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Garden Update

It’s mid-summer here, and the garden is blooming.

The garden got a bit of a slow start, since we had an unusually cool and rainy spring. We had at least a little rain every couple days into the second half of June. It was much better than last year’s sudden and brutal heat wave, but it definitely slowed the garden down.

For quite a while, the only things flowering in the garden were German Chamomile and borage. The German Chamomile is now mostly done, but the borage will keep on trekking until autumn.

Borage can get a little funny looking and leggy late in the season, but I’m a fan. The pollinators love it!

The bread seed poppies got a bit of a slow start — the very first bloom opened July 2nd. They’re in full swing now, though, and should hopefully bloom gloriously at least to the beginning of August.

I’ll have to try some extra clusters scattered at the edge of the trees next year. The deer completely leave the bread seed poppies alone, and they make a wonderful clump of color!

I have a nice variety this year: red frilly, red with a purple tinge, purple, and purple-pink.

So far, I’m fairly pleased with how the garden is doing.

I set up a thorough caging system starting at the beginning of July, since last year I had so much trouble with things tipping over. The setup (wood stakes with holes drilled through, and hoops of heavy wire) is working well, but at 3′ tall may not be tall enough. We shall see!

Next year I’d like to inter-plant the potatoes more with borage and edible chrysanthemums and other tall things. This year I just planted a couple sunflowers in the midst of the potatoes, and so far it has worked well… the deer didn’t chomp it off! We’ll see how well it flowers.

I like having the feverfew and bread seed poppies clustered on the sides. I like having some mullein at the back.

I’d like to work a bit more on the plants at the front of the beds. I have some Tiny Tim sweet alyssum, which is nice but too sparse. I have some marigolds; again, nice but too sparse.

I saw some adorable Little Gem marigolds at the nursery, but they were taken. I’ll definitely try to get my hands on some of those next year!

I do think I need some more mid-height things to go between the front of the bed and the massive green potatoes, though….

Cosmos might be an option. I planted some at the back, but slugs took a toll, and they aren’t actually that tall (especially not the yellow/orange/red ones).

I’m still waiting to see how late summer goes. I have sweet peas just starting in baskets, and I have tall coreopsis growing and growing, but no sign of blooms yet.

Last year, the lambada monad and coreopsis dominated the late-summer garden. I’m hoping they come into their own!

I will report back next month….


We had been wanting to visit the big trees of California for some time. I visited Muir Woods when I lived in the Bay Area, but it was many years ago.

Since this was to be our first roadtrip since the start of the pandemic, we decided to do a relatively short roadtrip, just as far as Redwood National Park in far northern California.

We meandered down through Eastern Oregon. Along the way we saw many volcanoes…

We also ran across a rather wonderful rock formation popular with rock climbers.

We saw the largest living Ponderosa at LaPine State Park.

And we swung by Crater Lake.

Our first introduction to the northern redwoods was on highway 199, which actually cuts through Jedediah Redwood State Park. There were a number of incredible trees visible from the road, plus the unexpected bonus of a fair number of blooming rhodies.

The next morning, we went to see big trees in earnest, starting at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, the southernmost of the four clustered parks.

We started with Big Tree.

We then continued on the Cathedral Tree Trail. This was a wonderful and incredibly peaceful trail. You had to watch your footing: there was a fair bit of up and down, and lots of roots.

In exchange, we got to see some truly amazing trees, as well as acres of peaceful forest.

The sheer scale of the big trees is hard to capture.

The thing that impressed us wasn’t any single big tree, but the sheer number. 6 foot diameter trees are commonplace, whereas in many parks they would be a crown jewel.

We then looped back on Foothill Trail, which was very flat and easy. It still had many beautiful redwoods, as well as some of the biggest California Bay I had ever seen.

The next morning, we ventured farther north to Jedediah Redwoods State Park. Our route cut from the highway up Howland Hill Road, a wonderful narrow gravel road that zigzags through some absolutely gorgeous trees.

It’s really a one-lane road, and slow going, but it doesn’t matter because the surroundings are so beautiful.

We didn’t encounter a single car between the south end and the Boy Scout Tree Trailhead. After that, it started to get busy.

Our target was the Grove of Titans.

It was very beautiful, with trees that rivaled or exceeded the largest trees we saw at Prairie Creek. There were also a lot more people… we only encountered a handful of people tromping around Prairie Creek, whereas we were often in earshot of other people when walking the Grove of Titans trail.

However, the trees were incredible, and the path was very well maintained. We’re glad we went, but it was interesting to see how variable the people-pressure was.

The understory was different: vine maples and rhododendron and Tanoak and maidenhair fern — none of which we had seen at Prairie Creek. It was fun to see the impact of the added elevation, and the resulting extra moisture.

All in all, the redwoods were awesome in the old sense of the word.

They made me feel small, but in a comforting way. These were trees that had seen many centuries of little humans pass them by.

May they see many more!

Bird List May 21, 2022

I’m continuing to enjoy the Merlin bird app. I also enjoy watching the birds around the house. We have robins nesting in a big rhodie; I think the eggs have hatched, since I’ve been seeing the robins come in regularly with worms.

We also have Juncos that fledged recently. The parents come for the suet and black oil sunflower seed. The babies, who look more like finches at this point, cluster around begging. They’re starting to pick and peck on their own, at least some.

This week’s bird list (unverified audio ID in italic; newcomers in bold):

  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • Barred Owl
  • Black headed Grosbeak
  • Brown Creeper
  • Chickadee, Black-capped
  • Chickadee, Chestnut-backed
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Crow, American
  • Evening Grosbeak
  • Flycatcher, Pacific Slope
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Junco, Dark-eyed
  • Mallard
  • Nuthatch, Red-breasted
  • Pine Siskin
  • Red Crossbill
  • Robin
  • Song Sparrow
  • Stellar’s Jay
  • Swainson’s Thrush
  • Towhee, Spotted
  • Warbler, Wilson’s
  • White-crowned sparrow 
  • Western Tanager
  • Wood Duck
  • Wren, Bewick’s
  • Wren, Pacific
  • Vireo, Warbling

Unlikely IDs by Merlin:

  • Spotted Sandpiper

Birds who were here last week who I didn’t see and Merlin didn’t hear this week (any in italics were just based on Merlin, and could be mis-IDs):

  • Brown-Headed Cowbird
  • Finch, Purple
  • Goldfinch, American
  • Warbler, Hermit
  • Warbler, Yellow-rumped

Birds, Birds, Birds

Last week, one of the authors I follow on Twitter (Ursula Vernon) mentioned a birding app that could ID birds based on song.

I promptly downloaded Merlin, and have been having a blast.

I can just stand in the morning chorus, and it picks out what birds it hears. You can also explore the songs of birds, or look up birds based on appearance and other characteristics. It’s quite wonderful!

I’m going to start doing a weekly bird list. Many of these will be from auditory ID (thanks, Merlin!), but I’ll also include any that I identify visually.

  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • Barred Owl
  • Brown Creeper
  • Brown-Headed Cowbird
  • Chickadee, Black-capped
  • Chickadee, Chestnut-backed
  • Crow, American
  • Finch, Purple
  • Flycatcher, Pacific Slope
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Goldfinch, American
  • Junco, Dark-eyed
  • Nuthatch, Red-breasted
  • Pine Siskin
  • Robin
  • Song Sparrow
  • Stellar’s Jay
  • Towhee, Spotted
  • Warbler, Hermit
  • Warbler, Wilson’s
  • Warbler, Yellow-dumped
  • Western Tanager
  • Wood Duck
  • Wren, Pacific
  • Vireo, Warbling

We have had some ups and downs with birds this year, but I was happy to see a Junco feeding its baby yesterday!

Occasional Chronicle

I’m going to start keeping a chronicle of the goings-on around here: birds, plants, etc.

This is a time of year when a lot of birds pass through. Today we had two new arrivals!

Wilson’s Warbler (I think):

It’s hard to be sure, because it keeps flitting around, but as far as I could see it’s the only little yellow bird with a black cap.

And Western Tananger:

Who knows how long they will stay, but I’m happy to have them!

Rhodie Species Garden

Yesterday I met up with Mom, Dad, my brother, and his wife to wander the rhodie species garden in Federal Way, WA.

If you live in the Puget Sound region, the rhodie species garden in Federal Way is well worth a visit. It’s at its peak in May and June, but they have done a good job with the garden structure — it would be a nice meander year-round.

The walk into the gardens has a concentration of really lovely rhodies! The jolly pink one is Rhododendron oribiculare SW China

They had a wonderful glasshouse! I think of rhodies as being temperate, but there are some sub-tropical rhodies.

Although the gardens are at their peak in May and June, they do a good job of making them appealing year-round, both with a variety of plantings and with good structural design.

Serendipitous Bonsai Trees

Yesterday, I met up with Mom and Dad and my brother and sister-in-law to wander the Rhododendron Species Garden in Federal Way, WA. It turned out that there was a bonsai festival going on in the outer courtyard that separates the rhodie garden from the bonsai museum.
Here are photos from the bonsai festival. My understanding is that all of these are owned by members of the Puget Sound Bonsai Association.I’m just including (almost?) everything, since I don’t know what will tickle whose fancy!The information is from the tags associated with the trees.

Japanese Black Pine
36 years as a bonsai
66 estimated tree age
Other: stand created by Dan Robinson and Anothony Feilback
Kurume Azalea – Rhododendron obtusum var. sakamotoi
20 years as a bonsai
50+ estimated tree age
Other: Urban Yamadori
Hinoki Cypress – Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Hague’
6 years as a bonsai
unknown tree age
Other: Grown by Boon Manakitvisit, styled at 2016 Convention, Pot by Vicky Chamberlain
Ezo Spruce
Picea Jezoensis
unknown years as a bonsai
20-60 estimated tree age
Chinese Elm – Ulmus parvifolia
21 years as a bonsai with current owner
unknown tree age
Other: Import from China

Ponderosa Pine
Pinus ponderosa var scopulorum
1 year as a bonsai
unknown tree age
Other: Collected by Randy Knight, Japanese pot
Mountain Hemlock
Tsuga Mertensiana
15 years as a bonsai
unknown tree age
Other: Collected in Vancouver BC by Anton Nijhuis
Japanese Crabapple
Malus Floribunda
5 years as a bonsai
Air layered in 2015
Other: Exclusively pruned since air layered
Sutsuki Azalea
Rhododendron Indicum – no – Tsuki
28 years as a bonsai
30 estimated tree age
Other: Imported from Japan, Japanese Pot
I would have loved to see this in bloom!
Mountain Hemlock
Tsuga mertensiana
5 years as a bonsai
unknown tree age
Other: Purchased from Anton Nijhuis at 2016 PNBC Convention, Pot by Jan Rentenaar
Japanese Larch
Larix Kaempferi
13 years as a bonsai
20 estimated tree age
Other: Field Grown at Telperion Farms
Chinese Elm – Ulmus Parvifolia
50 years as a bonsai
60 estimated tree age
Other: Acquired at PSBA convention 2005. While carving out several large scars, discovered stones lodged inside of trunk. Chinese pot.
Japanese Larch – Larix Kaempferi
10 years as a bonsai
unknown tree age
Other: Japanese Pot (Yamaaki)
Chinese Juniper – Juniperus chinensis ‘Shimpaku’
20 years as a bonsai
40+ estimated tree age
Other: Japanese Pot (Yamaaki)
Blue Atlas Cedar – Cedrus Atlantica ‘Glauca’
24 years as a bonsai
30 estimated tree age
Other: Styled from upright tree

I missed the tag on this one! It’s a flowering quince, but I don’t have the details….
Cork Bark Japanese Black Pine – Pinus Thumbergii ‘Ondai’
unknown years as a bonsai
75 estimated tree age
Other: Japanese Tokonome pot
Chinese Juniper ‘Shimpaku’
6 years as a bonsai
25 estimated tree age

They also had some mame bonsai trees (miniature bonsai trees):

Tiny azalea mame bonsai
The mother of mame bonsai:
Trident Maple – Acer Buergerianum
45-57 years as a bonsai
unknown tree age
Other: Tokonome pot

It turns out that there is an additional category of bonsai: tiny arrangements of perennials. Here is a sampling of my favorites:

The Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way has some really lovely trees that live there year-round. We didn’t go in yesterday, because there were a lot of people, and there were rhodies to see. But the museum has some truly amazing bonsai trees. I’ll try to post a little tour some other day….

Spring Color: Daydream

My favorite tulip, Daydream, has opened. It’s a color-changer. It starts off a sunny yellow, then shifts through apricot and peach.

Sometimes one will have a jaunty crimson streak. I suspect that’s where the red component comes from for the apricot/peach shading. I’ll be interested to see what happens with that bloom as it matures.

We don’t get enough heat or sun for tulips to rebloom consistently. I will plant the bulbs out when they go dormant, but will buy a fresh batch to guarantee blooms next year. Any reblooms will be a lovely bonus!

Operation Bee Rescue — Phase III

This continues (finishes?) Operation Bee Rescue.

This morning I went in for the final comb->frame transfer and queen search.

About half an hour before I started, I moved what bees I could to other boxes and closed them up. I was trying to minimize the number of bees who would be getting excited. I stacked the temporary boxes on the adjoining hives’ lids for easy access.

I started at about 9 a.m., with a temperature of about 45 degrees. That’s cool enough that the bees weren’t active, but warm enough not to endanger them (especially with a nice day forecast).

I ran into minor issues almost immediately: the three frames closest to the edge were absolutely buried in bees, and were sort of stuck to the frame. In the process of loosening things up, I got my one and only sting of the adventure.

Fortunately I had a plastic card ready in my pocket, so I was able to scrape the stinger out immediately. At that point I caved in and put on nitrile gloves. I like bare-handed where possible, but pulling out wild comb covered in bees is about as invasive as it gets.

Gloved, I was able to coax the first chunk of comb free and lay it onto the framework I had prepped.

And lo! I got the biggest piece of luck in the whole operation, for there was the queen!Fortunately she was marked with an orange dot.

I coaxed her into the little queen cage that a  previous year’s queen shipped in, and plugged it with wax. I was anxious to keep her ladyship safe while I finished restructuring the hive.

With her out of the way, I was able to take a butter knife and trim the comb to fit the frame. I had to be careful of the girls, but sliding the knife through the middle of the comb worked pretty well.

I slid a second batch of skewers into the holes I had prepped, and tied the bottoms to the back-side skewers (which were stapled to the frame).

I was pretty pleased with the result. Far superior to the thread method!(Now I have to decide whether to go back and redo the thread frame).

I filled a second frame with scraps. Those weren’t mobbed with bees, so it was a lot easier.

With all the critical pieces of wild comb framed up, I was able to reassemble the hive properly. Then I was ready to release the queen.

She took her own sweet time leaving the cage. I could tell when she was about to emerge because workers started to mob the entrance.

And there she goes! Out of the cage and down into the frames.

I breathed a big sigh of relief, closed up the hive, and got back to my normal work schedule. I was happy to see a normal level of activity from the rescued hive this afternoon. 

All of this would still have an unhappy ending if we didn’t have some spare frames of honey from our other bees: the tree colony had very little honey stored up. Fortunately the hive that resulted from the natural split has been doing well, so their honey will now go back to the parent colony.

Thank you for following along for Operation Bee Rescue!