Sunday, April 27, 2008

Black swallowtail caterpillars on yummy bronze fennel

I made note of seeing the first black swallowtail butterfly in the garden nine days ago. She was laying eggs on bronze fennel. Clearly, someone was here before that, as these caterpillars I found today are fourth or fifth instar already. I was going to inspect the whole plant for a total head count, but it started to rain. And it hasn't stopped—we've gotten almost 3 inches so far!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Baby bunny makes my day

I'm putzing around the garden this afternoon when I spy a tiny young rabbit totally unaware of me. I crouch and sit as still as possible and watch it explore the garden. It's just beyond my arm's length. This young chap (or chapette) is no bigger than my fist, and it toddles in such an adorable, clumsy way.

It approaches a dahlia shoot. Sniff, sniff. Not interested. Ah, a bit of tansy. Nibble. That's an interesting flavor. Perhaps a tad too strong though. A taste of wild verbena. Not bad. But here: a tender clover leaf! This, I like, thinks little cottontail, whose tail is not yet cottony.

Then it turns and ambles toward me, and I make nary a move. (Now, usually I'm not good at sitting still. I have less patience with birds, but in an encounter with a wild mammal of any shape or size, I have the discipline of a Buckingham Palace guard). Here it comes: the reward. The baby bunny steps right onto the top of my shoe and perches there. Hold my breath, hold my breath, hold my breath. It sits for just a second, then moves on, across the garden, past the onions, and eventually through the fence and into the neighbor's yard.

(Remains of meal retrieved, and scanned for your viewing enjoyment. Cute little teeth marks!)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

First poppy, first hummingbird

The first opium poppy bloomed today. And the first hummer arrived at the feeder. Finally, birds I can afford to feed.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Dahlia tubers arrived

Received my spring order from Old House Gardens today, which included Dahlia atropurpurea (pictured at left, courtesy of OHG's online catalog). According to OHG, D. atropurpurea is a dark purple form of D. pinnata, one of the first three wild dahlias to be exported to Europe from Mexico.

On one of my regular visits to J.C. Raulston Arboretum back in October, I was intrigued by the D. coccinea blooming in the geophyte border of the rooftop garden and photographed them for my records (above). I had never seen a species dahlia, or even heard of them for that matter, but of course hybrids have to come from somewhere! So when I saw OHG's D. atropurpurea, I had to order it. I love the idea of growing dahlias as wildflowers, and I like the single form of the blossom. The species dahlias at the arboretum were going like gangbusters, in spite of extreme drought.

I also received in my order the dahlias Little Beeswings (ca. 1909), Madame Stappers (ca. 1947) and Andries' Orange (ca. 1936). Until today, the only named dahlia I had was Prince Noir (ca. 1954), which would be the dahlia I would grow if I could only choose one. Besides it, I have several heirloom passalongs from two sources: Mrs. Rosa Hicks of Banner Elk, N.C., and the late Mrs. Brownie Johnson of Harrells, N.C., whom I miss dearly.

I found a little more on species dahlias here.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The bat is back!

I shone the flashlight up into the bat house before dark, and it's occupied! A single bat. It is exactly 1 year to the day that we put the house up. We discovered the first (and only) occupant last year on June 15, and it remained only two days. So maybe it remembered and has come back to roost for the summer. I want a whole colony (it is a nursery-capacity house), but I'll settle for one. Tomorrow I'll lay out a white towel or sheet underneath the house so I can monitor occupancy by checking for guano. I don't want to disturb any occupant(s) too much with a flashlight. But it's soooooo tempting.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The pot garden

The pots have all been sown. This'll be the third year I've grown Purple Haze carrots, and I'd never be without them. Whether you slice, shred or julienne them or use young ones (tops and all) as edible garnishes, they are drop dead gorgeous. Have grown Easter Egg radishes too, and they're so cute. This is my first time growing French zucchini, watermelon radish and Early Wonder beets. Grow, grow, grow!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pressed flowers, 21st-century style

I love using my scanner as a poor man's macro lens. Picked these little darlings in the yard today.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Rain falling on sedums

3 more inches of rain!

Compost bin

Cleaned out the fridge!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April showers!

A steady drizzle over the past few days has filled the rain gauge to the 1 1/2 inch mark! Here are some things blooming in the garden today.

Top: Amsonia
Bottom: African daisy

Pansies, piggy, alyssum