Thursday, March 22, 2018

Spring is Here

Spring 2018 has officially arrived here in Pend Oreille County, but a glance outside suggests someone forgot to tell Mother Nature.  The snow is melting, but is still several inches deep.
The First Day of Spring 2018 - Photo credit: Guy Sims
Meanwhile, despite the wintry landscape that persists outdoors, indoor preparations for this year's garden are underway.  Tomato and pepper seedlings have sprouted and are off to a good start under the grow lights.

Tomato and Pepper Seedlings
Photo credit: Vicki Green
This year's tomato varieties include Abe Lincoln, Brandywine, Cosmonaut Volkov, Delicious, Early Girl, Legend, San Marzano, and Sweetie cherry tomato (my favorite!)  We loved the Early Jalapeno peppers last year.  They were so prolific.  We were getting 10-20 peppers per week!  So we are doing those again and are trying some Anaheim peppers for the first time.

Perennial seedlings
Photo credit: Vicki Green
Perennials have also germinated and some of the milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) already have their second set of true leaves (back row in photo) and will need to be transplanted this week. This year in addition to adding color and fragrance to the garden, the flowers I'm growing are all for the purpose of attracting and helping pollinators.  In addition to two species of milkweed Asclepias tuberosa and Asclepias speciosa, there are bee balm, (Monarda fistulosa), coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), blanketflowers (Gaillardia aristada) and hollyhocks (Alcea rosea).

Pend Oreille County Master Gardener Demonstration Garden - Newport, WA
Photo credit: Vicki Green
 In addition to improving the  habitat for pollinators on our land, some of the plants I'm starting this year will be finding a home at the new Monarch Waystation at the Pend Oreille County Master Gardener Demonstration Garden.   Trying to do our part to help Monarch Butterflies and other pollinators.  I'll post photos of the Waystation in bloom later in the summer!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Hummingbirds Arrive in Pend Oreille County

 April 18th was the date I spotted the first hummingbird back here on the farm. When I dutifully hung a hummingbird feeder out on April 13th, nothing was blooming yet so it seemed unlikely that there would be any visitors stopping by anytime soon.  But a mere 5 days later, there he was in all of his glory, a beautiful male rufous!  (All photos taken by me - Vicki Green)

Male Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)  
Two days later, on April 20th a male Calliope Hummingbird arrived.  The Calliope is the smallest hummingbird seen in the United States and Canada.

Male Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope)

And then the appearance of a second male Rufous confirmed when two sipped from the feeder together in a rare moment of tolerance. Usually they are very protective of a feeder and guard it by chasing each other away.

Two male Rufous hummingbirds at a hummingbird feeder

A female calliope was next to appear.

Female Calliope Hummingbird

On May 1st the first male Black-chinned hummingbird arrived.
Male Black-Chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri)

With all three species of hummingbirds that are usually seen in Pend Oreille County back in the area, the madness begins!  As they zoom around chasing each other, sitting in proximity to the feeder is like being in the midst of a squadron of tiny fighter pilots.  I hear the buzzing sound and feel the wind on my cheek from tiny wings as they fly by within an inch of my head, I am reminded of the movie, Top Gun!  In an attempt to minimize the battles, a second hummingbird feeder was added in a location where the two feeders could not both be easily seen by the tiny combatants.  There are occasional moments of peaceful co-existence captured by my camera.

Black-chinned male hummingbird (left) and a male Calliope Hummingbird (right)
From the photo above the size difference between the Black-chinned and the Calliope can be easily seen.  In the photo below, two male black-chins share a feeder for a few seconds.

Two male Black-chinned Hummingbirds
A truce between a male black-chin hummingbird and a male rufous hummingbird is captured in the photo below.

Male Black-chinned hummingbird (left) and male Rufous hummingbird (right)
Soon the battle resumes, including a stare down from a Black-Chin with the photographer (me).

Male Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Important information about hummingbird feeders and nectar

  Hummingbird nectar should always be made with white sugar - never honey or other sweeteners.  The recommended recipe is one part sugar to 4 parts water.  Boil until the sugar is dissolved and then cool before filling feeders.  I don't use red food coloring - it isn't needed so why spend the extra money on food coloring or take the chance that the chemicals in the red dye might be harmful?  

Clean hummingbird feeders regularly - at least once a week or more frequently in hot weather.  Nectar can ferment and grow mold which can be deadly to hummingbirds.  I use glass feeders that can be cleaned in the dishwasher or boiled/steamed to sterilize.  I usually rinse them with a mild bleach solution (1 part bleach to 10 parts water) at the end of the summer and then rinse thoroughly before putting them into storage for the winter.

Hummingbird in nasturtium

To provide a natural diet, I also recommend planting numerous species of the hummingbirds favorite flowers - including native plants.  Some I have planted include columbine, honeysuckle, coral bells, snowberry, serviceberry, phlox, currant, nasturtium, foxglove, penstemon, zinnia and milkweed.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Creating a Rock Garden

For my August 2016 Bloom Day post, I am featuring the flowers in my newly planted rock garden. We realized we would need several retaining walls when our house was being built and looked at several options.  Our home is in a rural area with a very natural woodsy setting so we thought a plain concrete wall was too industrial looking.  The decorative do-it-yourself decorative concrete blocks screamed suburbia and didn't seem like a good fit, either.  We thought about a natural rock wall, but assumed it would be too expensive.  We finally decided to get some bids and were pleasantly surprised to learn that a rockery was less expensive than either a poured concrete retaining wall or concrete blocks.  Unlike the do-it-yourself concrete blocks that would have taken us weeks of back-breaking work to finish ourselves, a rock wall was installed within a couple of days with all of the work done by someone else!

New Rock Walls June 2016
Next the fun for me began as I searched for bargains and freebies to fill all of those nooks and crannies to create rock gardens.  It was a bit of a challenge because I was seeking some of my favorites that attract hummingbirds and pollinators that aren't always easy to find.   I managed to find many and about 3 months later I was delighted to find several plants blooming on August 15th....

Missouri Primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa)
The lighting wasn't very good, so it doesn't really show the true color of this Missouri Primrose with its huge bright yellow flowers.

Columbine (Aquilegia) "Little Lanterns"
Another of my finds is Columbine "Little Lanterns", a dwarf columbine that is native to the Eastern US with flowers that are similar in appearance to Aquilegia canadensis that is native to my area. Its smaller size works great in a rock garden and it is still blooming and being visited by the hummingbirds in August.

Heuchera "Ruby Bells"
Heucheras are increasingly being used for their beautiful foliage but rather insignificant flowers. I still love the old-fashioned "Coral bells" which are now becoming more difficult to find.  "Ruby Bells" is a variety that has relatively large bright pink flowers that hummingbirds love.

Dragon's Blood Sedum (Sedum spurium)
Of course it was not difficult to find Dragon's Blood Sedum from various sources, including some freebies from gardening friends.  The fact that it is common doesn't make it any less delightful for me when I see it blooming.

Sedum "Lime Zinger"
A newer variety of sedum that is blooming, is Lime Zinger.

Pacific Tree Frog (Pseudacris regilla)
Although not a flower and the photo is out of focus, I wanted to include another reason I'm glad we chose natural rock retaining walls.  I love the habitat the rock gardens are providing for wildlife including numerous tree frogs like this one.

 Thank you to May Dreams Gardens for hosting the monthly garden blog hop.  Be sure to visit the other gardens this month! 

If you are interested in creating a rock garden, here are some resources that I found to be helpful.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

June 2016 Garden Bloom Day

On this June 15, 2016 Garden Bloggers Bloom Day there are so many things blooming here in Northeast Washington that it took me nearly all day to take my photos. I saw some blue flax and bunch berry featured in my May Garden Bloom Day again this month, but with so much in bloom  I have included only the flowers that were new in June and only those that I think will be the most interesting.

Lorquin's Admiral butterfly (Limenitis lorquini) on Nasturtium (Tropaeolum minus "Alaska")
Instead of saving the best for last, I'll start with my favorite of a Lorquin's Admiral butterfly perched on a nasturtium in a hanging basket.  Before I move on to the wildflowers, I'm sharing the blossoms of some tomato plants.  I'm hopeful that I'll get a good crop this year.  Yum!

Roma Tomato blossoms

From the vegetable garden, I wandered down to the pond to see what wetland plants are blooming.

Blue Iris
I spotted a few blue Iris flowers.

Monkey Flower (Mimulus moschatas)
Numerous bright yellow monkey flowers were scattered around the edge of the marshy edge of the pond.

Water lily (Nymphaea species)
It was still morning so the water lilies were not completely open.  Next, I meandered through the meadow.

Common Harebell (Campanula rotundiflora)
A few harebells were blooming.

Cinquefoil (Potentilla sp.)
and some cinquefoils.  I spotted one lone locoweed.

Locoweed (Oxytropis species)
Approaching the edge of the trees are two native species of spirea that are both heavily visited by pollinators.

Bumblebee (Bombus sp.) and  Bee Mimic Beetle (Trichiotinus assimilis) on blooming Birchleaf Spirea (Spiraea betufolia)
Both bumblebees and beetles feed on the nectar and pollen of the flat-topped white birchleaf spirea.

Bumblebee (Bombus sp.) on Spiraea Douglasii
Numerous bumblebees were on the pink fluffy spires of Douglas Spirea.

Holodiscus discolor
There are numerous creambush (Holodiscus discolor), also known as ocean spray or mountain spray which are not quite in full bloom.  

Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)
Another favorite of bees and other pollinators is the tiny pink blooms of the snowberry.   Moving from the forest edge into the trees is where I find one of my favorite plants blooming in the dappled sunlight under the trees.

Twinflower (Linnaea borealis)
I've always thought the tiny little twinflower (Linneae borealis) would make a great plant for a fairy garden.

Pine Drops (Pterospora andromedea)
Although not yet in full bloom, I'm happy to see the stalks of several pine drops poking up under the trees.  Thank you to May Dreams Gardens for hosting the monthly garden blog hop.  Be sure to visit the other gardens this month.  Some of the books in my library that I find helpful to identify the native plants, flowers and insects in the Pacific Northwest include the following:

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

May 2016 Garden Bloom Day

Spring is earlier than normal here in northeast Washington State so many flowers ahead of their usual bloom time.  While it is delightful to have so many beautiful blossoms, my May 2016 Bloom Day post is long and it took me a couple of days to organize, select and post, but all photos were taken on May 15th.

Purple Globe Allium
I haven't planted many flowers since we moved permanently to the farm last fall, so most of what we have are natives and wildflowers.  One of the few things I planted were some globe alliums.

Dutch Iris
I also planted some Dutch Iris rhizomes that a friend gave me from her garden.

Although they aren't native, these columbine were planted by someone or something other than me. Since they are one of my favorite flowers, it was a lovely surprise to find them growing in one of the semi-shady, moist areas.

Camas Lily (Camassia sp)
Although they are native to this area, I did scatter a few camas lily bulbs near our pond a few years ago so I have no idea if this one that came up was planted by me or mother nature.

Blue Flax (Linum Perenne)
Rounding out the list of blue flowers blooming today, are a few blue flax in the meadow.

Blueberry Blossoms 

There are still a few blueberry blossoms.

Crandall Currant (Ribes odoratum)

And even fewer Crandall currant flowers with their lovely scent.

Thimbleberry (Rubus Parviflorus)
We have several large thickets of thimbleberries which are just starting to bloom.  Later they provide a feast of raspberry-like berries for the birds and bears.

Wild Rose 
I'm not sure of the species, but the first of our fragrant wild roses bloomed on May 15th.

Lonicera ciliosa

As I search high and low for more blooming flowers, I find a native honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa) in the tree tops.  I doesn't have any fragrance, but it is a favorite of the three species of hummingbirds that are seen in our area.

Morel mushroom (Morchella sp.)

And down low on the ground, I found what remains of a withering morel mushroom.  (It looks like scat, but it really is a morel past its prime!)

Viola glabella

None of the Viola adunca I saw last month are still blooming, but there are still a few of the yellow Viola glabella around.

Heart-leaf Arnica (Arnica cordifolia)

Another yellow flower which is abundant right now is the heart-leaf arnica.

Star-flowered false Soloman's Seal (Smilacina stellata)

Another shade-loving plant is the star-flowered false Soloman's Seal.

Hooker's Fairybells (Disporum hookeri)

And growing nearby are several Hooker's fairybells.

Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera)

Sticking with the white flowers, there are some red-osier dogwoods blooming and down on the forest floor are many of its small relatives, the bunchberry.

Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)

But saving the best for last (although the flowers are not quite completely open) are the lady's slippers.

Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium sp)
Thank you to May Garden Dreams for hosting this fun Garden Blog link-up.  Please visit to see what is blooming in other gardens all over the world!