" butterfly weed from the big seed catalogs. But really, isn't that what we should be doing? Instead of buying exotic petunias from Italian breeders, shouldn't we be buying the few "native" varieties that the plant industry actually does put out?