I Shall Have Lettuce

I had to give up my vegetable garden years ago, as the only ones enjoying it were the animals that came into the yard day and night.

I miss fresh lettuce and I’m determined to grow some.

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The first step was to elevate the lettuce to keep the rabbits out.  A tall planter was purchased.

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Next, squirrels had to be thwarted from digging by covering the plants with picnic tents.

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The tents keep lizards out too.

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Finally, the tents had to be tied down so they wouldn’t blow off.

Yes, I shall have lettuce!

 


Spring Clean-up

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A killing freeze descended on this part of the country and for the Automatic Garden, it was a blessing in disguise.  I had been away from the garden quite a bit last year and many chores went undone.  The Automatic Garden did what it was designed to do and kept on growing, propagating and reseeding, resulting in a interwoven tangle of plants.

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The freeze gave clarity to what needed to be pulled, transplanted and cut back.  I have been spending hours everyday getting the garden in shape.

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Other chores included filling in a hole dug over the winter by some animal, which was probably an armadillo.  It was much more work than it looks and the dirt is heavy clay. The extremely strong gingers were able to push their way through the pile of clay and the dirt had to be carefully removed.

Volunteers had to be rounded up and replanted into their places in the garden. There were many, but free plants are a good thing.

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A scant few flowers have begun to bloom in the garden.  Most years have flowers blooming all year around, but the freeze knocked back almost all of the winter flowering plants. This red canna is a welcome sight.

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Drimiopsis maculata unfurled its spotted leaves and sent out flowers in no time.  The plant is a great substitute for hostas in the South.

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The climbing rose is blooming and dripping from a tree.

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Pink Flamingo Celosia  usually stands three feet tall before blooming, but this one couldn’t wait.

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The Shrimp plant came back from its roots and the few blooms were welcomed by the Buff-bellied Hummingbird that has wintered here.

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The Bottlebrush has perfect timing providing food for the arriving Ruby Throated Hummers and the honey bees that are living near by.

Bit by bit I am seeing my hard labor paying off and I have high hopes for a beautiful garden this summer.


The Hungry Hummer

 

I recently found a use for the slo-mo option on my cell phone.  I have been watching the honey bees empty out the hummingbird feeders and I thought it would be fun to capture them in slow motion.

I situated myself really close, about 12 inches away.  The bees actually hit me a few times, but I wasn’t worried as they were so hungry and only focused on feeding.

As it turned out, someone else was hungry and the Buff-bellied Hummingbird flew into the shot and fed while I was that close!  Enjoy the video.  It can be enlarged.

Hungry Hummingbird from Automatic Gardener on Vimeo.


Cedar Waxwings

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Timing is everything.  As I was preparing my posts on Holly Trees, the Cedar Waxwings arrived to feast on the berries.  I was alerted of the birds presence by my resident birds.  The Cardinals, Titmice, Chickadees and Carolina Wrens gathered to check out the visitors.  (click to enlarge)

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Luckily, the birds stayed long enough that I could get the camera and switch lenses.  Waxwings fly off at the slightest disturbance.  The photos are highly cropped as it was hard to get very close.

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I was very pleased to get an almost perfect shot of this beautiful Cedar Waxwing.


Ilex vomitoria

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Notice the second part of this tree’s botanical name.  What does that word bring to mind?  Yes, the name comes with a big warning.  If you eat the berries, the result is not pretty.

We know this tree as Yaupon Holly and is another native of the Piney Forest. Yaupons usually have skinny trunks and grow just about anywhere, as between these two pines. Like the American Tree Holly in the previous post, it makes tiny flowers in the spring with the berries forming quickly.  It is a small tree and will spread by root.  Most consider it a weed tree.

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But it has many hidden secrets, besides what happens when humans eat the berries.  Its flowers are a food source for bees.  Cardinals dine on the berries and  flocks of Cedar Waxwings devour them.  Now for humans, we can make tea from the leaves which contain caffeine and antioxidants (make sure you do research before eating it). With a name like vomitoria, I think I will skip the tea!


Becoming a Wildlife Photographer

 

I thought I would take the plunge and become a wildlife photographer (joking..kinda).  I really wanted to capture my winter Hummingbirds, so I dug out a tripod, put on the long lens and situated a chair with a good view. I sat for awhile and they did not show up.  Being in the yard, I started thinking about gardening chores and decided to get to work.  With that done I came back to the chair to wait again.  The birds still were not hungry, so I went inside to check on dinner.  I headed back out and was finally rewarded.

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I was able to get a decent shot of the Buff-bellied Hummingbird that has been around since Thanksgiving.  I have a photo of him through a window, but this is outside and clearer.  He is tolerating my presence more.  I have enjoyed watching him take showers in gentle rains and baths on the Variegated Ginger and Philodendron leaves.

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This little guy arrived around Christmas.  He is a Rufous Hummingbird and hails from the far northwest.  His color indicates a male.  He is very stealth during feeding and is able to zoom in when the big Buff-bellied is elsewhere.  He drinks for quite awhile, filling up in one visit.

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As far as a career as a wildlife photographer, I think not!  I don’t have the patience to sit for long periods of time, but I certainly admire those who do and produce the wonderful photos for us to enjoy.  I will just go back to getting lucky with a camera in the right place at the right time.

 


Bees, Butterflies and Hummingbirds

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Our record breaking Christmas heatwave has encouraged flora and fauna to emerge from their winter rests.  The bees are finishing off a feeder a day.

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Butterflies are feasting on the last of the summer flowers.

Caterpillar eggs are hatching and thankfully the Passion Flower has replenished its leaves for the babies.

Azaleas that are supposed to bloom in March are beginning to open.  A Gardenia has also popped out.

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The Buff-bellied hummingbird is still hanging out in the yard, but is now also using the feeder as the flowers dwindle.  The weather forecast is showing temperatures dropping down to our normal “warm” winter weather with no freezes for awhile.

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My post Christmas plans are to clean out some beds and plant winter annuals while the weather is nice.