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Posts Tagged ‘frogs’

For as far back as I can remember, and by some reports farther back than that, I have been a sucker for growing things.

gardener Ellie

That picture was taken when I was three.   We were planting peas and what I was doing was pulling the soil into the furrow.

The story goes that one fine day when I was closing in on my third birthday, it came nigh on to meal time and my mother put out the dinner call.   Needless to say, my one year old brother was johnny on the spot, having been put into his high chair willy nilly.   My older sister showed up fairly promptly, as did my father.   But there was an unoccupied chair at the table, and the question arose:   “Where is Ellie?”

Another call made from the back porch, and again, no response.   A posse was formed and the search for the miscreant began.   It wasn’t long before the forces of the law discovered the fugitive’s whereabouts.   I was crouched at the edge of the bean patch, delightedly engrossed in the show that was going on there.   Urged by the warm Southern California sun, the bean seeds were emerging from the soil, literally popping from the u-shaped form to erect with their little dicotyledons deployed to catch the rays and begin their job of growing.

My mother reports that I was laughing and cheering each victorious seedling, heedless of hunger or parental calls.  After a suitable celebration, we all went inside to eat.

My fascination has not abated.   I still like to watch the beans unfold.   I like to see the plants in my garden thrive.   Today I went out on a safari through my urban jungle to see what was going on.

The poppies are blooming in the stroll garden.

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Personally, I think they bear a closer look.

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I proceeded out to the pond to see if I could spy a dragon fly.   They were still asleep, it being quite early in cloudy and cool morning.   The water lilies were not open yet either, but there was a pond denizen in evidence.

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Out there is where the pipe vine grows.   I planted it as a food supply for  the pipevine swallowtail, in the fond hope that one would happen upon it and start a colony, but so far they have not shown up.  I may be located too far from their usual habitat.   But I love the vine anyway.   Right now it is covered with little “dutchmen’s pipes”.

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You might wonder why I entitled this post “Hosta love” since I haven’t mentioned them yet.   Well, I’m getting there.   Just be patient.

I have quite the collection of hostas.   They are actually fairly trouble free plants, and the huge variety of color and form make them a wonderful thing to fill dark corners.  I started out with just a few varieties in a garden on the north side of the house.  In addition to hostas, this garden contains hellebores, a couple of bleeding hearts and sundry filler plants.

This beauty is located there, and she is the perfect exemplar of what I love about the genus.

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Here is a broad shot of the area I call the Hosta Dell, that gives you an idea of what a beautiful garden you can create using hostas as the main focus.

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That is where you can find this variety.

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And this one too.   It may be the star of the show, but the two Heucheras behind it make a pretty fine back up section.

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I am very sorry to report that I have neglected to mark and remember all the varietal names of the hostas I own.   I started out with good intentions, but I was derailed by certain events that I had no control over, namely the blue jays’ penchant for stealing plant tags for nest material.  I always have good intentions of making maps with labeled plant locations, but then I move a plant or one dies and gets replaced (or not), and the mapping falls by the wayside, so to speak.  So I really couldn’t tell you these particular lovlies actual names.   Sorry.

Of course, all is not perfection in the gardens of The Havens.   I have a rose I need to move off the root cellar so that we can cover the area with more dirt in preparation for the solar panel installation.   The garden I wish to transplant the rose into was choked with weeds yesterday.   I have it 80% cleaned out, but the north end of the Hosta Dell is sadly in need of attention too.

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I guess I’d better stop procrastinating and get out there and get to work!

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If you build it. . .

Years ago, they made a movie called “Field of Dreams.” This mythic fantasy starring Kevin Costner was a movie that we enjoyed a lot when we saw it.   There was a line in it that stuck with me:  “If you build it, he will come.”

I find myself saying a modified version of that line a lot here at The Havens.   When I first built the pond, I did it for the wildlife.   I really did not have a clue as to just exactly how true the whole concept of “If you build it” actually is when I created the pond.   (For a good retrospective of how the area has developed over the years, check out this post.)

We have a few leopard frogs that have moved in because of the presence of the pond.   We find them out and about hunting on a regular basis.   They visit the vegetable garden and hunt in the cucumber vines, sometimes they are over by the sauna, and I often run into them in the day lily bed.   They are making a good living on the bugs here, and it is easy to forget that sometimes the predator can become the prey.

We had a reminder of that a couple of days ago.   Jim was out removing the section of fence that fell down behind the day lilies last spring, and I was turning the compost pile.   Suddenly, Jim said, “Ellie, come here!” in a quiet yet urgent voice.

I have learned that he never issues that order without some good cause, so I put my pitchfork down immediately, and hustled over to where he was standing on alert by the pond.

“Shh,”  he said.   We stood together for a minute or so.   “Do you hear that?”  he said suddenly, as a rather odd sort of “erking” noise issued from the pond verge.

“Yes,” I replied.   “I wonder what it is?”   It happened again.   “Sounds sort of froggy to me,” I added.

“I think it’s a frog too, wonder what kind it is?”   The noise happened again, several times, at about 10 to 15 second intervals.  Suddenly, there was some commotion in the vegetation and the vocalization happened again.   Only this time, it was not just one “erk,” it was longer, more urgent, and quite a lot louder.

We decided to get nosy, and started searching for the source.   Down in the midst of the wild iris and jerusalem artichokes, we came across a desperate scene.   One of the garter snakes that lives on the place had caught the smaller of our local leopard frogs.   It had not done a very good job of catching it, but despite that it was attempting to swallow the frog, hind leg first.

It had about two thirds of that leg swallowed and was not about to let go of its prey, even though it was pretty obvious that the frog was a tad bit too large for the snake, which was a rather small snake, to actually swallow.   Even so, the frog was not having much luck extracting the partially swallowed appendage from the snake’s mouth, and its predicament was what had been making it vocalize.

(At this point I should have run into the house to get the camera, as neither animal was going anywhere, but no one thought of that until it was too late.)

“The question is,” said Jim, “Are we rooting for the snake or the frog?”

It didn’t take me a second to make the decision in favor of the frog.   As far as I know, we only have two leopard frogs living here, and there are at least six snakes because we saw them emerging from their hole on the first really warm spring day.   Additionally, the garter snakes have plenty of beetles, crickets, and small rodents to eat, they don’t need to eat the frogs.

And so, the snake was grabbed, much to its dismay and great astonishment.  The shock caused it to open its mouth and the frog took that opportunity to escape.   The frog leaped off towards the pond, apparently none the worse for wear, and in a great high dudgeon the snake whipped off into the jerusalem artichoke patch.

We agreed that that snake was in no danger of starving because we had deprived it of its chosen lunch.  Especially since said lunch was probably not small enough for the reptile to actually swallow.  We went back to our jobs, having been suitably entertained.

That is not the only exciting thing that we have seen this week.   While we were burning our small brush pile on Sunday, the red tail hawks passed over on their way to the field behind the house and returned about five minutes later with their immature hawklet in tow.  We sat quietly as they delivered a lesson on flying rising thermals, utilizing the small artificial thermal our little bonfire had created.   We watched enchanted, as the young hawk circled round and round on the pillar of air rising off the fire, slowly rising up to a great height, where we could just barely see one of its parents waiting for it.   The other parent was hanging about close to the ground, slowly circling our yard as the youngster practiced.

It was way better than TV.

Other raptors come and go.   Sometimes we see them, sometimes we just see evidence of their passing, like this breast feather from a great horned owl, caught in my aesclepius the other morning.

Hope the owl caught one of the numerous rabbits that have infiltrated The Havens this year.  There is a family of meadow voles in residence as well; there is plenty for a hawk or owl to eat around here.

If you build it, they will come.

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Well.  My goodness.   Gardening Gone Wild has really souped up the ante on the “Picture This” contest this month. I’ll let the judge set the theme in his own words:

And then it came like an epiphany, easy and clear. We are all learning and growing and marking our progress each day, each moment, with the aspiration to be more aware, more knowledgeable, more fulfilled. And there is no way to still that understanding to one moment in time, one frame. The way we see that frame changes as our perspective does. And what a great thing to be able to look back on that past frame, or out into the world as our current perspective leads us and judge that for what it is now to us at this moment. And that is what I ask of you for this months contest, to give me your best ever. That’s right, the BEST FRAME YOU HAVE EVER CREATED. Your favorite. The one that means the most to you, that conveys what skill you had to bring to bear at its creation and now as you ascertain what it expresses. Your BEST EVER!

In keeping with the GGW scope (and I suspect most of our interests) I ask that it remain garden or plant related. No people portraits or cityscapes. And I will not be able to read the stories behind each image. The image itself has to stand on its own.

I like that last bit.   The image has to stand on its own.   Oy.  So much of the meaning and perspective is wrapped up in the story that goes with the picture!

This challenge has absolutely riveted me for several days.   I scrolled through all 14,000+ images in my digital collection.   This process was made easier by the caveat that the image chosen for the contest must be plant or garden related.    It also made it more difficult, because even though my absolute favorite image is sort of plant related, I don’t think it really qualifies for this contest.   This was a penstemon blooming out on one of the pillars of sandstone at the edge of the Grand Canyon.   This has always been one of my favorite frames.

While I went through the other images, the ones that are my favorites got copied to my desktop, and we set up a slide show of them.   I managed to narrow it down to 30 of what I consider really wonderful images.  As they flipped through on the slide show, I started to eliminate images that I realized weren’t really my “favorite”.

I started to understand my mother much better.   We used to ask her what her favorite flower was.  This was an especially important question when we were children and trying to decide what to give her for Christmas and her birthday, which were two days apart.  Her very frustrating answer was, “Whichever one I am looking at.”

The thing is, when you try to decide on something that you consider to be your BEST FRAME EVER, the criteria of choice start to become an issue.   What season are we talking about here, anyway?   Is it the whole garden I want to feature, or do I like the focus on one plant?   What about the denizons of the garden, the birds and bees and spiders and bugs?

Slowly, I winnowed out the images that were really neat, but not “really” my favorite.   I have it down to a dozen now.   What a noticed is that of my dozen truly favorite images, five of them (almost half) involve the animal life that avails itself of my garden.   Personally, I think the animals sort of add to the story in the pictures, and also emphasize my gardening focus which is an organic garden that will provide habitat for wildlife.

But the top dozen shots, in no particular order, appear below.  Some of them have appeared previously on the blog.   This is not surprising, since they are my favorites.

I’ve always loved the little praying mantis peeking at me over the frilly edge of my reblooming fall iris.

I found this arrangement of leaves and a dead butterfly on the pond in my back yard one fall afternoon.

To me, the bird house in the background of this spider’s web saying “Welcome” is what makes this picture.

This was a zinnia that was blooming in my herb garden, silhouetted against my (long since deceased) gazing ball.   A lesson — glass gazing balls will break if a severe thunderstorm throws them against the rocks in your garden.

I’ve always been enthralled by moonflowers blooming.   This one was still unfurling when I took this shot.

Tulipa acuminata.   Need I say more?

One drop held in the embrace of a hosta after I watered.

Cleome blossom opening.   The stamens don’t always make this heart shape for you.

Snow flake on rose hip.   This image was a surprise for me, as I was out taking pictures without my glasses on and had no idea that the snowflake was even on the rose hip until I came inside and uploaded the shots I had taken that day.

A little green tree frog on a hosta leaf.

I always called this shot “Guardian of the Peace,” since the crab spider was in a”Peace” rose.

A migrating Monarch butterfly stops for nectar on the torch tithonia in the vegetable garden.

So that’s the field.   What I notice is that I tend to like my macro images the best.   Even though I have lots and lots of pictures of the whole garden, they rarely get labelled as my favorites.   Several of these images leaped to mind immediately as soon as I started thinking about “My Best Frame Ever.”

Once I decide, the die is cast; I don’t think GGW will let me go in and change my entry twenty times. . . or even twice.

After a great deal of thought, and despite the bad image that spiders have, I am choosing the Black and yellow argiope on her web in front of the “Welcome” sign.   This image is almost the first one that came to mind as I read the description of the assignment.  I truly worked to get the spider and her web in focus while still having the word in the background show up but not dominate.   It tells a story, it required effort on my part, I took many shots of this scene.   It epitomizes my relationship with my garden and the beneficials that help keep it free of insects.   And so she will be my “Best Frame Ever” entry.

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