RIP Woody

Woody was a happy dog. He always seemed to be grateful to have been rescued.

On Saturday my number one garden dog passed.

He had a good run – fifteen and a half years.  I am proud to say that he was able to die at home surrounded by his people and his pack.

Our dear friend Marc dug a grave near the creek that Woody loved so well.  We planted a seedling of Mississippi’s state champion bur oak beside him – a fitting tribute.

But still I miss him.  I found this story that I wrote about him many years ago.  I will post it here.

WOODY

A.K.A Woodrow, Woodrow Culvertson, Booger, Boogie, Woodjananda, Eraser Nose

One cold rainy February day I noticed three young dogs roaming the roadside looking lost. As I stopped, the two brown pups ran in alarm.

When I approached the white pup, he laid down in a rut full of rainwater and quaked in fear. I touched him gingerly, afraid he would bite. Instead he continued to shake. So… I picked him up and took him home. Later that morning, the vet told us that he was probably part airedale and about 3 months old. Since I was on my way to get wood when I found him, we named our road find – Woodrow.

Woody’s brown siblings were later adopted by a friend of ours. She told us that the three pups had been living in a culvert under the interstate.

That first day, Woody was so traumatized that he would not look at us or wag his tail. We expected that it would be days or weeks before he relaxed into his new situation. He was traumatized further when we bathed him. Later that day,however,he began to realize his good fortune. He started wagging his tail and look deeply into the eyes of his newfound humans with gratitude.

Woody immediately found his place in the pack. He offered obeisance to all even to the smaller dogs. He quickly realized that Skipper was his mentor. Skippy, the alpha male was going on 15 years. He was one quarter pit bull, one quarter Australian ridge-back and half free-breeding street dog. He was a force to be reckoned with.

The young Woodrow Culvertson receives instruction from his dog mentor, Skippy and my husband Richard.

Skippy initiated Woody by putting the fear of dog into him. Every time Woody committed some grevious act, he would cower as Skippy towered over him snarling and snapping the air around Woody’s head. When the lesson was over, Skippy turned his mind to other matters and Woody immediately became giddy and gleeful again.

Woody’s favorite place is the creek behind our house. Every morning, he makes a bee line for the creek. He returns in about a half hour wet, muddy and happy.

In the photo, Richard and Skippy pause on one of our creek bridges to give young Woody a lesson.

After Skippy went  on to the Happy Hunting Ground, Woody rose in the pack to a position second in command (behind little 10 pound Malva of course).

Magnolia Musings

Ahhh!  The sweetbays are blooming.

It’s a major event around here.

Sweetbay flowers are 4" across or less. The leaves are silver-backed and about 6" long.

Every evening about 7:30 the sweetbay magnolias (Magnolia virginiana) emit a deliciously wonderful scent.  The fragrance drifts through the air like a force of nature.

We are certain to be sitting on the deck about that time.

We breathe deeply and the air around us is infused with the fragrance.

The scent wafts from a nice little grove of sweetbays in a low area that we call “The Bottom”.  It drifts over the hill past the giant white oak and settles around us

The fragrance is familiar and recognizable to me.

I was returning home a few days ago around the specified hour when an olfactory jolt stopped me in my tracks.  I smiled and then said to the ephemeral manifestation “There you are!”

It never occurred to me that the scent originated from the blooming southern magnolia a few feet away.  It WAS the intense magnolia-lemony essence of sweetbay.

Not that there’s anything wrong with a southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora).  They are considered by many to be the stateliest of trees.  The flowers are large and beautiful. Their scent is delectable if you take the time to bury your nose inside and inhale.

I also love my cowcumbers (Magnolia macroplylla).  They are startlingly beautiful with 3′ leaves and flowers that measure a foot across.  They are like supermodel magnolias and are fragrant in a very fulfilling way.

Sweetbay is a kind of plain Jane magnolia with medium textured leaves and the smallest flowers of the three.

And as long as I’m talking trash, let me add that sweetbays habitually throw a late spring funk .   Just after new growth resumes the old leaves turn a pitiful yellow and gradually fall from the tree.

Compared to the others, sweetbays are kind of low brow. After all they are a pioneer species that will volunteer in swampy wasteland while the other two are climax species that require a pristine woodland setting.

Some of our trees have obviously been mown or bush-hogged to the ground during the old days when this was a cattle farm.  After the butchering, many came back as multi-trunked trees.

But being pioneers, they did come back.  They grew and are now over 60′ tall.   I admire their tenacity.

And I am delighted that their blooms are the sweetest of all.  I could pick them out of a lineup even if I was wearing a blindfold.

 

 

 

Just One More Vase of Daffodils

I photographed one more vase of daffodils on April 3.  Most of these are gone now – beaten into submission by 5+ inches of rain.

 

I consider these beauties to be late daffodils.

For this arrangement I picked stems of:  ’Ice Wings’, ‘Hawera’, ‘Dreamlight’, ‘Beautiful Eyes’, ‘Aspasia’, ‘ Angel Eyes’, ‘Cheerfulness’, ‘Yellow Cheerfulness’, ‘Sweetness’ and ‘Falconet’.

I love the fact that many of these late bloomers are white.

Two or three of these varieties were recently planted so they may bloom at a slightly different time next year.

For now, though, they are lovely companions.

 

The Kitchen Sink Project

During winter and early spring I usually keep a vase of daffodils by my kitchen sink.

I am such a fool for dafs that I want to study and admire them as closely as possible during bloom season.

As I work at the sink, my eyes settle on the details of a particular variety and sometimes I get a delicious whiff of their fragrance.

It also has occurred to me that the series of arrangements that I make allows me to remember which varieties bloom together.   This knowledge helps me to place them more wisely in my landscape.

So today – I will share with you the blooming sequence this spring for the past month.  I am embarrassed to admit that the photo quality is not that great on some of these shots.  I believe all were taken with my cell phone – many under low light conditions.  The pictures were not intended to win any photography awards but were taken as a garden record.

On 2-26-2014, I was thrilled to see the early daffodils.

This arrangement contains the earliest bloomers for me this year and includes: ‘February Gold’, ‘Campernelle’, ‘Barrett-Browning’, ‘Grand Primo’, Lent Lily and Little Sweetie.  Notice how I padded the arrangement with boxwood greenery and used a disfigured blossom or two.  Dafs were in short supply!

Eleven days later on 3-9-2014, more daffodil varieties were blooming in the garden.

Most of the varieties mentioned above were still in bloom but I focused on collecting the newcomers for this arrangement.  Roman hyacinths and summer snowflakes are included along with the daffodil varieties: ‘Rapture’, ‘Petrel’, ‘Sir Watkin’, ‘Tete a Tete’, ‘Trevithian’, Texas Star (Narcissus x intermedius), ‘Grand Primo’ and Little Sweetie.

The weather was nice and my husband was cooking so I assembled this one on the deck railing on 3-15-14.

This week I chose to make an all daffodil (except for the lone Roman hyacinth) arrangement.  This arrangement contains: ‘Beryl, ‘Trevithian’, ‘Falconet’, ‘Petrel, ‘Little Sweetie’ ‘ Mrs. Langtry’ and a found ‘Incomparabilis’.  I still remember how good this arrangement smelled!

On 3-22-2014 I included the first azalea flowers from 'Vittatta fortunei' along with these mostly mid-season daffodils.

The daffodils were peaking when I made this arrangement.  It was hard to chose which contenders to put in the vase.  However, there is only so much room beside the kitchen sink so I picked stems of: ‘Barrett Browning’, ‘Pipit’, ‘Geranium’, ‘Trevithian’, ‘Tahiti’ ‘Little Sweetie’ and an unknown tazetta from Bill the Bulb Baron.

Today (3-27-2014) I picked these dafs which are mostly representative of the late season even though we had a hard frost 2 nights ago!

I picked one of the last pink camellias from an unknown variety and settled it into a vase with these (mostly) late season daffodils.  My arrangement includes:  ’Beryl’, ‘Yellow Cheerfulness’, ‘Geranium’, ‘Stainless’, ‘Niveth’ ‘Sweetness’, Narcissus fernandesii, ’ Hawera’, ‘Falconet’ and ‘Seagull’.

I wonder how many readers stayed with me until the end of this self-indulgent rambling.

If you hung in there I thank you for bearing with me.

You may now consider yourself an official daffodil fool and as my friend Peachie Saxon says “You are sick, sick, sick!”

Ahhhh!

This daphne meatball is covered with hundreds of flower clusters.

The last couple of days have been cold windy cloudy and miserable.

But this weekend was a different story.

On Sunday we sat on the deck.  We basked in a delicious spring-like breeze and inhaled the delightful scent of daphne.

Sweet daphne (Daphne odora) is one of my favorite winter blooming shrubs.  It is low and mounding – almost a little too meatball-like for me.

I’m embarrassed that someone might think I sheared it to look like that.  But, I swear, I never prune it except to extract a sprig to put in a vase.

It is an Asian evergreen that is said to be short lived.  I have had daphnes that lived 20 years or more with no special care, however.

These flower clusters survived temperatures in the single digits with only a little burn.

The white form blooms a week or two later. Both are beautiful in bud.

When they go it is usually due to a wilt disease that progresses quickly.

The shrub appears to be thriving one day and a couple of days later, it is dead as a hammer.

I just learned also that it is poisonous.

So it’s a short lived poisonous Asian meatball.

And against my better judgement, I dearly love it.

For the six winter weeks that it is in bloom, the smell of honeysuckle drifts through my garden.

And that, as they say,  is priceless!

I walk through the back yard almost drugged by the fragrance.  I think about Dorothy and the lion snoozing away in a field of poppies.

I keep walking though.

I realize that I am just a little woozy and I smile.

Five Reasons I Love My Mume

These blooms were buds that survived snow and nine degree temperatures,

I am a big fan of the Japanese apricot (Prunus mume).

My trees are the ‘Peggy Clarke’ variety.  They sport deliciously fragrant pink flowers as early as December here.  They flower for a month or six weeks.

With record low temperatures this year, I have had intermittent blooms since mid January.  The open blooms did not survive the snow or the single digits.  The buds, however, hunkered down and then popped open as soon as the ice was gone.

This tree is one tough cookie.  The mume in my old garden was crushed beneath a giant pine during Hurricane Katrina.  After the pine debris was removed and all the damaged wood was pruned, the mume was little more than a stump.  The tree regenerated from the trunk and scaffold branch stubs into a nice specimen.

This Japanese apricot regenerated from a stump after Hurricane Katrina.

Mume flowers are particularly lovely.  They are a clear bright pink and are borne on bare green twigs.  They look like cake decorations and are a wonderful addition to winter flower arrangements.

On warm winter days I like to stand beneath the tree and just inhale.  The floral scent is intoxicating – sweet with a hint of cinnamon.

Just this year as I was basking in the mume scent, I noticed a persistent droning buzz coming from the blossoms overhead.

I investigated and there were a lot of honeybees foraging on the mume.  After I began paying attention I realized that every day (weather permitting) the mume was full of honeybees.

Mume blooms look like lovely pink cake decorations to me!

I also noticed that my own little worker bees were returning to their hives with pollen baskets full.  Click on this link to see a short video I made of  Honeybees on Japanese Apricot

I’ve always loved my mumes because they bloom for a long time in a season when floral color is lacking.   I’m appreciative that they are tough, fragrant and lovely in a vase.

And now I have yet another reason to love my mumes.  Their fragrance beckons to my queens – Elizabeth, Latifah and Maria – and the worker bees come forth and return to the hive loaded with pollen.

And there you have it – Reason #5.  The mumes feed my honeybees in winter.   That, my friends, is really special!

 

 

They’re Here!

My Mama is not very ephemeral. She just turned 91. On her birthday I'm always reminded to search for the first trillium.

I do love the spring ephemerals.  These wildflowers emerge from underground roots and stems.  They flower, make fruit and die within a month or two in late winter and early spring.

Most of the ephemerals grow beneath large old trees.  Their precipitous life cycle enables them to flower and set seed as the winter sun slants through the leafless canopy.  By the time the trees are in full leaf, the ephemerals are done!

Since they are above ground for such a short time, I have adopted  mnemonic devices so I can remember when to look for them.

Trillium, I learned, always seems to emerge within a day or two of my Mama’s birthday.  We celebrated her birthday on Friday and Saturday.  On Sunday I walked the trails in search of trillium.  Lo & behold – there it was – recently emerged and already sporting flower buds.

I spied the first trillium of the year yesterday. It was already budded as it emerged but will not bloom for another month.

Trillium is one of the first ephemerals to show up.  Most of the others emerge in March.

One of my plant mentors, Towhee Tisdale, taught me that bloodroot will flower for a week or ten days after the first full week in March.

Soon after my husband’s birthday on March 8, I start looking for bloodroot flowers.   A few days later I find the first curious emerging May apples.

Those dates really only work in my neck of the woods. As you move north or south the flowering season will vary.   It’s a localized personal kind of thing.

So every year when I sing “Happy Birthday” to Mama, I visualize a cluster of mottled trillium.  And I know that I’ll soon be seeking it in the woods.

 

Sensational

I've been studying the plump Van Sion buds and trying to cipher when the blooms will emerge.

Due to the unusually cold weather we’ve had, my daffodils are lagging behind.

Usually in January I have already picked a few stems of ‘February Gold’, ‘Van Scion’, ‘Minor Monarque’, ‘Early Pearl’,  ’Grand Primo’ or Lent Lily.   Not all at the same time – but a few blossoms here and there that bring a smile to my face.

I did gather some early bunch daffodils or tazettas in December.  They were probably early blooming selections from Bill the Bulb Baron.  The ‘Minor Monarque’ also bloomed in December.

But then the single digits came and the snow.  As a result,  my daffodils have yet to produce a bloom in 2014.

I’ve visited the ‘February Gold’ patch several times in search of a flower or two.  So far all I’ve found are plump buds.

The first daffodil flower of 2014 - and the prize goes to 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation'.

My ‘Van Sion’ clumps have even plumper buds – a sign of the double flower that is cocooned inside.   And while that does help my feelings a little bit… a bud is just a promise – not a flower.

Yesterday a took a walk with the camera.  My goal was to see which daffodils had visible buds and to calculate how soon the blooms might materialize.  So… I checked the ‘February Gold’ patch and then the ‘Van Sion’ clumps.

I walked to the bottom of the hill to see if any of the fall bloomers might be throwing off a 2014 blossom.

Then I saw a single yellow trumpet daffodil – blooming it’s fool head off!

It had no tag and I had no memory of planting it.  I’m fairly certain though that is is ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’.  This is an English selection that was introduced in the 1950′s.

It is hardly an heirloom.  The stem is kind of short and stumpy and there is no fragrance to speak of.  It will not likely win a blue ribbon.

But I will agree that  it’s sensational!!!

Snow Day!

It’s been a few years since we had snow in my part of Mississippi.

Today about 3 inches accumulated and, of course, everything closed except a few convenience stores.

Down here very few people are equipped to or know how to drive on ice.  So even if you are prepared and are a great driver, it is likely that someone will crash into you without warning.

Instead of lamenting the prospect of being house-bound, I embraced it.

We had a righteous breakfast mid-morning and later I took the dogs and my camera out for a walk on my land.

 

The view from my back window enticed me to go play in the snow.

My two old dogs, Woodrow and Ursaluna acted like puppies in the snow.

The view was great but I could not bring myself to lounge on the creek deck today.

The cold tub wasn't very inviting either!

This is probably the only snow we’ll see this year.

It’s been a lovely day but tomorrow I’m sure my Spring Fever will be back with a vengeance!

Beginnings

I gathered early daffodils, a pink camellia and Japanese apricot twigs for this New Year's flower arrangement.

I’ve been in the throes of a remodeling project and have done little gardening or flower arranging for the duration.

Now that the kitchen is remodeled and the porch has a roof, I am beginning to devote some time to the green world again.

After all, the winter flowers are beginning to bloom and I am a total sucker for winter flowers.

Today I picked the first yellow daffodil of the year – ‘Princess Hallie’s Gold’.  This is one of Bill the Bulb Baron’s selections. I also gathered a ‘Minor Monarque’ narcissus bloom.  This is a white and yellow passalong pilfered from an old house site.

I harvested a mysterious pink camellia and the first blooms off the ‘Peggy Clarke’ Japanese apricot.

I assembled all of these with some dried wildflower seedheads and have enjoyed my little arrangement all day long.

It was a good way to begin a new year.

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