Friday, July 27, 2012

Bird Watching 101

Your summer flowers may be attracting a lot of birds right now, but do you know what kinds they are.  If your garden is anything like mine, these might be some of the flowers you have growing and the birds that will visit them.

Aster.    All asters attract birds.  These birds include cardinals, goldfinches, chickadees, goldfinches, indigo buntings, nuthatches, sparrows and towhees.  Pictured below is the towhee.

Black-Eyed Susan.  If you leave your black-eyed Susans standing through the winter you can continue to feed certain types of birds.  Birds that will visit at different times during the year include American goldfinches, chickadees, cardinals, nuthatches, sparrows and towhees.  Pictured below is an American goldfinch.

Coneflower.  Like Black-Eyed Susan, the coneflower can remain standing in a snowy garden.  It attracts both the American Goldfinch and the pine siskin, pictured below.

A large variety of songbirds are attracting the seeds of the coreopsis flower.  These birds include finches and sparrows, as seen below.

Goldenrod.  Birds love Goldenrod.  If you've got it in your yard, you'll see finches, pine siskins, yellow-rumped warblers, and indigo buntings feasting on their seeds.  A Yellow Warbler enjoys s

Sedum.  Sedum attract almost any type of seed eating bird, even hummingbirds.  Leave them around all winter to continue feeding the winter birds.  Along with sedum, several other flowers attract hummingbirds and these include

What birds have you seen in your garden this summer?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hot, Hot, Hot!

It's been a hot summer, and if you didn't anticipate such extreme high temperatures then it's quite possible the flowers you chose for your yard aren't looking too great right now.  There are several flower selections that you might consider for next year's planting.  Or you may want to add them this year if your landscape is desperate for a little summer color.

Hopefully our list of high heat tolerant flowers will help you find the perfect color addition for your beds and containers.

Blanket Flower (Annual Gaillardia) is a low growing, brightly colored choice.  It does amazing in high temperatures, will bloom into fall and can even handle a light frost.  Varieties of blanket flower include Fanfare, Firewheel, Arizona Sun and Grape Sensation.

Cockscomb (Celosia Cristata)  comes in a variety of colors and can handle the full sun.  Few flowers create such a show in the garden.  Varieties include Amigo Red, Armor Yellow, Flamingo Feather, Fresh Look Yellow, Fresh Look Red and New Look.  Plant them in the ground or in a pot where you need some dramatic impact!

A native of Mexico and Central America, Mexican Sunflower gives amazing height and color to your landscape.  It grows very quickly and thrives in the heat and sun.  It can reach heights of five feet, but its blooms are much smaller than the Sunflowers you normally think of.  It's bright and colorful and will bring the butterflies to your  garden.

Look around.  If there's a big swath of color you see thriving in someone else's yard right now, then there's a good chance it's Annual Vinca.  With so many colors to choose from and its love for hot, dry and humid climates, the question to ask yourself is "why did I overlook this one?"

Moss Verbena may end up being your favorite groundcover.  It grows between 6 to 12 inches tall, but has a spreading capability of up to 5 feet.  It's easy to grow, is drought and heat tolerant, attracts butterflies and comes in blue, purple and white flowers.

Dakota Gold Helenium can withstand extreme heat, while producing an amazing abundance of bright blooms.

Cosmos can handle hottest heat and the heaviest drought period.  They bloom and bloom, and will also reseed themselves.  Lots of color and size choices means there is bound to be one that will work for you.  Varieties include Cosmic Orange, Cosmic Yellow, Sensation, Sonata White and Versailles,

Now that you have an arsenal of possibilities to survive the hot, hot summer,  pick a few to plant and add some color to your less than bright landscape.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Keep It Cool With Summer Recipes

When the temperatures start reaching the mid to high 90s, the thought of a hot meal doesn't sound too appealing, does it? With the abundance of fresh vegetables, ripening fruits and just caught seafood choices available in our area, trying a new drink, salad, main course or dessert recipe makes meal time a bit easier to handle on a hot day.  Whether your vegetable or fruit harvest comes from your own garden or the local vegetable stand, if you're like me, finding new recipes that are light, cool and often healthier always makes summer a great time for satisfying culinary curiosity.

From Southern Living, I found this yummy twist on a caprese salad, Grilled Peach and Mozzarella Salad.

My family loves fresh corn, but sometimes I feel a little uninspired by corn on the cob three nights in a row.  I looked for a corn salad recipe that I thought would tempt all my family members and found this one on Tatertos & Jello.  Fresh Summer Corn Salad will probably be a hit in your home, too.

Make your own salsa!  Salsa is so much better when made with fresh ingredients.  Whether you serve it as a summer appetizer with tortillas or use it as an accompaniment to grilled chicken or seafood, the myriad of flavors in a fresh salsa will definitely delight your palette.

This recipe for Fresh Tomato Salsa is from Epicurious, one of my favorite cooking websites.
If you're looking for a great fruit salsa, using seasonal fruit then this Peach Salsa, makes a perfect match for grilled tuna.  Julia's Kitchen has the perfect Grilled Tuna and Peach Salsa recipe, that also works well with grilled chicken.

For me, nothing says "Summer" like a softshell sandwich with a thick slice of homegrown tomato.  Even better?  A softshell crab BLT, like the one found at Wine, Bread, Cheese.

Tired of the same old potato salad?  Try this French Style Potato Salad from Martha Stewart.

Summer Squash is my favorite summer vegetable.  It's so versatile and sometimes I think I have probably tried every variation possible.  When I do find a new recipe, like this Squash Ribbon Salad from TheKitchn, I'm thrilled.

Cantaloupe season is in full throttle right now.  How can you not love a delicious, slice of cold melon on a hot day?  But cantaloupe also dresses up quite nicely and makes for a perfect summer appetizer when hosting a dinner on a hot, summer night.  This Prosciutto-Wrapped Melon recipe from Fine Cooking makes a delicious, yet different presentation for your summer guests.

Whether you call them Butter Beans or Lima Beans, when you find them fresh, they are incredible.  They evoke memories of summers on your grandmother's front porch, spent shelling butter beans and snapping beans.  This recipe for Summer Lima Beans from Organic Spark is a far cry from the typical Southern Butter Bean recipe, but  it's a keeper.

Do you have a favorite summer recipe? Share it with us!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Getting Creative in the Garden

I'm always looking for creative new ideas to enhance my landscape and the landscapes of the homes we create designs for.  It's also fun to share these finds with our readers.  Whether you choose to implement my most recent discoveries or use them as inspiration to create something that compliments your personality, I hope you'll find our ideas a little different.

PEBBLE MOSAICS. I found the idea pictured below at Fine Gardening.  If you're like me and love the look of stone, tend to pick up stones on your walks and have a mixed collection of rock and stone, then this might be the project for you.  You may want to start out small with edging or stepping stones before you delve into something larger like the patio below.

LATTICE SCREEN. This next idea was discovered at Canadian Gardening.  If you've got an air condition located in a spot close to an exterior living space or window, making it an eyesore, then you might want to find a way to hide it.  This lattice screen completes that task perfectly, and can also serve a duel purpose if you choose to allow a flowering vine to climb it.

DRAGONFLY FENCE DECOR.  I LOVE a dragonfly and have often been known to specifically hunt down anything dragonfly related.  I thought this dragonflies made by Lucy Designs are cute and creative.  Made out of old ceiling fan blades and table legs, they definitely grab your attention.

WHITE PICKET FENCE LANDSCAPE ACCENT.  Love the look of a picket fence and a cottage garden, but an entire fence and cottage landscape just won't work in your overall look?  Create a small space by making a tiny area using a small amount of fence and just a few cottage perennials.  I found this look on Paint Ideas and fell in love.

COOLER COVER.  If you do a lot of entertaining outside, then you'll find this idea I found at Lumberjocks a perfect way to disguise your cooler.  Not only does it life your cooler off your deck, but it's an attractive to allow a cooler to blend in to its surroundings.

These were my favorites this week.  If you found a favorite, share a link in our comments section.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tips for Your July Gardening

July can be a hot month.  So hot, that gardeners often lose interest in keeping up with a very busy time of the year when it comes to their landscapes and beds.  Necessary chores include pruning flowers, weeding and keeping to top of pests.

Once July and the heat have arrived, it is often time to prune the petunias.  Flowers tend to form at the ends of super leggy stems, giving your petunias a very tired look.
To improve their look, cut back one long stem by two-thirds each week.  This will allow the stem to send out new growths in a few directions.  Another remedy is to cut back the entire plant down to one-third the height and allow the entire plant to come back to its original fullness.  Remember, cutting back all the plant at once will mean you may not have any blooms for a couple of weeks.
This pruning technique will work for most annuals when they reach the leggy stage.

July is also the time to prune certain perennials, as well.
Plants like perennial salvia, summer phlox, asters and other tall perennials.  Once cut,  blooms will occur again later in the season.
Cut back the stems that appear to be bloomed out and cut back to one-third to one-quarter the original height.  Pruning perennials will also take away the need to stake.

During July, you will need to remove the suckers from roses and certain flowering trees, such as crabapple.  Suckers are the shoots that appear at the base of the plant.
Did you know that suckers grow on tomato plants?  I'm sure you've seen them, and yes, those also need to be pruned.  Removing them will help the current tomatoes grow larger and ripen sooner.
Protect your fruit trees from birds.  Birds can't resist cherries when they begin to ripen, so consider placing bird netting over your trees.
Grass should be cut a little taller during the hot weather if you have Fescue, Bluegrass, or Rye Grass.
Make sure you water your plants.  It's easier for healthier plants to fight diseases and pests.
You may need to add a light layer of mulch to your beds.  Mulch that is too dry can repel water and keep it from reaching your plants' roots.

Keep up with your weeding.  Pull weeds from your beds after a summer rain.  It makes the task much easier and much more effective.

On a super hot day, go to the library and find a new gardening book to read.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Bountiful Box of Beauty

Window boxes are a great way to add interest to your home's exterior.  They are an instant addition of charm and color.  There are several ways to use window boxes, other than under a window.  They are welcome additions to porch and deck railings, but can also be added to some unique and surprising spots in your landscape.

Beautiful and bright under windows.

Window boxes are a great way to give your color height.  They look surprisingly beautiful on long, low windows.

Choosing boxes that mimic the style of your window trim, creates an attractive image and gives magnificent curb appeal.

Full window boxes, planted with quick growing flowers give the most impact.

Turn your entrance into a dramatic burst of color with porch rail boxes overflowing with color.

Deck rails become more interesting when adorned with colorful planters.

A windowless area?  Try hanging a window box from a low portion of your roof.  Interesting and different.

Dare to be different.  Use clay pots inserted into a shelf for something a little out of the ordinary.

Not only do boxes look beautiful on deck railing, but think about adding them to the stair rails, too.

Dress up your fence with a window box planter. Pretty and gives the people walking past your house a little extra something to gaze upon.

Window boxes aren't just for summer.  Dress up a garden shed for the holidays with window boxes overflowing with greenery.

Take an old window frame, mount it on your fence and add a window box.  How can you not love it?

Think of creative ways to switch up where and how you hang your window boxes.  Deviate from the expected for something different.

During the holiday season, light up the greenery in your window boxes to add some twinkle to your exterior.

Bright and Full!  Makes a bold statement!

Or do it all.  Windows, railings and fences!