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wild rose

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon-instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our windows today.

~ Dale Carnegie

Wild roses are the only ones that grow in my yard.  The bushes are in full bloom at this point in the season, attracting bees and some years, providing a secure nesting place for Snowshoe Hares.

clematis

A vine of ‘Hagley Hybrid’ clematis clings to the south west corner of the house near the clothesline.  Their blooms are numerous and a pleasant greeting whenever I hang clothes out to dry.

hollyhocks

Hollyhocks cover much of the west side of the house.  My grandfather had a similar arrangement of these flowers in the home where I grew up.  I used to help him water them every evening in the summer.  I tend to only water them when the tops of the stems curl down a little.  The singles are already in bloom and will soon be followed by double blooms of deep burgundy and peach.

Flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men and animals.  Some seem to smile; some have a sad expression; some are pensive and diffident, others are plain, honest and upright, like the broad-faced sunflower and the hollyhock.

~ Henry Ward Beecher

Jessica at The Magical Mundane has also written a post revealing what’s in bloom in her yard this week.  This is the time of year when many flowers are at their most luscious in the Northern Hemisphere.  What flowers are blooming in your yard today?

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american toad

Toads have never been popular with humans and females especially.  The thing is, even though toads may be considered ugly creatures, they are actually quite beneficial to gardens and humans.  Much of this has to do with a toad’s diet.

What a toad will eat:

  • ants
  • mosquitoes
  • slugs
  • snails
  • grubs and worms

An adult American Toad, the most common type found here in Nova Scotia and throughout North America, can eat 1,000 insects in one day.  Consequently, just a few toads can have a tremendous effect on insect populations in an area.  A toad’s apetite for slugs and snails is also helpful in controlling these pests in gardens.

Toads can tolerate drier environments than frogs and also have long sticky retractable tongues that they can use to catch insects in flight.  So, how do you attract these darlings to your yard?

  • Allow shallow pools of water to sit in your yard in the springtime.  These temporary pools from excess rain and melting snow are called vernal pools and are all that’s needed for toads to lay their long strands of eggs.  (Frog eggs are laid in clusters).
  • Create piles of dead leaves where toads, which are mostly nocturnal, can bury themselves to keep cool and moist during the day.  They will also bury themselves deep under these as winter approaches.
  • Offer hiding places where toads can stay out of the drying sun.  These can be small caves made from arrangements of stones or overturned terra cotta pots.  Wild areas are also helpful in providing places where toads can remain cool among tall weeds.  Toads like to stay moist, which is a challenge during hot summer months.
  • Refrain from use of pesticides. This last point seems obvious to me, but might not be for gardeners trying to grow fragile non-native plant species.

american toad1

Snakes and loss of habitat are the greatest threat to toads, which can live for up to ten years in the wild.  Try attracting them rather than moving them into your garden from another environment, as they likely won’t survive.   Many toads and frogs will secrete poison to make themselves unpalatable to enemies, so it’s not recommended that you kiss them to see if they’re princes in disguise.

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fox tracks

It’s so easy for us to take the earth beneath our feet for granted. It demands nothing of us. We know it has nowhere else to go. It’s here to stay.

The earth nourishes. Its stability enables seeds to grow. Animals dig in it and make tunnels and dens for shelter.  The sand at left was dug out of dunes by foxes at Rainbow Haven Beach.

The colors of the earth are varying shades of brown, oranges and yellows.  This element is found in nature in the light sand on the beach, rich dark soil and compost in gardens, shifting desert sands, clay, mud and stones.

An agricultural adage says the tiny animals that live below the surface of a healthy pasture weigh more than the cows grazing above it.   In a catalogue selling composting equipment I read that two handfuls of healthy soil contain more living organisms than there are people on the earth.  What these beings are and what they can be doing is difficult to even begin to comprehend,  but it helps to realize that even though they are many,  they work as one.
~Carol Williams
Bringing a Garden to Life, 1998

earth

Images from our scavenger hunt illustrate earth’s many forms, from the red Australian sand to the wet seashore in England and beautiful fields in British Columbia and Michigan.  The image of a cave entrance from Scene Through My Eyes reveals earth’s mysterious qualities of depth and hidden strength.

Earth images in the montage above were taken from submissions to a Midsummer’s Scavenger Hunt.

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daisy

The daisy’s for simplicity and unaffected air.
~ Robert Burns

Daisies can be found almost anywhere, growing in gravel along the roadside as well as in carefully tended gardens.  Yet, regardless of where they find themselves, they are consistently unassumingly pretty flowers with a simple design:  Circles of yellow surrounded by numerous petals of white.  Throughout the day, daisies follow the sun in the sky, turning their faces slowly from east to west. 
daisy with beetleAs a child I often picked bouquets of daisies but found it difficult to find any that weren’t a magnet for tiny insects.  They are a favorite with bees and beetles.

I also used daisies to decorate mud pies and made daisy chains to wear around my neck.  Who has not plucked the petals from a daisy repeating, ‘he loves me, he loves me not?’  Daisies and childhood seem to go together.  They are a symbol of innocence and loyal love.

Their Latin name Bellis Perennis means perennial beauty.  A perennial is usually a flower that lives for more than two years.  The name daisy originates with Day’s eye, as they are open from dawn to dusk.

The daisy is a favorite of my friend Rhonda who is 28 today.  Like the daisy, she has retained her sweetness and simple country girl manner throughout the years.  Here’s a spiral of 28 daisies to mark the occasion.  In this day and age, staying sweet despite our years is no easy feat and an accomplishment well worth celebrating.

daisy spiral for rhonda

Child of the Year! that round dost run
Thy course, bold lover of the sun,
And cheerful when the day’s begun
As lark or leveret,
Thy long-lost praise thou shalt regain;
Nor be less dear to future men
Than in old time; -thou not in vain
Art Nature’s favourite.
~ William Wordsworth, To the Daisy

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red leaf

Five elements are thought to exist in Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese practice of interpreting environments.  These are:  earth, water, fire, metal and wood.  Colors are also believed to represent these elements.  In the image above, a blazing red leaf gives the impression of fire. Its fire quality is emphasized even more by its triangular shape which is reminiscent of the tongue of a flame.

stones

Brown garden stones, shown supporting one another above, represent the earth element, a symbol for wisdom.  Along with browns, yellows and oranges also allude to the nurturing earth.  Square shapes emphasize this element even further.  

green stems

The wood element, which symbolizes growth, is ubiquitous in a forest landscape where it is revealed in a variety of greens.  Yet, even near the ocean or in the city, green growth is not difficult to find.  The branch shape in the green floral stems above, found along a salt marsh, underlines the wood element in this image even further.

grey rainbow haven

White, grey, silver and gold reveal the metal element in nature.  Positively, this element can communicate strength and solidity.  Negatively, it can suggest sadness, as in the image above, of an overcast and rainy day at the beach.

Blue Flag Iris

Water can be represented in a landscape by a pond or stream, but also by the presence of cool, dark blues as shown in the Blue Flag Iris at left.  A bed of black tulips planted in the shape of a meander would be especially representational of the water element.

Like nature, color can be both simple and complex.  It never ceases to amaze or arouse wonder in those who seek to understand it better.

This post is written to provide further insight into the relationship between the elements and color in nature, as first introduced in my earlier post about a Midsummer’s Scavenger Hunt.

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.
~ Georgia O’Keefe

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lighthouse2

Miniature lighthouses sit on many lawns in Cow Bay, keeping watch over seas of green.  Whether they’re adorned with flowers or serve as resting places for birds, they’re decorative reminders of our connection to the ocean and that which is best of our collective humanity.

lighthouse3

Ben Franklin may have been onto something when he said that lighthouses were more helpful than churches.  For thousands of years, these structures have assisted ships in safely navigating hazardous waters.  One can only imagine how many shipwrecks have been prevented by these beacons of light over the ages.  The lighthouse of Alexandria, erected on the island of Pharos off the coast of Egypt in the third century B.C., was so tall and spectacular that it was considered one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. 

lighthouse1

Symbols of public good, before the introduction of technology-driven navigational aids aboard ships, lighthouses promised safe passage to anyone at sea, regardless of their vessel’s country of origin.  They charged no toll and existed only to guide souls at sea away from danger. 

lighthouse4

Today, many lighthouses, such as the one on nearby Devil’s Island, have fallen into disrepair and have had their lights removed.  New navigational technologies may have made their initial function obsolete, but whether large or small, lighthouses are still charming representations of man’s service to man.

Photo credits:  Jeremiah Bell

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house in early summer

Can you spot the cement septic cover?

Dealing with a well and septic system are part of the reality of country living.  Functionality rules and it’s not pretty.  

An aesthetically challenged cement cover rests on my well.

An aesthetically challenged cement cover rests on my well.

Several years ago we invested in cement covers in order to ease access to our well and septic tank.  A septic tank needs to be pumped out regularly and well pumps need to be replaced when they reach end of life.  Before we had the cement covers installed, digging up both these areas with a backhoe or shovel always made the process of gaining access more of an ordeal.  Although the cement covers are a practical solution, they’re also an eyesore, jutting almost a couple of feet out of the ground.  Our septic tank was also located directly in front of the house.

Stones placed on the cement cover make its hard lines less noticeable.

Stones placed on the cement cover make its hard lines less noticeable.

Fake rock covers made of hollow plastic can be purchased to cover these monstrosities but they are quite expensive.  Some people even construct wishing wells to surround the entrances to their wells and septic tanks but that’s not my style.  A live green cover with shallow roots seemed to be the best option.  I decided to plant several Rhododendron bushes around the cover in the front yard.  I bought them at half price at an end of season sale in mid-summer one year.  Leaves on these bushes are evergreen and provide a camouflage effect year round. 

Rhododendrons bloom in early summer.

Rhododendrons bloom in early summer.

In early summer, blooms on the Rhododendron plants surrounding the cover attract numerous bees and butterflies.  It’s best to not have the tank pumped out during this time as the bees would be hazardous to the person doing the work.  Our tank was pumped out a couple of weeks ago and was very easy to access despite the growth around the cover.

Raindrops glisten on Rhododendrons before dawn.

Raindrops glisten on Rhododendrons before dawn.

My well cover is still in need of a camouflage solution but is in a less prominent place in the backyard.  I’ve tried growing Eunomymus shrubs but ended up transplanting them elsewhere in the yard.  They didn’t conform to the shape of the cover as well as the Rhododendrons.  English Ivy vines may be a better solution.  Please feel free to suggest some other alternatives.

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mouse

We could live offa the fatta the lan’.
- John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

wee mouseBirds and squirrels are frequent visitors to my birdbath area where I also put out sunflower seeds.  This week I noticed a little mouse had also decided to pay a visit.  I’m guessing it was a  Deer Mouse as it appeared to have a lighter underbelly.  I’ve seen them before.  It didn’t look like a vole, which is darker with a shorter tail.

At this time of year, insects are plentiful and it’s easier for animals of all types to find food.  Some plants have already gone to seed.  I see a year round benefit to offering water, but is there a point at which one should stop offering bird seed?  Isn’t there enough out there already for birds and squirrels to eat? 

I leave enough time between feedings to make sure that all the seed is cleaned up, but this little guy was bold enough to come to the top of the feeder.  He wasn’t satisfied with the odd seed that might have fallen on the ground and been overlooked by the birds.  I don’t mind seeing the odd mouse or vole at my feeder, but I don’t know how I’d feel if I suddenly saw several of them dining there…

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birdbath reflections

Mating season must be coming to an end.  And once couples are at the stage of rearing their young, there’s not much time in the day left for socializing at the watering hole.  Yet the birdbath in the backyard continues to attract wild birds and squirrels.   After they’ve had a sip and a dip, I can’t help but wonder why they’re still hanging and perching around. 

Is it the fresh and trendy decor provided by the birch trees or the sunflower seed happy hour snacks?  Don’t they have nests to go home to?

four squirrels

Four Red Squirrels Enjoying the Happy Hour Snacks

The crowd that stays around latest in the evening consists mostly of Mourning Doves (maybe misery really does love company) and a few Red Squirrels.  The odd Ring-necked Pheasant will drop by for a quick drink on his way home from a rough day in the backwoods.  He’ll try to throw his weight around (hopefully not tip over the birdbath!) and crow a little before heading home.  The regulars are a pretty easy going bunch.

I wonder where they’d all go if the birdbath was no longer there?  Some muddy puddle near the bog perhaps.  It would still have a certain misty ambience, but the happy hour snacks wouldn’t probably be half as tasty.  I’m glad to have them here, and hopefully one day, I’ll get to know everybody’s name.  Cheers!

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crabapple

Never mind ideal soil, ideal sun or ideal climate.  The crabapple tree is in bloom on the west side of the house.  It’s beautiful.  I didn’t plant it.  It just grew up one day just over a decade ago, next to the foundation.  I never thought it would survive there with so little rain under the overhang of the roof.  I prune it to limit its size, but otherwise just let it be.

blossomsWhat is gardening other than simply controlling what grows where and how?  These days there’s a renewed interest in native species.  Gardeners are choosing them over more exotic varieties because they require less maintenance.  They are more climate friendly, require less watering and aren’t as easily devoured by pests. What a brilliant idea!  Plant trees, shrubs and flowers that used to naturally grow in your local area before humans started intervening with their gardening practices. 

No need to go to a garden centre to purchase native plants.  Just stop mowing your lawn in select areas and it won’t be long before native species take root and start growing where their seeds have implanted themselves into the earth (with no help whatsover from human hands).  

Couldn’t this practice be applied to people as well as plants?  I wonder what would happen if humans just relaxed a bit and tried to grow where they were planted, making the most of their surroundings and learning to live within the boundaries of their present circumstances.  Imagine what could be done if all the energy that was normally directed at adapting to a strange environment was focused on simply making the most of here and now.  Maybe we’d all be in bloom.

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sprucecones

Purple haze all in my brain
Lately things just don’t seem the same
Actin’ funny, but I don’t know why
‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky
~ Jimi Hendrix

purple starfishWith less than three weeks left to go before Midsummer’s Eve, spring is in full swing.  The days aren’t as warm as we’d like yet, but summer is on the doorstep.  The color purple caught my eye today on spruce cones along the Salt Marsh Trail.  It won’t be long before their light purple color will darken and eventually change to brown.  Right now, their hue contrasts nicely with the fresh light green of the new growth.  

Starfish can often be spotted from the first couple of bridges along the trail.  Today I was able to catch a glimpse of one with its arms stretched out evenly  in the water.  Live, local starfish have a purple cast that’s barely discernible on sun-dried specimens found along the seashore. 

violets

Following the lead of wild ones in the grass, the deeper purple tame violets have emerged in the flower bed.  Their brilliant color will fade with the summer’s heat. 

lupinsPurple lupins are a common sight along the side of the road and in gardens in Nova Scotia.   Though they’re also found in shades of pink and white, the purple ones seem to dominate.

Purple is a color associated with spirituality, mystery and royalty.  During different periods in history, its use in clothing has been restricted to either nobility or an elite class of individuals.  It can be created by a variety of methods using lichens, the roots of madder plants or murex shells, with the latter producing the most brilliant hue.  In painting, it was a favorite of Vincent Van Gogh who often juxtaposed it with yellow for maximum effect.

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forgetmenotsBoth the sight and scent of flowers delight.  They’re often present at life’s important occasions:  weddings, funerals, birthdays and anniversaries.  They help cheer people up when they’re sick or sad and help us make celebrations more special.  They also trigger memories, and so, are often dried or pressed between leaves of a book for safe keeping.  Most perfumes are made from concentrated floral scents.  The slightest whiff of a familiar perfume can awaken a sleeping mountain of memories.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

~ William Shakespeare

Floral names for women have always been popular, among them:  Rosa, Daisy, Iris, Violet, Lily, Myrtle, Margarite and Jasmine.  Although most people love trees, they certainly don’t name their daughters Spruce or Maple.  Why do flowers have this special place in our lives? 

Could it be because the olfactory nerve that plays such an important role in our sense of smell is located right next to the part of our brain where memory is stored?  Or is there some more mysterious reason?  After all, shape and color define flowers as much as scent.

lilliesMy dad’s favorite flower was lily of the valley, which happens to be in bloom now in my flower beds. It’s almost impossible for me to look at these delicate white flowers without thinking of him.  These are also my friend Rose’s favorite flowers, so they also trigger thoughts of her too.  Oddly enough, I don’t think of Rose when I look at roses. 

Forget-me-nots are also in bloom.  They remind me of my grandparents who had the words ‘forget-me-not’ engraved in my grandmother’s wedding ring.  The flowers and phrase are now on their shared grave marker.  Queen Anne’s lace, sunflowers, daisies, carnations and gardenias all bring to mind a different person whom I know prefers that one flower over all others, yet  I’ve never thought of asking them why they’ve selected that particular one as their favorite.

wildvioletWith such a variety of blooms to choose from, it’s difficult to pick just one.  Though the scent of lilacs is wonderfully intoxicating, I think I’m pretty settled on wild violets.  I love their purplish blue color and the way they grow unobstrusively in the woods in spring time.   

Do you have a preference or know what your beloved’s favorites are?  

This post was inspired by Gerry’s recent floral posts at Torch Lake Views.

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