Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Flying Gems - The Hummers of Summer

I miss my little hummingbirds. I finally took their feeder down today, though they’ve been gone for a couple of weeks. 

Their departure signals the end of summer, and that has been difficult for me to accept this year. Once again, summer has passed by much too quickly. 

Do you enjoy watching these little feathered friends throughout the summer? We have a feeder hanging by our kitchen window, and the whole family enjoys our little summer neighbors.

Blooms of my Hosta 'Guacamole'
With their antics and boundless energy, these tiny friends entertain us throughout the summer. I love to watch them inspect my petunia baskets, thoroughly checking out each flower for nectar. 

When my larger hostas bloom with their bell-shaped flowers, the hummers almost disappear inside the blooms. Even the tiny coral bells offer something pleasing for their palate.

Do your hummingbirds come and say hello, or even goodbye? I get to know the little family who shares our feeder each year, and if I am outside near their feeder, they act somewhat surprised to see me, although they seem to know who I am.

Raspberry Blast Petunia
I am the flower lady who plants bountiful gardens of blossoms for them to enjoy; and I am the one who refills their feeder with fresh sugar water for their sustenance. Yes, they know me, and they are not afraid of me.

At the end of the season, one of these little flying gems will come right up to the window, looking directly inside, usually at my office window on the other side of the house. My little friend will hover, looking into the window, and seems to be saying goodbye.
Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird

They do this every year, and I am always awed by their presence. They never seem to be afraid of me. While it is bittersweet farewell, I treasure that they know me and I fancy that they are saying thank you for the lovely summer gardens and sweets. And too soon, they are gone.

Autumn leaves are falling, and our seasons are changing once again. I miss my tiny friends, but I know next May I will place my feeder out with fresh sugar water, and once again these delicate beauties will grace us with their presence. It wouldn’t be summer without them!


Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Let me share a story of my personal encounters with hummingbirds. I’ve actually gotten to hold these tiny creatures in my hands, not once, but twice! 

The first time was when we lived in Oregon, and one got trapped up by the skylight in the outdoor breezeway. It was twilight and this poor little guy was franticly trying to find a way back to the sky!

Fearful that he might harm himself attempting to escape, I got a ladder and climbed up to carefully catch him in my hands.

I stood on the patio, incredulously holding this tiny creature in my hand; two species not normally in direct physical contact. He felt practically weightless, and I could feel his tiny heart beating so fast. With a soft whir of his wings, he was gone. But the gift of holding that tiny life in my hand was indescribable, and I will never forget it.

Fast forward fifteen years or so, to our home here in Wisconsin. My husband saw that the cat had something out in the yard. When he approached, a chipmunk freed himself and ran off. But he noticed something bright green in the grass, and it was a hummingbird!

We don’t know how this tiny bird got to be there in this mix of animals, lying in the grass. He rescued the tiny bird and brought him to me. I held him for awhile, and he began to perk up.

Baby Hummingbird on a branch. So tiny!
As we had just made fresh sugar water for the feeder, my boys suggested we get some for the little bird. We filled a small medicine cup, and encouraged him to drink. Before long the little guy was perched on the side of the cup drinking the nectar. After a few minutes, he felt stronger, and soon, with a whir of wings he flew away.

Once again I felt awed at the rare opportunity to commune with this delicate species that live with us for the months of summer. I will never forget how it felt to hold these tiny creatures, and I feel privileged for having had the experience not once, but twice!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

What Happened to Summer?

Close-up of Verbena, one of my favorite summer annuals
How is it possible that summer has come and gone, and I haven't gotten to share my gardens with you? Oh yeah, I run a landscaping business and a busy household. No excuses! So I'll start by sharing some pictures here.

I would be willing to bet that you will agree with me that SUMMER WENT TOO DARNED FAST!! 

While I hold onto my impatiens as long as I can and keep watering petunias that I should have let go long ago, my tomato plants continue to produce bounty, and we keep enjoying it!

'Nora Leigh' Phlox
These last few days have been absolutely gorgeous, the kind of September that Wisconsinites dream about. The sun brings heat through blue skies, but you don't have to look far to see Autumn creeping in. Tinges of yellows and even reds are beginning to peek through, though for the most part we still savor our green palette of summer adorning the tree-covered hills. This soon will change.

The forerunners of color-change are already among us, and there's no turning back. Many of the ash trees on our property have already lost their leaves. They're always early to lose leaves and late to leaf out. That's just their style. But the crunch on the driveway lets me know that the inevitable change of seasons is here, so we might as well embrace it. 

I've always loved Fall. As a little girl, the smell of Fall brought the crunch of leaves and made for a fun season. I loved raking leaf piles and jumping into them, and then laying in the warm sun, letting my imagination take me far away.

I still love Fall, but with the maturity of many seasons behind me, I know that the beautiful hues of Autumn lead to the snow and cold of winter. Not that I mind winter. It's just that it LASTS TOO DARN LONG in Wisconsin. But I digress...

Savor the season you are in.  

Summer glided by on the wings of butterflies and hummingbirds, but as Autumn approaches, we now ride the winds of change.

Change can be for the better, or sometimes for the worse, but one thing is for certain. Nature guides us in displaying that change is a constant in our lives, and we had better learn to go with the flow. Hopefully, our transitions may lead us into new beginnings.

Somewhat reluctantly, I will bring out a few Fall accents to decorate our home. But first, I have a bird bath to clean and plants outside that still require regular watering. 

I hope you are enjoying these last days of our summer-turned Autumn. The promise of pumpkin pies and apple cider and nights around a fire sound inviting, but for now, my rose bush is still blooming and soaking up the sun. Therefore, so am I. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday's Fav's: Fall Blooming Anemone

Summer is over, way too soon, in my opinion. Usually by now I'm ready for falling leaves, cleaning up the gardens, and preparing for winter. But this year's odd summer weather has left me wanting more, and I'm being dragged kicking and whining into autumn this year.


One bright spot of joy in my garden is this sweet little Anemone. I added three of these plants to complete an "edge of the woodland shade garden", one of my favorite designs, (although this one is actually right up against my house!)

Though this garden is on the west side of my house, it is heavily shaded and receives only a brief time of direct sun each day. 

The Anemone holds its flowers high on sturdy stalks. Each flower measures only an inch or two, but the plant is floriferous and as it matures will bear many flowers each season. 

I chose most of the plants in this shade garden for their foliage, though all of them flower at some point - a bonus! However, the anemones were planted with flowers in mind, fall flowers, mind you, at a time when everything else is fading away.

I love their cheery little faces, and as the plants grow, I think this will be a highlight of my new shade garden.

This Anemone is rated for zone 5 hardiness, meaning that if we experience a really frigid winter (below -20), these plants may not survive. Planting them in a protected area, such as in this garden next to the house, will help to assure they make it to the next season.

Here are the facts:

Scientific name: Anemone x hybrida 'Pamina'

Common name: Windflower, Japanese Anemone

Family: Ranunculaceae

Hardiness: Zone 5-9

Light Requirements: Sun to Part Shade

Height: 24-36"

Width: 24"

Blooms in late summer or early fall.

Resistant to deer and rabbits! 

Just one more note:  I though you might like to see my Limelight hydrangea in the fall. The flowers have turned nearly all pink, and are still darkening in their color. This plant is enjoyable in all seasons!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday's Fav's: Limelight Hydrangea

My Limelight Hydrangea is truly one of my fav's! I wait all summer for the blooms to arrive, and they are gorgeous!

They've been opening for a week or so, and most are now fully opened, yet new blooms continue to emerge.

The size of the blooms is amazing! And even with the recent torrential downpours, the plant continues to hold its giant blooms upright.

Even though Limelight is a relatively late bloomer in my garden, I don't mind. With these beautiful blooms in late summer, Limelight is a shining star in my garden.

The blooms emerge with a soft, lime green tint, hence their name, and open fully to a pure white.

This photo shows how large the blossoms can get - they engulf my hand! The blooms are easily 6-8" long. Though they have only a very slight fragrance, they delight me with their little florets combining to make these large blossoms.

The fluffy blooms last for many weeks, gradually turning a pinkish hue. The blossoms can be cut and dried, though I tend to leave them on the plant even into the winter months. 

Sometimes I will find an old blossom that has come off in the winter winds, blowing about the snow-covered ground. That makes me smile, too, as I remember how gorgeous the plant is in summertime.

The only pruning I do with my Limelight hydrangea is to remove any dead wood. Occasionally, there may be a few twigs to remove. Other than that, this plant, once established, is free of maintenance.

I suppose you could trim off the old flowers after summer if you desired to. And if you like to dry the blossoms, you can remove them at any time.

Limelight does like to have evenly moist soil, so I'll set the hose to a dribble and soak the area surrounding the base of the plant in really hot, dry weather. Each year, my plant has grown wider, and I will make its garden bed larger, if necessary, to accommodate its width.

This cheery plant is a stand-out in the garden. Give it plenty of room to grow, and water regularly until it is established. Then maintain a moist soil, but do not over water it. And you will be rewarded with beautiful white blooms long after most other plants have finished blossoming.

NOTE: The paniculata hydrangeas differ from the mophead (macrophylla) hydrangeas many of us are familiar with. Mopheads include Annabelle and Endless Summer, two of my most reliable plants in the landscape. The leaves of paniculata are smaller, and the bloom time is much later in summer. Both types deserve a place in the garden!

Scientific name: Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'

Common name: Limelight Hydrangea

Family: Hydrangeaceae

Zone: 4-8

Light requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade

Height: 6-8'

Spread: 6-8'

Bloom time: Mid-late summer through mid-fall

Caveats: Some parts of the plant may be poisonous if ingested

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday's Fav's: Rudbeckia 'Indian Summer'

Such a cheery face! How could you not love this bright as sunshine flower? The blossoms of Rudbeckia 'Indian Summer' have just started blooming in my garden!


This sun-loving plant sports bright blooms 3-5" in size, and each blossom lasts for many weeks. They keep on blooming and brightening up the garden all summer long!

The centers start out smooth and reddish, and become softer and dark brown after the stamens open.

Bumblebees love to perch and drink nectar from these happy plants, and they help to spread the pollen.

This variety is known to move about the garden, but doesn't form dense colonies like other Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia species). 

'Indian Summer' may be considered a biennial, or a short-lived perennial. The plants may last for a a year or two, but they reseed freely and I'm glad to see I have some blooming in my garden again this year.

In my garden, my plants stayed in the same place for a couple of years, but they didn't make it through this last winter.

However they have reseeded and relocated themselves elsewhere in my garden, and where they are blooming now works beautifully! I couldn't have done a better job myself!

I enjoy seeing their bright faces when I walk by my garden. Their bright color, large flower size and each flower's longevity in the garden make this a perennial not to be without!

 Here are the facts:

Scientific name: Rudbeckia hirta 'Indian Summer'

Common name: Black-eyed Susan

Family: Asteraceae

Zone: 3-7

Light requirements: Full Sun

Height: 2-3'

Spread: 1-2'

Bloom time: June thru frost

Tolerant: Deer, drought and clay soil

Here's a picture of 'Indian Summer' in my garden last year, blooming with my Star-gazer lilies and Summer Phlox. Isn't this a lovely palette of color?