Sunday, June 30, 2013


All morning, we've been having the nicest rain, again.  Just a light rain for several hours.  The slow rain is so good because every bit of it will soak into the ground.

Recently, I posted about two wren nesting places on either side of my kitchen window.
Both of these have been in the same place for years and I think the wrens love them because they're under the eaves of the house and well protected from the weather.
This is a photo of both.  See the hole they've made in the hanging basket?

On the 26th, the babies hatched in the one on the left.  I can always tell because, suddenly there is lots of activity and you see the parents bringing insects to the nest and feeding them.
A few minutes ago, a carolina wren with an insect in it's beak, rested on the trellis outside my kitchen window and then flew into the hanging basket...WHAT????  I was confused.  Then, I realized that the little wrens in the white bird house are a different kind of wren and this one was a carolina wren.  So, they are nesting within a few feet of each other.  That's so special to me, right outside of my kitchen window!

A couple of days ago, the carolina wren kept sitting in the portal of the white birdhouse.  The mommy wren came back with an insect and kept hopping around, trying to figure out how to get in to feed her babies.  Then, she just squeezed herself into the house.  I kept thinking the wren resting in the portal for a couple of days was a baby from before or a sibling of the parents.  I just couldn't figure it out.
Now, I'm wondering if the neighboring wren was just curiously watching the new babies.
Maybe because they're territorial, but I've always heard that birds will not nest close to each other.
But years ago, I saw a cardinal nest and a dove nest in one of my tall bushes.  The nests were within a few feet of each other.  When I see something like that, I always think it must be first time nesters and they don't know the rules, yet.
Nature is so fascinating.  And, if you watch closely, you'll learn all kind of behaviors that you won't read about and may never see again.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


             Because of all of the rain recently, these crepe myrtles are in full bloom over my garage.
                                                 It is amazing!! to drive up to my house.

These crepe myrtles are about 16' high.  I love these trees and I have several around my yard.  Many of them are 25' high and in full bloom, too.  I wonder what it looks like from the sky, to look down on my yard.
About 23 years ago, Sea World finally opened here.  A couple of years later, their head guy (don't know what they called him) was transferred and the relocation company asked me to go by and give them a paint bid on his house.  Out in the yard, there were five tiny crepe myrtles in buckets, ready to be planted in the ground.  I asked the company if I could have them and they said "yes, please!".  They were just trying to clean up the really beautiful property and get it ready for resale.
So, I planted them in my yard and they are the really tall ones.  The 25' tall ones.
In my yard, I have these melon colored ones, three white ones and several lavender ones.
They provide soooo much shade and are just the right size for my house.
Depending on how much rain we get this summer, they will bloom all the way into October.
Lucky me!!

Friday, June 21, 2013


(Yesterday, I posted this on my decorative artisan blog.  Today, I was thinking my tutorial could work for gardening, too.  You could paint faux bricks on any wall or back plate for your garden.  If you do paint faux bricks outside, it might be best to use exterior paint.  Those tiny bottles of acrylics that you get at Michaels and Hobby Lobby would work well outside, too.)

The last few weeks, I've been working for a builder who is building a New Orleans style house for a client.  He had one area and just couldn't figure out what to do with it.

Finally, he had an idea and called me and asked if I could paint faux bricks for him in this area.  
So, I did paint faux/trompe l'oeil bricks for him.
Here are the three walls with bricks.  Can you tell which two walls are real and the one that I painted?

Ok, which one?

Alright, I'm sure you guessed it.  The butler's pantry was very plain and the builder wanted me to paint the faux bricks to blend with the other two walls.  When you're standing in certain areas in the big living room, you can see all three brick walls at the same time.  So, it was important to make them look the same.

I'm very happy with the way they turned out.  Everybody was saying, "oh, that looks good, you did it" and that made me feel good.
The builder helped me with critiquing the grout lines and together, we did it!!
Oh, and earlier I painted a special finish on the cabinets in the kitchen and butler's pantry.


First, I used dry spackling and, with a broad knife and my finger I lightly textured the area.  Then, I picked out colors to match the existing brick and mortar colors.  I painted over the whole area the grayish grout color. When that dried, I used my brick stencil to get the structure going.  Next, I used a regular brush to stencil the orange brick base coat.  Then, a brush to paint and a rag to rub out an off white, raw umber and black.  It took a while to work on each brick and make them different from each other.  Last, I went back with a brush and painted wider grout lines and wiped it with a rag and smudged out areas on each brick to match the existing real brick walls.
At the very bottom and at the very top, I had to make my own bricks, because the stencil wouldn't fit in those spots.  But, the bricks are so uneven, it's very simple to do.  And, in the corners, I lightly brushed some raw umber, just so it shadowed a little bit.  Making it look a little more three dimensional.
I think anyone could do this.  
You could paint the wall behind your fireplace, under your kitchen cabinets. a mud room or any place you wish you had bricks.  And, you can use any color.
Have fun!!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013



Monday, June 17, 2013


This sweet little baby dove is not going to make it.  It fell out of the nest and this morning I found it on the ground with it's little eyes closed.  I knew it wasn't well and didn't want to disturb it, so I left it right there while I went to work.  When I came home, it was on my sidewalk by the front porch and I'm sure Punkin had picked it up and moved it.  There were no puncture wounds, so I don't think she hurt it and it was still alive.  It's parents were up in the tree, watching.  And, hoping they might try to feed it, I put it on top of the hedge.  I don't think they've been near it, but I can see them watching.  I put clove essential oil around in the tray to keep away the insects.  It's always sad to me, when I have to witness nature taking care of itself.  But, the main reason I'm telling this story to you is that the mommy dove is in the tree above her baby and she's cooing.  I have lots of doves in my yard, but she's the only one cooing and I do believe she's trying to assure her baby that she's nearby.  I love animal behavior and witness special actions and sweet miracles all the time.  I'm sad for the little dove.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Right now, we're having a really good rain storm, again.  The sound of rumbling thunder sounds so good to me because of the horrible drout we've been in for several years.  Thank you, thank you for the rain!!

And, new butterfly eggs on my fennel.  There was only one large caterpillar left on the fennel, today, and I'm hoping the other ones scurried off to start becoming beautiful butterflies.  I've seen them leaving their host plant before, and they move really, really fast.  I followed one, one time, and it got under a clump of vines on a porch post and got very still.  I, finally,  stopped watching and when I went back to find it, it was very well camouflaged and I couldn't see it.

Can you grow ferns like this?  Normally, this fern freezes back in the winter and it didn't this year, so it's way, way overgrown.  It's really crowding my walk.  So, this weekend, I'm going to cut off all of the lower fronds and just leave the top.  I have it in that spot to hide my pond pump.
And, see green Mr. Cardinal.  My camera was on the wrong setting and I didn't know it.  But, when he saw me in the kitchen window, he came right up to the window and hopped back and forth on the trellis.  He was trying to get my attention because I always give him sunflower seeds.  When I went outside, he got in the tree just above my head and was chirping at me.  I gave him sunflower seeds.

Monday, June 10, 2013


It's spring and the goldfish in my pond are getting frisky.  It's very obvious what is on their mind!  So, I try to prep the pond for the babies.
At Petco I got this aquarium plant and put it in the pond so the baby goldfish will have a place to hide. When they're tiny they are solid black so they can hide from predators.  Then, as they grow  you will see a bit of orange and then they're orange, orange and white with no black.  I'm looking forward to babies in my pond, again.
And, looky here!!  Those tiny, tiny caterpillars grew in just a few days.  They have plenty to eat.  Any hour, now, they will be heading off to become beautiful black swallowtail butterflies.  In my garden today, I saw three black swallowtail butterflies and not sure if they are newly hatched from their cocoons.  And, I saw a fritillary butterfly.  I do have a passion vine that I grow just for them.  But, it isn't big enough to support several caterpillars, yet.
    I've been suspicious and today I'm positive that there are little wrens nesting in this white birdhouse.  It's right outside my kitchen window.  It's so sweet to watch the process, but I'm concerned about Charlie and Punkin when the babies take first flight.  So, when I see the baby birds have hatched and the parents are feeding them I'll count the days.  Then, I'm going to put a fence of chicken wire around that area of my rock walk, hoping to give those babies more protection.  When they first come out of the nest they tend to fly down, not up.  I'm going to count the days of feeding and try to guess first flight day and will try to stay home from work to watch and protect.
I do take very seriously, nature and budding life in my garden.
That's what makes me happy!

Friday, June 7, 2013


     Something interesting about coffee grounds:  For my birthday, a friend sent some summer phlox and they were just roots and tiny greenery.  After I planted them, I noticed pill bugs all over them and they would have eaten all of the new foliage.  I have used coffee grounds to keep snails off of  plants and thought  I would try them with pill bugs and it worked.  It's been on the ground for several days and my tiny foliage is growing and no pill bugs or snails.  If you try this, I would like to tell you that if you put a lot at one time, after a few waterings, the coffee grounds will get packed down.  So, just break it up  and sprinkle more coffee grounds around the plants at risk.  I always pack it on, just not on top of the plants.

     Starbucks is very glad to give away bags of their used coffee grounds.  The two stores near me leave the bags of grounds outside the back door and anyone is welcome to them.  I don't drink coffee, I drink green tea, but it's worth the trip to pick up these coffee grounds.  They're so good for your garden.  I've been told that it isn't so much the coffee grounds, but the fungus that grows on the coffee grounds that is so beneficial.

  These black swallowtail caterpillars were very small yesterday.  They were still in their brown skin, but I could see a little of the yellow, black, white and green stripes.  Today, I went out to check on them and they were much larger than they were, yesterday.  It's like, when they shed that brown skin they exploded.  I've never noticed that before, and it was very interesting.  There are several and they're hanging out on the fennel and the parsley.

 I keep my Ezekiel bread in the freezer.  When I was taking the frozen slices out of the bag, the top part broke off and when I took them out of the toaster oven, they looked like doll blouses.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


On Dreamland Dr, by the railroad tracks, I know to drive very carefully because it's a deer crossing area. Today, I saw the CUTEST tiny fawn twins. They were so cute, kicking up their heels. Mama had crossed right in front of me and somehow they knew not to follow her. Then, mama crossed behind me and her babies followed her back into the woods. I'm so glad I got to see those babies.  I pulled over to try to get a photo, but there was traffic headed toward me, and I was afraid I'd spook the babies.  I just can't forget how cute they were!

Monday, June 3, 2013


 Do you know about Jewels of Ophir/Opar?  It is the most wonderful bunch of tiny pink fragrant flowers that open in the late afternoon.  In the lower right corner, that's pentas.  The jewels of ophir flowers are on the thin long stems.  After the blooms drop, the tiny red seed will stay on the plant for a while and looks so pretty with the pink flowers opening up every day.
     A long time ago, when HGTV was showing amazing gardens of regular people, I watched all the time.  One of the gardeners talked about jewels of ophir and I ordered the seeds.
     It is invasive because it throws those tiny seeds everywhere.  It loves to grow and crowds other plants.  So, after it has dropped all it's seeds, I just pull it up and put it on my compost pile.  Sometimes, if it still has seeds on it, I will pull it up and just lay it in a flower bed so the seeds can fall there.  I just don't want to ever lose it.

     After being in a horrible drout, these recent rains have been just wonderful!!  But, all the rain and being spring has caused alllll my flowers and shrubbery to become overgrown.  That bright green foliage behind my fence is blue plumbago.  It's one of my very favorite plants.  But, it didn't freeze back last winter, so it already had a head start and after all of the rain, it was coming through my fence and over my fence.  You couldn't even see my fence.  So, this morning my go-to guy, Gus, came by and trimmed it for me and it looks so, so nice, again.
So, I'm off to a good head start on getting everything trimmmed and looking the way I want it before the horrible heat sets in.
Can you see the iron bird finials on my fence posts?  I love my picket fence!

Saturday, June 1, 2013


     Today, there were some teeny tiny black swallowtail caterpillars on the fennel.  I could hardly see them, but counted five.  I will keep feeding the fennel and other herbs in that pot, so they'll have plenty to eat as they grow.  It's so interesting to watch them grow.  Every few days, they will shed one phase and are a different color from before.  Finally, they end up white, green, yellow and black and stay those colors until they wiggle off to hide and become a beautiful butterfly.
     And, the mama mockingbird is still right there on that branch making those detracting noises at my cats.  Every once in a while, I'll hear the babies in their nest and now, the mama has started "mocking" their baby sounds in between her other tweets/chirps to confuse my cats.  She's sooo smart!