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As long as our storms are sans lightning and thunder, I love the rain.  A little thunder and I head for the closet.

I love the sound of rain though – the harder the better, and the sweet clean scents afterward, and the way plants perk up so happily refreshed.

Our Hosta in the front garden has grown to enormous proportions the way certain things do around here in rural Virginia.

Due to black thumbs, if we plant something, our expectations are minimal.   We expect an early demise.   But if it surprises us and actually lives, we know it will grow by mega leaps and  never stop.

Jack of the Bean Stalk would feel right at home here, and I’m sure he was observing when we had to climb a step ladder to trim a little burning bush that  had grown so tall we couldn’t see the top anymore.

And now the Hosta (which lives right next to that gargantuan Rhododendron)  is the size of a Volkswagon!  Well yes, the Hosta does need dividing – someday.

Her leaves are REALLY big and catch the  raindrops for a sparkly show even when the rain has stopped.

I am experimenting again with a free online  photo editing program.  It wasn’t really raining but I tried that effect and the caption was added that way too.

The raindrops are real though.

More storms expected tonight or tomorrow to keep my world emerald green.

I love the rain.

Don’t you?

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Our Rhododendron is 26 years old.

When Bill and I first moved to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia the little “Rhodie” was a house warming gift from our friends, Terry and Barbara.  An avid gardener, Barbara actually planted it in a corner of the front yard.  “It will be protected there,” she said.

Barbie was right because the Rhododendron eventually grew and bloomed and surprised us with some amazing displays.  And then she burgeoned into a giant beauty, almost touching the eaves of the house and spreading wide and well beyond her expected corner boundaries.

“Time to cut things back,” I thought,  “Maybe with a trim she will thrive and be renewed.”  And though I really hated the idea, I clipped away to slim her down.

Rhodie’s big displays promptly stopped.

We were lucky to see one or two flowers in a season.

She must not have liked my pruning because season after season there were only one or two flowers on display.

She was on strike, so I decided to leave her alone – no more pruning, only watering and mulch.

Years later and Rhodie has grown to enormous proportions once again.  She is reaching for the eves and spreading beyond her rightful place, and she is big and fat and happy!  And just look at all the gorgeous flowers!  But is there such a thing as too big?

Rhodie Top Good one

Help!  So many of you,  my blogger friends, are extraordinary gardeners.

To prune or not to prune.  That is the question.

Rhodie Close Up

Rhodie 2

 

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Stonewall Jackson House Lexington, Virginia

Stonewall Jackson House
Lexington, Virginia en.wikipedia.org

There is a scarecrow at the Stonewall Jackson House in Lexington, Virginia.    Thomas Johnathan Jackson was a Confederate general in the American Civil War.  But, before the war he lived in a nice little house in downtown Lexington, Virginia and he had a productive garden “out back”.

This is an old fashioned scarecrow (made with a potato).  It is hanging in the Jackson House garden now.

I could do that!  Easier than crocheting.

 

Old Time Scarecrow

 

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Storm a Brewing 2Random Friday Randoms

  • I paid the locker fee for a whole year at the YMCA.  Now the question is, will I go?  And/or, will I go regularly?
  • Also signed up for a Beginner’s Crochet class at our local Stitchery

    Actually, I know how to crochet but unable to read a pattern, join new skeins to old ones, or end a thing so it doesn’t unravel.  Some folks have received Dor’s scarves that are undoubtedly unraveled by now.  And apologies if your feet are sticking through that afghan I sent last Christmas!

    It was the same with a long ago Beginner’s Typing Class when  I was already typing fast but had no idea how to set margins.  Good thing WordPress sets the margins for us!

    Is this a personal personality flaw or what?  How about playing the flute in high school and making First Chair after memorizing Flight of the Bumble Bee while never learning to read music?

    But more randomly:

  • We had dinner out with good friends (the same good friends) twice this week (or was it thrice?).  It is always amazing to find we never run out of things to talk about.
  • The grounds around the house are lovely again, filled with the hope of beauteous blossoms and neatly manicured beds.  Everything is mulched, trimmed and awaiting the encroaching weeds of summer and deer denuding.  Spring never fails to elicit hope in my heart and oh, Virginia is truly gorgeous this time of year – like the fancy icing on a wedding cake.

    Cardinalis_cardinalis_in_Cercis_canadensis

    en.wikipedia.org Cardinalis cardinalis male feeding female, in a white-flowered C. canadensis

There was a storm brewing today though.  I am afraid of thunder storms so managed to beat it home in time but it didn’t thunder too much after all.  Otherwise, there is always the closet for shaking in privacy and  missing old dog, Rozie.  Rozie used to be so frightened of storms that her teeth would literally chatter.  I have never heard of a dog’s teeth chattering, have you?

 

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Morning Glory 2Good Morning Glory

I must have taken these pictures during our trip to San Diego.

 Isn’t it too early for Morning Glories here in Virginia?

But I love their happy faces greeting the sun.

 

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FEBRUARY PERSPECTIVES

Hoodwinked Iris

Hoodwinked Iris

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Waiating for Spring 2

Our Rhodie Waiting for Spring – Photo by Dor

We haven’t seen the worst of winter here in Virginia but our 26 year old Rhododendron knows just how to cope.  When the weather turns nasty she squeezes all her leaves into narrow tubes to hold in any life giving warmth.   And on days of light and sunshine she opens her leaves and shows off an impressive array of healthy buds.  She is obviously patiently waiting  for spring, and every time I pass by I am reminded that each season has its glories.

 

 

 

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Random Five Friday

Autumn and Noche 011

This week we had Noche, the German Shepherd.  Bill and I have been dog sitting.

Noche loves it here because she is never on leash and has wide open spaces to run.  Nevertheless, I wanted to add some excitement to her visit.

A Grassy BackrubLittle herds of deer arrive every afternoon and one day I opened the deck door verrrry quietly so Noche would remain undetected.   Unaware of the big wild world of creatures, the pup’s ears suddenly went straight up on high alert and her whole body poised for action!  It only took one loud bark and six deer took off in a flurry.  I thought Noche was going to leap over the deck railing!

Do you think dogs keep their memories of vacation thrills?  Maybe she will have great running-dog dreams.

Let's Party!I did get to the gym one day and left feeling delightfully noble.   I like to rest there too (watching the hampster-humans pedaling nowhere).  I sit across from the exercise balls which create a celebratory mood.  They look like party balloons don’t they?  The colors are brilliant – perhaps not quite brilliant enough to encourage sit ups or other balancing acts though.

I decided some time ago to strive/stride for 10,000 steps a day – usually accomplished at the gym. This week has been slow but the pedometer keeps recording anyway and I managed to average 6,000 steps!  Accolades please!  I now call the pedometer Big Brother because it’s always watching.

Time got away mid week with two days devoted to gathering a packet of information for our community.  As Secretary, there is usually nothing much for me to do as we only meet once a year.  But sometimes issues arise that require research and attention.  Ours is a horsey community where there is a Hunt – like the old English hunts where people dress up in “pinques,” ride to the hounds, and have “dinners” that are really breakfasts.  Or are they breakfasts that are really dinners?  But  sometimes there are questions about who can ride where.

en.wikipedia.com

en.wikipedia.com

Then my friend, Pam, called for a shopping trip to Roanoke.  Occasional escapes from Paradise are just the ticket for raising spirits so Pam and I went to a real big-city shopping mall.  That was a 7,000-step-day!  Lunch out and “catching up” made for a perfect outing.  Even the sunshine cooperated as if to apologize for a long stretch of overcast skies, rain and drizzle.

The colors of autumn continue to dazzle.  Just look at our Pyracantha!

Pyracantha Glowing

The berries are brighter than a pumpkin.  And have you ever heard of an annual Dahlia?  This is what Bill planted in the spring and it is still budding!

Annual Dahlia 2

 

I am cooking today.  Our son will be coming from California for a four day visit next week.  He loves Mom’s homemade spaghetti sauce (simmering now).  I will freeze it for when he arrives and must also make Hungarian Paprikash (a favorite family dish handed down through the generations).  Ahhh, it’s so nice to be appreciated even though I truly hate to cook.

Hope your week was equally pleasant and your weekend is even more fabulous!

 

 

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Volunteer Poplar Tree in a Pot

It was yesterday’s pot, last year’s soil, unplanted, and left to thought.

I forgot the flower pot this spring and there it stood – waiting.  Occasionally I thought about what might flourish in that soil filled container in the hot, desert-like conditions of a windy deck.   But quite simply I never got around to doing anything and planned to empty the pot and store it in the garage.

Awaiting some action, the pot of old soil just stood there looking empty and forlorn.

Spring was glorious but suddenly it was summer when I noticed a little green sprout – a so-called volunteer.

“Maybe it will be a magnificent flower,” I thought.

It turned out the baby green thing is a Tulip Poplar, a tree that grows to  80 to 100 feet tall with show-off blooms of tulip shaped flowers.   There is a stand of

Tulip Poplar Leaves and Flower

Tulip Poplar Leaves and Flower

these trees at the edge of the property, no doubt watching over little “Toolip”.  Her leaves are precisely the same and that’s how I recognized the sprout.

I have no heart to kill such a brave and hearty volunteer so Toolip is still growing in her pot.

She requires almost no attention but I tend to “mother” her anyway.

She is healthy and green.

I talk to her and she seems to understand (hopefully no one else is listening).

She is there – always there, and somehow makes me smile.

Perhaps when she is a plantable sapling size or looking ready for more soil, I will find a more permanent place.

But for now I am Toolip’s volunteer Mother and she is temporarily mine.

 

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This photo by Michael Larkin, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  It's a Beauty!

This photo by Michael Larkin, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It’s a Beauty! http://plantman56.blogspot.com/2014/08/gardening-is-like-therapy-and-you-get.html

It was this time of year when I met  four friends for a special project.  Like the witches in Macbeth, we knew we would be toiling over mysterious brews.  But, instead of bones, blood and magical herbs, we worked with cement, feathers and sand. We didn’t chant to create spells either (well, maybe silently) but were intent upon creating Hypertufa planters for our gardens, patios, walkways and front steps.

HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF TUFA?

big-hypertufa-pot

I Made This One With My Own Two Hands!

I had no idea that “tufa” is actually a volcanic rock.  It was used in England in the 1800’s to make troughs for feeding livestock.  But smart gardeners of the times began to use the troughs for garden planters.  And lo’ they were beautiful, so they learned to make clever imitations called Hypertufa.

HOW ABOUT FAKE TUFA?

HYPER-tufa (Fake Tufa) is still sought after today and can be very expensive ready made.  You can buy it in good garden centers or you can make it yourself with a mix of cement, peat moss, sand and a few other things.  The end result is an artificial rough textured, aged looking stone in almost any shape from any mold.

Do you want to try making your own Hypertufa?  Doing it with friends is fun and is much like making mud pies, so be sure to wear old clothes and rubber gloves!  And doing it in a garage or shed is good too.  You do not want to try this inside and it is certainly not a kitchen project.

The recipe below worked for us, but of course there are no guarantees. 

hypertufa-pool-1

My Own Backyard Beauty for Succulents

Witch  EQUIPMENT

  • Mold(s):    Can be of anything sturdy enough to support the weight of the mixture (even heavy cardboard).  The bottom should not be larger than the top.
  • Lightweight plastic sheets like dry-cleaning bags, or garbage bags cut open
  • Small lengths of wooden dowel  1/4  inch in diameter
  • Scoop(s) – One and two quart capacity
  • Rubber gloves
  • A Wheelbarrow

Witch  INGREDIENTS

  • 10 Quarts Portland Cement
  • 15 Quarts of Vermiculite (or Perlite)
  • 15 Quarts of Peat Moss (sifted to remove twigs)
  • One large handful (about 1 cup) Fibermesh
  • About Three Gallons water

Now What?

–           Measure  the dry stuff and mix it up (with gloved hands) in the wheelbarrow.  Add enough water to make a goo that’s wet enough to work but not drippy (texture of cottage cheese).  Keep adding water to the right consistency. Now, place the mold upside down on a sheet of plastic.  Cover with another piece of plastic and smoothly tuck it under at corners.

–           Starting at the bottom (which used to be the top), press the goo firmly onto the mold.  Make it about  2 inches thick, covering the top (used to be the bottom) last.  Pat to a smooth surface.

–           Now insert dowels into the top (which will become the bottom) to provide drainage holes.  After about 4 hours, wire brush the surface to desired texture.

–          Cover your still upside down planter loosely with plastic, and for a few days, keep the surface wet by lifting the plastic and misting.  In about a week remove the plastic and let the planter sit 4 or 5 more days uncovered.  Then carefully remove it from the mold.  Voila! You now have an Old English Garden Trough or a special garden pot made of Hypertufa.

My friends and I now have various versions in our gardens.  They not only look beautiful, natural, and can be left out all winter, they evoke happy memories of a bewitched party of grown up friends playing in the mud.

*Top photograph  by Michael Larkin, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It’s a Beauty! http://plantman56.blogspot.com/2014/08/gardening-is-like-therapy-and-you-get.html

 

 

 

 

 

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