Posts Tagged ‘Botany for Gardeners’

Tuesday, December 20,  2011

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Monday was a lovely day, the morning started off overcast and sun shone later in the afternoon.

Working away at my knitting, who’d a thought!  I decided to just make the time to do this.  I’m normally never still in the daytime, always something to do, so decided that it wouldn’t hurt to just take some time to relax.  And I felt as if I was in my 20’s again.

That was a time when I didn’t have to work … I played around with sewing and various crafts.  Curiously, I wasn’t into gardening then .. perhaps because I didn’t have a house with a yard.  Those years were relatively quiet .. in those days, we didn’t think of the future or the past, only the present. Which wasn’t a bad thing.

So I enjoyed the tranquility of a brief block of time, winding the wool around the ends of the needles, pushing the stitches back down the length of clear plastic line that connected the two ends of the circular needles.  Knit a row, purl a row.  Oops, pick up that dropped stitch.  Oh well .. I can always “sew” in any spaces caused by dropped stitches, when the scarf is finished.

Finally, time to get back into motion.  So, household duties – check!  Wander around the yard – check!  Look up in the sky, seeing little planes flying overhead – wanting to be up there with DH, flying around – check!  Out in the car, ready to drive to the airport – check!

I’d decided to make a run to the Dakota Cafe to pick up some of Dak’s famous chicken wonton’s for supper.

Traffic was light and the sun was breaking through the clouds, so I happily put on my sunglasses against the glare.

Parking lot was full, but timing was perfect, a car was just leaving so I aimed my little car for the vacant space and soon I was parked and headed to the Cafe.

Enjoyed visiting with a few people, including my former instructor, who happened to be there.   Part of me just wanted to sign up for a series of dual lessons .. part of me is still in awe of actually thinking of flying.

Anyway, soon, time to return home.. looking forward to a lovely supper that has already been prepared and just needs to be heated up!

Spent some time looking through my gardening library and soon had picked out some interesting reads.  “The Wild Lawn Handbook” for more ideas on ground covers.  “Plants, People & Culture” .. some light reading on ethnobotany.  And “Idiot’s Trees & Shrubs”.   Thus begins the age-old habit of trundling books onto my desk, to open randomly and read voraciously.  A decadent treat .. to take the time to just peruse pages of gardening knowledge.  Sigh.

From “Botany for Gardeners“:

“Perhaps the most obvious difference between a rock and a rose is that the rock doesn’t grow.  In fact, it progressively becomes smaller as its surface erodes.  Plants and animals, on the other hand, begin life as single, fertilized eggs and become larger as they mature.  In the case of animals, including ourselves, a determinate growth pattern dictates a pre-fixed, maximum size that the body may reach.  This pattern is implicit in and established by genes, cellular instructions inherited from parents, and is more or less related to the number of cells that the body is programmed to produce.  Strenuous exercise may enlarge cells, but relatively few new cells are added.  Full growth potential is realized if an animal receives adequate nutrition and its muscles are exercised, especially during the formative years.”

From “Plants, People, and Culture, the Science of Ethnobotany (Michael J. Balick and Paul Alan Cox

Ethnobotany:  The American botanist John W. Harshberger coined the word “ethnobotany” in 1895 to describe studies of “plants used by primitive and aboriginal people.”   His 1896 publication,The Purposes of Ethnobotany, is generally accepted as a starting point for this field as an academic discipline.

Herbals:  In the early Renaissance there was an explosion of interest in herbals, most of which were based on the work of Dioscorides with incremental improvements made from the authors’ own knowledge.  The first herbal written in the Anglo-Saxon world was an eleventh-century codex known as the Herbarium of Apuleius Platonicus.  The earliest printed English herbal was an anonymous quarto of 1525, printed by Richard Banckes: “Her beynneth a newe matter, the whiche sheweth and treateh of y vertues and proprytes of herbes, the which is called a Herball.”

Tafua Forest: The Tafua forest on the island of Savaii, Western Samoa, is precious because of the unique diversity of its life forms.  Over 25 percent of the forest plants are found nowhere else on earth: ..http://www.seacology.org/news/newsletters/9701.06.htm

Well, the sun is shining, kitty kats are sleeping .. the phones are ringing.  “Important” calls from Texas, New York (city?)  and our old pals “unavailable name & no. ” are calling .. so, time to get going with this lovely, sunny day.


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Monday, December 19, 2011

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Well, Sunday was certainly a lazy day .. haven’t had one of these for a long while , so I decided to enjoy the heck out of it.

Finally got going … outside to see how the birdies are doing … and then, away .. away .. to Michael’s!   Picked up some bright and colourful wools, as I’ve decided to knit some more scarves .. there is still time before Christmas!

Such a choice of colours and textures to choose from, not good for a Libra.  So I spent I just don’t really know actually how much time amongst the bundles of pretty wool.  Wandering the aisles, looking at the choices available.  Visualizing in my mind the finished results of the scarves.  Ideas running rampant.  Adding Sparkles .. Tassels .. bobbles.

Finally, choices made.  I leave this section.  Walk over to the scrapbook aisles .. yea, 40% off of 1″ circular punches.   For years now, I’ve wanted to buy both the 3/4″ and 1″ punches .. and now I’m the proud owner of them.  Having fun punching out designs.  Plan to finally make those clear, photo backed.. glass magnets.

Wandered back to the wool aisle, changed the colour schemes to brighter hues.  From there I went to the aisle that sells felted items .. .another world to venture into.  Although I will follow the advice of other crafters and will search for woolen clothing at a thrift store and will practice felting with that material.  I’ll do this after Christmas.  I have those scarves to knit right now!

Back home, relax, light supper, some knitting . … then away I go to pick up my walking pal D.  Tonight we are going to see Asmira’s annual Christmas Dance Program.  There will be some unusual dances and we both look forward to seeing these.

The small auditorium is packed to the rafters and the audience is very appreciative and vocal with lots of zagareets of appreciation for the dancers.

The costumes of all the dancers were delightfully beautiful and exotic.  It takes dedication and lots of hard work to produce their costumes and I fully appreciate the beauty.

All the dancers were so happy, high energy and this showed in the flow of the variety of dances.  Again, I thought about all the many hours spent in learning and rehearsing these routines .. and in the end, they made their moves effortlessly.

I almost felt inspired to embark on a vigorous exercise routine and then get back into dancing again.  However, I’m not one for committing my time for rehearsals .. not that I’m lazy (hmmm) .. but I just want to keep my time as free as can be.  Free as a bird.  So DH & I can go flying!

There was a techno-type of dance, very well done .. with clever monocular type eyepieces, fitted out with a small flashing light.  We had the opportunity to examine one of these eyepieces later, and they were magnificent, well crafted!   The creator works at, wait for this .. Michael’s!!!    I’ll have to look for her and say hi at my next visit .. which will probably be tomorrow.  Darn those 40% coupons, anyway!  (ha ha ha ha).

Then there was this most amazing feature, the dancer wore a black feathered headpiece, her costume  was striking, dramatic, a study of blues and blacks.

The music was very techno and she then performed a most incredible dance.   Very strong arm & hand movements and there was a flow to it that was quite captivating to me, I tried to figure out why.  Talking with her later, she explained how she studied the movements of hummingbirds and emulated them.  So, that’s why the movements seemed to be a bit familiar.  How very clever.  As we talked, we were moving our arms in wing-like motions .. it just seemed so natural.

Had a chance to talk with the lady lighting technician.  She’d studied theatre years ago at Red Deer and Banff, to name a few places.  Early on in her studies, she opted to focus on the lighting aspect and now makes a good living at her trade.  The plus side is that she is able to meet a great variety of performers and to watch  the entertainment.  First priority, of course, is the lighting.   She and her partner discussed the final details of the night and she kept busy, coiling wire connections neat and tidily, while he carried them off to the storage area.   Which is actually a good-sized room, not noticeable at all when the door in the wall has been shut.

I mentioned before that D always has some kind of fancy little treat and last night was no exception!  Nestled in a tiny handmade box constructed from a card, was a lovely square of natural chocolate.  A Purdy’s exclusive, made only in small batches, it was made of natural chocolate beans and bits of jalapeno peppers.  Not one to eat really spicy foods, I was going to save it for DH, however, this delicacy was so heavenly, that I gobbled it right up.  Yum. Yum. Yum.

Driving homewards, I thought of the enjoyable evening that I had just experienced.  Beautiful and energetic dancing.   Exotic music.  Live musicians.  Talking with  longtime friends.  Looking around, appreciating the good vibes emanating from the surrounding audience.  Proud family members and friends enjoying the entertainment.  It was a great, relaxing time,

Then, home sweet home …. some more knitting and then zzzzzz’s.

More from “Botany for Gardeners“:

“A person, plant, pebble, this book page – four objects no one has trouble putting into simple categories of living and non-living.  But what makes the difference?  Why can we be so sure that the potted geranium is living and a piece of the same plant that was pressed and dried last year is unquestionably dead? From all appearances, a seed also seems dead.  What happens when, upon reawakening, it becomes charged with life during germination, and what mysterious entity leaves a plant when it dies?  Few people believe in the departed souls of plants.   Philosophers may endlessly ponder such questions, but trying to find answers strictly based on observation and repeatable experiments are the essence of scientific inquiry.

To begin, a living plant has the ability to make flowers, and seeds from which other plants of the same species can be grown.  In other words, a living plant can reproduce. A dead one has lost that capacity.  Then again, if one has the opportunity to look at any part of a plant through a microscope, it becomes obvious that plants are composed of countless numbers of cells, invisible to the naked eye.  This gives another clue to the nature of living things.  It may be argued that cells are still in a leaf when it is dead and dried.  But when the leaf was a part of a living plant, its cells were actively engaged in a complicated chain of chemical reactions, grouped together under the term “metabolism”.  We can be quire sure that, as long as a cell or a whole creature is alive, it is going to display some sort of metabolic activity.  When their chemistry irreversibly stops, cells die.”

Hmmmm.. and these words have sent me back to my gardening library.


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Sunday, December 18, 2011

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 Saturday .. started out cloudy and morphed into a warm, sunny day!  Decided to stay away from the stores .. they would be way too busy!

Spent some time, where else, in the back yard!  Walked around, checking the healthy growth of the hardy perennials … all thriving and well settled in.  Looking forward to seeing their height improving over the summer.  More green …. I just love seeing the yard surrounded by vegetation, and gradually, seeing less and less of buildings!

Although our yard is nice and private, I love the feel of being in the great outdoors, surrounded by tall trees and luxuriant plant growth.   The soil is quite decadently luxurious, due to the leaf mulch, bales of hay and composted manure that I’ve been busy mixing into the soil over the years.  Plus the amazing Miracle Mulch.

I decided to make a makeshift top for one of the suet holders.  Saw this idea in a store, there was a sort of roof, with a flat board surface, underneath which was attached a suet holder. The object of this was for dissuading bigger birds from hogging all the food.  So I attached a small section of plastic board to the top of the feeder and hung it from a branch.  The sparrows are puzzled and are unable to feed from this feeder.  However, the Downy woodpecker and Red-breasted Nuthatch have not problem.

I’ve just looked at a bird site which recommends not hanging feeders from trees or branches .. oh oh .. I’ll have to rig up a feeder.  And I want to look into getting a large plant saucer attached to the feeders so that the seeds don’t fall onto the ground.  Fewer birds to scavage seeds on the ground, safe from cats.

Am hoping to rig up something with the excess of aluminum tubing that we have. I’ll post pics.

So finally, went inside and saw a large bird in the trees.  DH & I were trying to guess which type it was, as the sun was shining and all we could see was a silhouette.   It flew onto the tiny bird feeder and then I could see that it was a Flicker!  Too far to take a photo, darn, but I could see the dark band below the throat.

Looking through my bird books, I then realized that what I thought was a European Starling .. was actually a Flicker.  Of course!  Beautiful varied feathers, soft, cooing songs … very beautiful birds.

And, I continued to search and query on e-Bay for another HP iPAQ rz1700!  Not really wanting to purchase another one, I felt sad that the one that DH had given me years ago had ceased to work.  No joy in the stores .. I don’t think that it is being made any more.  It’s such a solid, simple electronic gizmo.  A workhorse.  One that doesn’t need monthly payments to keep it going.

So, what the heck, I thought, I’ll try to see if I can get it working again.  Did the cold and hard boots… nothing.  Finally, I decided to plug it into the tower.  Eureka!  The screen is flashing!  It’s responding to the touch of the stylus .. I run it through all the setup steps .. and once again I have my little iPAQ back!  Running perfectly well.  🙂  🙂  🙂  🙂  A little Christmas miracle in my world.

I feel such a sense of relief!  I just don’t like this age of disposable items.  Buy something for a relatively high price, just to see the devaluation in a year.  Recycle.  I fully appreciate purchasing items which will keep their value, and they needn’t be expensive for this.

The same thing happened with one of my little cameras.  Once day it ceased to work.  The dial that changed photo options ceased to move and I couldn’t make the “click” button actually “click.  I checked out the cost of repair, ahem, and quietly put the camera aside on a shelf.  A year later, just for the heck of it, I played with the camera, and .. oh and behold, the dial works, so I rotate it, seeing the menus show up for each type of photo shot.  The “click” button works again.

Hmmm… gremlins?  Makes you wonder.  Very glad that these items are again workable and very glad that I didn’t rush out to recycle them.  It came very close though!  sigh of relief.

Later on .. we went out, driving throughout Saanich and Oak Bay, enjoying the sights of Christmas lights.  Such a lovely warm feeling of gratitude for those who took the effort and the time to beautify their homes and yards .. to share with all who pass by.

From “Botany for Gardeners“:

“As we delve into the science of botany, we shall largely be concerned with the two groups of plants with which we, as gardeners, most often work.  One, known as the flowering plants, or Angiosperms, is the largest group in the Plant Kingdom and consists of about 250,000 species.  The name “Angiosperm” refers to the fact that seeds from these plants are formed inside containers that we call fruits (Greek: angeion, vessel; sperma, seed).  The flowering plants most often decorate our homes and landscapes, supply almost all of the vegetable matter in our diets, and are the source of the world’s hardwoods.  they are the most sophisticated of plant forms and are best adapted to survive in a wide range of climates and places.

Second are the Gymnosperms, plants that produce seeds in the open spaces of cones – between the flaplike parts that make up a pine cone, for example.  The Greek words gymnos, “naked” and sperma, “seed”  describes this form of development.  On the evolutionary scale, Gymnosperms are more primitive than Angiosperms bt are of considerable economic importance as well as interest to landscapers for their compact forms and richly coloured, needle-shaped or scale like leaves.  Softwoods such as pine and fir are not only used to make paper, lumber, plywood, etc., but are the source of a group of products called naval stones – pitch, turpentine and rosin.

The Gymnosperms include all the conifers: cedar, redwood, juniper, cypress, fir and pine, and the largest living things on earth, the giant Sequoia’s.  Many ornamental shrubs, including varieties of Chamaecyparis (False Cypress) and Thuja accidentalis (American Arborvitae) are members of this group and, least typical of Gymnosperms, Cycads and the beautiful Maidenhair tree, Ginkgo biloba, a broad-leaved species.

For comparative purposes, passing mention is made of ferns, mosses, mushrooms and other primitive plants, but it is to the flowering plants and Gymnosperms that we direct our attention since it is they that give us the most revealing picture of how marvellous plants are.”

How fascinating is this!  I love learning more about gardening.

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

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 Friday was another day of grey skies, perfect for working inside or out.  I chose a mix of the two.  Outside checking out the birds… inside chores.  Escaped by driving to the shops.  Orr’s Meat Market is now operating out of Sidney!  I’ll stick to my Quadra Street location, though.  It’s good to know that there 4 locations now .. Duncan, Brentwood, Quadra and Sidney.

And they all carry Farmer Ben’s eggs!  Heard of someone who loves these products so much that she made the drive to Duncan for them!  Now, she can get them on her way home from work!

A few days ago, I went to the Market for eggs and they were actually out of stock!  Be still my beating heart.   Luckily I was able to pick up a few dozen yesterday!

And yesterday was a busy day, traffic wise.   Construction and road repairs slowed some of the sections of busy through roads.

I was up bright and early .. organized recycling by the roadside, quick trip to the Bottle Depot.   Then home and gathered up little Youbou for his 4th acupuncture treatment. He is so improved now, it’s like a miracle.  Hard to believe that a few months ago, we’d given up on having our little guy around much longer .. due to his inability to walk around.

Normally Youbou is meowing all the way on the trip there and back to the Vet’s office, making little plaintive sounds … but on this trip home, he was relaxed and non verbal.  Quite happy and content.

At home, now, he jumps and runs, is much more alert and interactive with us.  He’s resumed his habit of standing excitedly at the cupboards by the kitchen counter, eyes wild, paws swinging in the air .. as he demands (and gets) treats from sandwich making.  It’s great to have our Youbou back in top form.  We’ll just need to go back occasionally now to have minor treatments as needed.


So, Youbou home, I was able to go out to wander through the stores.  Went to Michael’s and picked up some punches for scrap-booking.  Quite fun.  Visited a few other stores for needed items and finally to the Tillicum Mall.

I’ve been searching for a replacement or repair of our HP iPAQ rz 1700 , but finally reached a call centre for HP and repair would cost $200, which is higher than the cost of buying a used one on e-Bay!

Went searching at several big stores, no joy ..unfortunately, wasn’t able to find someone who was knowledgeable to help me out .. just got the “nope, it’s not carried anymore.”   We aren’t interested in a blackberry or a blueberry or something that costs an arm and a leg for monthly charges that easily add up to more than $100 per month.

We were perfectly happy with the iPAQ … my DH gave it to me as a Christmas present over 5 years ago.  It came with Word, Excel (which I used to track authors on).  Games, Photos, music .. it was the absolutely perfect pda.  I’m searching for a replacement, but it seems that it isn’t readily available.

Anyway .. I tried to get into the shopping mood, but failed to get motivated .. so admitted defeat and headed for home, sweet home!

Lovely peace and quiet, no more rushing through traffic …. took time to wander outside and enjoy the tranquility of the yard.  Moved some things around .. pleased with the way the yard is developing.  Imagining having more greenery surrounding the perimeter, once the spring arrives and leaves start unfurling their beauty.  Just a few more months.

There are still some outdoor jobs I can play around with, weeding and digging, that sort of thing.  The weather has been quite mild lately, so that’s a bonus.

Finished my circular scarf and love the versatility of it .. can wear it as a loop scarf, or twice around it becomes a cowl or one loop quickly becomes a pullover hat in case of snow!  I love it so much that I’ve dug out my stash of wool and have started another one.  This time with a lovely sandy colour medium weight wool, with little blobs of colour .. quite pretty.   Uh, oh .. I think that I’ll be making quite a few of these … perhaps I’ll give them away .. or perhaps I’ll rejoin the world of craft shows next year.  It’s been quite a few years since I’ve done that .. so I think I might try “one or two”.

Botany for Gardeners:

“Botany is a useful and rewarding study from which, unfortunately, many laypersons are frightened away by the technical jargon that constitutes the “language” of the science.  The reader will encounter a number of scientific words in the following pages.  Some are part of the common parlance of gardeners.  For want of suitable non-technical equivalents, others cannot be avoided when writing such a book.”

“There are close to 400,000 recognizably different kinds of plants, called species, in the world today. So diverse are their forms that to write an all-inclusive definition of the world “plant” is not at all easy.  One-third of all plants do not have roots, stems and leaves as we know these parts in the examples most familiar to us.  About 150,000 plant species never produce flowers, and almost that same number do not grow from seeds, but rather from dust like particles called spores.

Although the vast majority of plants manufacture their own food supplies by a process called photosynthesis, mushrooms, molds and other fungi – which some biologists include in the Plant Kingdom – rely on foods created by green plants for their sustenance, as do animals.  Most plants spend a lifetime anchored in one place, yet a few simple one-celled forms are capable of swimming to different locations in the waters they inhabit.

It is this kind of diversity and amazing variety of shapes, colours and lifestyles that continually excite our interest in these organisms called plants.”

So, lots to learn about gardening.  The joy is that there are untold worlds to discover in this endeavor, so I will never ever be bored.

How lovely is that!.


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Thursday, December 15, 2011

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 The weather has slowly been changing, morphing into a sort of rain.  Yesterday I was outside …watching the birds .. doing a bit of yard work .. playing around .. when the raindrops started.  Slowly at first then gradually the drops started thicker and so, time to go inside.

But not before I had time to play.  Raked up some leaves, added to my mulch pile.  Emptied one last treasured container of Miracle Mulch onto the leaves and mixed them in.

I have some artistic work to do in the upcoming months.  Some of this involves re-purposing some poor little cedar trees.  I was helping a friend with some garden cleaning up and saw these sad little trees,  Once upon a time they had been  vibrant green living plants and now, through carelessness on someone else’s part .. they became lifeless sticks.

As we were busily clipping away the brittle brown branches, I had an idea!  I could “rescue” the trunks of the trees and make garden art out of them!  So I removed the trees from their pots and transported them home, to our back yard. For now, they can stay outside .. and I tried using one as a glove rack .. just for fun.

In the upcoming months, I’ll cut them, sand the rough areas and then play around with ideas .. for picture frames, or whatever.

Enjoyed walking around the yard . .this never gets tired, ideas are always popping up.  And, now that the branches are bare .. I can see bits of “garden art” that I’ve placed on branches here and there.

Time to go in and I looked at .. and really noticed .. the two baskets of apples that I’d picked from our Macintosh tree in the back yard.   Methinks it was high time to transform these into another format before they all became ready for the compost.  It would be a shame to let these go to waste.

So up the stairs, to the kitchen and over to the counter .. was where I spent the next few hours.

Peeling, slicing and putting the apples into a bowl of lemon juice and water (to prevent them turning brown).  Soon I’d finished one basket, removed the excess water and placed them on a large cookie sheet and off to the freezer they went.

After about another hour, spent repeating the actions above, on the second basket … soon had more apples to be placed in the freezer.  Later, I placed the frozen sections in Ziploc bags, and back in the freezer for future baked desserts.

And I remembered the Dr. Oetker pie crust mix that I’d recently purchased .. so went searching in the pantry, found it!  Following the instructions .. just add water, I love it!

I rolled out the pastry into two circles.  Mixed up brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins and sliced almonds .. put a generous supply onto each circle and folded the edges towards the centre.  This is my favourite kind of pie, one crust and looks .. oh, so elegant .. for just minimal work.  Besides, two layers of pie crust is just way too much.

Cleaned up my messy work area and soon all was tidy again.

DH was very pleased and surprised with the unexpected pies!  I love surprises like this!

Anyway .. on with the garden talk:

Botany for Gardeners:  “Some of us look at plants as a source of livelihood, while others find them intriguing subjects for scientific study.  But most enjoy plants for the sheer delight of having them in their every-day surroundings, to savour the varied colours, textures, tastes and aromas that they alone can offer.  Plants stimulate the senses, give peace to the weary mind, and satisfy (wo)man’s spiritual being in search for answers to the mysteries of life.

Few gardeners share the botanist’s knowledge of plant biochemistry, anatomy, physiology and intricate reproductive systems, yet all have experienced the extraordinary satisfaction derived from growing flowers, fruits, vegetables and trees.

When we work with plants, questions about them inevitably come to mind.  what takes place inside a seed after we have set it in the ground?  How does water travel from soil to treetops? what makes a plant become bushy with repeated pruning? What controls seasonal flowering patterns?  How do plants grow, and why is light necessary to make growth happen? Over the centuries, botanists have worked to find answers to these and other problems. Slowly, plants have revealed some of their secrets.”

More later …. on with this most lovely day.


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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

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Looking out the window yesterday morning .. I saw the most beautiful sky .. the final rays of an early morning sunrise .. so I just had to go outside to have a look (and take a picture)!

And so then I just had to wander around the yard.  At the front I picked up the frozen  sheet of ice that had formed on the surface of  a plant saucer.  The ice formed a perfect decorative transparent plate, enclosing a natural array of cedar & laurel leaves.  Quite beautiful.

Then I stopped to listen to one of the Anna youngsters, quite content in his little world, parents flying close by.  He’s a little chubby still and his feathers are still fairly dark.  This led me to look at their feeder, to see how much nectar was still remaining.  I’d just filled it last week, so expected it to be half empty.  Oh, no …. the container was totally empty .. those poor little birdies …

So I raced into the house, filled up the feeder (I always keep full containers in the fridge) and retraced my steps to the front cedar tree and carefully replaced  the feeder amongst the branches.

It only took a few minutes for the Anna’s to visit the feeder and start sipping away.  Whew.

Wandered around the yard, admiring our “first ever” Christmas tree .. now it’s about 30 years old.  In the summertime I’d thinned away dead branches and shovelled on two yards of Miracle Mulch around the base and surrounding area.  Now I can see lots of renewed growth in the branches and can feel the revitalization of the tree.  Yea!

I can see flowers still blooming .. happy in the milder climate of the enclosed back yard.

There are still plants to be thinned out, but this is a chore for the upcoming springtime.

Of course, I have to spend some time watching the aerial activity in the back yard.   The white-crowned sparrow is happily digging away at the mulch covered garlic bed.

The patch of seeded grass by the garlic bed  is growing quite happily.  I was slowly encroaching my garden area onto the grassy section of the yard and didn’t think that DH would notice.   However, he did and so I had to move back my garden brick border a few feet and sow grass seed.  Darn.   I’m already planning a much larger garlic bed for our next property.  And trees and mulch .. and on and on and on.  Lovely dreams.

On into the house and la dee dah .. household chores.  Then finally, time to escape outside and work away.  Yesterday I finally finished layering the mulch leaf with the Miracle Mulch.   And so now my mulch pile covers an area roughly 20 ‘ x 20’.   I stomped around on the surface of the pile, in order to compact the layers, to speed up the composting effect.

I know that after a few good rains, the heat will work up again.    Then in a month or so I’ll dig the pile up and mix up the contents again.  This worked well for me last year.

Gardening in a natural way is so very satisfying.  It’s so fulfilling to transform an area in the yard, changing the structure, creating little pockets of beauty and tranquility.  I’ve worked hard in this yard over the past number of years.   Sifting soil, turning hard clay packed areas into fertile growing spaces.  Discovering little treasures of glass (from an old glass factory that once was here), little toys and trinkets.  The odd coin.

Revelling in the beauty of sweet peas trailing up the green garden mesh.  Feeling the satisfaction of growing food in our back yard.  Excitedly attending the growth of my second crop of garlic.  Enjoying the creation of temporary garden outlines using bricks.  Changeable shapes .. the garden is not constricted by rigid borders, but can breathe and shift effortlessly.

I don’t know which area of the yard I am most proud of.   I love every transformed area.   And I’m glad that I took daily pictures so I can look back, during the chilly days of winter and relive again those hot sunny days.  When I dug and sifted and sorted.  Some garden chores that I started, gave me a bit of concern .. would I be able to change these areas into the desired results that I could see so clearly in my mind?  Well, I exceeded each and every chore.

From the former blackberry infested side yard, a place we’d never used .. I now see a most beautiful woodsy area, with circular stepping-stones creating a gentle pathway.   A generous layer of Miracle Mulch creates a soft walking surface.  Ferns and groundcovers are settling in.  Vines have been planted.  A grapevine is growing against the back gate.

The cedar tree that I’d planted many years ago is still growing, providing habitat for the birds.

And there are other areas .. by the base of the sundeck.  Where I’d tried various scenarios of plants and gravel.   This past summer saw me digging up everything that I’d planted, layering landscape fabric quite heavily and then replacing the surface gravel.  I moved these plants to the side of the house.

Next summer I’ll put potted tomatoes here, by the pathway .. the full sun will ensure a bumper crop!  And other stretches of yard in this area .. days of digging, sifting and then a thick layer of cardboard and landscape fabric was spread over the ground and gravel covers the area.  Nice and tidy.

Then I reshaped the veggie garden, using soft rounded shapes.  Planted tons of garlic!  And then my most latest garden project .. the mulch pile.  The piece de resistance … ooh, la la.

Today’s garden lore .. more from “Botany for Gardeners“:

“Since the first cells came into being millions of years ago, plants have been the connecting links in an unbroken chain of life.  It is they that have made the biosphere, the part of earth’s crust where both plants and animals exist, a vibrant and constantly changing place offering limitless opportunities for the inquiring mind to explore. ” (oh, wow, this is why I love gardening!)

“The range of uses we make of plants is as broad as our ingenuity permits.  We have exploited them for fibers to make cloth, drugs to cure a multitude of ailments, wood to construct houses, furniture and ships.  From them we have extracted raw materials to manufacture innumerable goods, including paper.

Without that latter commodity, the detailed history of our race would not have been recorded and so remembered, nor could knowledge have been so easily disseminated.  And culture, the possession of which makes humans out of animals, would never have developed beyond the basic skills and habits of primitive peoples had we not had paper on which to write music, poetry and prose.”  (more tomorrow)

from the “A – Z” .. there are rules, and, as always is the  case, there are exceptions to the rules.  There are families of names and there is listed whether the name is derived from latin (L) or Greek (Gk) or other sources. After this there is a short statement of the main use in gardens and a general guide to hardiness.  A common name is given if it is applied to the whole genus (plural genera).

If a country of origin is listed, it’s given here.  Species are listed under each genus.  Each name is followed by the suggested pronunciation, the meaning of the name, the common name (if any) and the country of origin.  If, instead of a country of origin, the abbreviation cult (cultivated) is given, this indicates this plant is known only in gardens.

And on and on.   Reading these first few pages of the book, I realize that, for me, I will need to reread this a few more times, to sort out the rules.  Then I’ll list, in point form, the rules (of which there seem to be a lot!).

Here are some terms from the Glossary:

acuminate: tapered to a long point

anther: the portion of the stamen which bears the pollen.

areole: In cacti, a cluster of sines

Auricle: an ear-like lobe

bi-pinnate: Twice pinnate, ie pinnate with the divisions pinnate.

pinna (plural pinnae): the primary division of a pinnate leaf (???? .. so, what is the description of pinnate?

Oh, why did I study French in lieu of Latin???  Well, time to get going on this one.

I went searching and found a great botanical web site which clearly shows the shape and names of various leaves:  http://www.botanical-online.com/hojastiposangles.htm

Hmmm .. think I’ll spend more time reading today!  Dreaming and planning will be part of this activity.




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Monday, December 12, 2011

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Weather-wise, this has been a great weekend.  Lots of sun.  Lots of birds.

Happy to see the Varied Thrush up in the plum-tree, munching away on an apple. I was close enough to see his red eyes .. but not close enough to take a clear picture.  Still, very happy to see this lovely bird.  I’ll try today to take some pics.

There was a darling wren flitting about, easily recognizable by  the up-swept tail.  I’ve seen this bird often, at the edge of the yard, mostly on the fence .. today I tried to follow its flight path by the sundeck, but it was too fast for me.

Spent some time on Saturday and Sunday, wandering about the yard, filling the bird-feeders .. enjoying the sight of the many birds munching away.  Saw a few scuffles between some of the sparrows, tsk tsk .. can we not get along, little guys?

As I watch the birds interact, I realize that I’m gazing into their world, without fully understanding the code of ethics that surely must exist among them.  As far as I can see, the various species (in our yard, anyway) allow for intermingling.  There is no direct conflict.   They willingly share the feeders among themselves.

I see that they can be happily pecking away at the seeds that have fallen on the ground, and suddenly, as one, they all fly up into the trees.  Except for the stray Junco who just stays in place, pecking away.

The European Starling visits the yard occasionally and I really like listening to his soft, gentle calling sounds that include some rhythmic sort of clucking noises.   Quite an interesting series of calls …. and I wonder if he (she) is calling out to another bird, or is just in a talkative state of mind.

And I’m so in awe of the nature of birds, how the parents pass on their instinctive knowledge of survival to their young.  Quite mystical, really.  No schools or degrees for these aerial specialists.  No one to impress.  Just survival.

I love my time in the yard, observing these beautiful birds and slowly, slowly, I’m noticing how the method of flight varies between the different species.   and I can also find out these details in my bird books.    I’m so glad that we planted all the trees in our yard, now they are of a mature height, providing lots of privacy for the birds to flee to.

Couldn’t spend a lot of time out in the yard though .. we were preparing for our annual Christmas get-together with friends and there were still final preparations to do.

DH & I worked as a team, making our home festive and welcoming for our friends!  We look forward to this yearly event and really enjoy this last-minute frenzy.  It’s a bit like the night before Christmas, really.  The excitement of the final preparations.

Soon our friends started to arrive and, as usual, everyone heads to the kitchen first, the heart of the home.    Next house will have a much larger kitchen!

The evening passes way too quickly, as we catch up on the latest goings on with everyone.   Soon the kitchen, hallway, study and living room .. are full of people talking and laughing.  Happy to meet the spouses and good friends of people that I know.  Lovely, lovely people!  And I look forward to seeing them again.

DH & I just love having our friends over to visit us in our happy home and the time just flew by.   I feel like the funny green character that always cries, at the end of the Festival of Laughs … “wah .. .it’s over….”

But, we’re left with lots of happy memories of another evening full of great conversations,  sincere hugs, introductions and just plain good fun.

Sigh!  Then .. back to reality yesterday.  A wonderful morning surprise!  Dear, lovely DH had arisen early and cleared away the kitchen.  What a guy!

Some friends had stayed over so we had a relaxing start to the day, coffee, tea .. then everyone on their way!

We went to Dakota’s for breakfast, lovely morning to sit by the window and gaze at the sunny world outside.  I notice some students doing their pre-flight inspections, prior to their flying lessons.  That was me, during the my busy, busy summer time just past.

Back home, and outside just to have a look at what’s going on in the yard.  Lots of happy birds.  Tantalizing view of the Varied Thrush!   The Juncos, a Robin, lots of sparrows.   Still looking at the remaining yard of mulch that needs to be spread about.  The warmth of the sun felt so soothing .. and part of me wanted to be outside playing and part of me wanted to be inside with DH, relaxing after our fun party of the night before.

So that part of me won out and inside I went.   Pot of tea, and then set to work, finishing my first ever circular scarf.  Photo tomorrow.   The trials and tribulations that went on in the creation of this scarf .. which I took apart at least 10 times!  Changed design and finally worked on 25 stitches (which varied in number as I dropped and added stitches along the way!)

But, really, I was proud of the fact that I accomplished this scarf!  It looks pretty and works well as a cozy, colourful double wraparound!   And I’ve started another one, this time with just one strand of multicoloured wool and knit a row, purl a row.  Keeping it simple.  And I’ve only had to take it apart once, thus far.

And I’ve decided to take a Master Gardening Course!  There will be lots to learn, and new people to meet.  So I’ve selected two books from my little library to read, cover to cover and make notes!  One is “Botany for Gardeners” (an introduction and guide) by Brian Capon and the other is the “A -Z of Plant Names” by Allen J. Coombes.

I am going to revert back to a habit that I started .. when I first started to blog.  I used to list terms and definitions of plants, as this was good for me to learn and retain new information.  This habit also encouraged me to delve into my gardening books, searching for new information.  So I’ll begin again, with some interesting information from the Botany for Gardeners book.  Something that struck a chord for me in my passion for gardening and bird watching:

“Earth has been called the Green Planet; in the vast reaches of the solar system, perhaps the universe, it is a solitary world uniquely clothed in a mantle of vegetation.  And because of its plants, other forms of life are able to inhabit this place.  From simple beginnings, plants evolved first among earth’s living things, thus setting a priority that still abides.  Plants, in one form or another, can exist forever without animals, but animals cannot exist without plants.

Plants purify the air, they exchange the oxygen that we breathe with carbon dioxide, a poisonous gas in too high a concentration.  Plants convert the energy of sunlight into foods that sustain all animals and, from the soil, draw minerals – nitrogen, potassium, calcium, iron – that are essential for our growth and continued health.  For creatures large and small, plants provide shade from the sun, refuge from predators and protection from the most destructive aspects of earth’s climate.”

This resonates with me.

And some tidbits from A – Z:

“The aim of this books is to provide a guide to the derivation, meaning and pronunciation of the scientific names of the more commonly grown plants.  The term scientific name is preferable here to Latin name, as many names derive from languages other than Latin, for example many derive from Greek or personal names.  Whatever their origin, all names are treated as Latin.  Generic names are treated as nouns and, as in Latin, have a gender (ie masculine, feminine or neuter).  Names of species and varieties are adjectival and their endings follow the rule of Latin grammar, eg, the latin word for white can be rendered as alba (feminine) or album (neuter) depending on the gender of the generic name.
The use of Latin for plant names can certainly be confusing when first encountered, producing many words of unfamiliar form and uncertain pronunciation.  It should be remembered, however, that when a scientific attitude was first taken towards the naming of plants in the 16th & 17th centuries, Latin was a common language among the intellectuals of Europe and it was second nature for many to use it.  Today, although Latin has evolved from the Latin used in classical and medieval times to meet the needs of botany, it forms a method of communication between botanists of all nationalities.
Further …. “Unlike the use of scientific names, their pronunciation is not governed by rules.  The majority of people who use scientific names treat them as if they are in their own language.  Where pronunciation is ambiguous by this method, it is common to encounter several ways of saying a word.”
Ouch .. can you spell headache?

These very wordy explanations do appear to be very dry and I’ll be rewording them for my own personal notes.  Over the years I’ve noticed that those who are most proficient in their crafts are  succinct in their explanations.  These are the teachers that I gravitate to.

So, on with this lovely sunny day.   Outside and hither and thither (I think that’s a word?)]


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