This Week in the Garden – Feb. 22

Yellow Rumped Warbler

This week was full of snow and freezing temperatures. Other than shoveling snow, I tried to spend most of my time indoors. On my snow day from work, I staked out by the window for about twenty minutes and managed to capture pictures of several different species of birds.

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

And please excuse the dirty windows…. The Tufted Titmouse is one of the more common species that comes to the feeders all year round.

Chickadees

Chickadees

Black capped Carolina Chickadees are another common species. I see them all year round, and they are so cute and small. They will typically grab a seed, fly to a nearby tree branch, and then peck at it and eat it. I also recently read that they will sometimes stash seed during the warmer months. (Thanks to a reader, I’ve corrected what type of Chickadee lives here. I think I assumed it was a black capped Chickadee because that’s what I grew up with. Thanks Megatron!)

Eastern Towhee and Downy Woodpecker

Eastern Towhee and Downy Woodpecker

Here a Downy Woodpecker and an Eastern Towhee are sharing the ledge. The Downy gets a bit anxious though, and usually scares off other birds while it’s feeding. The Eastern Towhee visits seasonally, and in the Spring will spend hours “fighting” his reflection in glass (windows) or the side mirrors on the car.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

The Carolina Wren is another small and cute bird that stays here just about all year. Last year, one made a nest in a plastic bin we had sitting out on the lower deck (in shade by the house). There were three or four little babies that hatched and then fledged pretty quickly.

Bluebird

Bluebird

I have noticed quite a few bluebirds at times- sometimes there will be as many as six or seven together. I’m very glad to see them. We do get European Starlings quite a bit too, which are known for disrupting and tossing out nesting bluebirds. I try to shoo them away as frequently as I can.

Robin

Robin

The Robin. Some birds seem more acutely aware of what’s going on behind the glass- and the Robin is one who seems to be able to see me. If I make any movement, he’ll fly away. If he sees me, he won’t come near the feeder. This is contrast to the chickadees and titmice who seem completely oblivious.

Yellow Rumped Warbler1

Yellow Rumped Warbler front

And finally, the most exciting watch of the day was this Yellow Rumped Warbler. I had to search my field guide thoroughly to find the name of this bird. I saw one a few days previously, and then saw a few more on the snow day. I took lots of pictures.

Yellow Rumped Warbler

Yellow Rumped Warbler back

And here you can see how it got its name. Now that I’ve identified it, I wonder if I’ll see it again.

Today (Sunday) was actually quite nice, at 52 degrees Fahrenheit, I managed to get out and check up on my hydrangeas. Some of the buds may be dead from cold, but I’ll just have to watch them and wait and see this summer. I also checked the Camellia to see if the flowers were damaged. The ones that were open have frostbite, but the buds that haven’t opened yet may be Okay with just some minor burns. While I was out, I did notice lots of footprints in the snow.

Rabbit Footprints

Rabbit Footprints

I was surprised to see some rabbit footprints in the snow. I was just thinking the other day that it had been several months since I’d seen a rabbit in the garden. I had supposed they may have been eaten due to increased cat and hawk activity.

Bird Footprints

Bird Footprints

I think bird footprints are adorable.

Cat Footprints up and down hill

Cat Footprints up and down hill

I thought these prints were amusing too- cat prints going up and down the hill. Even with the warm temperatures, there’s still quite a bit of snow, and I consider it dangerous to trek down into the lower garden. To break from the dreary weather, we managed to get out this weekend and go to the 9th Annual Virginia Orchid Society Show, held at Strange’s. It wasn’t very large, but there were some amazing specimens on display.

Colorful Orchid

Colorful Orchid

The sizes, shapes, and colors were just incredible.

Amazing Orchid

Amazing Orchid

They also had Orchids for sale, and they had several lectures on orchid care. The lectures and admission was free, which was perfect for a much needed shot of color.

Orchid Society Show

Orchid Society Show

I’m so excited and ready for Spring!

 

Chicken Salad with Cranberries and Tarragon

Chicken Salad Sandwich and French Onion Soup

The other night Mr. Lucky and I decided to have “Bistro Night” for dinner. I made chicken salad for sandwiches, and he made French Onion Soup! He found the recipe for the soup on Martha Stewart, and it was excellent. The only thing we would change is to cut back on the amount of Thyme called for (by at least half).

Chicken Salad Sandwich and French Onion Soup

Chicken Salad Sandwich and French Onion Soup

I am sharing my own recipe for chicken salad, that I developed after enjoying the sandwiches as Starbucks. Not wanting to spend $8 on a little sandwich, I knew it would be easy to come up with something similar that I could recreate whenever I wanted.

Chicken Salad all stirred up

Chicken Salad all stirred up

As with most recipes- you can change any amounts to suit your taste. Usually I don’t measure anything and just go with what I think looks good.

Chicken Salad with cranberries and Tarragon

Ingredients:

25 oz. of cooked chicken, shredded or chunked

¼ cup of chopped celery

¼ cup dried craisins or cranberries

¾ mayo

2 Tbsp lime or lemon juice

½ tsp Tarragon (can be more, be generous)

¼ tsp garlic powder

Black Pepper to taste

Salt to taste

Steps:

  1. Shred the chicken.
  2. Chop celery, and add to the chicken
  3. Add craisins and mayo, stir all together until well mixed.
  4. Add lime juice, tarragon, and garlic powder, stir until well mixed.
  5. Add salt and pepper to your taste preference.
  6. Store in the fridge up to a few days.

Enjoy on your favorite whole grain bread!

This Week in the Garden – Feb 8

Stinking Hellebore

Over the last two weeks, we’ve had snow and we’ve had temperatures going into the mid-60s. It’s yo-yo weather, and it wreaks havoc on my health. But then, any day when it’s under 50 degrees, I can tell a difference in how I breathe. Despite the snow, I’ve been able to get out a few times to take a quick look around the garden.

Backyard Covered in snow

Backyard Covered in snow

We had a couple of light and fluffy inches which disappeared by the end of the day.

Snow on azalea leaves

Snow on azalea leaves

Here you can see how light the snow was, resting on some azalea leaves.

Snow on a hibiscus bud

Snow on a hibiscus bud

And on a hibiscus bud. Here’s the same type of bud against a gray background:

Dried Hibiscus Bud on gray background

Dried Hibiscus Bud on gray background

And because I was playing around with it, against a black background:

Dried Hibiscus bud on black background

Dried Hibiscus bud on black background

I think the gray works better in this case. But black looks good against the stinking Hellebore:

Stinking Hellebore

Stinking Hellebore

It’s neat how plants that are usually completely green in the warm months, take on colorful accents in the winter. Juniper and some ivy turn shades of purple, and the stinking Hellebore and Rainbow Leucothoe display some pink.

Needlepoint Ivy in winter

Needlepoint Ivy in winter

I think that’s Needlepoint ivy above- but I could be wrong. I’ve got several clumps of it, and I like how delicate the leaves look. I hope to do a post just on ivy later…

Discolored Camellia bloom

Discolored Camellia bloom

The pink Camellia has a few more blooms just ready to open, but it’s taking its own time. This flower became discolored after the weather turned colder- it’s a form of freeze burn. Shortly after, it turned completely brown and died.

Unknown bush

Unknown bush

I’ve been eying this bush for a while- it’s across from the blooming Camellia and I’m not sure what it is. I have yet to see any kind of flower on it.

Aeonium growing

Aeonium growing

And lastly, a shot from inside. This aeonium is still growing from a cutting I took last summer. I think it’s most likely Aeonium arboreum ‘Atropurpureum’. At this point I’m just trying to keep all the succulents and other plants alive until it gets warm enough to move them outside. I barely have enough light in the house I think, as most of the windows face North.

This Week in the Garden – January 25

Pink Camellia Flower

This week has been full of excitement! I became an Aunt when my sister gave birth to a wonderful healthy baby boy and much less interesting, the pink camellia bush started blooming.

Pink Camellia Flower

Pink Camellia Flower

I still need to go back through the box-o-plant-tags to see if I can find which variety this is.

Pink Camellia bush

Pink Camellia bush

Only two lonely blooms so far, but you can see lots of buds in that picture. I think in another couple of weeks it will be in its full glory. At the bottom of the last picture, you can see some of the variegated pachysandra ground cover.

Variegated Pachysandra

Variegated Pachysandra

What a pretty plant that pretty much stays the same all year round!

Dusty Miller hanging on

Dusty Miller hanging on

I was very surprised to see that the Dusty Miller I bought last spring/summer is still hanging on in this pot out back. I thought it would have died back by now, as it is considered an annual in this area. I did a little digging online and found out that it is a perennial and will stay alive in zones 8-11. We’re in zone 7a here, but maybe we’re having a milder winter…

New growth on mum

New growth on mum

Also surprising was the new growth on this mum. What? Aren’t you supposed to be completely died back by now? Or is this new growth for this next year already?

Stinking Hellebore

Stinking Hellebore

Right on time, the stinking hellebore is starting to set out its flowers.

Stinking Hellebore Flower Bud

Stinking Hellebore Flower Bud

Seeing those buds prompted me to check the other Hellebores to see if any new growth had started.

New Hellebore Growth

New Hellebore Growth

I was not disappointed! In this shot above, you can see the foliage starting to lay down (as it loses nutrients which are instead diverted to the new flowers), leaving a spot in the middle for the new growth to come up.

Hellebore Flowers Coming up

Hellebore Flowers Coming up

A couple of the plants had the flower buds starting – the ones that looked farthest along all had this pretty dark purplish color.

Flowering Quince buds

Flowering Quince buds

Some other new growth I found were these buds forming on the flowering Quince. It is one of the first bushes to put out pretty little flowers in Spring. Here’s a shot of the bush in early spring of last year:

Flowering Quince

Flowering Quince

The redbud is also putting out its buds:

Redbud Buds

Redbud Buds

It was really difficult to get a good shot of those buds. Using the mat board helps a lot, but it can still be tricky.

Berries on a Barberry Bush

Berries on a Barberry Bush

I’d been keeping an eye on the Barberry bush to see if I could find any berries, after I found pictures of other bushes with berries. For the first time this season, I found these two little lonely berries.

Rosehip

Rosehip forming

And now some shots just because I think they’re beautiful (and I’ve been playing around with taking different kinds of shots). I photographed this rose head that is on its way to becoming a rosehip (seed head). Some new growth is shooting off above it in bright pink.

Joe Pye Weed dried heads

Joe Pye Weed dried heads

The dried seeds heads of this Joe Pye Weed look so delicate.

Dried Hydrangea Flowers

Dried Hydrangea Flowers

And so far, my favorite. A dried hydrangea flower head (Annabelle) that looks a little bit like a heart.

The Backyard in Mid-January

The Backyard in Mid-January

So even in the dead of winter, this garden is teeming full of life and vigor!