Thursday, July 31, 2014

Road Trip

Unfortunately I'm not in Thailand. This is the Thai Sala at Olbrich Botanical Gardens
in Madison, Wisconsin. This beautiful pavilion was a gift to the University of Wisconsin
 from the Thai Government and the Thai Chapter of the Alumni Association.

It's located at the end of a winding path through plantings resembling Thai vegetation. It does
give the impression of the tropics thanks to a few strategically placed bamboo and banana trees.

In Thailand they are used as places to reflect and for protection from the sun and rain.
This more ornate style is usually found on the grounds of a temple or palace.

A few Castor Bean plants, some Coleus and Elephant Ears do give it a jungle look.

The pavilion can survive the harsh winters thanks to it's construction of plantation-grown
teak and special weather-resistant ceramic roof tiles. Yes, that is actually real gold leaf!

I love those deep purple plants (have to find out what they are) with the banana tree.
There is a banana that supposedly is hardy here, called Musa basjoo. The roots will survive
if covered with a deep layer of mulch. Ha! Well, I'll probably have to give that a try.

Water is important in the Thai culture as it is associated with good
health and prosperity. Between the three reflection pools and the fact
that it overlooks a creek, I think I should spend more time here.

The pavilion is certainly a kind and generous gift. It's not only a wonderful addition
to the gardens but gives us a first hand experience of a bit of the Thai culture.

Of course I had to include some critters . . .

and the conservatory was conveniently full of butterflies.

A glimpse of the huge perennial border in one of the dozen different gardens.

I love knot gardens but can't imagine being able to keep it trimmed let alone alive!
Practicality, once again overrules romance.

Another look at the coneflowers and Bee Balm in the perennial borders.
This was a quick stop to visit old friends and now I'm off on the second leg of my road trip.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


The Purple Coneflowers are blooming and attracting a crowd,

some were more willing to pose for pictures than others.

The chives are popular, too.

and that native prairie plant that I can't remember the name of.

Then there is the rarest visitor of all....

the SUN!

 Meanwhile, the lilies in my garden are showing up quite late this year.
They are making up for it though with a record number of blooms, for my backyard anyway.

One advantage to the cooler temperatures is that the flowers last longer.

Except for the day lilies, no extra hanging around for them!

Poor things, it's not like they can help it.  Like most flowers in the garden,
it's best to appreciate them when they're blooming and be happy for the experience. 

This tiny guy hitched a ride into the kitchen on the raspberries, wonder what he's smiling about?
Glad he was ambitious enough to climb out and not end up in the jam!
You never know what you're going to find in a garden. What have you been finding in yours?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mosquito Hill

 The mosquitoes have taken over my backyard
so I've decided to go for a walk in the woods where they're even worse!

This is my favorite trail at the appropriately named
Mosquito Hill Nature Center, no irony there.

The Polar Vortex has been visiting us again, I really hope it isn't going to become a regular thing.
It's not really an issue in the summer but it leaves things looking a bit gloomy.

The view from the top, featuring our current completely overcast skies.

A carpet of May Apple on top of the hill, and time for another application of Deep Woods Off.

The trails wind through a hard wood forest of primarily birch, maple and oak.

It was on these trails I first decided to start taking pictures.
My husband, Nick has been a photographer for years. He taught college classes and
even won some awards. One day he put away all of his fancy equipment
and built himself a pinhole camera from a cereal box. 

He started taking pictures on our walks and it took him forever!
The constant stopping and fiddling with the tripod and the long exposure times meant a
lot of standing around for me. Now I didn't want to discourage him from something
he so obviously loved doing, so I decided to take photos too.

One day I grabbed the point and shoot camera I keep in my purse for
documenting birthdays and graduations and started taking pictures too.
Now it really takes us a long time to walk up the hill. 

Mosquito Hill was a farm many years ago. On the usually sunny side,
at the bottom of the hill where there were once fields, a prairie has been planted.

The Frog Pond. I'm guessing this is the source of the mosquito supply.

There's an oxbow lake on the edge of the prairie and like the forest
its a different experience from day to day, season to season. There's always
something new to see even with the mosquitoes out in force. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Mad Tea Party Tale

On a summer day as beautiful as could be,
 a Gardener invited a Mad Hatter to tea.
She had a ulterior motive you see.

She needed his help with a project most fun,
and without him ... well, it just wouldn't get done.

She asked him to pour and he happily agreed,
though his first choice of teapot was occupied, it seems.
(Though he thought it was possibly the effects of mercury.)


The dormouse, all sleepy and groggy from his nap,
 worried the Hatter was thinking he might be a snack! 

"There's Bread-and-Butterfly sandwiches, cookies and cake
and wonderful strawberries that really taste great,"
he squeaked while preparing to make his escape.

"Flamingos!" The Hatter exclaimed, "do you play?"
And so they embarked on a game of croquet,
after all they had flown in from Target that day.

So the Hatter and Gardener had a good time, that's clear. 
Then the Hatter said, "but seriously, why am I here?"
And the Gardener replied, "why, for happiness and cheer!

So that's the story of this tale oh so tall,
I hope you enjoyed it and a happy Mad Tea Party to all!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Mother Nature in the Garden with the Polar Vortex

Winter Casualties

No matter what kind of winter weather visits the upper midwest there's always a few losses in my garden and I was expecting more than a couple this spring. I took this photo last October right before the first frost, never thinking it would be the last roses from those bushes. Gulp. 


This was my rose/clematis arbor last summer. Apart from my less that stellar pruning, those rose canes always had a mind of their own. These roses along with the clematis are history now. How could prolonged subzero temperatures destroy them after they survived the last decade of our typical Amazon jungle summers and Siberian winters? Could it really have been the Polar Vortex?

So why did this Peace rose survive but not the Knock-Outs? Honestly, I neglect them all equally.

Ten years ago I decided to turn my backyard into a cottage garden. So I dug up the grass and installed an arbor with a winding path. It doesn't lead anywhere special, just to the rest of the backyard with a lawn, some trees, a rickety bench and hundreds of bloodthirsty mosquitoes. 

These roses came from a bush planted by my great-grandmother. They only bloom once a year but just the fragrance alone is worth it. Our spring was late and chilly this year so they have only just started to open.

The foxgloves and hollyhocks were lost too, but just today I found some replacements that will definitely bloom this summer. Hopefully they will give it that cottagey look again. As for the arbor, the Morning Glory vines might cover it this year but it is a garden so there's no telling what will come up.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Dragonfly Season


This weekend the dragonflies showed up in force! Little golden ones that folded their wings forward when they rested. No doubt they came to feast on our bumper crop of mosquitoes.   

A few weeks ago they were twice as big and dark brown but also had hairy legs.

This flashy cyclops was huge, the size of a hummingbird! I was worried that all the rain and cool temperatures might keep them away.  

I rescued this poor guy from a deep puddle in our driveway. He appeared to have put part of his compound eye out. Eventually he dried off and after a long nap, flew away. I hope.

Lets just hope they can avoid Mr. Toad.

Stripes, very slimming. Thankfully they just keep coming in all sizes and colors.