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Last week, as I was frantically rushing around getting ready to fly out to Chicago to attend my daughter’s Navy graduation, I received an email from a reader of my blog, which literally stopped me in my tracks and brought a huge smile to my face.


When you blog, it is almost always a one-way conversation.  I don’t often get to know if my ‘ramblings’ help or inspire others, except for when I meet some of you in person.  So, this email just made my day (or should I say, my entire month).



Here is a small excerpt…



Since moving here (from SC three years ago) my son and I have found your Pinterest Page, and Facebook page AND blog as our source when we have questions about things we have planted. Because of that my 14 year old has been mightily successful in his gardening efforts: veggie gardens, herbs and his hummingbird garden too. This mother thanks you for being willing to show not only your success but not quite so successful growth too (ie your onions.- they weren’t failures, just small).  Jacob, my son, was so gleeful (as most boys [I guess] would be) when he pulled his onions this week and they were bigger than yours.  (I don’t know what it is about competition and boys…. ) He is currently awaiting his corn harvest.  He has planted two varieties to compare the difference- one The Golden Cross Bantam (Hybrid) and some other kind I cannot think of at the moment (silver queen or something..)


I wrote her back and told her how much her email meant to me.  And then, I wondered if she wouldn’t mind if I make her son’s garden a subject of an upcoming blog post. 


Jacob is 14 years old and in addition to being a great gardener, also likes birding.  



Are you ready to see Jacob’s garden?




This is the hummingbird garden.  I asked Jacob, what he planted in his garden and what species of hummingbirds that he has seen visiting.

“There are many things I have added to my hummingbird garden. 

Here is a list: 

Dianthus
Spanish Lavender
Fern leaf Lavender
French Lavender
Columbine
Kangaroo paw (orange red in color)
Ivy Geranium (to add color to garden not specifically for hummingbirds)
May Night Salvia
East Friesland Salvia
Pink Salvia
Blue Black Salvia
Trailing Verbena
Verbena
Guara Ballerina Rose
Cardinal climber vine
Black eyed Susan vine
Rocket Snapdragons
Snapdragons
Pineapple Sage
Autumn Sage
Cinnamon Basil
Basil
Bee Balm
Aloe Blue Elf
Aloe Vera
Lantana (yellow and a new variety which is white with yellow on the outside of the flower)
A few rogue sunflowers
and a young Desert Willow sapling that I started from seed last year.

That is it so far but you never know what tomorrow will bring. 


Anna’s Hummingbird

Four different species have visited my garden; Anna’s hummingbirds are year round residents, Black-chinned hummingbirds stay throughout the summer, the Rufous and Broad-tailed hummingbirds are common in migration. The hummingbird garden is situated near our kitchen window(s), I really enjoy sitting at the table watching them. Last year we actually got to enjoy watching a mama Anna Hummer feeding her babies. The house Finch and sometimes the red headed woodpecker visit too. The curved bill thrashers love to eat the bugs.”




I wanted to hear more about Jacob’s vegetable garden so I asked him what types of vegetables he likes to grow.

“Some of my favorite vegetable(s) to grow here is corn, and tomatoes The corn partly because it is something new for me to try producing. I am growing two types this year; Bantam corn and sweet corn. I will compare the two to see which harvests the most and grows better. The tomatoes have so many new varieties that I have not grown before so I am having a blast trying new tomatoes this year. I am trying the Summer Set tomato, Lemon boy, Roma, Cherry tomato, Big Beef, Early Girl, and of course the Phoenix. All have produced except the Phoenix, so far.
I also planted Okra last year. The plant generated much, but I waited till they were to big and they were bitter. I kept the plants though because the flowers were very pleasing to the eye. 



White Icicle Radishes were another vegetable I had fun growing. I found a watermelon called Moon and Stars that was believed to be extinct, I am growing that also.”


As many of you may have experienced, there is one or two vegetables that you have a hard time growing.  I asked Jacob, if he struggled growing any type(s) of vegetables in his garden.

“Squash seems to be the hardest for me to grow here in Arizona. I haven’t been to successful but I keep trying. I have Zucchini and crook- necked squash growing this year, hopefully I will be a little more successful.”



I have a list of vegetables that I want to try to grow for the first time in my garden.  I just don’t have the room to grow everything I want 😉  I asked Jacob what was on his ‘wish list’ for his vegetable garden.

“I would love try Purple Bell Peppers. They would be fun to grow, and to eat.”



While I enjoy teaching people how to garden and sometimes ‘how not to’ – I wondered if Jacob had any gardening tips that he has picked up along the way that he would share with you.

“My gardening tips are more of an encouragement. Never be afraid to try new things even here in the desert. Some things might be successful, some may not. Don’t give up even if your things don’t produce. Try again, they may in the next year. Gardening is about succeeding and failures and learning from them.



This year my mother found some pins that she shared with me, on Pinterest., that I tried. Regrowing celery from the root, lettuce, and onions too. The celery flourished! The Romaine lettuce did well also, the yellow onion not quite as successful. It did produce an onion, just not a very large one. This was a fun gardening experiment, some I may retry once the summer heat has passed. 

Praying Mantis hatched from a purchased egg case.

Something else I am doing this year is allowing the plants to go to seed in hopes that I can use the seeds for next years garden. 


Gardening is about succeeding, failures, experimenting with new things, and learning from them.”

I must say, that I am very impressed with Jacob’s garden and also with how much he has learned since he started his garden.

As he stated, don’t be afraid get out in the garden and try.  Of course, you will have some failures (all gardeners do – I have had my share).  But, you will also have successes that make failures pale in comparison.  Gardening is a huge experiment, which makes life fun and exciting.

I am so grateful to Jacob and his mom, Deb, who took the time to write to me and then to share their garden and thoughts with me.  

“THANK YOU!”

Isn’t it true that most projects take longer then you plan on?

Still, I always approach projects with optimism that I will be able to finish in just a couple of days.

Of course, things just seem to come up with the kids and work.  I get really busy this time of year when people’s gardens are starting to grow again.

But finally, our new vegetable garden is finished!

Here are the last few steps…

 

 We added compost and manure to the existing soil (1/4 compost, 1/4 manure and 1/2 native soil) and mixed them together.  I finished it off by adding bone and blood meal, which are natural sources of phosphorus and nitrogen that will release slowly over time.  
You can simply add a mixture of compost and manure to your raised bed and no native soil if you desire.  This is easier, but I feel that working the soil down to a depth of 8 inches, helps with the growth of root vegetables.
 
My husband built fences for the raised bed because we have dogs and they don’t always stay out of the garden.  That and they love carrots.

We bought 6′ fence planks and then cut them in half.  A 3 ft. high fence is enough to keep them out.  The fence planks were attached at the top using a narrow strip of wood.  
 The base for the garden is made from a 2″ wide, 10″ high and this piece was 12 ft long.  We used pine wood for our garden.  Pine won’t last forever, but it will last for a few years and is relatively inexpensive.  Of course, you can use cedar, which will last a very long time, but it can be rather expensive.
**There is some controversy regarding using pressure treated wood for vegetable gardens because of the chemicals used in the process and whether or not they ‘leach’ into the soil.
 
My husband built a removable gate into the garden without using any hinges or latches.


As you can see, this removable gate has a narrow strip of wood on the inside and the other strip is on the top of the other side.

The gate slides down into the opening with the bottom strip of wood, resting on the raised bed on the inside and the outer wooden strip on the top fits on the outside.

 You can see how the gate fits, above.
We all had fun putting the sides up…it took three of us – two to hold the sides up while my husband attached the brackets.
The entire time we were putting up the sides, we were visited by a curious and hungry Anna’s hummingbird.  He would stop by every 5 minutes or so.
 

I planted sweet corn, bush beans and cucumbers in my new garden in addition to marigolds, nasturtium and bachelor’s button, which will attract pollinators and help keep harmful insects away.

I promise to show photos as soon as my seedlings come up 🙂

 I enjoy photographing the beauty that surrounds me, especially plants and landscapes.
My youngest sister, is a very good photographer and her focus is usually people.
And then there is my nephew, Kenny, (son of my other sister), who likes to photograph both nature and people.
So what do you do with three family photographers?  Go on a field trip to our local riparian preserve. 
Even in winter, it is a beautiful place to visit…
In addition to my sister and nephew, my son Kai and my other nephew, Josh came along.

Of course, they soon set off to explore on their own…


Now, the rest of us got our cameras out and started taking pictures.

My focus was trying to capture photos of the many hummingbirds who make their home in the riparian preserve year round.

Anna’s Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird

What fascinates me about hummingbird photos, is that although the photos above are of the same hummingbird; you can only see the bright color when the sun is shining directly on the feathers of their throat.


While I was taking pictures of hummingbirds, my sister wanted to practice taking pictures, so she was taking pictures of me, taking pictures.

I must admit that I feel a bit uncomfortable posing for pictures.  But it wasn’t too bad because I didn’t have to pose.


My nephew has a very good eye for both landscape and people shots.

Sunlight and Purple Prickly Pear Spines


Great White Heron




My nephew also caught me in the midst of taking pictures of three mallard ducks.



I know that mallard ducks are quite common, but I have always liked them and their beautiful colors.  I even used to have a pet mallard duck when I was young.



A curious goose was hoping we had some bread crumbs to share.



Another photo from my nephew, highlights the babbling brook that winds its way through the preserve.


Across one of the lakes, we spotted the boys who were visiting some of the ducks…



Soon, the sun was beginning to set and I had to get home to make dinner.


So we started making our way back to the parking lot.



On our way, I spotted some Canadian geese flying back for the night to one of the lakes.



Kai had a little help over the muddy spots on the path…



As we neared the entrance, my sister asked me to pose for a picture – did I mention that I really don’t like posing for pictures?  I feel so self-conscious and am worried that I have lipstick on my teeth or that I will look so ‘fake’ in the photo.

My nephew took this photo and I must confess that I cropped out the bottom part because he didn’t push “the skinny button” on his camera.
Okay, I realize cameras don’t have “skinny” buttons, but I certainly wish they did, don’t you?

We had a wonderful time.

I hope you did too 🙂

Every week, I enjoy seeing who happens to visit me in the garden.  To be precise, feathered visitors.

Some of you may know that I also write a blog for Birds & Blooms magazine and as a result, I am always on the lookout for interesting and sometimes unusual birds.


But, often it is my regular visitors that bring a smile to my face.

Here are some of the visitors that I had last week….

House finches are some of my most common visitors.  They just cannot seem to get enough of my sunflower seeds.  I love the bright colors of the male birds during mating season.
Hummingbirds have to be one of my absolute favorite birds.  I am fortunate enough to have them visit my garden all year round.
This little Anna’s hummingbird is enjoying the flowers of my Chaparral Sage (Salvia clevelandii).
 
Some of the larger birds who come to visit are Doves.  I have four different types of doves that visit, but Mourning Doves are by far, my most frequent visitors.
My bird feeder, like many others, make it difficult for doves to eat directly from them.
Sometimes however, they do manage to get a quick snack, but it is difficult for them to perch on such a small area, so they usually content themselves from eating birdseed that falls to the ground underneath my bird feeder.
Okay, I must admit that I did not take this photo in my garden.  I saw this little female hummingbird when I was taking a walk,  She was sitting in a Palo Verde tree only a block from my house.  I usually take my camera when I go for a walk, because I never know what I will see.
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I would like to thank you all for your kind comments about my post “An Embarrassing Admission”.  I am so blessed to have such great people take the time to read my blog and I am always so thankful for you who take the time to leave me a comment 🙂
This week is full of activity for me.  We are busy painting the interior of our house.  On Monday, we painted the family room, kitchen and all the hallways, which took about 14 hours of work.  The next day, I certainly felt it in my muscles.  There is no way that I am going to the gym this week…..I am getting my workout painting 🙂
There is still some painting left to do, but I think I will give my muscles a bit more of a rest and work on making some plum jam tomorrow. – my mother’s tree is just full of ripe plums – yum, yum.

Earlier this week, my husband and I decided to get outdoors and enjoy our beautiful spring weather.  So, we visited our local Riparian Preserve.  We had a great time walking and talking, but we also brought our camera so that we could take pictures of some of the feathered creatures that congregate around the preserve.

As we were walking, I would look upwards at the trees to see if I could see any birds.  Sometimes they weren’t always easy to spot.

Can you see it?
There is a hummingbird at the very tip of the flowering Palo Verde tree.
As we walked, we noticed quite a few hummingbirds perched high above.  
An Anna’s Hummingbird perched in a Mesquite tree.
An Ash tree is the perfect perch for this little hummer.
We were able to get some really great photos, but because of our location, could not always identify which species of hummingbird we were looking at.
But, we did get a great photo of this Costa’s Hummingbird.  His sharp eyes never left us.
Costa’s Hummingbird in an Acacia tree.
As we were walking along the trail, I heard the distinctive sounds of a hummer nearby.  But, it took me a little while to locate it.
Can you see it?
Anna’s hummingbirds do blend well with their surroundings, except when the sun reflects off of their bright pink throat…
As we were leaving, we saw a few more of our feathered friends…
Black-Chinned Hummingbird
We were fortunate enough to have seen 3 different hummingbird species.  Anna’s and Costa’s are year round residents, but the Black Chinned hummingbirds are summer residents, so it was especially nice to see them as well.
You know what?  I think the fact that hummingbirds are so tiny might account for their preference for perching up on the tallest branches of trees?

What do you think?

You know what?  I do not think that I know anyone who doesn’t enjoy hummingbirds.  I guess that there are probably a handful, but what’s not to love? 

This little hummer was busy bathing and drinking from this fountain at The Living Desert in Palm Desert, CA.
I had never seen a hummingbird bathe before and it was so fun to sit and watch him.
I have a pair of Anna’s hummingbirds who live in one of my trees.  They take turns visiting my hummingbird feeder.
Here is Mr. A…..



and his wife, Mrs. A….



How about you?  

Are hummingbirds one of your favorite things?

I would love to hear about your little visitors…..

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Thank you all for visiting my Birds & Blooms blog.


Here is my latest post…


A Gathering of Cattle Egrets

Last Mother’s Day, my kids gave me a hummingbird feeder.  I am almost embarrassed to admit that this was my first one.  Years ago, I gave a seminar on hummingbirds and I think if I had admitted to not having a feeder, most of the attendees would have walked out 😉

Well, I have enjoyed my new feeder so much and the little visitors that have come.  At first, I was afraid that the feeder was too close to my kitchen window, but that has not stopped my little friends from visiting.

Recently, we have had a pair of Anna’s hummingbirds as regular visitors.  The male always comes first, and then his mate comes about a minute later after he has left.

You can tell that I need to clean my windows 😉
He does not always stop to perch, so I was thrilled that he decided to while I was taking pictures.
I didn’t know that they could stick their beaks in so far.
Once I finished taking pictures of him, I ventured out into the front garden and heard him and his mate in my Cascalote tree.  I couldn’t see them, but they were definitely discussing something with each other 😉
My dream is to find a hummingbird nest in my garden someday.  I remember my grandparents had a nesting pair in their Palm Desert, CA garden when I was a child.  I couldn’t believe how small the nest was and the eggs were just tiny.
I did have the opportunity once to take a picture of a hummingbird nest at a client’s house.  It was located on a Weeping Fig tree that was growing in a container by his front door.  I could hardly whip my camera out fast enough to take the picture….I was so excited.
Maybe now that I have a hummingbird feeder, I will have some new tenants in my Cascalote tree 🙂