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Recent Entries to this Blog Subject: Wasp Spray
Posted: 29 Jun 2010
The Moose are loose.
Posted: 15 Jun 2010
A Panoramic Tour of Our Garden - June 2010 - Warts & All
Posted: 04 Jun 2010
Exotic Plant from Region 10
Posted: 24 May 2010
You can tell it is May in Alabama
Posted: 24 May 2010

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Accidental Gardener's Blog

Egrets, Geese & Ducks and Old Man Winter

Category: Gardening Remembrances | Posted: Mon Jan 11, 2010 4:19 am

Egrets, Geese and Ducks; we have them all on our small bass lake. At my end of the lake on any given day we have a Blue Heron and one Egret that call this place home. Canada Geese will come down during their migratory seasons in the fall and spring but fortunately they do not stick around too long. I remember how messy they were in NJ where they got used to everyone feeding them and set up permanent residence in pools and fountains of suburban office buildings. Those areas soon became wall to wall goose feces.

We move here in April, 2005 and were quickly introduced to Big Blue and his egret buddy. One morning in late August we awoke and the entire edge of our lake was filled with egrets. They stood wing to wing as far as the eye could see. We did not realize it at the time but they were nature's weathermen. Katrina was bearing down on The Big Easy and every bird in its path had headed to safety. Shortly after the storm passed they headed home but, now we know that a lot of egrets on our shoreline mean someone is in for bad weather.

Today there were at least 30 egrets on the far side of the lake. I can only assume that a storm front is moving through LA and MS from Texas. While we are in a deep freeze we have no precipitation. Before I could get my camera out they all took off, flew over and around the lake and off to the south. A few did alight in the trees across the lake and I did get some pictures of them before they took off to join the rest of the flock.

Egrets in the tree tops ( photo / image / picture from Accidental Gardener's Garden )

Within an hour after the egrets departure a flock of Canada geese came down for a short stay. These beautiful birds have always amazed me. Did you know that unlike humans, they actually mate for life? If their mate dies they will find another mate but while they both are alive they are together. This picture shows them walking around the top of the dam. Obviously they too were avoiding a far off storm.

Geese on the dam ( photo / image / picture from Accidental Gardener's Garden )

Geese on the shoreline ( photo / image / picture from Accidental Gardener's Garden )

And lastly, our new neighbors! I received an email from the HOA letting us know that a family was releasing a pair of ducks on the lake and if we see them, they eat dry cat food. I was expecting a pair of white ducks that someone's kids got last Easter so I was pleasantly surprised when a pair of mallards were foraging just on the other side of my fence. Naturally, I went into my garage and filled a quart container with dry cat food. If there were 'the' ducks they would eat this type of food. Low and behold, they did not just eat it they devoured it. The female was very possessive of this cache of food but the male did manage to get his share.

On Tuesday morning the lake had a crust of ice stretching from our shore to the middle of the lake. I heard a duck making a lot of noise and investigated. The male was frozen into the ice just off the shore line and the female was quacking her head off in distress. I was able to free him using an oar from my neighbors boat to crack the ice around him. He took off like the preverbal Duck out of hell and his mate was right behind him. Once again I did not have my camera but I did get pictures of them from our earlier meeting. People down here in Alabama cannot drive on snow or ice so why would a southern raised mallard know how to sleep on an icy lake?

New Neighbors ( photo / image / picture from Accidental Gardener's Garden )

Last edited: Mon Jan 11, 2010 6:47 am

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Better Homes & Gardens - Garden Notes

Category: Gardening Remembrances | Posted: Thu Dec 24, 2009 9:32 pm

I recommended this garden tips website last month to my fellow Stewbies and today I received my latest edition of their newsletter. It is so full of tips and ideas of things to do in the garden next spring that I just had to pass it along again.
It's called Better Homes and Gardens.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

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The Decorating is Finished including 'My' Penguin Tree

Category: Gardening Remembrances | Posted: Wed Dec 23, 2009 11:11 pm

There is something about my wife that I did not realize before we got married. Normally she is a very intelligent, compassionate, and well centered person. That much I did know. But as the Christmas Season approaches a change comes over this woman. All intellectual acumen and reasoning is put aside, and this little child emerges. She becomes absorbed in the season and, if I did not put my foot down, we would have a Christmas tree in every room in the house. Our house is a single level, fairly open floor plan. Not counting the three bedrooms, kitchen or other service rooms, we only have four rooms to work with. Actually, since the dining room and living room are divided only by two columns, there are really only three areas; and she has a tree in each area.

The main tree in the living room/dining room area, one in the den, and one in the sun room. The main tree, as I refer to it, is decorated with the designer ornaments and Waterford crystal that she accumulated before she ever met me. I have to admit that it is the most beautiful tree I have ever seen. A few years ago she came home from Market with a tall, narrow tree and told me she was putting it in the corner of our den. It has been there every Christmas since.

And then there is what see refers to as Jerry's tree. More years ago than I care to remember, a friend began giving me little penguins because she was amused that my college mascot was a penguin. She had gone to a 'real' school with a 'real' mascot; an alligator. I never was able to figure out her thought process regarding that. But, I digress. I soon had about a dozen of these little things cluttering up my office area; and years later when I met my wife, she too was amused by the little critters. She restarted the penguin collection and told everyone who would listen that Jerry collects penguins. Penguins began pouring in at every gift occasion. What do you get the guy who has everything? Penguins!.

Cindy had a 2 ½ foot wire Christmas tree that she would put bulbs on and place on the table in the foyer of our home. One year I came home to find 'my' penguins hanging on it instead of the usual bulbs. It was cute, it was harmless, and of course it was another excuse to let everybody know that Jerry went to Youngstown State, the Penguin College. Ho Ho Ho. Soon there were more penguins than room on that little wire tree. As things evolved, she added a third tree that now resides in the sunroom and is just chockfull of little penguins.

It has become a tradition in our house and I guess it is here to stay. But, last year I put out an edict to all who would listen, NO MORE PENGUINS. As it is we have another 3 dozen that would not fit on this 7' tree. Now, don't get me wrong, I am not a Bah Humbug, Scrooge. But, she will not be here to take these trees down since she will be back on the road with her very busy consulting business as soon as the holidays are over; it happens every year. Ho Ho Ho.

( photo / image / picture from Accidental Gardener's Garden )

This is the main tree in the living room.

The Den Tree ( photo / image / picture from Accidental Gardener's Garden )

Here is the one she has in the Den

( photo / image / picture from Accidental Gardener's Garden )

And here is 'My' Penguin Tree

Close up of Penguin Tree ( photo / image / picture from Accidental Gardener's Garden )

( photo / image / picture from Accidental Gardener's Garden )

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Bear and the Birds

Category: Gardening Remembrances | Posted: Tue Dec 22, 2009 5:34 am

This is Bear, aka Bear the Cat or Bearcat. In many ways Bear thinks she is a dog. She will carry on conversations with you, meowing to everything you say. She will come when you call her and the thing I like best, she is always right beside me in the garden. We have three cats but Bear is my cat. As you can see she is a Maine Coon.

We got Bear as a kitten from a group that saves and protects this breed and we literally had to sign our lives away. We had to swear that we would not take her for rides in the car, never have her declawed or allow her to go outside. The first two were easy but Bear insists on going outside and no one is going to stop her. The addition of doggie doors for our two Golden Retrievers made it impossible to stop her.

Bear the Cat ( photo / image / picture from Accidental Gardener's Garden )

Today I was loading the dogs into the car for a trip to the grocery store when I spotted Bear walking across the driveway with something in her mouth. When she ran to the front of the house I knew she was up to something. It took awhile to catch up to her and when I could finally see her up close there was a feathered wing and tail feathers sticking out of her mouth. When I reached down I guess she was going to meow to tell me something and as soon as she opened her mouth that poor finch took off and escaped into the cool afternoon sky.

I do not mind when Bear catches field mice or scares away squirrels but I do have a problem with her and birds. I can understand her being upset with mockingbirds that constantly chirp,harass and dive bomb her during the summer, but the other song birds are welcome and I do spend a lot of time feeding them and keeping their baths filled with water. I know Bear thinks I do these things to attract birds just so she can catch them; she may be my friend and companion but after all she is still a cat.

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House plants: beautiful but some can be toxic.

Category: Gardening Remembrances | Posted: Thu Dec 10, 2009 8:33 pm

Now that the winter winds and cold are taking their toll on our gardens, most of us are turning more of our attention to our house plants. I was taken by some things I have read on this web site and others regarding some of our favorite house plants. These comments revolved around the fact that many people are not aware that many of our favorite house plants are toxic and can cause real damage if not handled properly.

( photo / image / picture from Accidental Gardener's Garden )

While none of these 14 plants are a problem if handled properly it is important to know which ones need special handling. This is NOT a complete list of 'toxic' house plants but these are very popular plants and were pointed out in a recent BH&G newsletter.

Remember we have had these plants in our homes for years on end without any problems but it is good to know the hidden dangers these plants can cause if we do not handle them properly.

SNAKE PLANT Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentili' This plant can cause skin irritation to individuals with sensitive skin.

POTHOS - Epipremnum aureum 'Marble Queen' All parts of this plant are poisonous and can cause severe irritation of the lips, tongue and throat if eaten or chewed by pets or children.

PHILODENDRON - hederacaum oxycardium. All parts of this plant are poisonous and can cause severe irritation of the lips, tongue, and throat if eaten or chewed by pets or children.

ENGLISH IVY - Hedera Helix. All parts of this plant are poisonous if eaten or chewed by pets or children.

ZEEZEE PLANT - Zamioulcas Zamiifolia. This plant is poisonous if eaten or chewed on by children or pets.

ARROWHEAD VINE - Syngonium podophyllum. All parts of this plant can cause irritation of the lips, tongue, and throat if eaten or chewed by pets or children.

CORN PLANT - Draaena Fragrans 'Massangeana'. Corn plant is poisonous if eaten or chewed on by dogs.

RUBBER TREE - Ficus elastic. The milky white sap may cause irritation to people with sensitive skin.

GREEN DRACAENA - Dracaena deremensis. This plant is poisonous if eaten or chewed on by dogs.

CHINESE EVERGREEN - Aglaonema commutatum. All parts of this plant are poisonous and can cause severe irritation of the lips, tongue, and throat if eaten or chewed by pets or children.

CROTON - Codiaeum variegatum pictum. This plant is poisonous and can make children or pets sick if they chew on it or eat it.

DIEFFENBACHIA - Dieffenbachia spp. All parts of this plant are poisonous and can cause severe irritation of the lips, tongue, and throat if eaten or chewed by pets or children.

DRACAENA - Dracaena marginata. This tree is poisonous if eaten or chewed on by dogs.

PEPEROMIA - Peperromia spp. This plant is poisonous if eaten or chewed on by dogs or cats.

( photo / image / picture from Accidental Gardener's Garden )

Last edited: Thu Dec 10, 2009 8:34 pm

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There is No Such Thing as Cheap Birdseed!

Category: Gardening Remembrances | Posted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 2:04 am

I wish I could buy cheap birdseed but the cost is just too prohibitive

When we moved to Pike Road and began building our garden one of the first things we purchased was a bird feeder. Not knowing any better, I bought the cheapest bird seed I could find. Not only did this cheap seed attract all the wrong birds; birds who would scatter seeds all over the garden, but these spilled seeds would quickly germinate and we would have to constantly pull the 'weeds' from our beds.

( photo / image / picture from Accidental Gardener's Garden )

After seeing this, a neighbor, who is a landscaper, told me about a store in Montgomery where they sold all kinds of bird seed and maybe they could help. So off I went to find Wild Birds Unlimited.

I met the owner, a delightful woman who just seemed to light up the room as she scurried about the store taking care of customers. I explained my dilemma that I wanted to feed the birds but I did not want to create more weeds. She claimed she had just the answer and it was called 'No Mess' a non-germinating bird seed and was guaranteed not to sprout if it landed in my garden.

Paula went on to explained her procedure at WBU. If you purchased 10 bags you got 2 more for free and you did not have to take it all with you. They would keep a record and you could pull from your inventory as needed. However, this was not 'cheap' bird seed as the 10 twenty lb. bags were $200.00 and change. But I bought it and more importantly started using it. Within a few days the sparrows and starlings decided they did not like the new menu and flew off. They were quickly replaced by cardinals, blue jays and representatives of almost every songbird in Alabama. All were dining at our feeder. We even had a red headed woodpecker that would join us for lunch occasionally. Along with the finches and the many hummingbirds that had their own feeders, it was so nice watching them all feed, use the birdbaths and just chirp and sing.

Of course Bearcat my Maine Coon thought she had died and gone to kitty Disneyland but all she ever did was stalk, there were too many birds for her to be able to sneak up on any one of them. Her chief nemesis a dive bombing mockingbird always let out a screeching warning if Bear ever did manage to get close. And the best part of this entire situation was there were no sprouting seeds in the garden - it was truly the best of both worlds.

That was four years ago and as time went on the memory of the weeds faded while the price of No-Mess went from $20 a bag to over $30 and every time I plopped down $300.00 for bird seed a little voice in my head would whisper in my ear, 'You can't be this stupid, you can buy a 20 lbs bag of seed at Publix for $8.50. But, by then Paula and Audrey and everyone else who worked there had become friends and I enjoyed stopping in and just talking with them, so I continued to buy the 'good stuff'. It came to pass that one day I went in to purchase another order of seed when Paula announced that her husband was being transferred up north and she would be closing her store and joining him. So in a sad and unexpected way I got my wish. After the store closed last fall, I started buying a 40 lb box of bird seed from our local Costco Warehouse for $14.99.

Through the fall and winter the sparrows, starlings and doves returned and I was holding out hope that the songbirds would return with the spring. But that never happened. There were days when so many blackbirds were covering the trees and the fence that I expected to see Tippy Hedren and Alfred Hitchcock walk by at any moment.

( photo / image / picture from Accidental Gardener's Garden )

Then in April we got 10" of rain in 6 hrs. and our lake quickly rose and ended up flooding our flower beds. They were actually under water for almost 24 hrs. When the water receded it took most of my new mulch with it. While we were taking inventory of what we lost I noticed a short but full carpet of green sprouts coming up in the newly planted annual section that is under our feeder. It had formed on top of the old mulch and is probably why that mulch did not end up in the lake too. I made a mental note to pull them and went about doing whatever it was I was doing. Three days later my annual section was buried by a huge 3" thick and 10' around carpet of sprouts. It was a vegan's food fest but a gardener's nightmare. They were everywhere around the bird feeder. We were literally pulling them out by the handfuls until I finally got a spade and began lifting them out by the shovel full. We lost more annuals to the sprouts than we did to the flood. It was then that my wife looked at me and declared there will be no more bird feeding in our garden.

So that old adage is true; be careful of what you wish for because you just might get it. Oh, to have access to another Wild Birds Unlimited Store because price is not an issue anymore.

A post script to this blog which I posted last April on another garden site: Two people contacted me after reading it. A friend in Ohio who was going to Florida for a wedding volunteered to drop off a supply of No-Mess from her local WBU store on her way through town. I readily accepted the offer and we had a very enjoyable lunch and visit. And Audrey, who is also a Master Gardener, was now working at a local garden center let me know that she was bringing in an equivalent of WBU's No-Mess. So I have been able to keep the birds coming around and will be able to do so well into the future.

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November Ends on a Dreary Day.

Category: Gardening Remembrances | Posted: Mon Nov 30, 2009 11:11 pm

November is ending on a cold, rainy, misty day. My garden has lost most of its luster; I can once again see my fountain as the Elephant Ears, that had completely surrounded it, are drooping and have begun their inevitable surrender to the seasonal change. My knockouts are holding out and are still red and bright and will continue to do so for a few more weeks. All will return in March and April but right now it is a little dreary just like the day.

However, I did find one new bloom on my climbing rose bush that is growing on my new gazebo. By next June the gazebo should be completely covered in blooming roses. So much to look forward to but I still take pause to see what it is today and what it was this summer.
( photo / image / picture from Accidental Gardener's Garden )

Tomorrow ushers in the final month of the year and consequently the Winter Season too. The following month brings us a new year and soon a new growing season. Our winters here are nothing close to what I remember in Ohio and New Jersey but that said it still is not a very good growing time either.
It is time to finish the work needed to welcome in the Spring. I still have a number of plants to move,a whole lot of Bermuda grass to remove from my daylily beds and about 80 bags of cypress mulch to put down. While flowers may get a rest from growing, gardeners do not.

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My Grandfather's Garden

Category: Gardening Remembrances | Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 1:14 am

I remember my Grandpa as if he was still here and not gone these 45 years; my loving memory of him is one I will take to my grave. A few months ago I was in my garden and my mind was wandering as it is prone to do in the garden. I thought about my Grandfather and a memory long placed in that unconscious section of our brains opened up like a fog lifting from the water surface on a cool autumn morning. I remembered that I use to garden with my grandpa. I was Grandpa's assistant.

I had completely suppressed those memories of Walnut Street and as a five year old, helping him plant the seeds that grew into such beautiful pansies, violets and morning glories. I would get down on my knees right beside him as he tended to his irises and watched in amazement as he would cut the three rose bushes down and thinking he had killed them only to watch them bloom in all their glory later that spring and summer. He had a number of peony and lilac bushes that bloomed into such magnificent eye candy. I used to watch the ants that crawled in the peonies and wondered why they were always on the bulbs. Grandpa said that they liked the 'juice' that the flowers gave off and that was a good enough explanation for me. My Grandpa knew everything there was to know about gardening.

Grandpa had not always been the gardener in the family that job had been my grandmothers and these were really her flowers. He took over the gardening when she died and I guess by keeping her flowers growing it was his way to keep something of her with him. He nurtured his/her garden for many years even without his assistant who was busy with teenaged endeavors and too busy to help him. When age finally caught up with him, he reluctantly accepted the fact that the flowers would now only grow in his memories and somehow I think he was content with that. His flowers and my grandmother and soon he, himself, were all together again and maybe that was how it was meant to be all along.

There is nothing better a grandparent can do for their grandchildren than introduce them to gardening. They will remember you and the garden forever and be very thankful that you included them in your gardening.

Last edited: Tue Nov 17, 2009 1:24 am

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