Friday, September 12, 2014

Family Fun with Butterflies, Birds, and Fish at the Tennessee Aquarium


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This past weekend our two daughters (Christine and Liz) joined us in Chattanooga with their daughters (Adella (left) and Everleigh (right) respectively) for some family fun. We also brought along our youngest grandchild (Riley) since his father was not able to bring him. We were only missing the oldest grandchild (Joshua) who happens to be in school in Florida. It was delightful to have three of the four grandkids together and the two girls! Mr. Fix-it and I had a wonderful and relaxing time. Thanks Chris and Liz for taking Riley overnight! 

We met in Chattanooga to kind of shorten the driving distance for Christine and to also have fun at the Tennessee Aquarium. While the grandkids might've been a bit young to really enjoy the sights and sounds of the aquarium, they did have a good time as did the the adults. Here the three grandkids are looking at two very noisy, very blue, very big macaws. These birds were quite fascinating to the kids until they squawked. That really got their attention but no one was scared enough to cry. It was a good start to the tour and we spent several hours at this wonderful attraction in southeastern Tennessee-for once I was a visitor to a tourist attraction in a state I actually lived in!
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The aquarium has much more than just fish in it. I did not know the Tennessee Aquarium had a butterfly house. It was a very small butterfly house but a very prolific one nonetheless. Their chrysalis hatching area was huge compared to Callaway Gardens; which had a much a bigger and stand alone butterfly pavilion.  I think I could've stayed and watched those butterflies hatch out all day long had it not been for more touring to do. 

One really cool feature of the butterfly house was a hook containing fresh fruit skewered on it and hung from the ceiling. There were several butterflies on it but when I approached all of them flew off-except this one. Can you see it?
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It is a nicely camouflaged butterfly that I believe is a gray comma butterfly. I may be wrong on the identification so if I am please let me know! I should've looked it up on the handy charts while I was in the butterfly house but did not. This butterfly really looked like another piece of food or a dried leaf. Looking at it casually you might not ever know it is there because it was perfectly still feasting on the juices from the fruit.
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The last butterfly I will share is a blue morpho. These are common butterflies where Christine resides in Florida but I am not so familiar with them in my area. Christine was quite familiar with it and while we were there one landed on her arm and hung out there for quite a while. The outside of this butterfly looks like a giant owl butterfly but the seven spots actually gives this one away. If it was to open its wings the butterfly would look completely different and beautiful. It is, like its name, blue! It is a spectacularly colored butterfly but only when the wings are opened....

in the garden....with family.
Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden

Friday, August 29, 2014

Quite a Plethora of Quince Fruit


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Did you guess quince was going to be my 'pucker up' fruit of the week from my Facebook posting? If you you are right! If not, that's okay, it was a hard one. On the Facebook page for my professional business AND this blog, I appreciate all of you who have liked that page and I enjoy hearing from you on there! Even if I am not posting on the blog I am oftentimes posting little tips and tidbits from the garden on the Facebook page. So thanks!
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I have posted about my EXTRAORDINARY quince before but wow, I had no idea it would get better and better! This 'Texas Scarlet' shrub has gifted me with a bushel of quince this year. The only problem is I have not gotten around to picking them before the branches sag to the ground. Things are getting a bit ahead of me in the garden but that is a story for another day.
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Today I just want to show you the bounty. Any food you can grow is definitely a benefit. Although quince is not the best fruit for fresh eating it can be cooked in pies and jellies. That is what I plan to do! I love looking at the fruit bearing shrub too.
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Some friends came over and I got them to pick a few quince for their very own. I did not see their faces when they bit into the tart fruit but I bet the experience is one they will never forget....

in the garden....

Give all quince some sun and good soil and they too will reward you for many years. This type of quince is actually an ornamental quince in the Chaenomeles family. The true quince is Cydonia. I am growing two Cydonia trees at the farm so I will post on them once they begin producing. Normally, at least in my experience, ornamental quince do not have this many fruit on them if any at all. Perhaps this 'Texas Scarlet' is a female and just very happy in its spot. Which is part shade to mostly shade, and poor dry soil. It is a gem for sure to grow so many fruit with such conditions.
Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An Update to My Daughter's Garden and Landscape Design Progress


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I love Limelight hydrangeas! The above bouquet was picked by my daughter Liz from her garden in Louisville Kentucky. On a recent visit Mr. Fix-it and I got to enjoy her garden as well as her and her one year old daughter (our granddaughter) and we had a good visit though we missed Liz's twin sister and her daughter (they were supposed to meet us there but it didn't work out this time--we'll see them soon tho).
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I was quite interested in the gardens because I did the complete landscape design for Liz's house two years ago and the front gardens are finally coming into their own. If you like, please go back and look at that post about the landscape design because you will most likely be quite stunned by the changes in the curb appeal in only two years. Liz has not been able to install the complete design but on my visits up there and when she is able to, she and I work around the gardens. Having a small toddler in the house means garden work can be slow, but this front garden is really impressive and honestly it takes very little time for maintenance but looks good all the time. It is pretty well finished.
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All of my garden and landscape designs start with structure and year round interest. In Liz's garden I knew the front garden had to be fairly large and its edge had to have a nice mowing curve. So many times I see foundation gardens designed too small with awkward angles that mowers cannot easily mow around. The structure here is the 'Grace' smoketree. It is the taller shrub with purplish foliage. Liz has been digging up and moving this particular shrub from house to house as she has moved over the last six years. This is the first year it has really come into its own. We are working on developing a strong framework for it because during the moves it has suffered some setback. Ultimately it will be come a nicely limbed up small tree that will provide year round interest. It's purpose is to provide structure, privacy, and interest without totally overwhelming the house and view from the house and to the house from the road. It is also a nice tree that will not overly shade the southern facing garden but will give Liz and Everleigh some shade in the spring, summer, and fall without blocking the southern sun in the winter. 'Grace' smoketree is an awesome cultivar of smoketree and will do well in a full sun exposure. Once established all smoketrees are quite drought tolerant.

Most of the perennials in Liz's garden have come from my garden. They are all grouped in balloon (massed bubbles) sized spaces on the plan and massed to make a nice effect. I group perennials by the texture of foliage and bloom times as well as heights and then finally colors. The pinkish sedum right here on the corner of the driveway and sidewalk really makes an attractive edging that will provide year round interest. These were just planted a few months ago and will fill out even more by next year. The color of this sedum blends perfectly with the nearby coneflowers and does not clash with any of the yellows in this garden. Behind the sedum are: coneflowers and rudbeckias, coryopsis, 'May Night' salvia, Japanese roof irises, asters, and daylilies. Interspersed in this garden are daffodils and surprise lilies. Liz's garden will have something going on in it all seasons of the year with the combination of perennials, bulbs, and small trees. 

Here is a copy of the design tho I am not sure if you all will be able to see it in this format. Each of my designs are drawn out on 24" x 36" vellum. Th vellum copy was scanned into a computer to get the electronic file copy. Liz's information has been blacked out to protect her privacy.

Liz House Design



The rock edging was all picked up by us from the as yet undeveloped part of her subdivision. This limestone is a tan color and is indigenous to the area. It fits right in as the color of the limestone is subdued in this garden and picks up some colors in the house. A lot of Liz's neighbors are also using landscape rock around their houses for some interest too.
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This is the eastern side of the house. As such, it is a somewhat sheltered part of the garden as far as sunlight and harsh conditions. Over here are some aucubas, spiderworts, hostas, heucheras, Japansese irises, columbines, and a 'Limelight' hydrangea and peony out front of this part of the house. This area descends down to the backyard. The good cover of hardwood mulch (I use it only on new gardens) underlaid with cardboard has ensured this garden does not erode down the hill while the plants establish themselves. This winter was a pretty tough winter on most gardens and Liz's garden also took a hit. Mainly to the three aucubas located on this side of the house. Aucubas are marginally hardy in Zone 6/7. It helps if you plant aucubas in full shade so that they do not quickly warm up in the winter then suffer freeze damage when the sun goes down at night. This is really what got to Liz's aucubas. Fortunately two of the three are slowly coming back. One died.
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The western side of the front garden gets a lot of sun. As such all sun loving plants will do well here. Here we have some 'Limelight' hydrangeas, peonies, lambs ear, salvias, irises, mums, and a 'Graham Blandy' evergreen corner accent shrub. I made a common mistake when I designed Liz's landscape design. Oftentimes experts in the business can tell what season a design is prepared in just by looking at the design. The clue to which season this design was designed is that it looks great in the summer-the season I designed it. The problem I made was I did not allow for evergreens to help carry the garden through the winter. Liz and I have somewhat compensated by adding some low growing junipers in front of the 'Limelight' hydrangeas. These are slowly filling in and hopefully will provide that much needed color in the winter. If a designer designs a plan in the winter then most likely she or he will go heavy on evergreens, it is the opposite for summer designs. A hard learned lesson for me.The 'Limelight' hydrangeas are a bit floppy because they are young plants and simply overloaded with blooms. Hence the bouquets of 'Limelight' hydrangeas in the opening picture. As time goes on we will train the hydrangeas by pruning; which will in turn shore up the main trunks and help to prevent floppiness in the future.
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This is a close up of the sedum. I can't tell you how beautiful this garden looks from the sidewalk, street, and even houses across the road. This is one of my absolute favorite sedums. I don't even know the name but butterflies flock to it. On this day the rain kept most insects away.
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But! The rainy day garden did bring out a box turtle! Liz found the little box turtle while working outside in the garden. It was a lesson in teaching her daughter the value and beauty of nature to her daughter and those little moments are priceless! And all because of a garden....

in the garden....
Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden