What a summer — birds, grands, peonies

Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 2:32pm  |  Updated: Jul 16 2014 - 2:32pm
By: Rosemary Fitzpatrick

Birds! Hummingbirds to be exact. Never ever have we had them stay around like this. Usually we catch a glimpse and are delighted, but this season they are here for the long haul. We have even heard them “talking” to each other — they sound like a cartoon bird. We have at least a pair and maybe two others. What fun!
I have often read that hummingbirds come to red flowers that are a trumpet shape, not so. They are everywhere there is a flower — the white mock orange, “Black Knight” delphinium, Nora Barlow columbine, Sweet Williams. You name it, if it is in bloom they are taking advantage of the nectar.
I have made a stab at becoming more knowledgeable about our bird life by attending the Kachemak Bay Birders meetings. I fear I don’t have enough patience. There are about a zillion sparrows flitting around here that we have no idea what they are. We know they are fledglings so making an ID can be a bit tricky. The bird bath that is on the ground gets the most action. The one that is on a rod stuck in the ground less so. I have read that ground level baths are just asking for cats to nab the birds but at this point we don’t seem to have any roaming the neighborhood. Plus, Jade the Dog, is anti cat, which comes in handy.
The “grands” get a huge amount of entertainment out of a bath full of pine siskins, and the hummingbirds flitting within inches of their heads get squeals of delight. When a larger bird — a robin or a golden crowned sparrow — gets in and splashes away I always come running thinking there is something huge in there. They really make quite a racket.  What a summer.
The view from the kitchen window, over the sink of course, has been particularly lovely this season. The “Heidi” rose has bloomed with an enthusiasm that it hasn’t shown in recent years. The view includes the roses (a whole thicket of them) and bleeding hearts, quite a lovely tableau, all seen through a lace curtain. And what better place to view than while doing dishes.
Our daughter Andrea and her two daughters Genevieve and Margaurite, just left after two weeks. The house is very very quiet. Genevieve, who is 6, made the comment that we have a small house and a big garden — out of the mouth of babes.
Jade the Dog won’t know what to do with herself. Almost daily the five “grands” were here at once and they put her through her paces. This is yet another good reason to have a fenced in garden — dogs and “grands” can move with ease. Also, there isn’t a pond. Much as I want one. They are dangerous for littles, so keep that in mind.
I picked the first peony bouquet. I love them so much. I have five new ones after the Winter of Ice. I did not expect them to bloom this year but here they are and very much appreciated. I pick them as soon as they start to open, I can’t see why they should stay out there and get rained on relentlessly. They are easy to dry. Hang upside down and enjoy all winter.
I would be cutting the delphiniums to hang upside down for drying but the hummingbirds belly up all day long. I am loathe to make a harvest. The dry bouquet is so welcome hanging from the end of the curtain rod in the bedroom all winter long. Just in case yours are not feeding the masses try to dry them, very easy to do,  and you will appreciate their vibrant color in the dark months.
I need to cut down the veronica. This was not the plan. I wanted them to bloom the same time as the peonies but they got  to work earlier than I expected and are now almost spent. Plus they seed around willy nilly so I need to control them a bit. The salvia that has wintered over is doing great and I think they are a better match for the peonies. There may be some adjustment in the future.
I need to talk to you about Amur chokecherries, the gorgeous trees with the copper bark and light green foliage that get huge really fast. They also die really, really fast. It is looking like ours will need to come down. I have been a proponent of these trees forever but I need to eat my words. There are several that I know of that, after achieving maturity, are no longer thriving. Gorgeous as they are, I will no longer recommend them.
The vegetable garden is stunning. The combination of warmth (but not too much) and rain has made a bumper crop of everything. The broccoli, cauliflower, chard, spinach and some kale are making their way to the freezer. The strawberries are amazing, which is a boon because there haven’t been any in the freezer for the last two years. The Royal Burgundy green beans in the greenhouse are spent but the ones outside are starting to produce. This is what I want to happen in an ideal season and they certainly are few and far between.
I thought the cauliflower, Snow Crown, had gone to leaf and I couldn’t figure out why. The hugest leaves I have ever seen. I figured there wasn’t any cauliflower down there amongst the foliage but lo, there is the most lovely, dense, white HUGE cauliflower I have ever seen. I took a picture, that’s how stunning they are. Go figure.
I also noticed a slug in there while I was cutting up one for dinner. I dashed out and made a harvest of the rest and got them into the freezer. No sense feeding the slugs. Keep this in mind as the season progresses. The lettuce is usually the first to attract slugs. If this is the case, toss it all on the compost and use your kale and the second cutting of chard for salad.  I really think the key to slug control is harvesting and keeping the beds clean. When you harvest the cauliflower get the leaves on the compost. I like to whack them with a machete. The smaller the material the quicker it will decompose.
Harvest! Dead head! Garden!
Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener.

Public invited to Gardeners’ Weekend
The Homer Garden Club will sponsor its eighth annual Gardeners’ Weekend on Aug. 2-3:
Aug. 2: Two presentations are given by Debra Prinzing, a Seattle- and Los Angeles-based president of the Garden Writers Association, award-winning author and proponent of an emerging eco-floral design movement. Prinzing will conduct “Visual Elegance in a Vase,” a hands-on floral design workshop at Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center at 3:30 p.m. Seating is limited to 24, fee is $20. That will be followed by Prinzing’s presentation, “Dazzling Bouquets: Inspiration and Beauty Straight From Your Garden,” at the visitor center at 6:30 p.m.
Aug. 3: Five unique and varied Homer gardens will be featured in the Aug. 3 tour from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Fee is $10 for Homer Garden Club members, $15 for non-members. Following the tour, Gardeners’ Weekend participants are invited to a reception at Bear Creek Winery from 5-6:30 p.m.
For more information, call 226-3404 or 235-3763 or visit homergardenclub.org.

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