Sunday, April 27, 2008

Marsh Therapy

Life is a tad stressful right now, so after church and the rain stopped, we made a run to St. Mark's for therapy.

We ran into two different families that we know. They were there for the same purpose. There are a hundred reasons not to go, but it calls us, all the same.


We saw a tiny 3 inch alligator snapping turtle crossing the road.


This one shows the characteristic head. He or she was so young the back  was not rough, as we expect from this kind of turtle. Because these turtles have extremely powerful jaws, we did not pick it up. B guarded it from an on-coming car with his boot and then when the coast was clear, we let it proceed to the other side and into the deep grass.



The big story of the day was the numerous alligators. We even saw one crossing the road, but did not get that photographed.




The black necked stilts are mating down there. Gotta love those pink legs. We probably saw a dozen.



Some days, a marsh is as good as a massage.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Ivy Issues


Oh, how lovely is this evergreen, especially this time of year when the new leaves are bright green and overshadow the old ones that have succumbed to mildew over the winter. The leaves on ours are up to 6 inches across.

It was S who brought in the Algerian ivy,  Hedera algeriensis, and we planted it in a border by the deck. She has managed to keep up with it with a few exceptions where it took off runners under the deck and just has to be pulled out until it breaks off , only to branch off and send out new runners to continue the cycle.


But it was B (ever the recycler) who decided to pot up the removed runners and set them in the shade to grow. As can be expected, they did not remain in their pots but made a run for it and now we have what S considers an ivy problem and what B considers….well, not a problem.

This week S was approached about groundcovers for shady areas and made an offer to the woman: Algerian ivy. YES, S did warn her it has to be kept up with.

S has just pulled out a leaf bag and a kitchen bag full of ivy and no dent was made in the backyard vines, though the deck border looks like it is supposed to now and some of the path is now walkable.




The saying goes about ivy:

The first year, it sleeps.

The second year, it creeps.

But the third year, it LEAPS!

It's true.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Nandina Diamonds

Nandina or heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) is an evergreen or semi-evergreen broadleaf shrub. Despite the common name, it is not a bamboo at all. The young leaves in spring are bright green with rosy edge; old leaves turn red and orange or purple  before falling. This morning in the gentlest of showers, I noticed the beading of the raindrops on the new leaves.






I thought it was interesting that the older leaves--the ones in the fall colors-- did not repel the water; there was no beading on them. They just got wet. Perhaps it helps to prepare them for breaking down once they drop off.


Monday, April 14, 2008

On Pines and Needles

While driving through the Ochlockonee River Management Area, we noticed that the longleaf pines had hit a growth spurt. The trees we were looking at were in the sapling stage, having progressed from the grass stage to the bottlebrush stage to now being about 6-10 feet tall and beginning to have lateral branches. The recent growth was apparent by the candles, the name for the whitish growing tip. These reportedly may grow a few feet in only a few months.



We were impressed.



This one measured about 32 inches!


Around May, green needles begin to emerge from the candle and the white candle begins to turn scaly and brown as bark begins to form. The brown bark helps to protect this new growth from fire. Also, the taller the tree is, the more protected it is from fire.

B's boy scouts helped plant wiregrass plugs here as a part of the state's longleaf-wiregrass reforestation project about four years ago. These trees were in the grass stage then. They were busy at that time putting down good tap roots to support this growth. With our rainfall looking more like normal, the longleafs have shot up and hopefully will continue to thrive and take their historic place in the north Florida landscape.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Back to St. Marks

Since S had been sick, we had not been to the lighthouse in over 5 weeks and were kind of missing it. This morning, we decided to make a run down there. Had heard some bear stories this week about Old Plank Road, our favorite route, and were still hoping to come across one again.

Well, we didn't!

But we will always hope.

At the Visitor's Center, this big guy was in the pond, but had his head raised in a rather awkward position.


The spiderworts were extremely happy down there.


Continuing the theme of blue and green, the cedars were covered in tiny, light blue berries.



The smell of the prescribed burn could still be detected. I think the texture and form of this burned palm was interesting, rather what you might get if you crossed a giant, roasted pineapple with a broken umbrella. An umapple or a pinebrella.


On the boardwalk up to the Visitor's Center, we barely missed stepping on this beautiful Rosy Maple Moth, Dryocampa
rubicunda. Someone had probably not missed stepping on it, as it appeared injured on its abdomen.


Check out the pink, furry legs. I think I had some sox like that once. (This is from S, not B!)


The antennae do not show up well in the other pictures, but they are clear in this one.


These are so named for their color, as well as their diet. The larva can become pests on maple trees. But on the positive side, the adults are really striking.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

B's Peas

While we were off enjoying ourselves in North Carolina, spring continued to march forward in Tallahassee. Many of the garden plants were considerably changed and some of the English peas had matured.  B brought in the harvest!




Sweet and delicious, straight from the pod and onto salads!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Randall Glen

While in North Carolina last week, we went to visit friends east of Asheville. It was a lovely, challenging drive over mountains and through green valleys to get there.




The place is called Randall Glen.

Our friend gave us the quick tour because we were concerned about finding our way "home" over "our" mountain before dark. But it was an enjoyable afternoon.


We stopped by fishing pools. The American toads were mating and laying eggs and some of the pools were filled with tadpoles.



Notice the vibration waves in the water from his or her voice.


There is a wide variety of livestock at Randall Glen: cows, sheep, goats, ponies, horses, geese, chickens, and, yes, llamas.


There was even a newborn lamb.


And the drive back down, (going "home" a different way) was through a valley so green, it hurt your eyes.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Other Mountain Wildlife and Livestock

Every evening at the farmhouse, we watched for the deer to come down from the hills to graze on the grassy meadows. The first night there were 7 of them. They seemed a little surprised that we were there to watch them. That night we watched as they jumped the pasture fence  to come within about 20 yards of us. In this picture they were in the field in the foreground. (They are not in this shot as it was too dark to photograph that night.)




Another night, they were on the hill (behind the barn in this same picture) and I took the picture below. There are only 4 in this shot. One of the larger ones was very dark.100_2059

We also observed rabbits. One evening, the deer flushed a large rabbit and he remained in the midst of the small herd for some minutes. Rabbit pictures were too lousy to even put in! (Remember I said it drizzled a lot? Well, the light was really dim.)

The other mammal that was the most exciting to see was a woodchuck, or groundhog. We saw two on different roads on different days. This one was really shy and I took a bunch of pictures, but I am sorry to say, this was the only one even worth keeping. We had not seen a groundhog in decades, so this was pretty cool for us.



Down the hill from the groundhog were some of the cutest little calves.



Each day, we were visited by farm cats, who also hunted the birds that we watched. And every day, the horses passed the house on their daily grazing routine. Their heavy steps could be heard quite a ways off. Their favorite pasture seemed to be the one on the hill above the house. To see them from inside the house, we would stand at the window and look UP.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What's a Garden Without Flowers?

As mentioned in the previous post, it was very, very early spring in Asheville. Still, the state arboretum was lovely with daffodils---thousands of them in many varieties.



This very large basket at the gift shop contained only live blooming plants. It was breath-taking.



This photo below shows white daffodils with lavender creeping phlox. The phlox was found in several shades of light purple and spreads over hillsides.



The tulips outside were still coming up, but the grape hyacinth's were stunning and we saw them, and the old naturalized daffodils, in almost everyone's yard and also in places that were once yards.



This was a different kind of redbud tree --different from Florida's--just getting started. 100_2108

The flowers reminded me of sea urchins! --Which would actually work with Florida.



The yellow forsythia shrubs have run wild over the countryside, but where they were pruned last summer, they were covered in blossoms.




At the farmhouse where we stayed, there was forsythia and daffodils and grape hyacinth, as well as senecio and pussywillows.

The naturalized daffodils grew all around the house on the hill, enjoying that good drainage that they require.


I cut a few of the pussywillows and daffodils and put them in a Mason jar and we enjoyed them all week on the kitchen table.