Friday, May 28, 2010

Rooms with a view

Views of the garden from inside are critical for me. Winter views are important, of course, since we spend so much more time inside then. But who would have thought we'd be appreciating our window views quite so much in May?

The regular and unrelenting showers this month have severely depleted my limited reserves of inner sunshine. When the sun (temporarily) comes out,  I'm at my desk at work, and it seems whenever I'm home, the rains return. Because Mother Nature apparently missed the memo about my half-day Fridays, here are the views from my rooms on another rainy Friday afternoon (some taken through the screens resulting in an even mistier look.)

From the north utility room window, the Northwest Territory. Unlike the MulchMaid, the vine maple and other native species in this part of the garden love this wet weather and are thriving in it.

Same room and window, angling slightly toward the northeast.
From the left breakfast room bay window. I'm cheering on the small camellia against the fence, but the cedars to the north are filling in well.

The fatsia japonica has made it above the window sill this year!

George and Martha, the flamingos, are holding court in the bamboo bed seen from the middle bay of our big breakfast room window.

I thinned the bamboo earlier this year and found several runners making their way through the sand barrier when I checked it. The sand trap method, which I described here in an earlier post, seems to be working well.

From the southwest bay of the breakfast room. Now we're getting into MulchMaid territory. See those stakes on the left? Three of them have sprouts from Eucomis pole-evansii in front of them. They're late, but just you wait until, um, August?

Also barely visible behind them is the small, recently planted Callistemon viridifloris. I have high screening hopes for this shrub, since the fig starting to leaf out a little further south does nothing for our privacy in winter.

Looking southeast out of the deck doors.

Last view from the breakfast room, and it's a big one to the south through our deck doors. Everything looks so green for a Mediterranean garden. The ceanothus and  cistus are enhancing the eucalyptus nicely this May as they both bloom their hearts out.

Moving into the kitchen, here's my view from the kitchen window as I stand at the sink. Even when I can't be out there, at least I can imagine sitting on the deck with a glass of wine.

All my overwintered agaves are lined up under the shelter of the soffit where they will get any sun that appears. Sun? Did I say that? They have been outdoors since mid-April and I wonder how much longer I will need to leave them under cover.

Now we're in my dining room, looking out the east window. It has a great view of the southern part of the back garden. I usually position myself in the best seat for this view when I set the table.

Two ceanothus thyrsiflorus Victoria are putting on a show on both sides of the fence, seen from the south-facing dining room window. Last month, this view was dominated by the flowers of the malus 'Prairifire' visible beyond in the parking strip.

Next to the ceanothus, in what this month is laughingly referred to as the "hot bed", my newly-planted olive, and grevilla are trying hard to see themselves commanding the space in the future.

These are the views that keep me  anticipating my outdoor gardening and relaxation time all year long.

Will any of that that happen this long holiday weekend? At 9 o'clock on Friday night, it's not looking very promising.

But there's always next weekend.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A visit to Malheur Wildlife Refuge

Last week the MulchMaids went to eastern Oregon, to one of their favorite places. Their destination, Malheur Wildlife Refuge, hosts hundreds of species of resident and migratory bird species. And it's also a beautiful and remote place to get away from city life for a little while.

What makes the refuge unique is the runoff from the Steens Mountain glaciers that feed the Donner und Blitzen River, even in summer. In the middle of this high desert country, refuge managers have created canals and dikes to control the river's water, filling ponds and wetlands to encourage and support wildlife in every season.

It's a birder's candy store.
The MulchMaids do love looking at birds, but are not very good at it. Suffice it to say the species they spot are always found in the "abundant" or "common" columns of the literature. But they have a great time looking. The place is so chock-full of wildlife it's hard not to see beautiful and exotic species of birds and other creatures all around.
Look closely and in the center you'll see a Great egret wading at the edge of the pond.
You can see a hint of the Steens on the right as he flies away.

 Male Cinnamon teal.
Common ibis. I don't know why he was alone since they generally feed in flocks.

They fly in skeins like geese, but their individual profile is much slimmer.
From the car at 60 MPH. Sorry about the bird-book reflection, but we were going too fast and it was too cold to open the window.
A Redtail hawk nest. Earlier, we saw an adult Redtail feeding a fledgling in the nest. There was a tiny bird we didn't identify flying in and out of the bottom of the hawk's nest where it had apparently made its own nest.
Along the Donner und Blitzen river.
We saw lots of these butterflies.
Common snipe (note the "common" - our specialty.) This noisy little bird stakes out a territory then perches on a post or pole to tell everyone else about it.
He's looking for love in all the right places.
Another view of the river.
Star was the resident mustang behind our unit at the Steens Mountain Resort. He has the typical coloring of the Kiger mustangs that live on Steens: dark mane and tail, dark stripes across his legs and a dark stripe down his back. DNA testing shows the feral Kiger mustangs are very similar to Spanish mustangs from the 1600s, and are likely descended from horses brought here then.
Our unit at the Steens Mountain Resort. As you can see, it was not what most would call a resort (which suited us just fine.)

In addition to the few birds I captured above, we spotted Great Horned owls (an adult feeding a youngster), turkey vultures, Wilson's warblers, multiple swift species, mallards, Common coots (there's that "common" again), and the cutest little weasel dancing down the road.
On our way there and back, we stopped at Tumalo State Park north of Bend for lunch. We got really lucky with the weather, so eating outdoors was perfect.
This shrub was blooming all over the park.
For a short trip, our visit to the Malheur wildlife refuge was amazingly rewarding. I recommend it to anyone who wants to get away, sooth their spirit and fill their eyes to the brim with beautiful images of the natural world.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Zen of weeding

From this:
To this:

Two hours later, the MulchMaid is ridiculously happy.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A new pest in the garden

Well, anyway, it's new to me, and I'm just horrified!

To start at the beginning, about ten days ago I put the overwintered plants out onto the deck in a sheltered place to acclimatize. Along with my small but growing collection of agaves, I put out the Meyer lemon. It's still blooming nicely, by the way.

Today, I was checking the potted plants for moisture. I noticed ants had discovered the sticky, sweet nectar of the lemon blossoms and were busily traveling up and down the tree's trunk to gather it. I wasn't crazy about that (the next step is an aphid farm, in my experience), but then I noticed something very different on the stems.
See the little brown bump on the left branch where it joins the others? Scale!

I had never seen scale before, but my heart just knew that's what it had to be.
I ran inside to look up what to do about it. Scale insects attach themselves to leaves and twigs and suck moisture from the plant. They can cause withering, yellowing and black fungus on leaves. The ones I show are females, and the article I found said they are pretty controllable, beginning with taking them off with your fingernail or a stick. If you need more drastic measures, insecticidal soap is recommended. The article warned that you should isolate the plant if it's indoors, because scale is invasive and will infect other plants. I quickly checked the inside plants that were near the lemon, and breathed a sigh of relief: no indoor sign of the little pests.

By the time I took these pictures I had removed as many as 50 scale ranging from 1/16" to 3/16" in length.

Now here's the scary part: suddenly I noticed more. A lot more. Look carefully and you'll see those are all tiny scale insects down the center of the leaf and in some of the side veins above. And that's not the only leaf affected. These pests are all over our poor little tree and they seem to be in all sizes, including microscopic - those females have been busy over the last ten days.

I guess it's time to mix up some Safer soap and get to work. Wish me and the lemon luck!