Loving Eucalyptus

In the front corner of the new yard there is a huge and very old eucalyptus tree. No, not the kind with smiling koalas slowly munching leaves from drowsy perches, but the wonderful, small leaved variety that grows so exuberantly here in the Low Country.

The bark is shaggy, peeling, rough and gorgeous. It makes a statement all on its own.

The peeling bark of the Eucalyptus

Couple it with the narrow, fragrant green foliage and it presents a graceful tree for the lawn or border. Ya gotta know though, that gorgeous bark means it is basically self mulching….and there is a lot of bark. Another bonus? That spicy eucalyptus aroma… adored by most people, and repellent to most insect pests.  Thank you, eucalyptus oil.

The big one out front is home to myriad and varied birds, as well as providing strong branches for a handmade birdhouse and bird feeders, and a small platform that serves as a makeshift treehouse for the kids. It weathered the hurricanes this year without issue and has quickly become a family favorite.

Today a friend gifted me with a start from her own big eucalyptus. A few years and it will become a new bird sanctuary in this overly busy bit of urban landscaping, a welcome, gentle respite for our birds and tree frogs, a cool place of dappled shade welcoming all.

Glad you are here, little tree, grow strong. Welcome home.

Eucalyptus Pauciflora 'Bonza' Eucalyptus Tree

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Daylight Savings…!

So thrilled Daylight Savings has returned.  It really should be the only time, because it makes the best use of daylight hours.  And I LOVE my daylight hours. More time to be in the yard, in the garden, enjoying my azaleas and camellias, more time for the kids and critters to play outdoors. Perfect.

Image result for red and white striped camellia

Except…sadly…this year’s change is accompanied by a very NOT usual for this time of year cold snap.  Chilly.  And I do not, as everyone who knows me even casually knows, like to be chilly.  Ever.  So here I am, eating my big ol’ yummy salad with spicy avocado-lime ranch dressing and enough peppers to warm me up, dogs curled up underfoot to keep my feet warm, and working diligently at my four zillionith attempt at a synopsis.  That will keep the brain cells firing.

 

Gardener–minus the Garden

It’s a hard thing for me to deal with this spring…yes,  February is the beginning of our spring planting season here in the Lowcountry…and here it is March and I have precious little in the ground save the quickie crops…radishes, etc.

This spring…we are thinking we will be moving.  If not right now, as soon as school ends, which is long before most crops will be grown and ready to harvest.  How then to have a decent garden at a time when the uncertainty of the months ahead makes it ever more important to have my own source of vegetables?  The pear tree is covered in blooms.  If we are here long enough, there will be bumper crops of pears, blackberries and black raspberries.  The blueberries are still in pots, I got them last winter on sale, and didn’t want them in the ground till I could be assured of no strange weather eccentricities.  Now would be the perfect time to put them in…but…ya know, moving.

Herbs aren’t so difficult, they do well in planters as long as they have room to spread out.  So this weekend, pots of Mexican oregano, tarragon, white sage, lots of new starts off my very old rosemary. I still need marjoram, cilantro, and basil (probably a couple of kinds, variety is the spice of life) as well as nasturtiums.

And then there is the entire issue of which crops to plant now, which I can pot and transport, which we will simply have to do without this season.  My much loved pod peas will be grown and ready to harvest in no time.  Things like cauliflower and broccoli?  Sigh.

The obvious alternative would be to see if I can budget a share in a CSA.  This might be the best option…particularly in a transitional period where I will most likely need another year to get the garden itself ready for proper planting, and when our hectic lives are better suited to some crops than others, a CSA would provide a better range of produce.  I am checking it out now and will let ya’ll know how it goes.

 

 

MARCHing toward spring

And as we begin a new month, and look hopefully toward a new season, things here get more and more complicated.  Life is never dull.

Everything is in bloom now, it seems.  Azaleas in reds, pinks, corals, fuchsia, and white blaze across lawns.  Camellias are still in bloom and jasmine scents the air.  The dogwoods are in bloom, my pear tree’s abundance of tiny white flowers offers the promise of a bumper crop of fruit again this year.  The wisteria trail along fences, and wind through trees and shrubbery borders, spring bulbs have begun to open, and everywhere there is new green.

Beautiful yellow Sulphur butterflies were among the first arrivals and flit about the garden en mass now, along with small white butterflies and the first monarchs.

Lateral view of adult male cloudless sulphur, Phoebis sennae (Linnaeus), nectaring at smallfruit beggarticks, Bidens mitis.

Bumblebees are out on the warmer days, and I have seen some very small bees I haven’t identified yet that look like honeybees but perhaps half the size.  Anyone know what these new arrivals might be?

I have begun to see in my writing how my passion for nature colors settings: description of waves crashing against the shore, the scent of a salt marsh, details of plants and forests and landscapes…and beyond that, the way these environments influence the people and the story itself. It seems a very ‘natural’ thing to me for that connection to be present on the page just as it is present in our lives.

Then I look around and find that same connection in my pottery.  I love to create pottery. The feel of the clay,  opening to reveal the shape within.  Pots with flowers dancing down their curves,  imprints of seashells or coral, playing with natural firing techniques, finding a glaze that is exactly the right color to make a piece sing a song of the ocean, or forest, or a lovely spring day like today.

That flower child who became an earth mother seems to be finding that connection in all the things I choose to fill my life.  That is a blessing beyond measure.

 

July slides by

,,, and I shall miss it!  So quickly come…and gone.

We found this gorgeous creature in our backyard.  She has an amazingly perfect web and sat and posed for her photograph.

Golden orb weaver…right next to the screen porch.  So beautiful.

More planting of flowers today.  Pentas, Mexican sage (which is a kind of salvia), found the most gorgeous phlox in a pale pale pinky lavender with white, and added more portulaca.  The raised vegetable planter is now a butterfly garden and they were already visiting it before I could even get the final plants in the soil.

Getting ready to roll

This is VBS week and I am going out to help with bible school at a very poor inner city school.  Worked at the school a year ago putting in garden beds so the school could grow their own vegetables, and was sad to hear from the children that the plants came up…and were allowed to die untended.

Perhaps this year, if I can get some help, I can go plant their vegetable beds and make it out to the school at least once or twice a week just to water and weed. Also thinking a few perennials would go a long way toward helping them have success…strawberry plants, blueberry bushes, sunchokes, ground nuts (Indian potatoes), scarlet runner beans, and kale. That alone would give the kids something to harvest almost year round down here.  I need to put this up to the school and the church group.

Scarlet runner beans

Sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes)

my magnificent magnolia….and other tales from the backyard

I have a magnolia tree.  Not too old, but old enough it towers above everything but the live oaks, beautifully pyramidal in form, deep glossy green and loaded with rust colored buds and huge creamy white flowers it is my showpiece.  I love this tree.  Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) flower   I wish I had a picture of the whole tree!

But these blossoms perfume the whole yard.  Heaven. 

And to make things even more amazing in the yard… I have hot banana peppers, baby white eggplants, big yellow bell peppers, tomatoes that are almost ripe, cucumbers going crazy…. and my FIG TREE is loaded down with baby figs.  So exciting.

In backyard news of the animal variety…. glass snakes! LOTS of them.  Looks like last year’s bumper crop of babies did well and now I have large, fat beautiful glass snakes in every part of the landscape.  Since they are actually legless lizards no one needs to freak out over their presence and it is so nice to see nature’s creatures enjoying the habitat I provide for them.