Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Easiest Winter Containers

Does it seem like this time of year gets busier and busier every year?  Maybe it's the age my kids are now, but life keeps getting busier and free time is getting harder to find.  We haven't decorated as much for the holidays this year, but I did make time to hang a wreath on the door and decorate my two whiskey barrel containers for winter.

easy winter container
The last couple of years I've streamlined the process, and it takes me less than an hour to get my two winter containers all done (minus acquiring any store-bought material).  First I gather my materials.  A local nursery sells a big bunch of mixed greens for a good price, so I get one of those to combine with white pine that I clip from our yard.

I used to spray paint branches to put in my winter containers.  Then I found out about curly ting.  This stuff can be found in any arts and crafts store, it's cheap, it comes in all sorts of colors, and it adds SPARKLE! This year I used red ting and gold curly ting.

curly ting
Last but not least, I threw a few ornaments on some wire floral picks for some more added SPARKLE - though thankfully I could reuse most of them from the previous year, making things that much easier.  I attach the ornaments onto the wire, and then push the green pick part into the dirt in my container to secure the ornaments.  (You could just as easily use something else to attach ornaments in a container, but I happen to already have floral picks.)

floral picks
Assembly was quick and easy!  I pulled out the dead or dying summer/fall stuff that I had in the containers and loosened the soil.  I stuck the branches of greens in the dirt, working from large branches to the smaller stuff.  Then I added the curly ting and ornaments.

Viola!  If I had had more time, I might have added some ribbon or something else, but I was pretty happy with this.  Some people will then water their arrangements, but I was lazy fortunate and could wait for the next day's rain.  Then when temperatures dropped, everything froze in place for the winter.

Now my yard looks ready for Christmas, and I'll have pretty containers that will last throughout the winter.  As we know, the winter season up here in the North is quite long, thus it's very, very important to put together pretty winter containers that one can enjoy for the next several months.  

Or... maybe I should start on my indoor decorations...

Happy decorating!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

New Garden Visitors

It's always exciting to see new birds at the feeder.  This year I was lucky enough to have three varieties that I had rarely even seen before here in the garden!

male Rose-breasted Grosbeak
I had only seen a Rose-breasted Grosbeak once before this year, stopping by the bird feeder one autumn on its way down to Central or South America for the winter.  This beautiful fellow, however, spent all summer here this year.

A female Rose-breasted Grosbeak also frequented my bird-feeder this summer, so I assume they were nesting nearby.

female Rose-breasted Grosbeak
I didn't spot any babies, but young Grosbeaks look so much like their mother that it is often hard to tell the difference.

In September, I had another new visitor to my bird-feeder: a Baltimore Oriole.  I believe this was a female, though immature males oftentimes look similar.  Isn't she gorgeous?

Baltimore Oriole
Orioles have always lived and nested nearby, but I rarely see them down from the tree tops.  My previous attempts to tempt them with jelly and fruit all failed, and this is the first time one has ever checked out my bird-feeder... 

...though since I never saw her there again, it might also have been the last.  I might try the jelly feeder again sometime, as they are such stunning birds.

The last new visitor to the garden stopped by my porch one rainy October day.

Eastern Phoebe
Probably sheltering from the rain, this Eastern Phoebe hung out here for a bit.  Even though I knew they were in the area, I had never seen one in my garden before.  It didn't go for the bird-feeder, but it did find something it liked!

Eastern Phoebes aren't known for visiting feeders, but they often nest near humans, building their nests under eaves or porches.  Maybe I'll spot more next summer?

It was so great to see some new feathered friends in the garden this year.  Here's hoping that some of them come back!

As always, happy gardening.
And for those of you in the States,
may you and your families have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Still Open for Business

While today's big storm is bringing about cooler temperatures (just in time for some frigid trick-or-treating, of course!), for most of October it has been warm and beautiful here.  We have yet to get our first frost.

the front garden, a couple weeks ago
Due to the lack of frost, many pollinators are still out and about.  This late in the season, they will take any sources of food they can get - and, of course, the Red House Garden is still open for business.

Hello?  Any food in here?
My favorite perennial available for pollinators in October is my Willowleaf Sunflower, which gets bigger and better every year.  The blooms are sadly now over, but for much of October it was bee-utiful.

Willowleaf Sunflower
Bees go crazy for native Asters, and I am so glad that the groundhogs and bunnies finally let mine get taller than nubs this year.  Some are still in bloom in the garden.

bee on Aster laevis 'Bluebird'
The Montauk Daisies are also still blooming, though looking a little more ragged by now.

Montauk Daisies
The plant that impressed me most this year, however, was the Sheffield Mums.

Sheffield Mums in the greenhouse garden
Every time a big rainstorm comes, they look like they are out for the count, but they just pop right back up again.  Pollinators love them, and the only wildlife that bothers them is the occasional Cucumber Beetle.

"I get knocked down, but I get up again.  You are never gonna keep me down..."
Along with the late-blooming perennials, my annuals are indispensable to the fall buffet. Self-seeding Cosmos, Nicotiana, and Sweet Alyssum pop up every year in my garden and keep going until frost (or even through light ones, as in the case of the Sweet Alyssum.)

Cosmos 'Picotee'
I might actually have to buy more Cosmos seed for next year, as I didn't get as many this year.  The Verbena bonariensis, on the other hand, outdid itself, coming up everywhere and attracting hordes of butterflies to the garden.

Painted Lady butterfly on Verbena bonariensis
Like many other people around the country, I saw an explosion of Painted Ladies in the garden this year.  It was such a good year for these butterflies that a huge mass of migrating Painted Lady butterflies stretching 100 miles wide over Denver, Colorado, was recently caught on radar!  The befuddled meteorologists had to turn to social media for help to figure out what was going on.

Painted Lady butterfly on Verbena bonariensis
I've also been ecstatic to see so many Monarchs in the garden this year, after years of such dangerously low populations.  Unusually warm temperatures coupled with strong headwinds have resulted in the latest migration ever recorded, and I spotted Monarchs in my garden just a couple days ago.  I do hope they can fly down south in time to hibernate before the cold weather hits!

Monarch butterfly on Verbena bonariensis
The weather is turning colder, and I am sure it will be freezing before we know it.  Until then, we stay open for dining, and all bees, butterflies, and other pollinators are welcome!  Happy gardening as always,

and, for the little guys, bon appétit!

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