Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Creek

I've always thought it was grossly unfair that having been blessed with a creek, and just loving the flowing water, both the sounds and sight of it, we have also been blessed with what is a sort of seasonal creek.  On damp years we get a trickle all summer, but most years, about the time it warms up enough to want to go wading, there is no water in which to wade.  While I love all of God's creations, there are a few places where I think S/he could have put a little more thought into things, as in a creek that runs all summer, the time when we need it most for enjoyment, watering plants, for the birds and animals to drink and a whole list of things.
I could play in the creek for hours, looking at rocks, watching the tiny fish that swim in the deep puddles (and which sort of mysteriously disappear in the summer drought, only to reappear with the fall rains).  Every heavy rain brings us new rocks, the most unusual and prettiest of which get carried up into the gardens for edges or accents. There is a piece of cut stone down there right now that I would love to bring up, but which is way to heave to lift.  Maybe a couple of strong guys will volunteer for that job.  There could be some free plants in it for you.
As a child I was fascinated by the little spiders (are they actually spiders?) that walk on the surface of the water, as if they had little floats on their feet to keep them from sinking.  Lazily moving across the water.  I could watch them for hours.  Still can.  They seem to inhabit the same pools where the tiny fish live.
A creek is not a static thing. It is continually changing.  In the last 20 years, ours has dug itself a much deeper channel. It used to be only about a 1 foot step down to it, but now it is at least 4.  It keeps it from flooding the gardens, but the banks crumble with heavy rains or floods, so I expect it will at some point be more level with the surface of the gardens.  That's a log time away, though, so I probably won't live long enough to see that change.  Across the road, it becomes very wide and flat, probably at least 12 feet wide.  It's lazy and slow compared with our narrow one near the house.  I don't walk there much as it is hard to get to sometimes, but its banks shelter ferns, yellow violets and trilliuims so it is well worth the trek.
Here are some photos from the many seasons of our creek, which travels from it's source above our back pasture and joins others to enter the Hocking River at White's Mill which then heads on the the Ohio River.

This is between our wooden bridge and the bridge down on the road.  What you see on the left of the photo is where the road used to go.  The 'new' bridge was a WPA project, so it is getting pretty old too.  The road used to go almost right in front of the house.

It's amazing how we can have rapids in our little creek when the water gets high and fast.

And 2 photos of different floods.  Only once has the water come high enough to get near the house and that was during a hurricane where we got 9 inches of rain in not too many hours.  I think that had more to do with the rain than the creek.

The water here is at least 4 feet deep and would wash me all the way to White's Mill is I was silly enough to venture into it.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Ice and Kitties

There comes a time when slipping on the ice isn't nearly as funny as it was when you were eight or ten.  Ice is downright scary.  That said,  I don't think I ventured outside at all yesterday. The little bit of melting just added to the ice.  Less snow, more ice.  Not a good thing.  It gave me time to play with kitties, though I'm sure there were any number of things I should have been doing.  The kitties get their own post today so they can all introduce themselves.  Not plants, but the Hollow wouldn't be the Hollow without them.  So, in alphabetical order so as not to offend anyone, especially Princess Fanny who probably thinks we shouldn't bother putting anyone else's photo up anyway, other than hers.

First is Alexander. He arrived as a group of 8 that someone dropped off on the road in front of the house.  He was quite the charmer, even as a small kitten, and he got to stay.  Wish I could have kept all 8, but the others had to go to other homes.  He now weighs almost 18 pounds.  Kind of like picking up a cinder block.

Next is Ammimal.  He arrived here as a young cat, probably under a year old, and lived in the yard for about six months before we could get close enough to really make friends.  He hung around and seemed to want to get closer, but he was, and still is, terribly shy.  Makes you wonder what he ran away from.   Glad he's here now.  Another of the 'boys' and very silly when he plays.

Fanny is one of the sisters.  We rescued them from the cat shelter the last day that it was open.  She and her sister Maude, pictured next, are lucky if they weigh in at 5 pounds apiece.  Tiny little ladies, bur don't let their size fool you. Fanny has a vocabulary like a drunken sailor.  She is in charge and the boys do as she says.  Size isn't everything

And Maude, the other of the sisters.  She loves being on the enclosed porch.  She is attached to me and Fanny is attached to Hank.  Funny how kitties pick their people  Occasionally they will acknowledge their other 'parent', but not often.  She especially likes sitting in the wagon that was Hanks when he was a little kid.

Muffin, or Mister Muffin as he prefers to be called, arrived as an adult.  Just came up to the door and expected to be let in.  He's been here ever since and has never shown any inclination to go back out the door.  All of our kitties are inside only cats.  Too many dangers out there between coyotes and crazy neighbors with guns who like to shoot at pets.  Sad.  I used to love gardening with them.  Oh, the  stories I could tell.  Another kitty who has a story to tell, and probably not a happy one, from before he found and adopted us.

Seigfried is the closest thing we have to a dog.  He runs like a dog, used to almost bark when he was little and just doesn't act very cat-like.  The kitties have told us that no dogs are allowed in this house, so we will have to make due with Siggy.   He is my cat, plain and simple.  I seem to attract the  misfits.  Not sure what that means or if I even want to contemplate what it might mean.  Another one who just wandered into the yard, though I expect most don't actually wander from anywhere, given that we're not exactly near anywhere.  Always was funny how strays seem to show up at the end of semesters.

Spook is our feral cat.  He mother, Ms. Kitty, appeared at our door when she was pregnant.  She lived in the root cellar with her kittens Petunia and Spook.  Ms. Kitty and Petunia are long gone.  Spook is our oldest cat right now, almost 13.  It took at least 6 or 7 years before I could even pet her without risking needing bandages for my fingers.  She has been living in my sewing room and studio since she was pretty small, after her mother died.  Another of the odd ones, so of course she is all mine. She runs under the furniture if anyone else appears in her kingdom.  A sweet, tiny lady cat.


Last, but not least, is Thomas.  He is the baby, though he is now 5.  He will tell you he is still the baby and should be spoiled as such.  He arrived as a very tiny kitten, just walking down the road all by himself very early in the morning.  Hank was out, as is his habit, almost before the sun is up.  Barely awake, I was suddenly aware of a tiny kitten who was looking me right in the eye.  He is very frustrated with the older kitties since they don't have nearly the energy that he does.  He has been known to wake the big guys up so that they can run quickly from one end of the house to the other.

So, that's the family.  Back to plants tomorrow.

Friday, January 29, 2016


Almost a month of posts and I'm still enjoying the discipline of writing every day.  Makes me think about the garden in a different way; what's there right now, what do I want to share, where do I want to go with the garden changes in the spring (and spring will get here - many years of living tell me that).  Just before all of this snow and cold started the Galanthus (Snowdrops) were starting to poke foliage through the earth.  I told them to wait.  Experience told me that it was way too early, though we have had years when they showed up in January with no problems. The advantage to that, if we don't have too much snow and horrible cold, is that we have a very long season to enjoy them, before the heat  flattens them and they give way to crocuses and daffodils which are followed all too quickly by everything else rushing to be part of the show.  Late winter and early spring are different.  Slow, small changes every day. One step forward and two steps back.  Tentative small steps to be savored.  That said, I give you a taste of spring with Galanthus of various sorts from years past.

This first one is Galanthus nivea, just the common single flowered form.  We don't have too many of these, strangely as we have many more of the doubles, which we keep dividing and replanting.

The double one is much fancier, though not always appreciated for its delicate petals as you pretty much have to be lying on the ground looking up to see them well.

This on was obliged to turn over so you could see it better.

January Snowdrops

On of the select forms, this on Galanthus nivea 'Sam Arnott'.  We have looked at several others to add to the collection, but at $25 a bulb for the fancy new ones, we aren't likely to be buying a lot of them any time soon.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


I posted yesterday a photo of the poor little Yew in the front yard that had been ravaged by deer.  They love them and strip the needles from them any time there is snow on the ground and they can't graze on grass.  Ones overhanging the ponds (with a bit of fencing) are safe until the surface of ponds freeze and then the deer just walk over the pond to get to them.  It's frustrating.  We are fortunate to have at least one Yew that is large enough to be safe from nibbling.  It was here when Hank bought the land in 1971 and pretty large even at that point.  I love the way the trunks get so interesting with age.  And age they do.  I've heard that 400-600 years old isn't all that unusual in England, where they are called, unsurprisingly, English Yews.

I tried to get a photo of the whole bush, but no luck.  It is tucked in amongst lots of other shrubs, Hamamelis, some Cornus and other things and was just hard to see.  Here's the best I could do.

When I was growing up Taxus baccata was a sort of nondescript green shrub planted by the foundation of the house.  Some of our are so much more than that.

The deer, unfortunately, seem to like the yellow ones even more than the plain green ones.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Rant on Deer

Sooner or later, if you garden, it always comes around to deer, at least when you live in the woods.  For years we had them around, and through the garden, especially at dayliliy bloom time, but they pretty much avoided the front yard.  Not any more.  Either they are super hungry (probably) or this is a new bunch who didn't read the rules (probably) or we're very overpopulated with deer despite our best efforts to fix that. (surely).
Here's what happened to one of the Yews that is just a couple of feet from the front door.

We do spray, especially in the summer with Liquid Fence or any of a number of other sprays and spread Milorganite around everywhere both as deterrent and fertilizer, but once there is a deep layer of snow on the ground, they just eat anything they see.  Why they can't just make do with the grass that is now popping out where we've shoveled (and looks invitingly green) is beyond me.

I'm not sure how many are running around here, though I did chase a young doe who was about to nibble a Rhododendron over by the greenhouse.  That was just at suppertime.  We rarely have them down by the house in daylight.  She seemed very surprised to see me. Not sure just how many we have and it's either a lot of them or one that runs around in circles a lot.  Here are some tracks from over in the parking lot.

And speaking of snow, we always think about the country being so nice and clean, not traffic, less pollution.  Well, it was a rude awakening when I looked at our snow which had been so nice and white looking like I was back in Philadelphia.  Depressing.  No snow ice cream for supper tonight.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Lavender Phenomenal

There is the occasional plant that just stands out in the garden.  Maybe not the most showy or most fragrant or most anything, but sort of all of those.  An online friend developed this cultivar and I added it to the garden in the fall of 2014.  Probably should have been planted in the spring, but didn't find one until then.  Lavender here in SE Ohio is an iffy proposition.  Some will do well sometimes.  Most don't do well at all.  We're too damp, too cold, soil is too heavy.  Any number of problems.  People were raving about Lavender 'Phenomenal' and how it would take just about anything, even in zone 6 which is at the edge of the range, despite what the plant catalogs will try and tell you.  The wonderfully hardy (and pretty and fragrant) plant made it through 20 below zero with no protections.  I thought about covering it, but wanted to really put it to the test.  No more Lavenders that I fall in love with only to have them die rather quickly.  It came through with flying colors and grew and bloomed prolifically this past summer.  Given last year, this winter should be easy.  Here is a photo of it last week, before the snow, and one taken with our 8 inches of white fluff.  Let's just say I'm impressed with this one.  I hope to have some to sell at the nursery this summer if you want to give it a try too.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Thinking About Summer

Snowy weather seems to be a time to looks at something besides snow.  Too cold, too snowy, did that in yesterday's photos and don't want to think about it today.  That said, here are some of my favorites from last summer.  Enjoy.

Sunday, January 24, 2016


I guess I shouldn't complain that we got 8 inches of snow given what a lot of my friends are putting up with, but, well, I'll complain anyway.  It's too deep to walk in easily, so my daily walk around the garden has been put off indefinitely.  I get crabby when I can't walk around the garden.  I did follow Hank around while he was shoveling paths to here and there, mostly to the greenhouse and out to the road, so I could at least soak up some of that lovely (though cold) sunshine that we had in the afternoon.  Of course, I took my camera. Here are some of the scenes from my very limited walk.  Those of you who have been here should recognize most of these spots, as I didn't get much farther than the driveway between the house and the road.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Huernia zebrina

This has become one of my favorites over the years it has lived in the greenhouse.  Huernia zebrina is more commonly known as Life Saver Plant.  The name is perfect.  I've been told it is difficult, but ours seems to thrive, maybe on neglect.  It does want to dry between waterings, and doesn't seem to have a problem with getting pretty dry.  It does like full sun, something sometimes lacking in the hollow this time of year.  The stems, though they look prickly, are really just soft spikes, not thorns. Every piece that breaks off (and they do break off as they get long) will root.  Just stick it in some dirt.  It blooms intermittently all throughout the year, which is an especially nice trait in a houseplant.  It doesn't get to go outside with most of the others in the summer, as I think it would get just too wet and be unhappy.  It isn't an expensive plant, probably due to the east of rooting and starting new ones, and great for someone with a sunny window who tends to forget to water things.

Friday, January 22, 2016

In the Greenhouse

Some days just aren't good for walks in the garden, despite the fact that the sun is shining.  I'm not a fan of cold as my friends will well know.  Cup of tea and a book in front of the fire.  That's more my speed.  That's where the greenhouse comes in.  It's only a short walk to get there and leave winter behind.  The sides and top are frosted, so that no reality of what is really happening outside can sneak in.  It is warm, humid and smells good, especially when something is blooming.  And things are starting to bloom.  The Christmas Cactus (which all bloomed this year at Halloween) are starting up again.  I hated when they bloomed so early, but love it that they're going to now apologize for their indiscretion and make it up to me by putting on another show.  The first is in full bloom now.  The second thing I noticed blooming was the Veltheimia capensis with it's lovely light pink blooms.  It is a flowering bulb which is dormant in the summer and usually blooms for us this time of year.  It is best put in a spot where the foliage won't be damaged by other things moving about as it is easily broken.  It sits at the back of a shelf, which is just fine as the bloom scape is easily visible above everything else.  The third thing I noticed blooming was this tiny little Corydalis solida.  I found 2 tiny bulbs on the ground in one of the gardens a few weeks ago, didn't recognize them, but as is my wont, planted them anyway and put them in the greenhouse.  Well, that's what they turned out to be.  The tiny leaves appeared last week and were instantly recognizable.  I expected that I'd have to wait until next year to see what color it turned out to be.  Wrong.  It is a pale pink and will stay happy in the greenhouse for now and be planted out in the spring.  Last but not least, of what's blooming inside now (not counting Coleus which have the tendency to just keep blooming and blooming no matter what) is the Pepperomia clusiifolia Jellie.  Not sure I would call this flowering, but blooming probably works.  This isn't what most people think of as a flower, just tall white spikes, and plenty of them.  I think it's happy.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Corydalis ophiocarpa

You would think that plants that survive the winter without going dormant would have tough, thick foliage, impervious to the freeze and thaw cycles they will need to endure.  Corydalis ophiocarpa puts and end to that myth.  It has delicate, ferny foliage and is not a ground hugging rosette the way many that stick around all winter are.  The only real change, other than looking all frosty and icy some mornings, is that the foliage can get a more bronzy tone to it.  This is a rather prolific self-seeder, so running out of plants isn't really going to be a problem. It also pulls out easily, so if it spreads around too much, it is easy to get back under control.   It is a shade lover, mostly, but we also have it growing in some pretty sunny spots.  The flowers are creamy white and the plants range from under a foot tall to over 2 feet tall.  They are native to the eastern Himalayas.  Ours are all the progeny of one packet of seeds planted back in the mid 1990s.

And here is a photo from last summer when it was in bloom.