Monday, October 31, 2011


Today has been a cold, rainy, dreary day, a fitting end to a dreary month.

October has been a long month.  I haven't been in the garden very much, as there has been a lot of sickness in the family lately.  Thankfully everyone is getting better, except for our four-year-old's beautiful red betta fish, aptly named Fishy, who lost the good fight today.  We buried him in the rain, the grave site marked with a rock.
You can imagine how that went.

Some rain is good, and to a certain extent I think, some struggles in life are good.  Much like a lot of rain makes us appreciate the sun, the hard days make us appreciate the blessings in our life.

The small beauties in life stand out much more against a background of ugliness, just like a small light looks so bright in a field of darkness.

Too much rain can be devastating, and I count my blessings that my family has made it through the torrents that we have experienced in our lives thus far.

After a torrent, we may have emerged a little worn and battered, but we are also hopefully a little stronger, a little wiser, a little more compassionate..

and a little more appreciative of the sun.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Garden Fun Friday - Part of a Whole

Happy Garden Fun Friday!  I think it's a good time for some online garden fun here in North Carolina, as it is looking quite cold and rainy outside.  If you have any gardening fun going on today on your own blog, feel free to join in by putting the link to your blog post in the comments!

On to today's gardening fun:
Can you guess the garden critter from the part pictured? 

(p.s. To give you fair warning, picture #6 might not be for the faint of heart.)







Do you think you knew them all? 
 Here are the answers:

Monarch Butterfly
Damselfly (partial credit if you said Dragonfly)
Buckeye Butterfly (partial credit if you knew it was a butterfly, but didn't know what kind)
(Remember, I warned you..)
(Extra credit to whoever can identify the spider - I'm thinking Argiope Spider, a common orb spider, but I'm don't know my spiders very well...)

 How did you do?  Did anyone get all of them?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stretching to Fill the Frame - a Photography Lesson

What I don't know about photography could be the subject of many books, I'm sure.  Blogging, however, has given me an unexpected interest in the art of photography.  I have really enjoyed exploring a whole new world that the camera can capture. 

Saxon Holt over at Gardening Gone Wild has challenged us to concentrate on 'filling the frame' this month.  His photography lesson has given me much to think about, and several lessons have hit home with this challenge.  Taking pictures with more awareness of what exactly you want in the frame make for much better photos (and much less cropping!)

In looking over my pictures for a suitable photo for the photo challenge, the first lesson that was brought home was that I should be more patient.  (Isn't that a lesson we always need to learn?) I was dismayed to see how many photos I had that were not focused well.  Sometimes it was due to not having the right lens, but many times it was due to my tendency to just click away without really taking my time.  

Another pointer Saxon Holt talked about is using negative space to help frame a picture.  This was very interesting, as I had never even thought about negative space before.

The ultimate lesson was, however, to let the frame tell the story that you want to convey and only that story.  A picture is worth a thousand words, after all.  Which brings me to my entry in the 'Fill the Frame' photo contest.  This next picture is my story of transitioning from the end of a beautiful summer into the beginning of a glorious fall.  Hopefully, the photo says it all.

Monday, October 24, 2011

An Autumn Walk

For the past couple weeks, Carolyn of This Grandmother's Garden has challenged us to get outside and go for autumn walks in our area.

Unfortunately, I actually got outside much less than normal the last couple of weeks, as everyone at the Red House has been under the weather.   However, here are a few photos from when I was able to get out and enjoy the beautiful fall days.

Some leaves have started to turn, but it is actually still quite warm here in North Carolina.  There is a nice trail through a wooded area nearby, and I was struck not by the fall foliage, but by the amount of wildflowers still blooming.

A pretty white wildflower is in bloom.  Does anyone know the name of it?  Closer inspection showed that it is composed of little white tufts.

There are still wild asters, goldenrod, and what I think are coreopsis in bloom along the trail.

Walking through the Red House garden, I was delighted to see that my roses have put on a fall display.

Rosa 'Souvenir de la Malmaison'
The butterfly bushes are still going strong as well, attracting the passing Monarchs.

Monarch butterfly on Buddleia 'Santana'
The clematis are basking in the warm weather and keep sending out more buds.

Clematis 'Jackmanii'
We are definitely enjoying the lingering warm weather.  
Before too long, colder weather will be here, hopefully bringing more beautiful foliage with it!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Garden Fun Friday - What am I?

It's another Garden Fun Friday!  If you have any gardening fun going on today on your own blog, feel free to join in by putting the link to your blog post in the comments.

Today's game is What am I?  
Can you guess what type of garden plant or animal these are from the clues?

  • My leaves are very high in Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and many other nutrients.
  • I have a taproot that brings up nutrients for shallower rooting plants around me.
  • Historically I was prized and cultivated for a variety of medicinal properties.  Now I am considered a common weed in the US.

  • I hatched from a cocoon.
  • In one acre of land, there can be more than a million of my kind.
  • The largest one of my kind ever found measured 22 feet long.

  • I can fly over 3,000 miles during my lifetime.
  • I hibernate over the winter.
  • My kind is normally orange and black, but a few are white and black.

  • My flowers are symbolic of motherly love.
  • My flowers changes sex.  When one first opens, it is male, but after a few days the male parts fall off to reveal female parts.
  • When disturbed, my ripe seed pods explode, scattering my seeds as much as 20 feet away.

  • I am a hermaphrodite.
  • My life span is about 15 years, but some can live up to 25 years.
  • May 24 is the national holiday celebrating the eating of my kind.

 Do you think you knew what they all were?  Here are the answers:



Monarch Butterfly

Impatiens - pictured is an exploding seed pod


Did you guess them all?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Evolution of a Gardener

When I was a kid
we'd visit my grandparent's farm

I'd ride in the car and listen as my mom and grandma discussed all the plants and flowers along the roadside

What is the name of that flower?  my mom would ask
and I would wonder why anyone would want to talk about something 
so boring

Now grown up, I go and visit my mom and my grandma
and I am the one asking this time

what is the name of that flower?

Maybe some day my children will come visit me
with children of their own

and we will take walks or drive through the countryside
and they will turn to me and ask

what is the name of that flower?

Thank you to Donna of Garden Walk, Garden Talk for hosting this Word for Wednesday!

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Monarch with a Sticker

Every fall millions of monarch butterflies leave their residence in the US and Canada and migrate to California and Mexico to spend the winter.   This past week I have spotted quite a few monarchs here in North Carolina as they feed on nectar plants in order to store energy for the long flight.

I have seen several monarchs in the Red House gardens, and there have even been monarchs fluttering around people at the plant stores.  

My kids were quite surprised and delighted the other day when we were at a big home and garden store and a monarch landed on a plant right next to us!  I was even more surprised when I saw that the butterfly had a sticker on its hind wing.  It was a round sticker, and it looked a lot like the little stickers that they put on fruit.   

I was saddened.  I assumed that the poor monarch must have somehow gotten a sticker on him at the store.  However, the more I thought about it, the more suspicious I became.  How exactly had the monarch gotten a sticker in the middle of his hind wing like that?  I did some research and found...

It was a monarch tag!

sample monarch tag
According to the Monarch Watch website, much is still unknown about the migration of monarchs, and monarch tagging can help.  Starting in August, volunteers in the US and Canada catch monarchs, carefully place a tag on the underside of the hind wing, and release them. 

You can volunteer to catch and tag monarchs for research purposes at Monarch Watch.
 Researchers hope that the information produced through tagging will solve unanswered questions about their migration.  According to the Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust, most of the tags recovered are from Mexico, where Monarch Watch personnel visit the overwintering sites of monarchs and pay local people for each tag that they discover.  Others are recovered by people who do not know anything about this program but find a deceased butterfly with the tag and contact the Monarch Watch.

So if you see a sticker on a Monarch butterfly, don't be sad like I was.  Instead, see if you can spot the tag code on it, and e-mail that code and its location to  You could be helping the scientific community unravel mysteries about these beautiful butterflies!

Some Interesting Facts about Monarchs:

Monarchs can fly over 3,000 miles during their migration.

-  During the summer, monarch butterflies usually live for only 2 - 6 weeks.  Migrating monarchs, however, go into a non-reproductive, hibernating phase for the winter which allows them to live up to 7 months or even more. 

-  In spring, the monarchs come out of hibernation, mate, fly north in order to lay their eggs, and then die.  Those eggs hatch, and the resulting monarchs keep migrating north, lay their eggs, and then die.   This continues for several generations.  It is the original monarchs' great-great-grandchildren that will start the cycle all over again by migrating south back to the same winter nesting locations!

- Monarchs who live west of the Rocky Mountains will overwinter in pine and eucalyptus trees in and near Pacific Grove and Santa Cruz, California.  Monarchs who live east of the Rockies overwinter in oyamil fir trees at several locations in Mexico.

- Monarchs who live in Bermuda and Hawaii do not migrate, as their climates are mild enough to stay year-round.  Australian monarchs may make short migrations to warmer areas for the winter.

- A monarch antennae contains what is essentially a circadian clock and a compass.

- Unfortunately, the monarch butterfly population has suffered a large decline in recent years due to urbanization, illegal deforestation of their winter nesting sites, and several severe winters that have decimated much of the population at Mexican overwintering sites.

You can help the monarch population by planting Butterfly Weed, which they lay their eggs on.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Garden Fun Friday - You Might be a Garden Addict if...

 End of summer getting you down?

To beat the end of the summer blues, I am having Garden Fun Friday here at the Red House Garden for the next three weeks.  If you have any gardening fun going on today on your own blog, feel free to join in by putting the link to your blog post in the comments!

This has been done before, but for this week for my Garden Fun Friday post, I am going easy on myself and making a list of ways you know You Might Be A Gardening Addict.  Here is my personal list:

You Might Be A Gardening Addict if...

1.  Your neighbor has seen you in your pajamas on multiple occasions watering the plants in the morning.

2.  People from the local plant nursery comes over and ask how the kids are doing when they see you at the grocery store.

3.  You give your pet-sitter more extensive plant care directions than pet care directions.

4.  Those plant care directions in #3 include color labeling..

5.  The cashier at the local big home and garden store has the last four digits of your credit card memorized.

6.  The same cashier gives you even bigger discounts on the clearance plants you are buying (something about buying in bulk...)

7.  Your kids want to get you dirt for Mother's Day.

8.  Your neighbors start asking you for plant advice.

9.  You start recalculating any sum of money in 'number of plants that could buy'

10.  You find yourself obsessively talking about gardening, even to people who you know don't care.

So what about you?  Do you have a 'you might be a gardening addict if.. ?'

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A shady fall garden of... foxgloves?

Now that the temperature is cooling off, the flowers in my shade garden have taken off.

The impatiens have renewed their efforts and are blooming their heads off.

The moss that I transplanted into my little moss garden is remarkably still alive and even providing a cool, shady retreat for some garden wildlife.

And the highlight of this shady fall garden is...

... a foxglove?!

One lone foxglove plant survived the hot summer and is reblooming.

What a way to celebrate the cooler weather!

Hope you all are having a happy Bloomin' Tuesday!
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