No Really! It’s Coming Back!

Usually it’s late January or early February before I start going stir-crazy and need to look through photos to remind myself that summer will eventually return. I’m peaking a little early this year because it’s been so darn cold.

 

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Surviving the Chill

I go outside to refill the birdfeeders in 12-below-zero (F) weather and I can’t feel my fingers long after I’m back inside the house where it’s cozy and warm, but somehow tiny birds can survive the frigid conditions night after night. It’s pretty amazing.

To add to their survival challenges, there’s a hungry hawk in the neighborhood. On New Year’s Day I watched him swoop inches from our bay window and trap a bird next to the screen porch. Before I could get a look at the victim, the hawk was already flying away with it in his grasp.

And there may be a second hawk in the area because about 30 minutes after “the incident” every bird in the yard disappeared again. A hawk wouldn’t hunt that soon after a meal unless he was really in dire straits, and songbirds know that. They must’ve seen a different hawk or something else that frightened them.

Thankfully for the small finches, there are plenty of much-larger starlings for the hawks to choose from.

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Up Close and Personal: Aster ‘Milady Deep Blue’

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Trying ‘Peppermint Stick’ Again

I’ve mentioned before that I swear off annuals that frustrate me, but over time I forget what I didn’t like about them and then I try them again.

Zinnias like ‘Peppermint Stick” (above and below) and “Whirligig” have often given me sprouting problems. Well, they sprout okay but then the plants develop damping-off disease and wilt and die before I can ever get them outside.

About two years ago I read that putting a thin layer of chicken grit on the top of the soil-less growing mix can help prevent damping-off disease. I’ve tried it with all my tall zinnias, and it really does work, so it’s time to put ‘Peppermint Stick’ back into the rotation and see what happens.

‘Peppermint Stick’ grows 24 inches tall with splashy, stripey bi-colored flowers. You can start plants outside in spring after your last frost date or start them indoors about 4 week before (although then your plants could experience damping-off disease unless you use the magic chicken grit).

The flowers are great for cutting arrangements and they’re fun to photograph.

The best part is that these zinnias are cheap compared to most annuals these days. A package of 50 seeds costs less than 2 dollars!

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Up Close and Personal: ‘Maya’ Rudbeckia

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Up Close and Personal: Mourning Dove

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Scourge of Starlings

Have you ever watched a starling eat? They can gulp down peanuts whole:

When you have a large flock of them in the neighborhood (I last counted 40 birds), it doesn’t take long for them to “vacuum” every last peanut from the platform feeders.

And I’m never quick enough to capture it in a digital image, but it’s fun to watch the Red-bellied Woodpecker defending the feeders from these little piggies. He doesn’t like them encroaching on his peanut buffet, so he opens his beak wide to look scary when they try to land. Even the Mourning Doves get uptight when the starlings are around. They raise their wings to appear bigger than they are, and then they lunge like they’re going to deliver a giant peck. So much for doves of peace.

Thankfully there’s a hungry Cooper’s Hawk in the neighborhood. I’m counting on him to keep the starlings from taking over the world!

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Beecicle

I’ve been trying not to look at the thermometer for the last several days. There’s only one digit and sometimes it has a minus sign in front of it. Last week, before we descended into the deep freeze, I was startled to find a dead honeybee on the sidewalk in front of our house.

Everyone once in awhile on warmer winter or early spring days, honeybees from the neighbor’s hive venture out. But it hasn’t been “venturing weather” for many weeks now. There’s no water available outside in the neighborhood unless it’s being heated, and all plants died or died back more than a month ago.

I’m not sure what the little guy was trying to accomplish, but he should’ve stayed safely in his hive.

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Up Close and Personal: Orienpet Lily ‘Porcelain Doll’

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A Bevy of Blooms: Daylily ‘Potosi’

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