My peonies have popped! I didn't think it would ever happen! It's been so cold here, and until recently, wet and overcast and just generally miserable. It's been a season of feast or famine weather thus far, unfortunately. And now that so many of my former saplings that were so cute when I first moved in 22 plus years ago that I couldn't bear the thought of having them cut down (now I know better!) are overshadowing the entire yard and making things much shadier than ever it was intended to be, my iris and peonies are blooming late, if at all. My iris, especially, are suffering. Where I used to have lots, now I have only a few, and I can see that they are struggling, totally overrun by run-of-the-mill daylilies, which seem to be the only thing that grow fruitfully in my yard these days. Sigh.
I need to do some serious garden restructuring. But for now, I'm enjoying what's here. Some time next month the daylilies will be out in all their glory.
These are "double" peonies, that's all I remember about them. I purchased two plants at least 12 years ago during a trip to one of my favorite local nurseries, Luxembourg Gardens in Franklin, Wisconsin (southeastern Wisconsin, not too far as the crow flies from where I live). Luxembourg Gardens stock may be a bit more expensive than what I can get at the popular garden center right here in town, but I've not yet had a Luxembourg Garden plant fail on me, and that's saying a lot! I planted both of the peonies along the south end of my deck, but soon the one closest to the house was being overtaken by the aggressive day lilies. So, I dug it out. At least, I thought I did. I transplanted it to the lower garden which, at the time, still received adequate sunlight. No longer the case unfortunately, due to the growing up trees! Meanwhile, back at the deck, I was shocked the following spring to see a small and spindly yet determined peony emerge from my clay soil from the same area where I thought I'd dug out all the roots of the transplanted peony. Those struggling shoots have turn into an honest-to-goodness peony plant over the ensuing years and it is the one that has now burst forth with three blooms!
You can see how this peony is surrounded by daylilies!
The photo below is of one lone peony bloom that has opened up in the lower garden:
And my few iris blossoms -- the old fashioned "German iris" that I took roots from eons ago when I first moved in here from Mom's garden:
As you can see, they're surrounded by daylilies. I need to clear out a good spot for them along the south side of the house where there is still plenty of sun during the day.
And here is the rusted old birdhouse that a wren moved into a few years ago! It used to be painted a pale olive green but once I moved it outside and affixed it to a fence post on the north lot line, it lost its paint over the next couple of seasons. About two years ago a bird - I did not know it was a wren at the time - moved in! One day I was out cutting the grass and was shocked to see that someone had been building a nest inside the birdhouse! Mind you, it was only fence post height, so about 50" tall at the most! And yet there it was. And so I started keeping my eye on it.
Sure enough, more evidence of nest-building accrued over time, although I never saw a bird hanging around!
And then, last year, either my eyes got better or the bird got bolder. I started seeing it hanging around the bird house, which he or she had once again moved into!
I was careful to try not to get too close, but you know, sometimes I just had to when I was cutting the grass and I'm sure the gas mower and it's noise and fumes just scared the heck out of it! Otherwise, I was careful to stay as far away as possible, given the relatively close proximity to my deck! I had no idea what kind of bird it was.
This spring, I noticed that the fence post the birdhouse was glued on to was failing. It would have to be reinforced. I also felt uneasy about the bird house being so open and exposed where a cat could easily get at it by climbing up the post, as I had seen fresh evidence of nest-building!
So, one night after work earlier this spring I moved the birdhouse. I was surprised at how easily the glue holding the house to the top of the fence post gave way, actually. At first I moved the house to a shepherd hook on the north side of my deck, close to underneath my kitchen window. But that was too close to the deck. If, as I thought might be the case, the bird had come back, every time I opened up the patio screen door the bird would be scared out of its wits.
And so, after a few days I moved the shepherd's hook to underneath the family room window on the south side of the deck. Farther way from where I sit. Still somewhat sheltered by the overhand two stories above. Close enough to the house to be a bit sheltered but nothing nearby for a cat or other critter to crawl up on to attack the birdhouse.
I started hearing the most incredible bird song. But I could never pinpoint where it was coming from or, more importantly, who it was coming from! And then one day, after I'd moved my miracle plants (that had survived another winter in the garage in regular plant pots) out to the deck, I saw it! A little plain brown bird. It was that little plain brown bird making the most fabulous song!
Well, once I spotted it, I started seeing that bird all over the place. He - at least I assumed it was a he because it usually is the male that makes the fabulous song to attract a mate, right? - he was all over my deck. Seemed to love those plants I'd put out there, LOL! He'd be perched up on one of the planters first thing in the morning to greet me when I opened up the patio door and stepped out to throw down bird seed for the sparrows and red-winged blackbirds and mourning doves at a spot in the lower yard, and would watch me toss out hazelnuts and peanuts for the squirrels.
Last month during our Sunday morning investment club meeting, I was telling the ladies of the club about this crazy little bird who was singing it's heart out trying to find a mate, but I did not think he had found one yet. Angie, who lives in a very rural area, was curious about the bird and, sure enough, at one point there he was perched on one of my plants singing his heart out! She got a good look at him and said "it's a wren." A wren!
As far as I knew, I had not had one of them around here before he decided to move into the old rusted metal birdhouse! Angie said they were very particular about where they moved in, so I guess I'm flattered, LOL!
Here is a video I found at You Tube, and my wren is very much like and his song sounds the same:
Evidently the wren is much hated by some people because he chases bluebirds away and will actively attack their nests, destroying their eggs, to take over their nesting boxes. But I don't have bluebirds here. The first and last time I saw a bluebird here was in May, 2007, and it only hung around a for a few days before flying to the south. No other bird went near the old birdhouse until the wren appeared a few years ago, so he, and Mrs. Wren, are welcome at Maison Newton.
I do believe there is a Mrs. Wren. I have seen some evidence of a bird inside the rusted birdhouse even while I can hear Mr. Wren out in one of the trees singing his little heart out. Today, when I was taking the photos of the peonies, I tried to get a close-up shot of the bird house and lo and behold, out flew a bird! Mrs. Wren? Maybe. Check out this photo -- I actually managed to capture her (or he?) sticking it's head out of the bird house opening:
Do you see the wren? Looks rather like a mouse peeking out of the hole in this photograph, LOL!
And, just now, I hear a little "purple" finch or house finch as we call them around here, singing his heart out, too! My yard is one of the few places in the neighborhood where catnip still grows wild (I called it stinkweed before I actually identified what it was because it stinks like the dickens when yanked out of the ground) and the house finches and the yellow finches go crazy for it when its blooms set seed. They also really like the seed heads of a plant that showed up some years ago -- I've no idea what it is but it gets little purple flowers on it and sort of resembles foxglove, but not as deep a purple and taller and the leaves are "lacier" than foxglove, too. Anyway, I figured that one of the finches must have left a poopy seed deposit behind and from there, the rest was done by Mother Nature. I don't mind the volunteer plants. I keep them confined to certain areas of the yard. The catnip is suffering, though. It too, likes sun, and my yard is not as sunny as it used to be. All to the good for me sitting outside during the summer on sweltering days, because it's a good 10 to 15 degrees cooler in my shady afternoon yard, but for some plants, not so good!
I know I need to have some trees removed. Lately I've even been contemplating having one of my two Newport plum trees removed because of how much light it is blocking. But it's an expensive proposition to have trees of eight to ten inch diameter removed, let alone some of the larger Chinese elms! Thank goodness the electric company came by a few days after I called last week and did some trimming on the giant double Chinese Elm that hovers close outside my kitchen window. Its branches were overhanging and intermingling with electrical and other wires out back and they were all trimmed back quite a bit, but done very well. At first, actually, I could hardly even tell where the tree had been pruned! That's a sign of a job well done.
Well, now I need to put my leather gloves back on and go forth and tackle some more of those berry tree volunteers that somehow are now towering close to 20 feet tall!
December 4, 2016: Hola everyone! Winter has arrived in Milwaukee and there are snow flurries today. Despite several hard freezes remarkably my "spikes" in two of my patio planters have absolutely refused to die. The rosemary and thyme plants I nursed inside the house through last winter spent the summer in their pot outside next to the side stoop off the driveway, where they get plenty of sunshine all day long. I transplanted them into a cozy sheltered spot right next to the stoop in October and they are still green and growing, too! With the delay in getting the drywall patching done in the relatively minor "reconstruction" work I had done in my kitchen, I am way behind my time in getting the house decorated. But yesterday I got my wreath decked out with extra lights and dressed the front door of the house, and my battery-operated traditional candles were put up on the window sills all around the house Friday evening. It becomes a ritual to go around at dusk and turn the tops to the right to turn the candles "on" and at bedtime to go around and turn the tops to the left to turn the candles "off." Today I put some "glittery" throw pillow covers purchased new last month from H&M on three of my sofa pillows to glam things up a bit in the living room and add some sparkle. Later on, after I sufficiently fuel myself up with wine and snacks and probably to distract myself while I listen to the Packers game on the radio, I will huff and puff and pull my artificial tree up from storage in the basement. I will decorate it simply this year. Every year I say that, and every year I end up throwing just about everything except the kitchen sink on the tree. I am very proud of myself this year, though. I did not buy a single new ornament or Christmas doo-dad for the house (throw pillow covers don't count!!!) Happy Holidays to all, with hope and fervent prayers for 2017. I've a feeling we're all going to need a lot of help from Goddess in the coming year. Jan