Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Star Magnolia

It is a sunny but cold and windy day. I just stepped outside to take a photo of the Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata), one of my favorite ornamental trees. It is in full bloom right now but that probably will not be the case after this weekend when temperatures are predicted to plunge into the low 20s. The tree will then look like it is covered with wet tissue paper.

It is difficult to get a full shot of this tree. There are power lines and neighbor's houses in the background and the absence of leaves make photography difficult. It is beautiful to look at in person but photos usually disappoint. 

I would like to grow this tree in a sheltered location, such as a courtyard or next to a south-facing wall or patio. Keep location in mind if you plan to plant a Star Magnolia.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A house for the wren

I found some really nice bird houses on E-bay and purchased one for the Carolina wren that I wrote about earlier. I hope he will stay. I had purchased some bluebird houses earlier from the same person (in Oregon) and was very pleased with the quality. So I went back and bought 4 wren houses.

After a bit of research, I read that wrens prefer a sheltered site for their nests, preferably among shrubs where they will have protection. I put this house in the secret garden area on the fence which is partially hidden behind evergreen plants.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Book review and give-away - "The Speedy Garden"

Congratulations to Eve on winning the book! Stay tuned for more contests in the future.

We all know that most gardening requires some patience - especially vegetable gardening. But wait one minute, here is a new book that offers crops that are ready to eat in a few days, weeks and even hours. Food journalists Mark Diacono and Lia Leendertz profile these tasty delights, show you how to grow them and provide recipes.

Beginning with "Soaks and Sprouts," the authors describe the best techniques for sprouting seeds in sprouting bags or trays. Pumpkin seeds, almonds, sunflowers, radish, mustard and clover sprouts are just a few that are profiled with tips on storing them and using them in recipes. 

Micro greens include coriander, fennel, basil, and other leafy greens that can be grown in trays in as little as seven days and are ready for salads and flavorings for other foods. Edible flowers are also covered - nasturtium, daylily, chives, marigolds, and lavender. 

A chapter on "cut and come again salad leaves" demonstrates a method of growing greens in containers and harvesting the leaves so that the plants will sprout again. "Quick Harvest Vegetables" covers carrots, turnips, radishes and other fast growing crops.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Name that bird

I love the birds in the garden but I'm not that great at identifying them. We have a small room off the kitchen that was once a back porch. We had it enclosed with large windows when we had the kitchen remodeled after we moved in. We sometimes eat there but mostly I use the table there to put jigsaw puzzles together. Outside the window are 4 birdfeeders that hang from a large trellis that goes over the window. Sitting there working on a puzzle and watching the birds is a great pleasure, totally relaxing and a good way to lower the blood pressure.

The birds that frequent the feeders that I can identify easily are the house finches, goldfinches, chickadees, titmouse, cardinals and sometimes mourning doves. Michael has been talking about this funny little bird for months now that I had never seen. He described it a little butterball with small tail feathers that stick straight up in the back. This little guy is also very chatty and sometimes sits outside the window and chirps loudly. One morning Michael said he saw him jumping up and down outside the kitchen window and when he walked over to investigate, he saw that the bird was eating ants along the windowsill.

I finally saw the bird last Sunday when I was out taking photos. I don't seem him at the feeders and he is indeed very vocal. I'm guessing some type of wren? I know some of my bird-knoweledgeable readers will know.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy