Do You Hear What I Hear?

Cedar Waxwing_ChicoBasinRanchCO_20100501_LAH_4191I was wandering through the forest in western Washington when I heard a series of high-pitched, whistling bird calls. As I peered into the foliage, I finally made out the Cedar Waxwings that were making the sound. Another time, I was in southern Texas, along the Rio Grande border. Again, I heard birds singling some very high notes. In this case, they were followed by a series of lower notes and a distinctive two-tone call. I realized that I was surrounded by a number of Ruby-crowned Kinglets.

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Here’s to Hollyhocks

Alcea rosea - Hollyhocks @DianaPicchietti-Monument 22july05 LAH 002rHow do you like your flowers? Do you grow annuals? You have to replant them every year, but they grow quickly and bloom all season. Then they die with the first freeze. Or perhaps you prefer perennials. They continue from year to year, dying back to their roots in winter, then re-sprouting to bloom again. Their bloom season is short—some only bloom for a couple of weeks, others hang on for a month at best. In all the fuss over perennials vs. annuals, one category of flowers often gets overlooked—the biennials.

Biennials take one growing season to reach blooming size, then overwinter to bloom the following year. Once they bloom, they die, leaving plenty of seeds behind to ensure their replacements. If you plant them two years in a row, you’ll never be without. Yes, you have to put up with plants that don’t blossom that first year, but they earn their keep by the show they put on the next.

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In Memory of Motswari

Eurasian Griffon Vulture_CheyenneMtnZoo-CO_LAH_5320Colorado Springs gets a lot of hail. Anyone who has lived here very long knows that hail is part of life. But in the 25 years we’ve called Colorado home, we’ve never seen a summer like this one. Three times in the past three months, the south end of town has been pummeled by huge hailstones— softball-sized cannonballs from the clouds that demolished anything in their path. Gardens, cars, roofs, windows—the damage is devastating.

Sadly, the most recent storm also injured dozens of people, some seriously enough to be hospitalized, and killed five animals at the renowned  Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Today’s memorial post is dedicated to Cape Vulture (aka Cape Griffon) Motswari, an ambassador for her species and for vultures worldwide. Continue reading

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August Bird Quiz: Uncropped Photo

If you were stymied on Monday, now can you name this bird? The photo was taken in Arizona in May. The answer will appear at the end of next Monday’s post.

White-winged Dove_DesertMuseum-TucsonAZ_20100512_LAH_5320-001

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A Garden Like Mine

YampaRiverBotanicPark-SteamboatSprings-CO_LAH_6364r I love to visit botanic gardens (look for my previous posts under the category Gardening: Gardens). In addition to enjoying the beauty of these places, they also provide ideas for my own landscape. Denver’s is one of the best, and many of the plants there will grow happily 2,000 feet higher. But many won’t. The Betty Ford Alpine Garden, in Vail, is another lovely spot, but that garden features plants that only thrive in the mountains, where they enjoy exceptionally well-drained gravelly soils and cooler days. Yes, there are several demonstration gardens here in Colorado Springs, and I’m well acquainted with what they have to offer. But perhaps I’m too well acquainted. I need inspiration that I can apply at home.

YampaRiverBotanicPark-SteamboatSprings-CO_LAH_6297This summer, I found a botanic garden with growing conditions just like mine. In just five acres, the Yampa River Botanic Park, in Steamboat Springs, offers all the inspiration I could ask for. And since it’s situated at 6,800 feet, what grows there will grow for me, too.

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August Bird Quiz

Can you identify this bird? The photo was taken in Arizona during the month of May. The answer will appear next week.

White-winged Dove_DesertMuseum-TucsonAZ_20100512_LAH_5320

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Thigmo-what?

LAH_5161My pole beans, which got a rather late start, are finally climbing their way up the strings on my bean tower. I’m always impressed that the plants know just what to do. Those reaching tendrils that come into contact with the string immediate start to coil around it, securing themselves to the support. A few plants were still free, waving in the light breeze. I tucked them between the two strands of twine, so they too could wind their way upward.

A few rows over, my pea vines have their tendrils securely wrapped around the netting I put up for them. We all know that pole beans climb and pea tendrils wrap, but I wondered how they knew to do so. After all, most plants don’t have this ability.

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