Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hummingbirds, Part 2

I have managed to take more pictures of visiting hummingbirds but still no ruby throat!
One day when Lady Luck will smile at me. I have a feeling that when I will see the throat I will not have my camera with me or I will have wrong lens…hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t even think about it or it will happen.
Let's have red Calibrachoa...

then white one...

and another red one.

On one shot I got lucky to capture resting hummingbird with his long tongue out and some yellow nectar at tip of his beak. I didn’t see it till the shot was uploaded on my computer and zoomed in.

Critters in Our Garden

It was interesting to see how many welcome and un-welcome critters visit our garden in just 5 short minutes. With all the flowers in our garden it is inevitable that we will see lots of insects and birds. We are lucky that we don’t have any racoons even though they do a lot of damage just 20 meters across the street by digging up the lawns looking for white grubs. Same goes for deer and badgers, they just do not cross the street. Rabbits and chipmunks are another story. I have learned which flowers and plants need protection and which they don’t like. It is unfortunate but I had to put up chicken wire fences around my peas, beans and other plants. Chipmunks might look so harmless and cute but they did chew up my irrigation tubing and dug up some plants. I have to admit, though, they are fun to watch just like the rest of garden creatures.
These pictures were taken in just 5 minutes from our deck.

Garden enemy #1

Cute, but can be destructive.

Mourning Dove taking a break.

This insect looked like a fly but behaved like a bee.

And, speaking of bees...

hard at work and not bothering anybody.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Looks like hummingbirds are on the way South and I am having fun with my Canon Rebel T1i camera and my long lenses. Although I am fairly new to digital SLR camera I am an old hand with a regular SLR, something like 35 years, thousands of slides and so much time spent in my darkroom it is wonder that I didn’t develop night vision just like owls have. What an incredible invention digital camera is! Buy good, fast memory SD card, get a spare battery and you can shoot all you want without any additional cost. I just love it.

Anyway, the hummingbirds are feeding on our flowers, especially Cardinal Flower and Calibrachoa (Million Bells) so often now that all I have to do is sit down and wait. I like to use manual focus because I am used to it and because the autofocus with long lens is very unreliable. This afternoon as I was adjusting some settings on my camera flash that is always mounted on the side of my Canon, I spotted one hummingbird coming to the Cardinal Flower. I went to work and this is the result of just about 30 seconds of shooting.

All pictures were taken with 75 - 300mm f/4-5.6 lens, manual focus, single frame shooting, flash set on E-TTL exposure metering, shutter speed 1/200 (synch speed for flash), aperture automatic, ISO automatic. The planter with the flowers was about 18 feet away from where I was standing. See the arrow.

Since tripod with hummingbirds is not practical, very steady hands are prerequisite. Right hand holds camera and triggers the shutter and left hand focuses the lens.
Now I have to figure out the light angle so that hummingbirds will show off his ruby throat! I will move around and see what the best angle is. Isn’t it nice to have some free time on hand? J

 These two shots are just half a second apart

Friday, August 19, 2011


Collecting seeds for next year.

When I started growing zinnias from seeds back in February I had no idea what to expect. To be totally honest, I had no idea what zinnia looked like. I was ordering veggie seeds from Johnny’s Seeds and before I send it over Internet I have asked Marjo if she is interested in growing some flowers from seeds. Yup, she was. Got a list about double of what my order was. Good, I will learn as I go, I said to myself. I had no clue how to grow flowers from seeds. Some need light, some don’t…you get the picture. Reading the detailed instruction, and Johnny’s Seeds has the most complete and detailed instructions anywhere, is an absolute must. What struck me the most is how tiny, basically microscopic, some seeds are. Lobelia is one that just floored me. It is not a seed as much as it is a dust. Next year I know what to do.
Back to Zinnias. What an incredibly spectacular plant this turned out to be! It started blooming in April in our sunroom and it looks like it will bloom till first frost, about 10 weeks from now in our zone 6a. And the flowers! Just like small dahlias. Well, the flowers are open pollinated, not F1 hybrid that you can’t collect seeds from, so I have decided to collect seeds for next year. Since Marjo ordered mix where you do not know what you are starting unless you scatter all the seeds over large area, I started collecting separate Zinnia colors and next year when I start them I will know what it is that I am growing. Once I have the seeds I will run a test just to see if they will germinate. I don`t want any surprises next February.
Besides being beautiful flowers they are also attracting Goldfinches. It didn`t take us long to see that if you do not deadhead all the dry flowers that birds will flock to it like kids to ice cream truck. The seeds are irresistible to them.

March 9, 2011

Five months later from just 9 cells.
Here are the individual flowers grown from mix.

It is amazing that such varied colors end up almost identical as a seed.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Our Peach Tree


Our peach tree (“Reliance”) is now 4 years old and needed fairly severe pruning. Every expert I have talked to and every article I have read concerning peach tree maintenance have recommended this step. So, I did. Apparently I have done a good job by trimming about 1/3 of smaller branches and all the vertical suckers. In few weeks time the tree was absolutely covered in pink flowers.


Then, when leaves came out 2 weeks later they immediately started to curl, got brittle and the ones I didn’t remove fell off. The tree got leaf curl, fungus that is dormant in wood over winter and strikes in the spring.



There is a spray on the market and I have it but we had such a lousy fall that I just couldn’t do it. I needed dry period of 2 days and windless weather. There was not a single day that I could have sprayed. Anyway, new wood started to grow and with it new leaves but the fruits started to fall off just after forming and kept falling off till about end of July. We had 36 peaches left to mature.


Last year the tree was so heavy with fruit that I had to support 4 branches with 2X2 lumber to prevent the limb from splitting. We had at least 200 pounds of fruit from that tree and were giving it away by buckets. Many branches were permanently bent because of the weight.



Fruit trees are fun to have but, boy, do they ever require TLC! This fall I will be spraying for sure. And next spring I will have to prune again because all the wood grew back, tree’s revenge, I guess.

One of 36 survivors.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Flower Garden Update, August 12, 2011

The weather wasn’t very kind to our flower garden but thanks to automatic low pressure irrigation all plants are doing well with few exceptions. I forgot to feed Lobelia and it does show, big time! I just hope that with some TLC and good fertilizer they will be full of gorgeous bright blue flowers.
Dahlias started to bloom in middle of July and now they are all in bloom. We bought the tubers last fall and all 5 were described as Diner Plate Dahlias. Well, three of them are more like little girl’s teacup saucer size and one of these small flower Dahlias is about 6 feet tall! Still, they are quite showy and will last till first frost. At least they did last year.

Hemerocalis were a bit of a surprise as to how slow they were to bloom and how fast they faded. Right now there are not that many flowers. Marjo fertilized them so here is hoping that they will bloom again.

Zinnias that I have started from seed last February are just spectacular! So many flowers and so tall, they are taking over our deck stairs and had to be tied because they were spreading so much.

We leave the spent and dried flower heads on because American Goldfinches just love the seeds. They are quite acrobats, hanging upside down from those small flower heads. In addition to Zinnias seeds I give them sunflower heads from our branching sunflower. When the head turns brown I cut it and stick it into flower box on our deck railing. Interesting thing is that only females and immature males will feed oh sunflower and only mature males feed on Zinnias, for whatever reason. I just can’t figure out why.

Also, couple hummingbirds are visiting few times a day and each has its own resting spot: one is on top of dead leader of our Fir and second one likes our hanging basket hook.

Climbing roses are in full bloom, again. Marjo did some great pruning and they are just beautiful.

Two years ago I started hollyhock from seeds and this year it is over 9 feet tall and growing. Flowers are not the largest I have seen but they are quite unusual dark purple, almost black, with bright canary yellow center. I think that next year the flowers will be much larger.
Hollyhock is in between evergreens.

Note: I am quite late with this post as I have started on August 6th. I got new computer on 7th and had to install bunch of programs plus move lots of files. Unfortunately, some older (12 years old!) devices will not run on 64 bit Windows 7 OS. On top of it all I have to get used to new operating system and new version of MS Office (2010). It will be a while before everything is back to normal.